Often clients seek support because they are at a crossroad, not sure what next steps to take. The situation may have to do with career or relationships, making a move or center more on identity.
No matter what the issue, big decisions and transitions can feel daunting and one of my favorite things to talk about with clients is growing our ability to trust ourselves when challenges like these arise. That’s because I really do believe we already have the answers we seek, though sometimes we have difficulty accessing them or even trusting ourselves in the process. Sometimes this is because we’ve received messages that reinforce self-doubt and other times its simply that we’re so busy with the buzz of daily living that we aren’t able to hear the part of ourself that knows. Really knows.
So if you’re struggling to make a decision or looking for guidance, this process is for you. Let’s tap in to our creativity and see what comes through.
Time Commitment: 2 hours over two days +/-
Materials: Pen and unlined 8x11 paper | Mixed Media Paper and Favorite Art Medium (watercolor, pens, pastels, collage materials etc) |
Step 1: Listen – First things first. You’ll need a quiet space and dedicated time to sit with yourself, by yourself. I suggest turning off all electronics and letting anyone you may live with know that you’ll need about an hour of undisturbed time. Make sure you’re in comfortable clothing and your paper and pen are near by. Whatever question you are sitting with, write it down and put the paper aside. If it feels appropriate, say a prayer for guidance or an intention for your process. Then, when you’re ready, sit or lay down in a way that supports relaxation. Focus first on the sensations in your body without judgment. This is a nice way to begin grounding in the present moment. When you’re ready, then turn your attention to your mind and imagine a blank movie screen. Each person may see this differently – color, shape, size and so on. Focus your attention here and notice what images, thoughts, feelings arise. You can continue the first step until you feel complete. If you feel it helpful, you may jot down some notes from your experience.
Step 2: Channel – When you are ready you can move to a seated position and give yourself time to write on the paper you have near. On this paper you are welcome to free write, though I suggest you do it in letter form. You’re writing a letter to yourself channeling whatever wisdom you accessed during meditation. The goal here is not to push or strive, but to allow. See what comes forth with curiosity. Because we tend to have our defenses up, I would encourage you to write without censoring yourself for 3 to 5 pages and see what wisdom surfaces. When you’re complete, read through your words. Are there any nuggets of wisdom that resonate? Did any metaphors come forward. What message did they have for you? Often messages are not straightforward, but more so coded in metaphor! As an example, perhaps your mind wandered to an image of a lion and your question was about moving across country. What qualities do you associate with a lion? What feelings arose when you saw the image?
Take a break here. Give yourself a day or two to metabolize what you’ve experienced and written.
Then move to Step 3: Create – Now, break out your art supplies and create a visual representation of whatever wisdom you received. You may use images or words for this. Some of the most effective pieces are simple phrases that concretize the wisdom we’ve received. Some people choose to make ‘word art’ while others make collages or drawings. This phase is about creating a visual representation of the wisdom we just downloaded. Make sure to place your artwork somewhere you can see it as a reminder that you are the holder of your own wisdom.
Step 4: Honor – Lastly, we move in to honoring the messages we received by taking action. What is the call to action? If you’re not sure, think back to the original question. While there’s not always a linear link between the two there is always a connection and there is much room for interpretation.
Here’s an example: Let’s say you were wondering if you should leave your job and the image you received in your meditation was a resting lion, which you interpreted as tempered courage. Perhaps then the honoring of the message is to practice stepping out of your comfort zone daily in preparation for the bigger move of leaving the job?
What do you think?
Let us know and leave comments and questions below or reach out directly to learn more about my work with women and girls wanting to live their best authentic lives!
Till next time, wishing you health & ease,
You’re pretty sure you’re supposed to be excited these days, right? Here in the Bay Area Spring has sprung and businesses and schools are openings. Social restrictions are easing and vaccinations are finally happening. So why then do you feel overwhelmed or on-edge when you hear someone talk about post-quarantine life, like you’ve got some version of the Sunday Scaries?
Well, first let me say: You’re not the only one. Not by a long shot. While folks may not be talking publicly about post-quarantine anxiety, many are experiencing it. It’s also common to experience a mix of anxiety and excitement, craving connection and feeling fearful at the same time. It makes absolute sense when you look a the context.
We've been living in social isolation for the better part of a year, but you knew that. The rest of the recap includes: a fire season fueled by climate change as well as rolling blackouts. All this, against a backdrop of political unrest and much needed social revolution. It’s been a year in which we navigated ongoing grief, loss and trauma, so much so that it became the norm and now our nervous systems may be on high alert. That’s the big picture.
On a micro level, many folks have been and continue to contemplate weighty questions about their personal lives – their relationships, communities, professions, purposes and so on. When all is said and done, folks are wondering what they’re going back to a/o what they’d like to build.
Truly, it’s a lot and it’s important to go at your own pace. It’s okay to go slow. Go fast. Dive in. Back up. Hideout. And try again. Trust yourself and your process. This transition is no small thing and it’s definitely not a race.
If you’re finding yourself overwhelmed or on edge, here are three strategies to start working with post-quarantine anxiety and stress.
Check your Narrative – Humans are storytelling creatures by nature and we’re always creating narratives to better understand our experience. These stories have power and if you find yourself going down the rabbit hole of worst case scenarios, it’s likely you’ll feel an increase in anxiety. The good news is we can re-write those narratives or expand them to include more possibility. Here’s an example: “There’s going to be pressure to attend social gathering and my friends are going to get mad at me because I don’t feel comfortable.” Vs “Restrictions are easing and I can go at my own pace. My friends will understand. ” If you’re interested in learning more about shaping narratives check out my blog post on just that topic here.
Set Your Boundaries – Here, I’m referring specifically to setting boundaries around information intake whether through media or conversation. Start by being mindful of how much information about the pandemic is actually useful to you and at what point you begin to feel physical or emotional signs of anxiety. This may look like worrisome thoughts, tense shoulders or increased heart rate – as examples. Your boundary should come BEFORE you experience these symptoms. What would it be like for you to set and follow this boundary?
Express Your Feelings Creatively – Symptoms of anxiety, stress and trauma only gain power when keep them in. One way to metabolize your feelings is by expressing them creatively through art or writing. Give it a try! The idea here is to remove any censor and let yourself play with words, images, color, texture etc. You don’t need to create a pretty picture or perfect poem. This is for your eyes only. If you’re seeking prompts for your creative expression, join me on Instagram where I post expressive arts prompts every Thursday.
Before I sign off here, I’ll add that if you feel you could benefit from additional support, please reach out to a professional. In my practice, I specialize in supporting powerhouse women and girls in California, who struggle with anxiety, stress and trauma. Ya’ll know who you are, always thinking you need to get by on your own, but it doesn’t have to be that way! Having someone in your corner that gets you can make all the difference, especially during such an epic transition.
To learn more about my work and approach you can visit here or message me directly. If you're interested in learning more about psychotherapy and clinicians in your area, you may want to check out the Inclusive Therapy Directory, as well as Therapy Den.
Till next time, wishing you health & ease,
Most of us have experienced a dose of toxic positivity at one time or another. It tends to happen in the most vulnerable moments when we're feeling down or worried, reach out to a friend or family member for comfort and instead get a message like this: think positive or it could be worse.
If you find experiences like these disheartening, you're not alone. While the person telling you chin-up usually means well, the result can be jarring. It's also possible that the person doling out the advice just isn't comfortable with harder emotions and so their forced silver-lining-attitude is really an attempt at prioritizing their own feelings over your experience.
In truth, pushing someone to think positively when they are feeling anything but, invalidates their experience. At best it can feel tone deaf and at worst it is a form of gas lighting leaving the person receiving the feedback doubting their own experience.
A common scenario these days is based on feelings related to the pandemic. I'll often hear clients recount stories of sharing their grief or anxiety with someone and being received with "at least you're healthy" or "at least you have a job."
In session, I support clients to unpack their experience more thoroughly, as well as relationship dynamics, but for the purposes of this post I'll say that yes, it may be true that someone is healthy and employed and there is plenty of room for gratitude there. At the same time, it may also be true that they are struggling with isolation, grief and worry about so many other aspects of the pandemic. Both can be true and one experience does not nullify the other.
So, what to do when faced with the toxicity? Well, first recognize it for what it is.
Pain, anger, sadness, grief, worry and the like are all part of the human experience. It is normal and healthy to experience these feelings. Please know that.
After noting the dynamic that's taking shape you have the option of either naming it to the other person and making a request OR you can remove yourself from the situation if that feels better to you. The priority is to tend to your emotional injury.
Next, consider seeking healthy support from a source you know to be emotionally safe - whether a family member, community leader or psychotherapist. Reparative experience (i.e. someone who listens, validates and attunes to you) is essential in the emotional healing process.
If you’re need of support please feel free to reach out here! And to learn more about my approach to supporting women and girls you can visit my Web site here.
Till next time wishing you health & ease,
I must be a mermaid ... I have no fear of depths and a great fear of shallow living - Anais Nin
If you're reading this, I imagine you're someone who is drawn to the mysteries of life, just as you are the depths of your own inner world. You're a seeker of sorts. I get that. Me too.
Maybe you dabble with tarot cards or oracle decks, jot down your dreams intrigued by their messages, or spend time in nature attuning to the world around you. Maybe you meditate or maybe you pray to someone or no one in particular. Still, you've been longing for a more formal container to apply these practices to your own healing and personal growth. This is where PsychoSpiritual Counseling comes in - my version, at least.
Wait, that's a real thing?
While many approaches to therapy integrate spirituality or existential issues into the work, PsychoSpiritual Counseling in my practice focuses on and is rooted in matters of the spirit, developed specifically to support women as they delve deep and cultivate the kind of personal insight and power that helps them change their lives and ultimately, the world they live in.
This approach dovetails beautifully with Feminist Therapy which positions the client as the expert on her own experience, and with Expressive Arts Therapy which emphasizes 'other ways of knowing' and accessing our own inner wisdom through creative process.
So, what does this all look like in practice? Good question. It really depends on you.
Let's say, for example, you're a client struggling with trusting yourself and your decision-making process. We may look toward practices such as tarot cards to help you access your own inner knowing or connect with whatever higher power you feel akin to (if you do). In a situation like this, we may also pay closer attention to your dreams and utilize guided imagery to re-enter those dreams in a wakeful state to gain additional insight.
Maybe the insight is just what you're looking for and we stop there, but if you're someone who is action-oriented, we can go the extra step and discuss concrete strategies (i.e. therapy homework) to integrate the guidance you've accessed into your daily life. We'll take wisdom to pragmatic action.
I want to pause here before continuing just to make clear that the PsychoSpiritual Counseling I offer is based in therapeutic principles and ethics, it is not about me telling you what will happen, what to do or how to do it. If that's what you're seeking, there are absolutely folks out there who provide those services. Ultimately, I am here as a psychotherapist and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist to support you in accessing your own answers, which I truly believe you have.
So, here are some hints that PsychoSpiritual Counseling may be right for you:
- You find yourself feeling energetically drained and want to learn new ways to take care of yourself.
- You want to develop a stronger level of intuition.
- You feel drawn to a more spiritually-connected life, but are unsure how to move forward with that desire.
- You were raised in a specific religious/spiritual tradition and you are now questioning that path. Maybe you're questioning everything.
- You feel stuck in grief and loss and need to process on a deeper level.
- You struggle with symptoms of anxiety and trauma, and want to reclaim a sense of personal power.
- You're just plain curious.
If you're interested in learning more about my PsychoSpiritual offerings, please check here or reach out here. I'd love to talk with you!
Till next time, wishing you health & ease,
I don't know about you, but I'm late to the planning party this year.
Normally by February, I've engaged in my visioning process for the upcoming year and am on my way to moving toward my goals. This year, however, not so much.
Like so many other folks, 2020 left me feeling deflated and at times just plain stuck. So I've been easing my way into this new year, tending to those feelings with radical self-compassion, while also wrapping my mind around how to set meaningful goals in such uncertain times.
What I've come to is that to make plans, to set goals or intentions or pursue dreams right now, it requires a heightened degree of creativity, flexibility and openness in how these goals are met, as well as how quickly. But that doesn't mean we can't begin moving toward them. In fact, by navigating the process in a more fluid way, we are opening ourselves to opportunity instead of focusing on limiting factors. This is what is often referred to as "growth mindset."
So where to begin? Well, one of the exercises I regularly offer clients (and that I engage in myself), is that of daydreaming. I mean it! Despite what we may have been told as kids, daydreaming is valuable.
One way to engage in this practice is to set aside some quiet time in a comfy space. Ask yourself, what do you want your ideal day or month or year to look like? Shut your eyes and let your imagination do its thing. How do you feel? What spaces are you in? How do you fill your days? What colors, smells, textures, symbols or literal images come to mind?
Another way to begin is by utilizing tarot cards to access your intuition in this planning process. Before shuffling the cards, ask yourself : What is the highest wisdom available to me for the coming year? Note your response to the cards, your own associations and if it feels appropriate you can research the traditional meanings. If tarot is new to you, feel free to check out my blog post about therapeutic tarot.
From here, I suggest externalizing what you envisioned either through writing in detail or creating a visual representation - a drawing, vision board or sculpture are all possibilities. Lately, I've been encouraging clients to utilize Pinterest to make vision boards if they want a more portable vision board to glance at.
Once you've got the vision, the goal setting becomes easier and more fun! For instance, if what you want is to feel energized, take a moment to list out a few enjoyable actions you can take to help cultivate that feeling. If what you want is to travel (and physically that is not possible at the moment), perhaps you are actively putting aside funds to be prepared for when you are able or you're learning a new language or reading about cultures and taking virtual tours.
I will add here that no matter what your goal or intention, it is very helpful to schedule in your action items so your calendar is reflecting the life you're intending to cultivate. Even if it's just a half hour here and 20 minutes there, scheduling activities and tasks that are meaningful to us help create a feeling of living on purpose, with purpose.
As poet Mary Oliver wrote, "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"
I really do want to know.
Till next time, wishing you health & ease,
Even before COVID, one of the most common experiences I would hear from clients was one of wanting, craving connection. Sometimes the context was romantic partnership, but just as often it was about cultivating more meaningful friendships or intentional community as an adult woman. This sentiment was and is typically followed with how challenging the process can be with full schedules, physical distance and now social distancing.
I hear it. As we change and grow over time, it makes sense that there may be shifting in our social landscapes, and things can often feel sparse before they blossom again. But I’ll offer that the logistical challenges that come with developing new relationships in adulthood may also be a gift or an invitation to take pause and get clear on what types of relationships we actually want in our lives. It’s then that we can move forward intentionally, mindfully.
Interestingly, when I ask folks to envision who they would want to share their time with they often name character traits of others they view as compatible, sometimes even careers those people may have. This isn't a "bad" strategy per se, but it may be limiting. If ever there was a time to rely on intuition and emotional intelligence, this would be it … when we’re seeking our people, yes?
So what if instead of making lists of character traits, we took the time to consider how we’d like to feel in our relationships?
Examples: I want to feel heard, I want to feel received, I want to feel joyful and at ease, I want to feel accepted as my full self.
And what if instead of seeking folks with similar career paths, we again pause to take inventory of our values and seek out others who might share them. Examples: I value self-inquiry, I value humor and goofiness, I value social equity. I value creativity.
It's a different approach than many of us are used to, I know. But by tapping into our emotional needs this way, we are more able to bypass preconceived ideas of who might actually add to our lives and vice versa. We're able to feel our way in to relationships and be curious. Do I feel expansive and giving when I'm spending time with someone? Or do I feel guarded and shutdown? Do I feel energized and resourced? Or do I feel drained from giving with little reciprocity?
There's a lot of information to be had by paying attention in this way. And from a more informed place, we're able to ask important questions of ourselves and make healthier decisions. Is this a relationship I want to pursue? Is there a disconnect and is it something I want to address and work on? Or is this a deal breaker?
As poet, Rainer Maria Rilke wrote, live the questions.
I'll wrap up here by noting that if the concept of 'trusting your gut' feels scary or foreign, you're not alone in that. Reasons ranging from relational trauma to cultural conditioning can attribute to a basic mistrust of our feelings and intuition, especially when it comes to relationships. The result can look like numbing out or even explaining away our feelings.
Seeking out support through psychotherapy, coaching and/or group work may feel nourishing and helpful in the process. If you're interested in learning more about how I work with women and girls around this very topic, please feel free to reach out. I'd love to hear from you.
Till next time, wishing you health & ease,
I'm entering the new year with relationships on my mind. Not one type in particular, mind you, but all the connections we value in our lives ....
As human beings, we're social animals. Arguably, even the most introverted among us seek connection, communication and intimacy. It's innate. So here we are going in to year two of an unyielding pandemic wherein social distancing and isolation are still the name of the game. Here in the Bay Area, we're navigating our second stay-at-home order in roughly nine months in effort to stay physically safe, but emotionally it's taking a toll.
It's an f'd-up situation; I'm right here with you on this. There's no way around that.
And still for those of us who may feel called or just curious, this time may also be an opportunity to pivot, slow down, and get back to nourishing the connections we hold dear, and perhaps make some new ones ... physically-distanced, of course.
What follows are five practices that come to mind when I think of developing and nourishing connection. I'm sharing them here as a framework, but also want to encourage you to reflect on qualities/behaviors/actions you value in your relationships.
This is helpful to keep in mind when you reflect on how you're showing up in relationships, but also in determining whether relationships are nourishing for you as well. Next week's blog post will be on that very subject!
Meanwhile, I'll invite you to join me in holding the hope that while we have a ways to go, this year has the potential for some long overdue healing and change. And what a powerful way to honor that intention, by tending to our relationships near and far.
Till Next Time, Wishing you Health & Ease,
Five Practices to Nourish & Sustain Relationships
1) Authentic Presence - This means showing up fully as you are and sharing your wholeness with others. This also means noting if you feel safe and comfortable enough to do so.
2) Attentive Listening - The key here is staying quiet long enough to let the other person speak their truth. So many of us are out of practice with this simple act because we are eager to share our own experiences, wisdom or ask questions. There's a time for all of that, but the invitation here is to practice sitting in silence and paying full attention to what the other person is sharing. Letting other people feel heard is a serious gift.
3) Empathy - Ah, the term empathy gets tossed around in pop culture quite a bit. Ultimately, it's the practice of understanding and being with the feelings of another. For some people this comes naturally and for other people, it takes practice. Here's a beautiful short by author and social worker, Brenè Brown about empathy. I'll also add here that empathy is not just for hard times. It's also important in sharing joy, successes and so on with people you care about.
4) Gratitude & Appreciation - This is a simple practice and often overlooked, but sharing how you appreciate someone or are grateful for them helps nurture connection. This is different than thanking someone for running an errand, though also important. The focus here is more on acknowledging strengths or gifts you you see in another person. The practice can be powerful.
5). Action & Service - Number 5 focuses on your action in relationship. Are you consistent? Do you come through when you say you're going to do something? Do you own it when you aren't able to? Do you acknowledge the impact of your own actions, even when you didn't mean to hurt someone? In turn, asking another person who is struggling: What do you need? How can I help? Is a way to demonstrate service in a relationship.
Human beings are a storytelling bunch. It's how we make sense of ourselves and the world around us. But have you ever stopped to think about which narratives we tell and why?
If you answered no, that's to be expected. Most of us have moved through life on auto pilot not really thinking about the messages we're given -- the narratives handed down through family lines, history class, media and so on. And then there are the stories we've subsequently been spinning. Sometimes those narratives are about us, our relationships or the world at large. Sometimes those narratives are unconscious and other times they are so loud they just repeat over and over again in our minds. But if ever there was a time to pause and unpack the narratives of our times, it's now.
Here's an example: A couple of weeks ago, here in the San Francisco Bay Area we woke up to dark orange skies due to the epic number of climate-induced wildfires in our area. I'm not going to pretend that it wasn't unsettling, it truly was. But what was even more unsettling than the scene itself were the number of headlines that made reference to 'the apocalypse' or 'end of days'. Social media followed suit. Or maybe it was the other way around.
Either way, most people I talked to that day - clients, neighbors, friends, family - were making similar references. And with that narrative came a sort of hopelessness. Not the kind that passes quickly, but the kind that's insidious, paralyzing.
It wasn't until a few days later that I saw other folks on social media elevating alternative narratives. Below is an image that was circulating on IG and Facebook. Unfortunately, I don't have the information to appropriately credit it here.
But what a change in perspective, yes?
Exploring stories is a big part of the work I do with clients. This practice shows up in numerous psychotherapy approaches, but most notably Narrative Therapy which is considered a postmodern approach. That means it's rooted in the premise that reality is subjective. What I love about this work is that we are encouraged to unpack the stories we've held and author our own experiences.
This isn't just the case for big events like, let's say living through a pandemic or catastrophic wildfires. It's also a powerful tool for every day life and sometimes is as simple as word choice. Notice the difference in stories here:
"I am stuck at home." vs "I am safe at home."
How does your experience shift reading each statement? Perhaps both feel true to you and your experience becomes more nuanced.
An easy way to begin exploring this concept is is to take a few minutes at the end of the day and ask yourself: How was my day? Be mindful in your response. Notice what events get privileged and given more weight. Notice which events fall to the waste side.
I encourage you to experiment, be curious. In a time when we have such little control over external events, we do have autonomy to choose the stories we tell ourselves and others.
Till Next Time, Wishing you Health & Ease,
Today let's talk about altars because, whew, can they be helpful in hard times!
As I've written in previous posts, I'm not one to shy away away from out-of-the-box interventions in my work with clients. Altar-making is included in that, both a psycho-spiritual intervention, as well as an expressive arts practice. It's rooted in the use of metaphor, imagination and ritual, but the use of altars can also be coupled with cognitive behavioral therapy or any evidence-based practice that helps clients shift behavior and thought patterns.
While we always use the client's goal to guide us, the use of altars is commonly used to support clients in creating sacred space within their home or office. The space can be used to 'get grounded,' meditate, pray, set intentions or just be - and who doesn't need a place for that these days?
Also, I want to mention that altars are used across cultures to honor those who have passed on. This year , 2020, has certainly brought collective loss to the forefront. Those of us on the West Coast are not only grieving the losses brought on by COVID, but also the epic wildfires induced by climate change. Altars can help externalize and hold the grief and loss we feel.
There is no right or wrong way to make an altar, though certain cultures a/o religions have specific traditions. Below, I note the importance of not appropriating other traditions, but beyond this baseline of respect, designing an altar space for yourself can be as creative as you like. Some folks make multiple altars for various purposes. Some are elaborate and free standing, while others are made for your wall, erected on bookshelves, or next to your computer. We make what feels right and what is useful.
If you're called to this practice, here are a few questions to ask yourself as you get started:
1. What do I need now? Do I need a place to feel grounded and safe? A place to grieve? A place to visualize what I want to create in my life? A place to focus on hope or gratitude?
2. What objects, colors, scents, sounds, textures represent or meet my need? What inspires me and makes me feel comfort? If I am drawn to a symbol or deity associated with a culture/religion other than my own, do I have explicit permission to work with it?
3. Where should I place my altar and what materials do I need? Do I want it visible to others? Is there a spot that is particularly meaningful?
If you're interested in learning more about about altar-making or other psycho-spiritual and expressive arts practices, please feel free to contact me. Also, please know, every Thursday I use Instagram to share expressive arts prompts, and this week will focus on simple wall altars -- connect with me there!
Till Next Time, Wishing you Health & Ease,