All posts by Joyce Amsden

What is Life Coaching?


What is life coaching, anyway?

NOTE: Life coaching is a relatively new field and is thus somewhat undefined. To further add to the confusion, various life coaches can differ quite a lot in approach. What I describe here is my vision of life coaching and what I offer as a life coach.

Life coaching is the process of working with a life coach who is a trained, experienced professional who works with people who want something different in their lives than they are now experiencing. A life coach helps the client to examine, define and articulate their needs and desires for change as well as what is going well for them. The client is encouraged to develop and clarify a vision for their life.

Life Coaching is strength based. By discovering, acknowledging and encouraging the client’s strengths, talents, gifts, insights, the liffe coach helps the client to employ their inner resources in taking steps toward their goal. The life coach values, celebrates and builds upon client strengths and successes as the vitally iimportant, raw materials and tools of creation from which achievement, success, confidence and fulfillment arise.

The life coach helps the client to set goals. Another important aspect of life coaching is helping the client to set goals which will get them to their desired outcome and to encourage them to take action. Sometimes we set goals that are so big that we become discouraged almost as soon as we begin. The coach can help the client to set up a series of small steps that will create valuable momentum as they are successfully met.

The life coach can often anticipate problems that may lie ahead and make suggestions. For example, a client might set a lofty goal but express that they have little time to give to it. Seeing this as a potential problem, the life coach might suggest breaking the goal down into smaller steps, knowing that a small success is a step and that one step taken builds momentum and confidence.

A life coach helps the client around obstacles that occur. On the way to their goals, the client may encounter problems or get discouraged. It is then the role of the life coach to help the client to identify beliefs, habits and assumptions which hold them back and employ strategies that help the client continue on.Llife coaching is very focused on the inner dimensions of growth and willpower and strength so that when the client encounters a stumbling block in meeting some goal, the coach can employ strategies that facilitate forward progression. By understanding their inner world – their habitual thinking and beliefs – as well as their ways of behaving in and thinking about relationship, they begin to lead more genuine, authentic lives where they take powerful action and create what they want in their lives.

A life coach is focused on action and outcome. While it may seem obvious that action leads to outcome, the life coach also gives attention to how the inner world is reacting to and impacting the outer world of the client’s efforts to create the life they want.

The coach helps the client identify and develop sources for support and encouragement in their world.

The coach helps the client to connect with their spiritual self. Some clients have a desire to reconnect with a paritcular spiritual tradition or their understanding of a higher power. Others simply find that part of themselves by developing the skill of hearing their inner voice, their intuition speaking to them. There is no judgment regarding the client’s view of their spiritual life, rather they are encouraged to practice their beliefs and use them to support and facilitate their own growth.

The life coach realizes that giving an empowering meaning to pain and by creating a new sense of purpose is vital in overcoming pain and troublesome past expereinces. Although the focus of life coaching is not pain nor past events, they are not to be avoided. They can be a great source of motivation, growth, perspective and renewed sense of purpose. The life coach uses listening skills and compassion to encourage the client to the understanding that it is the meaning we create around painful events that is the source of healing and evolution.

The life coach helps the client understand what needs they are meeting by feeling, thinking and behaving in the way that they do. In this way, the client becomes conscious about how their inner and outer worlds inform and create one another.  By learning to be more true to themselves, more purpose driven, resourceful, self-respectful, accountable, clients discover their power to achieve. 

A life coach does not diagnose, but considers the client to be the expert on themselves and their needs. Although we can feel at some times like a complete mystery to ourselves, upon examination we usually hold the keys to our needs, wants, desires. The life coach draws out these insights and employs their training and strategies and experience to guide and to assist.

The life coach and the client are partners. The coach is not the expert but the guide. The life coach values client desires and goals and uses their training and experience to help the client get very clear about them. We do not wait for a big insight to gain momentum and motivation, but take small actions which build incrementally toward the very achievement desired by the client. In this way energy, motivation and momentum are gathered and magnified in an upward spiral of success.

The life coach, while maintaining healthy boundaries that should inform all relationships, is able to have a relatively casual relationship with the client. The coaches personal life experience is considered an asset to life coaching and is shared when appropriate. 

The life coach is not a scorekeeper or enforcer or expert. Every client has their own pace, their own ability to affect change in their lives. The life coach respects the client’s process and seeks to work with it, providing the level of support, guidance and encouragement that suits a particular client. The client is the leader who does the work and sets the pace. The coach is a guide who understands and supports the client’s vision and who has skills and strategies to share and teach that can help the client’s process along. The life coach helps build momenturm and confidence by celebrating the client’s gifts, talents, successes, new insights and growth.

A Side Note: Coaching vs Therapy

Whenever we encounter something new, we look for a known framework as a neans of understanding it. Often what arises in this case is a comparison of coaching with therapy. It seems important to be clear that coaching is not therapy. Psychotherapy is a medical model using an expert on the patient’s condition who creates a diagnosis and works to relieve emotional pain and restore functioning in the patient. There is often a focus on the history of the patient and on why the dysfunction occurred. This perspective is used to help the patient move away from their pain.

One of the biggest differences between life coaching and therapy is that life coaching is not intended to be used on its own for people who are severely emotionally impaired. People in this situation often need to have the help of someone who is an expert in the area of their needs. For example, if a client were suicidal, I would need to refer them to a licensed mental health professional. That said, it is often useful for a person under the care of a therapist to continue to work with their life coach as well. An analogy would be a patient who, while under the care of a general practitioner, develops a life-threatening heart condition. While a GP might feel the need for his patient to be working with a heart specialist, the doctor would hardly stop seeing the patient in order to monitor and improve their overall health and well-being. 

How To Make an Herbal Tincture

© Joyce Amsden 2013 – Boneset perfect for harvesting for use in an herbal tincture for colds, flu, sinus infections

You will need:

  • a jar with a tight fitting lid (pint or quart)
  • good quality alcohol such as vodka – at least 60 proof (30% alcohol)
  • a jar of herbs
  • a fine wire mesh sieve (of the type often used to strain loose tea) or a cotton cloth suspended over a bowl
  • one or more dark colored glass bottles with eyedropper
  • labels or masking tape

Step 1:   Research the herb you want to use
There is no substitute for a good herbal – a book that describes the uses of herbal medicines.

Step 2: Obtain the herbs
Harvesting your own is really the best, but you must make sure that you identify it correctly and know which plant parts to use.  Harvest respectfully taking no more than you need and no more than 30% of what you find so there is plenty for other creatures and plenty to go to seed.

If you are not able to harvest your own herbs, order them from an herbal store with a good reputation for quality.

Step 3:  Carefully wash, rinse and dry your jar.

Boneset Tincture
© Joyce Amsden – Boneset buds ready for addition of alcohol

Step 4: Place the herbs in the jar.   Leave 3 inches of space in the jar if you are using fresh herbs.  Fill the jar about half full if your herbs are dry.

Step 5:  Fill the jar with vodka, covering the herbs completely and more – several inches beyond the top of the herbs.  The herbs may float to the top.  This is okay.

Step 6:  Cover the jar with a tight fitting lid. Set it in a place you will remember to shake it a couple of times every day for 4 to 6 weeks while the alcohol is extracting the medicine from the plant material. I put mine by the kitchen sink.  Don’t forget the magic, the mojo.  Talk to your tincture.  Sing it a song.  Express your gratitude.  It will do you both good.

Do not be concerned if your tincture takes on a brownish color.  This is to be expected.

Step 7:  When 6 – 8 weeks have passed, strain the tincture. Use a fine sieve, wire mesh strainer or a clean cotton cloth laid in a colander. I like to strain my tinctures over a large measuring cup with a pouring spout.  Press any residual liquid out of the herbs with a spoon or gather up and squeeze the cloth with clean hands,

Step 8:  Store your tincture in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid  in a cool, dark cupboard or bottled up in 2 or 4 ounce dark glass bottles with eyedroppers.

Step 9:  Label your tincture as to contents and date.

Step 10:  Put your tincture to use!   Refer to dosage instructions in your herbal. Alcohol Infusions are quite strong and so dosages are small, usually between 5 drops and several droppersful.  They can be added to a little juice or water to make them more palatable.

The boneset tincture dosage is 3 droppersful / 3X daily for several days.


A Bird in the Hand


© Joyce Amsden 2014


After work today, I decided to work in my garden. Stopping by my car to fetch my water bottle, I noticed a little olive green sparrow-sized bird sitting on the ground just a foot or so from the passenger door. Because it did not fly away as I approached, I assumed it to be injured. I slowly set my phone, glasses, garden bag down in the grass and knelt in front of the little fellow. He didn’t move. As he raised his head and looked at me, I noticed a small spot of blood on his throat and his blood stained beak.

I asked, “Can I help you?”

Even at the sound of my voice, he made no attempt to move. I took off my black sweatshirt, covered my hand with it and slowly reached around behind him and picked him up. He made four rapid little chirps in protest and then fell quiet. He did not struggle as I fussed about preparing a place for him.

I got out the small cage that I keep around for this very purpose, a little dish of water, a chopstick and my Peterson field guide.

Red Eyed Vireo
© Joyce Amsden 2014

Having set up my bird hospital on the porch, I lowered him onto the bottom of the cage on a bit of newspaper as his feet seemed too weak to hold onto the wire bottom of the cage. His little claws were so fine, they caught in the fabric of my sweatshirt.
He settled on his belly and stayed very still. With the chopstick, I put a drop of water on his beak and the blood began to clear away. As I looked him over and considered his plight, I began to surmise the little guy had most likely been engaged in chasing some other bird from his nest.

I set the top of the cage over him and began to search for his likeness in my Peterson Field Guide. Soon enough I found him – a Red Eyed Vireo. He winters in the tropics and has a song rather like a robin’s “pretty bird” call, only blurred. As I read, I glanced at him. He closed his eyes for a couple minutes at a time and sat very still.

Red Eyed Vireo 5
© Joyce Amsden 2014

After about 10 minutes, I began to be aware of the birds singing around me. He seemed to become aware of them also and began to look more lively, looking around with interest for the first time. Then, as if shaking himself from his stupor, he fluttered to the top of the cage and clung there upside down and let out a chirp.

I have seen this happen before. Sometimes an injured bird just needs a few moments out of harms way to recover.   I took the top of the cage off and slowly tipped it and the vireo sideways. He looked around some more, crawled along the cage bars toward the opening. He paused a moment and left a big, uhm, “blessing” on my Peterson Field Guide and flew out of the cage and into the oak tree nearby.

I smiled as he disappeared into the soft spring green cover of oak leaves in the nearby tree and retrieved my collection of things from the grass. As I walked along the path to the garden, I saw the vireo fly into the pear tree ahead of me where he sat looking at me. I am sure it was him, for I could still see the red spot of blood on his throat. He just sat there for a moment considering me and I him. Ah, the story he will have to tell at the nest tonight. Me too.

This adorable little red eyed vireo is known as a fierce defender of his nest driving away even the pileated woodpecker who is about 5 times his size! This explains the blood on his beak!

For more about the red eyed vireo:


How to beat the Dirty House Blues !!

It’s Saturday morning. You stumble into the kitchen and pour yourself a cup of coffee. You sit down at the table and push aside some remnants of yesterday so you can sit with your cup of ambition for a moment before the kids get up.

You know the house needs to get cleaned up. Monday will come all too soon and there will be no time until next weekend. But, oh baby, you do not want to spend your Saturday cleaning.

I’ve been in this position more times than I can count and I’ve come up with a few tips that might help you out. My occupation for about 5 years was cleaning houses and offices and that experience has served me well in managing my own home. Staying focused and positive is what it’s all about.

So let’s just dive in…

First thing you’ve got to do is clean up your attitude. 

Yup, that’s what I said. I know, I know, you hate to clean. But for now, put that on a shelf. That thought drains your energy. You can use your mind to much greater effect and use all that “I hate cleaning” energy to get ’er done. Put on some music you love. It will distract your mind.

Next, simplify. 

Move quickly around your home and do a general sort of picking up. Get things off the floor, sofa, table, desk, etc.

This is not time to sort. Sorting is too distracting you will never get the cleaning done. Make a pile of stuff that belongs to each person. Put the mail and various household papers in a box and deal with them later. Sort roughly if you must… school papers in one stack, mail in another, but don’t get hung up on tidying. We are aiming here for a general unearthing of the surfaces you are going to clean. Don’t take more than 15 minutes or half an hour to do this.


Wring every bit of water possible from a dampened dust-free cloth. With this slightly damp cloth, dust everything you can get to. Remember, for now you are done sorting and tidying. Just dust what you can.

Now I know you may still be  struggling with your “I hate cleaning” attitude?

Focus in on what you are doing. Look at the surfaces you are cleaning. Notice how your hand holds the cloth. Notice how it slides over the table, chair, etc. Notice how the cloth feels in your hand. Notice everything your body is doing. Really look at what you are doing. If you really focus in, you will forget about hating anything. You might even begin to marvel at the sensations in your hands, at the wonder of moving around, in the miracle of another day to live and breathe and love. Is this moment really so bad?

Now you might be thinking this sounds really weird, but just bear with me and give it a try. If you didn’t do it before, put on some good, upbeat music.

Now on to the bathroom.

Spray a little window cleaner, Comet cleanser or a bowl cleaner of your choice into the toilet bowl and brush it out. Spray window cleaner on the rim, the outside of the toilet, tank, base and surrounding floor and wipe it down with paper towels. Paper towels remove all those bits of hair and dust that stick like glue to porcelain. Spray some window cleaner in the sink and wipe off the sink and faucet with a fresh lint free rag. Spray down the shower and wipe it clean with a rag. If it needs a thorough cleaning, make a note of that and the need to get some turbo bathroom cleaner later. Your objective here is to not get bogged down. Your objective is to get the house reasonably clean in as little time as possible.

You can wait and mop the bathroom floor later when you mop other floors, but i find it easiest and most effective to simply wipe the bathroom floor down with window cleaner and a rag. I find it is too hard to get into all the nooks and crannies of a bathroom with a mop.

Now move to the kitchen. Do the dishes. Wipe down the counters. Wipe off the stove. Wipe out the microwave.

With all this done, you are ready to vacuum, sweep, and mop the floors. Vacuum or sweep hard floor surfaces, as you wish. Vacuum all the carpets and scatter rugs. Now mop the floors. Voila ! You are finished! And that wasn’t so bad, was it?

Now if the kids get up in the middle of all of this and they are too young to help, get them what will hold them over for a bit and keep on your task. A fresh diaper, a piece of toast or a bowl of cereal might be just fine for now. If they are old enough, see if you can enlist their help. If that’s just not going to work, get them in front of a movie, perhaps, for just a bit while you finish up. We will talk about enlisting the help of the kids at another time, because I think all of us struggle with that at one time or another.

There are probably things you have not addressed in this once over cleaning, but look around you. Things are considerably brightened up and you can make notes on more thorough cleaning that needs to be done and set aside a time for that. In a like manner, lets discuss another time… cleaning products — what’s effective, what’s “green,” what’s unreasonably expensive for what you get out of it, what is worth the cost.

Drop me a line and tell me if this helps, what you would like more information on, what problems you run into, whatever is on your mind…