chakras

Can shame be surgically removed?

I unexpectedly lost an organ last week, and I can already feel that it's a major turning point for me. First, let's rewind to a time before the surgery, to a moment almost two weeks ago when I was sitting in a somatic coaching session, discussing areas in my life where I still feel shame holding me back from being the fullest expression of myself in relationships. I have come to understand shame as not accepting part of who we are, whereas I understand guilt as not accepting something we have done -- both leave us believing we are not worthy of connection. 

Despite my efforts these past several years to live a more unapologetic, authentic, connected, and self-accepting life, there are certainly still places, generally tied to very old childhood conditioning, where I hold onto shame. This shame, at times, has me feeling like my insides and outsides are incongruent, as we often hide away shameful parts of ourselves in order to be accepted or loved. Incongruence is painful to me, being one who dedicates myself to radical truth telling in service of feeling congruent, transparent, and fully expressed. So I'm in this process of overturning every stone, in order to reveal myself... ultimately to myself. 

While explaining this to my coach a couple weeks ago, I felt the meta-shame of what she must think of hearing my honesty, which, of course, made for a rich and wonderful present-moment healing opportunity. In the session, I tuned closely into how my body was experiencing this. (Damn, I love Hakomi.) Immediately I felt a strong wave of nausea, like a heavy, murky discomfort in my gut. I felt disempowered and small. My chakra-nerd self connected that the gut is the 3rd chakra, our solar plexus, corresponding to our digestive organs and how we not only process our food, but also how we process emotional content. The third chakra (manipura) houses our personal power, will, and self-esteem. The shadow of this chakra is --guess what-- shame. (Wanna learn more about the psychology of chakras? Check out this book, which I used for my master's research back in the day. It's so enlightening!)

Following that session, each time I dove into processing this shame via journaling, art, meditating, or talking with others, I'd sense that same familiar wave of nausea. Two mornings later, hours before the full moon, I woke up with an unbearable stomach ache. I went to the ER, and within hours, I was having my acutely inflamed appendix removed, to catch it before it burst. Sure, there are medical reasons for having an emergency appendectomy, AND the psychosomatics of such an ailment can be profoundly meaningful, and full moons are for letting go and releasing that which no longer serves us. I'm still very much in the early stages of mining this incident for its lessons and gems.

While I realize that removing an organ is not a shortcut to doing the heavy-lifting of overcoming shame, this experience highlighted for me the importance of not holding onto imposed values, cultural norms, and belief systems that keep my adult self feeling stifled and unexpressed. Being in an emergency scenario like this also brings up the urgency of living life RIGHT NOW the way I want to be living it. It helped me to hone in on what and who I want to spend time with, and helps to clarify and cull that which is not worth pouring my energy into. Gosh, that sort of detox sounds like it'd be clarifying, but honestly, the letting go has also been difficult and disappointing in some ways. I'll also be cleansing from the anesthesia and other weird meds for a while and working through healing the trauma my body remembers from this experience. Ultimately, I am feeling grateful and have a renewed focus on what truly matters. This solidified my commitment to truth-telling and making my fierce vulnerability visible, for the sake of my health, if nothing else.

(This procedure also caused me to recite the children's book Madeline for over a week! The image above is by Ludwig Bemelmans, Madeline's author and illustrator.)

Art, chakras & self-inquiry, oh my!

Oooof, what a year it's been so far, huh? For me, lately it's been more essential than ever to stay grounded and in touch with my body -- to listen deeply, to be nourished, and to express (literally meaning "press out") what I am feeling and carrying within. That's why this new offer comes at a perfect time for me, and I hope for you, too. 

I am thrilled and honored to be among the soulful artists and teachers in the next cycle of the inspirational 21 Secrets online workshop which will explore the theme: EMBODY. I am one of 21 teachers you'll hear from in this course, each offering a uniquely artistic approach to embodiment.

In my 21 Secrets segment, you'll join me on a colorful journey across the rainbow bridge of your chakra system. Oooo, one of my favorite topics to study and teach! We'll walk through the chakras as a developmental timeline, from womb through adulthood. You'll gain insight into how each chakra's qualities manifest in your life, and express your findings through art! Healing, honoring, and celebrating your body in your own artistic way will help to keep you connected to and caring for yourself in a time when it's imperative. And you all know how I feel about self-care!

EARLY BIRD SALE starts TODAY! Here's what's included:

  • A downloadable 150+ page eBook that contains 21 art journaling workshops packed with videos, photos, templates, and clear instructional content that is yours to keep and refer to again and again. This will be delivered to your inbox on March 27th at 9am Pacific, and it'll be yours forevermore.

  • Unlimited access to all workshops at once! You pick and choose which ones you do and when. There is no time limit or deadlines to meet — these workshops are yours to keep.

  • Membership to the private 21 SECRETS Facebook community where you can share, be inspired, and receive warm, supportive feedback.

  • The opportunity to learn a variety of art journaling approaches and techniques from the comfort of your home/studio.

  • Belong to a supportive online artist community that has been growing strong since 2010! 

Pretty awesome, huh?

The whole package is priced amazingly at $98, and you early birds can get $10 off using the code: emBODY when checking out between now and midnight Pacific Friday, February 11th.  

For more information & to register, click here.

 

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 I’m coming down with something, Something worse than any stomach ache Or the headaches I get from reading in bad light – 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:

So, what is Reiki anyway?

Reiki has been circling back into my practice more regularly since the new year, and it seems like a perfect time to write a little post about this ancient, subtle, and powerful hands-on-healing method. I am a Master/Teacher-level Reiki practitioner in the Usui tradition and lineage. I have been studying energetic healing and the chakra system since 1995, and I have been formally practicing Reiki since 2003. I enjoy calling upon Reiki energy for my own healing, cleansing the energy of a space, and for hands-on healing treatments for clients, family members, and friends.

This Spring I conducted two Reiki workshops in the Bay Area for therapists who also wish to become Reiki practitioners, and incorporate this type of energetic healing modality into their practices. In these workshops, I shared information about the psychology of the chakra system, taught specifics about Reiki I & II, and 'attuned' the participants to become Reiki practitioners. We gathered in a lovely space in Mountain View, and it just felt so good to send more healers out into this world.

So, what is Reiki?

Reiki is not a religion or dogma, does not take away from current belief system; it’s a gentle, effective, non-invasive hand-on healing modality based on an ancient form of healing. Rei means spiritual consciousness.  Ki means life force (sometimes called chi and prana). Thus, Reiki is a spiritually guided life force energy, which is everything around us (earth, air, sun, water.)

Some of the benefits of Reiki: 

  • Reduction in stress and anxiety
  • A sense of deep peace and tranquility
  • Release of blockages on physical, emotional and spiritual levels
  • Feelings of overall well-being
  • Renewal of spiritual awareness and insight
  • Inner stillness, allowing a deepening connection with self
  • Enhanced functioning of the immune system
  • Reduction in levels of chronic pain
  • Decreased time necessary for healing from illness or injury
  • Shortened recovery time from physical exertion
  • Management of symptoms from chemotherapy
  • Support for conventional medical treatment

What to expect during a Reiki treatment session with me:

I offer 75-minute Reiki sessions. You may think of scheduling a Reiki session as a self-care and self-inquiry treat to yourself, much like getting a massage or acupuncture. You don't need to be my psychotherapy client to receive a Reiki treatment, as I offer them independent of psychotherapy. At times when appropriate, I also incorporate Reiki with psychotherapy clients who are interested.

During a Reiki treatment, you will lie comfortably on a massage table, as you remain fully clothed. You may wish to gently close your eyes as you lie quietly on the table and relax fully into the treatment, remembering that you do not need to do anything to increase the effectiveness of the treatment.

The room will be comfortably lit with either candles or soft lighting. Soothing music may be played to enhance relaxation.

I will spend a few minutes getting to know you better, as well as discussing Reiki treatments and finding out what your reasons for coming for a treatment might be. Anything that you choose to share during your treatment will be kept confidential, remembering that this is a safe and sacred environment. If you have any significant areas of physical discomfort, be sure to share that information before the treatment begins, or as you become aware during treatment. I then will gently place my hands over/on the major energy centers, or chakras, of your body, leaving the hands in each position for a few minutes, helping the body to bring itself into balance as it draws in the healing energy of Reiki, and may spend additional time at other areas of the body that seem to be calling for attention.

During the treatment, you may experience a variety of sensations throughout your body such as heat, vibration or tingling, pulsation or flowing energy, lightness or heaviness, deep relaxation, and occasionally temporarily intensified emotions as you release blockages from the past. You may also fall asleep for all or part of the treatment, or find that you do not experience any physical sensations at all. This is perfectly normal, since Reiki does not need to be perceived for you to receive its many benefits, nor do you need to be awake during the treatment.

If you'd like to learn more, I recommend the following books on Reiki: (clicking on affiliate links below will open the Amazon page for the book in a new browser window on your computer) 

Or feel free to contact me to discuss scheduling a session.

Workshop for therapists: Reiki I & the chakras

If you're a therapist or therapy grad student/intern interested in becoming a Reiki practitioner and incorporating the wisdom of the chakra system into your work with clients, check out the intimate workshop I'm offering in Mountain View on Saturday, March 14th.

About the workshop:

In this workshop, we will explore the psychology of the chakra system, and you will be attuned as a Reiki I practitioner. Reiki I is used for self-healing, so this is a wonderful resource for self-care. I will offer Reiki II (for offering Reiki sessions to others) and Reiki III (which is the Master/teacher level of Reiki) attunements in the coming months for those who participate in this first workshop.

Please see full details below (click image to enlarge) and contact me if you're interested. Just a couple openings remain. (Workshop is now full, but do contact me if you want to be alerted for future offerings.)

Recommended reading for participants:

For those pursuing a path in the art of hands-on healing and who enroll in my Reiki workshops, I recommend a few inspirational and informative books. Below you will find a short list of book titles, along with affiliate links to these texts on Amazon.

Keep in mind that this reading is supplementary to the trainings, and not mandatory. You will receive a bound workbook during the workshop that I put together to give you the essentials of what you will need, though these writings are recommended to peruse either before (and particularly after) the training to enhance your knowledge.

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Recommended books on the psychology of the chakra system:

Recommended books on Reiki: