Friday, November 8, 2019

Who would you be if your inner critic retired?

I recently returned from a four day women’s meditation retreat. The three women leaders created a safe warm holding space for all of us. I felt the tension I carry in my body around pretense dissipating. I could see my familiar habitual pattern of pretending and presenting a certain version of myself to create an image as a option I had the choice to choose or not. The collaborative leadership style modeled by our three leaders set the stage for all of us to trust our embodied feminine intuitive wisdom in each decision that we made.  Everything was optional in contrast to more traditionally led structured retreats I have previously attended. All decisions from when to get up to what to eat to how  and when to connect with nature became opportunities to mindfully connect with what felt right to me in my body. It was a silent retreat. The leaders spoke and presented instructions, logistics, talks and exercises for us to do in our journals or speaking in pairs. It was winter in the mountains. It was snowy and cold and clear and sunny and gorgeous and toasty warm inside the lodge. We hiked in a silent procession and lay on the rocks in the middle of our hike soaking the sun into our skin.
I love silent retreats because I don’t have to strain to hear anyone. The leaders passed my little microphone that transmits their voices into my hearing aids with such care and compassion. Their kindness brought me to tears as they treated my microphone as a sacred talking stick. When all 25 of us shared at the end the whole group passed my microphone. I was really moved and sobbed gratefully. The love that we all created for each other was palpable, even though most of us were strangers at the start. Women authentically holding each other in curiosity, respect and positive regard is the elixir of the goddess. One talk was about self compassion and we learned about Kilanda  Swahara the always broken goddess who knows her own fragility and strength and doesn’t have to pretend to be perfect.
 I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in this embodied feminine wisdom celebration. I came away with a deeper sense of my power and my humanity with a renewed faith in my ability to love fully. I felt hopeful about the community we created to practice mindfulness and shared love. It was a joy to watch each woman blossom in her own way from the experience of being seen and heard.
One repeating question we asked each other in pairs was Who would you be if your inner critic retired? The process of contemplating that question inspired this poem.

Who would you be if your inner critic retired?

The inner critic is the inner compassionate voice
in the grips of fear.
Embrace the inner critic
Let her bluster and tremble
Hold her in loving kindness
Appreciate her protecting you
Since you were a small child.
Watch her breathe a sigh of relief
And let go into trusting that
You are a grownup now
Who can take care of herself.
She will begin to contemplate retiring,
Content to sit by the river
And sip coconut water.

by Andrea Silver 10/28/2019
with a bow to Jean, Alice and Alicia

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Invitation

I haven’t written a blog in a long time. I have been writing poetry again and would like to share a poem. I bow to Oriah Mountain Dreamer whose poem The Invitation has long been my inspiration.


Invitation

Knowing you is inspiring me to buy skirts,
embracing my juicy female spirit.
Being real with you is inspiring me to write poetry
and to speak truth from my heart,
as medicine in support of awakening.
Stretching toward you and setting boundaries
is inspiring me to pay deep attention to myself,
caring for myself and listening to my own needs
as if my life depended upon it,
which, of course, it does.
The past beckons me to abandon myself,
 play small and people please.
Instead I choose now.
Shaking with terror and excitement,
I sing in my full voice, dance in the moonlight,
howl at the moon, and invite you to join me.

                            Andrea Silver
                           August 3, 2019

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Kindness to strangers

Valentine’s day brought these two experiences of the kindness of strangers and I felt hopeful for myself and for humanity.

1) I was the third car in line waiting at a traffic light at a busy intersection. The driver of car number one gets out of his car and walks back to car number two and talks to the driver. The driver of car number two gets out of his car and motions to me that he will only be a minute. Both drivers push the first car together, the driver steering the car and the other pushing from behind.  The first car starts and the first driver jumps in, thanks the second driver and drives off. The second driver walks back to his car looks at me and I give him a thumbs up. He smiles. They were obviously complete strangers and they both risked and made themselves vulnerable for a stranger. The first driver asked for help from a stranger and the second offered help. In these days of road rage both men risked bravely. As I drove off my heart was warmed by their respective courage and generosity.

2) From there I drove to the grocery store in a light-hearted mood. In line at the check-out I was feeling playful. The person in front of me was buying a few items and ten small wrapped chocolate truffles. I smiled and asked him if he was planning to eat them all. He said no, he was gifting them to others. The cashier, the man buying the truffles and I began to have a nice conversation. When the man was ready to leave he gave the cashier and me both a truffle and said Happy Valentine’s Day. We both thanked him and warmly returned his good wishes. She and I felt connected in our receiving of our gifts. We marveled at his sweet act. Kindness to strangers for no reason is an act of service that ripples out. I later gave my truffle to a friend for dessert. Giving felt as sweet as receiving.

In her children’s book called Cara’s Kindness former Olympic ice skater Krysti Yamaguchi writes
about a group of animal friends who pass on kindnesses to each other. In the story the kindness
circles back to Cara who gets help finding music to dance her solo ice skating performance from a blind friend who gifted her the song he wrote for her. Cara was the one to be kind in the beginning by teaching a terrified friend to skate. It is my grandson’s favorite book. I love that book because it is wise and gently and playfully passes on the deliciousness of giving and receiving kindness.

What if every day could be an opportunity to give and receive kindness? Sometimes it’s as simple as giving another attention or receiving a smile and returning it. Sometimes it’s simply saying thank you to a complement. What about acknowledging someone else’s efforts with a “good job”? I am planning to use my creativity to find ways to give and receive kindness in my daily life. Won’t you join me?


Friday, February 15, 2019

Love is your Super Power

My creative daughter made capes for all my grandsons’ fellow pre-schoolers for Valentine’s Day. They all said, Love is my super power.
What a lovely message for Valentine’s Day. I have been thinking about that message and imagining twenty little boys and girls whizzing around in their lives with that message on their backs.
What if it was true for all of us?
If love is our super power how does that super power show up in our lives? In my life loving myself enough to be authentic and vulnerable about who I really am creates the space and safety for other people to be authentic and vulnerable as well. That is my superpower. Other people can sense that energy in me. I can sense the energy of a person who is willing to be authentic and vulnerable and I  am attracted to that energy. Self-acceptance helps my superpower manifest. Harsh judgement impedes my superpower. Judging myself for my harsh judgement is like my kryptonite. Recognizing when I am judging myself and accepting that I am judging is the antidote to the kryptonite. Rocognition and Acceptance of judgement repairs judgement.
When we are children and we feel strong feelings there is often no support for experiencing, expressing and releasing those feelings. At least that was true for me as a child. My parents weren’t skillful about accepting their own strong feelings and therefore coached me by example in learning to suppress mine. Emotion is energy in motion. If the energy of emotion is experienced it can easily be released. When one of my small grandsons is sobbing and my daughter holds him he usually skips off in a matter of minutes. He has discharged the energy of the pain he is feeling by crying and being comforted and the pain has moved. If the pain isn’t released it begins to take up residency in our bodies. Repeated very painful experiences that are suppressed become trauma that is held in our bodies. Research is showing that the pain of trauma creates physical and emotional symptoms. What if giving ourselves more permission to discharge the emotions of mad, sad, glad and scared allows our super power to manifest?
When it’s not safe to feel our feelings we make up stories about ourselves in lieu of releasing them. I’m not lovable, or there’s something wrong with me are two of my favorite stories. As children we turn these stories into strategies to make the world make sense. I’m not good enough or I’m to blame are two stories a lot of people learned to use on themselves to avoid the lonliness and terror of strong feelings felt alone. For instance children often blame themselves for their parents divorcing. If only I was a better girl, my parents wouldn’t have been so mad at each other. This is a common story that becomes a strategy of needing to be perfect for children who blame themselves for their parents divorse. Children who are supported in feeling all of their own strong feelings about their parents divorcing and clearly reassured that the divorse had nothing to do with anything they did can let go of their self-blame stories or maybe not create them in the first place.
When we notice we are judging ourselves or others we can use our super power of love to recognize the judgement, be kind to ourselves and address the authentic feelings we are having underneath the judgement. When I am judging another person it is often that their differences from me scare me. When I can be with myself and ask myself to be willing to embrace my fear and express the energy of it the fear can release and the judgement can dissolve. When I do this work I am often left with a feeling of connection with the person I was judging. Let’s say I am judging someone for having a large body. Looking underneath, I can feel my own fear about having a large body. I can shake or cry and even share that fear with another person, other than the one I am judging. Then I have used my super power to allow myself to feel connected to the person I was judging. I can see that other people experience pain and pleasure too. Other people are suffering and experiencing joy like I am, too.In this way I can use my super power of love to experience the oneness of all beings. Such a gift. I am grateful for my super power of love and I commit to using it to love myself and others. My intention is to support others in knowing that love is the superpower of all of us. What if  all of us could don our capes and and take as our mission to use our lives to practice our super power of love and heal  ourselves, each other and the planet? What if each of us in our own small and large ways feel good  about ourselves for all the ways we manifest love every day? What if that would grow our love to celebrate ourselves for loving in all the ways we do every day? Do you accept this mission? Nod your head and feel your cape shimmer.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Slowing down

Today, I have been thinking about slowing down. I am aware that when I am rushing I abandon myself. Rushing means not honoring my natural pace and pushing myself into the future. Today I noticed what a habit rushing is and how I rush even when I have the time to slow down. It’s as if my worry thoughts of what could happen on my way to yoga class to make me late, distract me from being present for the drive. I grip the steering wheel in determination to overcome these imagined obstacles that I have made up. What scares me about being present? When I am grounded in my body rather than up in my head worrying, do I even know who I am?
An experiment has evolved where I am returning to myself when I notice my thoughts have run away. This is the experiment of an ongoing meditation practice brought into daily life. It is important when I notice I am rushing to be sweet to myself about noticing. “You’re rushing again! said to myself in an exasperated and inpatient tone can create a spiral of self-criticism. It is also possible to use my awareness of my self-disgusted tone, to bring myself sweetness. “Oh, I get it that you are impatient. It’s OK.” I can use the awareness of rushing to kindly slow myself down. I can notice my breathing and breathe deeper and slower and breathe into my belly. I can also acknowledge myself with great fervor when I notice I am moving through my life or a moment, showing up for myself in the present moment. “Good Job, Andrea!” Ah, so satisfying to give ourselves credit for doing what we say we wanted to do. Also so easy to ignore. Let’s support each other in validating ourselves and each other when we notice a glimmer of accomplishment in the area of going slower and smelling the flowers. Goodness knows it’s easy to dis ourselves mercilessly.
Maybe make a list of all the little ways you have shown up for yourself and been present. Like today I was walking in the park and I took the time to notice the beautiful flowers and the artistry in which they were arranged. I felt grateful for whoever created the landscaping. Why not also feel grateful to the one who was noticing the flowers. “Good job, Andrea!”
Another thing about rushing is there are the times I am rushing because I have to do one more thing before I leave to get somewhere. I have to fold my laundry or empty the dishwasher or answer that text or e-mail right now. Doing so leaves me with not enough time to get where I am going on time let alone in a relaxed manner. One of the people I work with has created this brilliant campaign called,” One less thing”. When she is preparing to go somewhere she deliberately does one less thing before she leaves. As she practices doing one less thing she has noticed that her job which involves a lot of driving from place to place to see clients, has become much more enjoyable. How about in addition to doing one less thing we notice and acknowledge ourselves for doing one less thing by saying good job to ourselves? What if we could even notice ourselves rushing away from ourselves and show up for that? What if the conscious act of showing up for ourselves in the way we would easily show up for a friend, could be seen as miraculous? What if kindly noticing I have abandoned myself to rushing is cause for celebration as I welcome myself back to this moment? This precious moment.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Creative Expression

I am feeling joyful tonight. I have the evening to myself. It’s been a really full week and it’s lovely to complete it with some time to myself. While Marc and I were at Shoshoni Yoga Retreat three weeks ago they had an offering called sacred art. One of the available projects was rock painting. During the weekend I had three hours to paint 4 medium size river rocks in a way I felt really good about. Painting the rocks was a meditative experience for me.  I was less critical during my creative process and more accepting of what I created. I practiced mindfulness or awareness with acceptance as I let myself flow with the paintings. If I was more tech savvy I would include a picture of my rocks so you could see them. I am excited to have a new art form I felt good about. The more creative I allow myself to be, the more joy I feel in my life. I am grateful that expressing myself creatively is something I value and follow through with doing.
My daughter Monnya is a very creative being. When she and my grandsons were here for Spring break last week she created a garden in my front yard  using my statue of Ganesh (the Hindu god of creating and removing obstacles) as a focal point and included my beautiful rocks in it. Koa, my two year old grandson helped her. They created a lasting gift that brings me great joy and let’s me feel close to them whenever I look at my garden. Monnya is a dancer, artist and acrobat and very creative mother to her sons. She has been an inspiration to me about living creatively. I call what she creates, “the Monnya touch”. She brings a flair of creativity to whatever she does, whether it is creating a brunch or making racing car valentines that say Love Wins for Colt, my 4 year old grandson, to bring to pre-school.
 I rediscovered my creativity when Monnya was 16 and left home to study classical Indian dance in India. I decided to take a sculpture class to fill the emptiness I felt when she left. Since then creating sculpture pieces has brought me hours of challenge and satisfaction. I have watched myself grow from an obsessively critical sometimes paralyzed sculptor, to a place where I can listen to my sculpture pieces about how they want to be created. In the past, I have made nude sculptures and my current piece asked for clothes. I made her clothes. Her name is Joy Sacred Circle and she’s close to complete now. Maybe writing about Joy will inspire me to work on her soon.
I think it is important for anyone who wants to, to find an outlet to express themselves creatively. The opportunity is to focus on this creative outlet and enter the flow. The flow is a state of mind where the inner critic can go rest on the beach with a cool drink. It can be a timeless space of pure presence where we can lose ourselves as we know ourselves. Creative expression comes in all sorts of forms with varying levels of acceptance of the process and product. The lovely part is that you can’t do it wrong. Writing or cooking or gardening or singing or dancing, creative expression can be anything you let yourself be your own unique you while doing. Acknowledge yourself lavishly for whatever you allow yourself to do creatively merely for the act of doing it at all. Your soul will sing. My soul is singing writing this blog and imagining all of you giving yourselves the time and space to explore your own art forms and grinning. Thank you.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Re-evaluation Counseling

I know I want to write. I have been wanting to write all evening. When I haven’t written for a while I have to push through a lot of fear to write. At first I don’t recognize what I am feeling as fear. It is a voice inside my head that says,” You don’t even know what you want to write about.” That is often true. The desire to write often precedes knowing what I want to write about. It is easy for me to not write when I buy the belief that I need to know what to write about to write. On the other hand, I can challenge that belief and open my I-pad. In doing so, as I am doing now, the next belief emerges. It is the fear that I’m not a good enough writer to write. I am learning to let myself shake to discharge the distress of fear that I am not a good enough writer to write. I am shaking now as I write this and it gets easier to write.
I have been participating in counseling sessions using a structure called Re-evaluation
Counseling or RC for about 8 months. RC sessions involve peer counseling sessions where each person takes a turn and deeply listens to the other and offers support to discharge distress. Distress is created from the time we are born where we weren’t given the support we needed to express the emotions we had from our experiences.
 Let’s say when I was a young girl, I fell down and hurt myself and was crying. After a short time of crying and Way before I was done, one of my parents would get uncomfortable and  threaten me saying, stop crying or I’ll give you a reason to cry about. As a young girl this was very confusing. I remember thinking, I have a reason to cry or I wouldn’t be crying. I would stop crying. I learned to interrupt my natural desire to cry to discharge sadness and to shake to discharge fear and to laugh to discharge embarrassment. Distress accumulates in our bodies and new distresses pile on top of old ones. In my RC sessions I am working to allow the counselor to give me the loving attention I need to feel safe enough to discharge distress. It is challenging to trust that being deeply listened to could be so healing. In the past month my partner and I have also become part of a weekly class to learn the theory and practice RC in a group. This process is having the effect of creating more safety in our relationship.
Everyone I know has had the experience of having the natural response to both physical and emotional hurt interrupted. What if it were possible to heal this hurt by finishing the process of expressing natural responses to hurt? What if one effective way was for adults to deeply listen to each other to heal the wounds of childhood? What if by healing early hurts we could create an impact on all the patterns of distress that built on the early hurts? If you watch a young child crying because of a physical or emotional hurt and that child is being listened to, held and spoken to lovingly, in a short time he or she often feels complete and skips off to play. This loving holding environment is a sanctuary adults can recreate.
Because I am a therapist and have been practicing for thirty five years I know the value of good therapy. It has been my joy to support my clients in their healing journeys. I am grateful to have work I love in which I can contribute to the well- being of my clients in body mind and spirit.
  It is also gratifying to practice being a peer counselor where I am a humble beginner and other people have more experience than I do. I get to watch masters in action who have encouraged each other to discharge distress patterns for many years.
I practiced RC forty years ago for several years when I was in graduate school. It was life-saving for me to do many sessions a week and helped me to begin to express myself with less self-consciousness, heal my disordered eating and begin to meditate and do yoga. Then I stopped doing RC as I continued to do therapy as a client and continued my clinical social work training.
Now I am back. I appreciate RC and the current opportunity to learn and change and grow. The intention of RC is to help people discharge distress from the past that has accumulated in the present to increase the attention each person has available to be fully present now.
Practicing RC regularly has inspired me to laugh and cry every day on my own also. My body naturally wants to support me in being fully expressed. I cry after I meditate. I think meditation supports my natural discharge process because of the safety of mindfulness, which is awareness with acceptance. Maybe that’s what practicing RC or deep listening is doing. We are creating awareness with acceptance and beaming it on another person. I feel hopeful that the thousands of people who are practicing RC worldwide are making a difference in the safety of our world. I think the resilience and spaciousness that is being created in the RC community is an important contribution to the planet.
Thank you for listening. I love to write and I can be afraid and write, too.