Why Nature

I like to use nature to get to what is really going on with me, because it is the opposite of and the antidote to cultural conditioning. Cultural conditioning is what you grew up within your family of origin. It includes expectations that were handed to you by the overculture – school, church, commercials, peer group, etc. Our response to this pressure to conform and these very powerful multi-generational messages is operating in the unconscious, but it is repressed. That means that it has been stored away so that we can perform everyday tasks and meet the demands of our families, jobs and the overculture.

You know that your unconscious is getting stirred up when you have the following:

  1. Nightmares – Nightmares indicate that your unconscious is upset and trying to process something that does not feel right.
  2. Emotional funk. Anger, sadness, fears, all feelings really are there to help us wake up.
  3. Obsessiveness. This is the way the mind tries to “help” us not feel the pain and suffering that is below the surface.
  4. Need to control, manage or fix people, places or things. This is the inner two year old saying that if everybody would just do everything the way I say, then I’ll feel okay.
  5. Accidents. There are no accidents.
  6. Addictions and compulsions. Substances, sex, food, habits, behaviors used to self medicate the pain away.

These are all indicators that your unconscious is trying to get your attention. It wants you to pay attention because there is something that is just not right. Your body-being knows the truth of who you really are – a beautiful, loving and radiant being. However, you may have gotten the opposite impression growing up. You may have heard quite the opposite of that from parents, teachers and religious personages. Or you may have picked up the vibration of some core deficiency in your character along the way. Basically, it is that voice that tells you that you are not smart, patient, loving, helpful, hardworking, kind, or contained enough. Or you are too much – too loud, aggressive, lazy, outspoken, emotional, negative, needy, greedy, sinful, gluttonous, or sexual.

Anyway, nature offers us a fresh look at ourselves from our more natural, animalistic, instinctual, spontaneous, expressive, connected self. Nature has the capacity to offer us a direct line to our basic true selves, although we may have to use a different part of our brain that is more receptive to the information – our metaphorical mind.

I was walking with a client in nature once, encouraging this person to stop talking about his story, and, instead, pay attention and just notice whatever he noticed. Just then a flock of seagulls squawked and flapped all around us. He was somewhat perturbed because he was expecting something a little more delicate. He questioned my premise that nature offered a connection, for surely this intrusion was clearly just a distraction. The further we investigated the gift from the natural world, the more he started to realize that the experience was similar to the flock of thoughts that tend to inundate his mind every time he attempts to get quiet and get to know himself – to get close to himself.

It wasn’t nature that was distracting him. It was nature that was reminding him of his own tendency to distract himself from experiencing himself, and what was really going on – his feelings, his inner voice and knowingness.

 

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.

 

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.

 

 

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 

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. ❤

Karma vs. Causality

We are entering the dimension where we have control – the inside.                                              ~Byron Katie

When bad things happen to you, how you explain it to yourself and make sense of it can make all the difference in the world. Many people use the concept of Karma. Karma is the idea that what goes around comes around, and it is satisfying to use when you are singing the ‘someone done me wrong’ song. But it feels a little like blame when you apply it to yourself. Another way to explain things is that it’s God’s Will. There’s not much that is more irritating than hearing that when tragedy strikes.

In my book, Chasing Serenity, (buy here) Jasmine, Maya’s unseen guide, explains the Law of Causality to her one day when Maya is in a pit of despair.

“This is the Law of Causality. You will inevitably attract the opposite reality of what you IMG_0079_2desire until you come fully into resonance with it and learn the lesson. You are always given ample opportunity to heal the aching illusion of lack and to heal the separation wherever it manifests in your life or body. Life circumstances cause us to wake up if we dare. Do you dare to be aware?”

Then Maya says, “So that is always the point – when life happens, and we feel unloved or unlovable or have fallen into a pit of despair, it is urging us to look past the mundane, childhood programming, and ego-mind chastising.”

Jasmine continues, “Yes, but of course, my darling. You are basically love and light, plain and simple. That’s all you need to know ever.”

Harsh realities are not designed to induce guilt, shame, blame, hopelessness and self-reproach in us humans. They are realities plain and simple. They are not intended to cause us to brace ourselves against life and hold on tighter to the past.

No matter how bad the outside circumstances look, the key is to make the switch and img_2814begin to notice how you feel inside. Just notice. Maybe your boyfriend did cheat on you, maybe your boss is never going to give you that raise, or maybe a family member is always going to treat you abusively. It is still not about what’s happening outside of you. You probably don’t have much control over that anyway. It’s what’s happening inside you that counts.

People struggle with the Serenity Prayer notion of accepting the things they cannot change. Acceptance starts with accepting yourself for how you are feeling first – whatever that might be. No need for spiritual by-pass. Get real with yourself and what’s inside right now. Let what is be as it is right now. From there, it is just a short hop, skip and a jump to start to question how much longer can you stay angry, depressed, jealous, resentful, feeling disrespected and rejected? That is the question.

As Byron Katie is fond of saying:                                                                                                     We are entering the dimension where we have control – the inside.

Mixing Business With Pleasure

I don’t know about you, but working together with other people can be exhausting!

I am attempting to put my work out there more these days, and that requires coordination with agencies, websites, publicity, payroll and people! I was getting discouraged because I was running into roadblocks at every turn.

“What’s the universe trying to tell you,” says my well-meaning friend.

“That I should crawl back in a hole and never come back out again?” This option is actually very appealing to me. I am an introverted Cancerian, so sitting at home making art sounds perfectly delectable. I don’t think, however, that is what the universe is telling me.

I recently attended a workshop on the neuroscience of creating, relating and resilience, that was quite eye opening. The workshop leader, Joanna Clyde Findlay, is doing research on trauma, and how to help people get beyond the feelings of victimization without getting re-triggered. Anytime you go back into the distressing material, there is the likely possibility that the brain will go back into that state of fight, flight or freeze and re-experience the trauma all over again. Her research is on art therapy, so she has designed a protocol to address trauma. It’s quite simple really. The short version is that first you make a representation of the distressing situation or incident. Then, you change it.

I made a paper sculpture of an obstacle course with myself as a kind of board game figureimg_3040 that has to figure out how to go over, under, and through all the obstacles. It felt hard, unrewarding and downright depressing. It put me back into those feelings of alternately  being over-reactive and angry or else defeated and resigned. When she said to change it, I wanted to throw it out and start all over again. Then in the next breath, she clarified… to change it without throwing it out.

I started cutting out the figure to make her more streamlined which felt good. After working for a while, I started drawing pictures of people on the obstacles. They turned out to be the exact people who I have been working with to start new programs and classes. (The unconscious is uncanny.) Then it dawned on me that the reason my resistance was so great was because of my longstanding difficulty dealing with people. Navigating my needs with theirs img_3041always puts me into that little kid place of being powerless over my parents’ moods and whims. Things like – asking for what you want/need, negotiating, following up, persevering, checking in, clarifying and mixing business with pleasure are all way beyond my skill set.

Anyway, I felt completely different after I changed the piece. It became more like a playground or amusement park where you get to play with different challenges and have fun. (I even put my dog on one. I have a good relationship with him. :))

Over the next couple of days, many of the previous obstacles had started to resolve themselves. I found out about the other people’s circumstances, many of whom were dealing with difficulties of their own. I experimented with new ways of communicating without feeling anxious about whether my needs were going to be met, or not. I let others know that I value the relationship and that made all the difference in the world.

Today I have felt what can almost be described as high. I can deal with other people. They are only people after all. I can care about others in my community and, at the same time, feel cared for too! That can-do feeling is called resilience.

Shedding Your Skin

You may have heard that 2016 is a 9 year. In numerology you add the digits together to come up with the number like this 2+0+1+6 = 9. 9 is a number of completion and endings because next year will be a 1 which is when we get to start again fresh. Also December 12th or 12-12 is considered to be a gateway to higher consciousness so this is an ideal time to shed the old skin and release any energies and emotions that are not yours.

I had a revelation the other night while I was lying quietly in bed in the stillness of the fullsizerender_2night thinking about shedding my skin. The old skin is a metaphor for a habitual energy body that is based on old fears, fallacies and misconceptions from childhood. It is made up of portals, hooks, receptor sites and open invitations for old stuff like limiting self concepts, ancestral patterns, and toxic family members; energies we have been carrying with us for perhaps life times.

Some might be for those people in our lives who can rob us of our power. You know who that is. If you remember Red Dog from the Lynn Andrews stories, he took her marriage basket, which was a symbol for the balance of masculine and feminine energies.

Is there someone in your life who can do that to you?

As I lay there, I could feel that the tensions in my body were alien energies. They were not mine! They are hanging around from ancient maybe ancestral times and may have been IMG_0800the result of trauma and abuse from the past and lingering defensive structures that really don’t serve any longer. Often when I attempt to open up my heart, I can feel a compression that doesn’t allow my heart space to expand. Whatever that is, it is not mine!

Old stories also live in our energy bodies. They have hooks and hangers to latch onto and can get going really quickly. We are powerless to stop the worthlessness, comparisons, and disaster stories unless we remove the sites for them to hang on to. Do you really want to keep that old junker lying around?

That’s where Snake energy can be helpful. We can simply shed the whole energy body coat, pockets and all and be free

When you get this radical idea of shedding your old energetic skin, there is a sense of possibility to really be able to be open to the present. It’s not – “It is what it is.” It’s –“It is what is NOW!”

Peaceful Solstice to you, my brothers and sisters.

Picking Up the Poop

My daily horoscope suggested that I needed to take a self care day for myself today. “Who me? I’m fine,” I thought until I sat down to meditate. My mind bounced from thought to thought like a ping pong ball flooding me with unpleasant memories and associations.

“This is an undisciplined mind,” I observed helpless to gain control. When there is so much rimg_2897esistance to dropping in, walking meditation is always an option. So I meandered over to the small serpentine labyrinth I built in the back yard. Since the stones had gotten rearranged over months of neglect, I replaced enough of them to manage to go around.

Standing at the gateway, I asked my question. “How can I encourage my body to stay calm and relaxed even where there is always pain and suffering?” And then I proceeded to take my first step into a heaping pile of squishy dog poop! It was disguised under leafy debris and still soft and gooshy thanks to the recent rains. As I stopped to wipe off my shoe (thankfully I was not barefooted!), I recalled the time when my psychic friend had stayed over. She noticed the dog poop intermingled in the labyrinth and had a psychic conversation with our dogs asking them to please find another spot. Apparently they did not listen because this is still their favorite, albeit sacred pooping zone.

Anyway, it added to my experience because so much of human life involves cleaning up, reworking and repairing stuff. This obviously includes our emotional fallout and psychic debris from every day existence.

That’s the message I got when I reached the center of the labyrinth. As much as I would love to think I can just keep pushing forward following my dreams, sometimes the wise thing to do is just deal with what’s right in front of us – even if that’s just picking up the dog poop.