Friday, November 21, 2014

delightfully quirky

Today I was on a walk with the other two women in my singing group Spirit Song. We get together once a season to meditate, chant and share. Today we added a walk to our time together. All three of us are therapists so we can support each other personally and professionally. We have been meeting for four years. Our little group is nurturing to me in body mind and spirit.
One of the women shared about a person she works with who she likes very much. This person has gone through life feeling like she doesn't fit in and that people don't like her. Val told this person she was delightfully quirky and the woman seemed to open to seeing herself in a different way. As she embraced being delightfully quirky she could see herself as being more lovable.
I instantly resonated with  the idea of being delightfully quirky. I think it could be healing to those of us who see ourselves as different and somehow not enough because of that. I like being delightfully quirky instead of there being something wrong with me or having a fatal flaw.
Embracing my quirkiness as part of me that I can hold in Love and be delighted by has been helpful. Try it on and see if you like it.
I have always been a pioneer in how I practice psychotherapy. Every time I learn something new I incorporate the new learning into my work. Over the years my toolbox has expanded to include yoga poses, singing, deep relaxation techniques and many varied therapeutic tools and methods using mindfulness, body awareness and kindness.  I am really living my dream of supporting the people I work with in being fully expressed beings in body mind life and spirit.
The spiritual dimension of my work is about supporting people in being aware of their spiritual support and asking for help in feeling connected to that support. Spiritual support means different things to different people. Spiritual support is whoever and whatever we feel held in love by for being exactly who we are. Take a moment to imagine your spiritual support circle around you. It can be nature based like a tree or a mountain or a river or the ocean. It could be made up of beings alive or not alive, God or goddesses, ancestors, Colors, sensations, sounds, people you know or don't know,
great teachers, loving grandmother figures and whatever other forms your own spiritual support comes in. Ask to be aware of that support and allow yourself the experience of being held in love for being exactly who you are. Today I worked with a woman who was a strong kinesthetic learner. She said she doesn't see anything and her spiritual support is a buzzing sensation in her torso. Your spiritual support might be something you see or sense or hear or feel.
If nothing comes you can embrace the nothing as spiritual support or simply remember a time you felt really loved. Let yourself feel held in love and bring that holding into your daily life. Let yourself take refuge in that love.
My spiritual support is always with me and I have been asking for their help whenever I think of it.
I have been asking for help from spiritual support at the beginning of every session when I do the mindfulness meditation ritual with the person I am working with. I have noticed since I have been asking for help that the quality of my work is changing. I am more willing to take risks in being vulnerable and the work has deepened. I am more willing to be my delightfully quirky self and the people I work with are also. I want to embrace more of what I held as unacceptable and unlovable as delightfully quirky. I am grateful to have spiritual support cheering me on to being more and more of all that I am and allowing me to support the people I work with in being more and more of all of who they are. I am so grateful to be able to share on this blog and to have all of you read my blog. Thanks and Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

hugging the inner child

I have been taking a yoga teacher training course called Yoga For Healing. I am learning how to use a yoga movement screen to assess a person's strength and flexibility in nine yoga poses. When I know more I will be able to recommend poses and exercises to address a person's healing. The main thing I am learning about is engaging my core. This has enabled me to be stronger and more centered. It is coming in handy because my grandson weighs over 25 pounds now. My stronger core awareness will help me to carry him without injuring myself.
Engaging the core means drawing up on the pelvic floor muscles and lifting the inner abdominal muscles called the transverse abdominis (TA) toward the spine. If you want to know where that deep core muscle is bring your hands to your belly at the level of your hipbones with your fingers pointing toward your belly button and cough, then laugh. Coughing and laughing activate the TA muscle. So I have been walking around practicing breathing into my belly (diaphragmatic breathing)and engaging my core by lifting up my pelvic floor muscles and TA muscle in my daily life. With my new found core strength I have begun running again and that is very exciting. I am more of a conscious inhabitant of my own body. When I notice I am lost in my head I can celebrate that I noticed and begin to breathe more slowly and more deeply into my belly. In that way I can treat myself with kindness and welcome myself home. The abdomen is the chakra of the power center. Engaging my core, I feel more empowered.

At the same time I have been doing some reading and thinking, listening to a tape and talking to a friend about the inner child.
I am learning that my ego is my inner child. When she gets angry with me because she wants my attention and I don't listen, I do things that are hurtful to myself like overeating and staying up too late. When I am moving too fast and ignoring my soul what I need is to slow down and pay attention. The soul, the inner child and the ego are all one. Together they are calling us home to the stillness within. None of them are the enemy and all they want is loving attention. When I notice anxiety or unskillful behavior I treat myself with kindness, celebrating that I've noticed. I imagine a loving grandmother saying "of course" and holding me in Love. I ask for support from my spiritual support. That spiritual support can be beings, people in your life, ancestors, animals, mountains, rivers or whatever you feel held in Love by for being exactly who you are.
I draw my circle around myself in the air as a ritual to remind myself of my own sacred space- the space that gets made sacred by bringing myself my own attention. I imagine my spiritual support group in a circle around that circle cheering me on and offering guidance and support about honoring my soul.

 I came to the realization that engaging my core is like hugging my inner child. Bringing my awareness to slow deep breaths, I engage my core and imagine hugging the little girl inside me. I say" I love you" to myself. Bringing together body mind and spirit in this way has been really healing for me. I am grateful to be hugging my inner child. Slowing down and engaging my core and hugging the inner child brings me to the stillness inside where inner peace is waiting. Experiment with this and let me know what you notice. I just figured out how to read comments.

Friday, August 8, 2014

meditation practice

It is so good to be writing again. I needed an evening to myself with nothing planned so I could devote myself to writing my blog. Recently I have had some issues with my password to enter the blog which I finally figured out. I notice if I am patient and keep going and ask for help I am learning my way through basic use of technology. It takes practice.

I wasn't encouraged to problem solve about fixing things when I was growing up. My friends who were encouraged, face technical or mechanical problems with curiosity and confidence. I once asked a male friend how he figured something out that I was stymied by. He said he just kept trying things and he knew he would eventually figure it out, which he did. It takes practice, he said.
I have begun to be less timid about trusting my instincts and resisting my impulse to throw my hands up in frustration and defeat especially about technological issues. In addition I was able to figure out which position of my car light would allow it to shut off automatically and get myself to a kirtan or chanting circle without taking one wrong turn. I notice if I keep breathing and let my fear of doing things wrong just be there I seem to know what to do more easily. I have a long history of getting very lost and being really upset with myself. If I can stay present and be kind to myself I have more access to my pre-frontal cortex or the part of my brain that does reasoning.
If I clamp down in self-judgment when I am being self-critical that is a double whammy of being mean to myself about being mean to myself. The key is to practice allowing what I am feeling to be there and being kind to myself. I am continuing to practice mothering myself with love.

I am noticing the more I practice being mindful, which is awareness with acceptance, the easier it is to think clearly. That means allowing what is to be there whatever it is. That is the kind thing to do. So, what I notice about my meditation practice is that the more I practice the easier it is to be mindful in my daily life. I have been listening to an audio tape in my car called Mindfulness and the Brain. In it the anatomy of the brain is explored and the specific benefits of mindfulness meditation according to research are celebrated.
This blog is my pitch about starting or continuing a regular meditation practice.

I was introduced to meditation in my early twenties in a course I took called Silva Mind Control.  I enjoyed learning the techniques and played around with them for a while after the course was over and then stopped. 
When I first returned to meditation and starting practicing regularly, I was motivated by a challenging and destructive relationship with overeating. The intense anxiety I experienced had worsened to the point where I knew I needed attention. In the beginning my mind would go careening off hundreds of times in the few minutes I was attempting to focus on my breath. My anxiety made it hard to breathe let alone focus on my breath. I had a very scary experience with food where I knew I was threatening my life with my behavior and I let go of my relationship with the punishing God I had been brought up with and felt held  by a loving God for the first time. I cried out for help to this new loving god. I cried deeply feeling the pain of my life and I began  to feel my heart open.  In about three weeks of making myself sit every day I could sit still long enough to take a somewhat relaxing bath. This makes it sound like I was a very dirty girl until then. My apartment had only a bathtub with a sprayer. In time I learned to hang out in the tub and relax.  I had also started doing yoga poses every day that I learned from a book by Richard Hittleman.  Gradually my anxiety lessened and I could more easily follow my heart in my ongoing spiritual life journey. Yoga and meditation helped me to save my life. I will always be grateful.

During the almost 36 years since then I have practiced yoga and meditation most days. I have had many benefits. I want to share some of them with you to encourage you to allow yourself to reap these benefits or continue to reap these benefits if you already practice meditation regularly.
I am less reactive and more responsive when I am triggered by something. When I am upset it is easier to soothe myself, feel my feelings and allow them to be experienced and released.  My meditation practice has allowed me to build the muscle of bringing myself back to the present in the midst of whatever, in my daily life. Therefore it is easier to notice when I am focused on worrying about the future sooner and return to right here and right now. Underneath my worry is fear. When I can feel the sensation of the fear in my body and breathe into it mindfully, with awareness and acceptance, I can then feel calmer and ask myself "what do I need?" In this way I am learning to be curious and confident about problem solving. Meditation has given me the confidence to be more patient with myself and trust in my own pace. Therefore it is easier to learn new things.
I am so grateful for my meditation practice. It is the foundation of my life.  If you are new to meditation or to sitting regularly would you be willing to begin with one minute? Sit in a comfortable position and draw a circle around yourself in the air. This circle is a symbol of sacred space that's made sacred by you bringing yourself your own attention. It symbolizes being openhearted and having healthy boundaries at the same time.
Let your eyes close and focus on breathing into your belly for a minute.  You can use a timer or count twelve full deep breaths which is about a minute. When your mind wanders off  as minds do, kindly bring yourself back by refocusing on your breath and welcoming yourself back to your circle. The blessings of a regular meditation practice will eventually lead you to sitting longer. You don't have to push it.

If you already have a regular practice, good for you and congratulations on giving yourself this great gift. Keep up the good work even when you don't feel like it. That doesn't mean not to cut yourself some slack, it means to allow yourself to sit and be with not wanting to sit, sometimes even for a short while. That's why its called a practice because we practice. If you already have a meditation practice consider adding in a time of gratitude at the end. Acknowledge yourself for sitting and being in stillness with yourself. Let yourself feel gratefulness in your heart for whatever you feel grateful for.
Thank you for reading my blog. It is my deep pleasure to share my writing with you. Keep practicing.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Complete Attention

I was attending my regular deeksha blessing group last week. Deeksha blessings are an opportunity to either send  or receive the awareness of the oneness of the universe. I place my hands on another"s head and ask for the oneness of my universe to move through me into the other person's being. I was initiated to be a blessing giver by my friend Ginger who is a oneness trainer. I have found deeksha blessings to be a powerful healing tool during the five years I have been practicing with it.
In the group  before we give each other deeksha blessings we do a guided meditation or chant and then hear the quote of the day. This quote is provided by Shri Amma Bagavan who is the leader of Oneness University in India. His vision is for all people to connect with their inner divine to become aware of the oneness of all beings.

On this day the quote was: Incomplete attention is the root of dissatisfaction. This quote rang very true for me. My mind can go all over the place and I end up having a challenging time focusing on the present. One reason I love my work is because it is easy for me to focus on the person I am working with and not be distracted. I often feel a grat deal of satisfaction from my work. The scattered feeling I get from being lost in my mind chatter, planning or comparing or judging is uncomfortable. I long to be more focused in the present and less dissatisfied. So, I thought, if incomplete attention is the root of dissatisfaction then a way to be more satisfied would be to bring complete attention to whatever was in my experience in the moment.
Complete attention is a path to satisfaction.

So, a practice was born. In meditation, when I inhale I say to myself complete and when I exhale I say to myself attention. When I notice my mind has wandered off I kindly say to myself complete attention and bring myself back to my breath. The structure is lovely and helpful and I have been starting my sessions  and yoga classes with teaching this tool. In my daily life when I remember, I say to myself complete attention to bring my mind back to being present right here and right now. It is a way to mindfully notice I have wandered off without scolding myself. It is helping me to be more willing to completely experience whatever is in my experience without judging it as good or bad or positive or negative. Everything in my experience is worthy of complete attention.

See if complete attention could be a useful tool for you. I notice  as I practice this tool I am feeling less distracted and scattered and more centered. This creates more space for me to feel gratitude.
In this moment I am feeling gratitude for the expansiveness I experience from writing this blog. I am also very grateful to you for reading it. It is so satisfying to be bringing complete attention to your attention. Many blessings, Andrea

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Daring to write

Ah, writing. It is so good for my soul. It is like food that nourishes me, filling me with vitality. Writing expands my heart opening me to the muse inside who I often hide from. What am I so afraid of? Is it the passion inside of me that I am scared if unleashed will have me running rampant screaming through the streets? What would it be like to come out of hiding and face the brilliance that lives inside me? That lives inside of all of us. Would it be like inviting my inner critic to take a vacation on a beach somewhere or at least to recognize its truth may not be my truth? What if I could know that the voice that tells me that other people will think my writing is stupid and that noone will care about what I write would tell me that whether I wrote or not? What if I knew that the inner critic was my muse in disguise daring me to write anyway. I have always loved a dare.
I dare to write because when I write I remember who I am. I remember that I am part of the ocean waves that lap the beach in the early morning light. I am the beachwalker at sunrise with her toes in the water watching the waves move up and down her legs as she skitters back from a large wave that will soak her pants. 
 When the next wave comes in I surrender to the wave. My pants get soaked and it feels like an adventure of letting go of always being careful. How does being careful keep me safe? Being cautious keeps me safe. Being careful keeps me small. How big could I be? Could I reach for the stars as if I were reaching into a new shiny pink lunch box that was mine for the reaching. What would my life be like if I saw smallness as an option? What if the signpost said small ness is the path to the right and to the left is checking out a green elephant with an emerald in its third eye asking me to follow it home? 
I need not be afraid that I will be too big for my britches. Whose britches are those anyway and how could I be too big for them? Mom, I know you were protecting me from a world you thought was scary. A world you were sure would eat me alive if I was as creative and honest as being me was. You also needed me to need you. If I got as big as I was I would be bigger than you and not need you anymore.  My smallness didn't make you happy. I thought it would. It wasn't my job to make you happy. It is my job to jump into the unknown and let go of the legacy of defining myself according to your boundaries and your truth. My truth is I am as big as the sky.I open my arms wide and breathe into this moment. I fill my body with the breath of the force of life.That life force holds us in love cheerleading us to be all that we are. Give me an A- N- D- R- E- A ! Hear it cheering for you. Hear it calling your name and inviting you to be all you can be. To reach beyond worrying about what other people will think and listen to that voice of spiritual support guiding us to come back to this moment and see what it has to offer.It is OK for me to be alone. I am safe. My mother is part of my spiritual support team now cheering me on to let go of her fears and her smallness and enter life with full inhale and exhale. That is all it takes. Being big is just being who we are. I dare you. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Letting Go

I am glad to be writing tonight. It has been five months since my mother died.  I have been in grief counseling through Hospice and it has been very helpful in being with the experiences  of sadness and disorientation and the search for new meaning in my life that are part of my grief.
I was with my mother when she died. My experience was one of awe. It was so clear to me that she was not her body. Her body was the shell left behind when her spirit was ready to depart. During the decade of the decline of my mother's mind I watched her check out little by little until she was barely communicative. Sometimes she could speak a word or two and her eyes were still very expressive.Yet she was a very different version of the smart, strong-willed, sometimes critical, sometimes supportive, person she was before dementia. I missed who she was and also was relieved to be less afraid of her because she gained sweetness as she declined.  I have spent the last five months processing what she meant to me and how our relationship has impacted my life. I am emerging as person who is less dependant on external validation and more trusting of my own truth. I am more in touch and connected with my little girl inside and my spiritual support. I am more open to asking for help from and  listening to spiritual guidance.
Being a part of my mother's death was like watching her free herself from the confines of her physical body. Her spirit expanded as she left and filled the room. I was aware of both the eternal nature of the spirit and the impermanence of life. It was so clear to me when my mother died that we are here for a short time and then we shed our bodies and move on to what's next. After my mother's memorial service my daughter and I left for a camping trip. Our intention was to honor ourselves and my mother in nature. Praying and walking and singing and soaking I took in on a deeper level how unhappy I was in my relationship of eight years. With the distraction of my busyness gone I could face how I yearned to let go of all the years of trying to make my relationship work. During my relationship with my partner, when I would go deep inside and ask what I should do the answer was , love him with all of your heart. I know that meant accept him for who he is and stop trying to change him into who you want him to be. That was my part of our relationship dance. I had been moving toward that acceptance in the months before my mother died. I had gotten to the place where I really accepted my partner for who he was and loved him for who he was. When I listened to my inner guidance I would now hear , love him with all of your heart and let him go. He was unhappy too. We would go back and forth from being willing to let go  of each other because we both knew being partners was no longer the right relationship for us, to clinging to what we had and convincing ourselves that it was good enough. We would each angrily threaten the bond saying we were going to leave and then plead with the person wanting to leave to stay. Our spiritual connection was strong and had been the glue that held us together.We were both scared to let that go fearing neither of us would ever find that again. We were both afraid to be alone. We had been in couples counseling with two different skillful counselors.  After our sessions we often felt connected and close for a time and then would be back butting up against some fundamental differences. I think we both knew on some level it was too painful to continue and too scary to let go. We separated a week after my Mom died. It took great courage to let each other go. I know it was so painful for both of us. I hope some day to be able to  ritualize the completion of our partnership and to recreate our friendship. We were able to be mostly respectful  and kind about separating and I am so grateful for that. It was very scary and very sad. Letting go of my partner and my mother and facing my fear and sadness has been difficult and very healing. It is scary for me to be alone and yet I am getting stronger as I learn more deeply to look within for my strength. It is so challenging to reach out for support with my friends. It is easier to isolate myself. I am fortunate to have some very good friends. I feel blessed. I embrace this era of my life with all the challenges and joy it brings. I am finding contentment within myself and facing my lonliness  mostly without running away. Meditation and yoga have been lifeboats to help keep me afloat in these turbulent and ever-changing waters. I cry a lot and am laughing more. I think they go together. In the midst of it all, I am grateful for my rich full life. I have work I love and a new grandson. Death and new life. When one door closes, or several doors, space is created for the next door to open. 
Thanks for listening and for giving me the space in your life to share  my journey with you. I am wondering what your lifeboats are that help you to navigate the choppy and smooth waters of your life?