I like to ask my clients how they’d love to feel when they leave their session. In addition to helping us
set an intention wave a magic wand, their answer gives me a sense of how they are doing, what they are struggling with, even if we never ever discuss the specifics of their life, which mostly we don’t. (After all, I am not a psychotherapist).
Sometimes they say: “I want to feel calm like you.”
The first time I heard this I’m quite sure I laughed. I thought: “If you only knew!”
These days I don’t laugh. First off, they are serious. Second, it’s not about me. I know this because I too have people that are to me just what I am to my clients and it is a gift for me to recognize calm when I see it. Calm (or any quality) is in the eye of the beholder. For sure. Third, if I look honestly I see that I am calm and present for my clients. It is, after all, no mistake that I do what I do. Learning calm is probably my biggest life learning.
The last few days have been hard for me. I have not felt calm. At all.
If you read my blog, you probably know that I’m a big fan of “channeling” people.
“Channeling?” you might ask, thinking it’s some special or weird quirky thing I can do.
I can assure you, anyone can do this. (Although for sure, I’m quirky).
What I do is keep a mental list of people I admire for certain qualities. During hard times, or even just when I’ve exhausted options of how to deal with something, I bring them to mind. Some of these people, like, oh, Clint Eastwood to name just one, are on My Inner Council, and that simply means that when things get reeeeally hard, I call an inner meeting to which only the smartest, kindest, and yes, sometimes bad-assest, people are invited and we have us a pow-wow.
Yep. Although we’ve never passed around a pipe and now I’m wondering why the heck not… But pretty much My Inner Council pow-wows consist of me saying straight up how it is and them listening and every so often asking me the best, get-to-the-heart-of-the-matter question ever, during all of which I am pretty much writing everything down. Because, hello! If the Dalai Lama says something to me, you bet your ass I’m writing it down.
Sometimes I have dialogs with these people I channel. Of course, most of them I’ve never actually met. But, no matter. In fact, even better. Because what these people really help me do is see myself and what’s around me, in a new way. They help me recognize and develop existent, yet dormant, qualities within myself. Takes one to know one, and all that.
(And if I ever do meet Cesar Milan, Clint Eastwood, Mary Oliver, the Dalai Lama, Isadora Duncan, Johnny Depp, Hiro Boga, J.K. Rowling, Maya Angelou, or Leonard Cohen, maybe I will thank them. Probably, I will just be dumb-founded. Or drooling.)
This morning, in a moment that “Losing It” was made for, I began to write, wondering whom to channel. And just like that I knew: I need to channel me. Specifically, how I am with my clients:
Sense of humor.
Me: Hi, Heidi. Come in, come in… How are you doing today?
Heidi: [about to burst into tears] Oh, there’s so much. It’s too much. I look at so-and-so and so-and-so and how well they’re doing, and how together their life is and how happy they are… and when things feel like today, my life just looks shitty… There must be something wrong with me.
Me: [nodding] There’s so much happening right now and it’s all seeming like too much–
Heidi: Mostly, it feels way too crowded.
Heidi: My thinking! It’s crowded! Exclamation points! Flashing billboards on the highway kind of crowded in my head. It’s driving me crazy.
Me: Oh yes, I understand. Sounds overwhelming. Tell me… how would you love to feel when you leave your session today? What quality, feeling or state of mind do you need?
Heidi: I’d like a sense that no matter what is going on, no matter what is coming at me, no matter what, I am OK.
Me: Ahh yes, that is a very wise thing to want. Rather than wanting your circumstances to change, you want to feel that you are OK no matter what.
Heidi: Yes. Whether or not the relationship works out, I am OK. Whether or not my loved ones are healthy, I am OK. Whether or not I get all the clients I need this month before the holidays, I am OK. Whether or not I get all the Aardvark Essentials new things I want to put up on my website up or not, I am OK. Whether or not someone I love ever wants to see me again, I am OK. Whether or not I make my rent, I am OK.
Me: Ah yes.
Heidi: You know what that would be like?
Me: Tell me–
Heidi: That would be like the highways in Vermont, where they don’t have any advertisements or billboards or flashy lights, only directional signs indicating what the exit number is, or the town name, or how many miles to the next rest stop…
Me: Ahh yes. So, things right now feel more like the highway in New York or New Jersey, rather than Vermont?
Heidi: Exactly so.
Me: I wonder if you could tell me how you would know you are OK… I mean, OK could come knocking on your door and how would you know that’s who it is… In other words: how would it feel in your body? How would it be in your mind? In your heart?
Heidi: Well, take I-91 in Vermont. My eyes are free to move about slowly or quickly but without getting assaulted or interrupted by lights and noise and information, which is what it feels like inside of me when I’m overwhelmed… it’s like my attention keeps getting assaulted.
Me: Oof! That is hard.
Heidi: It makes everything be on edge.
Me: I can see that. Tell me more about how would you know that you are OK no matter what?
Heidi: [takes big, gentle breath and slows down to ponder... already there is an observable change]… I would walk confidently, knowing the ground holds me. [laughs] I’m not too heavy for the ground. And I would allow gravity to help me move as I need to.
Me: What do you mean?
Heidi: Well, I’d let gravity bring my shoulders down so they’re not hunched up to my ears. Also, my breathing would be longer and calmer. My heart would feel open and soft. I might cry and that’d be OK. Lately I’ve been too stoppered up and uptight and scared and feeling hard and protected to even cry.
Me: Hmmmm… Heidi, I can see that you know exactly how to feel OK no matter what. Even as you were telling me these things I saw them happen.
Heidi: But why do I feel overwhelmed so often?! There must be something wrong with me.
Me: Sweetpea, I want to tell you a secret that’s not really a secret. Most people feel overwhelmed sometimes. And a good many people feel overwhelmed a lot of the time. They might mask it, but they do. And overwhelm can feed on itself and then that makes it stronger… People do things to keep their overwhelm at bay but those things are temporary distractions, at best. Keeping something at bay doesn’t really make it go away. What do you think all that endless checking and texting and refreshing of screens is all about? Most folks don’t even sit down to sip on a hot cup of something without reading or refreshing some screen or another… Do you really think they are enjoying those things when they do them like that? Just look around, love… start noticing… we aren’t bad for doing those things, but I’m telling you this to invite you to notice, and hopefully feel less unique about the overwhelm…
Me: I can tell you really care about taking care of yourself and living with an open heart, Heidi. Could I invite you to consider something?
Me: When you are feeling overwhelmed, like everything is crowded and noisy and too much… is believing “There is something wrong with me” a kind and helpful thing to think?
Heidi: Not really. It actually makes me spin faster, and then, in addition to feeling the crowdedness in my head, I then start trying to figure out how to fix myself, all because I’m panicked that there’s something wrong.
Heidi: But I can’t help it. I just think it. All of a sudden, there is that thought: There’s something wrong with me.
Me: Right. You don’t make the thought happen. It’s not your fault. It’s actually not anyone’s fault. But you can notice it. And once you notice, amazing things can happen.
Heidi: Amazing things? Like feeling calm?
Me: Possibly. We think we have to change things. To fix them. To make them better. But simply noticing and paying attention is the #1 ingredient of kind, non-violent change. And kind, non-violent change is the kind of change that sticks. Change that’s been forced, always tends to backfire.
Heidi: OK, so I notice the thought, and then what?
Me: Well, you could then do many things. One of my favorite is to say hello.
Heidi: Come again?
Me: “Hello there Thought that there is something wrong with me. Funny you should come by today. Things are rather busy, in case you couldn’t tell. Feel free to sit and make yourself comfy in that chair over there, or you can even hang out with me, but you should know that I can’t entertain you. I have a life I’m dying to live and also, I’m learning to stay calm.”
Heidi: Hunh! That’s interesting. So you aren’t trying to kick the thought out?
Me: Nah. Never works. It’ll come back to bite you in the ass, and probably at some ungodly hour when you’re trying to sleep. But you can say hello. You can laugh with it. And you can treat it kindly. Or you can drop it off at your friend’s house for them to keep an eye on while you do your stuff… But, once you notice the thought, you are onto it, baby, and you don’t have to believe it. So, Heidi, how’d it be if the thought “there’s something wrong with me” popped up but you were totally onto it?
Heidi: Hmm…. I think I’d be able to notice my panic and the crowded billboards in my mind more calmly. Hmm… I’d notice panic calmly. Hunh! Is that even possible?
Me: You just saw it in your mind’s eye, didn’t you?
Heidi: Hmmm… Kind of like the medical people and EMTs who come to the scene of an accident… How unhelpful would it be if they arrived and were all: “Oh noes! You’ve broken your arm! Oh noes. What the hell is wrong with you!”
Heidi: Ahhhhh… Thanks, Heidi. I want to be calm like you.
Me: You’re on your way, Sweetpea, you’re on your way. Now, how about that massage?
Heidi: Oh yes. My favorite!