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.

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.