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Embodiment

Compassion, Dreams, Embodiment, Emotions, Gratitude, Healing, Inner Guidance, Life Coaching, Life Path, Love, Power Within, Relationship, Self-love, Transformation, Wisdom

the gospel of James Baldwin

I want to share a piece I was asked to write about my path to counseling and the work I am doing in my graduate program. My adviser nominated me to be featured in our department newsletter, which I found very touching and an honor. I wanted to use my story as a platform for something more meaningful than just simple autobiography. I hope the message resonates with some of you.

In the neighborhood of Saint-Germain-des-Pres, across from the oldest church in Paris, lively conversation spills out of the cafés whose tables clutter the sidewalks. I found myself there this past August, after a relationship breakup and an airline credit flew me over the Atlantic to wander over cobblestone, take in centuries of art and architecture, and soothe my heart with an abundance of chocolate croissants. One morning I decided to map out the addresses of old haunts and habitats of my first and most enduring love, James Baldwin. I made a path through Parisian districts that followed the traces of where he lived, loved, and worked. Baldwin, the iconic gay black writer with the wispy, melodic, and powerful voice, raised in a strict Pentecostal home in Harlem, lived as an expatriate in France for most of his adult years. On my walk I paused at and peered into the places where Baldwin wrote his novels, Go Tell it on the Mountain and Giovanni’s Room—bistros, like Café de Flor and Les Deux Magots. I stood at the doorstep of his first Paris apartment along the tiny passageway, Rue de Christine, my feet pressing into worn stone where Baldwin’s feet had landed decades before. This self-guided tour was a sort of a pilgrimage for me, one that began at age 17.

Twenty years ago my high school English teacher gave me a copy of Another Country. Her scrawl in the margins of the inside cover told me: “I know you will love the honesty and passion of Baldwin.” Ms. Hepburn was a small and fiery white woman with a zest for life and a love of justice. The summer after graduating high school, when she turned me onto Baldwin, Ms. Hepburn and I met a few times to talk books. She confided in me then, that she had long been living with a woman, her true love. In our small town in central New York, she hid the most sacred contours of her heart for fear of losing her job. I hid mine in a home whose message was: you are too much, too emotional, too sensitive.  Finally, in Baldwin’s fiction, I found in vivid and breathtaking detail, the intimate secrets and wild frontiers of our relational lives, our connections and ruptures—across race and sexualities—studied, exalted, and celebrated as the heart of what it is to be human.

I also found in Baldwin’s essays and fiction, a new world, or like his title says, another country. It was, to me, as KRS-One raps on the album, Edutainment: “The language of the people ready to hear the truth.” In schools and at home, through textbooks, teachers, family norms and cultural myths that are passed down, I had learned a story of our nation, one that was wholly different from the reality depicted in Baldwin’s books. His voice was my entry into a body of work by black artists, poets, authors, and musicians in whom I found refuge from the delusion of an American culture that acted as if white was the norm, the only subjective experience, one usually cut off from our hearts and bodies, and which flinched and recoiled at real conversations about racism, past and present.

As an undergrad, I studied the history and politics of race and completed an Urban Studies semester based in Chicago that included a 3 day intensive anti-racism training. I continued to devour Baldwin’s books. The Fire Next Time said it clearly: white people are “still trapped in a history which they do not understand; and until they understand it, they cannot be released from it.” Baldwin wrote of the past in an uncompromisingly candid yet compassionate tenor, understanding that no movement forward would be possible until we, as a society, acknowledged what we had allowed ourselves to become in upholding systems founded upon dehumanization—that we, in fact, were all dehumanized.

From the study of history in college and at the Masters level at the University of Illinois Chicago, to several years of clinic work at Planned Parenthood health centers in California, Chicago, and Chapel Hill, deep study of Buddhism and a side gig teaching moving meditation, and a foray into being a public librarian-activist and then case worker in social services, I finally made my way to NCSU’s Clinical Mental Health Counseling program in the Summer of 2016. Being a Masters student in the Counselor Education Department has nourished and affirmed everything that Ms. Hepburn and James Baldwin first awakened within me when I was 17.  It is powerful to be in a supportive community of peers and faculty, where my strengths are valued and I am encouraged to grow and flourish. I feel a sense of belonging in both my cohort and in the field of counseling, which at the intersection of my passion for personal transformation and healing; embodied, heart-centered, authentic connection; social change and multicultural community; embraces all of who I am and yet holds me accountable to who I want to become.

In Dr. Marc Grimmett, I have an advisor and mentor who models compassionate, whole-person care, and displays self-awareness and sensitivity to the contexts of power, access, and privilege in which we and clients are embedded. That he and Dr. Helen Lupton-Smith developed the Community Counseling, Education, and Research Clinic (CCERC) , as a model of affordable world-class health and wellness services to reach underserved populations was an enormous draw for me in selecting NCSU’s Master’s CMHC program. I am honored and excited to be joining their team for my practicum and internship starting in January 2017.

Perhaps most unexpected and rewarding to me, is that I have been able to bring my passion for history into my counseling education. For a class presentation in Dr. Grimmett’s Intro to Clinical Mental Health Counseling, I made a website exploring the connection of historical memory to healing and what I can do, as a white counselor, to take action in recovering the past and de-centering whiteness for integration of the collective psyche. The website, Counselors for Courage, Truth, and Justice (http://counselorsforcouragetruthjustice.weebly.com/), is an ongoing inquiry of how I, and other counselors, can help foster healing, justice, and community in a nation that has not adequately addressed its white supremacist foundations and our inheritance of pervasive racism. The project integrates liberation psychology, theories of counseling, research, and interviews, and offers suggestions for historically competent tools, counselor-facilitated community consciousness raising groups, and the creation of safe spaces for public remembering and grieving. Dr. Grimmett encouraged us to submit one of our class presentations as a conference proposal to the North Carolina Counseling Association (NCCA). My proposal, “Historical memory and healing the national psyche,” was accepted and I am looking forward to presenting this as a poster board session at the 2017 NCCA Conference in Durham this coming February.

NCSU’s Clinical Mental Health Counseling program and CCERC are exactly the settings I need to be in to become the kind of counselor I want to be. I’m eager to keep learning alongside and from fellow counseling students and professors and to find ways to build and broaden the multicultural community of care I experience here, out into the rest of the world. I see us, as NCSU counselors, carrying on James Baldwin’s s message of truth and love, for widespread healing and justice.

 

Awareness of Sensation, Compassion, Embodiment, Emotions, Healing, Intention, Life Coaching, Love, Love is Space, Meditation, Open, Relationship, Self-love, Whole Body

Try a Lot of Tenderness

There we were, standing in his kitchen, just 6 weeks after we ended our 2 years together, when he announced his new romance. “I wanted to let you know that I’m dating someone.” At the moment that my brain processed the words, it felt like something shot into my chest and lodged there, inside my heart. Suddenly, it felt harder to breathe. I went home as soon as I could, to cry, tears that did not come as easily when we broke up, but now flowed. What a reality check: the person who still feels the closest in my world is moving on to become someone else’s closest and is entering the intimacy of her world.

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I’ve biked to cafes, walked and talked with warm and thoughtful souls, danced my heart out, snuggled my dog, delighted at frog and bird song, laughed with my best lady friends, practiced French, planned my trip to Paris, and hiked in lush woods along waterways. I’ve watched puppets and b-boys dance, worked myself out into a dripping mess of sweat and endorphins, found a polka dot bikini that fits, and indulged in ice cream. I can forget, when totally absorbed in the present of these joyous and connected moments, the sensation throbbing in my chest. But then, eventually, I am back in my room alone, or quietly walking across town in the rain, or I catch a glimpse of a romantic card at the store, and I feel it. I feel that something wedged into my heart. When I go into arguments about how it shouldn’t be this way, or start questioning how true his love for me ever was, or picture him kissing another, or remember the sweet beginning of our relationship, the pain brightens. I try to catch my breath. I feel it as both a chasm, a bottomless cavity, and as a clamp tightening and closing around my heart.

There is no outer relief. No friend who can make it go away. Nothing out there that can fix the feeling. There is no story I can tell myself to make it better. There is no name-calling, no judgement about him, no critique of the situation, no complaints about how it is too soon, no pettiness about who she might be, that can dissolve that heart-constricting crater. It has nothing to do with him, or her, anyway. It is about the need to be loved, to feel lovable, and this is mine, a human, normal, mine. These are the fears and wounds that our relationships show us–not so that we can demand love from others to feel whole, but so that we may be that love for ourselves. Relief only comes when I move toward that which is causing pain, and then soften around it…to discover that the around it is infinite. That infinite, is who I am. That I am, is loving and open attention.

I sense shallow breathing, choppy air, tight hollowness in my chest, my throat closing, nausea, and what feels like an inner fight, a resistance, trying to push all of it away.

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I stop holding my breath, and let the air flow naturally. I soften…soften around my chest, throat, jaw, gut. I keep softening and allow what is happening to simply be. I stop pushing the sensations away and move my attention outward yet not quite outside of me–I look from just behind my eyes, and feel from behind my heart. I feel into the back of the body, breathing in my 3 dimensions. There is an energetic field extending outward from my physical body. It has eyes and ears and awareness all its own. I shift into this bigger sense of myself: the field of consciousness that surrounds me. Instead of fixating on tight heart, lumped throat, and strained breath, I move my attention up to the top of my head, to the right and left sides of me, to my front and back, then down to the earth, holding my attention on the outer edges of my body. I quietly and curiously notice the many sensations in, on, around me. Tingles atop my head, cool air passing over my face, that bird outside is a high pitched chirp in my right ear, sweat feels slick on skin, and so much space all around me. From the shrinking of fear, grief, confusion, loss and strained breathing, I move out to inhabit that space.

Inhaling deeply, I fall with a relaxed exhale into the awareness that sees and holds all of it. I invite the discomfort to come closer, to show me what it really is. At first I worry that if I give it permission to be, it will grow and consume me. But then I am surprised by the lightness and soothing comfort that arrives when I stop resisting and let it be all that it needs to be. Beyond apparent boundaries of skin, bone, and muscle, beyond my 5’8″ 160 pound frame, there is an endless and expansive me–way more infinite than that crack in my heart. Way more able to love than small, fearful me could have imagined.

You, heart-twisting, lung-pressing, breath-gasping, stomach-dropping tenderness, thank you for bringing me deeper into my life, and inviting me to love more wholeheartedly: him, her, myself, and you, this pain.

I do still feel tender and short of breath at times. The tenderness comes up, catches me and takes my breath, and for a moment I am lost in a story of suffering and loneliness. Then I remember to soften. Again and again, I move into the space around me and soften. It may take days, weeks, or months to move through this, but I am moving through with lovingkindness.

And as I continue to show tenderness towards those tender parts, I also want to encourage the fiery, fierce, and focused parts to keep alive my dreams of creating a life of inspiration, beauty, integrity, and purpose. Indeed, I am already living that life in so many ways, which is why I had to move on from a relationship that felt in conflict with these dreams. Though I may forget and get swept up in my sadness in moments, staying in a story of despair or shutting down in bitterness are not options. As I heal this sense of loss, I will keep my heart open and ready to receive wild, soulful, and romantic possibilities! What about you? Where will you offer yourself space and softness? What happens when you show up for your tender places with a lot of tenderness?

Awareness of Sensation, Balance, Compassion, Embodiment, Emotions, grounding, Healing, Life Coaching, Love is Space, Mindfulness, Self-love, Suffering, Whole Body

The 5 S’s of handling distress

Sometimes a big emotion rolls in and seems to take over without warning.  We may be flooded with sadness, possessed by anger or jealousy, or perhaps we get caught in an argument or crisis and our whole system seems to get overloaded and overwhelmed in an instant. When we get triggered, we can help to re-set our nervous systems and calm our body, heart, and mind. Move through these 5 steps when you catch yourself stressed out or upset. If you’re interacting with others or in a public situation, simply excuse yourself by saying you need to go to the restroom or outside for a moment…no need to give a “why.”

STOP

press pause on the moment. don’t react. just take a deep, spacious breath in…and out.

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SOFTEN

notice your body. is there tension? loosen, let go, and soften your whole body. your jaw–relax it. your shoulders–lower them. with your strong emotions, you may only be able to do this a teeny tiny bit. that’s great…just a notch. turn down the volume of the situation by signalling to the body that it can soften a little smidgen. feel into the softness as much as you are able.

SCAN

close your eyes (if you’re able) and go into your body with your awareness. turn within. see inside your heart, your belly, legs, feet, arms and hands, throat and neck, head. draw your attention on what is happening inside. check out the energy in your chest area, behind your eyes, in your gut, feel within your muscles and bones…tune in and scan to see what it feels like inside you. breathe here for a few minutes.

SENSE

turning from the internal to the external: are you hot? cold? how do your clothes feel on your skin? how does the air touching your skin feel? what sounds do you hear? what do you see all around you–looking up, down, and side to side? observe as if you were a scientist just exploring and doing an inventory of what the 5 senses are picking up.

SOOTHE

take 3 full belly breaths in and out. find some way to soothe yourself. a cup of tea? a walk in nature? a piece of music? a healing mantra? petting a dog? choose something that soothes and restores.

~practice, rinse, repeat.~

Balance, Celebration, Embodiment, Experimentation, Freedom, Intention, Joy, Life Coaching, Movement, Open, Play, Whole Body

Taking a page from a 12 year old’s playbook

I’ve been spending lots of time with a young girl.

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She is bursting with fun, creative energy. She shrieks and laughs and announces her visions out loud. She has an endless stream of ideas for things to make and do, and a curiosity and bubbly excitement over an array of interests. Her favorites: imagining her dolls’ lives and relationships and designing new props for them, watching and bopping along to music videos, discussing characters from movies she loves, taking interest in her family history, playing board games, drawing and coloring, and jumping rope.

On top of all of the wonderment and play, girl’s got homework, too, though–reading, writing, and arithmetic. While she may not be as in love with these, she always gets ’em done…and without complaint. I’ve noticed a couple ways that she approaches things she has to do and balances them with what she wants to do. While our adult schedules may not allow for as much leisure time, I think we can still adopt some of her strategies for success!

 

 

  •  Treat the “work” a bit more like play. How? Can you turn a chore into something a little more fun, light, and engaging? This could be something simple like making housework and cleaning into a game with uplifting music and dancing around with a vacuum, rag, or broom. Or, paying bills could be something you can do with a timer on to see how quickly you can get ‘er done. Dress up in a zany outfit while writing a report or paper and use colorful markers for taking notes at work. Get creative and silly when there’s not too much at stake.
  • Break your activities up into small manageable chunks, rewarding the to-dos with little prizes of want-to-dos. You could set a timer and make an agreement with yourself to work on a less fun task for, say,  20 minutes, after which you can celebrate by eating a square of chocolate, dancing to your favorite song of the moment, looking at Pinterest for 5 minutes, etc. Mix the day up into work and play and reward yourself when you meet your goals!
  • Let’s get physical! I love that this girl throws in even 2 minutes of jump rope between some of her other activities, because this feels like a do-able way to sneak in movement and exercise without having to make a big deal of it. When getting up to grab something from the printer or another room, when transitioning between different work tasks, when returning from a restroom break, take a minute or two to walk fast, jog, stretch, shake out your arms, hands, legs, feet, and do some neck rolls. It’s easy to get trapped up in the small space that your brain occupies, forgetting about the wild animal body that wants your attention, from the neck down. Remember to check in with the senses and skin and muscle and lungs that moves and breathes you all day.

Brainstorm with me! What are some fun and accessible activities you can reward yourself with during a long day of commitments and errands? What is something that will make you smile, stimulate you, bring you pleasure or relief, that can be done in the moment? Comment below with a list of some of your ideas!

 

 

Awareness of Sensation, Embodiment, Emotions, grounding, Meditation, Mindfulness, Silence, Soul, Spirituality, Whole Body

In 2016? Resolve to do more of nothing + more loving.

I’ve long been suspicious of the popular tradition of setting New Year’s resolutions. I see a profit-driven mass media stoking people’s fears and insecurities and using marketing tactics that exploit our vulnerability by getting us to feel bad about ourselves and to invest in self-improvement products and memberships. It can amp up the frenzied and fast-paced tendency to seek for satisfaction from external goals or by trying to live up to unrealistic societal ideals of adventure, fitness, balance, or beauty.

On the other hand, there is something inspiring and powerful in the ritual of resolutions. That so many people are focusing energy and attention on intention at the same time, can fuel our own motivation and support us.  How do we set goals that bring us into more of a sense of our own power and wisdom within? How do we trust we are moving at our own perfect pace and keep encouraging ourselves to love ourselves when things are hard or we mess up?

I am totally thrilled to have assembled a group of awesome women to support one another in our goals through my women’s whole wellness group that starts meeting online on January 1st. And I love list-making and box-checking from my to-dos. But the 2 most important tips I want to share for the arrival of 2016 are not about what to do but more about what not to do.

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  1. Do not be hard on yourself! Please be kind, remind…yourself of how much you’ve done, how far you’ve come. Validate your feelings. Cheer yourself on and note successes. Do not use resolutions to beat yourself up, to judge or criticize yourself, compare yourself, or feel like a failure. Discouraging thoughts, harsh judgments when you fall off track do not help–they harm! They do not help motivate or change your behavior for the better. They do not come from a place of love or heart. Anytime you catch yourself in a hateful or mean thought about yourself, your emotions, energy level, progress on your goals, press PAUSE and take 3 deep belly breaths. Put your hand on your heart and offer some supportive and gentle words–to the part that let you down AND the part that is disappointed. The disappointed part has a message and a fear–acknowledge and love it. But remember you are much more likely to meet your goals and live up to your vision when you live from a place of compassion for yourself.
  2. Sit and do nothing. This is a quiet kind of courage–of going against the grain of our culture and the pressure to accomplish lofty, amazing, magical things in the new year. Believe that what needs to happen will happen–and with much more power and clarity behind it when you are moving from a centered and calm body, spirit, mind. It is brave to sit with ourselves quietly–5, 10, 20, 30 minutes a day, because when are just present to our experience without phones, friends, netflix, music we begin to FEEL the extraordinary sensations and emotions that are happening within us. Sometimes these can feel uncomfy, overwhelming, frightening, ungrounding, or giddy. Can you sit and BE and allow with the gentlness of holding a baby. Feel that icky feeling move through you as you would attend to an infant, vulnerable, innocent…maybe the infant is shitting on you and crying and screaming…how do you hold and be with an annoying baby? Curious to know their needs? Understanding their discomfort? Listening for cues of how you can help? Compassion for their suffering? Be with yourself like you would be with a baby. Set a timer. Monday 5 minutes, Tuesday 1o, Wednesday 15, Thursday 20, Friday 25. Can you go up to 30 on the weekend? Breathe, listen, feel, and be.

 

Autumn, Awareness of Sensation, Balance, Compassion, Dancing is Healing, Embodiment, Experimentation, Healing, Life Coaching, Love, Meditation, Mindfulness, Movement, Open, Self-love

Rainy days and Tuesdays

I’ve lost track of how many days it has been since I’ve seen the sun. Overcast and rainy here in Carrboro, North Carolina last week, then more damp grey in Charlottesville, Virginia where I spent a weekend reuniting with friends and the conscious dance community, and  back at home this week and in the 10 day forecast: showers, drizzle, thunder, clouds.

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Even before the rain came, I felt the onset of fall. The change in the air and the light…and my mood. Many people welcome weather that allows for soups, hot cocoa, long sleeves, pants, and boots. I bask in summer light and heat…I play and jump and dance in the luminous and tropical dog days.  Summer is the season that makes my spirit soar. And when autumn arrives, I always crash a bit.

The lack of sun and shorter days bring on a melancholy and a drop in my energy. I come home from work a little bummed. The sky is darkening and I haven’t gotten my daily dose of being outdoors. I feel it in my body as a slowness, a tiredness, a drop, and then my brain, whys and what fors and other existential questions pop and clutter the radio waves of my mind. I can see through their illusory nature…just thoughts, not true, and yet the pull towards going to sleep–literally and figuratively is strong on some somber September and early October days.

I co-lead a fitness group and so I have some pressure in my mind that I should be the exemplary model of staying on top of my workout (6 days a week is my ideal) and should be able to come right home from work and start exercising. I know exercise is good for the brain, so this will help, right? Well, humans are multidimensional and are bodies and brains need different kinds of attention to heal and rediscover our wholeness depending on the moment.

Here are 3 ways I approach my Autumn Inertia and Blues. May these serve you on days you’re feeling low and unmotivated.

  1. Surrender to your resistance. Instead of fighting the feelings and repressing or denying the very real and biological changes that happen when we are exposed to less light and the season’s change, allow yourself to feel what is happening and to honor the natural cycles and rhythms of your body and life. In that surrender, feel into your body and ask: what do i most need right now? What does that tenderness or tiredness want? Stop with the shoulds and instead tap into the needs of the moment–Do I need a bath? a walk? a cry? a nap? tea with a friend? journaling? knitting while watching a funny movie? Be soft and friendly with yourself. Allow yourself to be guided by what you need to do to care for yourself as you allow the feelings to be there…and normalize the feelings. It is normal to feel a change our energy and mood when fall replaces summer. It is normal to need some down time in the transition. Remind yourself of this and allow yourself the rest and comfort you need–without feeling bad about it.
  2. Opposite to emotion action. This is a skill from Marsha Linehan’s brilliant brainchild, a mindfulness and cognitive treatment program known as Dialectical Behavior Therapy. The dialectic is the embracing of the paradox: I accept myself completely, I embrace how I feel AND I can change my behavior and choose something different. So while we acknowledge that we are not feeling like working out, or going out, or socializing, we choose to do it anyway, as we can see we do not need to be controlled by the whims of ever-changing emotions. We make a choice out to act out of the wisdom that we will feel better through moving around and getting the blood flowing, or by connecting with people, or getting done what we need to do. Feel the resistance and do the thing anyway. You can break it down into smaller steps. You can visualize yourself doing the thing you know you need to do. But then just do it! This may seem contradictory to my previous tip, but it is not. It all starts with allowing what is there to Be, then connecting to your own wisdom to know what it is that feels right for you, case by case.
  3. Embody your resistance. This is an invitation to release whatever stuckness you feel through the body. I have danced and taught Nia for many years, a fitness program I love whose motto is “Through Movement We Find Health.” And if I cannot force myself to get up, lace up my sneakers, and turn on my workout dvd to do mountain climbers and burpees, there is a different way to move, organically, that will both address the need to move for physical health, yes, but also for spiritual and emotional health. Notice the pain and difficult feelings that are present and then move as if you were expressing them through your body. Right where you are, in your room (you can even start seated or lying down) get curious. This mood–sadness, frustration, exhaustion, depletion, resistance: what would it do, how does it move, what does it look like? This could be as small and subtle as slight tap of your fingers, turn of your wrist, lifting of a limb, maybe your feet or hips or head will start to get into it…get into your mood with your body and then express it outward. Move into a shape that feels like your sadness or struggle. Pause to feel it…then move with the changing emotions as you give them space to live and breathe and release through your body. Make it a dance…a creative, curious exploration of what movements your mood wants to make. Express the emotions, witness how they show up in your body, and move through them. What do you notice?

Bonus: read this poem by Rilke (translated by Robert Bly) aloud to yourself.

The leaves are falling, falling as if from far up,
as if orchards were dying high in space.
Each leaf falls as if it were motioning “no.”

And tonight the heavy earth is falling
away from all other stars in the loneliness.

We’re all falling. This hand here is falling.
And look at the other one. It’s in them all.

And yet there is Someone, whose hands
infinitely calm, holding up all this falling.

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Be the one to hold yourself up in your falling.

And for more support in the shifting season, sign up for my 7 Days of Self-Connection offering. It’s free. 

Autumn, Balance, Compassion, Curiosity, Embodiment, Emotions, Experimentation, Freedom, grounding, Healing, Life Coaching, Love, Love is Space, Meditation, Mindfulness, Silence, Soul, Spirituality

Intention, Reflection, Solitude, and Heart

Retro-Fallyinyang

For me, summer can tend to feel full and fun and overflowing with activity. It has a vibrancy and dynamism I enjoy in the hot sunny weather I soak up into my Vitamin D-loving skin.

As we downshift to fall, a new atmosphere takes over. The air is cooler, thinner. The evening sky arrives earlier and night sounds emerge in the dusk. Things slow down.

Last night I sat in my apartment enveloped by cricket sound and shadows and twilight. I felt pulled into a spaciousness and relaxation in the hypnotizing chirp that rose from the darkness.

I find that the arrival of autumn actually creates more space for me to re-set my intentions and be more deliberate about how I expend the energy I have. As I move into quieter days, what are the ways I live that are absolutely essential to my soul and spirit? And of what can I let go?

This brings me to why I do the work of coaching. When I am powering along and checking off to-do lists and staying on top of my responsibilities and running around from social event to work commitment to community meeting, I can go on for some time without ever being with myself. My head takes charge in attempting to manage and organize life, and it seems like I am doing everything “right” and staying on track. But I am not there. I am not in it–i am not really in my body or in my life.

The kind of overflowing that feels most nourishing is not the abundance of outer activity, but the abundance of our own inner resources. Coaching can be that pause button for someone else–and in the questions and the quiet, it offers my clients the opportunity to plug into their inner sense of calm, clarity, energy and wisdom.

I so believe that there is nothing more healing that being with ourselves completely. I am passionate about supporting that connection, in myself and others, that feeds our souls. Noticing, with our natural awareness, what we feel in our bodies. Tuning into our hearts, with breath and attention. Grounded and supported, by our own center.

Join me for a week long online retreat. It’s free…and though it is online, its goal is to get you offline for 20-30 minutes a day of Intention, Reflection, Solitude, and Heart. I will offer simple practices to encourage and support an ease of change into fall stillness and self-connection.

It’s easy to sign up. And the commitment is what you are willing to put in…and what you would like to get out of it. We start 10/10/2015 in the evening…we wrap up 10/17/2015. Each day, you will receive an email inviting you into short meditation, journaling, gratitude, nature walks…you have a lot of choice about how you do the practices. They are designed to nurture you as you only know how. open1

There is also an optional Facebook group that you can join in and share your experiences and support each other, if you wish. Contact me here if you’d like to be added.

Would love to have you there! Sign up here.

Balance, Curiosity, Dancing is Healing, Dreams, Embodiment, Experimentation, Freedom, grounding, Life Coaching, Mindfulness, Movement, Open, Personal Growth, Play, Power Within, Transformation, Whole Body

Balanced Living Part 1: Myth Busting

Who here practices yoga?

You know tree pose? Or vrkasana in sanskrit? Non-yogis: imagine rooting one foot into the ground and balancing on that side while your other leg folds up so that the foot can lay flat on the inner thigh of your standing leg. You are grounded to the earth and lifting up– long spine, chest open, arms out wide like tree branches, or palms together in prayer at your heart. Eyes fixed on a still point to help focus the mind.

5798315823_19a54c728a_zEven in the most expert and balanced version of this, there is movement. Some of us feel trembling in the leg, some shakiness in our arms. We may fall out of the pose and re-center to move back into balance. Then there is the rising and falling of breath, the micro-movements and tiny imperceptible adjustments to continually tweak and maintain strength and stability in the posture.

And yet in life, we often do not see balance like this–as a dynamic and ever-shifting process. Many clients come to coaching seeking balance as if it were a place they will finally land, a state at which they will arrive or a magic formula they will figure out…never to be overwhelmed, exhausted, or thrown off course again.

It can feel super challenging to do all the things we need and want to do in our days while also getting the sleep, nutrition, exercise, and time to relax that we need.

I want to offer some strategy and perspective to help. The very first is dropping the expectation that there will be a time when we will just get it and forever be balanced. Life is fluid and full of change…we can approach balance as something that we, everyday, recommit to moving toward and dancing with. We set our intentions and move consciously throughout our day, deciding what is truly needed in each moment. Breathing into our legs and lungs and making adjustments to stay clear, centered, and sane.

We can create more ease, be more clear on what our priorities are, and practice more presence. Yet moving towards balance does not mean we can eliminate uncomfortable feelings or stress or reach some final perfected equilibrium. More so, dancing with balance means we won’t get so rattled or discouraged by our challenges or by waves of chaotic energy. We will pay attention to our limits, know the signs of when to stop, and take steps to best nurture and care for ourselves. We honor our wholeness in all our decisions, and consciously choose how we spend our time and energy.

Next post: I will share more on how to stop chasing balance and how to live in the dynamic dance of balancing.

For now…

Homework PLAY:

Create a dance move that expresses your relationship with balance in your life right now…the dance may change, but now, what does it look like? What does it feel like in your body? Choose a theme song and do your balance dance movement to it! What did you come up with?

Awareness of Sensation, Compassion, Embodiment, grounding, Life Coaching, Mindfulness, Movement, Self-love, Spirituality, Suffering, Transformation

facing our fear of change

lately things in my life have felt uncertain, unpredictable, and downright chaotic. truth is, this is always the case. my homegirl, Pema Chodron, says it best:

“As human beings we share a tendency to scramble for certainty whenever we realize that everything around us is in flux. In difficult times the stress of trying to find solid ground-something predictable and safe to stand on-seems to intensify. But in truth, the very nature of our existence is forever in flux. Everything keeps changing, whether we’re aware of it or not.”

so while everything is changing all the time, there are moments when we are acutely aware, excruciatingly uncomfortably aware. we are thrust into the middle of the manic movement. it tosses us around. it feels dizzying and unstoppable. we often flail and thrash around to try to force something to solidify or clarify or to try to grab a hold of something fixed to keep us flying off the earth’s surface. chaoschange

how can we handle these storms without losing complete contact with ourselves, with our stillness, centeredness, and intuition that are always pulsing within? how can we move with the chaos, into the change, instead of against it?chaosflipone thing in the moment

this is deceptively simple and uber-powerful. be where you are. be totally in your experience of what you are doing. right. now.

that’s it.

say to yourself: “right now, i am driving to the store.” then “in this moment, i am waiting at the stoplight.” and “right now, i am noticing the traffic.” or “right now i am looking for parking.” and so on…

it seems basic–and that is why it works!

bringing the brain back to the basics, focusing our attention only on the task at hand, can deliver us into the safe space of the now. unless there is an immediate threat or danger around, most stress we experience during times of transition, originate in our heads.

with this practice, instead of getting pulled into rumination or worry, we only use our brain to experience what is here & now. there’s no room for that thought-spasm that is trying to control a situation over which we have no control.

only present are the thoughts about the actions and observations of this moment.

get grounded heartree

there may never be any solid ground in our experience of life, as Pema is suggesting in the excerpt above. even in periods of apparent stability, things are always shifting, moving, ebbing, flowing. just when we think we’ve “made it”–in career or relationship, etc. things can change drastically in an instant. which is why, when our feeling of this groundlessness is heightened, it can help to connect with the literal ground and feel its support.

like to garden? great! if not, just find a place to sit or lie down on a rock or in a field or even on your bedroom floor…let yourself be supported by the ground and take in the sensations of where it is touching you. notice it is there, holding you, giving you a place to Be. without conditions.

other ways to ground: walk barefoot on the earth, hold heavy a rock in your hands, meditate with a grounding stone like Tigers Eye, listen to drumming, eat root vegetables, drink holy basil tea. any other suggestions to bring the energy levels down?

move with change

those of us who are regular visitors to the ocean are probably familiar with riptide safety 101.

  • don’t panic
  • don’t try to swim against the current

swimmers who succumb to rip currents do so because they exhaust themselves with the fight and drown.

let this be motivation to connect to the calm within. take a moment now to find it.

for me, when i bring attention to my physical center…just above the naval and above the lower back and move my awareness inward to meet in the middle from front of the body and back of the body,  i can sense a steadiness there. i can also tune into my heart center and find calm there. birds-633103_1280

find your center. from that steadiness, relax. then move. don’t freeze, flail, or fight. roll and shift and sway and lightly dance into it, allow the change to guide you, and with radical trust, let go.

peptalk to yourself

this can feel like hard, scary stuff. go gentle with yourself. remind yourself when things feel particularly tough, that you are strong, brave, and fabulous for showing up to life.

this is how it is–the reality of life is all about change. moving into, with lovingkindness towards yourself is what it’s all about. suffer less…surrender more. remember that you have survived hard times before and we often emerge from strange churning and chaotic rumblings stronger, wiser, and more connected to our fellow human beings, who are on similar change-filled journeys. send yourself some love right now. you are doing awesome!

Awareness of Sensation, Dancing is Healing, Embodiment, Movement, Whole Body

movement practice 2

let’s dive right into this practice! if you did the first, the instructions are pretty much the same. this time, think of a song that doesn’t bring the same kind of natural ease and desire to dance. this doesn’t have to be a song you actually hate…a strong reaction might be distracting, so better to pick a track that you feel neutral about or even like but can’t imagine dancing to.

this is all about exploring and allowing awkwardness and confusion…so even less reason to be a “dancer” in this exercise. embrace your clumsy movements and unsure footing! stay with it, stay with yourself. surely there are times in life when we don’t know what we are doing, when we’re in new territory, when we have to do it anyway and persevere through our discomfort. bringing some curiosity and loving attention to these moments can lighten the load and create space for learning and growth.

so, here goes (download worksheet here for a complete set of instructions)

Think of a song that you find challenging in some way…either you just don’t connect to it or when you’ve tried to dance to  it,  your body feels tremendously awkward and your mind confused, a song where you just don’t know what to do or how to groove. Cue up your song and have it ready to go.

For reflection afterwards, respond to the following questions as best as you can. Again, stay curious and non-judgmental. (here are my answers!)

Song artist and title:

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  1. Describe in 5-7 emotion words how you felt as you heard the song. Pause to breathe into those feelings. What are you feeling now?

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  1. Where did you feel the music most in your body? How did your body feel?

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  1. Did you move mostly in one place or did you travel around the room? Why or why not?

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  1. Where in your body did you feel the most stuck or unsure? What parts of your body were you able to move?

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  1. Did you notice any shift happen for you as you kept up the practice? Did anything get unstuck? Did you find any movements you liked?

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  1. Did your feelings about the song change or stay the same?

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  1. What do you think are the qualities or sounds in this song that make it challenging?

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  1. On a scale of 1-10, how much of you was fully in the experience of moving? Where else were you if your attention was divided?

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