Giving from a full cup

In today’s episode you’ll meet Harmony Ziegler of Akoya Lifestyle & Wellness Therapy. Akoya offers an innovative therapeutic approach to online therapy, therapy & wellness outdoors, and personal luxury retreat therapy. Harmony is an accredited wilderness guide, and she’s also a Registered Clinical Counsellor with a Master of Science in Counselling. She specializes in therapy for leaders, entrepreneurs, creatives, and game changers to maximize their social impact.

You’ll notice the cadence of this conversation with Harmony is a little slower and intentional than usual. I think this, in part, comes from the qualities, pace and presence that she has cultivated in order to create spaciousness for people and their stories to unfold. Harmony shares the journey she took so that she could Give From a Full Cup.

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Show Notes

 

Transcript 

Jalen 

Good morning, harmony. It's great to be. Talking to you this morning. And I'm looking forward to hearing about your story of. Well, I think if it is transformation and the transformation that you're looking to support and others, and that was a journey, right? 

Harmony 

I love the word transformation. You nailed it. That is it. And I'm smiling with that word because as I just launched my business. I used that word on social media on my own personal social media account to announce my business. I'm back. I've transformed here as the transformation I've been off social media for five years. So beautiful word. 

Jalen 

So what was the origin of this? Or I suppose you can go back can go way back, but. Let's go back to. The clear line of connection to where you are today. 

Harmony 

Yeah, absolutely. So the most recent thread really begins with a long tangle of threads with some history that's connected to that thread. That's all part of part of the. The cycle and the learning and the foundation. So I'll start with. A little bit of history to share. Uh, so I have been in clinical practice in the world of nonprofit for about five years or so. Of which time I was serving people in. If your of mental health related to a lot of trauma, a lot of poverty, marginalization. Abuse, including, you know, complex trauma that relates to childhood abuse. So during this time I I would say I underwent a personal transformation. And I I I learned about the resilience of working with people in their most vulnerable states, and I can't say enough about human resilience and and the positivity that I've learned. About humankind through this work. But I also learned about the dark side of humanity. And that, for sure, took a toll on me. Much, much prior to the the toll of this, I was also managing my own personal health crisis at the time that had been building for a number of years, probably a decade and 1/2, but came to across actually March 3rd of 2020. Ultimately, which coincided with COVID and the onset of the global pandemic. So I found myself in New York City having surgery. Five days before the pandemic hit, having taken some time off work for this. All of these things together ultimately equals burnout. Personal professional burnout to the point where ultimately I I. Could not take a two week holiday and return to work feeling rested, and that was the key sign for me that burnout had struck and burnout is the kind of thing that creeps up on us quite often, and we think we're doing well and we're functioning. But then all of a sudden, there's. A. A factor that. Tips the scale? So that's sort. Of the history that led to the transformation. And in. February of 2022 ultimately, everything came to a halt for me, and I did have to take some time from work and ultimately resign from my position to focus on my own health. And my own well-being and my own lifestyle. Prioritizing that. Really allowed me to. Go into a deeper place of reflection, personally and professionally about what it was I wanted. What kind of ripple effect I wanted to have in the world? What kind of social impact? I wanted to have? And though the work I was doing in the world of nonprofit and mental health mental illness felt incredibly potent and important. I felt like I wasn't having the impact. That I wanted to have on a on a bigger. With a bigger ripple effect that would move beyond the smaller layers of community and ecosystems that I was working in. So I started to allow the dream of which I have been dreaming for the last 25 years, about having my own business, my own private practice, being a therapist and a very innovative. Innovative type of practice. I allowed that to come alive and I did that through taking time one month off. To really just focus on myself. During that time, I chose to engage in a plant medicine ceremony to have a deeper sense of reflection and knowing within myself. Am I really allowed in the grief that I had repressed? From my surgery all the way in New York City two years prior of which I had to do in order to keep functioning in my job and in my personal life that. Repression was a necessary survival tool, but it ultimately was no longer serving me. I needed to be expressed and I did that through my own practice of art therapy nature therapy. Daily Wellness practices that are very disciplined and thoughtful and maintained and really leaning into sort of the inner shadow side that. That had been building for me through both my work and and then, you know, this personal health crisis. By the time I was in that place of taking a leave in February of 2022, I was doing two to three suicide assessments per week for clients. The impacts of COVID they hit hard. Globally, but in small community and micro environments you know as frontline mental health workers, we were really experiencing that impact on a deep level. Statistics Canada showed that. The suicide suicide. Rate rose by 1 1/2% from 2019 through the the global pandemic within Canada and so that is a significant impact on community on workers. Et cetera. So there's other things I'd love to. To share about this in terms of the later impacts of this and the decisions that I made and how that has come to fruition in terms of social impact and what that dream is. And this is related to the intergenerational side of my my family, the trauma. As well as. The resilience and the entrepreneurship background that my family brings forward, but I'll just pause with that for a moment and kind of let that sink in. 

Jalen 

And so the the challenge that you went through feeding into COVID and then during COVID as you're being with the experience. Of of the all. All those various pressures. That you were. That you're under including the challenge of being with this onslaught of deep challenge within your client base was became a pressure cooker. And I don't know, I'd say forced or encouraged or. Terminated a new perspective. A new direction to take, right? 

Harmony 

Hmm, absolutely. And pressure cooker is the right word. And reason being is that's a really great metaphor for what happens in the nervous system when. We are overwhelmed. In our nervous system, it feels like a pressure cooker, and that was exactly what was happening for me, that there was a continual saturation within my nervous system, to the point where there was no amount of self-care that I could do that would allow me to restore myself. The only solution was was taking time away from work and focusing on myself. Our nervous system really is a beautiful instrument, and this is part of what? Really is the foundation of my work with Akoya is building on the capacity that we have innately to. To connect to that innate intelligence within us and our nervous system, our emotional bodies, our limbic system, within within the mind, these are all the tools that we are gifted with. And so for me, it was a process of leaning into that and trusting it. And I really actually did not have a choice. My nervous system said no, you've had enough. We're not doing this anymore. And that is burnout, ultimately. So that process really helped me to establish what was. Was at the core of my well-being and the core of my practice and what I wanted to share with the people that I support in the world of therapy and counseling. I have grown up in an environment within my family that was very much focused around. Lifestyle and adventure and prioritizing Wellness. But it was also mixed with a background of intergenerational trauma that I would say I have. Have been that recipient of through my family of origin. They are trauma survivors and as many Canadians are trauma survivors from both colonization, immigration, loss of culture. Through immigration as well as the colonization, all impacts within the indigenous people of Canada and the Racialization and so many different components and factors. So I as as a a product of this started to really understand how. Trauma, entrepreneurship and resilience were part of my personal story and how I was building this into my business, so I'll share that. My grandmother on my maternal side took her own life when my mother was 11 years old. That had a profound impact on that family, of course, including my mother, who grew up without a mother the rest of her life, and I hence grew up without a maternal grandmother. And my grandmother, whose name was Marguerite, which coincidentally. In Greek translates as Pearl, and this is an interesting factor because akoya is a Pearl, it is a coveted seawater cultivated Pearl, and it mythically means wisdom gained. Through experience, and so I actually learned recently that Marguerite means Pearl and I had named my business like long before this. So the impacts of this suicide were far reaching in the family and as. A granddaughter without a grandmother. I have felt the effects of that and I believe that is part of my personal health crises. I'll share because I believe it's important to destigmatize what I went through. I will share the personal experience there, which is that I had a hysterectomy. And that left me as a childless woman, not by choice. I always wanted to be a mother myself, but for circumstantial reasons related to health and related to relational trauma. As a result of my family's trauma, always was difficult. For me to find the right combination. To allow that to occur for myself, so this loss was far reaching for me, having a hysterectomy and what I learned spiritually through my plant medicine ceremony was that. Ultimately, I was being asked to a greater calling in life that the birth of a child was. Not my calling that actually the birth of this business was my calling and that I would have a much greater ripple effect on the. World by putting my energy into this business and. The reason that I see that. Culmination sort of fruitfully coming together, is is because of my calling to work with leaders and entrepreneurs, creatives, and game changers. And I and. I am called to that. That genre of people, because I believe they have the greatest ability to impact positive world change with the greatest ripple effect and that's where my energy wanted to go through the burnout through the time off, through the personal transformation. 

Jalen 

Yeah, because it's not like people who are undertaking a significant project in the world of trying to make make positive change just because they're trying to do something great doesn't mean that they're not experiencing a great deal of challenge themselves. 

Harmony 

Exactly, absolutely. And. I think that people in leadership positions and people who are creatives and game changers. There's a high expectation for these people to be highly functioning and a high expectation actually that within that high functioning state that there isn't a prevalence of mental illness or trauma or difficulty coping. There's an expectation there that, you know, we hold these people up on a pedestal and and I think they. Sometimes have this pressure, but they don't have an outlet to. To give back to themselves, to be their most real selves, to work in, in an authentic way, and that ultimately is my goal is to create that space, to allow people to be in their full authenticity, in their full vulnerability. And to hold space for them there. By doing so, I believe that people can tap into their own innate resilience, and it's not even a belief. It is a. Fact that this is. True that people can tap into this. Research shows this, yes, but also in my clinical practice. Time and. And when I walk beside people, that is what I witness, and it is so profound and like, you know, I feel it in my gut right now just thinking about it. There's this great. Joy in this this fire. That is there, so the ability to support. People in that leadership type position or. People who are creative and innovating in the world and making some of the greatest difference. I want those people to find the greatest resources to tap into that inner place of knowing. When people are hurting, they hurt other people hurt people hurt people. So if I can support people to not be hurting inside, then what they express outwardly as leaders and entrepreneurs, creatives, game changers, they're going to be sharing something much more. Ballistic and productive for all society. 

Jalen 

I'm curious about what kinds of thoughts, choices, or actions that you took that helped you find your way to to regain your wholeness. 

Harmony 

So as I chaired uh, you know, taking the time off. All of those things that I previously shared, but I will add to that. As well as prioritizing my own health Wellness lifestyle, I needed to learn. To ask for. Help myself and it's something that was ingrained in me through family of words and don't ask for help. You can do it yourself. You must be independent and there's this sort of toxic independence that has been taught to me. As a result. Of family members having to be massively independent for reasons. Of their own survival. So I reached out for help and support and it was amazing. I can't believe what I found and one of those things was the social venture institute at Holly Hawk and the community there where I met like minded people learning that, wow, there's a business community. That actually resonates with my values. I reached out. To my closest family and friends, who are entrepreneurial, creative, and very discerning themselves, and I sought their their help and their feedback. And you know, one of my friends, Shanee Cranston, for example, met with me. Religiously, once a week, high noon on Fridays to support me in kind of entrepreneurial pep talk is what we call that. And she's an entrepreneur herself and has homegrown living foods. She's a food producer. I have many other friends who supported me around that as well. I do my own therapy, so reaching into the depths of my own therapy, I took on a couple of different coaches at different times. Sarah Jane Smith was incredibly helpful. I did a program with her around learning to embody. What I was experiencing and bringing that in from the childless not by choice perspective. She's an entrepreneur, childless, not by choice woman. And she does embodiment work and yoga and coaching. And so she was incredibly helpful as well. They worked with a woman named Constance. Then Hummel out of Vancouver, who has a company called the business of Helping, and she is. She's fantastic as well and. Health counselors create their own practices, which we aren't taught how to have a business. We're taught how to be relational and support people in in mental health. So all of that was incredibly helpful and and lastly, I'll share that I also had to develop. A foundational mindset. And so this foundational mindset. This was an interesting. Process because that's where I started. And and it was pretty exciting and pretty nerve wracking to start to figure out how to deconstruct the. I'm going to. Use the word toxic again. I feel like I've used that a few times, but I will use the. Word toxic again around. This work culture of toxic productivity where we we, you know, we're on the clock. And it's. What we do and and it's quantity based and it's not necessarily quality based. So I really had to deconstruct that and learn how to work from a place of Wellness, not a place where I was constantly, you know, in a place of of harm, but and then having to repair instead. How can I work? From a place of. 

Jalen 

Yeah, I have a sense that that's an ongoing delicate balance to manage because the demands are quite significant, especially if you're trying to do something unusual or out of the ordinary. Or as a. Significantly aspirational, there's always a call for a huge amount of. Time and effort. And balancing that with ensuring that you're getting your own needs met so that you can continue having access to the creativity and the rest and all the things, all the ingredients that allow you to to give your best. 

Harmony 

That's spot on. I I wanna drop on a quote from actually the SI website. When I was trying to decide whether or not I should go to SB, I I looked at the introductory paragraph and it said that anyone who has ever done anything meaningful in life will tell you that the hardest part. This building your inner skills. To meet the demands of your vision. And I think that's exactly what you were speaking about and beautifully put. Yes, it is a constant balancing act and it requires discipline and it requires a commitment to daily practice. And that's things like breathwork and yoga, or Qigong and meditation, journaling, exercise time in nature. You know, keep the body moving. These kinds of things have definitely been integral to my practice all the way along, but as I hit burnout, they became even more important. And as I went through recovery, they became even. That much more important. Ultimately as well. Getting very clear on what I was doing and why that was important, so I leaned on the work of Simon Sinek and the Golden Circle and starting with Y and that was really where it boiled down to the ripple effect. What am I doing and why? Because I want to. Have a ripple effect. Because I'm seeing the impacts of mental illness first hand in my community. I'm seeing the impacts of trauma in my own family of origin. I'm seeing the impacts of COVID. I'm seeing the impacts of my own burnout. There needs to be a stronger ripple effect here, and that's where I wanted to come from. 

Jalen 

I appreciate that you're you've come. You've answered the call you saw, saw the need for and I appreciate that the depth in which you've gone to to prepare yourself, even though it may not have been fully conscious. You know, but I think it's important that to be able to support others you have. It's important to have to have gone through the journey yourself and to be open to continuing that journey. And it sounds like that's what you're up to. 

Harmony 

You got it that. Is the gospel truth for sure, and that is where I come from that ultimately your therapist is only as good as their own lifestyle and Wellness. And if that isn't within balance, how can I and others in this position support? Those who need the support, so ultimately yes, it is a prioritization of that. And so I'm building that into my practice from the ground up. And that means that I do prioritize my own Wellness and my lifestyle, and I do that in a way, hopefully that I'm modeling that for the people. That I work with. And that includes taking enough time off working on. A four day work week. Making sure that my mornings are focused on my daily practice. And building that into how I work with people that includes continuing my training consistently and improving my education in all of those disciplines that are holistic, that are neuroscientific, really based building, building. All of that and and. I'm so grateful to be a therapist at this time in 2023, the plethora of resources science meeting, long held traditions from many Eastern traditions, especially around mindfulness and self regulation practices, is just so beautiful to see. And I feel really grateful. 

Jalen 

And I'm really grateful for this time that we've spent together and the story that you've shared. 

Harmony 

Thank you. 

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