Valentine’s Day Yoga Experience!

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Self-Care or Self-Indulgence?

It’s Sunday and I have the luxury of staying home in my pajamas until I feel good and ready to get out of them, or not.  It’s a wonderful feeling.  In another life, Sunday was Sunday Funday and usually involved drinking with friends, watching a game or playing cards.  Fun times were had, no doubt.  And as I’ve gotten older and maybe even a little wiser, Sunday has turned in to my Self-Care-Sunday.  And occasionally, my Sunday may look like getting together with friends for a cider in the afternoon.  Or, like today, it looks like hot water and lemon, followed by an hour of yoga and listening to John Coltrane with my coffee.

I’ve heard some people stress the importance of Self-Care Over Self-Indulgence.  What I take this to mean is that self-care is better than self-indulgence i.e. people who practice self-care are better than those who self-indulge.  Now, I’m not hear to argue with what I imagine to be at the heart of this kind of thinking.  I’ve known, and hell I’ve been one, to kid myself in to thinking sharing a bottle of tequila with a girlfriend while going through a breakup is Self-Care.  Really, it wasn’t.  Main reason, that wasn’t me taking care of myself.  That was me avoiding my self; the uncomfortable parts at least. There really wasn’t an intentional choice in my misery-loves-company-cocktail.  It was, to put it in to therapy terms, a Flight Defense.  Flight as in run away, avoid, etc. Which inevitably turned in to a Freeze Response of feeling numb, disconnected and very checked out.  Did I get some good laughs and tears out in the process? Sure.  But, at the end of it all, did that experience really nurture me? Maybe and probably not.

And I think one of the biggest keys to this whole Self-Care vs Self-Indulgence thing is this. . .it all comes down to choice.  Really Making a Choice with intention and thought and consideration.  And, does this thing that I’m choosing Nurture me beyond that first minute or two of pleasure? Does it Nourish Me?  Does what I’m doing Satisfy Me Deeply? Self-Indulgence has a fleeting quality to it; feels good in the moment and sometimes feels really bad afterwards.  And sometimes, that is exactly what we need.  I need to Feel Better Right Now!

Self-Care, on the other hand, takes a little more work. And sometimes, when things feel like work, we’d rather not.  Because it’s work.  It takes thought and planning and discipline and patience.  Self-Care will sometimes make me feel good in the moment; like really enjoying my cup of coffee and doing nothing else.  Self-Care will also take a while to start feeling really good.  Like me and yoga for instance.  At first, I did it to add another movement activity in to my week.  And yeah, sometimes it felt like work.  Getting up (out of my pajamas no less), putting myself in a room with strangers and getting sweaty.  But over time, sticking to it and giving my body a chance to really integrate and feel all the goodness that I was building in my body through the yoga practice, that started to feel really good. I started to notice how nourishing it felt to get quiet and let someone lead me through movement.  It became Deeply Satisfying.  Now, it’s something I look forward too and actually plan for in my week.

So, what’s the bottom line in this here Self-Care vs Self-Indulgence conversation?  It’s about choice.  When you decide to do something in the spirit of taking care of You, consider this: Am I really choosing this or am I reacting and playing out an old pattern of behavior? Will this make me feel better Beyond Right Now?  Or is this a sustainable Loving Me Choice?

Remember, there is no right or wrong.  Again, this is just another opportunity to get really curious about you! How do you take care of you? What comes up for you even thinking about doing something really nice for yourself?  It might be as foreign as speaking Martian (as in Mars:) Or maybe it’s as familiar as sitting down. Either way, get curious about how you feel before, during and after anything you do.  And when it comes to Self-Care, Self-Love, Self-Compassion, (whatever suits you best right now), really take a minute or three to listen to yourself and what would feel really good for you to do right now.  And when you’re done doing your thing, see if that feeling of goodness stays with you during the rest of your day.

And whatever you decide to do with your Sunday, may it Feel Good from the Inside-Out!

With kindness and love, Amber

 

Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda?!

I’m not a big fan of advice giving; ask anyone who knows me well that’s tried to give me, “Maybe you should. . .” line.  But, there are times that even I, a self-proclaimed hater of advice giving, have run across a little gem that I could listen to and even heed.

Back in school, I briefly studied the work of a well known psychologist, Dr. Albert Ellis.  Look him up on-line and you’ll find he is rich with inspirational one liners and quotes.  One of my favorite quotes by Dr. Albert Ellis,”Stop shoulding on yourself”.  I love this. Stop should-ing on yourself.  So, what is Dr. Ellis really asking us to do?

“Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda”, is usually said in response to remembering a past experience where we regret what happened or what action we took or what the consequences were.  “I wish I could have done this, or would have done that, or I Should have done (fill in the blank)”.  The message I really hear in these words, is “I am not happy with what I did or didn’t do and I Regret”. The action that usually follows that message, I am kind-of, or really harshly, beating myself up and making myself feel bad for it. Helpful?  No.  Are we all guilty of it?  Probably, definitely yes.

I think the easiest way for me to understand the Why behind his advice; “shoulding on myself” is not nice.  It’s not coming from a place of kindness or compassion.  It’s coming from a place of judgement and self-criticism. I’m not saying that there isn’t something to be learned from our past experiences and thinking about how we would do them differently next time.  What I’m saying is, the action of making ourselves feel bad for the past, a.k.a. “shoulding on ourselves”, is not going to get us to a place of understanding.  Should-ing is a place of blame. It’s a place where we’re focused on feeling bad about what we “coulda, woulda, shoulda” done.  So, can we just stop it already?!

And How do we do this, you say?  For some of us, who have grown up in a House of Shoulds, I really get that this practice of “stopping the should” is going to be a big change/process/experience.  And the first step is noticing. When you start should-ing on yourself: What does it sound like? What does it feel like when you do it? How often does it happen and is there a pattern to it? For example, I do a lot of should-ing in the morning, or right before bed, or right after I talk to (fill in the blank). And if it feels right and you have a minute or two, write about it and try to dig a little deeper in to your shoulds. What is your should trying to say?  How is it trying to help you?  And eventually, after doing this practice of looking deeply at your Should for a while, see if you can give your inner Should some kindness.

Last piece of advice, and this very important, that kindness needs to be believable to you in This Moment. You can’t give an inner-shoulding-voice that’s been around for a lifetime,  a line of rainbow, glittery B.S. But, you can practice a step towards genuine and heartfelt self-directed kindness.  Maybe today it sounds like, “I see you should and I hear you.  I am doing the best I can”.  Because at the end of the day, I really truly, deep down believe, that You and I are doing the best that we can.

Think of this practice as an invitation to get curious about your Self. To try and dig a little deeper in to your inner world and gain a different perspective.  Because as one of my favorite poets Maya Angelou once said, “When you know better, you do better”.

Secret Self

What is it about you that you don’t want others to see?

Everyone has a secret self; the parts of us that we don’t share with just anyone.  Some of those parts are benign; like the fact that I really like letting the whole oreo swim in the milk for a while before I scoop it out with a spoon.  Maybe that’s a little weird to some and so this is something I do when I’m alone, and usually while watching a favorite movie or show.

Other parts we may hide because of shame or embarrassment or we’ve decided that it’s too ugly for anyone to see; therefore too risky because we might be judged, labeled, or worse yet, abandoned.

For me, I have kept certain parts of myself so secret that even I didn’t realize they were there.  For instance,  I have learned that I am (and dare I say enjoy being?!) soft and mushy with the people I love and hold dear; think hearts, koala bears and rainbow emojis.  It still makes me a little uncomfortable to share that here. Why?  Because the soft and mushy side of me was very Not welcome for most of my life.  I prided myself on being tough and nonchalant.  The kind of person who could take almost anything in stride and more importantly, I Did Not Care What Other People Thought About Me, Ever.  And that attitude really worked well for me for many years.  It kept people at a distance and gave off this perception that I was not fazed by anything and I certainly wouldn’t have a visible, emotional reaction.

Maybe it’s because I’m part stoic Korean, or maybe it’s because I’m a woman who has calloused around the edges from a life lived with more than a few bumps along the way. Or maybe, it’s because this tough-nonchalant attitude was the best way that I could deal with my soft and mushy parts.  My inner tough-guy was a protector of those parts (a.k.a. my Vulnerability).  And it’s taken years of some deep digging and personal healing work to learn more about my vulnerable self (and I still am).  The good news is that I can now accept and even share that with you, my readers, and feel o.k. about it.

Yay mushy-soft-vulnerable-me!

So, I’ll leave you with these questions; think of it as an invitation to get curious about yourself.  What is it about you that you don’t want others to see? Where do you keep the secret hidden and what keeps you keeping it there?  What’s the worse thing that would happen if the secret was out?!  Can you imagine sharing that with just one person?  Maybe that person is yourself, in a journal and in your safe and private place.  You decide what, when and how much.  After all, you’re the first and foremost authority on what you need.

Happy Friday!  With Hearts, Koala Bears and Sparkling Rainbows. . .Amber

Safety First!

So, I’m reading this article and it got me thinking about safety.  Let me start first with a passage from that article:

“This quote from my mentor Diana Fosha, [2] founder of Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy, sums [it] up:

The roots of resilience are to be found in the felt sense of being held in the mind and heart of an empathic, attuned, and self-possessed other. We want to provide that felt-sense kind of empathic listening that creates the conditions for those roots of resilience moment-by-moment:

Ah, the comfort,
The inexpressible comfort
Of feeling safe with a person.
Having neither to weigh out thoughts
Nor words,
But pouring them all right out, just as they are,
Chaff and grain together;
Certain that a faithful hand
Will take them and sift them;
Keeping what is worth keeping and,
With the breath of kindness,
Blow the rest away.
—Dinah Craik
A Life for a Life, 1859”

So, we talk about certain things in the therapy world quite often and like so many other places in life, words are over-used, mis-used, or just plain misunderstood. Safety, is a great one to start with. And because I have a love of words and their meaning, let’s start with a definition of safety from www.merriam-webster.com.

Safety
noun safe·ty \ˈsāf-tē\
Simple Definition of safety
: freedom from harm or danger : the state of being safe
: the state of not being dangerous or harmful
: a place that is free from harm or danger : a safe place

This idea of safety, specifically personal safety, may be new, or completely foreign to some of you reading this. When you really think about it; what is safety?  How do you know you’re safe?  How does your body know that it’s safe?

Now, let’s put this in to the context of Therapy.  What does it mean to feel safe in a therapy session?  Well, in my experience you can’t just tell someone that they’re safe.  It’s like saying, “Let me be honest with you. . .”  A not unusual response to that statement, “I Don’t Trust You”.  So safety is something that You feel. And that can take time. Because, at the end of the day, when you first meet your therapist, they are a stranger.  And it is not weird or f*ed up that you don’t immediately feel safe or trusting with your therapist.  In fact, there is a chance that what’s brining you to therapy, is the experience of not feeling safe with people.

Over time, you will have a felt sense of safety based on in-the-moment experiences with your therapist. When I think about creating a sense of safety in a session I think about showing up with: consistency, integrity, gentle curiosity, kindness, acceptance and patience.  And most importantly, the session is Your time so You decide when and how much you want to share.  My job is to support you in that process without causing more harm.

Ok, so right now. . .just check in and see just how your body is responding to these questions.  Are you suddenly more aware of your surroundings?  Notice that you’re feeling tired?  Or maybe you feel more at ease after a quick scan of your surroundings?  My intention here is to simply name that bringing your attention to this idea of safety, may (or may not) have an effect on your state of being right Now.

And if you do find yourself feeling a little less safe, take this moment to look around and take stock of your environment:  Look at 5 blue things, and Breathe.  Listen to 4 different sounds, and Breathe.  Name 3 things you can smell, and Breathe.  Find 2 things that you can imagine the taste of, and Breathe.  Notice 1 thing that your hands are touching, and Breathe.

This is a simple thing that you can do almost any where, any time, without anyone noticing what you’re doing.  And if they do, eh.  You deserve to feel safe.
All the time.  Everywhere.  No exceptions.

Honesty. . .

 

Honesty ~ Billy Joel

Listening to this song and it got me thinking about this little 7 letter word, that is anything but.

Honesty. . .I’ve had this conversation with my son starting with questions like: “What is honesty?  What does it mean to be honest?  Is it o.k. to tell a little lie sometimes?”.

Good questions.  Hard questions.  Answering them in a way a 10-year-old can understand puts my understanding of honesty under the microscope and gives me a chance to share my perspective, simply and Honestly.  Sometimes being honest is easy, other times excruciating.  Especially when we perceive a risk of hurting someone with our “truth”.  Now there’s another loaded word, truth.  Truth feels a little easier; it’s relative. . .mostly.  There’s one thing I know to always be true and that’s change.  But I digress.  The conversation is honesty.

Years ago, I found it pretty easy to tell a little white lie or a big, bold faced lie to myself, others, strangers, family, friends.  My little deceits were easily passed out when I found them to be more convenient than the truth.  Because, at the end of the day, my fear of what might happen when the Truth was delivered; well, my fear mongering little ego can go pretty wild and pump up any situation with the fear of potential disaster.  “Someone might not like me!  Someone might think I’m a bad person!  Someone might think what I’ve done is horrible!”.  Or worse, “That person might leave because my Truth is just too unbearable, or ugly, or too close to home?!”.

So, honesty lost and a more convenient “truth” won.  And for a long time, I thought this was the easier way to be in relationship; keep the Truth to myself unless my Truth made me look more desirable in some way.  The desired end result and the compass for my Truth was simple: tell you what I think you want to hear so that you’ll think I’m a good person; worth keeping around.

And I don’t know when it happened exactly, when I decided that this way of being in the world, shelling out half-truths, withholding (that’s the best way to not lie, isn’t it?); it wasn’t how I wanted to be anymore.  Or maybe it started to feel bad.  Or maybe it always felt bad and I was starting to actually feel it.  And there were enough times of being on the receiving end of someone’s constructed version of the Truth that hurt enough to make me start to re-think my choices.  And so, I took another step towards my mature, Grown Up Self (whatever that means) and decided that I wanted my words to be more true.  I started to think about my own integrity.

The integrity of my word.  Maybe that’s honesty; integrity of your word.  Do you say what you mean and mean what you say?  Yeah, it’s a cliché and easy to say. . .but live it?  That’s an entirely different story.  Because sometimes what is honest and True for us in this moment looks a helluva lot different than what was honest and True, last year, last week or even this morning.  Maybe honesty is more fluid and not so set in stone.  Or maybe not.  Maybe that’s a convenient truth.

Tuesday, 7.26.16  10:50am somewhere over Texas

Practice what you preach. . .

I won’t ask you to do anything I wouldn’t, haven’t done myself.  And so, with that spirit of openness, honesty and integrity I share my intentions. . .

I open my heart.  I open my door.  I invite those in who are searching for love.  I invite those in who are curious and ready to walk this path, compassionately.  I invite those in who are longing for connection that is meaningful and fulfilling.  I invite those in who are ready and willing to do the work of self-discovery.  I invite those in who are desiring more feeling, authenticity and Truth.

I invite those in who are searching for love; ready, willing and excited.  6.24.16.  11:15pm