What it means to heal yourself, and how “self-healing” is misnamed, incomplete, and so needed

Have you ever sat by a waterfall in the forest, relaxed in a hammock on the beach, or watched an impressively colorful sunset and felt… nothing? Beauty and peace surround you, yet you’re lost in your own troubles. Maybe you’ve even had that experience with helping professionals, going to therapists and bodyworkers and life coaches and doctors and still, you remain caught in the same struggle that brought you there. It’s an awful feeling, like being handed a beautiful gift made just for you, only you can’t reach out your hands to accept it. You might decide the gift is not right for you and continue your search for more and new and better gifts. But what will help you to receive them?

As many of you know, I am a huge proponent of what I call “self-healing.” This phrase wasn’t super popular long ago, but much like “mindfulness” and “energy work,” it’s becoming so commonplace, it’s losing all meaning. So let me clarify the essence and the hype, as I see it.

What self-healing is not

When we are suffering, the darkness feels more real than the light. Finding solutions to problems in that dark place can seem pointless and burdensome. Self-healing, contrary to its name, is not about pulling yourself up by your bootstraps and applying that independent, self-reliant, cowboy attitude to recovering from burnout and trauma. It’s not about undergoing a multitude of different therapeutic modalities or taking every nutritional supplement or psychedelic medicine available on this earth, though your own self-healing process may certainly include some of these wonderful tools and teachers. Self-healing is also not about manifesting everything you desire or replacing social needs with spiritual pursuits. And just like an outside person can’t make a change happen in you, no “self” can force you to think and feel differently either. 

What self-healing is

Self-healing is an opening. It is being able to see and acknowledge whatever kind of angsty mess we might find ourselves in for the moment. It is surrendering from the struggle to make it all better, a giving up on the attempt to figure it out. Self-healing, in the way I practice and understand it, is being willing to accept life on its own terms and to follow the step that shows up next like one would follow a flashlight through a dark cave. The actual steps are unique to each of us and the timing is as important as what actions we take. In essence, though, self-healing includes both some stepping up and some stepping back:

Stepping Up

We accept we can’t delegate our ability to feel better about ourselves and our lives to outward circumstances or to someone else. We don’t wait on what is outside our control to change. We give up the quest for the final answer being out there somewhere someone else has hidden, and take loving responsibility for our own internal experience of this life. We tell the truth to ourselves about how we’re doing and use our will to be willing.

Stepping Back

We slow down and let in the support that is already available. Maybe there’s a passerby that makes eye contact and smiles, a cardinal that lands on a nearby tree branch, a cooling tea with just the right herbal blend, a song, a movement, or a powerful ally or ancestor unseen by others. The form the support takes is irrelevant–what matters is we’ve let down our guard and allowed the spirit of what is present to touch us. The natural flow of life is healing itself when we stop blocking it. We learn how to receive, which, most simply put, is how to relax around what is. 

We think we need to feel better; often what we really need is to release resistance to what we actually feel and allow the everyday magic to do its thing. Healing as a noun is still a verb—it’s a process unfolding all the time. Shit happens and you can befriend yourself through it or abandon yourself. Self-healing is about learning to be your own champion, your own rescuer, your own beloved. Not because you have a big ego and can do all those things, but because you know you can’t. It’s like the little fuzzy caterpillars I’ve been seeing on my morning walks these days. I was looking at them and thinking about how they will become butterflies. Then I saw one being eaten by a chipmunk. All is not light and wonder. Healing is transcendence but not always through outer transformation. 

The caveat

The individual’s decision to accept rather than resist is a turning point, not the whole story. We are each unique beings, but we are also part of a much larger organism, beyond our own families and loved ones. We are not separate from the earth we walk on nor the child on the other side of the globe. We affect each other. We can trigger each other like crazy, but we can also heal together in depths we can’t reach alone. There is quite a lot of stepping up and stepping back that needs to be done in community as well. Self-healing is essential: only you can choose to be willing and open. Self-healing is incomplete: like trees in the forest, we may seem separate above ground, but our roots are interconnected.

I hope whatever you’ve got going on this summer, you’re reconnecting in a way that is nourishing for you. For the empaths and the sensitives, that way may look quieter and more intentionally slowed down, and that’s absolutely OK. For some of us, re-entry to society is harder than turning in to the introvert’s cave of quarantine. We’re all working things out somehow though. Thank goodness we’ve got ourselves and each other for company on this wild ride. 

Julia Aziz

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PRACTICE NEWS

I am beyond excited about the next cycle of the Release & Empower Women’s Circle, where self-healing in community moves beyond theory to practice. Women who give much of their time and attention to others are coming together in a sacred space for their own self-healing. We are upleveling the energetic container of the online experience, returning to a closed group model, and syncing up with the rhythms of nature this year, amplifying what has already been a nourishing and powerful experience for more than fifty women in the past couple years. Women have started signing up for the fall term with the early registration discount. Read more about the women’s circle here to see if it would be a good fit for you or to apply.
 

Beautiful Mistakes & Life U-Turns

The other day, my 10-year-old asked if she could teach me how to paint wildflowers. While I am a person who delights in all forms of creativity, art has always been the most challenging for me. I can throw some colors on a piece of paper, but ask me to visually represent a specific object, and you’ll receive something that looks like a young child made it. My daughter, however, has taken many hours to master the art of small flower watercolor painting. As she demonstrated her techniques, I followed along but couldn’t quite get my messy blob petals to match her delicately formed ones. “Beautiful mistakes,” we decided to call my stray colors. “Because when you make a mistake, you can keep going and make something new and beautiful out of it.”

I try to be mindful of my language around this topic, as even the word “mistake” implies there is one right way you can get wrong. Some of us learned early: good girls follow directions. If you do what you’re told, you won’t stand out or get into trouble. We can hide behind this facade of who we think we’re supposed to be for decades. What starts as protection from criticism can easily become a cage with no room for individuality or creativity. Keeping up appearances by trying to stay inside the lines can drain our essential life force to near empty.

The old way, the way of perfectionism says:

Get it right the first time. Don’t make a mess. Don’t be a bother.

Really though, haven’t we had enough of this already? Life is messy! It just is. The artistry of my life–my decisions, the ways I fail, the ways I grow–doesn’t match the artistry of yours, and thank goodness! Our messes make us unique. I think of a flower with a torn petal. Shall we toss it to the wind for being imperfectly symmetrical, or will we cherish its fragile beauty? 

If you’re someone who finds her/his/their self caught in this perfectionist prison, what would happen if you fell out of character once in a while? It can be scary to forgo the filter and start responding authentically. Being raw and real, even with self-consciousness, is a service though: we help other humans feel better about making mistakes and being seen too. When we forgive ourselves for not always getting it right, we don’t become more self-absorbed and narcissistic. We become more available. There is more of us to give to others when we’re not busy fighting ourselves. 

Old patterns get entrenched and so often release slowly, with intentional practice. My personal practice lately has been about embracing with compassion, curiosity, and humor what I’ve been calling “life U-turns”. A life U-turn is when we get invested in a new idea for change and go full throttle towards it, only to say “never mind” some steps in. When we do a U-turn, we head back to where we came from with a different point of view. Was it a personal flaw that caused us to move toward that new direction in the first place? Was precious time wasted doing the wrong thing? Or is it possible the “mistake” re-affirmed some essential value we still hold, allowing what was too familiar to be discovered anew. 

Mistakes clarify direction; coloring over the lines helps us think outside the box. I say “Hallelujah!” to this trial and error path forward. As we return to public life, what used to be commonplace feels novel and pretty bumpy. I hope to appreciate even the awkward moments, navigating new boundaries and getting used to each other again. Shall we give it a try, even with our differences? Slowly, let’s stumble forward and rediscover each other’s wholeness again.

Wishing you ever deepening breaths and the gift of seeing beauty in unexpected places,

Julia Aziz

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PRACTICE UPDATES

If you’ve been curious about working together in 1-1 sessions, listening to the first 10-15 minutes of this recent podcast interview will give you a better idea of what my practice is like. If you listen further, you’ll also hear stories about how I became a therapist and what working as an interfaith hospice chaplain taught me. While the title of the interview is Grief and Loss, and we do talk quite a bit about death and dying, it’s also about embracing the inherent discomfort of change. Give a listen if you like!

The current season of the Release & Empower Women’s Circle is coming to a close, and we will be having our final closing ceremony next week. If you’re curious about joining us in the fall, check it out here. We’re going back to the closed group model so the women participating will get to dive deep with each other. We’ll also be syncing up with intention, ritual, and accountability in new ways, so stay tuned for more details by signing up for my mailing list.

The changes that happen, the changes we make

Spring has arrived fully here in central Texas, with wildflowers sprinkling the meadows, trees bursting with green, and birds singing across the skies. Of course this spring feels different from years past, as the death that came through winter’s freeze presents itself starkly alongside the rebirth. The once proud agave cacti are heavy and drooping; browned palm trees struggle to stand while fallen branches rest defeated upon the ground. What’s fresh and new is intertwined with what has perished. Nature seems to be mirroring the paradox of our strange re-opening world, where excitement over returning to former freedoms goes hand-in-hand with the grief and uncertainty that remains.

If you feel both hopeful and unmotivated, depleted and on the brink of change these days, it doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong. You’re living through a complex time with complex emotions, and it’s not easy to move forward in ambiguity. Part of the challenge, as I see it, is we haven’t fully shifted out of modern culture’s warrior mentality towards growth. A plethora of personal development and wellness memes tell us to focus on what we want and manifest our truest desires. It’s empowering to realize how much we can affect change through awareness and intention. But as many of the cultures we destroyed and/or subjugated know, growth happens in cycles, with loss and gain inseparable. To support growth, we can observe what’s actually happening and learn to work with rather than against the natural forces more powerful than we are. 

When we push too hard for what we want to happen, we may end up exhausted from the effort of trying. When we don’t do anything because we lack the energy, we may get stuck in hiding rather than take a risk. Perhaps there is another way, a way that accepts and intends, slows down and progresses. With spacious mind and generous heart, something both new and old may emerge, integrating where we’ve come from, where we want to go, and where we actually are.

I’m guessing if you’re reading this, there may be changes you desire for your life. It has been a long hard year, and being shut in and shut down has certainly clarified what’s not working. Maybe some of the changes you’re feeling called to are not quite happening, or perhaps you’re getting waylaid and pulled in unforeseen directions. When confused between growth and acceptance, rather than asking, “What’s wrong with me? Why isn’t this working? or Why do I feel this way?” a better question might be: “What is the very next step for now?” 

The best thing I’ve done for myself lately was to take a day off to get lost in the woods. Wandering without trying to get anywhere, I feel free. It feels like true relief to trust the meandering path that shows itself rather than bushwhacking what might or might not be a shortcut. There is magic in following trails unknown, not trying to figure out the map. And all along the way, it helps to tell the whole truth–to one’s self more than anyone else. It helps to speak out loud to the trees, the river, the birds, or even the dry creek bed, “Show me the way and help me to trust it.”

I hope you’re being gentle with yourself these days, especially when there are more questions than answers. Top of the list for What I Can Do (a much shorter list than What I Am Not In Control Of) is the practice of being tender with the parts of us that are frustrated and confused. A few steps forward, however many back, I imagine that viewed from high above, together we walk the labyrinth of healing, getting closer in, moving farther out, yet somehow being led towards center.

Wishing you some vitality, inspiration, and peace each day, to receive deeply and share wildly,

Julia Aziz

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When you’re giving out more than is coming in

Have you ever heard a fox cry? A week or so ago, I was in the hill country and heard what sounded like a child screaming, “Help!” in the night. It was a little disconcerting until we realized it was a fox. My friend and I responded by sounding out a similar cry. The more we called back, the closer the fox seemed to approach us. She came near but never all the way to where we stood. We continued to stay in conversation for a while though, until she moved on.

If this fox actually was crying for help, the help she needed was not for someone to go and rescue her. She seemed to find her own way eventually. Maybe she just needed to be heard, to know someone else was out there crying too. I feel a similar dynamic evolving in this next phase of the pandemic together. In the old paradigm, there were damsels in distress and rescuers. There were people in need and people who helped. This dichotomy was always false though. We carry both of these archetypes within us; we are each vulnerable and strong. Pretending there are some who have it all together and others who only fall apart has led to situations like the current mental health crisis for therapists and real burnout for healthcare professionals in general. 

These are intense times, so if you’re not always doing so well, that seems about right to me. We’re not meant to feel always cozy and well in a sick and troubled society. We are meant to be uncomfortable as much as we are meant to be brave. Who says we have to be stoic about any of it? One of my favorite memories of last year was when I stepped outside one morning in Colorado and heard my dear friend and neighbor screaming at the top of her lungs on her front porch. I immediately responded with a loud roar of my own. We laughed about it when we saw each other later, but in the moment it just felt good to be in our own messiness and know we were not alone.

Being heard feels risky, I know. As a therapist, I’ve been well-trained to not show too much of myself, good or bad. Helping professionals are taught to be clear mirrors for others. We’re not supposed to fog up those mirrors with our own personhood. We hold space for other people, not take up space ourselves. I don’t buy it as a way to live a whole life though. I can express what’s within me in contexts I feel safe in, and also show up with presence, compassion, and my full attention for someone else. We all have gifts, and we all have burdens. There is room in this world for the humanity in us all. I’d like to shed all pretenses of “helpers” and “helped” and instead sing out loud with you the music that arises from our dashed dreams, our triumphs, our sorrows, and most of all, our love.  

When we cry out like the fox and hear another’s cry too, it’s not just about venting. It’s about remembering: this life on earth didn’t come with a promise of feeling happy most of the time or everything working out a certain way. You’re not failing at that game. This life is an adventure of growth and change, an opportunity to feel and experience everything. Our stories are heroic tales of resilience. You’re here, and you’re doing it. We all are! 

Please share your voice, and know I am rooting for you. 

With love,

Julia Aziz

PS: If you are helping other beings through this pandemic, and you feel like more is going out than coming in for you, please check out the women’s Release & Empower Group. We have a few spaces open this month, with either month-to-month subscriptions or a nice discount if you make a three-month commitment to yourself. Also new, 10% of the group’s profits are being donated to grassroots community healing work led by BIPOC women. Current recipients include SanArte Healing & Cultura Clinic and Black Women’s Health Imperative. Help others and help yourself too. 

“I feel so much permission to just be however I am in this group. The journaling, the movement, the breathing, the sharing–it’s all what I’ve been needing to do more of for myself and now I feel like I’m making room for it again. I feel so thankful for the women here, and know that as I am going through some changes in my life, this is just where I need to be.”

A Free Workshop to Relax, Renew, Release, and Empower in the New Year

“This is an amazing experience. I don’t think anyone could come away from this unchanged.” -past workshop participant
 


We’re moving into 2021 folks, and if there was ever a time to take responsibility for loving ourselves, releasing the past, and stepping forward with courage, this is it. You may have already heard me talking about the Release & Empower Online Community, and if you’ve been curious, here’s a chance to try it out! With therapeutic writing, movement, music, and guided meditation, this FREE and ONLINE workshop is a mini-retreat to:

  • Start this year by honoring your own rhythms
  • Hear what’s really going on inside your being
  • Move and vocalize in ways that unleash what’s been held too tightly
  • Relax into a loving wholeness and receive the guidance you need

Curious to learn more?
Sign up here to receive a free link to the workshop.


Note: The release & empower workshop is designed for helping professionals and other emotional caregivers. It’s powerful work and requires a certain level of social support and self-care grounding to integrate. If you’re really struggling with mental health right now and feel at the verge of a breakdown, this workshop will not be sufficient nor appropriate. If you don’t know where to turn, try a 24/7 free crisis hotline that can connect you with good and local support, or you can use this textline for help with coronavirus-related anxiety and grief.

May it be a truly new year for us all,

Julia

Enough already, and already it’s enough.

I’ve been living in the same neighborhood for ten years now, and given that I take a walk at least once a day, I’m pretty familiar with my surroundings. There’s the blue house with the big cactus out front, the little library around the corner, the “for sale by owner” sign two blocks away… you get the picture. Seeing the same things every day can, as you may well know, get a little monotonous. Yesterday though, it occurred to me that I could walk in a different direction. That sounds obvious, I know, but taking a left from my front door means crossing a busy street, so I never go that way. Yesterday however, I turned left, waited to cross the street, and found myself in a neighborhood I had never seen before.

Listen, it wasn’t as if I discovered Shangri-la. It’s just another neighborhood, right? But yesterday it felt like grace, getting happily lost on unfamiliar streets with new sights to see. Of course this mini-adventure only came about because I decided to quit walking around in the same circles and instead notice what was already there. I tell you this simple story that’s barely a story at all because it’s reminiscent of a message that keeps coming to me these days: enough already, and already it’s enough. 

What have you had enough of already? I don’t just mean walking around in circles, the pandemic, politics, limitations on travel, zoom calls, etc. I mean what are you tiring of inside your own experience? Maybe it’s regretting the past, the “shoulda coulda woulda” internal conversation that never seems to resolve itself. Or maybe it’s complaining, comparing, blaming, guilting, or some other heavy pattern that has become so entrenched it’s easy to forget there is any other way to respond. What I’ve noticed in my own life, as well as in my experience supporting others through shadow work, is that if we get to know these patterns well, we can learn to recognize when they’ve taken hold, say “Enough already!” and experience a real shift. I’m not talking about some grand and fabulous transformation where you’re demanding a brand new you. Pushing yourself (or anyone else) into new awareness just does not work. What I’m talking about is, in your own time, finding the “no” that shows the way to your “yes”.

Take disappointment for example. If you’ve ever felt disappointed for a long stretch of time, whether that be by relationships, jobs, circumstances–you name it–you know that people and situations don’t always change and relieve you of feeling disappointed. If at some point, however, you say “enough already” and claim your needs as worthy of your own attention and love, no matter if the outside world fills them or not, you may feel a profound sense of power returning. When we acknowledge what didn’t happen and love who we are and what we have anyway… now that’s something new.

December is all about more, not less, in our modern culture. Yet here we are at the end of the fall season, a time when the trees lose the last of their leaves, and the sun sets into the darkening sky earlier each day. All is quieting, simplifying down only to what is most essential. This year we face limitations on our choices, and we grieve losses big and small. So I ask you, what still remains? What in your life is already enough?

I hope there is laughter in your tears and tears in your laughter in these changing times. We all could use some of both, I think. And thank you for reading these messages this year. May you find the courage and gentleness you need to keep going, no matter what.

Julia Aziz

PS- If you know you need more practice with setting boundaries on old patterns and recognizing you are enough, this little book is super affordable and available to all: When You’re Having A Hard Time: The Little Book That Listens. If you want to take it a step further, the Women’s Release & Empower Group continues to enroll wonderful, caring souls. Very little staring at screens, lots of space to be you.

PPS- Want to receive these monthly musings directly? Just subscribe here. It’s the best way for us to stay connected.

* Image by Mabel Amber from Pixabay

On burnout, waiting, and wonder

You might find this strange and a little gross, but the other day I spent some time watching a beetle roll a little balll of dung across the road. I became fascinated by his perseverance and how he naturally made use of what for most living beings on earth is just poop. I don’t know much about dung beetles, but it strikes me on a metaphoric level how we need this kind of resourcefulness in our current world. What creativity could transform what we must leave behind into something sustainable and life-giving?

The most common refrain I’m hearing from folks these days is “I just wish I knew when this pandemic would end.” There is a lot of sadness with this question, as no one can offer anything but predictions or false promises. Maybe there is a higher authority on the subject though. Nature tells us:

Everything changes.
Change happens on its own time.

Many humans in the modern western world use plans for comfort. We want to know what to expect, and we like to have something to look forward to. In some ways, we’ve forgotten how to wonder, how to give our full attention to the lived experience of now. Perhaps there is some connection here to the dung the beetle was pushing across the road. I wonder, what ways of thinking make us feel worse, and how can we digest and eliminate them for the higher good?

I also spent time last week watching some turkey vultures. I’ve never understood why these majestic birds are so underappreciated and almost feared. It’s captivating, the way they circle the skies above, feeding on what has completed its life cycle here. These birds live because other creatures die. In this, they embody rebirth. The vultures teach us that a new cycle begins out of the one that came before. Everything is made use of here, in this place we live. 

When we let go of the individual pursuit of happiness as such a supreme cultural value, perhaps compassion can be reborn. When the experts can’t give us good answers, maybe we’ll witness a rebirth in honoring curiosity and intuition. As I see it, we don’t need more gurus, we need more empathic, creative people who trust themselves and each other. I’m not trying to draw a silver lining around a very dark cloud. The weariness and the grief are real and everywhere. Still, I believe in us. I believe in our resilience and in our ability to make changes for the better. 

A friend who is more like a sister to me lives in the redwoods in California, and the fires this summer came within a quarter mile of her house. She told me after the weeks of smoke, flames, and devastation, the birds were the first animals to return to the forest. The birds, of course, were the ones who could most gracefully leave and most easily return. Their protection lies not in being the strongest fighters, but in being the lightest on their feet. Who is to say what’s most needed right now in our own personal and collective struggles. All I know is there are some great teachers living amongst us who have been there all along. We may have to open the door and look outside to find them.

May you feel the support of the ground, the possibility of the sky, and the beauty of your own true nature,

Julia

PS– If you’re a helper or healer longing to feel yourself again, consider joining us in the Release & Empower online community for regular mental, emotional, and physical release. It’s self-care accountability and spiritual renewal in good company. As of the time of this writing, I also have two openings for individual holistic psychotherapy. And all are welcome to check out this new pandemic support book: When You’re Having A Hard Time: The Little Book That Listens

PPS– Sending some extra love to all those who are grieving the loss of a loved one this year. Big big hugs to you.

On falling apart and getting back up again

We are moving through the Days of Awe in the Jewish tradition this week, a deeply reflective time that starts with an autumnal new year and ends with a holy day of fasting, accountability, and forgiveness. In this ten day period, each member of the community is asked to own up to the ways in which they have become out of alignment with what is true and loving. No one is exempt from this process, for it is understood that being a human being means wanting to do better and failing often. Throughout the High Holy Days, we speak aloud the many ways we have fallen off track, from being greedy and inconsiderate to talking unkindly behind someone’s back to not speaking up against injustice. Now, you might be thinking this is a big “oh, how guilty am I” vortex. But it’s really not. It’s not about self-hate; it’s about acknowledging human frailty, taking corrective action, and recovering our true essence again. 

It’s pretty easy to fall into burnout these days, to feel worn down and hopeless by the devastation and strife. Instead of resisting the call of grief, rage, and unresolved pain, these holidays remind us of the importance of safe spaces to feel. In a lovingly held container, we can be honest with ourselves about the hurt we have caused and the hurt we have incurred; we can shed the tears that have been held back day after day; we can give voice to how we participate in our own destruction. And then we look around and see how it’s not just us; everyone else is in this struggle too. So we dry our tears, stand on our own two feet again, and say, “Ok, this isn’t good. What can I do to make it better?”

Making amends is a centerpiece, the call to action during the Days of Awe. Sometimes there isn’t anything you can do to directly make things better, but when there is, you are asked to do that hard thing. When there’s no way to make amends directly, there’s almost always a way to pay it forward or to do some good in counterbalance. Most importantly, whatever action is called for, forgiveness is the way forward. After feeling the pain, owning what’s not working, and doing what can be done, the community together claims a fresh start. All old promises, broken vows, and missed chances are made null and void in one fell swoop. Clearing the past makes room for new intentions. We know we will fall down again, but this does not excuse us from getting back up. Perhaps what is most brave about humans is the way we start over after feeling like all hope was lost. We say, “I am going to do my best, again.”

It will always be enough. 

If you don’t yet have a place you regularly go to safely unravel, I highly recommend finding one soon. We must build emotional and spiritual strength to face these next few months and whatever they bring. We absolutely can’t wait on the world to get better so we can feel better. Things are likely to become even more strained in this country, and we need the ones who care to be as powerfully connected and emboldened for the good as possible. That inner strength is very hard to find without a safe place to feel how it’s all affecting our own sensitive nervous systems. If you haven’t checked it out yet, our women’s group still has openings, with just a few weeks left to take advantage of the discounted introductory rates. This is a place women grieve, rage, fear, feel… and then we dust off, re-center, and re-align with what we know to be true, a wholeness that no one can take from us. A weekly mini-retreat like this may not change the world, but the people who are replenishing their spirits in this and other ways are the only ones who can, together.

Together, we grieve. Together, we work towards the best we can imagine, each bringing our own gifts to the table, at our own pace. I want to hear your best ideas and what you’re willing to let go of to know more peace. It’s OK to mess up, and it’s OK to hurt. When we feel it and own it, we can make changes, accept, and move forward. You are good enough, my friend. You’re here, and the people before you who had to survive many hardships for you to be here tell me: your existence is a miracle. How will you live it?

Wishing you kindness towards the struggle, and a new beginning each and every day, 

Julia Aziz

PS–If you’re giving a lot of energy and attention to other people or to the world in general, I’d love to support you in making space for your own emotional release and spiritual renewal. Our online group still has discounted introductory rates for those who start within the next few weeks, before October 15th (just set up a screening call to get started). Here’s a recent comment about Release & Empower from FB: “It’s absolutely phenomenal! I highly recommend it to anyone who is considering. You will find yourself saying, “This is exactly what I needed!” It’s flexible, affordable, and some truly authentic and compassionate women would love to welcome you in.

PPS–If you can’t join the group, but you know you need help making space to feel, here’s a little book to support you. Hot off the press, June 2020: When You’re Having A Hard Time: The Little Book That Listens.


Would you like to connect more? You can sign up for my newsletter and receive monthly reflections as well as information about upcoming offerings.

If you’re needing some space for yourself: About Release & Empower Online

Everything is changing, responsibilities are multiplying, and plans are pretty impossible. But if you’re a woman who spends a lot of time attending to other people’s needs, you may need to purposefully set aside time to attend to your own. In my experience, if we don’t do this for ourselves, it’s not going to happen. And it’s WAY easier to make that time when we feel some accountability with others. This is why I want to share a new kind of women’s group with you.

The Release & Empower Online Community is designed for women who do the emotional caregiving and space-holding work that often goes unnoticed. Some are helping professionals like mental health therapists, health and wellness practitioners, and teachers; others do most of their caregiving at home with children or elders. All give a lot of themselves, and most really need some space to receive. If this sounds like you, maybe you’re also wanting to:

  • Feel, release, and relieve negative emotions as often as they arise
  • Tap into clear intuitive guidance when you need it
  • Feel relaxed and strong enough to make courageous choices 
  • Appreciate your life and know you are really worth it

The Release & Empower Online Community is not therapy or interpersonal processing work. It is women taking care of themselves, together. Each community session is like a mini-retreat, where we practice four simple and powerful tools: writing, somatic release, self-compassion practice, and sharing with witnessing only, no cross-talk.

What’s different about this new format: 
(1) Women can join from anywhere, so you can invite a friend that you love and miss, and really be connected with her on a regular basis again, without needing to catch up on a bunch of phone calls, texts, etc. or even be in the mood for conversation. We don’t share for long but we get right to the heart of things.
(2) When you do loud and/or crazy movement, no one is watching, so everyone can get wild with it without feeling self-conscious.
(3) This group is available throughout the pandemic, so that every Tuesday evening, there’s a place set aside to care for your emotional/spiritual health. It’s flexible, affordable, with very little commitment— you can come every week or just when you feel like it, and always know it’s there for you.

What’s it take to join? Just set up a free inquiry call, we’ll make sure it’s a good fit for you, and then you can start any Tuesday. Questions? Just ask. All the details are here.

Wishing you safe, compassionate, and authentic community wherever you are,

Julia

PS–To read the updated FAQs about making this community a protected and diverse space in our highly charged times, scroll to the bottom of the main page.  

Expanding the view

One of the greatest gifts I’ve received in the past few years has been some dear friends in Colorado that invite my family to pet/housesit when they travel. I just returned to Austin from there, and while the spirit of the forest is still present in me, I’d like to share it with you. Every morning last month, I woke up hours before my first appointment and hiked down and up the mountain to take my morning shower in a waterfall a little ways away. Before I start waxing on, let me warn you: I am in love with this waterfall. I don’t mean I think it’s beautiful or that I like listening to it, though those things are very true. I mean I am in love with this waterfall! There’s something instinctual about hearing the sound of rushing water that makes me feel both abundant and safe. The freezing cold stream woke up every cell in my body and erased every thought in my mind those mornings. All this while looking out onto pine trees and mountaintops, hummingbirds and butterflies.

On my last full day there, I got to spend a more extended time with my beloved. I sat there watching and listening to the cascade, mesmerized by the movement of water over rock. I loved noticing how it all goes downstream. Some drops might bounce off a jagged edge and spray out at a wild angle, but all the water knows which way to go. If only we humans could maintain such flow and clarity of direction. I sat there contemplating how to let my own life choices head downstream, letting what’s easy and obvious lead. 

Then some hikers came by and decided to have lunch, at which point I realized I better move on. I was feeling wistful and not wanting to leave, especially knowing that the town plans to close the trails next year. I headed down the path to a spot I had never stopped at before. As I sat there watching the milder stream, I saw that every time we adjust to a new situation or changing reality, we are just like the water rushing down over the rocks, moving over and around the obstacles, flowing through the crevices. Maybe this moment-to-moment adaptation is all it takes to be in the flow. There’s nothing more to figure out about it. More importantly, the mountain is more than just one beautiful section of waterfall. A mountain is made up of many different elements, just like we, too, are whole beings that encompass scared parts, pleasure-seeking parts, ambitious parts–the inner child and the inner elder too. In the big picture, we are all of these parts and more, just like the mountain isn’t separate from individual rocks and trees, waterfalls and dirt. When I am the mountain, I know everything that’s happening is happening over and through and within me. I don’t have to hold on to my favorite parts; they are already encompassed within something much larger and quite majestic. Some of you may remember how well the trees reminded me to root back into the earth in December, pre-pandemic. I think our current times call for something even more grounded, more vast. Perhaps it is time to be the mountain itself, where the trees and the waterfalls and the flowers are born, grow, die, change, and in some sense, are always one.

Are there ways you could move more easily downstream in your own life? I know there is much that will never be the same again. Even the waterfall I fell off of two years ago is unrecognizable today, so many pebbles and boulders have shifted since then. Sometimes, I find, letting go is easier when we expand the view. What would it be like not just to let change happen, but to be the ground upon, the field within, that change occurs?

Somewhere in between trying really hard and giving up, there is a place of alignment and power. It’s a place where we move with the twists and turns in one particular moment and then the next, nothing more, nothing less. I wish this place arrives for you as often as not, and I send you the blessings of the mountain, the waterfall, the eagles, and the bears. May we remember where we came from and why we are here.

Big big hugs to you,
Julia

PS– I know I can always use a reminder about how powerful even thirty seconds to a minute of standing under a cold water shower is as a nervous system reset, anxiety soother, anger cooler, immune system booster, skin refresher, pain reliever, and overall wake up. If reading about cold water here didn’t do it for you, you can research not only the science of it but also the different traditional cultures that have utilized cold water plunges for spiritual, emotional, and physical renewal for many generations. Simple healthcare you can do yourself.

PPS– I find so much to gain from ritual, showing up for what heals me on a regular basis, regardless of how I’m feeling that day. Like the cold waterfall, it’s about starting over, regularly. My morning walk and prayer/meditation time are like that and so is Release & Empower, an online self-healing practice community. Tuesday evenings, this is where you’ll find me. Together with other genuinely caring and quite responsible women, we loosen up the body and relieve the mind, returning to our own wild hearts. Everything is changing and plans are pretty impossible. But if you’re a woman who spends a lot of time attending to other people’s needs, this community is a place you can rely on for you. It’s flexible, affordable, and currently has openings, so you can start any Tuesday after having a free Q & A call. New creative solutions to personal and world problems originate from relaxed nervous systems. There is a lot we can do on our own, and so much more we can do together. 


Curious to connect more? You can sign up for my newsletter and receive monthly reflections as well as information about upcoming offerings.