Friday, May 11, 2018

Exploring Identity – Through Writing


by Elizabeth Venart

You are a ruby encased in granite. . . . So come, return to the root of the root of your own soul. – Rumi

Who am I?  There are countless ways to answer that question. We may complete the sentence “I am . . .” by describing our roles, jobs, moods, values, personality traits, behaviors, and relationships. There is also a “me” at the center of all of it: The one who reflects on the question – and goes inward for words to follow the ellipses. Who is this one, the constant observer in the sea of our consciousness?  

Writing provides us with a way to connect with ourselves more completely. As we explore our public and private identities, the overlap and separation, our attention may be drawn to those roles with which we are strongly aligned – and then wander to the questions that linger and yearnings that call. What are our dreams? What haunts us? What motivates us? What hidden passions await? Going within to reflect and write can allow us time to unfold the tucked away papers of our identity and explore the complexity and heart of who we are.

Take out a piece of paper or open up your computer. Answer the question, “I am” over and over again. Maybe 30 times. I am. . . I am. . . . I am. . . . See what you discover. You may surprise yourself to hear from a voice you haven’t heard in some time. Just listen. Write down the shouts – those voices you know well – and also record the whispers – the things that surprise you and may be hard to acknowledge. Stay curious. If you dare, keep writing. Answer “I am . . . . “ 100 times. Be serious or have fun with it – or, better yet, make space for all your beautiful contradictions. Marvel at what comes forward.

Elizabeth Venart is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Certified EMDR Therapist, and EMDRIA-Approved Consultant. She is the Founder and Director of the Resiliency Center. She specializes in working with Highly Sensitive Persons, other therapists, and those who are creative, intuitive, and empathic. She hosts a monthly poetry gathering to read and discuss the writings of Rumi Hafiz, Rilke, Mary Oliver, and inspired writers. To learn more, contact her at 215-233-2002 or Elizabeth@elizabethvenart.com.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Personal Identity Throughout the Lifespan


by Kim Vargas, LCSW
Merriam Webster defines identity as the “sameness of essential or generic character in different instances.”  Basically, identity is the core of who we are, regardless of time or place. Identity encompasses the narrative we tell ourselves about ourselves, and the values we hold dear.
But what happens when our lives or external circumstances change so dramatically that our old sense of who we are no longer seems to fit in our current world? What pieces of identity can be brought with us across life transitions, and what pieces go by the wayside?
I first started to explore these ideas in my work with new moms. There is little more jarring to an identity than to go from life without kids to new parenthood. The competent corporate executive may be in the board room making million dollar decisions one day, and the next day find herself without the knowledge or skill to feed a newborn infant. The personality traits and skill sets that have helped her succeed in the business world often have little or no bearing on success in quieting a screaming infant or potty-training a defiant toddler. New parents may suddenly feel unmoored as individuals. If part of identity is the constancy of personality traits across time and space, these new parents may begin to question who they are when those traits can no longer manifest as they have in the  past.
As I watch various clients go through their own life cycle transitions, it has become increasingly clear that questioning of one’s personal identity is not limited to new parents. Teenagers moving into college seek a grasp on identity as they shift from dependent child to independent young adult. Parents of newly minted adults struggle to redefine self as they let go of the day-to-day oversight of their children. Retirees look for a new understanding of self -- as they move from workers, with the inherent boundaries, restrictions, rules and external validation of a structured job – to a more unstructured existence. And these are just a few of the many life changes that can contribute to feelings of loss or confusion with respect to roles and identity.
Given the universality of these shifts in identity, I have given a great deal of thought as to how these transitions can feel less like a shift in who we are at our core, and more like positive change and growth. Here are a few of my “identity shift guidelines”:
1.     Think about what makes you “you”. Consider this in terms of personality traits that are not specific to your current stage, but rather define the parts of self of which you are most proud. For example, the high school football star who derived a large piece of his identity from his role as a quarterback might learn that the important personality trait isn’t the football skill itself, but instead his extreme perseverance in working toward goals. This perseverance can persist throughout life transitions.

2.     Think about activities that make you feel happiest and most fulfilled. For example, the new mom who loved to be social in her old life may feel like the combination of work and baby have made her disengage from friendships, losing a core piece of self. For this mom, creating a Saturday playgroup or joining a neighborhood bookclub could hit the mark in returning to the social elements of self.

3.     Allow yourself to let go of old behaviors that are no longer functional in your current life stage. Recognize that adopting new behaviors does not spell the end of an old trait.  The man who derived a sense of self from being the “fix-it” guy as a single person may need to find new ways to feel that same sense of competency and satisfaction when family responsibilities no longer allow for spending an afternoon fixing an appliance. But he may be able to take a leadership role in the local PTA and feel competent and able to “fix” something in his new world.

4.     Explore new ways to identify self. Take a class that sounds interesting but may be out of your comfort zone. Take on a new role at work, at school, or as a volunteer that may highlight pieces of self you want to hone or never even knew existed.

5.     Define yourself according to your values, not your accomplishments. Much of who we are derives from how we see ourselves treating others, including the choices we make with respect to allocation of our time and resources.
The good news is that identity is not a solid, stagnant thing, and it is certainly not set in stone. Sometimes it takes trying on some elements of identity for size before you can determine whether (or not) the fit is appropriate.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Rejuvenating Your Body, Mind, and Spirit

by Kristin Fulmer

The month of May is a wonderful time to rejuvenate, revive, and rejoice in the return of enjoyable warmer weather. By May, I usually feel a sense of relief that I made it through the winter months, but also feel a need to shed my ‘winter skin’ in preparation for the hot summer months. 

What better way to transition to summer than to do a ‘spring cleaning’ of our homes, our bodies, and our minds. I encourage you to take advantage of this time of year to do your own springtime flush – to restore your energy and your mental and physical health. Here are a few suggestions for a springtime tune-up, to relax, rejuvenate, and enjoy life!

Spending time outside and exercising improves overall health for a happier, healthier and more alive you. Fresh air, sunlight, and exercise are nature’s best disinfectants, contributing to improved mood, increased energy, melatonin regulation for improved sleep, and heart health benefits. Moderately exposing our skin to sunlight enables our bodies to produce vitamin D, an important hormone-like vitamin that can help ward off depression and stress by aiding the production of the “happy” chemical serotonin.

Gentle detoxification techniques help the body to rid itself of toxins to support the liver, kidney, lymphatic and immune functioning. Try a few of these techniques to recharge and get the ‘winter bugs out’. Take a detox bath, preferable before bed. Sprinkle your bathwater with natural sea salt, baking soda, or seaweed powder and soak for 15 minutes. Do you live near a fresh and clean body of water? Lucky you! Clean natural bodies of water are filled with natural minerals. So, swimming in rivers, lakes, and the sea can be very rejuvenating and detoxifying to our health.  Try dry skin brushing with a natural bristle brush - starting at the soles of your feet, brush your skin with short brush strokes towards your heart. Also, consider a ‘short fast’ to give your digestion a break and jump start your metabolism. A 24-hour fast can be as simple as just consuming water or herbal tea with lemon for one day.

The month of May is also a great opportunity to reevaluate your diet before the hot summer months. In the winter our bodies tend to naturally crave ‘heavier and hearty’ foods, such as meat soups and stews, foods that tend to be more nourishing and healing. However, in the warmer months our bodies may need more of a ‘cleansing diet’ which includes incorporating more vegetables, grains, fruit, and liquids. Also, make sure you are consuming enough water through the warmer days of spring!

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Seriously Delicious Detox Salad


Source: https://www.gimmesomeoven.com/seriously-delicious-detox-salad 
This easy Detox Salad truly is delicious! It’s made with all sorts of fresh and feel-good greens, and topped with a sweet and zesty Carrot-Ginger Dressing.

Ingredients:
Detox Salad Ingredients:
  • 3 cups finely-chopped* kale leaves
  • 2 cups finely-chopped broccoli florets
  • 2 cups finely-chopped red cabbage
  • 1 cup matchstick (shredded) carrots
  • 1 cup roughly-chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds
  • 1/3 cup thinly-sliced green onions
  • 1 avocado, peeled pitted and diced
  • 1 batch Carrot Ginger Dressing (see below)

Carrot-Ginger Dressing Ingredients:
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and roughly-chopped
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons avocado oil or olive oil (or any mild-flavored cooking oil)
  • 1 tablespoon finely-chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon raw honey (or your desired sweetener)
  • 1 tablespoon white (shiro) miso
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

Directions:
To Make The Salad:
  1. Add all ingredients together in a large bowl, and toss to combine.  Serve immediately.  (Or if you are not going to serve the entire salad in one setting, the salad can be mixed without the dressing and refrigerated in a sealed container for up to 2 days with the dressing refrigerated separately in another sealed container.)
To Make The Carrot-Ginger Dressing:
  1. Add all ingredients to a blender or food processor, and pulse until completely smooth.  Season to taste with salt and pepper, and/or add extra honey if you’d like a sweeter dressing.  Serve immediately or refrigerate in a sealed container up to 1 week.

*I recommend chopping the salad ingredients by adding each to a food processor and pulsing until chopped.  Or, you’re also more than welcome to chop them by hand.
https://www.gimmesomeoven.com/seriously-delicious-detox-salad


Kristin Fulmer, MS, LPC, NTP, is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Certified Nutritional Therapist and Certified GAPS™ Practitioner, providing individual and family counseling. Kristin utilizes an integrative and functional whole-person, mind-body approach with an emphasis on nutritionally-dense, whole foods to improve emotional and physical wellbeing. To learn more about her practice and to schedule an appointment, contact Kristin at (267) 843-4888 kristin@healthybody-happybrain.com or website: [Insert link to: www.healthybody-happybrain.com]

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

On the Anniversary of a New Beginning


by Elizabeth Venart

In March 2017, Brittiney George, Tracie Nichols, and I hosted our first community gathering for Highly Sensitive Persons. We have been excited and gratified to connect with over fifty highly sensitive women this past year – and to explore our innate strengths, challenges in embracing the gifts of high sensitivity, and the many forms of expression available to us as we welcome and stand in our power most fully.  This March, we led our first full-day retreat for Highly Sensitive Women, and it was a sweet and rewarding day of slowing down, connecting with our senses, tapping into our intuition, and learning to listen deeply to ourselves.

As Highly Sensitive Women, our empathy connects us to the emotional experiences of others and can make it difficult to stay tuned in to self. Becoming a highly sensitive leader, we need to develop our ability to return again – and again – to our breath and our senses as a way to truly distinguish between what is me and what is not me.

Tracie, Brittiney, and I began our conversation about working with Highly Sensitive Persons three years ago. After a two-year process of incubation, exploration, and discovery, we began to offer programs for the community. It was rewarding to begin slowly and intentionally – together. Over the course of the coming year, we will continue holding monthly gatherings for Highly Sensitive Women Leaders on the 3rd Wednesday of every month. We will also be offering full-day and, eventually, weekend-long retreats, inviting Highly Sensitive Women to come home to themselves, cultivate their gifts, and share them with the world. Our voices are stronger in community and, in community, we have an experimental playground in which we can begin stepping into leadership – together.

Elizabeth Venart is a Licensed Professional Counselor and the Founder and Director of The Resiliency Center. She is a Certified EMDR Therapist and EMDRIA-Approved Consultant who specializes in providing counseling and mentorship to other therapists and working to empower Highly Sensitive Persons to heal the wounds of the past so that they can embrace their gifts more fully and experience greater joy. Learn more at www.elizabethvenart.com.

Each Breath a New Beginning

by Karen Steinbrecher

When you begin to ponder the passage of time and how it goes so quickly, at least from our perspective, it’s easy to be overwhelmed.

Breathe deeply and take a few moments to cultivate conscious breathing. Thich Naht Hanh invites us to “really see the blue sky deeply.“ Being in touch with our awareness, our felt sense of the present moment, can heighten our experience and bring a slower, richer experience of life itself.  Life begins anew in each moment, with each breath. When we are mindful and in touch with the beauty of our world and one another, we can awake in the present moment to the wonder that abounds. Thich Naht Hanh is a Tibetan monk of Vietnamese origin. He says it is possible to be mindful in our daily life, even during our physical activities, and we accomplish this through Conscious Breathing. Mindful physical practices bring our body and mind together so “we can live our life more fully.” Daily practices, such as Yoga, Tai Chi, or the flowing movements of QiGong, cultivate Conscious Breathing and a deeper awareness of the present moment.

Breathe in Peace and Exhale Love, Compassion and Kindness to one another and to yourself. In our current existence, we go through cycles, change and flux. Accepting with a peaceful neutrality the non-permanence of all things allows for an appreciation of all things and people in our lives. Our minds may become caught up in planning, worrying, or working to accomplish yet another task in a never-ending cycle of strivings. These strivings may be very important to us, so we want to keep striving. And we can. But we can also pair our next activity with mindful, conscious breathing. Why not begin with your next inhale or exhale? Each breath an invitation – to be here now. 

Enjoy the moment in the dance of the life. I wish you health, happiness and harmony in All of Your Coming Breaths!

Karen Steinbrecher teaches QiGong on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Resiliency Center. To learn more, contact her at karensteinbrecher@msn.com.

A Satisfying Ending Needs A Good Beginning

by Tracie Nichols

A few years ago I drove my youngest son to New England to start a dream summer job at a mountain bike park.

My son loves downhill biking. LOVES it. He’d be working with a good friend. They’d found an apartment they could share. He could save money for school and do something he loves all summer long. On paper, this seemed like a charmed opportunity for him.

The trip was a disaster in nearly every way possible.

Esme, my faithful orange car, broke down. When we finally reached his apartment the landlord was unprepared and unavailable, meaning no key and no moving in. This after many text messages confirming our arrival time. At the mountain, his future boss was out sick. He couldn’t check in and get his work schedule or his ride pass so he couldn't be at the mountain that day.

Marooned with no place to be, we stood there at the base of the mountain he'd hoped to be riding all summer, worried and bewildered.

It felt like a truly awful beginning, but it was really a truly awful ending to a journey begun without focused attention from everyone involved. The beginning actually happened weeks before; a tiny trail of haphazard communication among just my son and his friend.

They were communicating through the exhaustion and worry of their finals, the busyness of a sister’s graduation and the chaos of visiting family. Their passion and enthusiasm were driving the bus. Thoughtfulness was half a mile behind, out of breath and losing ground fast. Despite good intentions, this bus had “Yikes!” written all over it.

All of us had divided attention when talking about this opportunity: kids, parents, landlords and employers. As my son and I stood at the bottom of the mountain that day, we both realized we’d had gut feelings of unease we shrugged off because everything looked good on the surface. And, because it seemed like such an exciting, not-to-be-missed opportunity.

What we all learned from our experience is that beginnings have their best chance of becoming satisfying endings when everyone involved commits their full, thoughtful attention to the planning process. If they share gut feelings as they arise, and respectfully call out anyone who isn’t fully participating.

Clear, honest communication is essential at every step. I know that seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many endeavors are launched driven by passion and enthusiasm without the map of thoughtful, honest communication.

The next time you’re beginning something new, anything from getting a new dog to transitioning out of a corporate job to open your own business, here are a few suggestions for making it a good beginning:

1.     Check in with your intuition and ask if this project is truly viable. If it involves considerable resources and affects the lives of other people, consider verifying your choice with trusted advisors.
2.     Ask yourself what a satisfying journey will look and feel like. How would you like this process to end? Be sure you have a clearly drawn map, and then turn your passion loose to keep you moving.
3.     Enjoy your passion and enthusiasm, and consciously invite your mind and intuition to join the party. (Deep breaths can help navigate over-exuberant enthusiasm.)
4.     Think about who needs to be part of the conversation. Does it feel realistic to ask for their focused attention for this project? If not, is there someone else you can invite?
5.     Pause often and ask yourself if you are fully present. Are mind, enthusiasm and gut all paying attention? How about everyone else?
6.     Enjoy the ride!

Tracie Nichols is a holistic business coach offering coaching that’s comfortably practical with its roots in nature-informed solutions. She helps body-centered practitioners and highly sensitive women build successful businesses guided by the wisdom of their bodies and the natural world. You can learn more or drop her a line at TracieNichols.com.