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Forgiveness and Stories March 7, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Reflections Integrative Therapy @ 5:40 pm
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Days and years have passed since I sat in the middle of my empty living room, one arm around Lucy, as the tears that I’d thought I’d lost in the years of that relationship made their way out of my chest and down my face. I wept that night, wept for all the ways that I had finally come to feel the fear that moved my body through those years. I felt the panic of loneliness and the sorrow of failure. I could not maintain what I had worked so hard to create, what I had sacrificed so much to have. And there I was, with a home that was empty, a living room devoid of any life I recognized.  So I cried. I cried and I cried and I filled those empty rooms with the tears that I had been too afraid to cry when they were full. I cried until my insides became as empty as those rooms and there was nothing left in me to wring out.

 

After that first night, sleeping on my mattress on the futon frame we’d found outside a dumpster in North Boulder, I started filling the rooms – first with color, new color, then with furniture and pictures and long-hidden parts of myself. With time, that empty living room transformed into one filled with dinners with friends and a comfortable chair and Lucy’s bed by the fire. It became my home, mostly because I had filled it with me in a way that I never had when the rooms were full before.

 

For months and years I lived in the stories of those empty rooms, the pain and fear that hid in every dent of the bathroom wall or broken picture frame. The rooms were full of me now, but the stories of how that came to be still decorated the empty spaces. I hung those stories up in my closet, wore them as easily as my favorite sweatshirt, wore them so often I couldn’t distinguish between their fabric and my own.

 

I don’t know if this is about letting go of stories or forgiving yourself. And maybe they’re no different. Maybe to let go of the stories that we have woven so closely into our own fabric that we cannot distinguish them from our own essential being, we first must forgive ourselves. Maybe that is how we release. Forgiveness. Unconditional forgiveness. In forgiving, we recognize and honor the fallibility inherent in being human, and the beauty and certainty of that fallibility. We learn to humble ourselves to ourselves, humble ourselves to all that we do not know. And we forgive ourselves. We are fallible. We make mistakes. We make really really big mistakes. We hurt ourselves and we hurt other people. And to live in this world, I have to trust that none of that hurt comes intentionally. And so we learn to forgive ourselves. We find permission to forgive ourselves. And in doing so, we give ourselves the opportunity to release those old stories. Those stories that we have told ourselves over and over again, so many times that we are convinced they must be true and there is no other way. Those stories that drive our choices and decisions. Those stories that we so deeply come to identify with that without them we are not even certain of who we are. Those stories.

 

And when we put those stories down, stop wearing them around everywhere we go, we begin to see what else is possible, what else is true. What else is possible is that perhaps we are able to step into a deeper truth, something more about the core of who we are as human beings, rather than who our stories have told us we are.

 

And if we want to, we can write more stories. And maybe those stories will be written from a place of compassion for ourselves and for others, from a place of maitri, from a place of honor and respect for the place that exists without stories.

 

My home now is full of me, it’s full of my lover, it’s full of my dog (very full of her hair), it’s full of stones and driftwood and pictures of foreign lands. It’s full of books and a wood-burning stove and my favorite chair. It is full of different choices. It is full of forgiveness.

 

 

 

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!

 

Just Keep Swimming October 26, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

 

On being between trapezes September 4, 2012

Filed under: Balance — Reflections Integrative Therapy @ 11:23 am
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I was out walking Lucy this evening, strolling the dirt alleyways in my neighborhood and I started thinking about transitions. While pretty much every parched cell in my body is excited that summer is beginning it’s ending march, still…I see the water levels dropping in the creek beds, the dying off of summer wildflowers, the fact that when I was finishing work yesterday around 8 I needed to turn another light on in my office, and a part of me feels a twinge of sadness at the passing of summer. Don’t get me wrong, this one was particularly brutal and about 2 months ago I found myself longing for the crispness of fall. And while that’s not yet upon us (it was 90 degrees at its hottest today, definitely not fall yet), public schools have been back in session for a few weeks (whatever happened to starting after labor day?!), CU started up last week (this is the month that anyone in their right mind avoids Target like the plague), the regular summer events have wrapped up and while the Wednesday evening farmer’s market is in full effect still, it’s getting dark by the time the tents are brought down and the veggies packed up.

And maybe the sense of transition is so strong for me right now because I’m moving again and I’m looking at the face of transition of home and what that means for me and how I’ve worked with that in the past. In many ways it feels a little like I just got here, but in reality it’s been about 9 months and truth be told, I’m not sure where I’m going to be landing in a week. There’s so much uncertainty in this transition and I find that I’m grateful for the environmental transitions right now because it reminds me of the natural course of all of this.

I do not do transitions well. Maybe my lack of anxiety around this move and the uncertainty is stemming from denial rather than a surrender and trust in the universe. Who knows? What I do know is that being in between trapezes is scary. Not having something familiar to hold on to, not really knowing what the next thing is going to look like.

So what do we do in the in-between? How do we find grace in transitions and gentleness with ourselves as we move into uncharted territory? Here, I take a lesson from my nephew. He doesn’t do transitions well, either, and he’s not ashamed to demonstrate that. I sometimes wonder if we ever really get better at transitions or we just learn how to cope in different ways than when we’re 2. But he seems to move through them easier if there is something familiar, no matter how small.

And so, let’s call this: A Transition Object and go find one. Maybe it’ll be a crab apple from the tree that hangs over my porch, or maybe a stone from the trail near my house that I’ve wandered up countless afternoons in the past 9 months, or maybe something that I don’t even know yet but it’ll jump out at me and let me know that it’ll be my familiar as I move into the unfamiliar. It will help remind me that while everything around me is shifting into something new, there is something solid that I can hold on to. For as long as I need to.

Because that’s the other piece. Inevitably the unfamiliar becomes familiar, we recognize faces, remember names, establish routines, find the best parking spot, recognize where we are when we wake up in the morning. It’s the beauty of transition, it’s not permanent. Not that anything is, but really the nature of transition is that you move from one place (mental/emotional/physical, etc.) to another and the movement is transition, but then you arrive and you move out of transition.

So, wherever you are, you may be noticing the hints of transition coming up on you, or you may be in the throes of it at the moment, or you may be moving out of it already. Whatever the case may be, can you find a sense of mindfulness with the temporary nature of transitions? Feel the strength that is required to remain airborne between trapezes and the courage it takes to trust that another trapeze will swing your way – and before you know it, you’ll be in flight with something to hold on to. At least for a little while.

 

Taking it to the next level* February 6, 2012

Filed under: Balance,CranioSacral,Massage Therapy — Reflections Integrative Therapy @ 10:03 pm
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*The title of this also happens to be my self-designated theme for 2012

I’m learning to stay put these days. You could call it a practice. A practice of allowing a subtle and slow network of tendrils to root down into this soil that my feet have trodden these 6 years. A practice of allowing the familiar to be home. A practice of unpacking with no intention of repacking at some arbitrarily designated time in the future.

It might seem strange that I have to practice staying in one place, but let me tell you, even though my address has been within the confines of this one state for the past 6 years, my eyes and heart have been elsewhere. And within me there has been a part that never really unpacked, never really settled in, never really let this feel like home. I’ve always thought that I’m supposed to wander. I’m supposed to explore and discover and create and re-create home over and over again until I decide to stop. Boulder was the first stop on what was going to be a multi-year journey exploring what it means to create a home. Ironic, really, that I thought bouncing from place to place would be how I learned about creating home. But it also meant a safety in always being able to leave – never being tied too strongly to a place that I could just up and leave whenever I wanted. Self-preservation at its finest.

But instead, for various reasons, I came to Boulder and stayed. I stayed for a relationship. And then I stayed to finish massage school. And then I stayed to give myself a little time to figure out what to do next, where to go. And then I stayed to study CranioSacral. And that is coming to an end shortly. This spring I will be free from my tie to Boulder, free to head on to the next destination, free to go out in search of home. Free to find…what I have here.

But time is starting to do funny things as I inch into my next decade. Suddenly the feeling of having known a person or a place for multiple years feels…rich. I have friends getting married soon and I have been witness to their relationships from the beginning. And the idea of getting to watching those relationships make the transition into marriage and then possibly the creation of families, I want to see that. I want to get to be a witness to the unfolding lives of those I love. And by not saying, “Where to next?” I am allowing that time to play out as it will.

In that expanse of time, there is space for depth. There is room for me to allow these relationships that I’ve cultivated, be they clients or friends, to go deeper. Because there’s time, there’s time to allow for the organic process of depth, there’s time to get to know people on a new level. To encounter a depth that comes, not from a shared intense experience, but rather from sharing in the small victories and little deaths that we encounter on a daily basis.

So, I am here now, I have unpacked my bags and let myself be held by a space that is familiar yet constantly changing.

For so long (perhaps since I moved here) I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Boulder. I wanted Boulder to be something else. I wanted it to be somewhere else. But, ultimately, what it really came down to was that I wanted me to be something else. So perhaps this finding home in a place that I’ve actually called home for years now, really speaks more to finding home in my own skin. It is less about what an external place is, or could be, and more about where I am internally.

It means letting myself rest into the familiarity of my external environment while also trusting my own evolutionary process. For years, the most transformational times that I had were when I was traveling, moving, pushing myself to the edge of my comfort zone, and then jumping out of it.  And so I was convinced that to keep growing, I had to keep going.

I talk a lot about processes. Processes and practices and how there’s really no end point to anything (expecting of course for the ultimate end point) when it comes to our personal evolution and consciousness. I asked a Cranio mentor recently if you can ever not go deeper. She just looked at me and smiled and asked what I thought. Of course not. There’s always a new layer to uncover, explore, rest into.

So, these days, I’m learning how to go down instead of forward, in instead of out. It’s hard. It’s harder than packing a bag and leaving; harder in some ways than being in a foreign country and not speaking the language. It’s harder because there’s nowhere to run when it’s hard, no next town to explore and get lost in, and no train to physically move me into a new place. There’s no avoiding the monsters that take this opportunity of stillness to make an appearance. It’s hard because the foreign country is my own self and I am exploring this territory in a way that I never have before. But, I’m exploring it in this way, in part, because the space that I am in these days in familiar. I am not learning a new grocery store, or the fastest back-roads route across town. I’ve done that. I’ve spent 6 years doing that. I have built the foundation in a lot of ways that allows me to deepen in to this place and explore its depths, and my own in the process.

So often we come to a point, a divide, and we can either chose to move forward or deepen in. I ask you to think, which do you most often choose? Do you go to the depths when there is a pause in movement? Or do you say, “Ok, what’s next?” I think that both modes hold a purpose and there’s a need for both, certainly. But, if you’re like me and your tendency is to say, “Ok, here I am at a resting point. What comes next? Where am I going now?” I invite you to deepen into that pause. And you just might find that even in depths there is movement. In stillness there is change and potency. Staying put and going in doesn’t mean inviting stagnancy. In fact, quite the opposite. By staying put just a little bit longer an entirely new world may unfold before you. And if not, you can always pack your bag and go looking for one elsewhere.

 

Be here…here…here…here now. May 23, 2011

Filed under: Balance,CranioSacral,Massage Therapy — Reflections Integrative Therapy @ 11:25 pm
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When I was 17 I sat at the base of Mt. Kenya and listened as my NOLS instructor, Mo, pointed at the mountain and said, “Be here now.” Be present. Be mindful. Don’t be anywhere else but exactly where you are. So, I adopted that as a mantra, returned to it over and over again in my months in East Africa – being “here” with moments both enlightening and terrifying. Practicing presence in the midst of astounding beauty and painfully blistered feet and an aching back.

My “here” has shifted recently. I moved to Denver a few weeks ago, after more than 5 years of calling Boulder home, I chose to move into transition. I chose to become a commuter. I chose to uproot my somewhat fragile root system and truck on down the road a little ways, with the intention of spreading out – expanding my community and finding new places to reach my branches out to.

So, for the past few weeks I’ve been riding the waves of transition and trying to do that with a lot of mindfulness. I’m watching my transition patterns and can recognize and say to myself “oh, right. This is the time in transition when I desperately want to just run away.” Or “This is the stage where I need to be quiet and reflective and deliberate. And careful with myself.” And instead of trying to rush through this time, I’ve been moving slowly and sitting with all the uncomfortable parts, knowing that they’ll shift and that they’re part of this process. I’m honoring the wholeness if I can honor the light and the dark of challenges.

And while the dark has been destabilizing, the light has been bold. This place that 3 weeks ago held no significance for me, now feels like home. It is a comfort to return to at the end of the day, it’s a space that I look forward to being in when I have the time to stay home, it’s infused with me and those I love – photographs of people and places that have touched my life, and in true me fashion, the living room walls are orange (w/ a turquoise accent wall). It is home.

So, I’m here now. And here is Denver. Here is this little house in five points. Here is still Colorado. Here is still full of community and support and love. And here is different than it was a month ago. Here has shifted.

So, how does “be here now” fit into this? I learned something new, or gained a new perspective. “Be here now” is not asking that you cling desperately to each moment, but rather that you lean into the constant shift and transformation is that occurring moment to moment. That you stay present with impermanence. That you stay present with the shift. That you allow yourself to move with that presence. Because trying to “be here now,” doesn’t really work if “here” is not fixed. Because by the time you remember to “be here now” “here” has already shifted, “here” has become somewhere else and so in essence you’re trying to be somewhere that is no longer.

In presence there is endless movement. And if we can cultivate presence, we get to experience that movement and the limitless possibilities that are contained in that movement.

This is part of why, in bodywork, I focus so much on felt sense in the moment. Asking someone what they’re noticing in their bodies just then – not what’s chronic or familiar – but what is happening in that singular moment, helps to call in presence. It’s so easy to get lost in the stories our bodies contain, and those stories certainly serve a purpose, but sometimes we hold on to them longer than we need to, and mindfulness in the body allow us to see what is, in this particular moment, and then watch what shifts with our awareness.

So, I offer Mo my gratitude, wherever he is. But, I’d like to make an addendum to his directive. Be here now, but remember that here is always shifting.

 

 
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