Listen to your heart. Sometimes I feel angry or sad and I am not sure what is going on. If I can, I will just stop what I am doing, sit in silence and breath. I usually end up crying and releasing whatever it may be, and it helps.
Often when we refer to wellness, we assume that we are talking about physical wellbeing. But one can be physically very healthy but still be unwell, emotionally or mentally. What are the steps we can take to cultivate optimal wellness in all areas of our life; to develop Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing?
As a part of our series about “How We Can Do To Cultivate Our Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Cator Sparks.
Cator Sparks is a CTI trained Life Coach based in Charleston, South Carolina.
After 20 years as a style and design writer/editor in New York City, Cator realized his true calling is to serve others. He coaches virtually so he is thankful to work with clients across the globe. While he is honored to coach anyone, his focus is men, and the queer community.
Cator is also a facilitator for EVRYMAN (a men’s wellness organization), and a coach for Boon Health (A holistic and personalized mental well-being platform).
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
From the outside I had a very happy childhood with a loving family, weekends sailing on the lake and summers at the beach, but being an ‘in the closet kid’ brought much stress, anxiety, shame and loneliness.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
I have worked with BakeR Gendron, a life coach in Sedona, since 2012 and I always found our connection so powerful, loving, fun and helpful. After my divorce from my husband and the loss of writing job in NYC, I really sat and thought about what I wanted to do in life. I always saw the spiritual, self-help side of my life as a hobby and once I realized I too could be a life coach, I signed up for courses with CTI and was on my way.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
I can’t point to one person, I have a huge and amazing network of supportive friends and family who have always been there for me and encouraged me to follow my dreams. I have to say I am my biggest advocate. When I set my sights on something, there is little to do to dissuade me. As soon as I let my family know this was my calling my sister simply responded, ‘I am sure you will succeed as you do with most everything you do.’ I’m immensely thankful for the support.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser. It was given to me by a dear friend and yogi the week my husband and I separated, and I felt like it was written just for me, just for this experience. I have since given it to other friends and clients who are going through a breakup. In short, it helped me realize that all the deep sadness, grieving, and confusion I was experiencing was just building me up for the next great chapter in my life and to stop and sit and learn from every single part of it.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
As Dolly Parton said in her podcast ‘Dolly Parton’s America’, ‘It’s all about forgiveness.’ Plain and simple. If I stay angry or am feeling hurt by you, who is feeling that anger and hurt- me. It doesn’t serve me, and it can be such a release to let it go (cue Frozen song).
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
I am so thankful to be working with two amazing companies, EVRYMAN and Boon Health. EVRYMAN is a men’s wellness organization that hosts a plethora of events for anyone identifying as male including online drop-in groups, programs, and webinars and podcasts. I facilitate the weekly GBTQ+ Group and edit their newsletter. Even before I began coaching I knew EVRYMAN would be the dream group to work for so I am very thankful to have connected with them so quickly and deeply. It’s a beautiful family to be a part of and the work we are doing is powerful and changing lives.
Boon Health is a new mental well-being platform that offers coaching, mental health seminars, and wellness events to small businesses. I have been working with them for a few months and really connected with some great clients through them across the country. It is wonderful to see businesses bringing on groups like Boon Health as an added bonus for their employees. This isn’t crisis help, we are there to connect with clients every two weeks to coach them through whatever topic they bring to the table. As we all know, happy employees show increased resilience, productivity, and engagement.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. In this interview series we’d like to discuss cultivating wellness habits in four areas of our lives, Mental wellness, Physical wellness, Emotional wellness, & Spiritual wellness. Let’s dive deeper into these together. Do you have a specific type of meditation practice or Yoga practice that you have found helpful? We’d love to hear about it.
Meditation is a funny thing. We get so hung up about the classic image of sitting with music and incense and silence. Sometimes that is exactly what I need and do, but other times it’s just brushing my teeth in my garden and staring at the stars, putting on Insight Timer (my favorite meditation app) and listening to a mindfulness course. A huge moment of meditation for me is taking my dogs to the beach in the mornings and watching them loose their mind in the waves and chase seagulls. While stillness can be bring so much up, simply being totally present is a huge meditation for me.
As for yoga, I have been going to the same studio for eight years that focuses on Hatha yoga. They just closed shop because of Covid so I am a bit heartbroken but excited to see where all the teachers land.
Thank you for that. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum physical wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
I have spent my fair share of time around alcoholics and because of that I don’t drink nearly like I used to. I rarely drink during the week and that has changed my headspace immensely. Don’t get me wrong, I get the party started here and there but overall, my drinking is minimal compared to my NYC days!
Since most coaching takes place in front of my computer, I am sure to get out and move around daily. Thankfully I have my dogs, so I have to take them out twice a day but I also workout at the Charleston Kettlebell Club about three times a week and that is my happy place for exercise, strength and community.
Do you have any particular thoughts about healthy eating? We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?
I love to cook, and I enjoy trying out new cookbooks. My mother recently gave me one of Ottolenghi’s cookbooks and that has been a delight to explore. My dear friend and nutritionist, Tali Sedgwick always says your food should never have more than five ingredients (think bread, crackers, cereals, etc) and I love trying to live by that rule. My boyfriend and I spend weekends together and that’s when we splurge and eat out and imbibe some quality cocktails.
From what I see, the main issue is time and cost. I know people who I am surprised to see still eating fast food, but they just don’t have time to make a meal or cant afford to cook for a family of four. Sadly, I think there is still a huge disconnect for many Americans regarding the food chain and how animals are raised, and their food is grown. I try to support my local famers/butchers as much as I can.
Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum emotional wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
- Sleep. Get off your phone an hour before bed, take a hot shower and get a good night’s rest. I notice I am most angry, frustrated, and annoyed when I simply haven’t had enough sleep.
- Exercise. Fresh air and experiencing new places can be very uplifting. Walk around your neighborhood (and listen to nature!), take a day trip to the mountains or the sea. Take yoga (in a studio safely or on Zoom), or my favorite quarantine class, learning how to Vogue!
- Connect. We all need human interaction so if you are lonely, call a friend or see who is free to meet up. Of course, working with a coach is a huge help to find purpose, open up about issues with work, family or relationships, and of course set goals to take your life to the next level.
Do you have any particular thoughts about the power of smiling to improve emotional wellness? We’d love to hear it.
My thoughts: It works! When we smile we can instantly feel happier. Try it.
Finally, can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum spiritual wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
- Really disconnecting at least once a year is important. While you can go to Peru or Bhutan, you can simply rent a cabin in the mountains or at the beach and just shut off from social media for a week or a weekend and be present. Bring a book, bring a friend, try something new and enjoy being disconnected for a bit.
- Listen to your heart. Sometimes I feel angry or sad and I am not sure what is going on. If I can, I will just stop what I am doing, sit in silence and breath. I usually end up crying and releasing whatever it may be, and it helps.
- Learn. Personally, I enjoy deepening my learning about spirituality, wellness, self-love, etc . There are so many podcasts, books and movie to explore.
Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
America is very divided and frankly it is scary. We need to find a way to listen to each other and to understand each other. We need to be compassionate towards these people who are fired up from conspiracy theories, they are simply living in fear. If we could break through the prejudice, homophobia, xenophobia rampant in that world and connect deeper, that is the only way we are going to be able to move forward as a country. How about an organization called ‘Us vs. Them=We’ and we organize meetings with people who have opposite viewpoints with a moderator and see if we can find connection?
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
My favorite thing in the world is to host a dinner party, so I could never pick just one. But if I could invite Dolly Parton, Lama Rod Owens, Marianne Williamson, Bjork, and Barack and Michelle Obama to my home for drinks, dinner and a deep dive, I would be in hog heaven.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.