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Solstice Hope December 21, 2014

Filed under: CranioSacral,Gratitude — Reflections Integrative Therapy @ 1:44 pm
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It’s drizzling this Solstice morning, a constant leak from the low hanging clouds. I awoke this morning to no celebratory sunrise, but rather to the drip of another Sunday morning, the brilliant moss covered trees feeding from the sky. And while it has been some days since I have seen the sun, I am aware that this day is a sacred one in which we begin our steady march back into the days of longer light. It is slow to come, I know this. It seems more as if we are just now making our nests in the heart of this dark winter, preparing our bodies for the long nights. But that is the thing about movement, about the rhythms of nature; sometimes it is so gradual that you cannot even feel it happening. The long breath of the universe, in and out.

It is the expansion and contraction that is at the core of each of us. The inward curling and the outward reaching, the flexion and extension, the in breath and the out, the systolic and diastolic, the curling and uncurling of our hearts and the way in which this movement pulses through our bodies. And at the turning point in each, there is a pause. A moment of holding the breath before an exhale, the rest before the contraction, the gathering of potency before the uncurling. It is both where we gather our strength and where we rest our bones.

And so this day, as we turn back toward the light, I am feeling the pause. Resting into this moment, one foot in darkness and the other in light. The moment contains both the deepest rest and the most vibrant awakeness. It is an awareness of what has been and what is to come, it is pregnant with mourning and anticipation, relief and trepidation, certainty and uncertainty. It is the moment between moments. The embodiment of possibility.

At the core of the pause rests one simple idea: hope. Hope that the in-breath will come, hope that the light will return, hope for rest, hope for inspiration, hope that anything is possible next. It is that moment between moments when all we have is hope.

And so on this day, when we turn back toward the light, I invite you to offer gratitude for the dark, for the struggles and challenges and heartbreaks that have littered your path, knowing that despite the turning point there will surely be more darkness to come. But just as likely is the possibility for light to come, for goodness and ease and celebration. The ever-present expansion and contraction of our existence. But today, today I will meet you there in the pause. And in that moment between moments, we will rest in hope.

 

Claiming Self – Vision Fast reflections July 8, 2014

Filed under: Balance,Uncategorized — Reflections Integrative Therapy @ 8:30 pm
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“But you can bury your past in the garden by the tulips, water it until it is so alive, it lets you go, and you belong to yourself again. When you belong to yourself again, remember that forgiveness is not a tidy grave, but a ready loyal knight kneeling before your royal heart.” – Andrea Gibson

A month ago today I was on the final day of 4 days and 4 nights spent in the wilderness, alone, fasting. For those of you who have not experienced a Vision Fast, sitting alone in the woods with nothing to distract you from yourself is a lot like handing a glittery invitation to all of your monsters, letting them know you’re having a 4-day slumber party and they’re all invited. They come in and make themselves at home, taking big gulps from the 4 gallons of water you’ve carried out with you and making themselves comfortable under the tarp that is serving as your only shelter. And so, with nowhere else to be, you talk. You listen. You argue. You fight. You cry. You surrender. You accept. You reject. You bury and cut away and take in and throw into the air. You dance. You come to know the texture of these monsters, the way their skin folds slightly at the corner of their mouth when they are telling you their story – the story they want you to believe is also your story. You listen to these stories with your whole being resting into the ground, being held by the earth and the words are familiar because they are stories you have, in fact, been telling yourself for years. Their stories are the ones that you have long held on to, stories by which you have defined yourself. Their stories are the ones that kept your voice hidden, tucked tightly into your socks, convinced that it was safer that way, easier that way. Their stories are the ones keeping you awake at night, watching the way the shadows of the moon move through the trees.

But the more you listen to these monters, the more and more those stories that they’re telling you start to sound like fables. The fundamental un-truth of them begins to get louder than the words themselves and under all the listening you start to hear another set of words, another story bubbling up. This story is tentative at first, testing the ground that it is stepping out on to make sure it’s solid. And once it is certain, it begins to get louder and louder until finally you have to strain to hear the monsters’ stories. It is then that you realize that you’re trying to hear these stories that have kept you small and in fact it might be easier to hear this one that is building in volume and momentum, that rings with a truth that you know in your bones like the soil beneath your feet. And with your naked self, you slip first one leg and then the other into this story, pull it up and button it around your waist. Both arms in and it slides down over your head and then your torso. And it is here, in the clear light of day, with a breeze rustling the nearby branches and encirlcing you with the sweet butterscotch scent of Ponderosa Pines, that you step into and claim this story. This is you. Not those loud and pushy monters, guzzling all your water and shoving each other for the best spot under the tarp. This. Clear. Strong. Capable. Unapologetic. This story that you wear with the utmost east, because fundamentally it is you. You claim your story. You claim yourself. And finally, again, you belong to yourself.

And in this belonging to yourself again, you are your own witness, your own cheerleader, your own critic, and your own lover. In the month that has passed since those sacred 4 days, I have stepped in the incorporation phase and that has involved a practice of unconditional embodiment. Wearing myself, owning myself, belonging to myself, embodying this vessel I am blessed with. And if I’m being honest, it isn’t always easy to connect to the blessing. Sometimes it’s just hard, hard to be in my body, hard to be in this world with all of its microagressions, hard to stay with myself. But I’m learning to listen, even when it’s hard, and to not force it but to practice remembering that story that demanded to be heard over the cacophony of monsters. That story that every cell in my body knows to be true. The story that is me.

It doesn’t take 4 days alone in the woods with no food to belong to yourself. It takes quiet. It takes patience. It takes staying with yourself, even when you want to leave. It takes listening, and listening deeper to get beneath those stories that keep you small. And so I invite you, too, to explore this space of unconditional embodiment, this space of listening and knowing and owning your story, this space of belonging to yourself. Even if only for 5 minutes every day. That is enough. You are enough. My hope is that, with this practice, you, I, we all begin to bring a little more of ourselves into the world.

To quote one of my wonderful guides, Pedro, “The world needs more of you in it!” I couldn’t agree more.

 

 

Forgiveness and Stories March 7, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Reflections Integrative Therapy @ 5:40 pm
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Days and years have passed since I sat in the middle of my empty living room, one arm around Lucy, as the tears that I’d thought I’d lost in the years of that relationship made their way out of my chest and down my face. I wept that night, wept for all the ways that I had finally come to feel the fear that moved my body through those years. I felt the panic of loneliness and the sorrow of failure. I could not maintain what I had worked so hard to create, what I had sacrificed so much to have. And there I was, with a home that was empty, a living room devoid of any life I recognized.  So I cried. I cried and I cried and I filled those empty rooms with the tears that I had been too afraid to cry when they were full. I cried until my insides became as empty as those rooms and there was nothing left in me to wring out.

 

After that first night, sleeping on my mattress on the futon frame we’d found outside a dumpster in North Boulder, I started filling the rooms – first with color, new color, then with furniture and pictures and long-hidden parts of myself. With time, that empty living room transformed into one filled with dinners with friends and a comfortable chair and Lucy’s bed by the fire. It became my home, mostly because I had filled it with me in a way that I never had when the rooms were full before.

 

For months and years I lived in the stories of those empty rooms, the pain and fear that hid in every dent of the bathroom wall or broken picture frame. The rooms were full of me now, but the stories of how that came to be still decorated the empty spaces. I hung those stories up in my closet, wore them as easily as my favorite sweatshirt, wore them so often I couldn’t distinguish between their fabric and my own.

 

I don’t know if this is about letting go of stories or forgiving yourself. And maybe they’re no different. Maybe to let go of the stories that we have woven so closely into our own fabric that we cannot distinguish them from our own essential being, we first must forgive ourselves. Maybe that is how we release. Forgiveness. Unconditional forgiveness. In forgiving, we recognize and honor the fallibility inherent in being human, and the beauty and certainty of that fallibility. We learn to humble ourselves to ourselves, humble ourselves to all that we do not know. And we forgive ourselves. We are fallible. We make mistakes. We make really really big mistakes. We hurt ourselves and we hurt other people. And to live in this world, I have to trust that none of that hurt comes intentionally. And so we learn to forgive ourselves. We find permission to forgive ourselves. And in doing so, we give ourselves the opportunity to release those old stories. Those stories that we have told ourselves over and over again, so many times that we are convinced they must be true and there is no other way. Those stories that drive our choices and decisions. Those stories that we so deeply come to identify with that without them we are not even certain of who we are. Those stories.

 

And when we put those stories down, stop wearing them around everywhere we go, we begin to see what else is possible, what else is true. What else is possible is that perhaps we are able to step into a deeper truth, something more about the core of who we are as human beings, rather than who our stories have told us we are.

 

And if we want to, we can write more stories. And maybe those stories will be written from a place of compassion for ourselves and for others, from a place of maitri, from a place of honor and respect for the place that exists without stories.

 

My home now is full of me, it’s full of my lover, it’s full of my dog (very full of her hair), it’s full of stones and driftwood and pictures of foreign lands. It’s full of books and a wood-burning stove and my favorite chair. It is full of different choices. It is full of forgiveness.

 

 

 

Train Rides in India February 3, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Reflections Integrative Therapy @ 11:10 am
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Reading through my journal from India, today’s entry a year ago:

February morning on the train to Goa, the landscape slowly changing outside the window. Slums and unfinished high rises, rooms open like gaping mouths, giving way to open space, the occasional river and a blue sky desperate to be seen through the haze of burning trash. Make-shift homes dot the side of the tracks. The land seems to devour, slowly, patiently, whatever tries to find stability in it. Rusted out tractors succumbing to the relentless presence of all that is not human.

Morning glories grow amidst feces and layers of waste. And it reminds me that the lotus blooms in the mud.

My edge today is that this, the rawness and dirt of this, makes me so uncomfortable. I say that and I struggle to find beauty in all of this. And then I see a woman laying vibrant cloths out to dry and a simple red-framed shack and my edge blurs a little. Perhaps the dinginess is not out there but rather this window through which I gaze that is tinted and tinged. How do I clean this window, how do I clear the glass so that I can take all this in through a lens not so clouded by discomfort?

Or perhaps all of that is some of it, being with discomfort. Not trying to see the flowers in the trash, but seeing the trash. Seeing the suffering and the dirt. Letting it make me uncomfortable because it should. I will leave here in a few months and return to a land that fears the messy-ness of reality and humanity. Where authenticity is a struggle because honesty and speaking your truth is sometimes messy. There is a truth to the filth, to the dirt, and to living a life in it.

 

Winter Returning January 6, 2014

Filed under: Balance,Gratitude — Reflections Integrative Therapy @ 3:12 pm
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The sun is out today in my quiet little mountain town. Snow covers every sign of life and the trees have tucked in for their winter sleep. I haven’t seen grass in the backyard for months now and the river behind our house fluctuates between a slow trickle and solid ice, depending on the amount of consecutive days of sunshine that makes its way into our little valley here. A pot of water sits on top of the cast iron stove, heating and humidifying our little mining house that I’m fairly certain hasn’t seen any new insulation since it was built in 1904. We’re piling up snow faster than it can melt, making the view out the back door something reminiscent of living in a snow cave. It’s cold here. And it’s winter. It’s winter in all the ways that winter is beautiful and also hard. It’s quiet here tucked away in the mountains, with little to distract me from the darkness and even less to remind me of the life that lingers beneath all that white. The fall here was epically beautiful, the Aspens showing off around every corner, inspiring my own contemplation on the celebration of death and what it looks like to leave this world with grace and beauty. But, in the midst of winter, I now understand now the importance of that final burst. And something tells me that when the Aspens wake up from their slumber, I will be just as surprised and awed by their vibrant life as I was by their death. They will return to quaking and shimmering with the backdrop of the infinitely blue sky that Colorado is so good at.

 

And so in this quiet, I find myself contemplating what I have long believed about what it means to grow and evolve. I have this tendency to believe that the signifier of evolution is to get over something, to move past it, to be done with it, and to let it go. But this quiet winter is inviting me to entertain the possibility that perhaps the measure of living and growing is not in fact out-growing. Maybe the end goal is not to try to get to a point where we don’t need our resources, but rather to be present to the way in which those things do in fact feed us and nurture us and fuel us, and to be grateful for their existence. And maybe what feels cold and empty is, in its own way, a resource. We weren’t made to go this alone, so perhaps there is company even in the quiet of winter. What if progress is simply allowing what those resources look like to be current? I may out-grow a particular jacket, but as long as winter keeps coming around, I will never out-grow the need for a jacket. I will always need something to keep me warm, even if that something keeps changing to be more aligned with where I currently am in my life. The fundamental need for warmth is always there.

 

I believe it’s not a step backward to return to those places again and again, those places you thought you’d out-grown, you thought you’d moved past, you thought you were done with. I think it is the endlessly cyclical nature of our existence to return, to re-engage.

 

Those security blankets that we so desperately want to believe we’ve out-grown, that we aspire to out-grow because that signifies “progress,” what if those security blankets are actually our way of navigating this world? What if instead of being a crutch to be out-grown, they are instead a place that we can come to rest, to take care, to refill?

 

I posted just 2 or 3 blog entries in 2013, finding myself more deeply entrenched in this next phase of my life that involves more doing and less reflecting. And yet, as the depth of winter calls at my heart and I find myself spending more hours in darkness, I also feel myself turning back to the space of reflecting, cycling back towards this place of contemplation and connecting to a more core part of my being. It’s never truly linear, this existence, and I find that every time I convince myself it is, I just wind up back somewhere I thought I’d left behind.

 

This time last year was full of endings and new beginnings. I was leaving behind so much, named and unnameable, and I had myself convinced that to leave meant to never really return. But that’s not true, not really.

 

Maybe every time we return, we step in to that space a little deeper, a little closer to core, a little bit more sure of all that we don’t know and yet all that we know we need. Because sometimes we need to walk away. Sometimes we need to try it all on, see what works, see what still needs work, see where we can rest, and see what drives us forward. And then we come back to the drawing board, pick up that familiar pencil, consult an old friend, sit on that worn down rock and watch the ocean dance at our feet, and remember those things that feed our soul. And rest there for a while, letting ourselves be nourished and nurtured and refueled before we begin our cycle again.

 

We are not weak to need our security blankets. Perhaps, in truth, we are stronger for it, because we recognize that which fuels us and keeps us going. And perhaps, learning to allow for support is the greatest signifier of growth. Letting those friend’s couches hold us, and those hours long phone calls recharge us, and those old familiar faces seeing us in ways we need to be seen. We may walk away from those, but the truth of it is, it is only because of the strength in that support that we are able to take the steps away from it. And so, in returning perhaps we are more able to recognize that strength and find more solace in those places that hold us – not down, but up.

 

I planted bulbs in late September before our first big snow fall. I know they are there under the ground, insulated by the feet of snow over their heads. They’re just waiting for their time to return. Because everything does, always, in some way or another. The earth revolves around the sun, offering up both the quiet of winter and the vibrance of summer. And through it all we evolve in our own revolutions around the axis of our core, returning and moving away and returning again.

 

 

 

 

Where the Revolution Begins. July 25, 2013

Filed under: Balance,CranioSacral,Massage Therapy — Reflections Integrative Therapy @ 4:02 pm
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Slowly, slowly, since returning home from India, I have stepped into a new role: facilitating and teaching yoga classes with a primary focus on nervous system engagement and regulation – cultivating a practice of meeting yourself exactly where you are. And what has unfolded in these few months since stepping back onto American soil has been profoundly reinforcing of the teachings that India offered to me, in all of her struggle and beauty.

Now teaching, I watch people move in their bodies, watch them feel what feels right, what their version of what I have just demonstrated and I know I am witnessing the experience of exploration. Self-exploration. Learning one’s capacity. And learning what it looks like to stretch that, to move that, to trust in the resilience that is inherent in our beings and to really begin to understand our capacity.

Not a capacity based on conditioning. Not one based on what someone else has told us about ourselves. Not a capacity that we understand based on comparing ourselves to others. No, this, this is deeper. This is quieter. This is subtler. And it’s one that I’ve been exploring in myself and feeling grateful to watch others explore in themselves.

I have spent the better part of the past 4 years taking care of myself – healing from a traumatic relationship, tending to some very old wounds and learning who I am underneath all of these layers of projected identities that I have taken on. And in that care-taking, I have come to be very gentle with myself – most of the time. I have developed the ability to listen to myself on a subtle level and as such, I am finely tuned to imbalances and am quick to try to re-balance.

I believe that when we learn to explore our capacity, to explore it for ourselves, to gain an embodied sense of it, that – that is when it all begins to shift. By our very nature, we humans are incredibly resilient. Organs can be removed, hearts can be stopped, bones can be broken, hearts can be broken – and all of this can heal. We can continue on in the face of all of this, and so much more. The challenge, then, is trusting that. Trusting our resiliency. Trusting in our capacity to move and bend and flex and heal and grow and love. Trusting in our ability to come back over and over, to wake up over and over – no matter how challenging it may feel.

I equate it to lung capacity. Hiking up a mountain, going for a long bike ride, running the trails near my home – all of these force my lungs to expand and contract, most often pushing the expansion beyond what I know to be my limit. And then I rest, my lungs take a break (kind of). Then I’m back at it again, the next day or the next week, and this time I know how far I can go and I get there, I get to that place where a day or week ago I felt resistance and this time I can go a little further.

It’s not about pushing, it’s about staying current. It’s about letting your body be exactly where it is in that moment. Holding it with radical acceptance – feeling and trusting both its capacity and resilience.

And this isn’t just about lung capacity, or bodies in general. This is about who we are as human beings and what we are truly capable of. It’s about trusting that capacity, living our lives from that place of deep knowing. That. That is where the revolution begins.

 

Seeking embodiment in a foreign land February 24, 2013

Filed under: Balance,CranioSacral,Gratitude,Uncategorized — Reflections Integrative Therapy @ 8:41 am
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“Life is glorious, but life is also wretched. It is both. Appreciating the gloriousness inspires us, encourages us, cheers us up, gives us a bigger perspective, energizes us. We feel connected. But if that’s all that’s happening, we get arrogant and start to look down on others, and there is a sense of making ourselves a big deal and being really serious about it, wanting it to be like that forever. The gloriousness becomes tinged by craving and addiction. On the other hand, wretchedness–life’s painful aspect–softens us up considerably. Knowing pain is a very important ingredient of being there for another person. When you are feeling a lot of grief, you can look right into somebody’s eyes because you feel you haven’t got anything to lose–you’re just there. The wretchedness humbles us and softens us, but if we were only wretched, we would all just go down the tubes. We’d be so depressed, discouraged, and hopeless that we wouldn’t have enough energy to eat an apple. Gloriousness and wretchedness need each other. One inspires us, the other softens us. They go together.” ~ Pema Chodron

It’s not just because I am settling into the town that is also the exiled home of the Dalai Lama that the quote from Pema Chodron resonated with me this morning. This land that I find beneath my feet these days, this foreign soil that no matter how much it reminds me of other places that have felt like home, continues to feel foreign; the sights that assault and delight my eyes, the suffering that meshes with the celebration. My system is learning embodiment in an entirely new way.

It is learning what it feels like to shut down in the face of beauty because the memory of suffering is too close to the surface. It is learning that all the time that I spend talking about universality doesn’t amount to anything if there isn’t some sort of embodiment to back it up.

I am moving in cycles with this traveling. I am moving towards myself and away from myself, towards others, away from others. Towards universality, away from universality straight into the arms of ego.

But these cycles are teaching me something, something I didn’t even realize I needed to learn until it landed in my lap in a moment of intense agitation and discomfort this morning. You see, I am fantastic at the mental part of path-walking, process-working, evolution. Super fantastic, even. I can explain my way in and out of all kinds of mental states. And yet, when it comes to embodiment, I am woefully unskilled. Unpracticed may be a better way of putting it. In the throes of trauma some years ago, my mentor at the time said to me that the mind understands things well before the body. I “got” that then, I understood it in my head and even had moments of understanding it in my body. But it wasn’t until this afternoon, damn near 4 years after that conversation, that I began to understand the slow trickle of embodiment. Or rather, the potential slow trickle. I know some people for whom embodiment is the first place they go and intellectualizing comes later, if at all.

But for me, it’s slow and I am learning how much resistance I have put up to embodiment. How much it scares me in some way. It scares me because if I’m feeling then I’m feeling and if I’m feeling  then I must certainly be bringing whatever it is I’m feeling into the world around me, infecting the space around me. Dramatic, I know. But it inspires a lot of the resistance I have to being embodied.

And so India, in all its suffering and splendor has become my classroom. It is the place that is forcing me, sometimes gently sometimes harshly, to embody these principles I have long talked about, long intellectualized.

And the reason India is doing that so strongly is that the essence of embodiment is presence. Yes, there it is, that word again. I cannot embody something, I cannot allow something to permeate me, to be felt in my body and not just thought in my head, if I am not present. And in this time of travel, all I really can do is be present. This is a foreign place, I don’t have the distractions of home to pull me away. I am constantly taking in, observing, engaging, participating, absorbing, seeing, smelling, walking, feeling, hearing. I am in a sensory soup, and I am present to all that my senses are engaging with. To a degree that is sometimes exhausting.

I should clarify here. In truth, I’m actually pretty good at embodying the good stuff. I’m pretty good at feeling whole and grounded in myself when experiencing joy and elation and bliss. That’s not all that hard for me. It’s learning to embody the darkness. To not contract against the pain or the sadness, but rather give it its due, give it it’s space to be and exist and move on. When I am not in a space of embodiment, I contract against those challenging feelings, I don’t give them space to exist and I don’t give them space to move.

But in this journey through foreign lands, with only my own mind and my partner for daily contact, I am beginning to learn that until I am able to be in a space of embodiment, I will simply wear down these grooves that my mind creates by thinking things, rather than allowing space to feel things. And at some point, if I keep that up, I will get stuck in those grooves and it will be that much harder to get out and to do things differently. India has shown me my edge, my plateau, that place that I’ve come to in my daily life that I will not move from until I begin a practice of doing things differently.

But, lord, what an intense place to learn about presence. How do I allow myself to be present with the child splayed out on the ground with a bloody bandage over it’s head while it’s mother sits by begging from the constant stream of passersby heading into the train station? How do I allow myself to be present to the people whose livelihood centers around other people’s waste? How do I allow myself to be present to the charred remains of a man’s pelvis as it is taken from the ashes of his funeral pyre and thrown into the Ganges? Is it really possible to allow those experiences to be felt in my body knowing that they are just as real on this plane of existence as the fullness my heart felt at the sound of a little girl giggling after an exchange, or the kindness of strangers on countless train rides?

Because that’s what I’m learning. My movement, my openness, my embodiment of both the light and the dark is how to transcend all of it on this path of joy and compassion. And it isn’t easy, but travel is a constant practice of presence and so here I am. Engaging in this practice of learning to embody my experience, this experience of existence. I am learning to allow myself to remain open just a split second longer than I would like to, to resist my own resistance for just a moment, to let a little space in for a little light or dark or both. To step into the embodiment piece of this existence with wholeness and compassion, and to allow for the joy that I know is beneath all of it.

 

 

 
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