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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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Travelling Inward January 13, 2013

Filed under: Balance,Gratitude — Reflections Integrative Therapy @ 6:40 pm
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The last three years have been full of travel for me. Not the travel that involves backpacks and trains and someone noisily rummaging through their luggage in a shared room at 3 in the morning. No, this travel has been internal. I have been journeying to wounds and scars and memories and strength and health and all the while learning that growth comes whether you are moving or not.

The first few years after I moved to this town, I remember being afraid that my growth would stagnate. Someone asked me years ago what my biggest fear was and at the time, without even a forethought, I said simply, “stagnation.” I was afraid to stop moving. Because in my mind, to stop moving meant to stop growing. At that point my most profound experiences of growth and transformation had come only with a backpack upon my back and foreign tongues swirling in my head. Pushing myself outside my physical comfort zone was the only way that I knew how to really grow. It was in that space that I shed the stories, shed the performance of myself and got to the essence of me. And then I’d come home again and cling desperately to that essence, vowing to not lose what I’d learned about myself and the places I’d come to discover – vowing to not go back to the old way of being.

But after about 6 months of moving to Boulder, with no big travel plans in sight, and the novelty of moving to a new place wearing off, I began to fear that staying in one place meant that those periods of profound transformation would come to an end. Or at least a temporary end until I packed up and took off again for someplace new that pushed me outside my comfort zone and reminded me of the essence of myself.

But, instead, something else happened. Something that has only become really clear to me in this time when I am in fact packing up my backpack and preparing for another journey. 7 years after moving to this town, 7 years filled with struggling to really unpack and settle in, I find that the growth that has happened while staying in the same place is profound on a level that I’d never known possible.

What happens when our internal environment becomes where we are out of our comfort zone, not our external? What happens when the places that push us and challenge us are not a foreign language or the uncertainty of ones location, but the foreignness of our own internal landscape.

Because it’s not about place, at least this time around. It’s not about something outside myself illuminating my essence. This has been an internal process and as such, I carry it with me. It is no longer about being afraid that when the external environment changes I will lose contact with this way that I know myself. And there is something so profoundly liberating about that. There is freedom in knowing myself in this way, and knowing that this self will continue to grow and change and evolve. And with that evolution I have learned to check in and to witness and to see the ways that things shift, and to trust in the unfolding.

I am comfortable now, in this once foreign landscape. I can speak the language, I know the gestures, and I have found some sacred hidden places that are full of joy. This land that was once unfamiliar to me, has become my home. And that comfort might be temporary, as all resting places really are. Inevitably, deeper travel will be spurred and more growth and learning this internal space will occur. The comfortableness arises not necessarily from knowing myself (because that which I know now is bound to change, thank you evolution). No, the comfortableness comes from trusting, trusting my inner explorer and trusting this self that I have come to discover and indeed, love. Trusting the growth and change and trusting the courage to continue exploring, to continue venturing beyond the reaches of what I know and being curious about what else is there.

This internal journey, in the way that I have known it for the past 4 years, is coming to a shift. An end of sorts, a transition into something else. It’s time for this self that I have discovered to go back out into the world. To learn what its external comfort zones are now, and to push it right out of them. It feels bittersweet, as transitions often are – full of sadness at the ending and a readiness for what is to come. And in this transition between coming and going I find myself feeling grateful for the events that set me on this journey and grateful for the beings that have walked with me through some dark and scary places – reminding me of the ground beneath my feet when it felt as if there was none. And surprisingly enough, I am grateful for the constancy of my external environment (in whatever ways anything is really constant) holding this space for me to delve into my own foreign depths.

This internal landscape is not all known to me, there is so much more territory yet to be discovered, more wounds to be healed and more tenderness to be found. And so I continue on, with this dance between internal and external. Inhabiting this body in a way that I only could through my internal explorations and carrying it out into the world to now allow my external environment to be the unknown, and to discover new landscapes with these new eyes. All the while knowing that I have found a home in myself, a land that still contains so much un-navigated ground but that now has some familiar resting places to come to when I need to catch my breath and recharge. This travelling is exhilarating and exhausting work. Thank god I get to do it.

 

 

Another Trip Around the Sun December 24, 2012

Filed under: Balance,Gratitude — Reflections Integrative Therapy @ 10:38 pm
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Christmas is upon us again and this year I find myself reflecting on something new I’ve discovered about why I love this time of year. It’s not the presents (we stopped doing that in my family years ago), and it’s not just the music and lights and feasting. It’s not even the quality family time (although truthfully, that’s a big part of it these days). What I love so dearly about this time of year are those moments of quiet reflection on this trip around the sun that we have collectively taken. Christmas is a time for a collective check-in. What has happened since the last year? Where are we now? Who are we with? Because inevitably, as it does every year, things have changed. Certainly we have traditions. In my family this involves some sort of walk on the beach on Christmas morning  (often regardless of the weather) and toasting with a glass of Port to absent friends at dinner, and my mom grumbling at my side at church about the deviation from the King James Bible translation (the newer ones lack the poetry of the King James). These are all constants that I have come to expect and they are comforting in their nature. The steady posts as the rest of the year unfolds and we watch and experience the multitude of transitions and transformations that take place throughout the year. And then, once again, we circle around the sun and back to each other and we mark off another year, another place to settle and reflect on where we have been and where we are now. And to be grateful for that. Certainly there is much to be grateful for, even the sorrow. There have been deaths and births, weddings, completions, movement, and new life. There have been lessons on letting go and lessons on forgiveness, lessons on kindness and lessons on unimaginable hurt. And so today, I offer up to you, take a moment whatever you’re doing, however you’re spending this day (whether you celebrate Christmas or not), and let’s have a collective check-in. Where are you now?

I think in the wake of tragedy, I am finding myself feeling more deeply the gratitude I have for opportunities in my life, to live this life. Opportunities to be with my family, to play games with my nephew, to share a quite moment with my parents, and to walk on the beach with my siblings. Opportunities to love and offer light and support to those I love, opportunities to watch new little beings grow, opportunities to be welcomed home by my sweet dog, opportunities to explore and deepen into love and companionship with my lover, opportunities to do what I’m doing and be who I’m being in the world, and opportunities to continue to evolve.  And yes, that gratitude is not necessarily new this year. But my connection to all of these things has changed in this last trip around the sun because life has continued on, as it always seems to do. In the ever-evolving nature of this existence, we are given the chance over and over again to change how we see ourselves and how we see the world. These chances present themselves to us in the form of tragedy and pain and celebration and birth. This means that I get a chance to allow for my gratitude to evolve and change – to let in parts of these things that before could only linger at the surface, to deepen in to my connection to this life I am living and the people I am sharing it with.

And so again I ask, even if everything around you looks the same as it always has, where are you now? And even if those places feel dark, can you find some gratitude for the time we have all had traversing through the days together in this last year and an openness to the possibilities of what lies ahead?

Merry Christmas and so much light and love to you all!

 

Giving Thanks: Letting go and Letting it in. November 21, 2012

Filed under: Balance,Gratitude — Reflections Integrative Therapy @ 4:40 pm
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Every Thanksgiving that I can remember from birth-17 years old were spent in York Harbor, ME at my grandmother’s house with various family members in attendance, learning how to make gravy from the Turkey juice, sitting at the kid’s table, feeding the food I didn’t want to the giant goldfish in my grandmother’s winter fish tank. My first Thanksgiving not in this familiar setting was just after I turned 18, I sat on a beach on the coast of Kenya, 8 hours into my 24-hour solo experience, slicing into a fresh Mango at sunset. And in the years to come, after that deeply reflective, profoundly different holiday experience, I have found myself at tables with strangers, foreign tongues, new holiday traditions, old familiar family, newly created family, lovers, loneliness, warmth, abundance, non-tradition, and constant evolution. In the past 12 years, I have actually spent this holiday differently each year. As a lover of tradition and a creature of habit, this is kind of bizarre.

There’s a feeling of melancholy that this time of year holds for me. And despite my greatest efforts to the contrary, I find that it has arrived again this year. But, this year, unlike in the past where I’ve either resisted or swam in the melancholy, I am just watching it. I am seeing that in many ways this feeling is a pattern. It’s a place that’s familiar for me to go. It is the cliff outside my grandmother’s old home on the coast of Maine. It’s that perch that I know every crevasse of and can sit and listen to the ocean and it’s like I’ve never left.

But, the thing is, I have left. I have learned. I have uncovered the ability within myself to be with something without identifying with it. Without being it. And in that, I am beginning to shed the ties that those patterns have kept me tethered with.

There’s always been a strong sense of loneliness, of displacement, entangled with this melancholy. And frankly, some years that has been totally justified. There were a few rough years there with my ex, full of loneliness and bracing for her drunken outrages. And there was sometimes the sense of being an orphan, feeling disconnected from my family and without a safe, loving community. But in the past few years, a shift has taken place. And I’ve been participating in it without fully opening my awareness and consciousness to it, to the ways it is different and nourishing. So, here in this coffee shop, miles away from friends and family, immersing myself in a new family, exploring traditions crafted by others, I am beginning to let sink in a new way of being with patterns. And in that, I’m allowing for gratitude for what is, in this moment. And so in the tradition of Thanksgiving, I offer up a pie slice of what I am grateful for today, that I can actually allow sink and that I know is there beneath whatever emotions are churning on the surface.

My family. I am grateful that even though I am not with them right now, I want to be. My friends, for the years that we spent together (and probably will continue to in different manifestations) crafting a version of this holiday that finally made it resonate with my soul. My lover’s family who have opened their doors to me, welcoming me into their traditions. My love, herself, for sharing in this adventure of opening and deepening and revealing and loving in a way that feels nurturing and unconditional to a degree I never believed possible. Solitude. I am grateful that I can take this time for myself, to be tender with myself, to reflect and release and honor all that arises for me at this time, and move through it into something new. The tenderness to allow for old patterns and beliefs to die away, making room for something new. To take the cynicism I have long held around this holiday and transmute it into gratitude for what is in this moment. I am grateful for family, those we’re born into and those we create and the sometimes-vast differences between them.

Gratitude for what we’re all learning here, the processes we are engaged in, the healing and growth we are moving through together, the tender places in our hearts we are learning to let others see, the opening that we are allowing for and the practice of remaining in that openness for a split second beyond what feels comfortable, to allow a little more light into the darkness, a little more compassion for the raw places in all of us.

And today in particular, I am grateful for my grandmother, for the family and traditions that she created. I am grateful that even though I wandered some years, I always knew that there was a place for me at her Thanksgiving table, a glass of ginger ale by my plate.

 

 
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