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Reflections Massage Therapy

The Beginning March 6, 2015

Filed under: CranioSacral,Massage Therapy — Reflections Integrative Therapy @ 4:10 pm
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There is something that happens when your system settles into a place that it trusts. A place it doesn’t visit often, but it knows the way you know the creaks in the floor of the hallway upstairs in your childhood house, or who is coming up the stairs by the sound of their footfall. Your body knows this place, relishes this place, seeks this place out despite our greatest efforts to be anywhere but there.

It is a quiet place, this settling. It is nourishing and peaceful. And if you stay there long enough you begin to see that there is something even beneath the quiet. Some steady pulsing, slow and rhythmic, like the heartbeat of an ocean you once knew. The quieter you get, the louder it becomes. Maybe it starts in your solar plexus, beneath the quivering you feel just below your sternum. And slowly it spreads from here, spiraling outward until even the furthest reaches of your pinky toes feel full of this pulsing, feel full of presence.

And this fullness then begins to grow, to push out, to expand the boundaries of your body that you once thought we so solid. But in fact, here you are in this minute, growing, expanding. And in this expansion you feel a strength, a force moving beneath the pulsing, filling up these new boundaries. You push, stretch, breath, fill your lungs and feel that center point of the spiral soften to allow for more depth, more expansion. It is courage, yes, but deeper than that even, it is a trust in the strength that is coursing through every cell in your body. It is a trust in your ability to repair. It is a trust in your ability to inhabit your body. It is a trust in your inherent resiliency.

This, my friend, is a trust in your deepest capacity – for growth, for healing, for movement, for love, for repair, for presence. This is where we all come from.

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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.

 

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.

 

 

Just Keep Swimming October 26, 2012

Filed under: CranioSacral — Reflections Integrative Therapy @ 3:59 pm
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I’ve been very slowly (it’s been since early August) reading a really interesting book entitled The Queer Art of Failure. In one of the chapters, the author discusses the concept of memory and forgetting. I’ve been letting this roll over me for a little while, engaging in my own understanding of the importance of remembering and, perhaps even more important, forgetting. And here’s what I’ve come up with, so far.

I’m a grasper. When I’ve come to some profound realization about the world, the universe, myself, etc, I try to hold tightly to it. I am desperate to not forget. I write down whatever I can so that I can hold on to. I talk about it. I mark it down; tell myself “That’s it! Remember that!” I think that if I can just hold on to it, just remember forever that insight, I won’t have to go through the sometimes-painful process of learning it again in a different way.

And yet, I (almost) always forget. Really. I have a pretty stellar memory (thanks Mom!) and yet every year when the mountains get covered in that first solid snowfall, I forget how beautiful winter here is. And every spring, I forget how green everything gets.  And I think I’m starting to learn that that’s the point. We forget over and over again so that we can remember over and over again. So we can have those moments of clarity, recognition, appreciation and gratitude. Perhaps we forget, so we don’t take the knowing for granted. And remembering often happens in lots of different ways, with lots of different triggers. Something completely different from the initial circumstance can teach me the same lesson and I get to learn it again. And I get to see the universality of that lesson.

Case in point, it’s amazing the multitude of opportunities that arise in my life to remind me of the lesson about unconditional love and forgiveness for myself. Seriously. I’m starting to think that’s at the root of everything.

Perhaps the joy in forgetting is that we get to remember again. We leave, so that we are able to come home again. We go away, so that at some point we return to open arms. And maybe we are different in our homecoming, but the furniture hasn’t moved, the fire is still burning in the fireplace and there is still a comfortable seat on which to rest our souls. And it is a rest, because we don’t stay here, not really. We keep moving, keep learning, keep growing and changing and forgetting. You’re not done, no matter how old you are. But that place of remembering is there whether we’re resting in it or not. And that, that much I am certain of, regardless of whether or not I remember I’m certain I’m of it.

 

Theory and Practice. Talking and Walking. March 26, 2012

Filed under: CranioSacral,Massage Therapy — Reflections Integrative Therapy @ 8:23 pm
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Theory and practice. Lately I’ve been finding myself aware of this pairing – not a binary or a dichotomy and certainly not hinting at any sort of mutual exclusivity, but two friends I tend to meet for coffee pretty regularly these days. Theory is better about showing up. Theory is always on time and guaranteed always has plenty to say. Theory is easy and comfortable to be around, even when it’s challenging. Theory and my head are like two peas in a pod. We can talk until the cows come home about what it means to live open-heartedly and what it looks like to step into vulnerability. We’re really good about talking about that…

Practice on the other hand. Practice is that sometimes-flakey friend who is pretty much always late and only really shows up because we’ve had to have a few conversations about its reliability. Practice and I generally get a cup of tea (we gave up coffee 4 months ago) in our to-go cups and go for a walk.

Theory and I talk. Practice and I walk.

And sometimes I don’t want to walk. Sometimes it takes a lot of energy to engage with practice, so I choose sides and hang out with theory and it’s more comfortable.

But lately I’ve been getting…bored with theory. I know, I know! How is that possible?! Theory is entertaining and engaging and exciting and stimulating. All of that is true, certainly. But theory lacks action and as Spring has decided to show up big time here in Boulder, my body is needing action. Shake off the winter, stretch and move and clear the hibernation from my system and get back into the practice of living, of being in this world.

So practice and I are meeting more regularly lately, and theory comes along too, and the three of us are engaging in the process of what it means to unite theory and practice – have practice teach me how to integrate theory – and live from that place. It’s exciting, actually. And challenging. Hanging out with practice sometimes feels like moving my body in a new way. Like I’ve had an injury that I’ve been guarding, but it’s healed now and I am learning this new mobility that is possible.

I was talking to a teacher of mine recently about something I struggle with and she asked me if my belief was really the way things are or if it was my circumstance at one point and is no longer. Of course, being the wise one that she is, she hit the nail on the head and it was another moment of recognizing the places that I still get stuck. Just because something was a certain way does not mean that it is still that way, but sometimes it takes reframing it and actively engaging with now to realize that things have shifted. Over and over.

So, here I go back to Theory and Practice. Theory can help us recognize patterns and learn how to repattern, but it’s practice more often than not that helps us see when we’re actually somewhere new. That what we’ve always held that we’ve known is in fact different. Because by engaging with practice we’re actively participating in the evolution of our lives. Practice is integrating theory into our systems and living from that place.

Need a more concrete example? I went to yoga tonight. I’ve been going to this class now for about 3 months, my first foray into more advanced classes after 3 years of practicing yoga. I’m pretty diligent about it, but every Monday afternoon I get a little trepidatious. It pushes my edges, makes me feel uneasy, mostly because it invites in all of the really loud insecurities that I’m good at quieting when I stay within my comfort zone. But I started going to this class because it was time to move from theory to practice. Intellectually I’ve been exploring what it means to find my edge and to inhabit my body, to know my body and be present with it. But it’s hard to know what it’s capable of if I keep it comfortable, ya know? So in a way, going to this yoga class, with all the attendant uncertainty and self-doubt is my way of engaging with the practice of knowing and exploring my body as well as the Self that inhabits it that gets doubtful and insecure. It gives me a chance to be present with myself and to witness the voices that try to keep me from stepping outside my comfort zone. It’s rewarding like I’d never imagined. In part because I’m learning to integrate the theory of presence and self-awareness.

It’s hard. No two ways about it. Like I said, sometimes I don’t want to go for a walk. Sometimes I just want to cradle a cup of hot tea in my hands and talk. But that’s why practice is a practice, right? It’s not necessarily supposed to be easy and sometimes we’re really not good at it, but we keep at it. We keep at it and through that we learn how to show up for ourselves and we learn to trust that. We learn to see what’s right in front of us, to be with it, and we learn that there’s room for all of this – the talking and the walking.

 

Exploring Edges. February 27, 2012

remember: the body’s pain and the pain on the streets/are not the same but you can learn/from the edges that blur O you who love clear edges/more than anything watch the edges that blur. ~ Adrienne Rich

Edges. Pushing edges. Hell, finding edges. Exploring, lingering, waiting, hating, resisting, relishing, resting, breaking, blurring, reinforcing, meeting – discovering the edges within ourselves, those far reaches beyond which is no-man’s land, perhaps even literally. This is a practice.

What does an edge even look like? I can only tell you what it looks like for me. For me, it’s the place where, when I am opening to vulnerability, right before it gets to be too much. That’s an edge for me, where I can operate in a way that feels safe and comfortable and easy (although not too cushy), but I can see that with a slight push I will be out of a space that’s comfortable. Your edges will probably look different than mine, but there is a universality to finding those spaces in ourselves where we reach a limit, beyond which is ever so slightly (or strongly) outside our comfort zone. And while I have long been a firm believer in the growth and transformation that comes from stepping outside one’s comfort zone, these days I’m exploring the edges. I am exploring the place just before I’ve crossed the line, perhaps in an effort to see if it’s totally necessary for me to push, push, push until I’m over the edge with nothing safe or familiar to cushion my fall should it happen. Trial by fire I guess. And that’s a lot of the way I’ve operated in my life. Jumping in – and disconnecting. Yup, that’s my clever nervous system at work. I take that step, push myself outside my comfort zone, and because it’s often scary out there, I check out, stop being present in my body and instead occupy the mental place that is ever so comfortable for me. Eventually, most times, I am able to come back, return to my body and resume the presence with which I am able to live my life when I recognize safety. But what if there’s a different way of doing it? What if I can stay with myself the whole time, instead of disconnecting and coming back? What greater depth would be possible if I didn’t have to take the time out to bring myself back into myself?

Because here’s the thing, while I will always place an enormous amount of value on the ways in which I’ve grown by crossing that line, I think the deeper change comes when we are able to stay with ourselves in these uncomfortable places. And I think that an inherent part of growing and evolving and transforming also means inhabiting yourself. Showing up for yourself over and over again. Trusting that no matter how uncomfortable or painful or grief-ridden or ecstatic or joyful a space may be, I’m not going anywhere. Developing that trust in oneself that comes from constancy. How much deeper the discoveries are able to integrate when we are present with ourselves – and isn’t that the point? To integrate our growth so that it becomes part of our very fabric, not dependent on an external influence.

A baby, as it’s learning to crawl will crawl away from a caregiver (parent, sibling, babysitter, etc), stop, turn around, check to make sure they’re still there, and then proceed on. Over and over again – testing the constancy, building the foundation of trust that there is a presence holding them, making sure they’re safe as they discover new movement. And so with exploring our edges: we find our edges and then check back in with ourselves to make sure we’re still present, and then return to the edge and see what happens next – all the while, checking back in, making sure we’re not going anywhere. But that means we have to find those edges, explore and be willing to go there, be willing to stay with that moment of anticipation, that moment when we could either step over or step back. And good lord, that’s hard.

If you choose to embark on this practice of finding the edges and hanging out there, let me throw in another piece – give yourself permission to step back. Geez. Seriously. Hang out for as long as it feels ok to hang out (find the edge within the edge), and then step back from the edge, take a deep breath, feel your feet beneath you, remember that you’re safe, remember that you have a choice in this. Always. You can choose to remain where you are, just as you can choose to explore the edges, and there’s no better than or worse than when it comes to those choices. Sometimes just knowing what those edges are is enough. And maybe if that’s enough right now and you just let that be there and hold gratitude for those edge, eventually, over time, you might find movement toward venturing out to them.

So, as I explore this in myself, in my own way, at my own pace (with a whole lot of backing the hell up) I’m discovering that in the process of staying with the edges, I find that they move, ever so slightly and every once in a while my edge is a little further away – my capacity has grown. And I rest into the growth, and then keep on keeping on, finding my new edge and hanging out there. Rinse. Repeat.

But, in this practice I’ve learned that nothing happens without gratitude. If I beat myself up for a limitation or an edge, all that serves to do is reinforce it. So to this (both in myself and you) I say: appreciate those edges – they have served brilliantly to protect you, helping you survive and function, given you a container in which to live and love and interact and engage all while maintaining a sense of safety. Thank them. And then ask yourself, what else is possible? Really. What else is possible? How can I do this differently? Give space for the edge to speak – the answer might surprise you. Or it might not. You might find you knew the answer all along.

 

 

 
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