Saturday, September 12, 2020

Finding Meaning

The following are suggestions to explore ways of finding meaning during this difficult—but temporary —experience of the pandemic:

Focus on the present moment. At this moment, everything is fine; nothing bad is happening to you.  You’re not going hungry.  You have shelter. You’re healthy. List the things around you.  Notice what you see, hear, smell, and taste at this moment.

Express gratitude.  Each day, notice three things you are grateful for.  Pay attention to the little things:  seeing a hummingbird, the taste of a piece of chocolate, a sunny day.

Try to learn something new. Is there a hobby you’ve always wanted to do, an instrument you’d like to play, or a language you’d like to speak?

Help others.  You can make financial donations, deliver food to the needy, send cards to health care workers, or make calls to lonely friends and neighbors.

Are there new activities you could try to give your life meaning?

Choose three activities from the list above that you will do over the next week to create meaning in your life.

You may also want to consider what you would like to continue doing once the pandemic is over. Why does that feel important?

Consider the following:

·      Volunteering one’s time;

·      Giving money to someone in need;

·      Writing out one’s future goals;

·      Expressing gratitude for another’s actions, either written or verbal;

·      Carefully listening to another’s point of view;

·      Confiding in someone about something that is of personal importance; and

·      Persevering valued goals in spite of obstacles.

Redefining Meaning through Challenging Times

by Barbra Danin

Eudaemonia  - eu" ("good") and "daim┼Źn" ("spirit"),a life of activity governed by reason

Ancient Greek philosophers had the leisure to contemplate life’s meaning and engaged in many debates over what determines a good life. According to Aristotle, striving for happiness should not be man’s highest priority; rather, he wrote that one should strive for Eudaimonia, or fulfillment through the process of doing what is purposeful and worthwhile to each individual. This involves well intended action through knowledge that is acquired throughout life experience.

Since the quarantine, many of us find ourselves thinking about our lives in ways we may not have previously had the time or interest in doing. Trends are shifting rapidly as we reevaluate our values and focus more on what holds meaning and priority – Be that quality time with friends and family, healthy living and home cooked meals, discovering nature, creative ventures, or pursuing professional aspirations.

For some, living in small spaces in dense urban areas is no longer attractive, and home sales are spiking in suburban areas with larger properties. Fashion trends are shifting dramatically, with sales of jeans plummeting and leisure wear and Birkenstocks purchases soaring. Walmart’s biggest sellers are self-grooming devices, while lipstick sales have flattened and Amazon’s stock of bread and pasta makers is low. At the same time, fear and anxiety is rising as we struggle with the negative impact of social isolation and uncertainty over what the future holds.

As we continue to face the changing circumstances of the Coronavirus pandemic, how can we assign meaning to these times and respond to the challenges of the moment?  Can we draw from the wisdom of those who experienced adversity in the past? Victor Frankl offers both practical actions and philosophical insight in his book Man’s Search for Meaning.  During his interment at the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II, Frankl, a psychiatrist, keenly observed his and fellow prisoners’ psychological and behavioral evolution as they lived through the horrors of their imprisonment. He was curious as to how they were coping during that challenging time and what seemed useful to them in efforts to survive.  He noted that those who found resilience appeared to assign their own personal meaning to their experience:

It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us…….our answers must consist……………in right action and in right conduct…taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and fulfill the tasks it constantly sets for each individual. 

He published the book Man’s Search for Meaning after his liberation. The book presents his theory of Logo therapy (logos=moving), a treatment approach with focus on the future, rather than the past.  Echoing the theory of Eudaimonia, he contends that a search for meaning is the primary motivator of life, and that each of us must continually redefine our meaning for the moment in which we are living, with an emphasis on work and correct action, connecting with others, and accepting circumstances over which we have no control.

For Frankel, what energized him were thoughts of his wife, plans to publish his book, fantasies of a favorite meal…… He observed that those inmates who tried to assign meaning to the experience at the time were able to better tolerate the suffering they underwent than those who became hopeless.

As summer ends and we enter the fall season, we may consider this time as an opportunity to look inward and explore and challenge long held values and beliefs, and to revisit our personal hopes and aspirations towards a life of meaning and purpose for now and for the future.

Barbra Danin, MA, LMFT, is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Clinical Art Therapist, and Certified EMDR Therapist.  She provides individual, couples, and family therapy.  Her specialties include treating children with anxiety, trauma, and behavioral issues – and empowering parents with concrete tools for lasting change. Contact her at (314) 477-8585 or barbradanin@barbradanin.com. Learn more at her website at www.barbradanin.com.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Learning to Say "No!"

by Rachel Kobin

 

There are times when we have to let people down. Maybe your name has been on the volunteer list for years, but which is worse, feeling resentful as you do the job, or letting someone else step up to the plate? Perhaps the task would be skipped or reinvented for the month. Who would judge us harshly for our human frailty?

 

It seems I am the one who judges myself harshly for my human frailty. I have a hard time saying "No." I want to help everyone improve their writing, publish their book, get into the MFA program of their choice, deal with their recent bipolar disorder diagnosis, or figure out how to spell "trivial." Inevitably my desire to help so many people at the same time leaves me overextended. Recently I said I didn't have the energy or time to do something I'd promised I would do, but when no one could take my place, I caved in and did it after all. Don't be like me. Stick to your guns. Say, "No!" Preserve your mental and physical health. You are worthy of such basic kindness.

 

I am worthy of this, too, which is why from this very moment, "No," will flow from my mouth like saliva while I sleep. I said "No" to drugs in the eighties, and endlessly to my parents when I was two, so I'm just going to say no to everything. No, no, no, no, no, no, no! Oh, even typing that is fun. And then, I'll do the work I can and make some people happy. But not everyone, because as I should know by now, it is impossible to make everyone happy all of the time. 

 

Okay, given how much I love what I do, I'm probably not going to say "No" to much that has anything to do with writing or friends who need help spelling a word. But next time I'm exhausted and say I can't do something, I'm not going to back down. I'm going to remember that my refusal is a courageous act of self-care. I invite you to follow my lead.

 

To further bolster your newfound confidence saying "No," I leave you with the words of the infinitely wise band, "They Might be Giants," and their song, "No!" from their album titled, "No!"

 

No is no
No is always no
If they say no, it means a thousand times no

No plus no equals no
All nos lead to no no no

Finger pointing, eyebrows low
Mouth in the shape of the letter O

Pardon me, no!
Excuse me, no!
May I stay?
Can I go?
No, no, no

Do this, no!
Don't do that, no!
Sit, stay,…

 

Rachel Kobin has over twenty years of experience writing in a variety of professional settings. She founded The Philadelphia Writers Workshop in 2011. Though normally found leading creative writing workshops at The Resiliency Center, she currently provides them via video conferencing. She works with writers privately as a coach and editor to help them make their final drafts as brilliant as their original ideas.

 

Creative Self-Expression and Community

by Elizabeth Venart

 

Living during the time of COVID19 is living in an age of uncertainty and grief. Grief for lives lost and also grief for all the big and small losses. The milestones – like birthdays, weddings, graduations, and anniversaries – that we could not celebrate in our usual ways. The annual vacations and parties that just didn’t happen. A myriad of feelings may arise: boredom at the lack of variety, sadness about the loss of normalcy, loneliness, anger, and fear about the future.

 

Artists have long given voice to the challenges faced. But one need not be a bonafide “artist” to benefit from expressing ourselves through creativity. Creative self-expression is our birthright. Young children sing, color, mold playdoh, create rhythms on drums, dance. Expressing ourselves through writing, art-making, music, dance, photography and more provides a meaningful outlet for our emotions and a way to process our experience and give voice to that which we may not know how to say aloud.

 

If you have a regular practice of writing, singing, playing an instrument, or expressing yourself through art, you may have been drawn to create more over the past five months. If you don’t already have a creative practice, get curious about what naturally appeals to you. Maybe you enjoyed painting when you were younger but fell away from it when you started working. Perhaps you have dreamed of writing down the stories of your life – or creating an entirely new universe for a science fiction novel. Maybe you love snapping pictures with your phone already – and think it could be fun to join a group of other photographers to embark on an odyssey of shared learning and adventure.

 

When we come together in community to create, we often connect deeply. The very process of self-expression – and the vulnerability it takes to share our work – can create an atmosphere of intimacy as we recognize the sacredness of shared experience and the universality of our concerns. Local and national groups and interactive programs are listed below. Live online classes in which we have the opportunity to connect with other participants may be the most rewarding choice to help stave off feelings of isolation emblematic of current times.

 

One of the creative practices sustaining me through the pandemic is writing. In April, I discovered the Isolation Journals. They are the brainchild of Suleika Jaouad who believes that “life’s interruptions are invitations to deepen our creative practice.” Collaborating with artists of all disciplines, she responded to the pandemic by creating a journey through 100 days of writing prompts. Readers were encouraged to share their writing in a dedicated Facebook group, and the results were inspiring. The project now has over 100,000 members spread across 100 countries. Her website includes all 100 prompts, featured writing by members, and an invitation to join the community and receive weekly journal prompts for your own wirting. Suleika describes the project as “our living archive of human creativity”, highlighting the project as a place where “stories of vulnerability become stories of resilience and strength that unite us as a community.” It is said that to be a great writer, you must write whatever you most fear writing. Taking risks to be real – and share our rawness with others  – strengthens our capacity to face fears, find our voice, and go deeper still.

 

Creative writing need not be lengthy to be satisfying. Gotham Writers had a “silver linings” contest for the best 19-word story about a silver lining during COVID 19. It is challenging to write a story with only 19 words, but I certainly had fun trying. I shared the contest with friends and family. Not only was the process of writing our “silver lining” stories fun, it gave us an opportunity to connect beyond the routine “how are you?”

 

We are living through a remarkable time in history, and it is unmistakably hard. Listen to yourself and give voice to what lies within. As Bill Moyers said, “Creativity is piercing the mundane to find the marvelous.” May your discoveries delight and surprise you – and foster deepening courage and connection to navigate the days ahead.

 

Elizabeth Venart, LPC, NCC, is the Founder of the Resiliency Center and a Licensed Professional Counselor specializing in working with Highly Sensitive Persons, artists, entrepreneurs, and other therapists. With advanced training in EMDR Therapy and IFS, she supports people in getting to the root of the places where they feel stuck, so they can experience greater joy. A Certified Laughter Yoga teacher, Elizabeth leads weekly zoom laughter classes  and infuses laughter into her work and her life. Learn more by visiting her website.

The Healing Power of Telling Our Stories

by Rachel Kobin of the Philadelphia Writers Workshop

 

When the writers workshops migrated from The Resiliency Center to Zoom in March, I was initially concerned about whether I’d be able to recreate the comfort participants develop from writing in the same room together week after week. Although I always provide participants with the option to use the workshop time as a substance-free escape from reality, the tentacles of the virus had us in its grip. Some expressed their fear and frustration with humor, while others' emotions poured onto their pages like tears shed mourning for the dead. No one held back despite the electronic context. 

 

When the Black Lives Matter protests began, I decided to address the issues head-on in the best way I knew how: I offered prompts that would give us the opportunity (but not obligate anyone) to write about aspects of the movement. Today a woman responded to the prompt "If I were the last storyteller in my tribe..." with a story about the resiliency the three branches of her family developed as they rose above suffering by making love their guiding force. Of course, she phrased it much more elegantly than I just did, but the point is that storytelling is how we make sense of the world around us. 

 

The writing and conversations provoked by this summer's writing made me see, once again, how healing it is to listen and be heard. When one person shares their story, we grow by coming to understand that while our life journeys may be vastly different, the feelings they evoke are universal. Even when the togetherness we create is on computer screens, the connection is real."

 

Rachel Kobin leads the Philadelphia Writers' Workshop at The Resiliency Center. The workshop provides a safe, structured setting for writers to express themselves, experiment, learn, and grow. To learn more about joining her fall workshops - and learn about her new writing marathons once they are announced - see her website at www.phillywriters.com.

Monday, June 1, 2020

The Ocean Sky

by Dean Solon


am looking upon the ocean's steadfast magnificence

a poem allowing itself to be surfacing
and to be known

the ocean is awash with waves

the white capped waters leaping
upon the rocks piled high
whose siren calls are singing
"wash over us
  wash over us..."

a passing of white pillowing clouds across the ocean sky

the human sign reads "fishing getty only"

yes
and there is far more

a continuing conversation
between heaven and earth
whose sounds we may hear
and whose meaning we may understand
if we listen closely

Friday, May 22, 2020

Breath Giving Moves during Breath Taking Times

by Brittiney George

Do you feel like you’re in a weird time warp right now? I know I do.  It is as if 
time is both simultaneously standing still and flying by.  I noticed that many of 
my clients are also experiencing the resurgence of old wounds and injuries as 
the distractions of day-to-day living have changed.   When you combine the 
lack of transitional time and space throughout the day with mixed information 
about how to move safely in the world, it makes perfect sense that many people 
are feeling disoriented, disempowered, or even disembodied (like a walking 
head, not an embodied being).
 
“These are breath taking times, so give yourself a breath”.
 
As the adrenaline of immediate change wears off, you may be feeling burnt 
out or burnt up.  You may be feeling “off”.  If you are, trust it.  It is your body 
letting you know, “I’m feeling out of sync”, and it is the perfect time to check in 
with a direct link to your nervous system-your breath.  
 
Are you doing a lot of yawning?
Do you feel disconnected from your body or energetically depleted?
Are you making a lot of out moves- giving all day long but taking little in?
These are great indicators that your body may want to take “in” a breath.  
 
Often with trauma or in times of stress, we reverse our natural breathing pattern. 
Instead of inhaling down into our core, hips, and pelvis (our root), we inhale up.   
Up into our chest and shoulders.  Up into the front of our body.  Our back body 
and sides, the backs of the ribs, get locked in place without the lungs finding 
their full expansion.  
 
Maybe you find yourself sighing often?
Or holding a lot in as tension in your torso, chest, jaw or face?
Do your shoulders feel as if they’re carrying the weight 
and responsibility of the world?
These are great indicators that your body may want to let “out” a breath.  
 
A system that is in overwhelm is looking to release, get out from under, to take 
less on or in.  Think of your exhale as your body’s natural gift of detoxification.  
It’s your body’s way of moving out stale air, pent up energy, and unwanted 
emotional residue.  During times of stress we are often told to “take a breath”, 
but it is the out breath, the exhale, that has the most impact in nervous system 
regulation.  
 
Breath taking times require breath giving moves.  Give yourself space. 
Gift yourself Breath.
 
Brittiney George, BS, CST-PRO, ICI, CEIM, is a Movement Practitioner and Somatic Therapist specializing in Transformative Touch.  She is also a faculty trainer and mentor for The Somatic Therapy Center.  Her areas of specialty include working with highly sensitive persons (HSP’s), and supporting nervous system reregulation by resourcing through the body.  For a free 55 min. introductory Somatic Therapy session contact Brittiney at 610-389-7866 or movebackintolife@gmail.com.