Interview & Giveaway: When healers don't walk their talk

I am honored (and honestly quite giddy!) to have been interviewed by coach and thought-partner extraordinaire, Jac McNeil, about why it's important for helping and healing professionals to stay in their integrity by walking their talk when it comes to self-care. I hired the heartful and whipsmart Jac last year to help me with the nuts and bolts of manifesting the vision I had for creating an engaging, soulful, online experience for healing arts practitioners worldwide to revive their self-care practices in order to prevent the occupational hazards they report most often: burnout, compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma, isolation, and insecurity. As a therapist who specializes in working with other therapists and helping professionals, I know all too well how difficult it can be to develop and maintain our own self-care rituals. My answer for this dilemma is the concept of micro-self-care, a method I guide my fellow helpers and healers through implementing in the SoulSpace Series.

In my conversation with Jac, she asked me these four questions:

When-Healers-Dont-Walk-Their-Talk.
  • What do you mean by "micro-self-care"?
  • In your experience, what micro-self-care techniques tend to have the most impact/value for healers?
  • Why do you think most of us avoid/ignore micro-self care?
  • Whatโ€™s your favorite micro-self care technique and why?

Hop on over to the interview to read what I had to say on the topic, and enter on her web site for a chance to win a free spot in the upcoming SoulSpace Series, which kicks off on February 8th. Jac will choose the giveaway winner this Wednesday, February 3rd. Good luck!

Simple guide to smudging

Smudging is one of my favorite ways to cleanse my space and my being, so I thought I'd break this ritual down to a few simple tips today on my blog. You might have heard the word "smudging" used and you may have seen what looks like dried leaves tied together with string in WholeFoods or your local apothecary. If you have, and you've wondered what that's all about, read on. Smudging is the term for clearing lingering energy (of a space or a person) by burning various healing herbs. The idea of purification by smoke can be traced back to Native Americans, though many cultures around the world have rituals using herbal smoke mixtures, including some from China, India, Southeast Asia, and Europe.

Benefits of smudging:

Smudging has been known to cleanse or purify energy, whether it is that of a person or a space. Essentially, it does the same thing for the person or space that hitting "reset" would do for your cell phone. Native people believed the smoke ascends to the heavens, or the world of spirits, acting as a spiritual messenger. For those of you who like a dash of solid science with your woo woo, I recently saw this article citing studies on how smudging cleanses the air of harmful bacteria and can be medicinal.

Ideas for when to smudge:

  • Ending a job and preparing for a new job
  • Ending a relationship
  • Returning from travel
  • To cleanse and bless a space/house/apartment/office you are about to move into (and even the space you've just moved out of, to prepare it for the next person.)
  • After an emotionally difficult day, an argument, etc
  • After a therapy/healing session (whether you're the healer or the client.)
  • To mark an occasion or crossing a threshold (New Years, birthday, a birth, a death)
  • Celebrating seasons (solstices and equinoxes) and other earth cycles (full moon, new moon)
  • When you want to feel more centered or protected

Simple smudging tools: (You can purchase these tools via the Amazon affiliate links in text below.)

  • Smudge stick - Bundle of dried, cleansing herbs of your choice. You can also create a bowl of the loose leaves, though when they are bound together with a colorful string, they are much easier to use. (earth element)
  • Large feather - Used for wafting the cleansing smoke around the person or space to be purified. Use the underside of the feather when moving smoke around, as the underside of the bird's wing is what faces mother Earth when flying. (air element)
  • Abalone shell - Used to catch ashes that fall and also to tamp out the flame or smoldering embers. Some shells even come with a great little wooden stand. (The shell represents water element, though one can also use a small ceramic or stone bowl for the same purposes.)
  • Lighter/Matches/Candle - Used to ignite the herbs (fire element)

How to smudge:

You will simply light the bundle of herbs, then tamp the flame so the dry leaves are just smoldering. The smoke is what you want to use here to clear the air. You can wave it around yourself or in the corners of the room with your hand or more traditionally with a feather. When doing this, you can set an intention to cleanse away anything that is not yours and is not serving your greatest good (or any verbiage that makes sense for you.) If you have smoke alarms in your space, keep your window open while smudging. For you visual types, here's a short  Vimeo video by herbalist Maia Toll showing you how to smudge with a bundle of sage.

Guide to common smudging herbs:

  • Sage: Used to heal and bless. Drives away negative energies, old patterns, influences that do not serve your greatest good. This is a great herb to burn on the full moon, when we enter the period of waning and shedding. I wrote a blog post about rituals for moon phases with more on this piece at this link.
  • Cedar: Used for protection. This is a wonderful one to use when moving into a new home, apartment, or office.
  • Mugwort: Used for protection, well-being, and endurance. It is said to be "the traveler's friend." It is also helpful for tapping into your dream world or bringing about lucid dream states.
  • Lavender: Calls in spirit guides and is said to guard against negative spirits, and was used in Egypt for mummification.
  • Sweetgrass: Attracts positive energy after negative energy has been banished, and invites in the essence of the feminine. (Wonderful for new moon rituals.)
  • Palo Santo: Calls in new, manifesting energies (Also great to use during the new moon) The sticks of this tree are the part that is usually burned, though you can also find bundles of its leaves at times.

If you'd like to learn more about the ritual of smudging, google has so so so many links for you to peruse. Happy cleansing!

Paradise Lost: The experience of disillusionment for the child/inner child

The topic of disillusionment seems to be coming up a lot for me these days, as a mom to an almost 9-year-old, as a therapist, and as an adult woman consciously walking the path of healing my own inner 9-year-old. Disillusionment is defined as the absence of illusion, or a feeling of disappointment resulting from the discovery that something is not as good as one believed it to be. Anthroposophical philosopher Rudolph Steiner put forth the idea that, much like Adam and Eve being banished from paradise, there is a "waking up" (sometimes a rude awakening) and a "fall from grace" that occurs in a child between the ages of 8 and 10 years old. In anthroposohy, the term for it is "the 9 year change."

At this time of life, children are becoming more embodied (literally, inhabiting their bodies) and grounded in the realities of the world around them, rather than floating in the imaginal realms of early childhood. In making that shift, the child experiences great inner turmoil. This is an age where a child may lose interest in toys that used to be fun for them, feeling (and acting) torn between toddler behavior and teenage behavior -- trying on both sides. At this age, children question the existence of beings like Santa Claus and the tooth fairy, and even the idea of magic itself. This is the age where they begin to see that their parents are not the superheroes they once believed, but mere fallible mortal beings who make mistakes -- and that can be a huge let down. This is the time when children are waking up to their sense of self in relation to the world around them, and trying to find where they fit. They may feel they can depend only on themselves, and anxiety becomes a dominant emotion. They may be quietly tuning into their inner world for the first time, and perhaps experiencing their own shadow side freshly.

Some common markers of this transition can include irritability, hypersensitivity, fickleness, difficulty falling asleep, fears of the dark/crime/intruders/death, spontaneous emotional releases (sobbing, yelling, hitting, tantrums,) feeling like the world is not fair, feeling isolated, self-conscious, and unloveable. Children begin testing their parents, as closest people to them, to make sure they will still be loved even when they show their darker sides and express anger, sadness, jealousy, neediness, hatred, and mischievousness. Psychosomatic symptoms are very common during this time - common ones being heart palpitations, headaches, and breathing problems. Nightmares can become more frequent and vivid, often involving being chased, robbed, in an accident, fire, or even being murdered. Ideas of right and wrong and of evil and death come to the forefront. They expect honesty and authenticity from everyone, especially from themselves.

Traumas or wounds that can really go deep at this age are ones involving lies, mixed messages, verbal abuse, criticism, not being allowed to "talk back," only getting praise or affection when being a "good girl" or "good boy," or being within a family system where there is a cycle of addiction (the "don't talk, don't trust, don't feel" unspoken rule.)

Overlaying anthroposophy's concept of the "9 year change" with other developmental models in psychology, this time correlates to the development of the fifth chakra (expressing one's truth,) Freud's latency period, Piaget's concrete operational period, Erikson's "Industry vs inferiority" period, Maslow's self-actualization stage, Wilber's middle egoic personic stage, and the conscious self stage of psychosynthesis.

Acknowledging and having compassion for the struggle at this (and every!) stage of development is key for a therapist, a parent, and a human being living on the earth with fellow human beings. I am a woman with a rich connection to my own inner 9-year-old and a mother currently parenting a small human being through this time. Even though I'm a therapist who works exclusively with adult clients in my practice, every adult brings their inner child into the room with them in some way. If there was wounding around this stage of a person's development, the therapist may serve as the "magical stranger" (as its known in the Hakomi method) providing the experience that was missing in this person's childhood, or the therapist could be called upon to "reparent" this younger part and/or aid a client in reparenting their own younger self, meeting needs that were not met in childhood. In doing so, the therapist may more directly dance in realms of transference and projections of the fallible parent, and take on the feelings of not being good enough, open enough, understanding enough, or giving enough. As always, the therapist's own mindfulness of their body, experiences, and triggers (in and out of session) and processing their own countertransference (outside of session) are ethically imperative to the work.

So, what do the 9-year-olds inside of us and out among us need? They need to know they are lovable unconditionally - no matter what emotions or behavior they display. They crave for their feelings and experiences to be validated. They need a solid, confident, care-giving presence who consistently and warmly enforces rules and boundaries. They need to see love, unity, and community modeled for them in the midst of their isolated feelings. They need a private space of their own (children at this age are often are moved to create forts and other shelters to burrow into.) This is a stage where children want to feel capable, so giving them the ability to do very useful, productive things for themselves helps them feel like they belong and are safe in the world. Even in wanting more independence, self-sufficiency, and privacy, it's important for children to feel warmth, connection, and support from adults nearby (but not hovering adults...)

You see, the line the adults walk (tiptoe?) around this is a delicate one.  We won't and can't always get it right, but we can own our mistakes and in doing so, model honesty, humanness, and humility. In doing so, we can become a different sort of superhero, one who is accessible and relatable and on the ground instead of admired while soaring far up in the sky.

Personally and professionally, my heart is cracked wide open around the issues involved in this crucial time of personal growth. One of my favorite poets, Billy Collins, really captures the essence of the 9 year change in this poem:

On Turning Ten

The whole idea makes me feel Like Iโ€™m coming down with something, Something worse than any stomach ache Or the headaches I get from reading in bad light โ€“ A kind of measles of the spirit, A mumps of the psyche, A disfiguring chicken pox of the soul. You tell me it is to early to be looking back, But that is because you have forgotten The perfect simplicity of being one And the beautiful complexity introduced by two. But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit, At four I was an Arabian wizard. I could make myself invisible By drinking a glass of milk a certain way. At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince. But now I am mostly at the window Watching the late afternoon light. Back then it never felt so solemnly Against the side of my tree house, And my bicycle never leaned against the garage As it does today, All the dark blue speed drained out of it. This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself, As I walk through the universe in my sneakers. It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends, Time to turn the first big number. It seems only yesterday I used to believe There was nothing under my skin but light. If you cut me I would shine. But now when I fall upon the sidewalk of life, I skin my knees, I bleed.

If you'd like to read more on the 9 year change, here are a couple useful places to start:

It's time to create some SoulSpace

All summer, I've been deeply engrossed in the creative process of incubating and manifesting a long-time dream of mine, and I'm so stoked to finally be able to share it with you all! I'm super-excited to introduce you to the SoulSpace Series. (Really, I just clapped, here alone at my desk.) It's common knowledge that the relationship between the therapist and the client is the most beneficial and effective aspect of healing work. Way more-so than any techniques, tools, theories, training, tips, and tricks. So, as helping professionals, it is imperative (even ethically so) that we lovingly care for our most valuable tool -- OURSELVES! (Um, not selfish in the least.) If we enter into our healing work while suffering from burn out, compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma, lack of inspiration, lack of confidence/trust in ourselves -- then no one benefits. I want you to be the most clear, present, attuned, connected, and inspired healing practitioner you can possibly be -- the world needs more of that.

And this, in a nutshell, is why I created SoulSpace.

The SoulSpace Series is a super-accessible, guided online experience that reacquaints you, alongside a supportive cohort, with your creative, compassionate, inner healer and weaves a practice of rhythmic, micro self-care rituals unobtrusively into your everyday. (Think: sustainable, bite-sized, daily rituals vs expensive, annual vacations and retreats. We'll wither away waiting for those. <-- did you guys read that article?)

SoulSpace invites you into a deeply soulful and contemplative space that is also refreshingly playful, permissive, creative, and light. Over the course of the, 6-week, online program, you'll master simple, self-care rituals that nourish your practice and your day, walking away with concrete practices you can dip into in even the smallest moments you have between clients.

Whether you're a student training to become a psychotherapist, coach, or bodyworker -- or if you've been in practice for years in a setting where you're supporting clients emotionally/spiritually throughout your day -- I created SoulSpace for YOU.

Click here to more about SoulSpace, cozy up in your favorite blanket, grab a cuppa pumpkin-something, join a tribe of fellow healing arts practitioners this autumn.

Now is the perfect time.

Oh, and I'm giving away one free enrollment this week, only on Instagram! Hop on over to follow me and enter! (The winner will be chosen on Monday, September 21, 2015.) Giveaway has ended and SoulSpace is underway for the Autumn 2015 session. I'll offer it again after the new year, so stay tuned to my e-newsletter to find out when the doors open for enrollment.

Wellness rituals I love, Part 3: Yoga at home

Today's blog is part of the mini-series on wellness rituals I love. In addition to drinking golden milk nightly and dry brushing before daily showers, this is another simple, sustainable way I enhance my physical well-being: Practicing yoga at home while watching my fav YouTube yogini, Adriene Mishler. Sure, I love going to live yoga classes at my local studio. There's something about the energy of the whole room practicing together that helps to hold the space. Realistically though, as a business owner and a mom to a young child, I can't always make it to my studio for regular classes. I've been practicing yoga (off and on) for nearly 2 decades, so while I know my way around a sun salutation, I have trouble motivating my way through a session without guidance. Enter: Yoga with Adriene. She's a lifesaver!

Find what feels good.

Not only does she provide free yoga videos online, for all levels of practitioners, at varying lengths, AND targeting different needs (i.e.; 'Yoga for when you're sick," "Yoga for headaches," "Yoga on an airplane,") -- she does it with such charm! I love that her style is permissive, gentle, accessible, humorous, and rooted in the idea of self-care. Her mantra is FIND WHAT FEELS GOOD (and it makes a good t-shirt, I gotta say!)

Peruse her Youtube channel and find a video that speaks to you in this moment. I kicked off my relationship with Adriene via her 30-day yoga challenge, which was a perfect way to ease myself back into a regular practice and get into the ritual of doing it at home. The video below is her overview of the 30 Days of Yoga. See whatcha think.

For my home practice, I just have some basics -- a mat, a block, and a bolster. That's all you need, and you can generally improvise on those last two items with stuff you already have at home.

So, that's my third little tip for making wellness easy -- and in this case, actually fun! Namaste.