Sunday, January 20, 2019

Tending Your Spark

by Jen Perry

This month is, of course, February and Valentine’s Day. It got me thinking about love of all kinds and in trying to sift through what I want to say about it. I was inspired by this Chinese proverb: “Keep a green bough in your heart and the singing bird will come” Talking about love is such a ginormous undertaking that quite frankly I am finding myself without words (quite inconvenient!) as I try to write this to you. Instead of pushing too hard against my writer’s block I have decided to tell you a little about my self-compassion group and give you a collection of quotes that I hope will delight and inspire you as well as links to books, exercises, and posts designed to help you keep that green bough in your heart. I find that this is especially pertinent this time of year when the trees are waking up and the sap starts to flow but we can’t see any green yet. Reaching out to the light and warmth of self-compassion can serve us well this time of year.

In my work with clients I call it tending our spark. I suppose if I were to re-write the proverb using my metaphor it would be something like “tend to the spark in your heart and the fire will light.” In the words of Jeff Foster, “Love is not something you beg for ~ it is something that radiates from within you.” Of course we don’t always feel love or loving. We can’t really control how we feel. What we can do is tend to the conditions that help love to arise within us more and more frequently. One of the best ways I know how to do this is through self-care and self-compassion.

            "The toughest thing is to love somebody who has done something mean to you. Especially when that somebody has been yourself." — From Episode 1665 of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood

In my self-compassion group and meeting with individual clients, we work on self-love, self-kindness and self-care. As Fred Rogers said, “When we love a person, we accept him or her exactly as is: the lovely with the unlovely, the strong along with the fearful, the true mixed in with the fa├žade, and of course, the only way we can do it is by accepting ourselves that way.” It can be very, very hard to love ourselves this way so often in group we work slowly, slowly, slowly. Tending our spark and meeting ourselves right where we are. If we try to throw too much wood on a fire we can put out the spark! It is ok for this to be aspirational at first, and for as long as necessary. Sometimes the very best we can do is offer the hurting parts of ourselves and the parts we so often reject: “May I be kind to this part of myself, may I show myself compassion, may I soften to myself and this experience of human life” As one self-compassion group participant observed: “When we apply the warmth of self-compassion to our most raw emotions they soften and begin to become ever so easier to experience and be with ourselves.” One of the most generous aspects of life is that if we make an honest effort at something, no matter how small and slowly we grow into it, learn and see developments and improvements. Self-compassion isn’t an all or nothing thing. It is connection, a relationship with yourself. To quote the beloved Fred Rogers again: ”Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like 'struggle.' To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.” Of course, this includes ourselves and all parts of ourselves, even the parts we often want to reject or eliminate altogether.

Self-compassion practices can help maintain the connection and conditions that help love to burn bright in our hearts. This makes it easier to love others around us. These practices can be strengthened and learned. The self-compassion break is a wonderful exercise to use and a good place to start. Learn more about it here. [insert link:] and here. [insert link:]

If you are curious about the Self-Compassion Group please do reach out. I will be starting a new group soon that will meet online via secure video platform. I’d be delighted to talk to you about it.

Jen Perry, MSEd, MA, LPC has been a psychotherapist for 20 years. She specializes in helping highly sensitive people thrive in love, work, and parenting highly sensitive children. Jen is passionate about using mindfulness and compassion-based approaches to ameliorate human suffering. She can be reached at  or 215-292-5056. Learn more at

Two Great Loves

by Lynn Doerr, Guest Writer

I have a confession – I have two great loves in my life and I have no intention of picking one over the other.

One love pulls me with the challenge of forging a strong bond and finding the ability to communicate without words while offering the warmth of a strong shoulder when frost edges the meadows.  The other love shares treasures from afar, the spectacular sights and sounds of a Marrakesh market bursting with fiery reds and oranges, cobalt blues, and bright lemon yellow or the simple pleasure of an evening aperitif along a remote river, the sun setting over castles etching their silhouettes in the fading light. Both loves feed my spirit, the desire to be my curious self, pushing physical and mental limits and opening new possibilities for pleasure.

While I’ve missed the opportunity to enjoy living with a partner in love (c’est la vie!), I’ve been able to feed my other loves, riding and traveling, almost with abandon.  That little girl delight of seeing a horse still abounds in me even after spending half of my life riding.  I arrived late to the world of equestrians, a desire tucked in a corner of my consciousness, waiting to burst from the barn.  This love asks me to set ego aside (that human nuisance that feigns expertise in all matters) and free my mind to understand another being and glean context to build a partnership based on trust, not unlike other relationships we have in our lives.  I must listen, interpret intentions, forgive mistakes, offer support and encouragement when necessary, and remember that we each have strengths and only succeed as a team; don’t ask for more than too much but inspire the stretch beyond old boundaries.

And my other love, the one that carries me away, and forces me to examine preconceived ideas and see light’s revelations as it filters through an ancient window in a Myanmar temple, across a Romanian forest floor, or tumbles down the side of the Himalayas.  Travel asks us to open our minds to possibilities, alleviate judgement while we walk in another’s footprints, find compassion for another’s trials, and sample life in a novel way through all that we see, hear, feel, touch, or taste.

How could I ever choose between these two disparate loves – one that wants me home and another that pulls me across borders?  And don’t these “loves”, passions not focused on another person, mold us into people who become better friends and partners through a more expanded understanding of the world?  Don’t deny yourself food for your spirit; indulge your passion and let it grow. 

Lynn Doerr is an avid equestrian and traveler working as a marketing and communications consultant in areas concerned with global health.  Read about her travels on or join her to ride local equestrian trails at

Being Love

by Elizabeth Venart

When I reflect on the topic of falling in love, my heart opens to experiences of being love. Yes, I said that intentionally. To me, being love is transcendent and transformative, moments of exquisite presence that give meaning to life. When I am being love, I am filled with a feeling of radiant peace and deep appreciation for the present moment and the beauty and connection within it.

I remember the day I fell in love with Rumi’s poetry. At a break while attending a spiritual retreat, I wandered over to a table of poetry books and picked one up at random. The words entranced and washed over me. Music started again and the program resumed, but Rumi and I sat together for hours more, in the deep, riding waves of emotion, surrendering to the invitation for Union and the profound acknowledgement of the agony and ecstasy of Divine Connection, human suffering, longing, and Love.

Last year, I traveled to Iceland in January. I fell in love with the sunsets and sunrises visible during Iceland’s winter. The day is short and the pink sky that welcomes and closes each day lingers close to the horizon. I experienced such joy at the seeing of it – cotton candy pink draping the volcanic mountains.  We also saw Northern Lights on two evenings during our stay. The dance of shimmering green across the star-filled sky mesmerized and awed me.

Finally, I cannot possibly consider the topic of love without marveling at my good fortune in finding love with my husband. On our wedding day, we chose a collection of favorite readings as an invocation for our new life together as a married couple. They were perfect then and have grown even sweeter since, as our love has deepened through the hard-won affection of miles walked, laughter and tears shared, and storms weathered. Actively choosing to stand beside one another and be love together  – moment after moment, day after day, and year after passing year – deepens and enriches my life. Reflecting today on our wedding ceremony readings, I am reminded that being love requires deep and mindful presence – with ourselves and each other – and the ability see through eyes of love, act with love, and bring forward all facets of ourselves with an open heart, curiosity, and compassion. 

The minute I heard my first love story
I started looking for you, not knowing
how blind that was.

Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere.
They’re in each other all along.

            - Rumi

We must look deeply in order to see and understand the needs, aspirations, and suffering of the person we love.  This is the ground for real love.  You cannot resist loving another person when you really understand him or her. . . .  True love needs understanding.  With understanding, the one we love will certainly flower.

            - Thich Nhat Hanh in Peace is every step

the quiet thoughts
of two people a long time in love
touch lightly
like birds nesting in each other’s warmth
you will know them by their laughter
but to each other
they speak mostly through their solitude
if they find themselves apart
they may dream of sitting undisturbed
in each other’s presence
of wrapping themselves warmly
in each other’s ease.

            - Hugh Prather in Notes on Love and Courage

“What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

“Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but Really loves you, then you become Real.”

- Margery Williams in The Velveteen Rabbit. Read More

Elizabeth Venart, LPC,  is the Founder of The Resiliency Center. She is a Certified EMDR Therapist and 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. She also hosts a monthly Spiritual Poetry Evening at the center. Learn more .

Excerpt from The Velveteen Rabbit - by Margery Williams

Source: Good Quotes

"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but Really loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get all loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

To Begin With, the Sweet Grass - by Mary Oliver

Source: A Year's Rising with Mary Oliver

Will the hungry ox stand in the field and not eat of the sweet grass?
Will the owl bite off its own wings?
Will the lark forget to lift its body in the air or forget to sing?
Will the rivers run upstream?
Behold, I say–behold
the reliability and the finery and the teachings of this gritty earth gift.

Eat bread and understand comfort.
Drink water, and understand delight.
Visit the garden where the scarlet trumpets are opening their bodies for the hummingbirds
who are drinking the sweetness, who are thrillingly gluttonous.
For one thing leads to another.
Soon you will notice how stones shine underfoot.
Eventually tides will be the only calendar you believe in.
And someone’s face, whom you love, will be as a star
both intimate and ultimate,
and you will be both heart-shaken and respectful.
And you will hear the air itself, like a beloved, whisper:
oh, let me, for a while longer, enter the two
beautiful bodies of your lungs.

The witchery of living
is my whole conversation
with you my darlings.
All I can tell you is what I know.
Look, and look again.
This world is not just a little thrill for the eyes.
It’s more than bones.
It’s more than the delicate wrist with its personal pulse.
It’s more than the beating of the single heart.
It’s praising.
It’s giving until the giving feels like receiving.
You have a life—just imagine that!
You have this day, and maybe another, and maybe still another.

Someday I am going to ask my friend Paulus,
the dancer, the potter,
to make me a begging bowl
which I believe
my soul needs.
And if I come to you,
to the door of your comfortable house
with unwashed clothes and unclean fingernails,
will you put something into it?
I would like to take this chance.
I would like to give you this chance.

We do one thing or another; we stay the same or we change.
Congratulations if you have changed.

Let me ask you this.
Do you also think that beauty exists for some fabulous reason?
And if you have not been enchanted by this adventure—your life—
what would do for you?

What I loved in the beginning, I think, was mostly myself.
Never mind that I had to, since somebody had to.
That was many years ago.
Since then I have gone out from my confinements, though with difficulty
I mean the ones that are thought to rule my heart.
I cast them out, I put them on the ush pile.
They will be nourishment somehow (everything is nourishment somehow or another).
And I have become the child of the clouds, and of hope.
I have become the friend of the enemy, whoever that is.
I have become older and, cherishing what I have learned,
I have become younger.
And what do I risk to tell you this, which is all I know?
Love yourself. Then forget it. Then, love the world.


Don’t Hesitate ~ by Mary Oliver

If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate.
Give in to it.
There are plenty of lives and whole towns destroyed or about to be.
We are not wise, and not very often kind.
And much can never be redeemed.
Still, life has some possibility left.
Perhaps this is its way of fighting back,
that sometimes something happens better than all the riches or power in the world.
It could be anything,
but very likely you notice it in the instant when love begins.
Anyway, that’s often the case.
Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid of its plenty.
Joy is not made to be a crumb.

Keeping the New Year Kind: Embracing Who You Are While Supporting Your Growth

by Jen Perry

Ahhhhh, that time of year again. January. New Year. New (or old or recycled) Year Resolutions. Isn’t it funny how right in the season of over-doing, over-extending, and over-indulging we throw in resolutions to resolve to do things differently? Instead of scoffing at the ridiculousness of this observation I wonder if we can use it as an invitation to wonder and be thoughtful about it? Perhaps there is a wise message in here after all. I’d like to invite you, Dear Reader, to close your eyes for a moment with me. Breathe and get kind and curious about this yearly cycle we seem to collectively join in or outright reject. Allow yourself to wonder about it for a minute and get curious about what arises for you in that vast field of openness. Just wonder …. And if you want to, jot down any thoughts, feelings, images or sensations that arise as you allow yourself to wonder ….

What came to me first in this exercise was an image of two people in a boat. If one leans all the way to one side, the other needs to lean equally in its opposite in order not to tip over. I think our systems operate with a similar wisdom. Balance. In many cases the balancing of extremes. All or nothing, black and white, to change something about ourselves or not. There is another element to balance of course. There is a similar movement in my second image, a see-saw. In the middle, a fulcrum. A fulcrum is defined as a “thing that plays a central or essential role in an activity, event, or situation; to prop up or support.” It is also a handy tool for lifting or achieving something that seems large or impossible without its support.

Over and over again in my work in the world, I find that this balance is so very important. Whenever we set out wanting meaningful change in any way in our life, it is so much easier to achieve when we have a fulcrum of support. Metaphorically speaking, when the things we want to change are things about ourselves and our habits, a fulcrum of self-compassion and appreciation for ourselves as we are before the desired change is a powerful fulcrum of support to achieve such change. One of my favorite quotes is: Once nothing has to change, suddenly everything can. I thought this was from Alan Watts but a quick google search did not yield any results. If you know where this quote comes from, will you reach out and let me know? And as you make your new year resolutions, or even if you don’t, I wish for all of us this fulcrum of self-compassion and support at this time of the new year and always.

Jen Perry, MSEd, MA, LPC has been a psychotherapist for over 18 years. She specializes in helping highly sensitive people thrive in love, work, and parenting highly sensitive children. Jen is passionate about using mindfulness and compassion-based approaches to ameliorate human suffering. She can be reached at  or 215-292-5056. Learn more at

Reimagining Resolutions. Letting Go Of Lists.

by Tracie Nichols

Around this time of year, many of us do a year-end review of our lives or our businesses, or both. We look at what we accomplished. What we’re proud of or what we didn’t do so well. Then we go ahead and plan for the next year. We make resolutions or set intentions; create affirmations or to-do lists.

The thing is, we tend to squeeze it all into a few weeks in December and January because this is the traditional turning point in our year, based on the Gregorian calendar.

But, cramming a year-end review and coming year planning process into a few short weeks feels distinctly unwieldy and unnatural. Add in that many of us are also celebrating holidays during those weeks, and the whole experience can tip over into “That’s overwhelming!” territory.

So why do we do it?

If you think about it, part of our urge to review and plan at this time of year likely rises from times when we were more deeply tied to the land. Both through the natural rhythms of seasons and of agricultural rhythms like harvesting, winnowing, and storing seeds for the following year’s planting.

But, and here’s the important part, the process would have been spread over two seasons, not a few short weeks or days.

For example, autumn (late September, October, November) is the natural time for reviewing what we’ve learned and done and for sorting and consolidating what we’ve accumulated during the spring and summer. Like trees dropping leaves and squirrels gathering nuts and seeds we can follow nature’s guidance and drop extraneous ideas, beliefs, or actual stuff and seed (or archive) for later what’s truly useful and nourishing.

Then, during the quieter months of early winter (later December through January and early February) we can look over those stored seeds (ideas, insights) and plan for the coming planting and growing season.

Whether planning actual gardens, creating a career strategy, making a plan for spending more time with family or expanding time spent doing something that relaxes or restores us, doing the actual planning over a few months gives us the time and space to be very intentional about our choices.

We don’t have to make resolutions or lists on January 1st just because that’s the way things have always been done. Indeed, we don’t need to make resolutions or lists at all.

If we choose to do any reviewing or planning, let’s be infinitely kind to ourselves and spend time throughout the autumn and winter thoughtfully crafting something that fits our lives, aligns with who we are and nourishes us along the way.

Tracie Nichols, M.A. is a holistic business and life coach, aromatherapist and poet. With 10 years experience as a woman business owner, 7 years holistic mentoring/coaching experience, 30 years as an aromatherapist, and a masters degree in human transformation, her work is about standing in solidarity with body-centered and highly sensitive women, walking with them as they discover/rediscover their body-wise, empathetic, intuitive strengths. Supporting them as they bring their whole selves to their life and work. Helping them be accountable to themselves and their dreams of making whatever difference they choose to make. You can reach Tracie at or Or connect with her on Instagram: or Facebook:

Catching your breath

by Brittiney George

“If I could just catch my breath.”
 “Give me a moment to catch my breath.”
“I don’t have time to catch my breath.”  

Powerful statements.  Why…because they say something about the “state” we are in:

Out of air. 
On the run.
Reaching for oxygen. 

Even the word “catching” is valuable information.  It implies our breath is no longer ours.  We don’t have ownership of it.  We have to find it, chase it, hunt it down, and hold on to it so it doesn’t get away from us again.  For many of us, our daily rhythm involves chasing the clock, catching our breath, crashing, trying to get back up, and then we repeat the cycle all over again.  Is it any wonder then why we walk around with tight shoulders, clenched jaws, tense necks, and shallow, short breaths?  We get caught up in life, and life gets caught up in our bodies.  So, as you fly (or run) into this holiday season, I invite you to remember an important safety message that the airlines share before every flight…… put your oxygen mask on before assisting others and if that doesn’t feel even possible, I hope this resource list below will help to begin you on your journey towards rest, recovery, and a few gloriously full breaths.

·      The Miracle Morning by Hall Elrod
·      I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from “What Will People Think?” to “I Am Enough” by Brene Brown
·      The Forgotten Body by Elisa Cobb

Creativity and Art:
·      Mandalas of The World: A Meditating and Painting Guide
·      How to Make a Finger Labyrinth (that’s also a piece of art)
·      Zentagles (Creative Drawing for Relaxation, Inspiration, & Fun) 

Guided Meditations:
·      Affectionate Breathing by Kristin Neff
·      5 Min. Self-Compassion Break by Kristin Neff
·      Writing Down Your Soul: How to Activate & Listen to the Extraordinary Voice Within by Janet Conner
·      Self-Compassion Journal Exercise by Kristin Neff

·      5 min. Recharge Routine at
·      Bringing Up Energy Down (toe tapping) on YouTube at
·      Take 5 Breathing: A Breathing Exercise for Kids (and adults) on YouTube at

·      Beautiful by Mali Music at
·      A Better Place-Playing for Change at
·      Unpack Your Heart by Phillip Phillips at
·      We Found Love by Lindsey Stirling at

·      Dove Real Beauty Sketches:  You’re more beautiful than you think at
·      What is an Emotion by Paul Ekman at
·      The Gift of Slowing Down by Carl Honore at

Brittiney George, BS, CST-L3, ICI, CEIM, is a Movement Practitioner and Somatic Therapist specializing in Transformative Touch.  She is also a faculty member and trainer for The Somatic Therapy Center.  Her areas of specialty include working with highly sensitive woman, and helping people find their ground when they feel thrown by life.  For a free 55 min. introductory Somatic Therapy session contact Brittiney at 610-389-7866 or

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