Try and be mindful of when and where you feel depression creeping up on you, catch yourself before you are fully in it. When depression is starting to take hold or has taken hold we usually want to get into bed and dive under the covers; or laze around and not leave the house. This is good to do when you have the flu or a physical health problem.
While meditating recently, guided by Deepak Chopra – the mantra provided was: ’Through Rest and Play I open my Creative Channel’. These words vibrated within me and encouraged me to step more fully into the wisdom of this.
Through Rest and Play I Open My Creative and Channel.
For me, after play and rest I feel so much more engaged with creative endeavours: be it writing, painting, music or collaborating on possibilities and meanings about life. I’ve been reminded about the importance of downing tools and just being playful and relaxing. It can be so invigorating, refreshing and renewing. I love the way meditation can sometimes bring insight exactly when it is needed! So, if you feel the need to open your creative channels – try rest and play.
We have just had winter solstice here in Australia. The fullest closest moon lit up the night sky and all the diamond rain drops. Do you ever feel oppressed by wanting more? Do you ever feel guilty for not just accepting what you have and being happy – even when you have read ‘The Happiness Trap’ by Russ Harris. Well treat yourself with compassion and perhaps write yourself a poem. Let poetry, spirituality and creativity dance together, here’s something I wrote ….
The oppression of yearning.
The oppression of wanting.
The longing orbits me like hundreds of moons.
Unable to sink into acceptance like I know I should ….
I shake my head at the stars
Waiting for Virgo rising to answer me
I seek out the clairvoyant, the medical intuit, the chakra opener and the psychic.
I wade into the bitter surf under the closest fullest moon and cleanse the dust from my crystals.
Rinsing the enigma in the salty hope of futures …
Being a therapist is awesome. Words can’t really describe the privilege. Last Friday night I wrote this during our twenty minute writing time at the ‘Bushland Writers’ (at least I think that’s what we call ourselves, although I think we struggle with our identity). We meet fortnightly in Helensburg. Since I have about ten draft posts not completed and unlikely to be anytime soon, I’ll just post this … perhaps I got a bit carried away, but really the process of therapy can be amazing.
The sacred space unfolds the creativity, the becoming of what you and I have it within us to be.
Discovering, connecting, intimately outpouring ethereal love, holy and true.
Resonance comes from all the uncertainty, all the possibilities and from the courage to allow the mysterious to unravel and be.
It is a moment of crystal truth unable to be held yet it caresses the air like spirituality.
It is the vibrating of knowing something so profound, poignant and often beyond a name.
A journey taken that is so transformative that the before is no longer recognisable – gone forever but not forgotten.
This unnameable knowing is as fragile as a spider web and as strong as a spider web.
Evocative narration of the present time … ticking the session away – tickling discoveries of meaning and imaginings out of what I thought we never could have known.
Star shine, moonshine and sunlight rolled together with wonder and curiosity and placed in a bowl of love to be held.
A bowl of love to drink from, eat from, sleep in and dream a thousand dreams upon.
Inspiring more and more to be poured into all the poetic spaces of intimacy – a powerful attraction of the interaction where the past is in the present and the present was in the past and here we are now in the future which is also the universal present.
Taking from the margins and we find unity in passing through the metaphors to find the original – all shining and bright.
Trusting the unfathomable search within archaeologies of hope.
Life is now different, having arrived nowhere and everywhere all at once – an old story anew.
Copyright Julie-Anne Geddes
For the last couple of years I’ve been studying mindfulness and engaging in the practice of this. I’ve been consciously bringing my five senses to the front of my mind as I ground myself in the present moment. To ground myself in my body I focus on my bottom on the seat and also on the rise and fall of my tummy. This rise and fall occurs naturally because I’m alive! I don’t have to deliberately breathe in and out, I just put my hand on tummy and take notice. Being aware of each and every present moment helps me to appreciate the moment, savour the moment and be in my own power to make a choice in the here and now. When thoughts pop in, I take note and bring my attention back to my bodily sensations.
What I have learned from mindfulness is that the more connected I am to all the sensations, tastes and tingles in my own body, the more connected I become to others. People who come to consult with me in my psychology practice, often tell me they feel positive energy and warmth when they are with me. I put this partly down to mindful focus on the feelings in my body and the connection this brings to the other person’s energy with my energy. Mindful practice also alerts me to gently check in with people if I feel something is amiss in a conversation. I believe this helps the conversation to be more intimate.
Mindfulness of the present moment, keeps to a minimum worry about the future and regrets about the past. Living moment by moment takes a devoted and intentional practice and is satisfying. I believe that in order to connect with others intimately, we also need to be able to connect with ourselves.
In the same way this connection to my body can improve conversation, connection and general intimacy, it can also improve sex! Therefore, inviting people to be mindful and focus on the sensations in their bodies when having sex with their partner can lead to a more satisfying sexual experience for them. To improve your sex life you might like to try focusing on certain sensations in your body before you begin having sex and during sex or when you masturbate. Practice mindfulness whenever you touch another human. The practice of mindful meditation will also be helpful.
So no longer do you need to lay back and think of England, or all the ways to trim a hat, or the shopping list, you can actually get connected to your body instead! Unfortunately I know some people do not connect to the sexual experience and just go through the motions to get the sex over and done. I think this is sad! Some people don’t even connect to receiving a hug or kisses on the cheeks.
Being connected to your feeling world and sensations during sex, and bringing your mind back to this place whenever it drifts can prevent a pre-occupation with the focus most people have with erections, lubrication and orgasms. My experience is people think a lot about hard penises, how they look, how they are performing and are orgasm focused, past sexual experiences, among other unhelpful thoughts. Mindful sex has nothing to do with these things but being present in your own body and connection with your partner’s body. If you are not used to doing this, you may need to let the thoughts drift on by and bring your mind back many times to your special feeling place until this way of having sex flows naturally and feels pleasurable. It will take devoted practice. If you and your partner are on the same page about all this and both letting go of all societal expectations and personal expectations of sex, then this will help with being connected to the sexual moment. I suggest discuss this with your partner and get in there and practice! Focus on the touch sensation in sex and once you feel fine with this, you might like to include bringing to mind all other senses, of sound, sight, smell, and taste.
Breathing deeply before sex and during sex can also help with relaxation and heighten the sexual sensations you will feel in your body. Perhaps spend some time meditating before sex to get you nice and relaxed. I also want to write a blog post on how beginner’s mind may also make sex more fun. So watch this space …
When the mindfulness ‘muscle’ has been exercised in the everyday of life, it does become easier to let thoughts drift on and bring the attention back to the body when you really need it, like during sex. A simple way to practice mindfulness outside of the bedroom is to practice being mindful when doing the washing up, for example: feel the hardness of the cup, the temperature of the water, the movement of the water against your skin, the smell of the detergent, the view out the window, the hardness of the floor beneath your feet, the sensations of the suds and the sounds of the sloshing of the water. When unwanted or unhelpful thoughts glide into your mind bring your awareness gently back to the sensual experience of washing up. Practice mindful walking in the same way and also mindful eating.
Be compassionate with yourself at all times …
lots of love
This image below is from http://www.canada.com
The first image is from http://www.gracenglamour.com
The year is getting away from me – here is a quick rave on the messiness of love.
I’ve had my manuscript, Acts of Love – One Thousand and One Ways to Sustain Love over the Lifetime, completed for many months now. Polished and edited, I’m still working out what to do with it! (It’s 50,000 words long). Sometimes I think the work is corny and other times I think the work is a masterpiece. Of course, it lies somewhere in between, hopefully not too far down the corny end of the continuum, although I’m afraid it probably does. Even though love is a messy complex thing, when push comes to shove at the end of the day – love truly is demonstrated in an action. The manuscript, therefore, may have some value.
How do we think about love, talk about love, write about love and act loving when love can be like Pandora’s box? It can be like trying to hold a moonbeam in your hand. As a therapist working with couples, this box of complexity, uncertainty and diversity must be explored and understandings, like moonbeams, must be seen. With these understandings comes connection and intimacy which can feed love.
Sometimes, you have to love someone enough to let them go. This takes courageous action. Sometimes you have to break your own heart to move away from a relationship where love is not being reciprocated or is being demonstrated in unhealthy actions towards you. I don’t believe people break their own hearts lightly, if it is easy to let love go you may want to question the depth of love.
Questioning the depth and differing degrees of love is yet another phenomenon – who do you love more, what do you love more? Does this fluctuate between lovers? What does it mean to say ‘I love you’? Can you be in love and not be happy? Looking back over long relationships there are times when one is more in love than other times, so how long should one hang in?
The well used phrase: ’I love you’, is a global and loaded expression carrying many different meanings. I’ve met people who will not say the phrase because in their mind it means ‘I commit to you’ and they are not wanting to do this even though they say they do love the person. Sometimes the phrase was never uttered to them by their own parents and it all feels weird and even embarrassing.
I have written about Giddons term confluent love before. Confluent love is contingent love, not necessarily forever after love. Transparency is important for those who err more on the side of confluent love and vital for those who lean towards polyamory. With willingness, openness, collaboration, negotiation and honesty the complexities of love can be traversed, not necessarily without pain. Often love and sex go together, but not always and not for all people – again … with willingness, openness, collaboration, negotiation and honesty the complexities of this can also be traversed. Love is not always easy, love can be a very messy thing and a very splendid thing.
In couples therapy, I find it challenging when one of the couple says, ‘I’m confused, I don’t know what I want. I’m not sure if I’m in love anymore, but I do love him’. Sometimes they do know what they want but are afraid to articulate this. Perhaps they need to break their own heart and move away. Perhaps they need to water their own grass rather than continue to dream of greener grass elsewhere. Perhaps they are equally in love with another person? Sometimes they want to protect their partner from pain. This is understandable and does demonstrate love and care (although I find this a bit patronising). Love and honesty end up in a tussle. What does the one in the couple who knows what he/she wants do with the information provided by the confused one?
You might be thinking, what is this post on about. This is confusing. What’s the point? The internet is for finding out and providing answers – lol. Love isn’t a narrow pointed thing. Love is expansion, life is expansion and possibility – reductionist thinking obscures everything. Love is past, present and future. Love is full of power, pain and passion … love is compassion … love is justice … love is one big feeling … love is … love is … love is… but the actual practice of love can be shown in action … and like refugees to love we all must come (Leonard Cohen sang about something like this). Love takes courage because the only certainty we have is uncertainty.
Last night my writing group discussed the way poetry can be set out typographically into different shapes and forms to give more impact. I went on an internet search for some examples of this poetry style. I stumbled upon a gem. I discovered this wonderful piece of typographic slam poetry by Hannah Van Sciver. Have a look at her You Tube video.
Van Sciver mentions New Orleans, Katrina, tsunamis and earthquakes …
Here’s an extract from the ending of her poem that ‘slammed’ me:
‘to say I understand the scope of human suffering would be a crude fabrication but to say that while in sleep I can simulate tragedy no nightmare of mine can parallel the reality of catastrophe. I am just skimming the surface and that truth sets in and swirls around me just as the cosmic floodwater threatens to drown just as fast and hard and cold and lonely.’
The title of her poem caught my attention. Does her work resonate with you? Have you ever been woken up by a nightmare where you feel like you might have a heart attack from the pain in your chest? Yet, you know you are safe in bed and everything is okay. Perhaps you are re-living a tragedy from your past. So often a terrible symptom of those diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Still, in the dark hour the fear surges through your body and you ride the panic until your body settles. You may roll over and hug your partner as your breathing slowly steadies. Perhaps you are so rattled you have to get up and make a cup of tea, read a book or watch tv for a while. You might even lay awake until morning, to afraid to go back to sleep. Yet … this fear cannot be compared to those who may have actually lived and died the reality of your nightmare! Hannah Van Sciver’s poem captures these moments. Check out her facebook page here.
SENTENCE OF DEATH
in the cracked earth,
under a cathedral of clouds that give nothing
but hollow promises of rain,
they rest in the ground which is now
full of their dry skulls
and the ground is grumbling with indigestion
while the worms of the earth clap their hands
and the bugs jump for joy as they gnaw
through the withered spiritual remains
of every woman, man, girl and boy
because there was no one left to protest
or to place a cairn, not even a pebble,
because no one knows so no one came,
except the tree of life bore silent witness
and now her roots have become slime,
her trunk is crumbling with shame
and she whimpered when the sun revealed the shock on their faces
and when she heard their shrieks and screams
on the day the holocaust twisted their holy land a mottled crimson
and the tanks rolled over their dreams.
by Julie-Anne Geddes (copyright)
Last month we attended a fundraising dinner for SCARF (Strategic Community Assistance to Refugee Families). The dinner was cooked by a new catering business called ‘Ethiopian Dishes‘. The meal we received was, to die for – delicious! ‘Ethiopian Dishes‘ can cater for your next party or special event (if you live in the Illawarra of course). I will definitely be keeping them in mind.
We were very impressed with the not-for-profit organisation – SCARF. The organisation is completely run by volunteers. SCARF seeks to assist humanitarian refugee families settle in our region. SCARF assists with driving lessons, homework tutoring, English classes, negotiating shopping for food etc. See their website for all the details.
The Illawarra region has become home for many African people who have often been waiting for years in camps, having fled from war torn areas like the Congo. I have listened to some of the stories of trauma in the therapy room. When I have sat across from people as they tell their story, (mindful of keeping them safe in the re-telling, that is to tell a story of trauma from a distance rather than re-living the story in the present moment*), my body tingles in horror at the reality of this world we live in. I’ve heard about what goes on. I’ve seen documentaries, but to be a witness to someone’s actual lived experience of trauma and pain is indeed sad and an absolute privilege.
The compassion of SCARF and those who work voluntary to assist people also sends tingles up my spine, in a different way. It gives me so much hope for humanity and reminds me that love, care, respect and understanding is the way to go. Be encouraged that there are indeed wonderful compassionate people in the world, seeking to make it a better place.
Some photos from the night – coffee time – the raw beans were roasted on a small stove!
The tables were laid beautifully and information about the food we were eating was also provided.
* if you want to know more about keeping people safe as they tell traumatic stories, have a look at the work of Judith Lewis Herman.
I completed a six week ‘Creative Energy Course’ designed by Reiki Master, Louise Ryder of Stanwell Park. Louise designed this course to assist people to unblock their creativity.
Once a week for three hours we sat together in her studio at the bottom of her garden. Louise gave me her undivided attention for this time. I felt privileged and guilty for taking her time. I also felt cared for. I questioned do I deserve this? I allowed myself to just let go of all the unhelpful chatter. I came back and did another six weeks! At the end she gave me a beautiful card and a chunk of divine amethyst crystal!
During the creative energy course, Louise led me through a different meditation each week. I would do a simple drawing exercise and after this Louise would read to me about the approach I would be taking for the collage. Louise provided a bunch of beautiful magazines and she would encourage me to choose one intuitively – it may be the first one I lay my eyes upon. On another week I might choose a magazine that resonated with what may have come to mind in the meditation or, one based on colour. Flicking through the magazine I would choose images or words (quickly and intuitively), tear them out, trim them up, then sit down with Louise and have a cup of tea. After this I would paste the images and words on a sheet of paper and then Louise would hang the finished collage. The collage would be the muse for a conversation about what the images might mean for my life, possible directions, and passions. Common themes tended to recur. Sometimes the images may symbolize significant people in my life. The whole process was so relaxing, supportive and sustaining.
I’ve been following this process at home, before I begin writing or painting. The kids love making collages with me. The cutting and pasting is just pure play and I find the process so refreshing. I love the fact that there are no real goals or purpose to the activity. I think as adults, some of us have forgotten how to simply play and imagine. Louise believes the collage making can unblock one’s creative energy. I never felt blocked when I began the course, but my creative productivity has sky rocketed. I’ve finished my manuscript, written a dozen poems and completed lots of painting (on Yupo paper – a new discovery for another day)!
Some photo’s of the collages, just to give you the idea!
In the work I do as a therapist there are times I need to hold the emotional space being felt in the room, connect to the present moment, and be curious about what is happening in this space. Sometimes there are tears falling, faces flushed red with anxiety, frustration and anger. Sometimes the emotionality is subtle and sometimes it sits like a big beautiful elephant in the room. Elephants are my favourite animals, by the way (and whales of course). Yet, holding the emotional space isn’t just for those working as psychologists, it is for all of us isn’t it? To sit with our emotional discomfort, name it for ourselves, connect to the present and choose how best to respond to the emotional content? Yeah?
I’ve heard this described as ‘the power of the pause’, the pregnant pause, the space where we can develop our thoughts and then give birth to them. This may mean taking a risk with our response. Often I think people shy away or physically move away because the discomfort pulsating is unbearable. Fear tends to produce the old fight or flight reaction. Yet, for me, with practice over time, I have been able to grow my emotional muscle and not be afraid of fear, in this life domain anyway. I reckon everyone can learn to do this, talking with a counsellor can be one way to practice for those relationships beyond the therapy room.
Talking about sex with people in counselling can require holding emotional space. Perhaps this is holding sexual space. At first there’s the discomfort and then there always seems to be relief. A kind of joy from the person who has come to therapy, that at last they have found someone they can speak with about this, especially if the area of sex or sexual preference has become problematized. Having someone who isn’t afraid to go to those hard places, exploring and naming things and feelings in a safe respectful context can be helpful for creating new possibilities. Some of those hard places, for example, might be about the amount and type of pornography, masturbatory rehearsal, the impact of sexual fantasies etc. Or, a question might simply be ‘tell me about the context that will surround you if you are to have a good sexual experience?’ (I know I like the house to be tidy, clean sheets are good, and if I’m on my back I like a pillow, that’s just for starters). Just like negotiating emotional space, negotiating sexual space is something we all could benefit from engaging with in our intimate relationships. Recently someone told me, after their marriage had ended, that they had never ever discussed sex. It had been a long marriage and it seemed embarrassment sat in the way of the couple having a conversation about sex together. Some couples I work with speak about sex with me in front of each other for the first time and hear about each others likes and dislikes.
Of course their are many people that speak freely and easily with each other about their emotions, sex, and their intentions without any inhibitions. I think this is way cool and helps to give connection and intimacy to others.
Well this will have to do for my blog entry today. I seem to be falling behind with writing these posts – I’ve been spending lots of time creating music and art. I’ve been doing a three hour creative energy class once a week, such a privilege, my psychology practice is always fully booked and so I am struggling with everything – struggling in a good way.
Tomorrow I’m heading to the Blue Mountains for a Narrative Therapy day – can’t wait! So I hope to blog about the creative energy classes and narrative day soon.
Any thoughts on emotional space … don’t be afraid to leave a little comment.
My youngest child drew and wrote the following for ‘Compassionate Flow’. He is eight and the words came with a doll given to his sister (the kimi doll which he drew), he can’t possible understand the profundity of what he copied but he certainly understood enough to know that this is something meaningful. It says: ‘Compassionate. My spirit is humble and understanding. Your compassionate heart knows the truth of my spirit: that empathy comes from humility and humility comes from the deep understanding that each of us is perfectly imperfect.’