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.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

personality strategies

I recently learned a helpful tool for understanding myself and others.  It came from Jonathan Ellerby who leads Althea Center for Engaged Spirituality. He talks about four kinds of people:
Corrector
Protector
Objector
Connector

Correctors spend a great deal of time and energy noticing what's wrong and letting other people know  what they notice whether their critiques and feedback are asked for or not.
Protectors spend a great deal of time and energy protecting other people from what they perceive to be discomfort or pain and suffering whether what they are doing is actually helpful to the other person or not. This style can be a classic enabler at a time when helping another can be disempowering and not helpful.
Objectors disagree with everything and anything, arguing and standing up for the opposite of whatever opinion or idea is being expressed. They may think of themselves as a devil's advocate. However, others may perceive them as being invalidating and insensitive.
We all have all three of these behaviors. Since I read Jonathan's article, I have been noticing all three in myself. Sometimes I am critical of myself and constantly correct what I say or do. I do my correcting with others too. Luckily for them my judgements are mostly kept to myself and not spoken out loud. When I notice I am focusing on being especially critical of myself or my partner I have learned to recognize it as a call for help from myself. Usually being very critical and judgmental lets me know I have abandoned myself and am in need of my own attention. Usually under my judgement is fear. If I can find the fear and comfort myself, my judgements lessen.
I have really noticed the protector this week in my work. I have the idea that I am giving my clients a gift when I run over in sessions. I want them to have extra time so they won't leave in so much pain. After we finish I have watched people run to their cars because they are late to their next appointment. One person bravely told me this week that it is helpful to her when we end on time. She feels safer and more trusting of me. I am grateful for her feedback. This week I have been more aware of ending on time and trusting my clients to finish their processing on their own without me. Being a protector is trying to help in a way that's not helpful.
When I am in the space of being argumentative and objecting to everything that I say or do, that is the objector. I do this much more with myself than others. Some people seem to enjoy going toe to toe with others and dissing everything another says. Several people I know have family members who seem to thrive on disagreement. It seems to me to be an unskillful attempt at connection.
That brings me to the forth style. It is called the connector.
Connectors have awareness of the corrector, protector, and objector in themselves. They have learned to embrace these styles as unskillful attempts at connection and to be forgiving of themselves and work to be more skillful. Connecters understand that we are all one and everything is connected. Their way of relating, although imperfect, comes from the intention of compassion for self and others. By being mindful ( which is awareness with acceptance)  of the corrector, protector and  objector, in myself,  I can ask , what else can I do besides what I am doing to feel connection here? Then I can create a do-over to experiment with a behavior that creates more of a feeling of really being connected to myself and others. Taking care of myself with healthy boundaries would be one example of a more skillful tool for connection. When I am taking care of myself it is easier for me to feel genuine compassion for myself and others. Then the sense of all of us being connected is much stronger and gratitude flows.
What do you think of the usefulness of knowing about these four styles? Can you recognize the corrector, the protector, the objector and the connector in yourself? Can you see expressions of them in others?  Knowing about these styles continues to be helpful to me.  I am grateful to Jonathan for thinking them up and sharing them so freely. I am grateful to you for reading this blog. Thank you


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Rituals- A Prayer

Lately I have been thinking about the importance of rituals in providing meaningful structure along a spiritual path. I find it very satisfying to create rituals for myself and others.
Today I'd like to share a prayer with you. My daughter and I created it as a bedtime prayer when she was about 10. We said it together every night for many years. When she started thinking it was lame, I continued to say it. I began to call the prayer my water prayer because I would stop at the water when I was out walking along Cherry Creek and say my prayer. Later my daughter revised the prayer with my grandson and they now say their prayer every night before bed.
I continued to pray the original prayer. Last month my partner added a line and we started saying the prayer together when we hike. This week while I was out walking some new lines came to me to replace some of the old ones. Here is the newest version:

Thank you for my wonderful life.
I trust in peace and joy and love.
I am enough.
Let the light be the source of the healing.
I love myself enough to do what feels right.
I am the light of the universe.
You are the light of the universe.
We are the light of the universe.
All there is is the light of the universe.
May all beings open to all that we are
  in body, mind, life and spirit.
May all beings embrace the love in our own hearts
  and in each other's hearts
 in our bodies, on this earth, in this moment.

Feel free to practice this prayer. I offer it for the healing of all beings everywhere. You could also use it to inspire yourself to create your own prayer or ritual.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

meditation practice

This blog is about meditation. I am currently participating in a training for yoga teachers that is called a meditation intensive. We practice daily together as a group from 6-8am for all the weekdays for two weeks. A daylong meditation practice is also included. I am learning so much about deepening my meditation practice. Each day one person leads the meditation, sharing a practice that is meaningful to them. I noticed the first day I was lost in resistance. I didn't want to do anything except my own meditation practice. I was critical because I wanted more stillness. I used the stillness that was provided to feed my fear of not getting what I wanted. The second day I shared my meditation. Afterwards the person who had led the previous day's meditation shared how challenging it was for her to practice my meditation because she wanted what was familiar to her. Recognizing her resistance, she surrendered to practicing the meditation form I offered and embraced it as part of a new learning adventure. That day I saw this quote- Courage is letting go of the familiar. I was inspired by the participants comments and the quote. The third day I set aside my expectations and entered into the experience of the meditation practice that was offered. I imagined this new practice as nurturing my wish to grow. I had a deep, positive and joyful experience opening to a practice I hadn't done before.
What I have realized is that all the paths lead to the same place. We are all honoring the deeper awareness that is the creative energy that runs the universe. It is called by many names. Our choice is to react in fear and aversion to what feels unfamiliar and push it away or to open to the experience of resistance and embrace the newness with curiosity.  I ask for help in opening and growing both to accept my fear of what is different and to acknowledge the stretching it takes to be curious and learn from someone else's differences. I wish for myself and for all beings to learn this lesson.
Also in the training we've learned several practices from the Shambavananda tradition. I'd like to share two of them with you. If you'd like to try one or both the beginning instructions are the same.
Find a comfortable seat, on the floor or in a chair. Be aware of your body and notice any tension and breathe into the tension. Let your spine be straight. If you'd like to set an intention for meditation, it can be helpful. Ask yourself, what do I want for myself out of this meditation?
Meditation on Om
Chanting Om  is a sacred sound. You can inhale with a deep breath and chant or say Om  as you exhale. Om is said to be the primordial sound or seed sound of the universe. Chanting Om has been very powerful for me because it is simple and occupies my mind. When I notice I am lost in thought in a meditation I can return to chanting Om either out loud or silently. The sound imbues me with positive energy and chanting Om in a group is especially uplifting for me.
Ham Sa Meditation
Ham Sa is Sanskrit and in English it means I am that. I am that pure awareness and light that is the source of all there is. Ham Sa is also said to be the sound of the natural breath. When you inhale say to yourself silently Ham. When you exhale say to yourself silently Sa. Ham Sa. When your mind wanders notice the wandering and return to ham on the inhalation and Sa on the exhalation.
This meditation helps me because focusing on the breath calms and soothes my mind and helps my body to relax. The mantra or sacred sound Ham Sa opens my heart to all that I am.
Meditation has been and continues to be a source of great healing and growth for me. I have become less reactive and more willing to be present with what is. I am so grateful to have my practice as a beam of light in my world illuminating what needs to grow and strengthening my connection to spirit.
Thank you for listening.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Celebrating writing

I have begun two blog posts tonight and erased both of them. Am I just being self-critical and no matter what I write won't feel good enough? Is it a message that tonight it is a better idea to go to bed than to write a blog? What if I write for a little while and use the writing to tune into my intuition about what feels right?
I notice I have to go the bathroom and I'm writing this instead of listening. I'll be right back. Sitting on the toilet has always been a good time for me to be quiet and tune into myself. As a child it was the only time I got the privacy to be alone. I would retreat to the bathroom as a sanctuary where I could find calm and peace in the midst of the chaos of growing up in my family. Just now in my bathroom sanctuary, I got clear that I'll write for half an hour and see what happens. I love to write and I rarely give myself the opportunity to write my blog. My partner went to sleep early and I have some lovely alone time. When I first started writing my blog many years ago I was very disciplined and wrote every few days. Then I realized writing felt like a should and decided to write once a week. Over the years I began to write less and less and eventually I gave myself permission to write only when I want to. It's part of my intention to trust in the expression of creativity to be organic rather than forced. So, I notice when I make myself write, I write more and when I don't make myself write I hardly write at all. Maybe hardly at all is good enough. Maybe the idea of hardly at all is based on some standard of enoughness that is part of thinking I'm never quite enough. What if what I write and when I write are all OK? What if the critical messages I give to myself about my writing are an opportunity to notice the tendency of my mind ( and human minds) to focus on the negative? What if writing at all whenever and whatever I write about are all an expression of who I am and acceptable?What if the inner mean voice is only a call for love? What if I could celebrate the opportunity to recognize being down on myself about my writing as an opportunity to love myself for writing at all? What if I could celebrate myself for being vulnerable and authentic and brave for writing a blog?  Good job, Andrea!
Is there something you could celebrate yourself for doing just because you do it?
I appreciate sharing who I am with you in this blog. Thanks for listening. I love to write and am grateful for the chance to be myself through my writing in this perfectly imperfect way.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Love loves to love love

This has been such an intense week. Fear,anger,sadness,curiosity, acceptance, disbelief, and confusion, seep through the shock and numbness and sweep through me in waves.
On Friday early in the morning I was paralyzed with fear and despair unable to get out of bed. I was thinking about turning 70 while Donald Trump is president and imagining all the horrible things the future could bring.
Then I remembered I still had 12 bulging trash bags filled with leaves on my front lawn. I knew if they sat on the grass for too long they would kill my already neglected lawn. It was around 7am and trash pickup would be happening momentarily. My trash can was filled to overflowing with three bags and my compost can with the contents of three more.
 I bounded out of bed, threw on some clothes and shoes and began to walk around in the chilly morning checking my neighbors trash cans for room for a bag of leaves. I found a place for three bags and felt grateful I could lift them and shlep them around by myself. In the distance I could now see the garbage truck was on the way down my street.
I stood by my trash can feeling really cold waiting for the truck. The driver was driving on the passenger side next to where I was standing. My plan was to ask him if I could put three more bags in my emptied can and go across the street with my can when he came the other way and then do that all again the following Friday. I was feeling good about asking and doubtful about any of it happening. My faith in humanity was definitely shaken by the election results.
I breathed deeply and gathered my courage and respectfully asked to dump another load. Instead of blowing me off and saying he was too busy and driving on, he smiled and said " sure will you buy me a steak.?" I laughed and said I would buy him a virtual steak. I put three more bags in and watched happily as the truck gobbled them up. Then he said " go ahead" and motioned for me to keep going. He waited while I, as fast as I could and taking a while to lift all the heavy bags, put two more loads of three bags in my can as the automatic arm lifted them gracefully into the truck. I thanked him for his kindness and felt a wave of human connection energy with him. I was moved to tears at the ray of hope in a bleak time. Like the Lone Ranger he drove off. He left me with a warm smile saying" Remember me at Christmas".
I watched as he moved up my street. My neighbor forgot to put her can out and my new hero waited while she ran it out to the street.  My neighbor and I met in the middle of our yards to share our good fortune and to marvel at the random acts of kindness we had witnessed in an intensely challenging time. I like her and we've spent almost no time together. We continued to talk and she invited me over for coffee and I went. We spent 2 hours together supporting each other about the election and sharing about our lives. This morning that had started out in despair ended in connection and hope.
So It is my intention that in the next fours years, I will embrace my feelings and be kind to myself and I will focus on noticing the kindness of others and being kind to others.
The Dali Lama said, "There is always time to be kind."
Today the peace quote I get every day was Love loves to love love by James Joyce. What a lovely idea that I want to remember every day. As I focus on the love that connects us all that loves creates more love and that loves loves loving. If love is really all there is I ask for the awareness of that love that is the foundation of all we rest on holding us in love in the midst of it all. That inner safety that is created by being held in love is inside of each one of us even when outer safety feels tenuous. I ask to be able to embrace my fear with self-compassion and let it release so that I have the space to trust in that love. I ask that for all of us.