helping professionals

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?
  • What’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!

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.

Simple ways to use oracle cards

If you're seeking a quick, fun, and meaningful way to look inward, working with oracle cards could be an enriching practice for you. The simple act of choosing a card (or a few cards) is an immediate way to invite self-reflection, whether you are starting your day, pondering a lingering question in your life, or invoking nighttime dreams. Oracle cards generally come grouped into a deck, and they can provide us with insight into our innermost questions -- not from some outside source, rather from our inner wisdom used in deciphering their message. Tarot cards are one well-known example of an oracle card deck, though there are many other types. You don't need to be a professional tarot reader, a shaman, a believer of woo-woo, or anything other than exactly who you are to make oracle cards part of your practice. All you need is a favorite deck (or you can even create a deck yourself using your own art and/or images cut from magazines.) A few of my favorite oracle card decks I keep around my studio are pictured below, and many can be purchased via the Amazon affiliate carousel at the bottom of this post.

Ways I like to use my oracle cards:

  • At the start of my morning
  • To set intentions for my week, placed upon my altar or around the house as a visual reminder
  • For clients to draw at the begining of therapy to arrive into the sacred space and set the tone for the session
  • As creative writing or journaling prompts
  • For help in answering a question that I'm mulling over (because the reflecting on the image requires me to go deeply inward and inquire from my true, core self.)
  • Before bedtime, to close my day or invoke/inquire into my nighttime dreams
  • To mark special occasions, like my birthday, new years, or the beginning of a project
  • To mark a transition, like a move, a new job, a birth, a death, a relationship beginning or ending

How-to and prompts:

Once you have a deck you like, get a feel for it. Hold the deck in your hands, shuffle it gently, cut the cards - do whatever you'd like. While you are holding the cards, think of a question you'd like to ask. It can be as simple as: "What do I need in this moment?" or "What will this day bring?" You can fan them out or stack them. Using your intuition, pull a card from the deck. (Sometimes a card will fall on the floor as you shuffle - that's usually your card.)

After you pull a card, study it closely. If you have a deck of words (like the Angel card or Blesssing card decks in the carousel below) or phrases on the card (like the Shambhala deck or Danielle LaPorte's Truthbomb deck,) then see how/if this word or phrase could apply to your life.

If your deck is comprised of cards with images, really look at the card you pull. What is pictured? What colors are used? Is there movement or stillness? Is there a person(s) present? Are there animals? Which natural elements stand out: fire, water, earth, air? Simply describe what you see. (We art therapists call the practice of just describing what you see "the phenomenological approach to the image" - fancy huh?) Describing form/the image leads to content/the meaning.

Now it's time to let your mind free-associate and play! Does your card remind you of anything or anyone in your life? Could it apply to the question you asked as you shuffled? What do the words or colors or shapes mean to you? (i.e.; "yellow reminds me of the sun and happiness" or "owls make me think of nighttime and wisdom" or "the word 'patience' is such medicine for me right now.") At this point, you may choose to make notes in your journal. If your card comes with a booklet describing the images (as tarot cards and other decks often do,) you might choose to then add this collective wisdom into your own personal reflections. Though, I'd recommend saving the booklet for last so as not to cloud your intuitive hunches.

You might also pull 3 cards in a row, representing 1) Who I was, 2) Who I am, and 3) Who I will become. You can get creative about what sets of cards can mean, or you can consult the booklet that comes with your deck to see what types of readings are recommended.

This practice can be infused with any energy you give it: light, fun, sacred, deep, meditative, inspiring... and the best part is that you can connect with yourself and your inner voice in under 5 minutes when engaging in oracle card reading. Trust the process.

Extending the invitation

Today feels like the day to revisit this Oriah Mountain Dreamer poem I've loved for years, so I've posted it below. Authentic connection and being truly present with another person is what I love the very most about my career as a therapist -- that is the purpose of this work I feel so honored to do.

The Invitation    

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. 
I want to knowwhat you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.
I want to know 
if you will risk 
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me
what planets are 
squaring your moon...
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you 
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.

It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,
“Yes.”

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know 
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know
if you can be alone 
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.

~by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

Self-care and self-compassion are not selfish.

We hear the words self-care and self-compassion thrown around quite a bit these days. Being a therapist who was trained at a Buddhist university for experiential and contemplative study, the recent mainstream buzz about the inherent health of these concepts is music to my ears. Writing prescriptions for both self-care and self-compassion seems to come into play with most of my clients during the course of therapy. (And for myself and my loved ones, for that matter!) Okay, so what's the difference between self-care and self-compassion? Self-care can take the form of setting healthy boundaries with others, bracketing time for relaxation and personal-care, socializing, making art, and doing other enjoyable activities. Self-compassion is a way of relating to yourself when you are having a difficult time, in the very moment of suffering.

Actively engaging in self-care is traditionally met with negative feedback involving words like "selfish" or "indulgent" or "self-centered." When I became conscious of creating space to honor myself in these ways in my own life, I would share this with others in hopes that it might allow them to consider the same. For example, if I got a massage or took a day off work to rest, the phrase I heard in response quite often was, "Must be nice!" which implies that it's a luxury to do so, and the person speaking that would never consider this as an option for themselves. The idea of including self-care in your life, for many of us, is a process of unlearning and shifting mindset. It's about giving yourself permission to include this healthy way of being into your awareness and your schedule.

This Spring, I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Kristin Neff speak at a Women's Symposium at Stanford about the importance of both self-care and self-compassion, and why helping professionals need self-compassion in order to be at all effective in working with others. (You can read more on her thoughts by clicking here.) Her talk excited me. She is speaking my language:

Not only are concepts of self-care and self-compassion NOT SELFISH, they are KEY to helping others.(You know, just incase we needed to convince the naysayers.)

Those of us who help others (whether therapists, doctors, teachers, parents, adult child of aging parent, etc) sit with the pain of others daily. Doing so can bring up discomfort, fear, and eventually burnout. That's why engaging in empathic work with others must start with first having compassion for ourselves. Many of us did not grow up with the message that it is okay to acknowledge our own pain or vulnerability and make it known, so a "grin and bear it" or "stiff upper lip" sort of mentality develops. That's a natural response to receiving such a message, but this is not useful to our personal growth, or in caring for others. This is why an integral part of my passion and my work is in supporting caregivers and helping professionals in developing realistic, workable ways they can make space to honor their own suffering (humanity) in order to avoid empathy-fatigue.

I work with my clients on exercising their self-love muscles, which have often atrophied by adulthood due to disapproving introjects and societal messages around weakness or selfishness. I collaborate with my clients to develop and teach practical, doable ways of working self-compassion and self-care into their daily living.

Over the next few weeks, I will be publishing a series of blog posts here devoted to  specific ways of doing this. Be sure to follow along on facebook or twitter to see when the next entry is posted for inspiration for your own journey.