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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.

 

 

 

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We’re All In This Together November 6, 2012

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

 

 

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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