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.

Comfortable In Your Own Skin

Early on in my career, I worked at a drug and alcohol recovery center with teenage girls. My supervisor asked me what I wanted to accomplish with the girls, and I said I wanted to help them feel comfortable in their own skin.

“That will never happen,” she said dismissively.

On one hand, I understand what she meant, and yet on the other, I still deeply believe that no matter what trauma we have experienced and no matter how spooked out of our sovereign space we may be, there is still an innate capacity to connect to our own eternal, infinite nature. Words like presence, consciousness, awareness, beingness, knowingness, Soul, expanded sense of self, or true nature point to the ineffable experience.IMG_6059

I recognize that there is a great deal of resistance and the ego-mind might squirm a bit. Often feelings of despair, guilt and resentment are lurking just below the surface. You will inevitably bump into many obstacles digging through the bedrock. Perseverance in the vein of allowing whatever is to be as is can melt ancient armouring along the littered pathway.

Judgments about the rewards to be had from going within often impede coming home to oneself. Thoughts like: “I should feel good, positive, loving, wise or ___________, may cause us to give up before we even begin.

Impatience can be easily subdued with gentle reminders to relax, breathe, allow and most importantly… FEEL. 

It’s okay to feel. It’s good for you to feel.

Feel body sensations. That means all body sensations, whether pleasant or painful. Feel your skin using a sense of heightened awareness. Feel the aliveness of your autonomic nervous system, and bodily functions, like breathing, heartbeat, blood flow, and temperature regulation.

Once you catch a glimpse of dimensionless presence, it will intensify as you continue to focus your attention on it, letting it grow and stepping back to observe and watch and quite simply experience.

Welcome home to the place where your soul resides.