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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.

 

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.

 

Maitri May 10, 2012

Filed under: Balance — Reflections Integrative Therapy @ 10:26 pm
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“This complete acceptance of ourselves as we are is called maitri, a simple, direct relationship with the way we are.” – Pema Chodron

I got myself a tattoo for my birthday last October. The most visible one yet. The next one’s going on my forehead. Just kidding. But there is something significant about the visibility of this one, and it’s not because I’ve learned to make peace with permanence and impermanence (because I haven’t actually). It’s on the inside of my left forearm and it’s a ball jar with a label on it: maitri.

I could go into the symbolism of the jar, but I think that’s a whole other entry. The focus of this right now is on the label, the word maitri. Maitri is a Sanskrit word that was shared with me by a very wise woman in my life a few years ago. It has a few different interpretations, including loving-kindness (Metta meditation) and friendliness, but the one that resonated the most with me was “unconditional friendship with oneself.” And this. This felt pretty important to permanently affix to my body. As Pema Chodron says, “complete acceptance of ourselves as we are.” Anyone who has ever tried this can most likely attest to how freakin’ hard that is.

So, in light of this, I ask you: is it possible to engage in radical acceptance of yourself, exactly as you are, warts and all, as they say? Accept the flaws and the beauty, trusting that they really are one and the same. Accept the things you wish were different, the things you’d like to change, the things that maybe keep you from being where you want to be. Accept it all, just as it is, just as you are, right now. But wait, that ‘s not all. The potency is not limited to accepting what is but also in holding space for a shift: radical acceptance while simultaneously holding the possibility of something else. For example, I accept that throughout my life, I have developed this pattern of retreating and guarding myself to keep people from getting too close. In this practice of maitri, though, my work is in accepting that pattern, witnessing it, holding it in non-judgment, and then asking myself “what else is possible here?” Is it possible for me to do something different this time? Is it possible to let myself remain open just a fraction of a second longer this time, thus ever so slightly changing the pattern? Is it possible for me to give myself permission to go fully into this guarding pattern, trusting that I am also capable of moving out of it?

When I say radical acceptance, I mean radical. I mean, all of it. I mean the demons and shadows and murky, muddy, dark places of yourself that no one has ever seen – that you have barely let yourself see. I mean holding space for all of the places in yourself that you judge, all of those places you have deemed shameful. You don’t need to love them (at least not right now), but can you hold them, can you accept them? Can you trust that they served a purpose in your life at one point, maybe not in a way that you can understand right now or not in a way that has any sort of story around it, but they did serve you at one point? In whatever way, they somehow contributed to you being present right now.

This is a big undertaking, I will be the first to admit that. But, I’ve got a proposal for you, if you decide to embark on this path. It can be really hard to trust that things can be any different than they are (or have been). So for the time begin, I’ll trust in that possibility for you. Because of this I am certain, we can all grow, we can all change, and we can all heal. And what that might look like, I have no idea (for me or anyone else), but I trust that there is always the possibility of something else. And I’m walking this road, too. And I know that the darkest places in myself only look this dark to me, just as the darkest places in you are only that dark to you.  So, what do you say? Meet you there?

 

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.

 

Monsters and Demons…and Dinosaurs November 1, 2011

It’s All Saints Day today, the scattered detritus of a night of revelry strewn across the sidewalks in front of my house. Last night my door was visited by skeletons and vampires and a zombie or two, some politicians, a dinosaur, a few princesses and a clown. Halloween. In my typical habit of reading into meanings, this holiday in particular has got me thinking about monsters and demons and why on this one day during the year do we let them out of the closet to roam the streets.

What is it about the monsters that both frighten and inspire us? Perhaps Halloween has become such a significant holiday not just for the sugar rush, but also for the chance to look monsters in the face and not fear them so much.

A wise person I know said recently, “If you hate the monsters, you are just another monster.” And that has stuck with me as I visit with some monsters, both physically and mentally.  How do you find compassion for those parts of yourself or of others that terrify or anger you?

One of the fundamental pieces of CranioSacral Therapy is appreciation. Appreciation for the brilliance of the system, for the inherent health and for the inner physician. And this applies to pain. This applies to holding patterns and coping mechanisms that we’ve developed. This applies to the way we jump to judgment as a way of barricading ourselves and protecting ourselves from…ourselves. This applies to those moments when we are so triggered it’s all we can do to get out of bed. And it applies to nailing a handstand in yoga because we trust our body to hold up. It applies to recognizing the true extent of our capacity. And it applies to those moments of quiet when we feel rested and content in our bodies. All of this deserves appreciation because this is all our system exercising its intelligence.

But, I am not going to be the first to say, appreciating pain is about as difficult as having compassion for monsters. How do we soften in the face of fear and suffering? How do we trust that we do not need to hold so tightly to our armor, or our holding pattern, or our anger? What if we could learn to appreciate what those monsters have to teach us? What if we could find compassion for them and as a result for ourselves?

It’s a leap. It’s a leap that we’re not often willing to take, or perhaps not even aware is an option. So, on Halloween, we set lose our monsters, let them roam the streets, check things out, see what’s changed in the past year. Maybe we are a little gentler with them this year; maybe we see them in a different light. And I’d offer an idea. What if we don’t put them away, but let them hang out a little longer? Let them talk, let them rant, let them scream. And listen to them. Because those monsters are no different than the dinosaurs and princesses and clowns (ok, those are still scary to me) that also inhabit our lives. And they have just as much to teach us about what it means to be human.

 

 

Just a reminder… June 7, 2011

Filed under: Balance,CranioSacral,Massage Therapy — Reflections Integrative Therapy @ 10:23 pm
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A little while ago, a wonderfully insightful friend stated that one thing they know for certain is that healing is hard.

I feel the need today to revisit that, in part because in all of the writing I’ve been doing about shifts and resourcing and perspective, I think that every once in a while it’s important to remember that this is hard. Maybe not all the time, but certainly sometimes. So today, selfishly, I’m going to take this opportunity to remind myself of all of the pieces of healing that need some reaffirming sometimes.

Healing is hard. It’s messy. It does not go as planned. It takes time, and patience, lots and lots of time and patience. It’s never really done. It involves revisiting old patterns – sometimes even reengaging in old patterns. It means asking for help – and then learning to accept help when it’s offered. It takes being kind to ourselves and gentle, and often that only comes after hearing the hurtful judgments we hurl at ourselves. Healing means sitting with things that are uncomfortable, sitting for as long as we can stand it to allow those uncomfortable pieces to be heard and seen. It often requires a shift in perspective that sometimes takes us being slammed over the head with before we learn to accept it.

It takes courage. It takes courage to sit quietly with oneself, to sit with those wounds we wish would heal. It takes courage to be introspective. It takes courage to be present with all of those parts of ourselves we wish we different. It takes courage to accept oneself exactly as you are – a piece that I feel is absolutely fundamental to healing. It takes courage to let go of behavior or thought patterns that feel so entrenched in who we are, yet are no longer serving us. It takes courage to sit with that empty space that is there in the moments after we let go, before the newness of who we are evolving into comes in.

It takes permission: to be messy, to check out, to check in, to connect, to take time, to take space, to ignore, to change your mind, to mend, to make repair, to give yourself a voice, to make mistake after mistake after mistake, to change your mind, again.

And at some point it comes to making peace with the fact that the work of healing is never really done. It is a process and as such, does not have an end point per se. Or perhaps I should say that the process of being human is never really done. It is entirely possible to heal old wounds and to have their presence in your life be through feeling the tensile strength that comes from scars, and learning to wear those scars, giving you an awareness of your own resilience. But perhaps the end result of wounds closing up is not really the point. The point is the versions of ourselves that we get to meet along the way.

Here’s the addendum to that statement, though. Healing is hard, but it happens. It does. It might not look the way your envisioned it, and it certainly might not happen has quickly as you want – but it does happen. Sometimes the healing is subtle: one day you move in a way that used to be painful and you realize that it’s not anymore (and maybe it hasn’t been for a while), and not only that but you don’t need to guard against that old pain, so your body begins to reorganize and you learn a new way of carrying yourself. Or things that used to trigger you suddenly don’t send you into a tailspin like they used to. And sometimes it’s not so subtle and you get to be fully present and embody your healing as it’s happening. And through that you get to feel just how capable you are, just how resilient and just how intelligent your system really is.

Healing an old physical wound often results in a greater range of motion, or more strength. Healing an emotional wound can bring us to depths of compassion and empathy, for ourselves and others, that we may not have previously accessed. Regardless of the wound, in healing, our capacity grows. It is hard, yes, but it happens. It’s happening all the time.

 

 
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