reflectionsmassage

Reflections Massage Therapy

Where the Revolution Begins. July 25, 2013

Filed under: Balance,CranioSacral,Massage Therapy — Reflections Integrative Therapy @ 4:02 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

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
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

“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
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

 

We’re All In This Together November 6, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Reflections Integrative Therapy @ 7:39 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

So here we are on election night, the polls closing one by one and the results starting to come in. As I watch the sky outside my window turn from blue to purple (that’s not a metaphor, I promise) my thoughts turn from political turmoil to how I spent my day yesterday. It was another spectacular fall day here in Colorado and I spent it in the woods near my house harvesting Osha root. So, instead of heading down the political rabbit hole, speculating about results and the future of this country, I’m going to direct my attention right now to this root and the lesson it offered me as one of my favorite plant teachers.

Osha is fabulous for immune support and respiratory support; it’s warming and moving. It’s has many many medicinal properties, but beyond its healing power in the body it is a great teacher. You see, Osha grows amongst Aspen trees. You may or may not know this but an Aspen grove is actually one organism, it has one root system – like Mangroves. Aspens have a network of roots underground connecting them to one another, and in this web of nourishment is where Osha roots down. Osha grows by being held in the complex root system of another organism. And this is what Osha teaches me: to provide and receive support for one another’s growth. To be held by a greater community and to root down in this support, gaining nourishment and strength, to be both the giver and receiver of support because we cannot grow alone. We need each other to heal and to grow.

It’s been a tough past few months (and longer than that for those of us in swing states) of political rhetoric and slander. What I’m aware of in this divisive climate is that tomorrow regardless of who is president, we still have to take care of each other. Right? Because the fact of the matter is, when it comes down to it, we’re all in this together. We’re all struggling and fighting and breathing and thriving and surviving in this and we need one another.

As an East coast transplant to Colorado, I recently found myself pouring over photos and stories of Superstorm Sandy and they brought me to tears over and over again. Not at the destruction, but at the humanity. At one human being helping another. People showing up for one another, taking care of one another, strangers supporting strangers – with not one question of who they’re going to vote for in the upcoming election.

In this political climate it’s so easy to be swept up in the divisive rhetoric, to allow for the polarization that politics seems to thrive on. But, tonight, I want to offer a gentle reminder. We’re all human. And we’re all in this together. If we take a lesson from the Osha plant, we allow ourselves to be held and supported by those around us. We root down into the soil, seeking nourishment. And when the time comes, we offer up our strengths in whatever way will best serve our community. And no matter what happens tonight or tomorrow or in the next four years, we need to keep taking care of each other, supporting each other, and growing together.

 

 

Just Keep Swimming October 26, 2012

Filed under: CranioSacral — Reflections Integrative Therapy @ 3:59 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

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.

 

 
%d bloggers like this: