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

Sign up to receive monthly musings in your inbox and learn about opportunities for self-healing together.

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

When people feel and think differently than you

We’re having different experiences of what’s happening (like we always do), and it’s causing some highly volatile emotional weather out there. Clearly we are not all in the same health/economic/job/home/legal status/mental health situation, but also we process and adapt differently. I changed my views and practices last week several times, often after reading or talking to someone with a viewpoint I hadn’t considered. It’s a good thing, different voices. It’s also easy to get pulled into an emotional landmine you didn’t mean to step in. 

I’m seeing people volunteering to help and coming together, but I’m also seeing a lot of judgment, blaming, and shaming going on. Whether it’s a loved one who isn’t being as careful as they could or a “look on the bright side” post that hits a nerve, it’s a triggering environment. So what do we do with all this activation?

Well, first off, we know it’s often best to step away and not communicate with anyone for a bit. I am mom to three children, so trust me, I know that’s not always possible! Recovery time before responding is key though. So is remembering that while you may be triggered, it doesn’t mean anyone else is to blame. If I feel riled up, it is my responsibility to feel, soothe, and care for myself in this vulnerability. It is not my responsibility to change your mind or fix the way you feel.

If self-soothing isn’t your MO and you often harshly judge yourself, I recommend placing a hand on your heart and trying out some of these phrases when you feel the trigger coming on:

I love you, and I know you’re doing the best you can. 

I am here for you every step of the way. 

I know this has been really hard for you, and I am so proud of you. 

This is a humbling time. None of us have all the answers. Good news is: none of us ever did! Giving up the attempt to control, surrendering to “I don’t know,” making space for all the feelings to be felt, allowing others that space as well—this is what we can do for ourselves and for each other emotionally. 

It’s OK if you’re scared right now. It’s OK if you’re thriving and empowered. It’s OK if you’re furious. It’s OK if you’re despairing. It’s OK to have all these emotions and more in the span of one hour. There is plenty of space for feelings to be owned, felt, and transformed.

I wish you so much gentleness from your own heart. The more you take care of your own well-being, the better all our interactions are. We can do this ourselves, together. 

xoxo
Julia

PS–If you’d like further support, please sign up for my newsletter or check out my (now remote) services here.

Stress Release On The Regular

I’ve had an idea cooking for over a year now. It’s based on observations of my clients, my friends, my students, and myself, as well as what is going on out there in the world. What I see is this: Women have always fulfilled the role of caring for the young, the weak, and the vulnerable. The world as we know it seems to be collapsing in pieces, and the need for caregiving is growing exponentially. Most of us are just trying to get by, do some good, appreciate time with loved ones, and make a difference where we can. With violence, bigotry, and intense climate change, the stress of modern life is hitting the high mark almost daily for many.

There’s a lot of lip service paid to stress relief and self-care, but what does that mean? Taking time out for you? Splurging on that girls’ weekend? The reality is, most of us can’t get a massage every day or, more importantly, every time stress hits the body. We can’t control our environments or live in a bubble. We need to be able to process what’s coming at us efficiently. We need to release emotions as they come in, before they build into an anxiety crescendo or harden into resentment and hopelessness. There’s important work to do out there, and there are wonderful relationships, natural beauty, and moments of joy to appreciate in these temporary lifetimes we live. But we can’t see those blessings let alone move forward when we carry around too much emotional weight.

So here’s the idea that has finished cooking and is ready to be served:

Release and Empower: A Women’s Group for Letting Go and Moving On

This isn’t therapy or interpersonal processing; it’s women doing their own emotional release and empowerment work, together. Practicing the simplest of the simple tools I’ve learned over the past twenty-three years, it’s spiritual hygiene, a boot camp for emotional strength. 

If you feel almost chronically stressed because you’re going through a major life change, you’ve struggled with anxiety your whole life, or because you’re an empath and the news is breaking your heart, this work was created for you. The group is a season of commitment to regularly releasing stress from the mind, the body, and the heart, re-energizing your spirit and re-aligning with clear guidance. It starts Sunday, September 15th, and you can get all the details here. There’s an early bird registration discount that ends August 31st, so click here if you’d like to talk more and see if it’s a good fit for you. And if you’d like to experience a FREE sample of this work, join me on Saturday, September 7th. 

Cheering you on from the sidelines in whatever inspirations light your fire, 

Julia