“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
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.
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 placewomen 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,
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.
Sixteen years ago, I worked as a counselor for a nonprofit that was run by the consensus process. When I first started there, I was so excited. I envisioned a place where everyone’s voice was heard and counted equally, a highly evolved and cooperative utopia. The reality, however, was more challenging. Everyone’s voice was certainly heard, but often for long, drawn out meetings. Minor decisions had to be debated and postponed week after week until an agreement could be reached. As we know, opinions don’t change easily. Sharing new ideas doesn’t mean other people will be receptive to them. And if everybody’s talking, who is there to listen?
I learned a lot from participating in the consensus process, and while I still deeply respect the model, I realized I don’t have the inner patience for it. Hearing too many opinions drains my compassion. My favorite way of being in community is more nonverbal. Some years before that nonprofit job, during a work exchange at a yoga retreat center, I had my first experience of group sharing without cross-talk. Being together in silence, owning our experiences, and sharing without the interference of others’ judgments was a relief and a revelation. Not only did we leave those meetings more centered and connected, making clear choices came easier too.
It’s tricky, interacting with other people these days. It’s hard not to get pulled into a downward spiral of how terrible everything is and what should or shouldn’t be happening. Sure, it can be interesting to hear what you think about it all, but what I really want to know is, what is giving you strength each day? How are you keeping your heart open? In today’s world, where so little is actually known or understood, opinions feel even less compelling to me. I wonder more what changes are growing in you.
As a dear friend said to me yesterday, it’s compost time. If triggering information and opinions are going to keep coming in, all that heavy mental-emotional energy needs to be regularly let out. I’ve been hearing people say that everyone is going to need therapy when this is all over, as if mental health is something we can put on hold to deal with on some future, easier day. Mental health is not a matter of keeping it all together until the outside world improves. Let’s please not hold our breaths like that. There’s another way, one that has been around much longer than modern psychology or colonialist times. We can ritually call in, feel, and release the strong and messy feelings on purpose. When we do this letting go together in a protected and loving container, the relief is exponential. We can find both our own hearts and each other again.
I’ve been studying different holistic helping modalities for many years now, and I still find profound worth in the most simple practice of being quiet together in community, listening to each other and witnessing without offering opinions. As many of you know, we do this type of sharing at the end of the women’s release & empower groups. When we went online this spring, I was heartened to see that we really can do this community self-healing work virtually. It’s not passively receiving information staring at yet another screen in a webinar; it’s being together at home, actively letting stuck energies move through the mind, body, and heart without advice or judgments getting in the way. To make this community practice more accessible and available throughout the changing times we’re in, an online Release & Empower community is opening August 1st, with a FREE introductory workshop the week before. Especially if you’ve been doing a lot of emotional caregiving professionally or at home, check it out, and invite a friend you’d like to be with in authentic community.
I don’t know what’s going on around here. What I do know is that even when I tire of opinions, I still care about other people’s experiences. I still love when we can be ourselves together. No matter what is lost, no matter what comes next, I am grateful to be moving through these changes with you.
Wishing you treat yourself to whatever deeply frees your spirit,
PS-If you’d like to learn more about the expressive writing practice we do in Release & Empower and receive some extra support with your self-care at home, check out this new mini practice book just released last month for pandemic times: When You’re Having a Hard Time: The Little Book That Listens. It’s a little heart’s guidance for emotional strength and resilience.
PPS-The release & empower workshop is designed for helping professionals and other emotional caregivers who have been holding it together for others a lot lately. 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. Help is available, and I encourage you to receive it when you need it!
Lately, I’ve been sitting with this question. I started contemplating it when a series of events involving structures crumbling, health breakdowns, and fallen leadership occurred in my personal life within the span of a few days. There’s nothing particularly unusual about this kind of chaos right now. The disruptive energy of change is here. There is no avoiding it. When everything starts falling apart at once, my automatic response is multi-tasking, over-helping, and overdrive. But that sort of high-speed crisis management is not really the best I have to offer, and I’ve been learning how to consciously shift out of that pattern more quickly. It’s actually not who I want to be in the chaos.
A huge redwood tree, rooted in the mountains for more than a hundred years, reaching into the sky with branches that dance in even the strongest wind.
But that’s not it!
Also a bird in that tree.
A bird like an eagle, or perhaps a phoenix. A bird who soars above, seeing what only one with such freedom and perspective can see.
A nest for that bird in that tree, made out of what is available. Holding what is most precious.
A safe place for the vulnerable growing strong.
There’s a whole lot going on out there, and in here. Change, especially big change, is messy. And change at a large scale is kind of terrifying. When the structures, the leadership, and the systems fall apart, as far as I can see, there is only one way to turn: inside and to each other.
This is exactly why I started the women’s release and empower group. If we don’t give ourselves permission and space to release the stress that builds up, no one will. We have to move through the chaos we’re absorbing so we can be strong, clear, and wise when we need to be. No one–no therapist, no doctor, no teacher, no guru–can do this for you. They can guide you on the path, but only you can walk it. We need to do our own self-healing work, and we do it best when we’re together. Only then can we show up with the kind of loving presence and courage that is needed in this crazy world.
One thing I know for sure: everything can fall apart, and you can still have your heart. There are a thousand examples of this. Take Victor Frankl of Man’s Search for Meaning or Anita Moorjani of Dying To Be Me. Take every brave person who keeps their compassion at a job in the hospital, the prison, the social service agency, the shelter, or the walk-in clinic. A holy mess is happening, and it may become the norm for periods of time. So I ask you, who do you want to be in the chaos? We are all needed here.
With so much faith in you,
PS– Let me know soon if you’re interested in joining us this winter/spring for Release & Empower! There are only a few spots left, and the early bird registration discount ends January 10th. We’re looking for women who do a lot of caregiving at work or at home, women who are good at doing what needs to be done but who need more healthy release in their lives! This season, the group meets Thursday evenings in south Austin. It will be a beautiful way to start the new year with intention and care. Details here!