personal growth

Why Do I Hurt?

Grief has been a close companion as of late.

Grief and I have been unashamedly baring our souls to each other.  And it is a lot like buying a Prius. Once you decide to buy that Prius, you start to see Prius' everywhere.  When you open yourself up to grief, it is everywhere. 
 

Oh, I've been worryin' that my time is a little unclear
I've been worryin' that I'm losing the ones I hold dear


In my recent weeks at the meditation school, I've witnessed grief while working with clients healing back pain and releasing trauma held in physical scars.  For example, I worked on a friend's scar.  She had broken her leg and had been walking with a limp for months.  We worked together, then later I saw her in the lodge.  She saw me and burst into tears.  She had walked to the lodge without a limp and without even thinking about her leg. 

The miracle was not that she walked normally that day.  That felt miraculous, but she still had healing to do.  The amazing and humbling part was the way she had the courage to feel the depth of her emotion.  In the crying, she released the trauma. 

...the fear that she may never walk normally again
...the grief of how the trauma impacted her and its lingering effects on her life.
...the worry of how this injury would continue to haunt her in the future.

The fear and grief had encapsulated themselves in her scar and had been part of what kept her limping after all those months.   Her willingness to feel the emotions was key in releasing the trauma, and in doing so, helped to heal the physical wound.

I've been worryin' that we all live our lives in the confines of fear


Our emotions have to live somewhere.  If we don’t let them out, they bury themselves in our body.  If there is one emotion we try to avoid, it's grief.  We try like hell to bury grief.  Because, frankly, it can be devastating.  We will feel anything else in order not to feel grief. 

I’ve been watching all the ways that I see grief get covered up, hidden within our physical pain and tucked into the deep shadows of our body.  We hide it with anger.  Anxiety.  Control.  We hide it  by numbing ourselves.  Somehow these options feel more palatable.  Anger and control feel powerful.  Numbing and anxiety are distracting.

And yet, the problem is that when we choose a cover-up emotion, the grief remains.  So we keep getting angry over and over, not even sure why, as our body cloaks the grief from arising to the surface.


The beauty in exploring grief is that it has a way of blowing you open.  For me, the more I experience grief the more I know, I am not my pain.  I am not my grief.  It will not destroy me.  It won’t destroy you either.  You might be blown open and raw, but like the aftermath of a storm, the air is cleaner, the land is cleansed, debris is gone and life feels fresh and new again.


Come on love, come on love
Watch me fall apart, watch me fall apart


In speaking with a psychologist recently about work at rehab clinics, he said that in almost every rehab client he had, there was unresolved grief.  That hit me hard.  What if, we opened to grief and even better,  encouraged others to open their grief to us?  What if we could really hold someone in their grief?  What kind of gift could it be for all of us?
 

Only love, only love
Give me shelter, or show me heart


Why do you hurt?  It is worth asking yourself about your own stories of grief. 

with love,
Jennifer

If you're not sure or want support, there are ways we can work together. 
If you are curious about the healing techniques for yourself, ping me here

Lyrics by Ben Howard, “Only Love” and “The Fear”

The Art of Not Knowing

Photo by  Austin Chan  on  Unsplash

Photo by Austin Chan on Unsplash

I feel raw.


In June, I leave for three weeks. I'll be in training, refining my skills in the healing and regression modality that I use with clients to change the patterns in their life so they can be more fully alive.  It’s deep work. It is therapeutic and healing and accesses depths that talk therapy can't always get to. It brings relief from trauma and drives inspiration.  It means that real change happens for my clients.

So what does three weeks of training look like?  
 

It means that I'm going to be opened up.
 

I can't help my clients if I haven't been on the front lines.
 

It will require vulnerability and rigor. It may be volcanic or a gentle blooming. I know that I will be different on the other side of it. I know I will be able to bring more to my clients. Those are truths.
 

And, I have no idea what is really going to happen. Sitting with the not knowing is both an art and a challenge.

Knowing answers feels good.  There’s an inherent confidence and ease that comes when we have the answers.  It’s rewarding. It’s the key to good grades, to promotions, to leadership positions and credibility with friends and peers.  When we know the answers, the world is set and we know our place in it and that feels good.

Which is why not knowing can be hard.  Some questions require time and examination. They could upend our positioning of our place in the world.  It requires a surrender, when all we want to do is control. Holding the not knowing requires an uncomfortable grace.

“Do I stay in this job or look for another?”

“What is my purpose in life?”

“Do I send my child to kindergarten early or hold them back?”

“Which direction is the right way?”

“Do I take the short term fix or play the long game?”

When I have to hold a question, like "what is going to change for me during this training" some part of me desperately wants an answer, and right the f*&k now.  Someone please give me direction, give me an answer, because not knowing is SO uncomfortable. There is fear in not knowing and the ‘what if’s’ creep in.  
Fear makes us push for an answer. We want to assert our place in the world and demand the confidence and ease to replace the fear. We will sometimes take or create a decision, just to move forward, even if it isn't the right decision.

Here is what I am learning.  There are truths to live by. There is timing.  There is the art of not knowing, which is really the art of the letting go of the outcome.  

When I hold to truth (I will feel different in three weeks) and I let go of the outcome (better, worse, stronger, weirder), something eases up.  There is no wrong answer if I hold to truth. And in fact, if I let go of the outcome, there is simplicity.  
I don't feel compelled to...

Construct my life around a potential outcome,

Protect myself from an outcome,

Attach myself to a decision as better or worse,

Adhere to a not-yet-happened outcome,

Or even organize around

An answer that has not yet come.

I can stay in the face of not knowing anything but a desire for truth and from there, any outcome will be ok. 

and the truth will set you free.

With all the love of not knowing,

Jennifer

The Shrinking of Wildness

Photo by  Jeremy Bishop  on  Unspla

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unspla

The shrinking from wildness starts early.  I just led a workshop for 7th grade girls and the retreat from that inner freedom had already begun.  In some ways they still retained some wildness.  They were free and full of fun when painting, spreading it on each other and reveling in the mess.  But then we journaled.  We journaled about self-confidence and the responses were heart-breaking.

"I have low confidence, and so always think of myself negatively."

"They (meaning other people) don't care about my achievements"

"Other people won't be impressed by (what I do)." 

"I don't have anything to brag about."

"I don't want to sound _________ .
Fill in the blanks with conceited, self-absorbed, rude, inconsiderate.


This is not ok. 

This is REALLY not ok.

If we want to raise a generation of girls with confidence, body  ownership, and an outlook that can positively impact the world, we have to start with ourselves, because they are modeling us. 

They are inheriting these words and these quotes from us.  Every time we shrink from being unapologetically ourselves, we are sending the message to girls to shrink as well.

And that is not limited to moms.  All of us women are modeling behavior and believe me, girls are watching. 

We tell girls we want them to grow up to be brave and strong and confident, even while we turn our backs on those very concepts in our own life.  We stop taking risks, we don't stretch ourselves, we settle.  So often, time passes and we realize we've compromised in our lives, and we have oriented ourselves towards an unsatisfying "good enough," perhaps also believing we are not deserving of more.

It reminds me of the line that I heard recently, that it is not the pain that takes us down, it's the shame of the pain.

Wildness is wilderness and neither know shame.  It is becoming the biggest tree in the forest because you can.  There is joy in growing and a reaching for as much light as your limbs can find.  It should be ok for us to take up space, be big and bold and be seen and to take joy in saying "here I am."

The river does not stop moving because it approaches rocks or even a cliff.  The stream continues through, cleansing and washing everything into its path, becoming a waterfall in its leap of faith.  We are like these forces of nature and lest us not be like quicksand.

with fierce and wild love,
Jennifer

Why Disequilibrium Might Be the Best Experience You Can Give Yourself

Photo by  Cam Adams  on  Unsplash

Photo by Cam Adams on Unsplash

“Disequilibrium happens when you begin to see things in the world that don’t make sense to you. The things you thought you knew—the things that helped you feel stable and clear—are now in question. And, woof. This state is hard. We crave equilibrium.”
— - Sandy Speicher, Partner, IDEO

I have written bits of this newsletter at home, on a run, at gyms,waiting for kids and finally, in front of a computer.  The idea was bubbling, but I couldn't quite get it down.  Turns out, when you are in a state of disequilibrium, it is a difficult topic to write about.  It wasn't until I saw an article by Sandy Speicher, a Partner at IDEO, that it clicked.  In the article, The Uncomfortable Secret To Creative Success is Disequilibrium, Speicher talks about the moments of frustration and challenge when we are adapting or learning something that shifts our mental models of the world and it hasn't quite clicked yet.  These are the moments or weeks of synthesis, when you have gathered information, sorted it, but have not yet made sense of it.  It's a hard state to sit with.  While Speicher uses this term to talk about the creative process, it is a great reference for life. 

I was reflecting on this as it related to my clients after our private sessions and workshops.  Something deep is touched in them.  Often, it is an opening to a new understanding of who they are or why they are in the world.  Sometimes the foundation of their life story is turned upside down.  And sometimes, there is an internal limit that is dropped entirely.  These are moments are great revelation.


One woman from a workshop marveled that being in play is a choice.
 

A client of mine discovered in one of our sessions that she was holding onto an emotional pattern that was akin to snuggling with Voldemort.  This client also recognized how scary it was to let go of the attachment, even though it was not serving her.


Another friend and artist realized how her upbringing among a family and community of prominent artists had created  some dust, expectations and paralysis around 'is it good enough? is it serious? is it really art?,' limiting the freedom of her creative expression. 
 
These insights, because they are individually freeing, create a state of disequilibrium.  We are stretching our understanding of the world and of ourselves.  And as we do this internal expanding, as we let go of the old framework, it can feel like we are groping around in the dark, searching for firm ground and a light switch. 

If play is a choice, then what have I been choosing when I haven't chosen play?

Where will I be without Voldemort at my side?

(hopefully somewhere near Hermoine and Harry)

What does it mean if my art is already 'good enough?'

To move through disequilibrium, we have to create a new 'a-ha' moment that invites these insights into meaning.  We invite a bigger, more inclusive model into our life. 

Perhaps this expansion is not for everyone.  But each time we are willing to expand our understandings and let ourselves move through a phase of disequilibrium, we become more fully alive and more engaged in life.  Our horizons broaden and we are a step towards greater freedom.  

In simple terms, it is learning.  As Speicher writes, "Learning isn’t about the consumption of new information. Learning is the process of using our innate abilities to construct—or create—new understandings of the world. Learning, by its very nature, is a creative act."

These expansions are always my goal for you in my meditations and workshops.  Whether through play, stillness of meditation, or the exploration of your inner wild, the chance for profound disequilibrium is just around the corner.

With Love,
Jennifer

Finding Freedom and Depth

Photo courtesy of Unsplash and Kalen Emsley

Photo courtesy of Unsplash and Kalen Emsley

Last year, my New Year’s Resolution was to get comfortable with the uncomfortable.  It was wild, nerve-wracking and ultimately a liberating exercise.  2018, in some ways, is a continuation of pushing that edge as I decide strategies to embrace freedom and depth, ironically, by creating constraints.

It started with a New York Times op ed article by author, Ann Patchett, titled My Year of No Shopping.  The article was compelling, brave, scary, and completely committed. It caught me with the quote, “what I needed was less”.   The idea was turning over in my mind when I reposted it to Facebook and my cousin called me to the challenge.

Gulp.  The idea of not buying things filled me with panic.  I immediately felt the need to go Black Friday style and buy everything in anticipation of buying nothing.  So I knew I was on to something.

Our pursuit of material things can be an obstruction to actually finding meaning and purpose in life.

My research took me even further with a brilliant article by David Cain, Go Deeper, Not Wider, which I highly, highly recommend.   David describes these type of constraints as a Year of Depth.  Like Ann Patchett, he advocates no shopping, but he goes further.

"No new hobbies, equipment, games, or books are allowed during this year. Instead, you have to find the value in what you already own or what you’ve already started.

You improve skills rather than learning new ones. You consume media you’ve already stockpiled instead of acquiring more.

The guiding philosophy is “Go deeper, not wider.” Drill down for value and enrichment instead of fanning out. You turn to the wealth of options already in your house, literally and figuratively. We could call it a “Depth Year” or a “Year of Deepening”."


For me, a Depth Year feels like I get a pass from chasing things. I have a habit to spreading myself too thin and I am craving depth.  I want less.  I want to have less, I want to think about less things, I want less events on my calendar and with what I choose in my life, I want greater depth.  With less in my head and on my plate, I have more freedom, more space to give, more space to be.  A year of no shopping starts that trend.

The things we buy and buy and buy are like a thick coat of Vaseline smeared on glass: We can see some shapes out there, light and dark, but in our constant craving for what we may still want, we miss life’s details.   - Ann Patchett

I will have to detach from my attachment to things.  When I feel empty on love, I give myself gifts to feel better. When I get that uncomfortable hollow feeling, I fill it with things, treats, pretty objects, new programs that provide that dopamine kick.  This year, I want my freedom more.  Time to go cold turkey.

Here is how I am Embracing Freedom and Going Deep in 2018.

1. I am not going to buy new things this year (unless absolutely necessary, like toothpaste or when my running shoes fall apart).  For me, this is clothes, shoes, accessories, and Starbucks.  Get ready to see me in the same clothes all year.

2. I am not going to take up new hobbies.  I plan to get better and the ones I’ve already started.

3. I am going to go deeper with my practice, my clients, my workshops, family & friends.

It starts today.  Wish me luck.

Where is Truth

Photo courtesy of unsplash and Stefan Rayner

Photo courtesy of unsplash and Stefan Rayner

I don't know why, but truth is quiet. 

I have discovered quiet steps towards truth, but it was my recent bout of less-truthful and not-so-quiet, righteous indignation that prompted this post.


This righteousness had a false note to it, but like junk food, the packaging looked really appealing.

"Tastes better!  More Flavor! 
I get to be right and everyone else is wrong!" 


This feeling sells itself as Truth, but is more concerned with being right.  And who doesn't like to feel right?  It will go through Wily E. Coyote, Brier Rabbit, and A Trial Lawyer's bag of tricks to position itself in the right.  And when this Indignation is successful, usually someone else is very wrong.  This can be a spouse, a friend or the guy at the corner mart.  It is so busy screaming how right it is, it cannot even hear what other side has to say.  It is so caught up in blame, that there can be no other perspective.  It is narrow, fierce and committed.  Righteous Indignation is vindictive.  It can’t come to the table for an honest discussion. 

Furthermore, it is everywhere.  It is inside me, it is probably inside you, it's in our national forum and politics.

So how do you know if you are speaking from Truth or from the part that just wants to be right at all costs? 

Truth doesn’t yell, throw a fit, or scream.  It doesn’t make someone else wrong.  Truth is a knowing that exists in a place that is bigger than being right or being wronged.  Truth is also impersonal.  It doesn't care about me, my pride, or my desires.  So when, as happened to me recently, I feel turmoil, charged emotions and a loud, insistent voice, perhaps even  sanctimonious (who me?  Never), I knew there is a good chance that my Righteous Indignation was posturing as Truth.  My best clue as to what was happening was my initial unwillingness to step into the other person's shoes at all.  I wanted to be right.  I wanted to stay on my high horse, far away from any pain I might have caused.

Why does this false counterpart to Truth rear its head?  It is a cover-up.  Maybe there is a bit a blame that we need to own, but don’t want to, maybe we have hurt someone and we don’t want to acknowledge it.  Often there are uncomfortable feelings lying underneath our righteousness that we don’t want to see, and as long as we can place the blame elsewhere, we don’t have to look at or feel this discomfort.  

This is the place where change can happen.  When we are willing to look at these places of discomfort and find Truth on the other side.  These are the places I had to go and where I go with my clients.  Having the courage and willingness to see through the comfortable disillusions is what leads to unvarnished, raw, but still shining truths.

And without the courage to see it though, it is easy to cycle into blame or self-judgement.  And what about my own recent flailing?  I could crawl into a hole and flog myself, but again, the truth is, it was only in witnessing and acknowledging my own righteous failing that I could see the path back towards that quiet truth. 

A Question of Resistance

rita-morais-217555.jpg

The universe, with its grand sense of humor, recently and oh-so generously offered me a chance to explore my own resistance and to make some discoveries about where I’ve invested my will.

At a recent meditation intensive, the instructors added an hour of yoga to the daily schedule.  For those of you who have followed, you might recall my particular lack of fondness for yoga in an earlier newsletter - it was titled: The Art of Rage and Yoga.

I have been attending meditation retreats here for almost 10 years and never have I been asked to do yoga, or postures, as they prefer to call it.

While most of the class met the news with great enthusiasm and eagerness I was, at best, lackluster.  We lined up, many eager racehorses and me, desperate to go sit in the pasture and munch on grass.  Yet, the universe was calling out my resistance so off we went, my marginal willingness driven largely by peer pressure.

As the week progressed, I noticed that there was an overall positive effect of doing postures daily.  Mentally, I was still fighting it, but my meditations were deeper, stiller, and damnit, I felt good.  One night, in a moment of unexpected enthusiasm, I blurted out to my roommates that I was going to do 30 consecutive days of postures.  The next morning, they decided to join me in the 30 day commitment.  Crap.

During the next thirty days the exercise circled through reluctance to anticipation and back, but I did not quit, thanks to a question posed by an instructor at the retreat. 

Where is your will in this moment? 

I realized much of my will was invested in resisting the postures and in resisting the good feeling.  Feeling good actually happened against my will.  The universe really does have a sense of humor.  

And while ultimately, a 30 day yoga challenge is not a heroic act of will, it has given me a way to reclaim my will and its power. Harnessing will in the smallest ways gives momentum towards acts of will much larger. 

We've all had conversations about the challenges in committing to something, making meditation “stick,” or creating a routine and maintaining a good habit.  For me, asking 'where is your will is in this moment?' has been a game changer.  It is a way to reclaim the power that is inherently yours. 

Where is your will in this moment?

Pity Parties and Dancing with Stuckness

Pitypartiesanddancingwithstuckness

I should have known.  When I wrote about joy last month, I should have known that I would immediately be put to the test.  This past month I had a series of small incidences that sent me into a nosedive.  I know the techniques that help bring me back to a state of joy and here was my test.  Did I do them?  

Nope.  

I delayed, I procrastinated, I came up with reasons why my tools were not worth pursuing.  Dancing to my favorite music?  Meh.  Exercise?  I pulled my hamstring and could not be bothered to go to the pool.  Hanging out with friends?  I isolated myself instead, "saving" my friends from my surliness.  Grumpy dwarf could have taken lessons from me.  I blamed the overcast weather, I blamed my injury, my spouse, I blamed the alignment in the stars, the tides and well, you get the picture.  I was stuck in my morass and as I kept looking for a way out, I had to acknowledge the giant elephant in the room.  

I didn’t want out.  There was a part of me that wanted to wallow in the muck. I wanted to lay in the mess and make mud angels in my cocktail mix of pessimism, pity and blame.  This part of me wanted to put on a black leather jacket and give inspiration and joy the middle finger.  Destruction, implosion and misery sounded way more interesting.

Oh.

Oh.

Um, yeah.  Not my proudest moment but a powerful one.  Something changed when I acknowledged this inner rebellion.  I was able to see more everything more clearly.   

I dug up a blog written by a friend, Elisa Mehl, that had always resonated with me.  I respect her immensely.  She talks about the experience of feeling stuck:

“When we can't move forward, often it's because we are not finished with the experience we are actually having.  What if we were simply present for the rich alive pulsing of the exact state and moment?  What if we didn't pay attention to our mind, or society, or friends telling us we should be more mature or positive or open or accepting or whatever?
 
Often this takes a reframe.  We are conditioned to seeing our "stuckness" as bad.  But what if we reframe the stuckness into an embrace?”

    •    When we try to change something we are outside of it.
    •    By not trying to change something and being curious we get present.
    •    Presence carries us inside, to the center of whatever is going on.
    •    In the center, is our presence.   Presence is life.
    •    Our perspective is different when we are present.

Until I acknowledged my desire to stay in the misery, I was fighting an unseen opponent, one stealth and well-versed in ambushing me.  In getting curious about my desire to stay stuck, I could suddenly start to see my choices again.  I had more space to see and decide and felt less committed to my inky pity pit.  I invited my husband for a surf and went for a walk with a friend and did some stretching.  I even dragged myself to a yoga class. Afterwards, I felt the best I had in weeks and I remembered why I like to feel good. 

It’s rejuvenating and the the world is brighter again.  

We all drop into that hole in life.  And sometimes, we want to stay in the hole.  The key is to get curious about it.  Be present with it.  Acknowledge it.  Then, decide.  Where do you want to go next? 

with love,
Jennifer

For Elisa's full article click here