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Teresa

“Move and the way will open.”

Zen Proverb

REMEMBERING THE RESTORATIVE: FROM CLIENT-CARE TO SELF-CARE

As someone who has guided clients through the intrinsic healing experience of yoga from yoga studio students to combat veterans I know how amazing and rejuvenating it can be.  Likewise, when I integrated yoga into the equine therapy practices I felt this light of finding a combined practice that resonated so profoundly for people that I wondered how I could bring this gift to every client I ever worked with that day forward.  Combat veterans and other trauma survivors seem to find drastic levels of healing in the experiential practices of mind/body medicine with a yogic edge and relational therapy through the silent compassion of a horse.  I had seen this therapeutic magic in action, seen the teary eyes of a modern day warrior gently petting the flank of his equine companion.  I knew this was something un-ignorable and I wanted to spread the concepts and conjoined practices to every place of pain I could, and to every person in need of connectedness. 

In my fervor, however, I had still never been a participant so I had never experienced the combination of body scans, somatic attunements, centering and grounding exercises, yoga, and horses all in one gloriously zen package.  I got the chance to see the results as a therapist and take part in the clients’ processes but not indulge myself in the participant role.  By the time I was packing up my boots and jeans for my trek to Arizona I was ready for a temporary role shift and some horse & yoga indulgences of my own.  Perphaps even a few revelations and epiphanies of my own as well.

I knew there would be mind/body practices in Shelley and Nancy’s equine program but when I received the email 3 days before leaving for Arizona stating, “Bring yoga clothes for the morning,” I nearly wept from excitement–seriously.  I had been putting self-care on the back-burner for a while; a fact that came fully into focus while giving my “Room to Breath” self-care workshop to a room full of women desperately in need of self-care a few weeks prior.  I was exhausted, I was drained, and part of me was wishing to be on the other end of the room–to be more participant than guide (although I love both roles in their own way). 

What is it about the nature of a woman that makes us constantly take from our own personal well of energy long past the time that every drip has been ladled out of it–until we are digging up moist dirt looking for water?  That is a mostly rhetorical question because I could give about 50 answers off the top of my head–ones that always come up when I give self-care workshops and ones that always resonate with me being someone who preaches far more than I practice when it comes to self-nurturing activities.

Well, I thought, I would, finally, give back to me.  And the deliciousness of yoga mornings, greeted by a dawning sun in the guesthouse of a cozy Arizona farm, was definitely enough to bring tears to my tired eyes.  Since ending yoga school for my teacher training life had caught up with me fast between a new job, private practice, workshops, and fine-tuning materials for upcoming trainings, not to mention 3 weeks of a killer sinus infection.  I had not even had time to maintain my own personal yoga practice in any way.  I needed a dose of the yogic in a big way.  I always felt the response of my body, mind, and spirit when I fell into a yoga drought–my brain got more distracted and white noise crept in, my body stiffened up, and my shoulder muscles tightened to rigid blocks of muscular tissue.  I felt distanced from any semblance of soulful peace.

CHECKING INTO THE OM HOTEL…

So, you may be wondering, what is the Om Hotel?  Is it a place? Is it a state of mind? The answer is–yes.  You create the space in a place and it becomes the conduit to a state of mind.  The place can be as simple as a yoga mat or a wooden floor or if you have a penchant for improvisation, it can even be on the back of the horse.  It can be a squared off corner of a room, or a particular room in a house, or an Arizonan guesthouse down a quiet dirt road with plenty of sunlight, soft yogic crooning, and a singing bowl or two.  The latter is where I laid myself at 9:00am on the first day of the “Riding Your Way Into a Mutual Relationship” workshop which Shelley and Nancy had crafted with the Epona Method as a base and the flavors of their expertise sprinkled throughout which, to my great delight included a very qualified psychotherapist yoga teacher at one end (Nancy) and an expertly intuitive horsewoman at the other (Shelley).

My “Om Hotel” experience began every morning for 3 days with a fluid, peaceful, and restorative yoga practice led by Nancy which was such a gentle yawn into the morning I could have spent about 3 hours in the guesthouse studio.  Nancy wove together the best of somatics and language from both psychotherapy such that the merging was seamless and helped evoke people’s true states of self without feeling invasive or probing.  Her postures were gentle and meditative, bringing the practice to a room full of horsewomen without yoga background in such a palatable way that it left them all wanting to go home and begin a regular practice of their own–which I always love to hear.

The studio walls were coated in a sunlight shade of yellow and mats were lined across the cream tile urging anyone entering to melt into the cool earth and let their yoga take them away from the external and come back to the root of themselves.  As I always like to quote e.e. cummings, taking us equine yoginis on a journey to, “…the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life.”  There were sun salutations, light meditations, restorative postures, and soft melodies; the perfect sampler of the practice to a room of beginners and one lapsed-yogini in need for a lot of softness in her practice.

The “Om Hotel” practice provided me with a return to my inner yogini with a side of self-reflection and introspection.  I loved the morning practices and relished a return to my private practice every evening, returning to the Xanadu Ranch and taking my practice to a comforting place–for muscles sore from saddle sitting and other unfamiliar farm-related aches.  Another beautiful revelation was the increasing level of yogi in each of the workshop participants leading to the creation, by Cathy (one of the participants with a very earthy sensibility and highly attuned intuition), of such equine/yogic terms as “om trot” and “spiritual legs”.  I was in love with the blossoming of vocabulary and the embracing of the yogic in the equine.  Although my ability to achieve my own “om trot” later in the week was quite a difficult thing.

THE PRANA EQUUS IN ACTION…

Prana, in yogic terms, is the vital life-sustaining force that is the root of our root and is embodied in our breath–life begins and ends with breath and, in my study, how we breathe says a lot about how we live.  The same can be said about how we ride.  Our breath acts as a barometer for our emotional experience and while riding your horse, part of the communication in the “mutual relationship” and the language we silently convey to the horse, comes in the forms of movement and breath.  Much like in yoga it is in the movement and breath that all communication and all of the emotional experience is acted out.  So to find your yoga in the equine is crucial in my opinion–and luckily, it seems, it also is the same for Nancy and Shelley’s work and workshops.  I loved how much they integrated body awareness, emotional experience in the body, and our body and breath language into their workshop–for me it proved to be even more revelational than I expected.  And resonated so much with the work I had been doing integrating the two practices together in my own little South Florida pietry dish of life.

My riding, I have learned, brings out all of the survival mechanism responses and discomfort spoken in physiology which I will discuss more in the next few posts.  This was a vital deepening of my own body awareness and attunement to how the oldest of habits die hard.  I carried my om with me and my breath skills as much as I could but my personal mounted equine work definitely tested my yogic capacities.  

I am one of those people for whom it is difficult enough to, say, tie my shoes and chew gum symultaneously let alone find my horseback seat, balance, breath, and hand placement–this I am going to need to work on.  Perhaps I need to chew gum and tie my shoes more often to build the tactile multitasking.  For now I am going to try a few oms to recalibrate my brain after an already long week–even longer while reminscing and longing for days spent alongside roundpens, on horseback, or on a yoga mat.  There is something diminishing about the return to an office-based week and paperwork-laden life.  Here is hoping all of you find a little bit of “The Om Hotel” in your daily life!

Stay tuned for the upcoming posts in this series:

  • RUNAWAY BRIDLE: THAT WHICH IS LOST & FOUND AMID HORSES
  • FEET FIRST: A HORSEWOMAN-STYLED REFLEXOLOGY
  • REFLECTIVE ROUNDPENNING & BOUNDARY GOATS
  • ….& ending with a NEW interview with yoga & equine enthusiast, Margaret Burns vap of COWGIRL YOGA & BIG SKY YOGA RETREATS!

“The infinite is in the finite of every instant.”

Zen Proverb

Lost Dog Coffee Shop by ohmeaghan.

“In this world of change, nothing which comes stays, and nothing which goes is lost.”

Anne Sophie Swetchine


Today I lost something I really, really wanted and I found something else that I never, ever did.  I lost a piece of a dream that I had and really thought I had a firm grasp on.  And in the process was reminded that nothing is certain and we must always be prepared to weather change and disappointment.

What I found  was a dog.  Another one.  Well, to be more exact my husband found the dog wandering around near his work with perfectly manicured nails and hair and no collar or master to be found.  In all likelihood he was abandoned by some semi-well-intentioned owner hoping he would land somewhere good.

I felt a bit of kindred sensation–both me and this Rhodesian Ridgeback mix were dropped off in the middle of nowhere, completely under-prepared and disoriented, and with no idea of what the future would bring.  But both our fates led us to the essentials of life–we will both have food to eat and a roof to stay under while we figure out what life might hand us next–and he is going to get his mug shot plastered across town just in case there is someone looking for him (although in all likelihood he was abandoned).

I am constantly reminded of this simple fact in life, succinctly described by Operation Ivy in their song titled “Knowledge”:

“All I know is that I don’t know.  All I know is that I don’t know nothing.”

Whenever we think we know something, have some certainty, have something or some path figured out we get a sharp turn into the unknown and blinding humility.  I always find myself rooting back to the addiction mantra that I have mentioned before, “Let go and let God.”  Whether you believe in God, or the universe, or a force greater than the self and also part of the self, I feel that sometimes in life, as hard as it may be (and maybe especially when it is that hard) we have to just LET GO.  LET GO.  LET GO.  I am working to remind myself that now and trying to just let go and see where life goes.  Cause in truth, all I know is that I don’t know nothing.

Thank you Operation Ivy and punk rock for taking Socrates and making it palatable for all.  Socrates said, “I know that I know nothing,” and if he can admit that then none of us are ever too big or too small to be able to step back from our life and understand that truth for ourselves–what we know in any given moment is a pin-drop in the pool of infinity and it is good, if painful, at times to find a wincing reminder of that.  What I thought I knew yesterday was all wrong for the truth of today and the same might be said about what I will learn is true tomorrow.

Me and Gizmo (as Chris, my husband, has already named this dog we are definitely, certainly, not going to keep) came into today with truths that have expired as of today.  He is TEMPORARILY part of a new 3 dog household and I am part of something very new and unexpected myself.  Do you remember being certain of something that turned out to be all wrong?  And then were you able to breathe, reboot, and just let go of yesterday’s assumptions to deal with today’s circumstances?  I’m working on it as we speak–life the journey…always the journey.

Now, how to introduce three other dogs to the newbie–I am leaving that up to my husband, self-proclaimed Dog Whisperer Deux Joir.  We’ll see about that!

“Let that meek (quiet) darkness be your whole mind and like a mirror to you. For I want your thought of self to be as naked and simple as your thought of God, so that you may be with God in spirit without fragmentation and scattering of your mind.”

THE BOOK OF PRIVY COUNCIL , Author Unknown (same as THE CLOUD OF UNKNOWING)

“Do not imagine that when I call it a darkness or a cloud that it is a cloud amassed with vapours that float in the air, or a darkness such as you have in your house at night, when your candle is out, for such a darkness. With little imagination you could picture the summer skies breaking through the clouds or a clear light brightening the dark winter. This is false, it isn’t what I mean for when I say “darkness” I mean a lack of knowing, just as whatever you do know or have forgotten is dark to you, because you do not see it in your spiritual eyes. For this reason, that which is between you and your God is termed, not a cloud of the air, but a cloud of unknowing.”

THE CLOUD OF UNKNOWING, Author Unknown

Cloud of Unknowing is an ancient text and may be, some say, the origin of contemplative practice and dialogue within the Christian faith–we know meditation, contemplation, and philosophy around it is an ancient practice worldwide.

The Sufis did it, the Kabbalists did it, the Buddhists did it, the Mystics were everywhere, all over the globe and in every faith practice doing it. But what is it? Ah, the hard part. Deep inner silence, spiritual and corporeal centeredness, listening and hearing, and as always dealing with the “unknowing” of it all.

Whether we are deep in addiction, eating disorders, PTSD, or any disordered plane of existence we are plagued by the known demons and enemies in our minds, hearts, and souls. Part of addiction rhetoric says, “Let go and let God.” Mantras become mantras because they are so simple, succinct, and right on. This is no exception. Whether you believe in God, a universal force, or just human morality there is a part of us all that want to hold on to what we KNOW in life, about life, about ourselves. Knowing is comforting, even when, and it often is, it’s misleading.

When we KNOW we have no room to GROW. Unknowing however, as uncomfortable as it may be, leaves us ripe and ready for growth, change, and expansion beyond anything the known could ever provide. I say this with all humility as I struggling with my own battle of unknowing in my life right now. How I hate it!  And how I love it!  Maddening tis’nt’ it!

Can you spend a minute, an hour, a day intentionally “unknowing”?  Undoing all the dogmas, preconceptions, all the stuck-ness, ruts, predispositions….and just LET GO!  Give it a shot–it is scary like falling but also freeing like flying.

I am paragliding my way through the present, coasting across the sky to an unknown landing zone.  We will see where it leads.  Follow you own wind, paraglide into your own unknowns….and I hope everyone has a lovely weekend!

Where then, you say shall I be?
Nowhere by this tale!
Exactly you say this well,
for there would I have you.
For nowhere physically is everywhere spiritually.

THE CLOUD OF UNKNOWING, Author Unknown

Beware _ Manure happens by ktylerconk.

“We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.”

Charles R Swindoll

Today I went to 6 a.m. morning meditation–yes, I went even though as of Sunday I am a Yoga Teacher NOT a trainee and it is NOT mandatory.  My yoga teacher discussed with great enthusiasm the manure that had been delivered in his driveway this week; leaving him plenty of rich and vitamin-dense poops (for lack of a better term) with which to create fertile soil and grow his garden to a lush jungle paradise.  It got me thinking about “crap” and growth.  Yes, I can find a metaphor anywhere!

This week has been one of the most professionally surreal and personally taxing week of my life in ways I could never have anticipated.  I thought, quite mistakenly, that the conclusion of yoga school would leave ample room to breathe, family time, and some reprieve before the next journey.  Apparently, God, the universe, and karma thought I needed a slap in the face and a real test of my dedication to my path towards complementary therapies, integrative mental health, and bringing education on the matter wherever I can.  I came to a professional crossroads of sorts.  I am having one of those life ultimatums that everyone would be propelled to say (and they have been saying), “Looks like someone is sending you a sign.”  Hmmm.

Everything happens for a reason?  I am still conflicted on this point, but there is something inside of me that tells me what everyone else has been, there is a decision I am being forced to make to follow what I believe in or let it die.   I am not willing to let it die.  So, I find myself on the precipice of a journey, jump started by life and circumstances, into something unknown, wonderful, and frightening.

With that I reveal the newest addition (upcoming) to my website which will be my “PRIVATE PRACTICE” section with all of the treatment modalities I focus on and the unique, creative, and eclectic approach to finding healing and wellness in issues of trauma and emotional distress in others.  I am launching my private practice this month and beginning to work towards what I know to be the path I was intended to be on.

So sometimes we walk out our door to find a pile o’ “crap” has been delivered at our doorstep and realize that much grows in manure–often richer and more lush than it would have in simple dirt.  Hence my metaphor-ing on the matter.  This week I was given some “crap” and found some inspiration for growth.

I have also been given a blessing far beyond anything I could have imagined.  In a moment of flux and uncertainty I found the beauty of being surrounded by caring, self-less souls, who are impassioned about my passion, supportive of my journey and believe strongly in this path I am on.  I have been rewarded with the riches of love beyond my imagining; in finding conflict I also found that in my brief time in Florida I have been given so many kindred spirits who are giving me their ears, their resources, their ideas, and their comfort–what more riches could anyone ask for.

So what began as a somewhat traumatic Monday morning has, with time and perspective, become a rich opportunity for growth in even the most stinky of piles.  As my yoga teacher stated when I told him of my turn of life events, “How lucky you are! What a blessing! God must really love you!”  I am going to try to continue on a path of enthusiasm and optimism and put everything I have into working towards bringing wellness–mind, body, and spirit–to as large a community of persons as possible!

CHECK OUT MY NEW PROFILE ON THE PSYCHOLOGY TODAY WEBSITE!

Om & Blessings!

Prison cell with bed inside Alcatraz main building san francisco califfornia by Tim Pearce, Los Gatos.

BRINGING YOGA INTO PRISONS!

A worthwhile program to send a few good thoughts and a few spare dollars towards.  Created by Swami Padma, Director of the Sivananda Vedanta Yoga Center in San Francisco.  If you feel so provoked to make a donation please click on the link below for a full description of this wonderful program & a link to paypal donations!

http://sfyoga.com/pages/prisonproject.shtml

AND…if you live in the Southern Florida…for every $15.00 you donate you get a FREE YOGA CLASS at YOGA & INNER PEACE Sivananda yoga studio in Lake Worth! Link below:

http://www.yogapeace.com/z_syvc_prison.html

It truly is a worthwhile cause and a great man at the helm.  If you do decide to donate a few bucks to this endeavor please feel free to leave a comment on the blog about your motivations in doing so!

~ Unspoken Prayer ~ by GettysGirl.
“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be.” Douglas Adams, writer


One week.  Two rituals.  Two spiritual practices.  But somehow familiarity in each and universality in the intention.  The more I become invested in a spiritual path that includes meditation, meditative prayer, and cultivating inner peace and connection to something divine the more threads of wonderful connectedness I find between myself and every other person, my path and every other spiritual path around me.  The greatest element of synchronicity I have been lavishing in has been in my Christian Contemplative and Mystic journey and my spiritually enlivened yogic Sivananda route.

I have made an effort to not be overtly “religious” on this blog but definitely openly spiritual.  In this instance, and for the sake of the beauty in this element of my life path (as I have found it) I want to go a little into my own personal faith space–as it were.  I was raised a Catholic, my husband a Protestant and we have been searching for a space, place, and practice where the twain should meet.  The Episcopalian tradition of faith is infused with lovely ritual and ceremony that I always found “homey” elements of Catholicism while also being richly community, mission, and textually oriented in ways that my husband has always loved.  Best of all that beyond both of our traditions of origin, the particular community of Episcopals we stumbled upon seem to embody the foundations of faith we both love–inclusion, compassion, universal love, open intrigue into the unknown, and an ability to interweave and converse with every other spiritual path there is to “God” or a cosmically larger entity than self–however one defines it.  That was abundantly clear when I discovered their series on Eastern Religions.

RITUAL 1:

Anyway, we both sort of fell in love with this beautiful evolution of our histories of faith with a core much more akin to where both our hearts are–in exploring the world and faith with open mind, open heart (as one of my favorite contemplatives Thomas Keating wrote of in his book with the same name).  And so last Sunday, on Valentines Day we became confirmed into this body of faith that we felt we could grow in and love together.  It was a far more intimate experience than I imagined it could be and intimate at every level.

I stood in the back of the church waiting for the ceremony to begin and recalled back a moment similar to that–my Catholic Confirmation–from over a decade earlier.  I remember standing in the back of that church in that “official” moment of adulthood and having nothing but questions and skepticism and some resentments.  I remember not wanting to be where I was and not sure where I wanted to be.  I was conflicted at every level of my “self” and I think I spent many of my years following in a multitude of crisis.  I wanted to believe what I believed in –everyone was equal, we all had intrinsically good souls, and there was a space in internal silence where a voice could be heard that was not mine but came from inside me at the deepest level…from the root of the root and the bud of the bud.

Last Sunday was the opposite of my initial confirmation experience I felt, instead of solidifying a membership into a religion and sect I wasn’t sure about I finally understood more clearly the heritage I came from and the progression of my spiritual journey that led me to the place where I found myself.  Where I could enjoy one path of faith and still be committed to learning, understanding, and finding likeness and beauty in all other paths to same source.  And without feeling I needed some sort of solitary allegiance to one place, space, and role to be a participant in my own faith; being able to explore all the others with a sense of the communal and eternal in all faiths.

I have read much and thought much about the young, childlike faith we all begin our lives inside of–one with strict rules, this not that, good not bad, right not wrong–a very black and white religion.  That kind of faith helps us formulate what we believe in at a beginner level and gets us, hopefully, to  a space where we are comfortable knowing our own “box” but not needing to live in it.  A space where we can live outside of our comfort zone, our known norms, and into the rich and wonderful rewarding place of exploration, questioning, and yearning to know the world at a more multidimensional level.  I think I had to get to that space in my own faith before I could enter back into a community of faith without feeling I was placing myself back into a restrictive box.  I feel a new sense of adventure about this journey of self, experience, and community.

RITUAL 2:

In the circular and cyclical nature of the world and spirituality I participated in a second ritual of sorts this past Sunday.  A Swami from San Francisco, a clever wisp of a man, cloaked in saffron with a softness and kindness in his every gesture, came to my yoga school this weekend and I participated in a Mantra Initiation and Naming Ritual.  Having missed out on Ash Wednesday, I was again blown away by the ever-increasing similarities of nuances and symbolism I find abounding the more I study faiths, philosophies, and spiritualities in various contexts.  Part of the Mantra Initiation includes the initiant having ashes placed on their forehead–to remind us all that ashes to ashes, dust to dust, as we came from the earth to the earth we return.  This is also the same reason Ashes on Ash Wednesday are used–the identical reason.  I was given the sacred mantra of my choosing–“So Ham”.

I chose “So Ham” because it means that we are not our bodies or our minds, we are connected to something larger and more divine.  Interestingly the root of the meaning in this Mantra is the same at the root of Christian Contemplative Prayer practice (as well as many other contemplative prayer practices)–we connect to the divine in self through clearing our mind of mental “garbage” and filling it only with sacred words and corollary thoughts and intentions of divinity.  Mindfulness is the beginnings of this kind of clarity–something that I have not come close to mastering in any sustainable way…yet.  I also chose it because this meditation mimics breath–in, so, out, ham.  It reminded me of the story I had heard Richard Rohr tell at his talk a few weeks ago.  He spoke about a rabbi he heard lecture who spoke about the origin of the word Yahweh in Judaism as mimicking breath.  It is interesting to me how the pace and origin of breath seems inextricably linked, in human consciousness and maybe beyond, with something larger than self, something divine in nature.

There I sat, on blond wooden floor and meditation pillow, clothed in the traditional white garb of Mantra Initiation made of gauzy linens and cottons, meditating on my sacred words, seated cross-legged and reveling in the lovely versatility of spiritual paths and experiences I had imbibed in over the last two weeks–of course in contemplating that fact I was leaving my mantra behind and becoming distracted from the very thing I had been working towards–inner silence, contemplative prayer, and peaceful mind.

As I smirked to myself at my own irony–I often do that–I found gratitude in being able to explore a world so rich with faith traditions that, while divergent in language, garb, and texts also so similar in nuance, ritual, and intention.  What an exciting exploration.  What a world of faith we can breathe in.  What wonderful new levels and pages of world knowledge I feel privileged to imbibe in as I explore yoga further, expound on christian contemplation further, and find the mystical beauty in every pocket and nook of the world.

I remember reading the prologue of Thich Naht Hanh‘s book Living Buddha, Living Christ written by the Dalai Lama where he said (I am paraphrasing) “There are places in the world where rice grows better and so people eat rice.  There are places where wheat grows better and so people eat bread.  There is nothing wrong with eating what is appropriate for where you live, what grows there, and what you were raised knowing.”  We find our faith comforts and that is often where we stay, in what we know, but in that there is no harm in learning and understanding and growing in our own faith by understanding better all those that surround it–because at the root of the root, and the bud of the bud, we all come from ashes and return to the same.

Om and blessings on all of your personal paths and journeys of faith and belief and finding what fits for you in a world rich with ideas and spiritual passions.

“Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts.”

Thich Nhat Hanh


While my head stand, handstand &scorpion continue to leave a lot–and I mean a lot–to be desired for the first time in the history of my yoga practice I was beginning to feel very confident and proud of my tree pose.  How I could stand, tall and unwavering, in all tree variations with my foot perched high on my opposite leg and my boughs of strength and poise unbreakable.  And then I went and got distracted.

They say, wherever they are, that how you are on the mat is how you are in the world and every time I doubt it, even for a moment it comes back taunting and laughing in my face.  I Gould know by now, a such a strong proponent of the thread of connectedness between mind and body, life and the metaphors for life we are constantly presented with, how obvious the fact would be–lose balance and focus in life and it will carry into yoga or any practice of intention or attention.

As you prepare for tree you are always direct to find a point of focus on the wall opposite you–a distant immovable spot that you can fix your eyes on and use the stability of that spot to stabilize yourself.  The same can be said for life–we must fix our gaze on the things in our lives that are stable and unchanging, something secure and outside if there day-to-day chaos of living.

You are also told before entering tree pose to root your feet into the ground, plant each toe Into the earth and plant yourself solidly in that spot.  So, too, in life we must find ways to ground ourselves, remind ourselves where we are and secure ourselves stably into the foundational earth of our existence–so we can deal with the distractions.

When you are off-balance in tree you feel it right away, you lift off the ground and immediately begin to sway. Your fixed point on the wall seems to far &your mind is unable to focus wholeheartedly on it. Every shift in the room is unbearably distracting and every sweeping wisp of air feels like tornadic winds set on toppling you over.  So goes it too in life that when we are off-balance, not grounded in our intentions and stable base, and too full of thoughts and frenzy to fix our minds on a stable place everything feels overwhelming.  Every task , new venture , old workload, and duty seems like too much and we feel ready to collapse in frustration and dizziness.

In tree and in life sometimes we have to focus harder and work more dutifully to shut or much of the self-imposed chaos and storms in our path.  We have to take a breezy wind as it comes and not deem every wisp of air to be a storm and deal with every storm as I’d it were a wisp of air (now that is the hardest!).

I know that my excitement and happiness about all the many projects upcoming and those currently in motion have been both an amazing blessing and something in which I have gotten so engrossed that I have lost my balance in the present an in my tree pose.

I noticed it first in tree and then had to take the metaphor for what it was–a signal of self-inflicted burnout off the mat.  I need to breathe, ground, and fix my gaze at my own stable point of light band let life come as it comes and adventures unfold as they will.

On that note: with all the new change and projects coming together I am going to begin a new newsletter which I will be emailing out in the next few weeks…and hopefully every other month following that! You can email me at embodymentalhealth@gmail.com to get on the mailing list now!

Thanks bloggers and blog readers alike for all of your support & I look forward to sharing all that this new life adventure has to offer with all of you–one breath at a time!

(Susan Tebb, PhD in yoga class; lower right corner in turquoise.)

THE LAUNCH OF MY NEWLY REVAMPED WEBSITE “EMBODY MENTAL HEALTH” at www.embodymentalhealth.com (final edits to website content still being made), Q&A SERIES, & THE NEW LOOK OF ALL MY SITES INCLUDING THE ARTICLES PAGE OF MY WEBSITE at www.embodyarticles.blogspot.com brings with great excitement the first of a series of interviews with professionals in the field of mental health, mind/body medicine, trauma therapy, yoga and equine professionals and more.

Today’s Q&A is with Professor Susan Tebb, Ph.D.  Sue Tebb,Professor of Social Work at St. Louis University , a former Dean/Director, has centered her research interests around family caregiving.  She has written two books and over forty book chapters and/or publications in this area.  She has been a social worker for more than forty years working with many diverse family configurations in adoptions, medical social work, court mediation and caregiving situations.  Lately her caregiving research , knowledge building and skill training has begun to involve more complementary and integrative interventions, such as yogic techniques,  to deal with stress and trauma.

Q:  What is your background in the field of social work?  Which populations have you worked with and in what kind of mental health settings?


I first worked in the field following my undergraduate degree in psychology as a social work intern at the Red Cross in downtown Chicago in the middle of the Vietnam Crisis.  It was my first introduction to working with families and military men and women who were injured both physically and mentally by combat.  I then got my MSW degree at Wayne State because they were just beginning to work with families and not the traditionally, casework, group work, community organization that were what most schools offered.

After my MSW degree I worked as a maternity and adoption worker and then moved into medical social worker, working in cancer clinics, rehab, medical services and dialysis/transplant.  I enjoyed working with dialysis and transplant and so when I was offered a job to work for a group of doctors beginning dialysis centers I grabbed it because I enjoyed the holistic way we worked with people on dialysis, we got to know them and their families.  I continued this type of work in two other states and then left that area of work to return to adoption and maternity work.

I enjoyed working with families as they went through the adoption process to adopt an older child or a child from another country.  I also was touched by the women who made the decision to relinquish rights to their child and tried to help make this process a healing one for them.  At this time I was a single mom with two young children; their dad had died in a car accident five years earlier.  I realized I needed to make plans to have a secure position with good health benefits and so I decided to go back to school and get a Ph.D. in social work.  Something I had often thought about but never thought it was the right moment, well then was the right moment.

I moved our family to Kansas from California to attend the program at the University of Kansas.  This was exactly the program for me because  it was at this time that the strengths model was forming at Kansas.  I did my research and work while there on positive coping and strengths in family caregivers at the VA hospital.

Q:  How long have you been a professor at St. Louis University?  What do think are the most important things a graduate social work student can learn?

I have been at Saint Louis University almost 18 years.  Longer than I ever thought but it has offered me opportunities to grow and change and to keep challenged.  I think social work students need to learn to stay open to change, to
work for change and to embrace change in themselves and the people
they work with.

Q:  When, how, and why did you become interested in yoga?  How did this interest turn into a professional inclination towards yoga for mental health?

My first yoga class was in Chicago after I moved back following receipt of my MSW degree.  I have always liked sports and have been open to all kinds.  At that time I saw yoga as only the postures and enjoyed it but never pursued it more than an occasional class.  Then when my daughter was in high school we took yoga classes together for about one year, again it was still a physical exercise for me.  I have been running since my daughter was born and she will be 33 this year.

As I got older I realized I could not run as much as I had and needed to find other things to do.  I became interested in triathlons and in preparing for triathlons I read that yoga was a great thing to do to prepare for a race and so I thought, “Oh, I like yoga”.  I will try and see if that doesn’t help my longevity at  triathlons.  So I started going to yoga classes and it began to help my achy joints.  I still only saw yoga as asanas but I went every week for a class.

About four years ago I began to plan for a sabbatical and ran across an article about using yoga in mental health, especially with depression and so I began to look for more information in this area.  My academic scholarship is in the area of family caregivers of older adults; depression and anxiety are experienced by many caregivers.  I wanted to better help caregivers and so I continued pursuing yoga and mental health.

During my sabbatical I had the opportunity to visit Lynn Waelde at Pacific Graduate School of Psychology who uses meditation and yoga with many populations with very good results.  Lynn was so gracious in working with me because I had not a clue about yoga other than postures.  I also decided to take Amy Weintraub’s LifeForce Yoga Training and completed that and became a Level 1 LifeForce Yoga instructor and realized in the training that this could work with all kinds of mental health issues, in particular, anxiety, depression and PTSD.

This workshop opened my awareness to the eight limbs of yoga and thus I began to read, study, practice and meditate more.  I am now involved in yoga teacher training and will be a registered yoga teacher next month.  This training has helped me look at ways that I might work to help others incorporate more yogic techniques into their lives.  I go for my Level 2 LifeForce Yoga Training this spring and look forward to where all of this is taking me and will take me.

Q:  What are the effects you have seen in integrating yoga into mental health?  What do you think the impact of yoga is on a person’s mental health?  Why do you believe this to be true?

So often we forget that we can control our mind and that much of what we fear is in the mind.  There are severe mental health issues and I believe in integrative health care where western medicine and eastern medicine can work together.  Just breathing and being conscious of breath can change people.  Postures are important because they help us begin to bring the body and mind with the spirit together.  We compartmentalize so much and really we are connected to all that happens in our mind and body just as we are connected to all that happens around us.  I believe yoga, working with the various limbs of yoga, help us to begin to see the connections within  and without.

Q:  What other complementary practices are you a proponent of?

I am a proponent of whatever works for you.  I teach a MSW course on CAM (Complementary & Alternative Medicine) and love to see students begin to think of other possibilities for themselves and for those they work with.

Q:  How are you integrating your yoga background into your professional sphere as a mental health professional and graduate professor of social work?

I teach practice courses both to graduate and undergraduate students and I have a section on integrative and complementary interventions so they can begin to see alternatives to talk therapy and that talk does not always work.  There are times it is what people need but then there are times people need to make a connection to body/mind/spirit and that can be through yoga or other methods.

I am also working with several yoga teachers in the area giving workshops for the general public on the benefits of yoga and to social work professionals on how to integrate yoga into your personal practice and/or into your professional practice.  Many social workers were not introduced to CAM while in school so workshops such as these does just that.
Q:  What made you decide to take yoga teacher training?  What school/methodology of yoga are you training with? Why did you pick this particular style of practice?

I decided if I was going to bring it into the classroom I needed a better understanding and instead of bringing a yoga teacher in decided I would get the training so I could teach the section myself.  I picked a teacher who is very open to all the various types of yoga because I wanted to remain open to the various kinds myself and so he is a hatha yoga teacher.  We have been introduced through various teachers in the area to many of the styles of yoga and I probably prefer kundalini, Iyengar, viniyoga and ashtanga/power-and I like anusara and the therapeutic holds in Phoenix Rising and thus you see why I chose the teacher I did.  I teach a combination and on some days with some people more one style than another.

Q:  What are you most passionate about in your life and your work?

Happiness and enjoyment of life.

Q:  What are your hopes for the future of complementary medicine and
integrative mental health?

That insurance companies pay for it and more physicians prescribe it.

Q:  What are your hopes for the future of yoga in the mental health arena?

That more mental health professionals refer to it and/or recommend it to clients and use it themselves.
Q:  Anything you would like to leave the readers with–inspirations, aspirations, words of wisdom?

Listen to your body/mind/spirit connection and connect with it.

Q:  How long have you been a professor at St. Louis University?  What do think are the most important things a graduate social work student can learn?

I have been at Saint Louis University almost 18 years.  Longer than I ever thought but it has offered me opportunities to grow and change and to keep challenged.  I think social work students need to learn to stay open to change, to work for change and to embrace change in themselves and the people they work with.

(BELOW: Susan Tebb, PhD)

I began this blog, once upon a warmish New Jersey summer, in aspirations of great daily feats and defeats being regailed on the page during an arduous but manageable 8 weeks in yoga school.  I am rounding the end of week four, reaching the halfway point of the program, and find that my prolific nature has been more than somewhat stunted by no sleep, 5am wake ups, less sleep, more 5 am wakeups, work, yoga homework, work, more homework, even less sleep, and always, always 5am wakeups!

I have learned an immense amount in a short period of time, about self, perspective, and as my yoga teacher says: “Attitude, attitude, attitude.”  And I cannot wait to relay and give full account of it in detail.  Every inspiring moment, and flickering insight–I want to share in it, revel in it, learn more in the writing of it.  I find, however, that most of my reflection time lately is done in the 20 minutes of silence during morning meditation, before chants, and when my mind is supposed to be silent but instead clamoring with thoughts and inspirations that never make it to the page because by 630am my brain has begun to switch into “Survive through the day” mode and all whimsy and revelling is lost in exhaustion. 

So, here I sit, at 8:20 EST, feeling like it’s 1am.  And feeling a bit like a marathoner that accidentally sprinted the first leg of the race, cramped, and is way behind the others…huffing and puffing and searching for the finish line but not quite seeing it yet.  I have nothing particularly insightful buzzing in my groggy mind and only the thoughts of all the “should haves” put off till tomorrow and “wish I coulds” temporarily on hold. 

This experience is certainly once in a lifetime and quite blissful even in the painful moments (which are a’plenty!).  But I fear, for today, I have little in the way of clarity and great inspiration and much in the way of sheep counting and daydreaming of nightdreaming. 

I am excited to say that my newly revamped website will be online at www.embodymentalhealth.com probably by week’s end!  It is in limbo while it is being renovated and made lovely by my wonderful graphic artist miss Sandra Busta of Pole to Pole Consulting.

I am also excited to preliminarily announce a new collaboration with the lovely Mindy and the gang over at Wish Studio who is also launching a revamped site this spring complete with virtual studio space!  I will be presenting an e-course over there; more info to come soon! 

ALL MY BEST TO EVERYONE OUT THERE STRUGGLING THROUGH THE POSSIBILITIES IN THE IMPOSSIBLE & REACHING FOR DREAMS AND WISHES (both conscious ones and slumbering ones)!

June 2020
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