Whether it’s from stress or dealing with other mess, this video has strategies to help you to breathe easier by relaxing muscles that can affect your breathing.
This world is filled with hurt people who, in turn, inevitably hurt others. Whether it’s done consciously or not, it is contagious. Each time we can remove the barriers we have created around our emotions, we free ourselves (and others) from mental and emotional slavery; even if only by degrees. In so doing, we become more resilient and flexible instead of stoic, hard and fragile AF; individually and as a species. In expanding beyond these confines, we also help free others to do the same. Please do your part to undo the harmful teachings of emotional suppression. Everyone needs you. Everyone. Today, I review a few strategies that you can add to your arsenal!
“We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions,”
In past posts, I’ve repeatedly described “diving into” an emotion to observe it and to alchemize it. Today’s strategy focuses on expansion, because Love is expansion where fear is a contraction; two ends of the same spectrum. To move from a state of feeling overwhelmed by our emotions to a state of freedom with the same emotions frees ourselves from the spell, allowing us to see and feel more clearly.
The technique is simple to describe and can be somewhat challenging, at first, to perform. After identifying a strong emotion, do a “search” of your body and find where the emotions “lives.” While loosely holding our inner vision on these areas, imagine expanding laterally (or in any other or in all directions). Continue to breathe, out and in (the exhale or out breath is where we release) as slowly and deeply as you are able. It may take a few breaths to feel relief or a sense of release. Do your best to stay with it for as long as possible. It may require a repeated effort if the emotional baggage is large (makes sense right, the larger the suit case the longer it can take to unpack!). It’s almost as if the emotional cloud just evaporates and we feel as we do after a torrential rain has passed.
Yes, I see where this all seems contradictory and confusing. I ask you to trust me and try it. As any new skill can require some practice, you may find that at first you only gain traction with this technique by degrees; which is still better than the alternative: sitting there with all of the shitty feeling emotions festering within. Really, what have you got to lose? But wait, this next thing may just help you even more…
Another strategy is to imagine yourself rising above the emotions or situation as if you were in a helicopter. This helicopter technique, given to me by my Creative Life Coach, Samantha “Sam” Allen, was what lead to my discovering of the expansion process I outlined above. In that particular coaching session, I was feeling completely stuck in a contracted emotional state and the “rising above it” in a mental helicopter helped free me from my self-imprisonment almost immediately.
To break the cycle of emotional suppression, we must learn to employ varying strategies to free ourselves from the habit of contracting against our emotions; which will not kill us, in fact, emotional suppression leads to dis-ease. Who wants to live with that?! Not I!
Happy Expanding!!! I say, it’s better to expand the mind than it is the waistline!
Sidebar: Wish I had a good reason to share for why I have not posted in 6 months. The passion to write got lost somewhere in the mix of day-to-day, I suppose. I have also been working to distill observations and breakthroughs into memes on IG (@unfilteredheart77), on a more regular basis. It is my hope to publish at least one post a month in 2020.
photo credit: pixel
A low hum drones on
New hums chime in
As the sun zeniths
And the temperature rises
A backdrop of song birds
Competing for air space
Chirps break the low drone
Soft rolling hills
And a green glade
Large clouds one a swan
Another an alien ship
Move across the frame
My head twirls in all directions
Flowing up and down on drafts
Like the buzzards circling
On hot air currents
My body sinks down into the soft plastic chair
My feet resting on deck planks
Cracks rising up here and dropping there
Portals of vibration ebb and flow between my toes
The sparrow flies into its domain
While mocking birds stand sentry
Or turn their ears towards the sound of earthworms drumming
Mountain fresh air cleanses the lungs of smog,
The mind of excessive thinking
The slightly pungent and sweet smell of pasture grasses rise and fall on gentle breezes
Like a warm hug from a beloved friend
A moment I ne’er want to end
Unf#ck Your Brain by Faith G. Harper, PhD practically screamed my name when looking for something different to read while vacationing. Maybe it was the bright yellow cover or maybe it was just the title. Either way, I’m grateful as f#ck because this has turned out to be yet another one of those life-changing books.
Harper is a licensed professional counselor who uses a holistic approach to help readers and her clients understand the physical factors behind their brain-induced woes. She also understands and relates how unresolved trauma can set us each up for difficulties in our every day. Her analogies of how trauma affects the physiological functioning of the brain help readers to understand why we can perseverate and even feel like we’re losing our shit; and how to change it. Traumatic events can include witnessing an event where we feel helpless, it doesn’t only include trauma that we experience directly.
I also happen to love that she cusses, a lot, especially in the beginning. It actually helped me to more fully appreciate some of the humor behind how our brain processes trauma, especially compared to more scientific (and stuffy) descriptions of the same processes. While Harper doesn’t make light of trauma, her well-placed curse words and labels help call out the process in a way that helped me to lighten up. Such as when she calls the amygdala an asshole…. So if you don’t enjoy foul (or colorful) language, I’d say this book may not be for you.
In my new understanding of the neurology behind trauma, I also have more compassion for myself. For me, this always translates into more compassion for others.
She also offers many tools on how to overcome trauma, some of which I was familiar and have even mentioned in this blog. However, one tool alone was worth the price of admission for me. This was writing from the stories I have told myself instead of from the details and feelings evoked from the situations.
One example is how I have told myself that I am to blame for when others treat me poorly. While I have seen this pattern pan out in multiple areas in my life, writing this story out gave me a new perspective of it. Also, tying it directly back to the early sexual abuse helped me to uproot it.
Harper also shares her broad research and clinical experiences in this book. She shares that trauma-conscious therapy often helps to unravel the sources of depression, anxiety and even mental health disorders that most believe are medically-based.
So if you feel like your brain is f#cking you up or hijacking your life, I strongly recommend this book. If you read it and practice it, I can guarantee that you’ll see some positive shifts, and far more quickly and painlessly than traditional talk therapy. And if you don’t see shifts and you’ve done the work she outlines, then she shares that sometimes we need some outside help: from friends, from family or even from a trained professional.
I love that Harper shares tips on how to find the right professional, and what to do if you’re not seeing changes. She adds what pits to avoid, including feeling obligated to remain with someone who isn’t helping you.
As someone who has sought various mental health and counseling services over the decades, I wish I had had this trail-guide sooner. This is about therapy and getting better, not just regurgitating and reliving the hurt. Nor is it about staying with someone who isn’t helping us to move forward. I feel that bears repeating: this is about getting better, not just talking and reliving the fucking past.
May we each find and use the tools we need to shift our perspective of our wounded and hurt places. May we each rediscover the wholeness within, taking back our power and thus showing others the path to wholeness.
This week I drove across my state while news continued to break about the refugee crisis at the southern border of the U.S. As I navigated the turns and traffic using GPS, without any loss of cell phone coverage, WAZE alerted me to various hazards including cops and roadkill while my kids slept comfortably in our Air-Conditioned late-model vehicle. Meanwhile, South & Central American parents are taking extreme measures to get themselves and their children to safety: crossing rivers of unknown depth, crossing deserts with countless hazards, and entrusting their lives with complete strangers. While some parents are sending their kids out on this dangerous journey alone, and other parents are being separated from their children at the US border. As a North American, I am privileged to travel easily and effortlessly, in A.C. and out of my own will, instead of out of fear.
When we stopped to get groceries, still within our state where everyone around was speaking our same language, my pre-teen daughter stayed close by, preferring to stay in eyesight instead of going over even one aisle to fetch this or that; she wanted us to stay together as a unit. Here, where my daughter wants to remain close, South and Central American children are being separated from their parents, their vehicles of survival. And to boot, these children have little to no adult supervision, nor are their basic human needs being met. Meanwhile my kids have the privilege of fighting over which dessert treat to get!
At border camps, non-North American children that are my kids’ ages are caring for other, younger children. Because their parents, their primary protectors, have been taken away from them. Seriously, what is wrong with this picture? Children are being treated worse than convicted criminals!
Meanwhile, I was lucky enough to be born in The United States of America and not Central nor South America where drug cartels are more powerful and deadly than their governments. And I write this from the comfort of an air conditioned room while on holiday/vacation, where I am able to hear, see and reach out to my children when they need, for I am a privileged North American.
It is my privilege to be unable to fathom the circumstances behind wanting to flee one’s Homeland; crossing deserts, racing rivers and trusting coyotes to get my children to a place of safety. My biggest concern today is when we’re going to leave to get breakfast, when one wants to leave now and the other wants to finish her drawing…
So I’ve used my privilege to donate money to legal efforts to stop this nonsense of separating vulnerable and defenseless children from their parents. Together Rising puts 100% of donations to their causes, as their admin costs are covered by the authors Brene Brown, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Cheryl Strayed.
I’ve also used my privilege to pray my ass off for the geo-political climate to positively change and stop this humanitarian crisis, and others like it, from continuing to happen. I also pray that my children nor I ever know this pain of being forcefully separated. Finally, I pray that each of you will donate and pray for the same, or better.
In November, I’m also going to be using my American-assed privilege to vote.
Please join in helping make this world a better place for our children, for they are our future. May every child, regardless of where they are born, have the privilege to remain safe in their own homes, countries and remain with their families, at least until they are adults and get to choose.
Creativity can be much like the tide with its ebbs and flows. This can be acceptable at times, yet frustrating at others. It can also be a challenge to know where to go at times with this flow. Here are some tools I’ve gathered along the way that you may find helpful in your own creative journey. Take what resonates and leave the rest.
Creative Life Coaches can be very helpful!
I highly recommend Sam at Coaching Creatively. We’ve been working together for 2 years now! In this time, she has helped me to develop my strengths as well as my perceived weaknesses. This has helped me to grow both as a person and as a writer; as a mother, too.
Sam is amazingly supportive. She teaches you how to unlock and access yourself and your own creativity. She also understands the process, as she herself is a poet. Sam walks-the-walk and for me that’s imperative; she gets it and she gets me (which is a rare thing for me to say).
The process Sam uses is unique. It is called co-creative coaching, which means she’s there and “in it” with you. Please check her out. She has a free 1/2 hour “trial” session to offer you. What is there to lose? (well, your fear for one… that beast can be greatly unhelpful with creativity).
Meditation. I know, if you’ve followed me for any length of time, I’m sure you’re tired of hearing it!
When we meditate we can hone in and focus our energy. Meditation, contrary to popular belief, is NOT about silencing, stopping or killing the mind. The mind was made to think, much like the heart to beat or the lungs to breathe. Thinking is a sign of life. HOWEVER, just as we don’t pay attention to every breath nor heartbeat doesn’t mean we have to pay attention to every single thought we think….
Through regular meditation, and increased bouts during times of distress, I have seen both my intuition and creativity increase. A tool I absolutely love is the Insight Timer App. There are many free features including countless talks and meditations on a wide variety of topics. Furthermore, if you join, membership has the advantage of granting you access to all of the courses. Definitely worthwhile to check out whether you meditate or not.
READ! When I’m stuck with my writing, I pick up a book and read. Some recent reads that I HIGHLY recommend:
- Anais Nin In Favor of the Sensitive Man and Other Essays. While Nin was born in the early 1900’s, I was surprised HOW much I resonated with her essays in this book (no, they’re not ALL about men). Years ago, I stopped writing erotica because I felt that it was not in alignment with my spiritual growth. After reading some of her essays, I now see that this was a grave mistake on my part. Nin has helped me to see that erotica allows us to explore beyond our present reality. I’m still in resistance here, chipping away at that old salt block piece-by-lovely-piece.
- Elizabeth Gilbert Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. I missed the train on Eat, Pray, Love (maybe I’ll catch it one day), however, this book has been an absolute gem. Gilbert has SO many counterpoints to ALL of the areas where I have found myself getting trapped, and ones I didn’t even see as traps. Just about every page or two has a new idea or view, most of which I agree, some of which I do not. HOWEVER, in reading this book (and I’m 80% through it) I am approaching my writing and my life completely differently.
- Debbie Ford The Dark Side of the Light Chasers. This book is about looking into our shadow aspects, which are not all “bad” aspects; as hearing the word shadow may imply. My analogy here is that seeds sprout in darkness, which is also where our creativity is borne. I have overcome SO many self-limiting beliefs with this book, and since I’m still using the tools I’ve learned, I’m still counting more unsupportive beliefs undone.
Your Creative Genius. So I just started reading Big Magic last week! However, I “fell in love” with Elizabeth Gilbert by seeing her TED talk several years ago called “Your elusive creative genius.” In this talk she discusses the early Western concept of the creative genius being outside of ourselves. This concept can really help to unload a great deal of pressure and greatly free our creativity.
Follow your curiosity. In this podcast, The Curiosity-Driven Life, Elizabeth Gilbert discusses here how not everyone has a set and specific purpose in life. This really spoke to me, as I am more like a hummingbird, flitting from flower-to-flower following my varying curiosities. This is compared to how Gilbert describes herself as a “jackhammer.” Though I will say, based on her body of work, that she has both qualities. While she knew she wanted to be a writer, her body of work is quite diverse.
CREATE! Sometimes, we just need to create for ourselves, and actually, I write more often to understand myself than anything. It is then that I sometimes feel called to share my discoveries.
I’ll also add that sometimes switching the creative medium can also help get the flow moving. Allow yourself to be imperfect and make mistakes as a painter if you are a writer, or vice versa. It’s not about the outcome as much as it is the process. PERFECTION and the need for it are self-sabotaging. I find the fastest way to kill my creativity is in “looking for something deep and meaningful” to say. Furthermore, I find I lose my audience when I dig too deeply with my memes on IG.
Be in Nature or drive. Some of my best ideas ‘come to me’ when I’m driving or hiking. I feel like I read somewhere that driving and being in nature activate the creative aspects of our brains.
Be willing to make mistakes. Again, this is the perfection thing rearing its ugly head. Instead, I often find “happy mistakes” often lead to greater creative genius. So much of creativity is really about allowing.
Understand your Enneagram. This can help you to understand your basic motivations, potential potholes and even ways to rise above it all to your highest potential (this is such an amazing system to understand). Most creatives (not all) are “hopeless romantic” Enneagram Fours. I will say that I resisted this initially. However, this podcast “May the Fours be with you” showed me that this is my grouping.
Move your body. Walk, stretch, bike, hike, dance, or just move differently. We get stuck in the same movement patterns, this leads to stagnation; which is anti-flow.
Change something. Drive to work differently. Get up at a different time. Maybe get up earlier to create while the energy is still fresh. Make a new creative space, or just rearrange the one you have.
I know there is a lot of material here. It can take some time to move through it all, again, take what resonates.
May we each find and use the tools that support us on our creative journeys.
The past few months life has moved forward much like someone learning to drive a stick shift with a mixture of smooth sailing, lurching forward, stalling, bucking, and screeching halts. Work demands increased, and home life demands seemed to, as well. While I kept up fairly well with much of my self-care, more so than ever during a time of stress, I still felt like I was treading water or drowning more than not. Simply put, I felt stuck in this perpetual liminal or in-between space.
From this extended purgatory of sorts, I’ve learned some new perspectives that can help make the road less bumpy for you.
- Self-care during this time is crucial. At times, I was resistant about some items yet open and consistent about others. I say, do what you can here. Choose your battles wisely; know who you’re fighting, too… and know that when life “hits the fan,” self-care is needed even more. (I like to use the NASCAR analogy here, that racing around means those cars get more care in 1 race than most of our cars receive in a year or more… maybe I could look up some stats about that one day.)
- Embrace the slowdown. These transitory rest breaks allow us to rebuild our energy after the ending of one chapter. These spaces also make life seem less clear, and driving faster because we can’t see clearly doesn’t generally work out well for many, for long. I also believe that this slowdown is to allow for taking life differently.
- Create or find a supportive mantra and use it. Simple ones like, “this too shall pass,” or “this is the breakdown before the breakthrough,” or “I’ve survived this, and more, before. I’ve got this!,” or “that which doesn’t kill me makes me stronger/wiser, etc.” Find or create a supportive mantra that meets your needs.
- Journal. Writing can be very helpful during this time to help gain perspective. Personally, I write some dark poetry during this time. It’s therapeutic to “poop” out the thoughts that are no longer needed.
- Find a new perspective or analogy.
- It is in this void, this space, where we also get to choose to live life differently.
- This time is for clearing the path for the next adventure. I recently began to imagine my guides laying down new stepping stones…
IT’S SO AMAZING when we choose to look at this “mysterious” (and scary) time less as an “undoing” and more as a “remodeling.” If we’re tired of our kitchen, we can choose to keep it just as it is. OR, we can choose to remodel it which involves breaking down the old. There will be some dust and mess, this is part of the process.
Remodeling also takes time. Yet it is in our desire for change that we accept that this is part of the process. We sure as hell don’t stop during this in-between kitchens phase. We know it will not do us ANY good. And we also know that something better is on it’s way so we “suck it up” and go about our day. Of course “we can’t wait” (but we also want it to be right, so we do).
SO! When we find that our path is suddenly not-so-clear, when we feel we are stuck and things seem completely confusing… IF we can begin to see this as part of the remodeling process, we learn to accept it for the “breakdown” that it is. You know, the one that precedes the breakthrough!
May we move with ever increasing grace through those confusing liminal spaces, knowing that while it all seems chaotic now, that a new path is being laid out for us to take. It’s our choice in how we take it: with grace or kicking and screaming all along the way. Mine is often with a mixture of both!
One primary persona of mine is to walk with confidence and appear to be “calm and under control;” the emotions pour out later. In this “mode,” I can hear my father’s mantra to be “calm, cool and collected” reverberating in my cranium. Recently, that persona broke wide the eff open for me. While it’s been an ongoing process of chipping away at this persona, on this particular day I had a very significant breakthrough.
My son was having an escalating series of temper tantrums. My attempt to control the situation and de-escalate it was only causing further … escalation. Based on a recent read of the book, Dark Side of the Light Chasers, by Debbie Ford, I saw where my need to seem in control was a direct result of my feeling that I lacked control. Literally, a light went off in one of the deepest (and darkest?) recesses of my mind. Once I affirmed that I was, indeed, not in control, I surrendered to my higher power and asked for guidance. I spoke to this event in the post Learning to be Secure.
The M.O. from the Past
In trying to prove to myself and to the world that Tiffany had it under control, I hid where I was not under control. Or tried to. I have had an emotional eating addiction for … probably my whole life. This is one of the ways that I both punish myself for my feelings (eating ’til it hurts) and then hide my feelings by stuffing my emotions down, down, down…
In trying to prove to the world that I had it under control, I learned to smile and put on a good game face; well kinda. One practitioner poignantly described me as being “zippered up.” Yet the muscles of my body reveal my guarded and “under control” tendency. Even with regular massages, I have held onto a great deal of tension; more than most.
In trying to prove to the world that I had it under control, I would attempt to control myself, my environment and … even those in it. Wow! That last one is a challenge to admit. Yet, as a physical therapist I develop (and control) treatment plans everyday. What a great profession to be in for someone who secretly wants to control everything and everyone… understand, I believed it was an act of self-preservation, not mind-control.
Where & why the control most likely started
This control is not so much about power for the sake of power, it’s more about my feeling safe. As a child, I was in situations where I was abused by “trusting” adults who manipulated and controlled me. From this, I believed that my body was not safe, that I had to control others – and myself – to be safe. From this abuse, I also didn’t believe I could trust people; especially those who were meant to protect me. Further more, I felt effing powerless, and hence the cycle starts over, feeding into itself. So for me, being in control has meant that it was harder for someone else to harm me.
Back to the Breakthrough
Yet on this fateful day, I chose differently. In recognizing my lack of control and giving up control to my higher power, I received greater clarity in everyday things. This has helped me to make wiser choices. The irony! Instead of being ruled by my fear of loss of control, I’m seeing that I have little control outside of my own choices, and now my choices are more clear, thus giving me …. more control! Yet in a different way, in that the control factor is no longer based in fear.
It is my hope that in sharing, you will find a greater understanding about yourself or perhaps a “control freak” that is in your life. The more we can understand and have compassion, the less turbulence we each create in our world.
May we each find a greater sense of peace in better understanding ourselves and others.
This is my response to the shooting that happened last week in my hometown of Virginia Beach last week. You can listen to my read of it here on SoundCloud or through the link below.
My Virginia Beach: A Bike Ride (Poem)
The soothing summer sound of cicadas
Blends in a sweet symphony with the croaks of the bullfrogs
As the warm bay breeze wraps around my body
Comforting my silent cries
A smooth snake slithers across the shady patches of the sandy trail
As my bike picks up speed
My heart racing
My heart pounding
My quads burning
Images of implied violence abound
A man stalks around corners
Taking aim and firing
At unsuspecting co-workers
Hunting his prey
The sounds of gunfire muffled
And more like a soda being popped open
Giving his next victims the false sense of security of silence
Om gam gan …
A 3-story office building
The scene of a most horrific crime
Officers quickly swarmed on scene
In a gun battle that was extensive and long-standing
He mouth uttered nothing
His .45s said everything he wouldn’t
Even they were silenced
Om gam gan-ganapatye…
The ripple effect is widening its arc:
From the ex-lover who had left the building just 30 minute prior
From the OR friends who were on the Alpha Trauma Team
From the friends who lost friends
From the home hospital on lock-down
From one of the early officers on scene
To seeing the initial Emergency Vehicles Responding
Om gam gan-ganapatye ganapatye …
The coldness I felt on this 31st of May
Today on my bike ride is being washed away
The humidity failing to stop me,
Yet gives me rise as I crest another dune
With my burning thighs
Soft flesh pressed into the saddle of the seat
As I rise onto my feet
The wind rushing past my ears
The wind wiping away my tears
Deeply sensing how this will affect us all for many years
Om gam gan-ganapatye ganapatye namo namah
On the drive home, topless
Water droplets fell like tears from the sky
Within minutes the sky turned ashen
And roads turned into rivers as
Rains poured down and ozone washed in
A new sense of clarity set in
This…this is where we begin to breathe, love and live again
Om gam gan-ganapatye ganapatye namo namah ganapatye ganapatye namo namah… ganapatye ganapatye namo namah