Feelin’ Goooooood

What does it say about modern society that so many people need medication(s) just to function on a daily basis? What has changed in the last 100 years that makes it so we can’t cope?

As therapists, we are taught that we are to defer to the medical profession when treating mental-emotional disorders. Doctor knows best. What do doctors really have to offer us besides medications?

I love that scene in Sisters, a movie with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, in which they are trying to get their party started with a bunch of 40 somethings who have forgotten how to party. To loosen everyone up, Tina’s character calls in a drug dealer, Pazuzu, played skillfully by John Cena. She asks him what he’s got in his medical bag, and it takes him 5 minutes to run down all the drugs he has to offer, 90% of which are NOT illegal. Here’s a clip.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_XAKjc2gIfo&t=10s

This medicated mindset comes from well meaning, smart, educated people all working really hard to try to make us feel good! There is a thick, all-inclusive, self help manual by well renowned doctor and teacher, David Burns, MD with that exact title – Feeling Good. In case you are interested, there’s even one for couples called Feeling Good Together!

The Buddha also wanted to end suffering, and that is the goal of Buddhist practice, but the approach is basically the opposite. The cause of suffering is attachment to wanting to feel good. The more you cling to the need to feel good, the more distraught and disappointed you become.

While meditating you learn that your suffering or dissatisfaction is directly related to attitudes that arise within your own heart and mind. You become aware of the fleeting nature of your thoughts and emotions, and you basically give up your restless seeking for something better and thus bring dissatisfaction to an end. No thing is ever going to make you happy. And on top of that, happiness is actually right under your nose. According to a certain parable, underneath the floor of the poor man’s house lies a great treasure.

This wisdom develops over a lifetime, and in the details of the difficulties of everyday life and social interactions, which become increasingly more interesting as we become conscious of our limiting and downright crazy thoughts.

Think about it ~jealousy, greed, hatred, fear, desire ~ What are these things anyway?

 

Anger – Plain and Simple

I am starting to write a book called Craving Closeness: A Creative Work-It-Out Eco-Psycho-Spiritual Journal for Your Mental Health. I realize that’s a mouth full, so let’s just call that the working title. The first thing I am called to address is anger. So here goes.

Anger – Plain and Simple

The best strategy with anger is to accept that you are indeed angry. If you resist, which you can do, it will come back to haunt you, plain and simple. Feelings buried alive never die. “So how in tarnation do I accept my anger?” You ask. The first task it simply to just sit with it. Feel all the effects it has on your body, your physiology, your biological functions – your heart rate, your blood pressure, your muscle tension, your digestion. Get really close to these sensations in your body that are ever changing. Get down to the atomic and molecular levels where the anger is causing the neurotransmitters in your brain to work or stop working in a variety of ways. It affects your hormones. Imagine, if you will, the stress hormone, cortisol, squirting out into your system wreaking havoc on your physiology. Or adrenaline pumping out getting you ready for flight or fight. Again get back to feeling the effects. Get quiet and tune in to your heart, your breathing. What muscles are firing right now?

This is up to you to do. No Fitbit or Google Watch can do this for you. You are the only fullsizeoutput_715one who can feel your feelings, except in the case of resonance, by which your feelings have a frequency and a vibration, which can be felt by other sentient beings whether they are conscious of it or not, and whether they are even in close proximity or not. But I’ll save that subject for another time.

This is powerful stuff! You are having an atomic reaction after all.

You should be feeling pretty uncomfortable at this point. That’s good. Now get into the uncomfortableness. Where do you feel that? How do you experience that? This is where the cravings come in. They start protesting. “Why do we have to feel this? This is too much for me to take. I need relief.” Then the Victim chimes in. “I don’t deserve to feel badly. What did I ever do to deserve this?”

Before we entertain them, locate a piece of paper you can write and draw on, and start writing. Keeping it plain and simple, just start with “I am so angry.” Again. “I am so angry.” Then just “Angry.” And again write out the word “angry” over and over again until you can’t write it any more. Now perhaps repeat the same process with the word “uncomfortable” until you have had enough of that.

Now locate some paints, markers, crayons or pastels. And continue by adding color however you feel drawn to express yourself at this point.

And then rest. Good job! That’s all for now.

 

Getting Close to Yourself

I’m in a very unusual class. It’s called the Master Alma (“soul” in Spanish) Class. It is the baby of Julia Carmen a bona fide curandera, a seer of Souls. Every month we pick a theme, and last month it was “self pleasure.” Everyone got a good giggle over that imagining themselves running off to the nearest Good Vibrations store.

The first thing I did was schedule a massage, which was wonderful. I could get a massage every day. I figured I was about done for the month, when an email came in that one of the participants was practicing self pleasure in some form or other every day.

Every day??

Clearly I needed to up my game. I committed to a daily practice and quickly learned how little real pleasure I allow myself. I’m good a self care, which is not the same thing. I walk every day. I meditate and do yoga. I eat well. I go shopping, and, while I derive pleasure IMG_6065from these things, self pleasure implies getting intimate with yourself. Yikes! Having grown up in an alcoholic family system, getting close in general was not our strong suit. Independence, strength, achievement were highly valued traits. Besides, alcohol is much more dependable for feeling good than real relationships with real people. In alcoholic families, there is usually a family history of fragmentation, trauma or loss that disrupts or threatens ones ability to get close to parental figures, and the pattern repeats itself over generations to come. I’ve even heard that addiction comes from a denial of the need for intimacy.

Despite my unfamiliarity with self pleasure, I started lightly touching my arms and legs focusing on the parts that sent chills through my body. Intoxicatingly delightful, I challenged myself to tolerate more intensity and build my threshold for self pleasure. As my breathing would soften, it felt like I was getting bathed in a deep sense of self contentment. Maybe it’s okay for me to get close to myself after all.

This practice also made me think about how you can get the chills when you have a psychic hit on something. Maybe you get the chills when you are getting close to spirit too. It provides a double delight – getting closer to myself and getting filled with spirit at the same time.

I think I can do this.

Shining Light on Victimhood

I awoke last night with this nagging sense that it was going to be a while until I fell back to sleep. I was activated, for sure, but I couldn’t pinpoint exactly why. My mind tried to analyze what being activated was about. What’s the opposite of that – numbness. Okay that’s one axis – activated on one side and numb on the other. To flesh it out, however, I wanted to create another axis.

Numb ————————————————-Activated

After much restlessness, I remembered a recent retreat when we were asked to place ourselves on a numb-activated continuum to get an idea of where we were in terms of nervous system arousal. With trauma, you tend to bounce back and forth between getting overly excited and triggered, and then burning out your adrenal glands and crashing and burning into a puddle of tears. (Or is that just me?)

After walking in nature in sacred silence, one of the participants shared that he was activated, but in a conscious way. In other words, he was feeling a vibrant sense of awareness and aliveness. That’s interesting – We can be activated and grounded in a way the leaves the circuits open. What’s the difference? Consciousness.fullsizeoutput_5d0

You are unconscious and activated when you are angry, perhaps fighting with your spouse for instance, which is how I was feeling laying in bed next to a used therapeutic wedge pillow my dear husband had bought at a garage sale from a man who had used it for his recent recovery from heart surgery. It even had stains on it and everything! I was beginning to realize how vehemently opposed I was to this intruder, i.e., I was becoming conscious.

At long last, I gathered some ability to get into witness consciousness about the situation. I could see and be with that part of me that was suffering, a victim of circumstance. I sent unconditional love and support to the victim, bringing it into the light. That did the trick. A little compassion for my poor pitiful self went a long way toward unhooking me from the deep freeze.

So there you have it. I think we are so aware of not wanting to be a victim that we create more shadow space for it to comfortably hang out in.

I grabbed the offending pillow and walked it outside to air out. In the morning, I told my husband I couldn’t sleep. He asked why, and I told him the story of how sorry I felt for myself for having a husband who buys filthy wedge pillows from garage sales.

He laughed.

 

 

Songbirds Sing of Surrender

On my walk today, I noticed how I was striving to get up the hill in my usual power walking way. My chest was tight and determined, ready to shatter all obstacles in the way.  In the noticing though there was a deep awareness that I don’t have to push so hard any more. Whether that way has served me or not is up for debate, but let’s just say that now I know another way that feels a whole lot better. I slowed down and took some giant lunges, so I was still working but not striving so hard. I used to love to wail along to those songs about “nobody done told me life was gonna be this hard.” But now I know that those are just beliefs. Statements about whether life is easy or hard are just generalities that may be true or not. The thing is – how do they make you feel?

Life just is.

As I began to slow down, I realized I had neglected to notice that it was a beautiful fullsizeoutput_88spring day. I started listening to birds singing all kinds of incredible songs. One in particular caught my attention. It was as if the bird was singing harmony with itself as it warbled up and down the scales. It reminded my of the sound rain water makes on a metal roof only more melodic. 

I found a place to lie down and dropped deep into the nothingness and started to wonder.

I have used my will to meet goals and accomplish stuff. There is nothing wrong with will. It’s a function of the 3rd chakra and supports self esteem. Only problem is I spent much of my working life in fight or flight, handling one crisis after the next as if there was some constant invisible threat. That takes a toll on the adrenal glands to say the least. Is there another way to be besides being in that typical jacked-up, intense stress state? Or the opposite – collapsed in a heap trying to recover?

“Surrender to what is,” the songbirds remind me. “Surrender to nature, to your own true nature.  It doesn’t mean you are giving in or giving up. It does mean that your scared, fragile ego will have to stop fighting, running, resisting and pushing. It will thank your in the end. It doesn’t necessarily want you to buy into it’s panic. It just needs to be reined in, and then you can loosen the reins on your soul self. You are free as a bird ~ if you let yourself be.”

So What is the Energy Body Anyway?

We’ve all heard the term “energy body,” and maybe we’ve had experiences of the energy body, but how would you go about trying to explain what it actually means to you? You’ve probably seen the diagram of the outline of the physical body with the circumscribing lines encircling the physical body. These are called Koshas, and thereIMG_0825 are many names for those layers – etheric body, auric body, causal body, prana body, bliss body. For simplicity sake, I’m going to lump them all together today.

I come from years of training and experience in Yoga Nidra. In Yoga Nidra, or yogic sleep, you are guided into Turiya, which is the 4th state of mind beyond waking, dreaming and sleeping where you experience the transcendental states of the ancient mystics. This is my most direct experience of the energy body.

Yoga Nidra practice combines conscious action (stretching, breathing, and chanting) with conscious receptivity (sensing, feeling, and detached attention) producing a paradoxical state of integration which effectively activates the energy body. If you simply let your mind merge into the flood of energy pulsating in the body, you can connect your individual consciousness with the unified field and experience the blissful illuminated essence of your being.

Being able to access the energy body is very important to your health and vitality. You can think of the energy body as a non-physical dynamic field that distributes prana or life force to and also releases excess energy from the physical body. This fullsizeoutput_2cinvisible body is a living energy made up of invisible subtle matter which functions as a medium to energize, clear and revitalize body, mind and spirit. “The energy is like water which should be moving to keep it fresh. Otherwise you create a stagnant swamp,” says yoga teacher, Marlene Smits.

If you close your eyes for a moment and become still, you can get a sense of this alive energy moving through you. The energy can take certain pathways like the meridians or chakras, but it is up to you to develop your own sense of how the energy moves in your body. Use your detached attention to sense and feel into the alive space that is your energy body. With practice you can build on pleasurable sensations in the body and pulsations of breath and blood flow. Pleasure is key. The more you can allow the intense sensations to build, the healthier and more vital your energy body can become and the closer you come to awakening the bliss body.

For more direct experience, please join me for Yoga Nidra for Relaxation Sunday, March 11 at 10:30 – 11:30 am at April’s Yoga and Pilates in Pacifica, CA.

Inner Visioning

I am preparing for a retreat that I am part of called “Invisioning & Renewal Retreat: A Day to Gather Strength and Wisdom in the Alchemy of Art and Nature.” I thought I would develop a mnemonic device for people to practice and reference as they are experiencing the day in nature and making art called AEIOU. Here goes…

What does Invisioning really mean?

A – Allowing. Allowing is that quality of non-grasping and at the same time not fullsizerender51resisting. We allow whatever is to be as is without having to control, manage or change it.

E- Easefulness. Easefulness is when you let go of all your agendas in the mind and tensions in the body. You go with the flow. There is no need to swim up-stream. Trust is the key word here.

I – Innocence. Innocence is what Suzuki Roshi called “beginner’s mind.” It is when you are looking through your child eyes. Everything means something. You see the world in a blade of grass. Your imagination is active and creative juices are flowing.

O – Openness. Openness is that expansive state we create when we connect to Source or The Field. We make space for our true selves and our deep feelings.

U – It’s all about you and your experience. Keep asking and observing – What is happening in me? There is no out there out there. GURU – Gee, you are you.

I hope you will consider coming to this special event. I would love to BE with you for this day of invisioning and renewal Sat. Feb. 3 at Elkus Ranch just south of Half Moon Bay, CA.

register here –> https://themusicwithinus.com/events/invisioning2018 

Ecotherapy – The Womb of Nature

I recently added Ecotherapy or Nature therapy to my website.  (Amy’s website) It reads:

Ecotherapy, an outdoor option for your therapy session, stems from the idea that people are part of the web of life, and that our psyches are not separate from our natural environment. It provides individuals with an opportunity to explore theirfullsizeoutput_20a relationship with nature and find metaphors and direct experiences that can restore well being. Studies have shown that people who engaged in the natural environment experienced improved mental health, because while we are shaped by the modern social world, our psyches have evolved and adapted to the natural environment. During an eco-therapy session, I will artfully guide you to experience a connection with the living energies of the natural world resulting in a deep and sacred sense of connection with your own spirit/soul/self.

While I have training in eco therapy, the real impetus for the offering is that I lost my office space. I was wondering what I was going to do, when a friend, who knows my love of nature, suggested it. Clients were actually eager to try ecotherapy, and it has IMG_0536been a wonderful experience. Gazing out over the Pacific Ocean, a client talked about the waves of flack that were coming her way at work, and she made an art piece to work with the energies. Another client was admitting her problems with boundaries in her life, when a hawk swooped by being chased by a very vocal smaller bird very clear about her boundaries.

When you are open to it, nature has a way of coming to our aid and holding us in just the way that our souls need.

Soul initiation is often described as a death and a second birth. Like entering a cocoon, your first ego dies and a soul-rooted ego is birthed, not from culture this time, but from the womb of nature.                  ~Bill Plotkin

 

I Am Already There

My intention these days is to carry a sense of presence with me throughout my daily activities. I have gotten to the stage where the time I spend meditating is very enjoyable and rewarding. I enjoy turning my attention inward and can feel a deep sense of restful awareness when I do. However, as soon as I start to “do” something, the busy mind takes over, and, instantly, I am in a race against time and in resistance to reality.

Here is a funny story I read on the toilet this morning from The Teachings of Sri IMG_0380Ramana Maharshi, edited by David Godman that might elucidate the conundrum.

The seeker questions the guru about the difficulty of maintaining one’s peace of mind when you have to work and tend to the needs of one’s family. “Everyday life is not compatible with such efforts,” he laments.

The guru replies: “Why do you think you are active? Take the gross example of your arrival here. You left home in a cart, took a train, alighted at the railway station here, got into a cart there and found yourself in this ashram. When asked, you say that you traveled here all the way from your town. Is it true? Is it not a fact that you remained as you were, and there were movements of conveyances all along the way? Just as those movements are confounded with your own, so also are the other activities. They are not your own, they are God’s activities.”

In other words, if we are inwardly quiet, not forgetting the Self connected to the All, we can be present during all of our movements and activities. There is no doing. There is nothing to accomplish. There is no getting anywhere.

I tried this today as I was getting ready to teach my class. I kept reminding myself. “I am not doing anything.” Then when I was driving there, I told myself, “I am not going anywhere. I am already here.” That was very different from my usual modus operandi. Usually I am filled with anticipation, hustling and bustling to go sit with presence once I get there.

What a shock! I am already there.

Grant Me Serenity

It is common knowledge that a major key to moving forward is acceptance of what is. Wishin’, and hopin’ and prayin’ make a really good song, but don’t always help move the energy.

Acceptance, however, can be a difficult place to access. Others can see and might even tell us that’s what we need to do. Often resentment and resistance persist.

Let’s back up a bit. Remember the Serenity Prayer? It doesn’t ask for acceptance. It fullsizeoutput_40asks for the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. In other words, serenity is a precursor to acceptance.

Perhaps, if you so desire, take a moment right now to invite serenity into your
awareness. Take a deep breath in and let it out slowly. Another deep breath in, and let go.

Quiet the mind.

Quiet the heart.

Be present.

Blessed be. ❤