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I was thinking about words that I keep coming back to, professionally and personally, that resonate with me at so many levels.  The words that I come to all seem to be connected in a web of healing and I wanted to share them with you and see if any resonate with you in your life now or in your aspirations going into January of this new year.

TOP 10 WORDS of INSPIRATION for 2010:

1 Mindfulness:  A point of weakness for almost everyone, mindfulness reminds us to constantly be aware of what is going on inside us and in the external world in any given moment.  I find that the more I work on this concept with my clients the easier it is for them to manage their daily existence and the more I work on this concept for myself I find the same.  When I am in the moment driving, acknowledging the sun and the color of the sky, thinking only of the bumps on the road and the car in front of me somehow the world beyond that melts away–the past, the future, and all the worries entangled in each melt away when we are in the now and mindful of that experience. 

2  Resilience:  Ah, forever a key concept in emotional wellness or the lack of it, resilience is our capacity to–like the iguana–bounce back from difficulty  and traumatic emotional experience.  Resilience is something that can be widdled away at over time.  Each additional difficult emotional experience weakens  our wall of self-protection, like rocks being thrown at a wooden fence, the stability will become shakier and it has more potential to break and fall down altogether.  Resilience is critical to be able to weather emotional storms and return to a healthy emotional state but there is work to be done to get there….but, see #3, there is hope….

3 Neuroplasticity:  I love this word for what it means…although it sounds overwhelming it brings a hopefulness to healing, resilience, and wellness in every way.  Neuroplasticity, simply stated, is the scientifically tested truism that THE BRAIN CAN CHANGE.  This brings hope to any obstacle and every internal roadblock in our mind because neuroscience has taught us that any dog can learn a new trick–young, old, traumatized, or otherwise.  We can relearn a sense of resilience, find new coping mechanisms, and rebuild our wall of safety so that we can weather anything with the right tools. 

4 Present-Centered:  This words in tandem with mindfulness practices as it symbolizes living in the moment of our daily existence.  Present-centered existence means really being able let go of our hold on  yesterday, our worries about tomorrow and visualize today for what it is.  Mindfulness teaches us the attunement of living in the now while present-centered philosophy embodies the very nature of being in the now.  If we can work just on being in the moment for a brief period every day we might find a richness and truth imbedded in where we are that we never expected.  When I have brief moments of really being present where I am there are rich spiritual and emotinal rewards–but it is a very difficult thing to embody and a practice I am working on….meditation, for me, is a way of training myself to keep in the moment a little longer every day. 

5  Somatics:  The essense of embodiment, somatic means that we feel and experience things in our physical self.  Our body holds, as many people I think have discovered in their practice of yoga, pockets of hidden secrets and rich emotional material.  We can feel our navel and be reminded of pleasures and pains in our psychological and emotional past.  For someone traumatized their body becomes the triggering point for many painful memories and our body responds along with our mind to what we are afraid of, sad about, happy for.  The somatic experience, meaning a body attunement and discovery, can unlock hidden pains that talk alone could have never explored so deeply.  In every way we emBODY our feelings, stories, and aches. 

6 Integrative:  The word integrative, along with complementary, has been linked within the medical and mental health community to symbolize the umbrella of holistic treatment approaches and therapies that are being discovered to be a great help for people in healing from emotional and physical ills.  Such fields as acupuncture, massage, yoga, creative arts, animal-bond, tai chi, and others are being explored and studied in relation to how they can help us heal.  I believe this year is going to continue to be exciting and invigorating for the study and practice of amazing programs incorporating all these wonderful healing practices–I truely cannot wait to see where it all leads, for me personally and within the field of mental health and trauma therapy!

7 Yoga:  Each moment I spend delving deeper into the world and practice of yoga the more I see it as a sincere life path that seems to walk parallel and stand as a great  metaphor for so many of my core beliefs both personally and professionally.  Life, birth, death, and transformation all seem to begin and end with a breath.  In my new book I explore breath as the mark of both my descent into my trauma, PTSD, and my renewal and rebirth of recovery.  For me yoga was a pinnacle point of my changing life perspective, my renewal of resilience, and learning to be strong in myself again.  Yoga begins with breath and from there it can be applied, karmically, physically, emotionally into our practice and methods of living in the world at large.  I look forward to continue my exploration of yoga and learning new ways to stretch myself, literally and metaphorically, through this upcoming teacher training. 

8 Soul:  The soul is “the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life” as I quote e.e. cummings in one of my favorite poems.  Soul is the essence of what we are when we take away flesh and bone and mind and even heart we are soul in the beginning and in the end and at our very core.  Souls can become damaged in this thing called life and the tribulations within….sometimes we just need some soul renewal.  I think mindfulness, yoga, meditation, and just time of reflection can give us some insight into and attention towards the often neglected root of the self–the soul.  I have to remember to care for myself, we all do, as I work at so much of this mind and body “work”.  We cannot neglect the root of the root and the bud of the bud as we wander through our lives.

9 Equine:  I have begun to dream about horses.  They are entering my consciousness at a new level and it is a comforting and inviting experience to find them nestled in the pages of my unconcious stories.  I find my dreams with equines to be much softer and calmer than my other, more restless nighttime machinations.  In dream interpretation it is said that horses represent strength, power, endurance, and a strong physical energy.  I hope to be able to wrangle some of that equine spirit of my dreams into a stronger physical self in 2010–one that can defy the limitations of my endometriosis.  I hope to imbibe some of that overall strength inherently found in horses and breathe it into myself and my life in this upcoming year…and beyond. 

10 Empowerment:  In working with a few more clients heading into this year with severe self-esteem and body image issues (male and female) I find that this word has ever increasing importance in my vocabulary and the way that I think in terms of helping people.  Empowerment is a key element to any human’s will to persevere in their own lives–we must feel strong, proud, compitent, and confident in our own bodies and minds in some way to be motivated to take on the difficulties of life.  I think, perhaps, empowerment of the self can be one of the greatest keys to emotional wellness.  My hope, in 2010, is to start to create some workshop programming helping people with just this piece–finding a sense of empowerment and strength of self.  I believe that horses can be a great co-facilitator in this regard.   With their symbolic linkages to strength and their yogic-like attunement to emotions and the present they seem just the therapists to assist in the challenge.

” There is more to life than increasing its speed.”  
Mohandas K. Gandhi
A common mantra within addiction recovery it seems that it is an applicable phrase to anyone wishing to better themselves and make their life more profound and centered in every lived day.  Now is the time for New Year’s Resolutions of grand proportions and many if not most of us tend to fall off the wagon of our hopes and aspirations fairly quickly following the turn over of a new year.  We set high expectations of ourselves and what we need to accomplish and when we falter for a moment we give up and fall.  New Year’s declarations seem to imply an all or nothing follow through but what if we gave ourselves permission to falter without judgement and found the courage to continue forward despite weaknesses? 
 
 
Everything and anything is overwhelming when we look past this moment, this hour, this day in our life.  It is great to have goals but if we don’t enact a liveable now, always planning for a better tomorrow, we are easily distracted and taken off track today. What if you lived now and only now–letting go of past and future–and just breathed in the moment and released out the tensions of what was or what should be.  Yogic philosophy becomes an excellent tool in remembering to be in the moment.  
 
 
Yoga begins with breath.  Its essence is breath and everything from mindset to movement stems off of our ability to be centered in our body and breathing in sequence with motion and life.  What a great metaphor and symobilic realization of living life one day at a time.  Breath, when recognized, is the most present-centered action anyone can do.  What is more integral and visceral in the living experience than breathing?  What is a more powerful tool of self awareness and self-regulation than breath?  For me little else comes close to being viscerally and poigniantly “in the now” than breath. 
 
 
So as we all move forward into our resolutions and affirmations for 2010 maybe finding a way and a moment in each day to come back to breath, to awareness of self–body, mind, soul–in the now can help us enact whatever we have resolved to do today.  And move forward taking each moment and each experience one day at a time.  Mantras are mantras for a reason–one day at a time is something that is simple to understand and difficult to enact but possible for all.  I plan to work much harder on my own present-moment living this year.  I have a serious issue of my own living in past and future and losing the present in the process.  .Rachel over at Suburban Yogini wrote in a comment that she is planning on making this her year of mindfulness.  I, in turn, wish to focus this year on present-centered living….one day at a time. 

“In mindful eating we are not comparing or judging.  We are simply witnessing the many sensations, thoughts, and emotions, that come up around eating.  This is done in a straightforward, no-nonsense way, but is warmed with kindness and spiced with curiosity.”                                                    

Jan Chozen Bays

  

Eating.  The holidays have been built up around the joy of sharing meals with loved ones, baking cookies, and filling bellies with merriment and mint.  I have been thinking a lot about eating lately, in part because I have my own issues of food around what I can/can’t, should/shouldn’t eat due to my endometriosis and what I feel, sometimes compulsively, provoked to imbibe and scarf down to include most things NOT on my ok foods list–soda, candy canes, meats, cheese, white flour.  The other issue that has been bringing food to the forefront is issues of eating disorders in my professional practice.  Imagine living in a world in which food was enemy and eating was a dark and sinister process.  Imagine a holiday plagued by these issues. 

In one way or another we all have our issues with food.  Whether it is just a societally imposed ridiculous standard of what is “healthy” in the form of size zero’s on magazines or eating a bag of chips or box of chocolates when we have a bad day or self-imposed ideas about having to work out or work off every last holiday calorie for New Year’s everyone has their thing.  It is hard to feel good about ourselves and everyone measures themselves in some way, at some point in their life, by some invisible and unattainable standard of perfection. 

I think this time of year is the perfect time to consider taking eating and food from a perspective not just of health or general wellness but as pleasure and mindfulness all in one.  What if we could take our yoga practice off of our mats and into not just our mind, body, spirit but directly into our mouths?  The sensory experience of food could be an intensely sensual and joyful experience but most of us hurry through our meals and few linger over the immense savoryness of flavors.  Why not pause, breath, and imbibe the world’s gastronomic pleasures in a fully centered and aware way?  Usually, we just don’t think about doing so…but what better time to start then for the New Year.

I have been given a palpable and painful reminder of how much food can be an unhealthy and sinister factor in people’s lives.  How much a life of pain and aspirations of unattainable perfection can lead to finding an enemy in food and be unable to know how to eat with pleasure.  I find myself joining, as sometimes happens, my client on her journey to rediscover food with a new awareness in my own gastronomy journey.  I want to eat what I should with pleasure and not with a sense of punishment.  I want to crave the sweet and juicy explosion of blueberries popping like savory balloons on my tongue rather than aching for soda that inevitably (as it did last night) will subsequently make me ache. 

I am on a search and exploration of gastronomical joy.  I want to explore Mindful Eating to its fullest.  I want to see the Zen in mealtime and find breath in every bite.  I challenge anyone who wishes to try to do the same.  The Center for Mindful Eating is a great resource to begin and the book quoted above entitled Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food

 

“With the past, I have nothing to do; nor with the future.  I live now.”   Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

I have had one of those weeks that has been enlightening, invigorating, and inspiring on every human level possible.  From the human to the equine I have heard the journeys of survivors, thrivers, and those who have a story to tell that is so profound it wells tears and lapses breathe just in having heard it. 

 

In the Rumpus (yes I saw Where The Wild Things Are last weekend) of it all I found synapses blasting and neural paths sparking with a realization of how much all of my work, all of my passions, and all of my life seemed to have been leading to this point of alignment (not to be too dramatic about it) in some way.  If someone had told me before this moment that I would be in a position to both love and align yoga, horses, and psychotherapy together I would have laughed at the incredulousness of the idea.  Today I will say that nothing makes more sense or is more clear to me than how these three worlds collide and echo with sound bites and fragments of each other.

 

I spent last week (Wednesday to Saturday) at the NARHA Conference in Fort Worth, Texas.  I learned about “Prey Psychology” and the corollaries between Winnicottian Theory and Self-Psychology and Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy.  I found an entire world that had blended so many of the ideas and passions I had been working with into a body of therapeutic work that had been alive for 10-20 years without my even being aware of it.  I was invigorated by the passion of the people in this profession and the well-thought academics behind their practices.  It wasn’t just teaching horsemanship to people in hopes of effecting change in some emotional way it was a full basis of therapeutic practices working with horses as partners in effecting change in people’s lives.  One woman even referred to her equine counterparts as “colleagues” in a context that made it seem absolutely an apt description. 

 

I heard people discussing the importance of mindfulness, self-soothing techniques, and even horseback yoga as a means of creating emotional wellness not just through the client’s relationship with the horse but also their body, mind, and emotional awareness of themselves.  It was a wonderful experience to be amid people in a world of therapy, present centered living, and holistic treatment for people in emotional distress that I never before knew existed.  I found myself hoping with more earnestness and a real sense that  it was possible for a world of therapy that broke down the four walls of a therapy room and can, will, take people’s healing to creative and intuitive new heights. 

 

I heard one particular horse trainer describe the horse as a very “present oriented” being stating that as an animal of prey a horse is instinctually imbedded in the present moment, needing to focus on those things that bring them safety, security, and comfort and make them feel wholly well.  I was instantly drawn to consider the two parallels of that–trauma and yoga.  The horse is a great balancer in that it represents a healthy reflection of the traumatized person–it manages its present centered quest for survival while the traumatized person cannot moderate their “prey” experience and feels overwhelmed with their survival needs and unable to find the comfort in the present moment.  I thought also of how the horse is such an excellent metaphor for the perfect yogi/ni.  The horse is able to look at the now, live in the now, and be comforted by what they are given that helps maintain their sense of balance–rejecting that, that does not help them maintain that homeostasis.  They are the perfect mirror to the traumatized person of both what they are and what they want/need to be.  I was fascinated by this beautiful parallel and how the horse is the bridge between emotional disarray and yogic, spiritual centeredness. 

 

I feel on the precipice of breaking through my own glass ceiling of sorts–personally, professionally, philosophically.  Ever moment I turn around I find a new bread crumb, rich metaphor, deep symbology of this shift–in the good, the bad, and the ugly in my life.  I am grateful for this journey and excited for the next bread crumb that will lead to the next discovery. 

 

In the world of wordless connection I see horses as the symbol of something ancient, mystical, beautiful, and simple all in one.  As Linda Kohanov states so eloquently in her book The Tao of Equus speaking about her young new horse, “She was standing in a box stall smelling of pine shavings, and she spoke to me more eloquently in silence than anyone ever had in words.”  This is the kind of connection I could only hope for all of us to have–in life, in healing, in growth of self. 

 

“The wind of heaven is that which blows between a horse’s ears.”             Arabian Proverb

 

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