Thursday, November 4, 2021

Two Rivers

 Tonight in a class a woman shared about a dream she had with two rivers. One was turbulent with rushing water and pieces of debris being dragged along with the current. The water was unsettled and muddy.

The other river was calm and clear and flowed along serenely. The person sharing was in a situation with an unknown outcome. She decided to pause and consider that the two different rivers represented a choice. Her choice wasn’t about which course of action to follow in her decision. Her choice was about which river to choose about her reaction to the decision making process. Would she choose to be in turmoil or serenity about the outcome of her dilemma? She chose to be accepting of  whatever the outcome was, knowing she would be OK either way. The calm river to her was the river of letting go of anxiety about the outcome of her situation- trusting that whatever happened would be what happened.

I got to use the pausing and two rivers concept right after the class. In a new relationship I was feeling neglected. I paused and considered two rivers: The turbulent one was taking the other person’s busyness personally and withdrawing.  I knew the other person being temporarily unavailable had nothing to do with me. In the past that hasn’t stopped me from making up a story that I am being abandoned and reacting with anger, either by accusing or withdrawing. When I paused I could see both rivers. The calm river flowed by. It represented trusting my knowing rather than my story. What if I chose the calm river this time? I knew I could be compassionate with myself about my discomfort. I could show up for myself and  reassure myself about feeling hurt. I could comfort myself about feeling sad instead of getting mad and believing my old story. I could then be supportive of the other person completing their current stressful report and offer encouragement to keep going because they were almost done. 

I chose the calm river. What a good feeling to deeply know that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Pausing before the two rivers was a powerful way to chose anew.

My favorite quote, which I’ve mentioned before,  is by Victor Frankl.

 Freedom is the pause between stimulus and response. 

Reacting with anger or withdrawing in response to imagined abandonment is a patterned response with a lot of history for me. Pausing at the stimulus, which is whatever another is doing that triggers me into my habitual response, allows me to sooth myself and show up for myself about what I am feeling. I can comfort the little girl inside me who felt abandoned by my emotionally unavailable Dad, and let her experience her hurt and anger. I can let her know that she didn’t do anything wrong. I can reassure her that her father was acting distracted and withdrawn because that’s what he did with his own pain. It had nothing to do with her. I could even go back in time to advocate for her with my Dad and let him know that withdrawing emotionally was an unacceptable way to treat a little girl. I could let him know I was taking her home with me where she could be loved in the way she deserved to be. Then I could hold her and let her cry. In this way I could create the shift to begin to heal the past in the present. It’s also important to acknowledge ourselves for choosing the calm river and doing things differently when we do. 

Consider pausing and thinking about those two rivers when you are faced with a dilemma or find yourself poised to react in a habitual way. I think it will even be helpful to me after I’ve reacted in a habitual way and chose the turbulent river, to consider what the calm river might have been. Hopefully I can be accepting of what is and forgiving with myself about reacting habitually. Acceptance and forgiveness allows me to be kinder to myself. Kindness and compassion can help create the spaciousness needed to chose a healthier option in the future. Pausing at the banks of  those two rivers can be an  opportunity to create change that comes from acceptance. That kind of change feels healthy and sustainable to me.

Thank you for listening.

 Andrea

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Motorcycle helmets and vaccinations

 Last week I had a rude awakening. On a dating site I had two conversations with two men I considered to be intelligent,  aware people who weren’t getting vaccinated. I expressed curiosity to both of them about where they were coming from. I told one of them that I didn’t know anyone who hadn’t been vaccinated and had thought previously that people who were choosing not to get vaccinated were from the far right of the political spectrum. Neither of these people fit my stereotype. This person after telling me that he didn’t believe in big pharma and that the government wasn’t to be trusted, said that he didn’t know anyone who was vaccinated. He also said that it didn’t feel good to him to put this vaccine into his body and that he would trust that he wouldn’t get COVID or that he would have a mild case. I was glad I got the chance to be curious and learn. 

I remember when I felt like I was healthy and strong and took great care of myself and would never get COVID,  before I got COVID. COVID was my teacher. It taught me to honor the process by which it moved through my body by doing little else besides sleeping for ten days. It taught me to be open to getting a vaccine. I knew clearly the experience of having COVID, although I would say I had a medium case, avoiding hospitalization and death, was not something I was willing to repeat. I was convinced that the science on the effects of the vaccine in no way compared to the effects of having COVID. 

We are all in this together. This virus affects all of us. I read the other day about the difference between motorcycle helmets and a pandemic. If a person chooses not to wear a motorcycle helmet because he feels it interferes with his personal  freedom only his own head gets bashed in in the event of an accident. With COVID we are all interconnected and it seems to me that worrying about infringement of individual preferences is superceeded by large numbers of people dying from this virus. I believe vaccinations have been proven to slow the spread of the virus.

My vision is that over the course of the next few months there will be a realization that we all need to pull together to heal the planet from this virus. The earth is telling us we need to pay attention. What if how we deal with vaccinations is a trial run for how we deal with climate change? I am hoping for people in this country who have decided not to be vaccinated to change their minds in large numbers so we can collectively bring the numbers down of people dying from COVID and begin the larger job of living together in a way that honors Mother Earth and each other. 

Thank you for listening. 

Friday, May 14, 2021

Introspection

 Introspection

Introspection is alive and well within me

Like a little ant crawling on my skin

Easy to ignore for more important pursuits.

Until a sleepless night reminds me

That I have been avoiding myself.

“If you won’t listen to me when you are awake

I will get through to you at 3am.”

I listen.

I vow I no longer need to injure myself 

Or get sick to slow down

And pay attention to myself.

Being with the experience of mad, sad, scared and glad 

In my body

Opens the wellspring of joy beneath.

In this way I can show up for myself gratefully

And avoid the universe’s escalating reminders of neglect

A gentle tap

A little nudge

A slap

A punch

The cosmic two by four.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Dating at 71

Dating at 71 

I speak my truth from my heart with more courage and consistency.

I am more curious and less judgmental.

I am more willing to set healthy boundaries and keep them.

I am less desperate to be in a relationship and more content with being alone.

I am more aware of losing myself in the search and better able to breath and return to my body in the present moment.

I am enjoying getting to know people more and learning discernment about what I want and don’t want.

I am less polite and more direct.

I am more aware of the importance of being compassionate and kind and treating people respectfully.

I take rejection less personally and can practice self compassion and comfort myself more easily when I do take rejection personally.

I know that we are all one and that because we are all connected how I treat others is how I want to be treated.

I am listening more and talking less.

I value silence and stillness and have less need to fill pauses.

I am more confident of my own worth and beauty and of what I have to offer.

I am learning to be more playful and have more fun.

I am learning that less is more and that more isn’t always better. 

I am less urgent and more patient and can work with my tendency to jump in too fast and honor the cadence of going slow and trusting what feels right.

I am aware of my old unmet needs in my relationship with my father growing up and willing to see my present triggers as past hurts and work on them. 

It is easier to get support from trusted friends and resource people and be real about being mad sad scared and glad. 

I am grateful to be more willing to let go of the outcome and show up for myself with whatever I am experiencing. 

Even though dating at 71 is challenging I am learning a lot and appreciate the opportunity to connect with other fellow human beings who are both different and the same as me. 


Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Fishing and Psychotherapy

     I turned 70 in March and have been practicing as a psychotherapist in private practice for forty years.  When people ask me when I will retire, it reminds me of a story. 

There was a fisherman who loved to fish. Every day was satisfying for him even in the midst of all the challenges because he loved his work.

He worked enough to make enough money to support his family and to spend time with them. He felt very satisfied with his life and was grateful for his good fortune.

I am going to change this story: Why couldn’t the person fishing in this story be a woman? 

There was a fisherwoman who loved to fish. Everyday was satisfying for her even in the midst of all the challenges because she loved her work.

She worked enough to make enough money to support her family and to spend time with them. She also found time to take care of herself. She felt very satisfied with her life and was grateful for her good fortune.

Another fisherwoman said to her, “ Why don’t you work twice as hard for the next twenty years? Then you can buy another boat and hire other people and make more money and buy another boat and hire more people and make even more money. Then you would have enough money to retire and do whatever you want to do.”

The fisherwoman smiled and said, “Why would I do that when I already do enough of whatever I want to do now?”           


I love my work. I get to hang out with bright, interesting people who really want to grow and support them in listening to their own inner wisdom. I have always made time more important than money. I have worked enough to support my family, spend time with them and to take care of myself. I am grateful that I am paid well and I can work less than full time. I understand I am very privileged and many other people don’t have that luxury.

I also have been able to save enough money to be able to work even less now. Now I have more time to be with my partner, see my friends and do all the many things I do to take care of myself. I am grateful.

I can’t imagine ever completely retiring from the work I love so much. Who know what the future will bring? Right now every person I see is an opportunity to heal and grow for both of us. My work is a spiritual adventure for me. 

The people I work with and I are collaborating together as we support the evolution of consciousness that we are all a part of. This evolution of consciousness unites us all. In my opinion this evolution of the consciousness of all of us is carrying on in the midst of all the challenges we face with Covid-19, saving our democracy anti-racism and the climate crisis. May all of us embrace the love in our hearts and in each others’ hearts. May all of us open to all that we are in body mind life and spirit. Thank you for listening.


Saturday, August 15, 2020

Shoulds and wants

 The Buddha talked about desire and craving. Desire is something you want and is healthy for humans. Cravings are something we think we need to have or do to be OK. A desire would be, I’d like a chocolate cookie. A craving would be, I just had an upsetting phone call and if I can’t get to the refrigerator soon enough, and shove some food in my mouth, I won’t be OK, even though I’m not hungry.

When I was running I was thinking about what the Buddha said and all the Shoulds I have in my life. I should meditate every day, I should exercise every day, I should make sure that other people are pleased with me, I should always do what I think is expected of me and on and on.

What if shoulds are craving? If I think I need to do something or not do something to be OK as a person that is a craving. A should is something I think I need to do or not do to be OK. So shoulding on myself is pretending that being OK as a person, is conditional. Not only that but my shoulds can keep me from healthy desire. If I am concerned about what I should do, what I want to do isn’t a consideration. Relying on outside validation or my perception of outside validation (what someone else thinks) in making decisions keeps me from internal validation or what feels right to me.

So what if the antidote for shoulds is healthy desire? When I tell myself I should do something as if the self worth police have decreed it, I miss out on the opportunity to notice what I actually want or don’t want.

A friend of mine thought that as a therapist she should work with a very high conflict couple. She made up a story that she shouldn’t let this couple down. She decided it must mean she wasn’t a good enough therapist. When she asked herself what do I want, she realized she wanted to refer the couple to someone who specialized in high conflict couples. Without her shoulds, everyone’s needs could be better met.

Another friend felt she should give her time she set aside to be with herself to a person who wanted her help to solve a problem. This friend had a pattern of throwing herself under the bus to meet other’s needs. When she asked herself, what do I want? She realized she wanted some time to herself and apologized to the other person for saying she’d call her back and that she trusted her colleagues ability to solve her own problem.

For me, I have this delicious day all to myself to do whatever I want. There are so many shoulds I could do today. Being what I consider productive is one of them. I should really revisit that on-line class I never finished, today. I have the time? Yes, I do and what do I want?

In working with a should, I recognize and allow the should to be there. I should finish the on-line class today. It’s a good idea because indeed I do have the time. I pause and be quiet and breathe into the idea. Sometimes a should can transform into a want. Maybe, I’d like to finish the course so how much do I want to do today? However, as I look inside now, the answer is I don’t want to work on the course today at all.I am trusting that someday I will either want to work on the course enough to go back to it or I will eventually let go of it and be OK with that. I am OK whether I finish that course or not. As long as I am shoulding on myself about finishing the course, I am pretending that being OK depends on my doing or not doing my should.

Do I want to go to sleep when I think I should? Choosing consciously empowers me. Automatic pilot shoulds rob me of conscious choice. Do I wan to stay up reading a novel? Do I have to stay up til I finish it like I think I should or is what I want to finish the chapter and go to sleep? Choices have consequences and conscious choices have conscious consequences. Can I chose to do what I want knowing that choice is a creative experiment?

I went for a bike ride and I decided to do an experiment to not take water with me and drink before I went. Even though I thought I should take my water bottle, I decided not to. I thought it could mean less stops and a faster smoother ride. Well, it could have, however I was really thirsty. In this way a should transformed into healthy desire. Now I want to take my water bottle when I ride my bike. I notice my energy is behind drinking water more now and I am less likely to forget my water bottle.

I let my shoulds keep me from expressing myself creatively. Writing or painting or making a card usually loses out to a should. Can I trust that things that need to get done, will get done, if I let myself know what I want and do what I want. I have noticed that washing dishes has become more pleasurable when I let myself want to. Never leave dirty dishes in the sink, my should, has transformed into enjoying playing in warm soapy water and the feeling of satisfaction of a clean kitchen. However, vacuuming has not become a desire yet and my carpet looks as if no one has given it attention in a month, which would be true.

I think I should have written a deeper blog today. There will always be more shoulds. When I can recognize my shoulds, allow them to be there and then ask myself what do I want?, I can be happier and more satisfied with my life. What I wanted to write was this blog. I am glad I paused and gave myself permission to consider that what I wanted to do is write my blog today. 

I support you in noticing your shoulds and kindly asking yourself, what do I want? Noticing a should  allows the space to open to healthy desire. My body appreciates the opportunity to move from the tension in my neck and shoulders that comes with a should to the deeper easier breath that accompanies a want.

Doing what I want doesn’t come without guilt. Part of what I want is to move from the resentments of doing my shoulds through the guilt of doing what I want (and my fear of disappointing others,) to the eventual peace of knowing that doing what I want supports all of us. When I do what I want, I can better support others genuinely. Thank you for listening.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

The Thriving of the Nurtured

Hello everyone,
It’s been a long time since I wrote. This is my first post of 2020. I just finished participating in a zoom group meditation. Sitting with others is very powerful for me. Tonight I could feel my mind wandering into thought. Noticing my thoughts I could feel the familiar pull of my judgement of myself as a loser meditator with a litany of familiar evidence against myself, as in, “you have been sitting for all these years and you still spend it mostly thinking about stuff. What is wrong with you?”
My favorite quote came to mind, Freedom is the pause between stimulus and response. This quote is by Victor Frankl. It originated out of his experience of being a Jewish prisoner in a Natzi concentration camp during World War 2. Contributing to his survival was the realization that there is a choice to do what we’ve always done on automatic pilot or to pause between the stimulus and our usual response and give ourselves the freedom of looking at our options and choosing something different.
Sometimes when I am up against my own habitual harshness with myself, I dive into proving I am inadequate and flawed. I feel awful and defeated and somehow comfortable. I get to be right.
More and more now, I can use the smugness of being right that there really is something wrong with me and I did it wrong again, to become aware of my body. I recognize that I feel heavy and my body feels tight. I investigate further into the tightness. There is pressure in my belly and my heart feels constricted. I breathe into my torso and notice deep sadness and fear. My belief that there is something wrong with me comes from being a child in a family where my mother’s anger and blame was very scary for me. I learned to blame myself and scramble inside to try and make her happy. Believing I had done something wrong allowed me to avoid feeling the terrifying lack of safety of growing up with unstable adults. My brain rut became blaming myself and desperately looking for what I could do to make things better. My mother’s narcissist raging happened when my father wasn’t home, which was most of the time. Her rage was intermittent enough that I would be lulled into trusting in her caring until the next episode sent shockwaves of self-hate through my body. I learned to mistrust in caring and became hyper focused on my mother’s moods, always hoping to make her happy so she would be the loving mother she could be sometimes and I so needed her to be.
 The inconsistency has deeply impacted my ability to relax around others and trust in their love. Uncertainty often leads to high levels of anxiety. When I don’t know what to do I want to pick my nails or overeat. Uncertainty has led me to become a seeker, looking for answers to what makes me and other people react the way we do. I embarked on a lifelong journey of self-discovery in which  I have discovered self compassion. I have learned to be the mother of that little girl inside me who lets that little girl know that she didn’t do anything wrong. I can comfort myself and know that it’s safe now to experience and release feelings, and to speak my truth from my heart.
I have learned to pause and reflect and choose the option of curiosity over harshness with myself.
What else could I say to myself right now besides you suck? How about “maybe you don’t suck as
much as you think and could you investigate what you are feeling right now and see what you most
need?  Lately my journey has been inspired by Tara Brach’s RAIN process. RAIN stands for:
Recognize
Allow
Investigate
Nurture
So I recognize the harshness and anger toward myself, allow it to be there, and investigate what it
feels like in my body. Usually embracing self-hate moves into the hurt or sadness or fear underneath and I can breathe into experiencing the feeling and show up for myself with nurturing. What does this feeling in my body most need right now? What would nurturing myself look like? Would it help to rest or move my body around or cry and shake or write or call a friend? The harshness transforms into compassion for myself. Self-compassion enables me to be more compassionate toward others. Kindness with myself  allows me to be kinder toward others.
I call this post Thriving of the Nurtured. What if our survival necessitates a shift from greed to collaboration? What if thriving comes from learning to take care of ourselves and care for others?
What if we really are all one ? What if our behavior could really reflect that deep inner awareness of the interconnection of all beings?
In the presence of the uncertainty of Covid-19 there is an opportunity to take care of ourselves and
care for others to a greater degree than before. We get to pause and reflect on our familiar busyness and our patterns of basing our sense of self-worth on material success and external validation. We get to say, “What else is there?” and explore slowing down sourcing our own self worth and being kinder to ourselves and to others.  Nurturing ourselves and caring for others may lead to the freedom that is the pause between stimulus and response. The Thriving of the Nurtured.