December 18, 2013
My body is my guru: Jen Lee
December 11, 2013
photo by Bella Cirovic
Jen Lee is a friend and a deep, Trust Tending kindred. Her work inspires, heals, and comforts me on so many levels, and is blazing a trail – as we speak – for innovative, collaborative, world-healing work. Please welcome her to our My Body Is My Guru series.
My residency in my body has not been a comfortable one.
Perhaps it would have been easier if my insides matched my outsides so to speak, but this is not my design. My interior is intense and fiery, given to passionate bursts of speed and an appetite for execution. My body, by contrast, is a precarious eco-system with a very small sweet spot between over- and under-stimulation and limited endurance.
For a long time I regarded my body and its limitations with disdain. Who could be bothered to shower when there was so much to DO? I was annoyed that my work had to be interrupted for pesky things like sleep and meals and bathroom breaks. I fantasized about being free from these constraints. I read those articles about people who only need four hours of sleep each night with envy and longing.
I let my work burn like an unhindered forest fire until my body literally couldn’t sustain it. Until I felt certifiably crazy. My concern for my mental wellness finally pushed me to get help, to learn my body and surrender to it. To change my ways.
It’s strange to think about now–I mean here I am, sitting at my desk and really straining to remember what it was like in those days–what *I* was like–because it feels so foreign from the way I live now.
Now my body is the source of all I do. It lets me know when to sit down and get the words out and when to lie down. When to stare out windows and when to push through and get the task done.
And it doesn’t only influence my pacing or the design of my days–my body even chooses my friends. I tune in to how people *feel* to me, and now my closest friends are people who felt safe for reasons I couldn’t articulate if I had tried. I just knew how it felt to be near them, and reached out. I can often feel how a collaboration is going to go–whether the other people feel clean and clear, whether I can trust them to do the work on their side of the street as I do mine. Whether I can trust us both to take good care of one another with love and respect along the way.
I think this particular radar or knowing comes from having it go poorly. From being in situations where intimacy was used irresponsibly, communities where people were acting unconsciously or without integrity, from knowing people who were flooding with good intentions and leaving incredible wreckage in their wakes. It’s the kind of wisdom we all long to be spared from learning first-hand, but I don’t think we can learn any other way. All the after school specials of my youth and a social sciences degree did not teach my body how it feels to be in the presence of such people and situations, they only gave me a cognitive understanding of them, which is a really different thing.
My journey is far from over. I am coming off a year that saw some big dreams come true–creating a documentary about creative collaboration and taking it on tour with my daughters and many of the artists in my community–and to be honest, there’s a period of feeling a bit unmoored that I’m walking through now. Just this morning I had to remind myself, “Thinking will not get you through this.” That’s an old, go-to move: “I will obsessively ruminate my way to the other side of this discomfort.”
I know now: That is not the way to anything but a good long ride on the hamster wheel. I know my best bet is to keep soaking in warm tubs or resting under the covers with one hand on my navel and the other on my heart. To stretch and strengthen my body. To notice the way it makes me feel calmer to watch candlelight flicker and dance. It is my body that will carry me to the other side, that will help me recognize the way forward when I find it.
My body is no longer my enemy, in fact it never was. It is my sanctuary, my safe haven, and inside this skin and these bones I wait. I listen. I rest.
Jen Lee is the director and producer of the new documentary film, Indie Kindred. A publisher, producer and a performer in New York City’s storytelling scene, Jen has been featured on public radio’s Peabody Award-winning Moth Radio Hour. Jen’s soulful-meets-artful resources for off-map thinkers and makers at jenleeproductions.com include apparel, books, course curriculum, audio learning programs and film.
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Let’s get physical
December 10, 2013
December 9, 2013
My soul is feeling things these days that I can’t quite name. On one level there’s joy and glad anticipation of what life holds ahead. And there’s gratitude for what’s in my life and in my arms each day already.
On another there’s a kind of grief going on. The shifting nature of life – the way friendships and life seasons and circumstances come and go: I don’t always have peace with this.
This week my practice when I feel these tougher feelings is to put my hand on my heart and send love to whatever part of me is feeling them. To tell that part of me, “I’m here. I’m listening. I’m sorry you’re feeling blue.”
It doesn’t make the feelings disappear, but it helps life feel softer and kinder, which, goodness – isn’t nothing. Grief needs soft places to land.
I’m sending you love and linking arms with you in a special way if you’re feeling this mix of things, too. I’m glad we’re in this being-human thing together.
Your Great Work
December 5, 2013
This image was part of last year’s Santa Pause experience. If you’d like to receive images like this in your inbox each day this season, come see what Santa Pause is all about. Registration stays open through THIS SATURDAY.
My body is my guru: Chris Zydel
December 3, 2013
Please welcome Chris Zydel to our My Body Is My Guru series! Chris is a bright, warm light in our world and I feel nurtured and healed just being in her presence (if you can be with her in person, DO!). Her words here make me take a deep breath of self acceptance. I hope they do the same for you.
Body Of Knowledge. Body Of Wisdom. Body Of Love.
My body has been my teacher throughout my life but I must say I have not always been the most willing or enthusiastic student. And I seem to be in constant need of remedial learning.
My journey with my body as my guide began in my early twenties when I was suffering from a painful and ongoing depression. My family was concerned for me and tried to help by paying for some visits to a local and well respected psychiatrist.
For a couple of months I went weekly to this guys wood paneled office, where he sat in a plumped up black leather chair behind a huge and imposing wooden desk writing on a yellow notepad as I talked. In between naps ( yes, he would literally fall asleep during our sessions), when he wasn’t doodling on his note pad, he would look up at me and say ” Don’t worry. One of these days you’ll meet a man, get married, have kids and everything will be alright.”
Obviously this supposed “therapy” wasn’t exactly working.
I kept searching for some kind of solution to my pain and one day while scouring a local bookstore I came across a book by a guy named Alexander Lowen called Depression and The Body and the path for my life’s journey was set.
I eventually moved to California, studied massage, Bio-energetics, Reichian bodywork and a bunch of other body based therapies and began the journey of healing my relationship to my emotional self through the wisdom of my body.
I learned through these modalities that being part of this western culture meant that I was taught to repress and ignore my emotions. To try and talk myself out of them and rationalize them away. To denigrate my emotional experience as having no value. Which led to a life lived primarily in my mind.
I learned that patterns, trauma and ancient stories all lived inside of my muscles, bones, flesh and nervous system. I experienced the power of feeling and releasing various emotions through dance, stomping, growling, howling, crying, twirling, bounding, playing and just generally moving my body while making sounds.
I discovered that feeling AND expression of difficult emotions, counterintuitively led to a profound experience of aliveness and joy. I slowly began to recognize that everything is energy and there is no such thing as good or bad energy. There is only energy that is conscious or unconscious, expressed or unexpressed, hidden or revealed.
And that continually expressing this energy kept me feeling vital and connected to my most deeply authentic self.
Like most lessons this was one that I needed to learn over and over again. Fast forward to my early 40′s when I began having problems with my back. I would lift something or bend in a weird way and find myself in excruciating back spasms lying on the couch for days at a time unable to move.
Once again it was a book that saved me, John Sarno’s The Mindbody Prescription: Healing The Body, Healing The Pain. In this book he talked about how there is an epidemic of pain syndromes such as chronic back pain, that have at their root repressed emotions, most often resentment, grief and rage. And that these emotions are often related to a set of behaviors and attitudes, primarily perfectionism, overachieving and looking outside of oneself for approval.
He talked about how certain emotions are considered to be dangerous and forbidden and rather than admit that we have them, we unconsciously choose the strategy of excruciating pain as a way to distract ourselves from our true feelings.
Once I admitted ( again) the reality of what I was feeling and recognized that these psychological patterns of trying too hard to be something that I was not were wreaking havoc on my body, I miraculously gained relief from the pain.
Going through menopause in my 50′s was another opportunity to allow my body to lead the way. It was a volatile time on the physical level as my body went through the process of adjusting to changes in my hormonal systems which affected every aspect of my being, from insomnia to bone numbing exhaustion to brain fog to joint pain and emotions that ran the gamut from euphoria, to irritability to crying uncontrollably for no reason.
This period in my life led to radical shifts in my identity and an increased commitment to self care.
I had always identified myself as a loving and generous person, but my body was letting me know, in no uncertain terms, that certain patterns of putting others needs ahead of my own was only leading to ever increasing physical and emotional suffering. I had to admit that I had limits and boundaries on my time and energy. That I didn’t have endless reserves and that I needed to fill my own well on a regular basis. That I needed to put my needs for care and nurturance first and could no longer abuse my body with overwork and using substances like sugar or coffee to prop up my depleted physical system.
Now I am in my early 60′s and my body is talking to me in new and interesting ways, although many of the themes are still the same.
I am in an ongoing healing dance with adrenal exhaustion and a couple of injurious falls that have led to problems with my back of a more mechanical nature.
My body is once again asking me to pay attention to my needs for rest, for time that is devoted to being and not always doing, to my own creative process. It is most certainly the boss and if I ignore it’s demands I pay dearly with immobility and increased couch time.
When I fight the messages from my body, as if it is somehow the enemy trying to thwart my efforts to have a good life, I always end up with increased experiences of suffering.
But if I pay attention to where it is trying to lead me, I am rewarded with a deeper connection to what has true meaning for me. To what feeds my soul. To what brings me the greatest joy and aliveness. To what feels good on all levels.
I have learned over these many years, sometimes the hardest way possible, that my body is not only my teacher but my dearest and wisest friend. That it only wants what will ultimately make me happy and lead to my greatest sense of well being. And that it is always way smarter than I want to admit.
I am Chris Zydel, Wild Heart Queen + founder of Creative Juices Arts, and I have an unshakeable faith in the power of creative self expression to heal hearts and to change lives. I also know deep in my bones that everyone is deeply, wonderfully and gloriously creative. I am on a mission to prove that to the world by providing nurturing and joy-filled sanctuaries of encouragement, permission and trust in the sacred energy of play and creativity that lives inside of us all.
You can find out more about me and my work at http://www.creativejuicesarts.com
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November 26, 2013
Sending love to you this Thanksgiving week, and deep wishes that you find moments of stillness and enoughness in the midst of all your plans,
P.S. If you need a little hand-hold for upcoming family time – which let’s face it, isn’t always easy, no matter how much love surrounds it – I made this book for you.
P.P.S. Santa Pause begins officially THIS SUNDAY, with introductions heading out on Saturday. If you’ve been meaning to sign up, or want to learn more about this chance to gently nourish trust this holiday season, now’s the time to go here.
Calling on your strength
November 22, 2013
If I could circle with you and the beat of many drums, I'd want to dance a dance of fierceness and love and determination to make a new world together. A world where fear is only background noise and not what guides us. A world where trust loosens all our hearts and the soil of our imaginations and unleashes wave upon wave of new leaders and new businesses and new relationships and new movements and new art that all get how connected we all are, how crazy able we are to address complex challenges in win-win ways, and how our planet needs this of us.
Rise up in the life that you're currently living - not the life that you'll be living someday when you get everything in order and figure out your purpose and the kids are all raised.
Rise up in the specific and maddening relationships you're navigating today.
Rise up in your work place and on the bus and in the quiet of your living spaces.
Rise up and say,
Enough of being stuck; enough of being wilted; enough of being numb; enough of avoiding the work I feel called to; enough of being gripped by jealousy and bitterness and victimhood.
Rise up and say,
Today, in this moment, and the next, is my chance to let trust be my guide. Is my chance to soften all my muscles and my fight-ready fists as many times as I can think of it and open up my hands and heart and mind to love and inspiration.
Today is my chance to call on strength and trust in ways I often don't think of doing and pour these into things that help and heal and re-order.
Today is my chance to be a trust warrior on behalf of Earth and on behalf of the people that I love and on behalf of my own heart that's so ready to live beyond the walls and containments that fear has created there.
And tell me if there are ways I can support you doing so.
Heart to Art: Surprise
November 15, 2013
A reader writes:
About 5 years ago, I reached one of those crossroads in life and agonized over which fork to take. Ultimately, my partner (now husband) and I veered right… we bought land, built a house on it, and really settled into this place.
But what I really never gave up hoping for was the impossible: both. I wanted to continue going on outdoor adventures for a couple months every year and working in between and living lightly AND sink into one place until the ground conforms to my shape. Recently, the quiet voice that asks, “What happened? I thought we were going to do it all?” has been harder to quiet.
I remember the reasons why I chose this fork, and they haven’t changed. I wish it was simply that I wanted to follow the left fork instead, because I’m sure I could forge a path across and meet up. Instead, I feel stuck measuring myself against my hopes. The standard was unrealistic, but it doesn’t lessen the doubt that I feel.
Heart to Art is a collaborative series that runs here (almost) each Friday – your stories turned into trust-nourishing art. Head over here to see how YOUR story might be included.
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The Santa Pause movement is growing and I’d be thrilled to have you join us! Come see what it’s about!
May my life be a healing story
November 6, 2013
If words and images like these (above) soften and center you, I hope you’ll consider joining me for Santa Pause. Let’s support one another in bringing peace to our hearts and our planet.