I believe that mind-body and compassion tools are the keys to us Jewish women changing the world.
But I didn’t always see life this way.
What led me from budding-farmer, geeky-programmer, intuitive-eating-counselor to where I am today?
What have been my challenges along the way?
How has my journey shaped the way I coach deep thinking, high-achieving women to become fully realized versions of themselves?
Why might you identify with this journey, more than other women?
Here’s my story,
Have you ever felt there was something you were meant to do and despite that, you went off and did something else instead, ignoring that voice inside of you?
I did. I was meant to be a farmer. I became a computer programmer instead. (Wait, don’t run away; you’re on the right website! I became a coach eventually.)
Why would a girl from Toronto who never even owned a pet goldfish be destined to be a farmer?
Back when I was 21 years old, with a BA in Humanities, I was teaching in a kiruv school in southern California, and had no idea what I wanted to “do with my life” professionally. In my search for clarity I decided to take an online career test. As I was taking the test I realized these questions told the story of who I was and what I dreamt of all day long. I liked people, but I didn’t like teaching. I liked quiet, but I needed interaction. I liked constantly learning new things, but I didn’t want to be a career academic. It turns out that the perfect career for me based on the test was a…
Farmer. Rena the ole farmhand.
Sure, many of our distinguished ancestors were farmers…
But what does that mean for a 21 year old frum woman who wanted to have a family in the 21st century? It just wasn’t practical. So I looked for something that I could do from home, would pay well, and would play into my natural love of mathematical systems.
I became a programmer.
With a sharp mind and quick thinking, it seemed to fit some of my needs quite well.
It also gave me the opportunity to become better at thinking my way out of my problems in life, using logic and structure to solve problems. I was particularly proud of my skills in “debugging”.
Meanwhile, Hashem was throwing me obstacle after obstacle. Early in our marriage we had to move 4 times in one year. I came down with an infection (misdiagnosed) that left me eating pear puree for two weeks. Our newborn baby boy contracted lead poisoning from the apartment (number 5) we were living in. I hated my work environment. And to cap it all off, less than 3 years married, I had been diagnosed with Mono. I was having a rough go of things.
I tried to use my superpowers. I was constantly trying to debug my life. I was looking for solutions and began my habit of poring through countless self help books.
That worked for some of my problems.
Others, on the other hand, just got worse. I was not managing to outsmart my challenges.
At this time someone had recommended Dr. Sarno’s “Healing Back Pain”. It was in that book that I began to learn about the mind-body connection and to realize that I had years of tension and fear stored up inside of me. Within a day of reading the book, my Mono fever finally broke. I may have been succeeding in understanding my intellectual world, but my emotional one was still a mystery.
I was starting to learn that the very tools I had been using to solve my problems might have actually been their cause. It was a glimpse at how the mind and the emotions are meant to coexist. It would still be nearly a decade until all the pieces began to fall into place.
My brush with health scares led to a desire to be as healthy as possible and share that gift with the world. That brought me to the world of health coaching. I was learning about nutrition and how to help people integrate positive lasting change into their lives. I was working with clients but growing frustrated that as soon as life threw people a wrench, all that we had been working on would go out the window.
If only there could be some way to teach people to know how to eat intuitively… to rely on themselves when things got crazy, and not some external system.
After much research I found Intuitive Eating. I became certified by the founders of IE and began bringing its refreshing approach to frum women all over the world.
I thought I had life figured out. I was growing as a coach, my practice was doing well, and my brain was busy helping people solve their problems. Still, I found that my stress levels were getting out of control and I couldn’t understand why.
Then came the day that I call “The Shabbos That My Eye Plotzed.”
It might sound cute, but it wasn’t. It was terrifying. One erev Shabbos my left eye was suddenly going blind. It started fuzzy, and then slowly a curtain of darkness began to cover the bottom half of my left eye. I spent the next week and half zooming around the country from hospital to hospital. I was left with irreparable damage to my vision. Doctors will probably never be able to explain why this happened to me. The medical system had no solutions and even less support. I was left fearful and suffering from PTSD. It’s through the darkness moments that we can see the greatest light.
Over the next year as I worked through my trauma, I changed and grew by leaps and bounds, and in turn, so did my practice. I had grown to understand that my body and mind were living in dissonance.
Remember when I ditched farming for computer programming? Although I never realistically would have been ready to make the leap to become a farmer, I still shouldn’t have ignored all those parts of myself that farming was offering to fulfill. I need the outdoors. I crave stillness (real inner stillness, not just quiet). I was missing a connection to the world and to myself.
You see, I had deeply ingrained the lessons so many sensitive little girls learn when they are young: Stop crying. You’re too emotional. You can’t trust yourself, what do you know? Listen to the experts. Be practical. Who’s going to want to marry you the way you are now?
I had learned maladaptive coping mechanisms. I thought that in order to succeed in life I had to bury my emotions, get real, and learn how to listen to the experts on what was best for me. I suppressed my feelings and put my intellect in control.
Don’t get me wrong — my marriage, mothering, and business were all fine.
But where was RENA in the picture? How was I nurturing the voice inside of me that needed to be heard?
Rena was tucked away, scared to speak her truth, not wanting to rock the boat. So she stayed there.
Until I couldn’t anymore. My body was doing everything it could to get my attention. I was petrified of what “worse” looked like.
What I found in my own life, and what I kept seeing over and over with my clients, was that all our challenges in life, be they in our relationships with our husbands, our children, money, or eating, all come down to the same 3 fundamental roots: trust, values, and compassion. When any of those roots are damaged, they wreak havoc in our relationships. And so this is the work I now do.
You can’t think your way out of damage at your roots. You have to feel your way into them to understand what is happening and how to heal it.
To be clear, this does not mean years of painful rehashing of childhood wounds. It’s not about exactly what the mean girl called you when you were 7 or the details of your parents frustrating work schedules. It’s about learning how to sense the hurt inside so that we stop ignoring it and start giving it what it has been asking for for so long.
Take a look around my site and you’ll see many free resources (articles, podcast episodes, and interviews) and ways to work with me (online courses and 1:1 coaching) so you can keep learning, growing and getting clarity as you create lasting change…at the root.
Start by downloading my free “Tune In Journal”, where you’ll feel what it’s like to tap into your “felt-sense”, get a taste of the work I’m doing, and calm down when you’re triggered:
A few quirks about me:
I’m an introvert
My clients find me very calm and soothing – not a loud extrovert
I’m very sensitive
I’m not a woman of many words, and I’ve been told that what I DO say is accurate. When I have what to say, I say it.
I’m really intense – so I waste less time and cut right to the chase
I’m a massive food snob.
My favorite ways to exercise are hula hooping, yoga, Nia dance, or taking walks.