Category Archives: Self-care

Loneliness. (Not what you might think!)

Loneliness. (Not what you might think!)

Have you noticed that there are times when being alone is the most delicious thing in the world…Loneliness? What loneliness! And then there are other times when you are with people, maybe even people you love, and you feel incredibly lonely. Hmm…

It’s Valentines Day. And today I want to talk about loneliness. (Because, why-ever not!) And about beginning to meet our very own dear selves with curiosity and tenderness.

Carl Jung, founder of analytical psychology, scientist, and prolific writer among other things, knew a thing or two about human feelings and motivations. He said:

“Loneliness does not come from having no people around you, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to you.”

In other words: loneliness isn’t so much—or necessarily, at least— about the who but about the what… With the what being what’s important to you, for starters, and then for purposes of not feeling lonely, being able to communicate that what.

So, my dear, what’s important to you? Do you know? Do you even know where to look? No worries if you don’t. We all start somewhere, and loneliness is certainly as good a place as any to start on the journey of getting to know the one person you are guaranteed to fall asleep and wake up with, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do you part!

Now, depending on where you are on this journey of knowing you, what I just said may make you gulp or roll up your sleeves or jump up and down excitedly. That’s OK. Any of those? Totally OK.

How can you listen for and put yourself in the frame of mind-heart to hear at very least the stirrings of what’s important to you today? And once you hear something, is there a way you can express, even if just one tiny part of whatever it is that stirs you? (I talked about some possibilities for how to do that a few days ago here).

Art by Leah Piken Kolidas

Dreams are one of my favorite ways to listen for important, just under conscious surface, things in me. When I write down my dreams, especially the ones that wake me up in the night or the ones that stay with me upon waking in the morning, it is my way of practicing being curious and turning toward what is important.

Dreams speak in the language of images and metaphor, which is why sometimes (actually, quite often!) they can seem very odd. And often it’s the disturbing dreams that catch our attention. “I had a bad dream last night,” you might find yourself thinking or saying in the morning. But if you turn toward the dream, no matter how seemingly odd or bad (even or especially if it feels like a nightmare!) with curiosity and a wanting to have it open up for you, you might be surprised by what treasures you find.

I’m not talking about dream interpretation here, not per se. But rather an openness and curiosity toward whatever your dream has brought to you.

Years ago —around 20, actually!— I read a little book by Gene Gendlin called “Let Your Body Interpret Your Dreams.” It was the book that first introduced me to Focusing, which is a wonderful and very learnable process of listening to and getting to know ourselves. Incidentally, I count Focusing to be among the 2 or 3 things that most has helped me come into kind relationship with myself over the last 20 or so years (after waking up from a failed attempt to check out of life). Changes in my life have not happened overnight, so to speak, but a lot of them DID happen, and certainly started happening, in the night and in my dreams.

Just last night I had the strangest dream. And this here is me showing you how I turn toward whatever it might be bringing me…

First I relay it. Usually this happens by me writing it down. Sometimes I tell it to my husband or to my Focusing companion, with whom I meet once a week, but not always. Even just writing it down for myself counts.

In my dream I’m visiting a hospital like McLean Hospital. In my dream I’m going there for business, though not exactly business, and also not exactly personal affairs either, though of course I have feelings about these kinds of hospitals, having been in a psych hospital when I was just 18. And again 26. Anyway, in my dream I go round the bend to the entrance, which is in the back of the hospital rather than right on the street, and I am met with a very very steep and paved driveway. Incredibly steep. Steep like I don’t know however one would ever go down it, let alone climb it to leave! But I do. Somehow I manage to get to the door and in. The place is welcoming and organized. People who know what they are doing work there and they are neither cagey nor secretive, nor overly solicitous: just straight up decent, smart and doing their jobs well. Someone is showing me around. Then, in the next part, a girl-young woman —not a baby but neither a fully grown woman— wants me to pick her up. And so I do. She gets in my arms and falls asleep there. She is so close to me, right up against me with her head nuzzled into the crook of my neck, and I notice how much comfort and how comfortable and how comforting it is for both of us. She was in this hospital, this girl-woman-baby, and when I arrived she jumped into my arms. A woman who works there keeps showing us around, leading us down maze-like hallways and into and out of offices and rooms here and there and everywhere. The last room we enter in this dream, after which I wake up, has a huge window overlooking a wide and shimmering ocean.

That’s it. That’s my dream. And this is how I get curious about the dream, open toward understanding what it’s showing me as important right now in my life, open to hearing what help it might have for whatever is challenging or “up” for me these days. (For dreams always bring help, always, even if they are just showing us something we otherwise don’t see).

So the hospital in the dream is not unlike the psych hospitals I found myself in when I was 18. And 26. At which time I really was rather alone, literally, and, oh god, lonely as hell. I didn’t have myself, and certainly didn’t know what was important to me (other than finding the next sweet food to binge on!). And I didn’t have much in the way of family or other people.

OK. There is that. That feels resonant. The kind of hospital in my dreams is familiar to me.

But… the one in my dreams is also different! I am arriving to visit it, not to stay in it. I am there on business, though my interest is also personal.

Could this be about the work I do with clients? And the work I am doing much more of now as I focus on helping people with anxiety and depression?

Yes, maybe. Certainly not no, but not quite a full hit of YES. Let me stay with it… What else… What happens next?

There’s that girl-woman who gets in my arms and whom I end up walking around holding while the good people who work there show me around. Ah… that bit, I remember now when I was writing it, that bit choked me up: not a baby and not a woman. Something like me when I was 18. And 26. Feeling so lost and alone in the world. Excruciatingly lonely. A lot like that. And, at the time, in that kind of hospital. Yes. But the part specifically that made me cry is the bit where that girl-woman trusts me so much. And how much comfort and comforting there is when she is in my arms.

There it is. The nugget. The important bit. The bit I wanted to tell. There it is. She is me-then. She is me-then who is still, often, with me now. And at different points in my life I’ve had such shame about her. And I’ve tried to pretend her away. Or hide her, certainly. But not in this dream. I am walking around holding her, holding me, close. And, goodness gracious, could it be? Even telling you my dream about it, about me.

So, my friend, my client, my dear, what’s important to you today? When you turn toward yourself with curiosity, what do you find?

See if you can make room for whatever, for whoever is there. EVEN if (and maybe especially if) what you find is a part of you that’s afraid to look. Because that is often the case when we start turning toward rather than away from ourselves.

Go gently, go kindly, and go ever so curiously. It’s SO worth it! ❤️ Happy Valentines Day, love.

Lastly, I leave you with this poem by Derek Walcott:

Love After Love

The time will come
When, with elation,
You will greet yourself arriving
At your own door, in your own mirror,
And each will smile at the other’s welcome,

And say, sit here, Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
To itself, to the stranger who has loved you

All your life, whom you ignored
For another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

The photographs, the desperate notes,
Peel your image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.


 

Featured artists: Leah Piken Kolidas and Emba

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The Art and Act of Listening to Your Body

The Art and Act of Listening to Your Body

“Take your broken heart, make it into art.” Carrie Fisher said that. And my friend Leah Piken Kolidas painted that gorgeous image of woman cradling the world in her arms.

And I just love it!

By Leah Piken Kolidas in response to Carrie Fisher’s words “Take your broken heart, make it into art.”

The act of making art or in some way giving expression to heartbreak means that the whole thing about that ache won’t have to come out sideways.

Come out sideways?

Yes. “Coming out sideways” is the expression I use to describe what happens when things that want and need expression don’t get acknowledgment or direct expression. And then because they still are needing acknowledgment and expression they end up coming out indirectly, often in unpleasant and painful ways. Or in reactive ways that we later regret. Either way —bottled up or hidden away inside, or reactive outwardly— painful.

Like when you’re angry but you have a thing about anger (like, for example, you don’t think it’s kind to express anger) so then instead of having a conversation in which you acknowledge your anger and talk about the situation that brought it about you end up just sucking it up and smiling but inside yourself, or with other people, you’re all ohmygod…grrrrrrr! And then one day, or maybe even just 5 minutes later, you snap or say something snarky, which then you might quickly follow it up with a “just kidding!” That’s an example of anger coming out sideways.

Like knots and tension in your body. Oftentimes that kink in your neck has little, maybe even nothing, to do with your pillow. And all to do with some heartache, grief or some hard or confusing thing that doesn’t otherwise have expression or resolution. Knots and patterns of tension in your body can be examples of something coming out sideways.

Like reactivity. Like when you bite your sweetie’s head off, or yell at your kid, or flip the guy in traffic the finger… Reactivity and irritability, be it toward people dear to you or strangers in traffic, are examples of things coming out sideways.

So, what about you? Is there something eating at you, something waking you up in the middle of the night, some disappointment that feels too hard to carry, or some something that seems too complicated, or maybe even impossible, to put into words?

Making your broken heart into art

“But I’m not an artist like Leah!” you might be saying.

To which I say, “No matter!”And also, “Says who?” And also, “Can you really know that?!”

Making art out of heartbreak or grief or sadness or anger, can happen in so many ways! (And if the word “artist” throws you or makes you want to argue about whether or not you are, then think of it as in some way giving outward expression to what’s inside.)

Paints, pencils, crayons… Yes.

Poetry, prose, or just a free-write in your journal… Yes.

A song in the shower? Yes.

Moving to the sound of a song that says it so well for you? Yes.

Telling the thing to a friend or therapist? Yes.

Asking your dreams to help you before you fall asleep and then writing them down first thing in the morning? Yes.

The possibilities for expression are endless. And they can be private (you don’t have to show the world, unless you want to, of course!). The important part, the part that will offer you and your body all the benefit, lies in the act of expression.

All for today. Onward, dear reader. Best wishes to you in making your art and expressing things so they don’t have to come out sideways.

xo

Heidi

P.S. More of Leah’s art can be found at https://www.facebook.com/art.by.Leah.Piken.Kolidas/

[Post edited on 13 Feb. 2017]

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12+ Ways to Calm Down (when upset, overwhelmed and stressed out)

Sometimes it all seems like too much. Whether this happens to you once in a while or almost every day at some point, it can be very helpful to have some  ways to calm yourself down. Here are some suggestions…

 

1.     Take 10 slow, deep breaths. Allow those breaths to reach all the way down into your gut (diaphragm) area. Put your hand right there –that place that if someone were to punch you they’d knock the wind out of you— and feel your hand rise with every inhale, and fall with every exhale. Do that for 10 breaths.

2.     Invite your thoughts to hitch a ride on your breathing, as if your breathing were a wave, or a train, or a car, or an [insert your favorite thing that moves that you can hitch a ride on]. Give your thoughts a place to rest, a place to put their feet up, and enjoy the ride.

3.     Notice your thoughts AS thoughts rather than hooking into or engaging their content and story and following them unconsciously down that same old same old rabbit hole again. That worry about ___? Hello, Thought. That urgent push to do something about ___ right this very second now? And hello to you, too, Thought. That regret about how you didn’t ____? Ah, there there, dear Thought. That looming and quickly approaching deadline for ___? I see you, Thought. If ___ really is something you need to address, it (and you!) will be much better off for you having calmed yourself down.

4.     Don’t take your thoughts personally. Did you make that thought cross your mind? No. Neither can you make that thought disappear. Thoughts come, thoughts go. Don’t take them personally. Notice them as thoughts. Let them come and let them go. If you have trouble not taking them personally, imagine your thoughts running around in a big field somewhere. My thoughts, when I do this, look like wild horses. They can run around but I don’t have to run around in the field with them. I like to sit on that bench there under the big tree while they do their thing, thankyouverymuch.

5.    When there is a thought or a family of thoughts that has got you by the throat and is not letting you sleep or breathe or enjoy your otherwise good life, dammit!, write the stressful thought down on paper and practice meeting it with inquiry and understanding. “My boss is a jerk.” “My child should get off her iPad.” “He doesn’t understand me.” “My children should call me.” “It’s too late.” “If I don’t have a child, my life has no purpose.” What’s your stressful thought? Write it down. (My favorite way to practice inquiry on stressful thoughts is called The Work of Byron Katie. Google it!)

6.     Close your eyes, breathe and take a moment to notice where in your body you sense or feel the upset. Is it heavy in your chest? Is it a lump in your gut? Is it thick in your throat? Is it fuzzy behind your eyes? Is it a pressure in your temples? Put your hand there and say, in your own way, I see you there, I see you. And breathe.

7.     Feel the support of the ground under you. During overwhelm and upset it can feel like our mind is a kite on a flimsy thread in a windstorm. Rather than being that precarious kite, turn your awareness toward the ground under the feet of the person holding the kite. Stand or sit tall and strong like a mountain and breathe into that ground. The ground never went away, you just forgot it was there. Let the ground support you.

8.     Notice the pull of gravity. As long as we live upon and call this dear planet Earth our home, we get to enjoy the force of gravity that keeps us from floating up up and away. The force of gravity is such a part of our reality, we GET to take it for granted. Take a moment to appreciate that there is always this force pulling you back to earth, back to home, back to ground, back to body. The pull of gravity toward ground is with you whether you notice it or not (whew!) — calm comes in noticing it.

9.     Practice being sensual. Turn your awareness toward your physical body. Take a moment to touch, to swallow, to yawn, to smell, to taste, to hear…and notice. Our senses are something else we get to take for granted. Take a moment to notice the world through your body’s senses and allow your thoughts to come and rest in your body.

10.     Let your body work up a sweat doing something physical. Allow the muscle of your heart to pump up its volume while you work it for 20 minutes. Maybe you’ll dork dance in the kitchen, maybe you’ll walk around the block several times, maybe you’ll run, maybe you’ll bike to the store instead of driving, maybe you’ll put on your favorite music and jump up and down… Work up a sweat, shake up the thoughts and let the ones that no longer serve (if ever they did) float away. Thought? What thought?!

11.  Practice the art of not being impressed by your thoughts. Sometimes a very juicy thought comes along, a thought that is really hard not to lasso in and call your very own. Practice the art of noticing and not being impressed by your thoughts, no matter how juicy or enticing. That thought about that same old thing that always bothers you? Hello there. No biggie.

12.  Bring to mind the calmest and most loving person, place or thing you know. Allow yourself, in your mind’s eye, to sit in this person’s, place’s, or thing’s presence with your upset. What are the qualities of this calm person, place or thing? Go there, be there, rest there. How are they (how is it) with your upset? By imagining it, you are practicing it.

I’m about to tell you something very secret: there is an old-timey village in the mountains that I sometimes go to in my mind’s eye when I’m very upset and it all feels too much. In this village there is a group of wise old women — their laps are wide, they have chin hairs and don’t care, their eyes are fierce and ever so kind at once, and they have all the patience and wisdom (from eons of experience) in the world. They are never in a hurry. Sometimes they do a drumming and dancing ritual around me, sometimes they go off and concoct or cook me a magical brothy thing or potion for what ails me, sometimes they chant sounds in an ancient language to put me to sleep, and sometimes they hold me while I cry. They see me; they honor me; and they are never, ever upset by my upset.

13.    Practice the tenderest kindness imaginable toward yourself today and give that kindness a physical expression. Maybe you’ll put your hand on your heart or reach your arms around you and squeeze the remarkable being that is you. Notice you. Even and especially when you are at your most upset, anxious and stressed, take a moment to notice how you are showing up and doing the best you can. Hooray! I, for one, am so happy there are people like YOU in the world.

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