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.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Emblazoned (The Inner Ocean #4)

by Dean Solon


i rise. i come up for air.
i hear no evil, i see no evil, i am no evil.
there is no problem, You have said.
there is no problem, You are saying now.
i feel the sea breeze,
i taste the salty air,
and i am as always i have been:
free.
free again
of the ties that bind.

all shortcomings,
just the imagination---
my imagination---your imagination---
running wild.

emblazoned in my memory
is the notion---
a deepest of memories---
that we human beings are noble,
blessed with divine gifts,
destined for goodness.

i awaken from a long dreaming
and as if awake
i state sincerely, oh so sincerely,
i shall not sleep again
---and saying this,
i laugh, as i will laugh
until the end of time.


Saturday, May 9, 2020

The Benefits of Awe

by Jen Perry, MS.Ed. MA, LPC

Awe has long been lauded by philosophers and spiritual teachers for its self-transcendent qualities that can reduce negative thinking and self-occupation.  Research on awe by psychologists has been increasing exponentially over the last 20 years.  A study at Berkeley found the benefits similar to healthy changes in diet and exercise, including a lowered risk of Type 2 Diabetes, clinical depression, heart disease, and arthritis. Research published in the journal Psychological Science found that awe leads to feelings of more available time, reduces impatience, and increases pro-social behaviors and life satisfaction. Psychologists at the University of Pennsylvania interviewed astronauts after viewing Earth from space, and they  report "an expanded sense of perspective on their lives, an increased sense of connection to others, and a renewed sense of purpose." For those of us not venturing into space, research suggests that similar effects can be evoked by watching awesome videos. 

I hope that I have inspired you to try cultivating awe as a process and practice to help you live life to its most awesome-filled fullest. 

Jen Perry, MSEd, MA, LPC is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Mindfulness Teacher and Peaceful Parenting Coach. Her passion is helping Highly Sensitive People thrive in life, love, and parenting. She has been in the field for twenty years and is devoted to studying the human psyche or soul and is often in awe in her studies of human compassion, strength, resilience, and consciousness. In addition to seeing clients individually, she offers mindfulness classes and self-compassion groups via video. Learn more about Jen and her practice at www.HeartfulnessConsulting.com [insert link to: https://heartfulnessconsulting.com

Cultivating The Process of Awe

by Jen Perry, MA, MSEd, LPC

One of the best ways I’ve found to cultivate awe in my life is to bow to the Great Mystery of All. That’s what I started calling it when my kids were little. Instead of giving them answers to their countless questions, I frequently would ask them what they thought or felt about something first. I encouraged them to wonder. As I joined them in the energy of this delicious wondering (why is the sky blue? Do turtles like chocolate ice cream? What’s the highest number anyone has counted to?) I found it so much more enjoyable than knowing a bunch of applicable facts. And the truth is, anytime we study things at a high level, we are left with more questions than answers. It’s the process of wondering that leaves us open to awe, creativity, and discovery.

Bringing a fresh perspective can bring out the process of awe in even the most ordinary things ~ the flowers in your yard, your family member's faces, every night's sky. It is this perspective that I invite into each meeting with each client in my practice. It keeps our work fresh and often, surprising and spontaneous. I encourage clients to meet themselves and their experiences with the process of awe and reverence, and in doing so, magic can happen. Creativity in problem-solving and working through limiting beliefs, while still hard work, becomes joyful. Wondering about problematic behavior and how it may be adaptive (either now or in the past) becomes an exercise in being curious and appreciative of who we are and why we do what we do. Therapy then becomes a process of getting to know yourself better and deepening in love with who you are as you grow instead of a painful endeavor of fixing what was never broken in the first place.

In addition to seeking out awe-inspiring peak experiences, it is possible to live a more awe-filled life. Nurturing curiosity by learning to question (or at least identify) your underlying assumptions about yourself, others, and the world allows a spaciousness that is fertile ground for awe. Allow yourself to wonder actively about everything as an exercise. And lastly, noticing beauty in the ordinary. 

Quiz on Awe
Take this quiz by researcher Paul Piff to see how much awe is a process in your life:

Ask yourself these questions. Score each item from 1 to 5. If your total reaches 30, then you must be pretty enchanted by the world.

I often feel awe.
I see beauty all around me.
I feel wonder almost every day.
I often look for patterns in the objects around me.
I have many opportunities to see the beauty of nature.
I seek our experiences that challenge my understanding of the world.

Source: Paul Piff, clipped from Psychology Today Magazine, and hung on my bulletin board for the last few years.  

Engaging Awe as a Transformational Process

by Jen Perry, MA, MSEd, LPC

I wrote this article in February 2020, weeks before COVID-19 would turn our worlds upside down. As I reread it now as it is about to be sent out I wonder what utility awe may have as a transformational practice during these unprecedented and scary times for so many of us. Awe and wonder are beautiful states of awareness that are born out of not-knowingness. I have found, over and over, that a willingness to let go of what we think we know and allow ourselves to not know is a tremendously healthy psychological stance towards life if we can make friends with fear and uncertainty. I invite you to consider the ways in which allowing a not-knowing with regard to these uncertain times can help steady us and allow us to be present, creative, and resilient.  

One example that comes to mind is the not knowing when things will open up again. I know that for me, surrendering to not knowing, surrendering to let’s-wait-and-see-how-this-goes has been much better for my overall well-being than expecting and hanging any certainty on any date such as April 12 and then having that date come and go. The date itself is meaningless devoid of the important factors that go into such a decision as when to reopen. I know that all of us at The Resiliency Center cannot wait to reopen our doors. We are also balancing that desire with safety. The truth is that no one knows and each day more information is revealed. As Rilke says, if we can just learn to love the questions we will live our way into the answers. 

When was the last time you felt awe? The exquisite rush of expansive delight or reverence tinged slightly with fear. Awe can be found in nature ~ witnessing a breathtaking vista, or a night sky full of stars, or encountering a wild animal. Awe can be human-made ~ seeing a famous painting or hearing live music. Awe can also be found in particular moments in life ~ holding a newborn baby, or meeting your hero. But what we could invoke awe more frequently and on purpose, is this even possible?

Awe signals us to stretch ourselves out in wonder. It beckons us to be curious. It brings us to the brink of our understanding and stands before us as an appeal to become intimate with mystery.  Awe is not only a thrilling experience in and of itself, but it also stays with us, transforms us, demands of us that we grow inside to accommodate a new perspective, and to find a home for more questions, deeper wonderings. In this way, engaging awe is as much a process as it is an event. As a process, it makes us aware of the boundaries of our hearts and minds. It asks us to be mindful that there is always MORE just outside of our awareness. It invites us to stay open to the possibilities of shifting our paradigms, opening deeper into our experiences, and understanding more. As a practice and process, awe goes beyond momentary feelings and experiences and can be transformational. If you want to experience strong growth in your life, it makes sense to learn to cultivate awe.


Monday, May 4, 2020

The Inner Ocean #3

by Dean Solon

here it comes:
the sound of rolling thunder.
the deep sound---the quiet---
of thunder roaring to me, rolling through me.
is much like the roaring and rolling thunder of the ocean,
the ocean across the street,
the ocean in me.
the inner ocean.

OM...the Lion's Roar of the Cosmos,
around me, moving through me.
the Lion's Roar of all Creation
inside me and all around me.
the Unease
(the shadow, the portal)
allowing and making space for Intuition,
giving way to Clarity.

i entangling with IT,
immersing with IT and in IT.

a Stillpoint.

the Stillpoint.



Friday, April 24, 2020

The Inner Ocean #2

by Dean Solon

"Those who look out to sea become the sea,
and they can't speak about that. On the beach
there's desire singing and rage-ranting,
the elaborate language-dance of personality,
but in the waves and underneath there's no volition,
no hypocrisy, just love forming and unfolding."   (Rumi)


i wonder about everything
i wander around everything

i am in awe of everything.
the wildness in me refuses to submit to anything.
yet i do submit, i do surrender,
because i am a devoted one.
nothing needs to change to my liking...
because i am moved by everything.

i walk the worlds, learning, discerning.
i walk this world, in Astonishment.
no wishes are granted to me,
because i wish for nothing...
nothing besides this one:
that we cease destruction, cease obliteration,
cease the excuse of being triggered as an explanation
for projecting hatred and violence onto the world around us.
.
i

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

The Meeting

by Dean Solon

 
sitting...with an intention of an integrating understanding...

to be living with the grief, which may include the revulsion,
of living here on the earth with the activity and the phenomena,
the wildness and craziness,
the harsh and harrowing experience it can be
AND
to be living with the embracing of being here on the earth-plane,
with the richness of being alive in human form,
with the peace and the love and the mercy that comes to me
and that i may bring to the world of form and manifestation.  

i may be filled with sadness and sorrow, and righteous anger,
i may be filled with joy and bliss, and ecstatic vision.

i am to be accepting and surrendering,
finding the experience of feeling safe
in a world of impermanence and change and chaos
that is "not safe".

the greeting and welcoming of the orgasmic inner world
AND
the organic outer world,
the meeting of wonder and whirlwind, of grace and gravity.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

The Inner Ocean

by Dean Solon

the inner ocean.
the expanse within, the depth within.
the universe within.
the waves of the inner ocean.  the wind.
the core, the center, the crux of the matter.
the solar plexus, the belly, the navel, the lower dantian.
i am moved to be there.  to be here.
to be.

the inner ocean.
the living presence, the source of energy.
home.
bliss, ecstasy, rapture
flowing through me,
blowing through me.
even when i am not consciously aware of the inner ocean,
am not experiencing bliss, ecstasy, rapture,
it is here, i am here, You are here.
eternal.  primordial.
Path and Presence.
the ocean within and the ocean across the street,
each is and both are grace and gravity,
sensitivity and Shiva.

the waves of the ocean splashing and crashing on the shoreline...
and receding.
as the breath is...
rising and falling.
the outer banks
and the inner treasure[s].
each of it and all of it
an Astonishment.
each of us and all of us
an Astonishment.


today, the ocean a little calmer.  the waves, the wind, the sky, the sand,
an Astonishment.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

No Passing, No Failing

by Dean Solon

A day of resting, of resting more, beckons.
Waking into a deep of sadness and sorrow,
of a world suffering, a nation imploding,
a madness upon the land.
am not writhing, am not wound up in the whirlwind.
am simply seeing what there is to see,
and the strange way(s) we are living in this world.
witnessing this: whatever ways each of us is living
carries with it no passing, no failing.
no grades are given.  there is no passing or failing.

each of us in each and every moment living in and with the waves washing over us.  each of us sometimes swimming in the shallow waters, sometimes swimming in the deep waters.
no judgment applies, no judgment descends,  no judgment is relevant.  no one "doing better" on his/her own path than anyone else.
the footprints we are walking in are strange, are new, are familiar.  we have co-created them, and are co-creating them.

the view is extreme, the view is exquisite, the view is simple.

may we not be living harshly in these harrowing times.

what a wonderful time to be kind and gentle with yourself and with others.

and we need not be perfect in doing it.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Self-Compassion and Emotional Resilience

by Trudy Gregson, MS, LPC

“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.” – Jack Kornfield

As we continue to adapt and manage our lives under the unusual circumstances of COVID-19, it’s as important as ever to make sure we’re giving ourselves the care and attention we need. In fact, according to Kristin Neff, one of the world’s leading experts on self-compassion, “When we go through major life crises, self-compassion appears to make all the difference in our ability to survive and even thrive.”  

I’ve noticed that we often find it easier to feel compassion for others – for our children, our friends, our pets – than to turn that compassion towards ourselves. For some, self-compassion may feel like self-pity or selfishness or weakness, or they may believe that being hard on themselves motivates them to “do better”. We may use harsh words towards ourselves as a way to protect us from the harsh judgments of others, perhaps as an attempt to inoculate ourselves. Paradoxically, it has the opposite effect. Harsh self-judgment - our inner critic - makes us feel worse, not better.

To understand what self-compassion is, it may help to understand the difference between compassion and empathy. They’re similar in the way they both require us to put ourselves in another’s shoes. However, compassion includes the ability to stay present with another’s pain without being overwhelmed by it, and to be able to help from a place of love and kindness. Staying present with our own pain can be quite difficult, and people are very resourceful in finding all sorts of ways to escape it, but our escapes are short-lived. Self-compassion, on the other hand, is limitless once it is cultivated.

Kristin Neff describes self-compassion as, “being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate… it involves recognizing that suffering and personal inadequacy is part of the shared human experience and… taking a balanced approach to our negative emotions so that feelings are neither suppressed nor exaggerated.” Practicing self-compassion expands our ability to achieve growth and change for ourselves, as well as to support others. When we’re able to feel compassion toward ourselves, it fortifies us from the inside out and makes us more resilient in the face of adversity.

A 2017 study published in Health Psychology Open found that “people who have higher levels of self-compassion tend to handle stress better.” Dwelling on stressful events can create chronic health issues including spikes in blood pressure and blood sugar, along with suppression of the immune system. Self-compassion is the antidote. Research has consistently shown that self-compassion decreases anxiety and depression symptoms by improving our ability to better handle stress and allows us to have more emotional resources to share with others.

To cultivate self-compassion, try using:

Physical gestures, such as placing your hand on your heart or giving yourself a gentle hug (even it feels a little silly at first). This releases oxytocin, the feel-good hormone.

Compassionate language towards yourself. Notice what you say to yourself – is it critical or is it supportive? Practice speaking to yourself as you would to a child or a good friend.

Self-care –Make yourself a cup of tea, spend some time in nature, get adequate sleep and physical activity, prioritize your own needs by saying no sometimes. Remember, it’s self-care, it’s not selfish.

In her new book, “Radical Compassion”, Tara Brach shares how practicing RAIN can help us to be more compassionate towards ourselves. RAIN is an acronym to help us remember four steps for practicing self-compassion when we’re experiencing a difficult emotion or a holding a painful belief about ourselves:

R: Recognize what’s going on inside of you. Notice what’s happening in your body. Notice feelings of tension, pressure, anxiety, ruminating thoughts, or whatever response you’re having, and just gently bring your attention to it.

A: Allow what is happening to happen, just by breathing, being present with it and letting it be. You may not like the feeling, but see if you can set an intention not to judge it or try to fix it or change it.

I: Investigate what feels most difficult and ask the part of you that holds the tension or discomfort how it’s trying to help you. Ask it what it needs from you.

N: Nurture it by using tender language, gestures, or your breath to be present with and bring comfort to this part of you.

Self-compassion is the salve that eases our suffering –our everyday experiences of stress, frustration, anger, or feeling badly about ourselves. It takes courage to be able to stay present with uncomfortable feelings, so be gentle with yourself as you begin to practice bringing more self-compassion into your daily life.

Trudy Gregson, MS, LPC, is a Licensed Professional Counselor providing counseling to adults experiencing depression, anxiety, issues related to trauma, life transitions, and relationships. Trudy customizes her approach according to each client’s needs, using Internal Family Systems Therapy (IFS), Mindfulness, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) as the foundation for their work together, helping clients to notice, bring compassion to, and acceptance of their inner experience. Trudy can be reached at trudygregsontherapy@gmail.com or at 267-652-1732.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Compassion for our struggle with social distancing



While I share the urgency and frustration that many of us are experiencing as we notice people who are not socially distancing sufficiently to meet the public health concerns, I want to make a few comments.

1. ISOLATING IS REALLY HARD EMOTIONALLY. As someone who has spent most of her life focused on emotional wellbeing, it has still been really hard to handle the waves of anxiety and emotion related to this unfolding situation. Under the best of circumstances, many people struggle to be alone or idle for even a few moments. This demands psychological resiliency which can be a weak muscle for most of us.

2. PEOPLE ARE GRIEVING. I'm not even talking about losing loved ones to the virus. I'm talking about the college students who have left their school and friends, thrown their belongings in boxes and headed (if they are lucky to have a welcoming home) back to their families. People are missing milestone events like proms, graduations, weddings, and long-planned trips. People are watching their livelihood dry up out of nowhere, their retirement accounts plunging. There are schoolkids who have nothing to do – and the parents who now have an additional full-time job of caretaking on top of working. It is hard to keep up with the emotions, and resistance to social distancing can be an instinctive coping strategy.

3. A LOT OF US DON'T DO ABRUPT CHANGE WELL. Any change can be a challenge, even good ones like new jobs or starting a new relationship. We work hard to develop a life that works. Disruption is hard, and can jangle our nerves and our managerial methods. The amount of change in the last weeks has been crazy intense, and while this is not an excuse not to make the necessary changes, it is a reason to feel compassion for ourselves and others struggling to make it.

4. DENIAL OF ILLNESS AND DEATH is pervasive in our culture. We are sheltered and in avoidance and denial until we can't be anymore – when tragedy comes to us or someone we love. Our culture marginalizes and tries to hide most illness, death and disability. Now we are facing a pandemic, and the realities of what this means are not comfortable or on the radar of many. We are playing catch-up in a culture that pretty much stinks at humanizing suffering and sacrificing for others.

5. COMPASSION, COURAGE AND CLARITY are needed to get through this crisis, both as applied to ourselves and to how we respond to others. Compassion for all the parts of us that are stirred, scared, confused, avoidant, or seeking comfort, and compassion for others who similarly struggle. Courage and clarity to take necessary action, face our feelings, and urge others to do the same. And focus on what is necessary and try not to get overwhelmed with the rest.

These are not excuses; but it may help to appreciate the emotional aspects of the challenges we face. I pray we can all rise to these and more, for the health, safety, and return to social closeness that we all crave.


Tips for an Effective Teletherapy Session


We are grateful for the development of video technologies that allow us to continue to provide counseling support during such a challenging time. Research has proven the effectiveness of teletherapy as comparable to in-person therapy. We also understand that it is a new experience for many people. We encourage you to try the suggestions below in order to support yourself in having the most beneficial experience.
  • If at all possible, identify a quiet, enclosed space to protect your privacy. You may want to post a “Do not disturb” sign on the door. Please avoid doing teletherapy sessions while driving; however, some have found that sitting in their parked car is a perfect place for quiet and privacy.
  • Have whatever you need for your comfort nearby – water, tissues, blanket, etc.
  • Check in to the video session five minutes before your appointment time to insure everything is working properly.
  • For video sessions, be mindful of where you sit in relation to a window or source of light. Try to ensure your face is clearly visible, with no glare. Your visible expressions are equally as important via video as they are in person!
  • If you can, place your computer on a stable surface (not your lap) and avoid using your phone for video sessions.
  • Turn off any notifications and minimize sounds that could be distracting during the session. 

You may find the telehealth format difficult at first. We will work together to increase your comfort and ease so that we maintain connection throughout this challenging time.