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Adventure, Balance, Celebration, Curiosity, Embodiment, Emotions, Experimentation, Inner Guidance, Joy, Life Coaching, Personal Growth, Play, Psychology

Wellness is swell ish Part 2

In my last blog post, I introduced the concept of the Indivisible Self, and focused in on the coping self. Now I want to dive into the creative self, to encourage each and every one of you to cultivate that natural curiosity and aliveness that we all possess when we drop in and reconnect to our childlike wonder and willingness to risk and play.

First, a quick refresher on what the Indivisible Self is—it’s a wellness model widely used in counseling because it is back by research on how living in wholeness means that we are integrating body, mind, spirit through attending to these intersecting and overlapping components of the social self (family, friendship, and romantic love), the essential self (your spirituality, cultural identity, and self-care), the physical self (exercise and eating well), the coping self (what you do in your leisure time, your stress management, and your self-worth), and the creative self (your thoughts, your emotions, what you do for work/study, and your sense of humor), which is what we will now explore, in depth.

Not everyone will be a painter or professional dancer, but we all have an innate creativity that comes through in our ability to learn, laugh, think outside of the box, and express our authentic selves and natural talents. Tapping into the creative self means realizing how unique we are and recognizing the strengths and gifts we bring to the world just by being ourselves. Nurturing this aspect means attending to our thinking—being mentally active and open-minded, willing to learn and bring curiosity to our lives and interactions—and our emotions—knowing how we are feeling, and expressing those feelings appropriately. The creative self also includes our satisfaction in a job or vocation that we feel uses our skills, a feeling of mastery and competence and a sense of humor and the ability to laugh at our mistakes. There is a lot of research that supports the benefits of positive thinking, emotional regulation, and laughter—reducing depression and anxiety, while strengthening the immune system.

This list, I hope, will spark some ideas of how to connect to your creative self.

Engage in life-long learning. Take advantage of events and programming at your local public library, universities, or museums. Watch the 25 Most Popular TED talks of all time. Enroll in a free online class through Coursera, whether it is how to speak Korean, intro to philosophy, or how to do web design, there are so many fascinating topics to dive into and learn.

Understand the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. Sometimes we believe that our goals cannot be reached or feel discouraged at a new challenge. Our thoughts are powerful and if we approach life with the idea that our abilities and knowledge are limited or “fixed,” then we are less likely to succeed or even risk the challenge of new opportunities. In a growth mindset, we know that with practice and effort we can learn new skills, adapt, and succeed. Catch yourself when you have thoughts like “I will fail,” or “I don’t have talent,” and turn it into: “Before people succeed, they often experience some failures along the way,” and “I may not be able to do it now, but with practice and effort, in time I can probably learn.”

Know your strengths and celebrate them. Take this free survey from the VIA Institute on character strengths. Read up on your gifts and take some time to appreciate what makes you unique. I’d love to see your results! Take a screenshot and send it to me, letting me know what top strengths most resonated or surprised you!

Pick up one of these books and open your mind! (have any other book suggestions for our readers? comment below!)

Thought experiments and whimsical, mind-bending instructions from artist Yoko Ono in her book, Acorn 

Inspiration and practical advice on getting to the work of being creative in Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron is a classic that can get you living your life more creatively right way through its many exercises

 

 

 

Check in with and validate your emotions. When we are very busy and have a lot on our plate, it’s easy to rush through our days without noticing how we are feeling. Get into a habit of stopping to sense what you are feeling, scan your body and notice any tension or stress and take some deep breaths as you visualize that tension leaving your body. Ask yourself: what are some deeper needs that I can give some attention to before returning to my to-do list? You might set an alarm or bell on your phone as a reminder to pause and check in with yourself. Use these helpful handouts to identify your emotions and needs.

Laugh every day. Even when times are tough or we face serious situations, it is important to remember to laugh. Comedy can provide relief and release tension, as well as increase blood flow, boost our immunity, and improve our emotional health. Spend time around friends or family who bring out your silly side, watch one of these funny movies, find hilarious clips on youtube, or take a laughter yoga class, where you can get an endorphin high without needing any real reason to laugh and instead treat laughter as a healthy exercise.

Share in the comments some of your own go-tos for getting creative and playful when life needs some lightness.

Awareness of Sensation, Compassion, Emotions, grounding, Love is Space, Mindfulness, Radical Acceptance, Sacred justice, Self-love, Spiritual Activism, Spirituality, Suffering

Lovingkindness in action

Yesterday, when House Republicans voted in favor of replacing the Affordable Care Act with their own version that would raise insurance costs, exclude benefits for an astonishing array of “preexisting conditions,” and cut taxes for the rich while penalizing the poor and middle class, I witnessed the tremendous wave of anger and pain that so many in our country were feeling, those who depend on the flawed yet essential coverage that ACA provides us and those with loved ones who rely on these benefits. Sure, this system is far from perfect, but it allows so many who previously were uninsured or underinsured to finally have the safety net to access care and get medications they need to live without going into debt. Feelings of despair and outrage are a natural response to such self-serving, irresponsible, and cruel legislation. I want to share, though, that as we make space for the pain we feel, we can also experiment with some alternate responses, to help us cope and build resilience in the face of a long 4 years. For my readership outside of the US, i am sure these ideas can be applied to other situations in which injustice and power-hungry demagogues prevail in your own lives.

  • Take action. Lovingkindness is the inspiration for my coaching practice, and is the deep compassion I want us to all have for ourselves and others. Lovingkindness means responding to our own needs and the needs of those around us.  Some people’s response to seeing anger in others’ is judgment, and claims that this is a “negative” or “toxic” emotion to be avoided. Some who identify with new age spirituality want to hold onto bliss experiences and therefore stay out of politics and avoid difficult subjects like poverty and racism. I’ve seen others spread the notion that love will conquer all, as if we don’t have to actually do anything but radiate some emotion and all will be well.  No spirituality is worth anything if it does not care about the suffering of others. Anger is an energy of protection, fierce compassion, and a commitment to justice. Honor its place and channel it into appropriate, loving action. While politics may be unsavory, they are a fact of how power is marshaled in our society to the benefit of some and to the detriment of a great many. We must be invested in the fate of those around us. We are responsible for standing up for what is right, making our voices heard, and holding our representatives accountable by making calls, donating to campaigns and causes for justice, and voting. Some of you might be called to run for office, and if so, that is great! But we don’t need to make this kind of commitment in order to be involved. Start here. Call your senators to oppose the AHCA. Or text “resist” to 50409 to easily contact your senators. Donate to organizations doing work for immigrants, refugees, racial equity, the environment. Find what resonates with you.
  • Focus on the facts. It is painful to realize that so many members of Congress are okay with gutting healthcare for our most vulnerable citizens. This is heartbreaking. And we also can get grounded in the moment and remind ourselves that this was only the first step to passing the AHCA. No one is yet being harmed or hurt by this bill. This is not to deny the potential threat posed, but to help propel us into moving with resolve to working to make sure it does not get through the Senate, and to help us not suffer so much with the imagined torment and dying that could happen under AHCA. We do not need to jump to the future yet and create nightmare scenes in our head that cause us more panic and pain. Stay in the present, focus on what is happening in the moment. Nobody is dying or being denied coverage due to this bill, and if we get consumed with fear over what could happen in the future, we may not be as effective in taking steps to stop it in the now.
  • Accept reality. This has 2 important pieces for me. The first, is understanding that given who these Republican leaders are and looking at the evidence of their values that came through in recent years of intransigence, racism, misogyny, and greed, it is not at all surprising that they passed this legislation yesterday. I can ease some of the suffering and preserve some of the wasted energy that comes out of saying, “I can’t believe they did this heartless thing,” and instead, with complete acceptance of reality say, “It makes a lot of sense, knowing what I know about these people, that they would behave in a manner consistent with a lack of heart and lack of mercy.” This does not change the facts or say they are okay or good, but helps me to not argue with the truth of what is happening. The second piece is similar. I ask: what part of me is refusing to accept that this is happening? In what ways am I resisting that this legislation and this awful administration is part of our reality? I am down with the #resistance, don’t get me wrong. Political action and justice organizing are essential, and, I think, more effective if they come from a place of radical acceptance. Check out this therapist’s advice on staying sane through these difficult times, using the principal of radical acceptance of reality. We aren’t saying things are acceptable as in good, but that we when we accept that things are the way they are, we can more effectively change them.

Offer yourself empathy, place your hands on the places in your body that are feeling constricted, tense, nauseous, or twisted up in pain and offer some soothing words and spacious breaths of allowance–it is understandable to feel distraught when those entrusted to protect people are intent to cause pain. But don’t get stuck there. Pick up the phone, focus on the facts, be honest about what is happening, and put that incredible compassion you have into action.

 

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.

 

Compassion, Emotions, Love, Sacred justice, Uncategorized

Live the story of Thanksgiving

This Thanksgivng, I’ll pass on the turkey and cranberry and instead scoop up a big serving of lovingkindness. I’m going to take that in and heap extra care and lovingkindness upon you, too! I think we all are in need.

I am feeling grief over the contradiction of our Thanksgiving myths and stories and the reality on the ground as military force protects private interests and harms peaceful water protectors at Standing Rock. You can support the NoDAPL coalition and defend indigenous rights by contacting the people linked here or sending supplies.

Supply note: With at least two hundred injured last night, Standing Rock medics are in critical need of the following items:

Milk of Magnesia
Wool socks
Wool blankets
Space blankets
Hand warmers
Trauma kits (portable)
Suturing kits
Straw bales

Supplies can be shipped to:
Standing Rock Medic and Healer Council
PO Box 1251, Bismark ND, 58502
or if you are shipping via UPS or Fed Ex, please use the address:
220 E. Rosser Ave. 1251, Bismark, ND, 58502

Or you can donate to the Standing Rock medics.

If Thanksgiving is about fellowship, then let us embody that in our communities, by connecting with love, protecting the vulnerable, resisting the fascist and racist take over of our country with fierce compassion.

 

Compassion, Curiosity, Discernment, Emotions, Healing, Inner Guidance, Intention, Life Coaching, Life Path, Meditation, Path, Personal Growth, Self-love, Silence, Soul, Support, Transformation, Wisdom

An Inner Knowing

For many months in my previous partnership I struggled. Within me, when I got still and quiet, I knew that my soul had outgrown the relationship. Feeling strongly attached to this person and fearful of losing the comforts and safety of our connection, my heart wasn’t quite ready to let go. If I dropped into intuition there was a clear answer, an answer I avoided and pushed away. Instead, I kept going into my head to find and remind myself of the plentiful reasons to stay. He was kind, gentle, sweet, caring, affectionate, accepting, stable, steady, grounding, responsible, and a good cook (I miss his fish tacos and macrobiotic bowls!).

Even though on a soul level I knew I’d have to leave, my head sought out the insights of my therapist, my mom, and an elder with whom I had bonded. I sought counsel from self-help books and relationship experts. womanwater I took in any advice whether it was targeted to me or about relationships in general. In all of this I was looking for reasons to stay that would be strong enough to overcome the twisting and conflicted feeling inside that told me to move on.

I stayed with him for a year beyond what my inner guidance was telling me. I absolutely do not regret it. Following my intuition early on and ending the relationship when there was real, genuine care and comfort, may have led me to worry that I had not tried hard enough to make things work. The books, the conversations, the resources, and the counseling, all of it brought me to a place of acceptance. I had tried everything, given my all, and could leave the relationship knowing it was the right choice. And I was building a muscle. A muscle of intuitive trust, so next time there will be a recognition, –oh *that*, I know that feeling…that feeling is telling me what is true.

To the tenderhearted, lovelorn, and longing: there’s tons of advice out there, books on relationship rules, and gurus sharing wisdom on love, but it probably won’t do you a bit of good. People told me “stay!” because you can’t get all your needs met from one person. (I agree). People told me “leave!” because you are worthy of someone who really meets your nonnegotiable needs. (I agree). People told me that men aren’t that comfortable communicating about their feelings so I’m expecting too much. (Really disagree!) People told me to go, not to settle — there’s someone out there who wants to share their inner world with you. (I optimistically say, hell yes!) My point is: it didn’t really matter what people said. There were so many conflicting voices and I could find what I wanted to hear, but the only voice that really knew was inner guidance and I wasn’t ready to listen until I was ready to listen. Same with you.

Get still and silent, drop in, there is a knowing…oftentimes the head comes in and rationalizes, argues, and quiets that voice, but, really, truly, there is a knowing–of the next step, the deepest hunger within, your most authentic sunsetsit offering to the world in this moment. When we practice meditation and tune into ourselves, we can build more trust and attunement to inner guidance. Next time, it won’t take me so long to respond to the inner call.

Sending you love wherever you are in your journey. When you listen within and are open to where inner guidance wants to take you then you are in the flow. Yet even when you deny that voice you’re still on the path, and life will pull you into the wave of change even if you resist. Swim with the wave, breathe, love yourself all the way through.

Balance, Dreams, Emotions, Experimentation, Freedom, Life Coaching, Life Path, Love is Space, Movement, Open, Personal Growth, Support, Transformation, Wisdom

When the light leaves our path

A couple of weeks ago I had the chance to catch up with a close friend who moved away last year.  I was excited to fill her in on all of the newness in my life, especially graduate school and all that I am learning on my way to becoming a counselor.

And I was also eager to hear where she was at, after completing an intensive training on her path as a healer. She shared some of the struggle that is common after going through a life-changing experience. In this case, when a craft or vocation that deeply resonates is shown to you, you can see yourself living this out, yet you are not entirely sure how to get from where you are to where you want to be. I went through this uncomfortable and disorienting phase after finishing a life coaching program that held me and guided me for nine months. When the 9 month gestation period came to a close, me and this tight-knit group of women who’d been meeting weekly, were set free. Suddenly in the absence of structure and with coaching certificate in hand I wasn’t sure what to do with myself. With the withdraw of community energy all supporting our learning and dreams, I felt some post-process blues, as I returned to my everyday life, wholly changed yet not able to see the change bear out. alone-971122_1280

It took almost as long to move through the phase of integration as it took to complete the training program itself, so I wanted to assure my friend that the period of seeming inaction and confusion after feeling inspired and motivated is normal, and may be necessary. In these periods of lull and let-down, we are still upgrading our psycho-spiritual processing system, and that can take time.
Giving ourselves a
healthy dose of spacious patience to move through change and integrate helps us to be more effective in our pursuits, and also allows us to model to others how to live during these difficult times of limbo.

Before I’d gotten to the point of clarity around wanting to coach and eventually counsel, when I was feeling completely lost as a librarian searching for my calling, that phase, also, was precious and valuable. I guide others through muck and distress. Having been deeply in it, myself, at times trusting that movement was happening when things felt stagnant, at times feeling excruciating pain of feeling lost and unsure of how to serve, and at times surrendering and calling out for help, all of it was part of the path.

I’d just had the realization the night before talking with this friend about those many years of feeling impatient and frustrated, when my soul and heart wanted to burst out of my skin because I knew my true calling was in there somewhere, wanting to be born, but I did not know how to birth it: I was exactly where I needed to be at the time. The pain I had felt led me to deep listening and tuning into inner awareness, tweaking my lifestyle in small and big ways, finding mentors and guides, and getting into dance to move through all of it and heal in community.surrender

Because of all of this I am able to bring a full, dynamic self to the craft of counseling, carrying many healing practices and approaches with me because I relied on them to get me here. I know that I can give my energy and effort towards excellence in my counseling program without compromising the rest of my life. I can live in harmony, so that grad school and my career path are just another expression of who I am, embodied and in my heart. If I had discovered counseling as my path 10 years ago, I would be bringing a lot less life experience, fewer tools and resources, and less perspective on suffering and the wisdom of all emotions. I would be studying and writing papers without feeling the fluidity in my body, without dance and meditation breaks, without a sense of my own wholeness.

What bell hooks says of “engaged pedagogy” applies as much to counselors, coaches, healers, or creatives as it does to teachers in the classroom. If I may adapt her proclamation from Teaching to Transgress to the practice of transgressive therapy: “Counselors must be actively committed to a process of self-actualization that promotes their own well-being if they are to counsel in a manner that empowers clients.” That process is not always easy, it happens in the dark, and at times, on a road no one else has traveled before. We walk, we crawl, we curl up and take a nap, and with courage, we keep moving.

I envision with and for my clients a pervasive sense of well-being. Who they are when living a heartful and soulful life comes through in all that they do. But I also know that along the way to purposeful and centered we can feel stuck, at a loss, and alone.  Coaching can provide the support and teach tools of self-compassion, to move into the radical trust that you are on the heart-soul path even when it feels scary or stagnant. With courage, lionhearts!

 

Adventure, Autumn, Celebration, Compassion, Dreams, Emotions, Experimentation, Freedom, grounding, Healing, Intention, Life Coaching, Life Path, Mindfulness, Open, Personal Growth, Self-love, Soul, Suffering, Support, Wisdom

Letting go, creating change, a practice for magicians and wizards of self-love

A beautiful, sunny day that began with a walk with a friend and dogs, with weekend weather that’s allowed the delicious coziness of light sweaters and leggings.  An exciting new beginning as I’m catapulted into my life as a full-time graduate student, in a field fully aligned with my mind and heart, where I’m getting daily affirmation that I am on the right path. Also, close enough to my return from France that I still can recall how freeing the experience of traveling alone feels in my body, and can easily connect to the joy of walking miles a day on cobblestone to be wowed by gardens, castles, vineyards, ornate bridges, rose windows, public transit, and pain au chocolat.  These are days to cherish and savor.

IMG_2421

I turned 37 in July and when I left 36, I entered into possibility and adventure. I started inhabiting myself more completely, without the inner struggle and conflict that marked past years of grappling with career and relationship confusion, sapping my energy and attention (more on that, soon). I feel fully engaged and in my life, and I feel satisfied.

Except for when I don’t. There are times I forget and feel impatient about where I am on the journey. Instead of staying open to possibility and adventure, I close down around my desires and feel like I can’t be me until things or situations arrive or can’t be truly happy until things are arranged to my liking.

In some ways ending a 2 year relationship and starting out a Masters program can seem like certainties, specific finalities or futures planned out. Yet being single and in “beginner’s mind” as I embark on the path to becoming a counselor, so much is unknown and undefined. This is a vulnerable place to be, but truly, we all never know what will happen, even if things seem solid, small changes sometimes have a big impact, and small changes can happen at a moment’s notice.

For me, these next couple years will be a process of getting to know my philosophical orientation and professional identity as a counselor, getting to know people and clarifying my relationship goals and what I want to give and receive in my romantic life. There are a billion things I want for my life at 37 and beyond, some of which I am pursuing by going back to school for counseling, taking on new coaching clients, meeting people online and dating, dancing at home and in community, and forging friendships as I release old connections that I’ve outgrown. The constant practice, for me, is to not close up around my wants and get attached to outcome, to not craft an identity that I then get stuck in and am unable to flex and grow from, and to not feel discouraged when what I believe I want is not already here.

So, here I share a practice that I do to build my awareness around where I am attached and where I summon all the power of life and love within and without to break these fear-based patterns.

I meditate in stillness and quiet for 10-25 minutes before moving into this practice. Establishing the connection of meditation helps me listen more deeply to what is true under the surface grasping and whining. Then I go inward and check out what I am holding onto, what thoughts are driving my emotions and behaviors, what stories I’m telling myself, then I name all of it as I pull in a “clearing statement” from Access Consciousness, to help me cut through it with sharp awareness, wisdom, and compassion.  The clearing statement is like the abracadabra of a magical spell…”I  create as I speak,” or “May it be so,” invoking the power of language and intention to create change.

abra

Even in times of joy–sometimes especially, as we may be clinging on to things as they are, worried about losing what is going well–we can experience anxiety and insecurity. As this very amazing moment in my life opens me up to learning new things and loving new people, I find a lot of fear in and around my chest, a tightening jaw, flurried belly flops, repetitive thoughts pulling me into a spiral of anxiety, and a tenderness about emotional, intellectual, and spiritual risks that I am taking.

The process of tuning into all of this, speaking it, and clearing it out went like this the other day (note–these words came out spontaneously and were captured on audio so I could share with you–it is always unknown, unplanned, and uttered from the wisdom of the moment):

ALL THE WAYS I let fear pull me around, hook me in. All the ways I lose trust. All the ways I abandon myself and focus on someone else making me whole. All the ways I grab and cling and want to control life or know the future and ensure an outcome. All the ways I contract and get tight and small around my desires. Destroy and uncreate all of that. “Right and Wrong, Good and Bad, POD, POC, All 9, Shorts, Boys and Beyonds.”

ALL THE WAYS that I leave myself, my truth, my wholeness and grasp at something outside. All the ways I think someone can fulfill me, all the ways I feel afraid of rejection, abandonment, of not being lovable. Destroy and uncreate all of that. “Right and Wrong, Good and Bad, POD, POC, All 9, Shorts, Boys and Beyonds.”

ALL THE WAYS I forget that I’m already whole and already loved, all the ways I lose touch with my own heart and go into lack…all the ways I dwell in sadness and fear, that I feel sorry for myself. All the ways that I push away my experience and reject my emotions. Destroy and uncreate all of that. Right and Wrong, Good and Bad, POD, POC, All 9, Shorts, Boys and Beyonds.”

ALL THE WAYS I get self-absorbed and make my pain the center of the world, all the ways I don’t show up for others and don’t reach out to connect, or make my sadness bigger than everything else on earth, including my own heart. Destroy and uncreate all of that. Right and Wrong, Good and Bad, POD, POC, All 9, Shorts, Boys and Beyonds.”

ALL THE WAYS I believe I’m smarter than everyone, the ways I judge and criticize, all the ways I want to be right, all the ways I am not open to learning and challenging my world view. And all the ways I make myself small, don’t use my voice, doubt my intelligence and contributions. Destroy and uncreate all of that. Right and Wrong, Good and Bad, POD, POC, All 9, Shorts, Boys and Beyonds.”

Having been said, make it so, now. Activate growth, change, and healing.

Clearly, I could (and did) go on…that was just a part of what felt up for me on 1 day. I share this to show you that we are in this human experience together–all the ways we undermine our own happiness by identifying it as outside of us or in the future, when some external goal is reached. All the ways we humans think we are missing something and fixate on lack. All the ways we forget who we are. These are so common! This practice can help us see these for what they are and to get underneath, in the wise mind that knows the wholeness we already are, in the tenderness of our oh so human vulnerability. Vulnerability is not about something being absent, but the presence and fullness of love, compassion, and open-heartedness.

Naming our habits can build awareness. We cultivate the counter-habit of catching ourselves in the act, not to chastise but to chuckle, and say…there’s that again, that energy of wanting to control, that tendency to place the responsibility of my fulfillment on someone/something else.

When we truly believe in change, we see it leaving our field, we feel our bodies lighten from the lost weight of worry and grasping. It will come back, and we will practice again.We stay in compassion for ourselves and our habits. And sometimes, we forget all this meditation and magic and have a good cry with a friend and a cathartic release of all our crap, and move deeper into love with ourselves.

 

 

 

 

 

Compassion, Dreams, Emotions, Freedom, Healing, Life Coaching, Love, Meditation, Open, Power Within, Relationship, Sacred justice, Self-love, Soul, Suffering, Support, Tonglen, Transformation, Wisdom

A dream, deferred

It is normal for empathic people to feel emotional fatigue when reading the daily news cycle, or seeing video after video in our social media feed displaying global violence and chaos. Even more, for those who are among the populations who’ve consistently been targets of hate and rage, they may experience vicarious trauma and added fear for their safety in moving around the world. This can take a physical and psychological toll.

Even if we are not in a time of unprecedented violence, as some social historians argue, it sure can feel this way because our exposure to trauma occurs more rapidly and constantly.

girlOne piece of this is attending to the care of our souls and knowing when to take a break from technology and cynicism.

The other truth is somewhat paradoxical to the research that shows that today, more than ever before, we live in safer and more peaceful times overall, as a human community. There, at the same time, *is* a breaking point we are reaching. Someone in my Facebook feed posted this morning’s latest headline of Baton Rouge’s police killing with a comment that “this summer is filled with tragedy.” Tragedy, to be sure. But my first reaction was: No, this summer is filled with neglect. This is what happens when we do not respond to tragedy appropriately.

The Langston Hughes poem came to mind:

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

 Or does it explode?

The first instance of neglect comes from the residual economic inequality left over after the Civil Rights Movement’s many successes in extending voting rights and desegregating public spaces and schools. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. saw that his aims for true equality would not be realized until economic injustice was addressed–it was a campaign against poverty that Dr. King was devoting his life to when assassinated. We’ve chosen to memorialize his dream without ever achieving it. We’ve let his dream fester and sag even while posting inspirational memes with his face all over social media on January 16th, or as a retort to present-day activists.

Secondly, we have never collectively faced our history as a nation. Just as in spirituality, bypassing over pain to get to bliss does not work. We keep thinking we can skip over acknowledgment, apology, and reparations by telling people to “get over” something that has never truly ended or been redressed. Slavery took on more protean forms in the carceral system and engineered ghettoization in our American cities and endemic poverty in rural areas. We need truth and reconciliation. We have to move through the worst of our legacy to get to our best. We cannot keep trying to preserve an image of ourselves as liberal do-gooders or colorblind soldiers of love without facing the reality of the racist and classist systems of power and knowledge that we inherited.

The third act of neglect is when murder after murder is captured on video and nobody is held accountable–no individual, no system, no society.

The final form of neglect I want to address is that we neglect each other, our most powerless here and abroad, when we over-fund the military and under-fund education, healthcare, and education. When our politicians more vociferously protect gun ownership than they do safety and civil rights of the vulnerable, that is neglect.

Terribly, 3 police officers were killed today. (Did your hearts sink so much when, in one July weekend in Chicago, 60 people were shot?). This violence was not promoted, not sanctioned, not perpetuated by activists like Black Lives Matter, despite what the media wants to insinuate. But you know who does promote, sanction, and perpetrate such violence? We ALL do, all of us who choose separation over love, who want to be right more than we want understanding. We ALL do, who allow the structural violence and the unrelenting brutality of poverty and racism to continue without taking a stand for those living in such conditions, and without taking responsibility for helping to create those conditions.

When we show up, valuing all lives–not just the white or the wealthy or the powerful, but the black and brown and poor and disaffected–home by home, neighborhood by neighborhood, then the culture may change. Let’s take care of ourselves and each other.

meditationtUntil then, it may not be so surprising that the dream, deferred, will explode.

I want to end this post with 2 pieces you can practice:

1. Tonglen–breathe in the world’s suffering (grief, fear, pain, stress)–on behalf of those hurting, take it on with a deep inhale, breathe out fierce love and compassion and relief to all in pain. Keep going…any positive return you receive from this meditation, breathe it right back out to those who need it, while continuing to breathe in all remaining pain.

2. Show up fully to every interaction with empathy on full-blast, looking out for opportunities to serve and be present for those in need, even in the smallest ways. When things are quiet and you are alone at home–turn that empathy inward, on yourself. Do tears come up? Sadness? Allow life to flow through you while loving all of it, all of you.

Celebration, Emotions, Gratitude, grounding, Healing, Intention, Joy, Life Path, Love, Relationship

the quiet power of being truly you

I cried when I learned that my downstairs neighbor is moving out later this summer. Yes, I cry at puppy and panda videos, so maybe it seems like that isn’t saying much, but, when my landlady told me the news, I felt a strong wave of sadness and loss come over me that surprised even me.

My neighbor and I aren’t besties. Save for a couple tarot readings she gifted me, we’ve barely spent time together. I’ve watched her affectionate cat during her trips away, we’ve exchanged updates on barred owl sightings, I’ve drunk in boisterous laughter traveling upstairs from rooms below, and we’ve met on her stoop for a few 5 minute conversations in passing. All of this, and more–something intangible and sweet in how she makes this brick fourplex her home–has helped to make it feel like my home, as well, these past 2 years.maria1

This is just to say that we don’t know how our presence affects another. Even if we are not having much interaction, how we show up and who we are being in the world, can truly make someone else’s life better, or in this case, make a space feel comforting, warm, like hearth and home.

Don’t underestimate the power of being a caring, authentic, and passionate person in your daily life. You might never learn how your presence is influencing the world of people, creatures, and things around you, but trust that it does. Living a heartfelt & genuine life matters in more ways than you can know. Cherish those around you who uplift your day to day. And be generous by living your best and most true to you, as others will benefit from your life-affirming energy and love.

Celebration, Compassion, Emotions, Freedom, Healing, Life Coaching, Love, Meditation, Mindfulness, Open, Personal Growth, Power Within, Spiritual Activism, Spirituality, Suffering, Transformation

On suffering and the overcoming of it.

When I look at the tragic photos and news, I see both the horrors of the bombs and shootings and the thousands of helpers who have rushed in to care for all the suffering. It shows that the world has both suffering and the overcoming of it. It is in the overcoming of it that we are called to respond.
–Jack Kornfield on Paris attacks, November 2015

 

wall-1405964_1920US primary politics. Orlando. Brexit. Blocked immigration reform. Istanbul.

With distressing and heartbreaking headlines in the news, compounded with our own personal challenges, these past few weeks have been a time of heaviness and high emotions for many. Despite or maybe because of these private losses and tragic world events, I decided to focus on the small daily things that bring me joy or inspire me: the Carolina wren scaling my window screen in the morning, the scent of gardenias in front of my apartment, the outpouring of love after the Pulse tragedy and the music that love brought to me in the form of a mix made by a Chicago friend, and many moments of connection shared with loved ones and animals.

I acknowledge and allow the grief and heartache, while also doing my best to not add more suffering to the world. Following the lead of one of the women who I coach in an online women’s support network, who vowed to not get embroiled in heated social media debates that would do little to change policy yet do much to create stress and bitterness, I refrained, as well, and practiced privately sending compassion to each person who posted a view opposing mine online.

I understand why some cannot move beyond grief, fear, and anger. Particularly those whose communities are at the center of tragedies, bloodshed, or political upheaval. I, myself, treasure my own early experiences in gay bars. In the late 90s, the Hide and Seek in Colorado Springs, offered a glimpse into what beautiful worlds are possible when people are free to be themselves, living out their own personal style, flair, and fabulousness. The bar, and those I danced with there–the tight-knit friend group I found in undergrad–introduced me to brave love, universal acceptance, embodied sexuality, and authentic living. And even as I comprehend how grossly this sacrosanct experience was violated, I still choose to live in the celebratory space of my own queer heart that was raised lovingly during late nights at the Hide and Seek, by college friends in the LGBTQ community, and the fairy godnurturing queer friends of my early 20s, like T, who shared my love of girl groups and made me feel Supreme.

We do not need to wilt or shrivel when these horrors happen. We can mobilize for change, we can show up for others in need, and we can live our lives by following the lead of those who dance in the night–loving our own bodies loving other bodies, uplifted, buoyed, and emboldened by solidarity. It’s what happens when we totally embrace and inhabit who we are, and allow ourselves to be loved in a radically open and nonjudgmental way. Not to paint a naively Utopian picture or diminish the high rates of suicide, terror and discrimination facing LGBTQ people, but at their best, this is what queer spaces create: collective, often joyful, overcoming of suffering.

Overcoming does not mean we won’t feel the pain any less, or that we aren’t aware of our broken hearts–it is that we have learned to use that heartache to connect with ourselves and others. Vulnerability can bring us more deeply into the human experience and allows us to love that much more fiercely and compassionately.

We can do our own spiritual work that attends to the overcoming of suffering–the more practiced we are, personally, in the overcoming, the more we can share and serve others in healing themselves, as well. This is worthy work: your personal growth and transformation. It ripples out and allows you to show up strong for a weary world. You loving yourself without apology may give someone else permission to reveal who they are. Even better when we have strength in numbers. Find others around you who are willing to live courageously, wholeheartedly, and come together to create our world anew…we need you!