When I first bring up the topic of self-care to my clients in individual sessions, groups, or public talks I often encounter replies that range from inhibited giggles to condescending smirks. More often than not, somebody would say “of course I take care of myself! I take showers and brush my teeth daily!” While personal hygiene is defiantly an important and fundamental part of good self care, it hardly scratches the surface of what self care really means. Continue reading Plug into your energy source… or… How to give others by taking care of yourself first
Month: May 2014
The Traps of Stinking Thinking
It happens at least once a month …well…ok, probably more than once: I wake up in the morning, and no matter how bright and lovely it is outside – the light just doesn’t come through. When my husband says “I love you” I feel that there is a “but” waiting to follow (it hasn’t followed yet.) When the phone rings, I immediately assume it is some sort of bad news (to the most part it is no news.) When someone smiles at me on the street, an unkind “yeah, what do you want?” may cross my mind. I may even start an argument, where there is no disagreement, or make a mountain out of a mole by magnifying the meaning or importance of another person’s words, tone of voice or gesture. On these days, when I finally become conscious of my thoughts, I find a lot of negativity towards myself, others, and the future. See, mental health professionals were not born free of automatic “stinking thinking”. These are natural patterns that seem to negatively affect all people, regardless of their demographics… AND… they are horrible energy robbers. Our feelings and behaviors follow our thoughts. Continue reading The Traps of Stinking Thinking
Spirituality for the Spiritually Challenged
I was sitting in a circle with about twenty five men and women in substance abuse and chemical dependency treatment. “Spirituality,” I said while scanning the room for immediate knee jerk reactions, “what comes to mind, when I say it?” The room erupted with mild gestures and sounds of discomfort and protest. I could see that some of the group members were preparing for yet another talk about Higher Power, and they were not in the least interested. Some responded bluntly with “bullshit, that’s what comes to mind”. Some took the time to talk about the hypocrisy of the church in which they were brought up, and how it turned them off to anything related to spirituality and religion. There was some talk about spirits, ghosts, and the supernatural. A couple of people humbly admitted that they were confused by the word, and didn’t really know what it meant.
I told the group that we were going to put religion aside. Continue reading Spirituality for the Spiritually Challenged
Helping Your Mind with Yoga
After a particularly wonderful yoga class at the Washington Healing Arts Center, as I was feeling refreshed and renewed, I decided to ask my most amazing yoga teacher Elaine Blackmur, if she would graciously agree to be a guest blogger and tell us some things about the benefits of yoga to our minds.
She compiled for us the information below (thank you so very much Elaine.)
MIND BENEFITS OF YOGA
Yoga is a form of exercise that links breathing with controlled movements. It is a popular way to relieve stress, increase focus and improve your mental health overall Continue reading Helping Your Mind with Yoga
The “Finishing” Trap
CREATIVITY as a SELF-HEALING TOOL
Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to work with many creative, imaginative and talented individuals. I have found in my own life as well as in the lives of my friends and clients, that the creative impulse and imagination we possess are magnificent self-healing tools. When we allow ourselves to follow our creative curiosity, we intuitively find outlets to our most difficult feelings. We find ways to express what we can’t consciously or verbally say out loud. With that, we often find new, more helpful ways of thinking about our lives.
HOW DO WE GET BLOCKED?
Sadly, more often than not, my creative, imaginative, and talented clients make their way into my office after long periods of creative droughts. For some, the drought had started early in childhood, when their imaginative self expression was met with scorn and criticism, maybe even severe punishment. For many, the drought took over gradually, as the creative curiosity and enthusiasm slowly gave room to fear of criticism, to the need to fit it into environments that were not accepting or supportive, and to the value our society puts on the end product rather than the creative process.
It is amazing to me how many of my blocked creative clients share similar self-defeating beliefs about the importance of “finishing”. I have to admit, that for many years, I was trapped by a similar belief. I can’t tell you enough about how good it feels to be free of the pressure to “finish.” But, I can assure you that ever since I allowed myself to let go of this belief, I have been having a lot more fun, by exploring different mediums of self expression, and consequently, being able not only start, but also finish many creative projects.
The following is a typical conversation that happens at one point or another, during my sessions with blocked creatives:
Blocked Creative: I had an idea for this project for a long time (write a short story, build a bench, plant a garden, take a cooking class, start a business, etc.) but I just haven’t been able to start.
Me:What stops you from starting?
BC: (Normally after a long pause,) well…I’m not sure that I will be able to finish it. I will probably quit in the middle. So why bother. Right?
Me:What makes you think that you will quit?
BC: (Confidently) My history. I never finish anything. I have a basement full of unfinished projects.
Me: (Smiling mischievously) SO WHAT?
BC: (Looking confused) what do you mean?
Me: So what if you don’t finish?
BC: (Looking at me as if I just grew a horn on my forehead,) well…uh…that wouldn’t be good, would it?
Me: What’s not good about starting and not finishing?
BC: Hmm …I guess that if I start something and don’t finish it, it would mean that I have failed…and…and… wasted (time, money, energy, etc.)
Me: So, who told that not finishing meant to fail or waste? I mean – who told you that it was important to finish your projects?
BC: Everyone! My parents, my spouse, my children, teacher, employers (and so on.)
Me: Of course, when the goal is to be paid or get a grade, we must complete the task for which we will be graded or paid. But, tell me -what makes you want to start this project (drawing, writing, building, cooking, etc.)?
BC: I just always wanted to see how it would be to do it.
Me: So your goal, or your reward in this case is “to see how it would be to do it.”
BC: Hmm…I guess so.
Me:And what if you figured out how it was to do it before you actually finished the project?
BC: Hmm…well…that’s an interesting point (looking puzzled, but starting to smile).
Sooner or later in this conversation we discover that the initial goal of the blocked creative was to experience the PROCESS, and that the PRODUCT was an expectation made by others, who (unfortunately for them) could not appreciate the amazing benefits of simply exploring, experimenting, learning, and being in the moment of creativity.
If you are a blocked creative, I would like to encourage you to give yourself permission to not finish. Rather, notice what happens when you are in that “zone”…you know what I’m talking about…that moment of focused concentration, the energy that flows through you, the excitement of discovery. Many artists and creative thinkers describe the experience of being in the moment of creativity as a moment of connection to the world, the divine, or a higher self. Really, there is nothing as wonderful as this zone, is there?
More information at http://www.lifebalancemissouri.com
Below is a poem by Pablo Neruda, describing the moment of creativity as he experienced it.
How would you describe YOUR EXPERIENCE?
And it was at that age … Poetry arrived
in search of me. I don’t know, I don’t know where
it came from, from winter or a river.
I don’t know how or when,
no they were not voices, they were not
words, nor silence,
but from a street I was summoned,
from the branches of night,
abruptly from the others,
among violent fires
or returning alone,
there I was without a face
and it touched me.
I did not know what to say, my mouth
had no way
my eyes were blind,
and something started in my soul,
fever or forgotten wings,
and I made my own way,
and I wrote the first faint line,
faint, without substance, pure
of someone who knows nothing,
and suddenly I saw
with arrows, fire and flowers,
the winding night, the universe.
And I, infinitesimal being,
drunk with the great starry
likeness, image of
felt myself a pure part
of the abyss,
I wheeled with the stars,
my heart broke loose on the wind.
A big Thank You to my friend Slava Bowman, for the pictures in this blog, Slava is a successful Washington, MO photographer, who first started taking pictures as a hobby. Her fearless exploration and curiosity gave birth to a successful blog “Re-Discover Washington,” that significantly energized Washington’s social and business communities. Slava is a great example of how letting oneself explore may become a blessing to others. You can find more of her photography on www.slavabowman.com
How Breath Makes Your Brain Work for You
- Slowly, draw in a breath, and notice your lungs and belly filling with air.
- Slowly, let the breath out and notice the release that happens in your body.
- Repeat over and over again.
(Some people find it helpful to count while drawing the breath in and out. Try counting to 4 while drawing the breath in, and to 4 again on the way out.)
When you focus your attention on your breath, you take your attention off your anger, fear, stress, and worry. You become one with the perfection of the present moment.
Moreover, ( very simplistically stating,) the more you practice mindful or conscious breathing, the more you strengthen those “relaxed” pathways in the brain. In other words, the more you practice this technique the more you train your brain to respond with calm to stress.
Do it for just a few minutes in the morning, and then stop and do it a few times a day, especially when things get a little much for you. Let me know what you noticed and have fun breathing!
Secrets…or…Why Telling is Transformative
The subject of secrets came up in my office a few times this week. Seeing again and again how damaging secrets can be to an individual and hers or his loved ones, I’m feeling compelled to write about it. One of the most common sayings in the recovery community is “you are only as sick as your secrets.” The complementary phrase (which has been taken out of its original context and is so commonly used it has turned into a cliche) is “truth will set you free.” I have witnessed the truth of both of these statements in my own life, as well as in the lives of many of my clients. Continue reading Secrets…or…Why Telling is Transformative