A Thankful Heart is a Happy Heart

As November is upon us, with winter quickly approaching, we are reminded that it is time to ready ourselves for the season ahead.  For some, this may mean filling our cupboards with heartier foods.  For others, it may be anticipating the winter blues – increased lethargy, mood swings and feelings of scarcity.  Whatever our preparation entails, it is now when we are given a chance to connect to that which is most sacred – our appreciation for life and all that it contains.

This month, seize the opportunity to acknowledge all that you are thankful for.  If you’re stumped, chances are you’re a little disconnected from your own spirit.  Engage in an activity that will re-ignite the union between your mind, body and soul.  Try a yoga class, start a journal, meditate, cook for the fun of it and most importantly, listen to your own needs with a compassionate ear.  Self-care, both physically and emotionally, is a surefire way to connect with the wonderful things life brings us.  And when we connect to all that is special, we ensure ourselves a happy and peaceful heart.

Maintaining happiness and peace require that we continually identify, and express, all that we are thankful for.  It’s important to verbalize these things, either in a journal, to another person, or to a higher power.  Genuine self-expression is the foundation of self-esteem and self-esteem is the cornerstone of a balanced and fulfilled life.  Time and time again, we can remind ourselves that the way to happiness is through gratitude.

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Conscious Couplehood: An Imago Approach

Conscious Couplehood: An Imago Approach

Being in a committed, romantic partnership is hard work. We know we are with the right person not only when we feel good, but especially when our buttons get pushed in just the right way. In Imago relationship theory, it is believed that there is an unconscious agenda at play – that we pick our particular partners in order to finish the business of our childhood. We seek out someone similar to our original caretakers who can potentially give us what we didn’t as children (i.e. warmth, praise, acceptance, love, respect, time).  With the right tools, our partner can help us heal from our childhood wounding, thereby restoring the joyful aliveness with which we came into the world. But, because this agenda is unconscious, and because we are carrying around character defenses we’ve built up to protect ourselves against further pain, we tend to react childishly (i.e. yelling, stonewalling, criticizing, blaming, shaming, etc.) in our adult partnerships.

In a conscious relationship we are able to recognize this unconscious agenda and make its completion a conscious intention. The Imago process involves understanding our own wounds and those of our partner, learning new skills and changing our hurtful behavior. This allows us to meet our partners’ needs, restore the lost and denied parts of ourselves and return to our original wholeness.

To move from a reactionary relationship into an intentional relationship, start with creating a relationship vision.  A relationship vision is like a road map for your relationship that helps to guide you towards the relationship of your dreams.  This week, begin dreaming about your personal vision of your relationship.  Establish relationship goals that you and your partner can both support and work toward. Remind yourself of the potential in your relationship and co-create a shared relationship vision that inspires both you and your partner. Bringing intention to our relationships is the first step in receiving the love we want.

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Spring into a Renewed Mind, Body and Spirit

Today is an auspicious day, the spring equinox. Today we are ushered into spring and reminded that the turning point between shorter, colder days and fuller, sunnier skies has arrived. March is a time of transformation, restoration and renewal. It is a time when both our alarm clocks and our internal timers spring ahead into warmth, ease, and maybe even a little fun. It is now when our seeds of motivation and vigor begin to bloom, providing us with a renewed mind, body and spirit. Following these easy steps will make certain that you’ll reap all that you have sowed, just in time for spring!

Take Responsibility: Your health and well-being is the foundation of a fulfilled, happy and balanced life. Take a genuine look at your recent efforts towards health and happiness. Praise yourself for the areas in which you feel great and be sure not to blame others for what may be lacking in your life. Remember, all that you have, and all that you don’t have, is a direct result of the choices you have made for yourself.
Discover Your Destiny and Write it Down: Set aside time for self-reflection and create three goals for yourself. Write this plan on paper, and be sure to include a time frame for achieving each goal as well as specific benchmarks along the way that will help keep you motivated and on track. Post this plan on your bathroom mirror or fridge because daily reminders are crucial for ultimate success.
Build a Dream Team: Be sure that you have at least one person in your corner. Tell this person about your goals and enroll them in helping to hold you accountable for your choices, commitments and triumphs.
Visualize Prosperity: Be positive and focus your attention on what you most desire. Forget about what you’re lacking and instead think Abundance!
Release Tension and Reconnect: Make time to destress; go on daily walks, work in your garden, practice yoga, write in a journal and surround yourself with positive people that believe in you and your dreams.

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The Lifetime Affect of Childhood Trauma

In the mid-’90s, the CDC and Kaiser Permanente discovered an exposure that dramatically increased the risk for seven out of 10 of the leading causes of death in the United States. In high doses, it affects brain development, the immune system, hormonal systems, and even the way our DNA is read and transcribed. Folks who are exposed in very high doses have triple the lifetime risk of heart disease and lung cancer and a 20-year difference in life expectancy. And yet, doctors today are not trained in routine screening or treatment. Now, the exposure I’m talking about is not a pesticide or a packaging chemical.It’s childhood trauma.” –  Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, pediatrician. Watch Dr. Harris’ full TED talk here: How childhood trauma affects health across a lifetime This talk addresses the root cause of so many physical and psychological adult ailments. 

And, if you’re intrigued by the video and want more detailed information, read Scared Sick. A terrific book that shares important details from the ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) study that is changing the way health professionals treat disease.

 

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Frazzled or Festive? De-stressing For the Holidays

For many, the holiday season is a time of stress, filled with expectations about family togetherness and many choices about how to spend your time and money. There are just so many things to do, and a limited time to do them in.  If you find yourself feeling more frazzled than festive during this season, use these 5 simple steps and you’ll be filled with holiday cheer in no time.

Make a List and Check It Twice:  List all of the holiday tasks you’ve performed in the past.  Ask yourself, “Is this something I want to do, should do, or must do?”  If your answer is “should”, chances are this isn’t a necessity and can be eliminated altogether or be delegated to someone else.  Then take a look at your list and determine who you can delegate some of your “must” tasks to.  Invite family and friends over for a decoration party, hire a cleaning service or get your festive dinner catered.  There is no rule that says you are responsible for getting everything done this holiday season.

 

Change Your Expectations:  Often times we find that our expectations are unreasonable or maybe stem from past traditions that are no longer appropriate given our life circumstances.  By questioning all of our “should” statements about our obligations this holiday season we can change our expectations and thus reduce the load we place upon ourselves.  Creating realistic intentions and letting go of expectations (like making sure everyone is getting along, for example), is the most important thing we can do to maintain balance and a sense of peace.

 

Take Relaxation Breaks to Let Go of Tension:  Be sure to have down time to restore yourself. Whenever you notice you are getting stressed or anxious, simply stop and pause for a moment, take in a deep breath and slowly exhale.  When our breath is our guide, we are able to release any tension we may be carrying. Use spare moments throughout the day to breathe away tension or to recall pleasant images and memories that will help soothe you.  These relaxation breaks will leave you refreshed and ready to cope with the pressures of the holiday season.

 

Care for Your body:  Holidays often equal too much fat, sugar, caffeine, and alcohol, and not nearly enough sleep and exercise.  Pay better attention to your body’s need for healthy food, exercise, and sleep during this intense time of year.  Make a daily schedule now of when and how you’ll exercise and figure out what supports you’ll need to stay committed.  Be careful not to overindulge in those holiday treats and do your best to maintain a balanced diet with plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole grains.

 

Balance Spending Your Time and Money:  The holidays offer many temptations to spend both your time and your money. Be mindful and pay attention to what you really want and need.  You may find yourself making choices that offer deeper satisfaction instead of instant gratification. When you find yourself faced with a spending choice, take a deep breath, relax, and ask yourself, “What choice will truly improve the quality of my life and that of others?”
So much of the holidays center on outward, physical, sensory experiences — the brightness of the lights, the mobs of people at the malls, the smell of roasting foods, and the sounds of caroling voices. Partly because of this, the deeper, more spiritual meaning of the holiday season can become lost in the shuffle. Take time to reflect on this meaning.  Chances are you’ll gain a better perspective on how to organize your holiday priorities.

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Transformational Power of Support

Asking for and receiving support can be one of the most profound experiences we can have. Living in a culture that promotes individuality, we tend to forget that support is necessary for us to achieve our greatest potential. The first step towards healing is acknowledging our need for, and right to have, support. Ask yourself, “What areas of my life have been the most challenging for me lately?” “Am I pulled in many directions?” “Do I have many different roles?” In today’s world, it’s likely that you’ve taken on more than what is reasonable to feel balanced.

To begin, choose one area of your life that would become easier if you had the support you needed. Imagine what that support might look like. Maybe someone else would do the task at-hand for you, or maybe someone would provide a non-judgmental ear to listen to your story, or maybe you would be given recognition for a job well done. Try not to judge your imagination, just let the image of support fill your mind.

Now, take a few moments, close your eyes, and imagine what it might feel like to have the support you deserve (and we all deserve support). Notice what happens in your body as you imagine receiving this support and care. Really feel this support wash over your body and allow yourself the time needed to take in this experience.

Cultivating a felt sense of this support will help us relate differently to asking for and receiving the care we deserve. By anchoring this supportive image in our body, it remains at the forefront of our consciousness. The more conscious we are about our need for and benefit of receiving support, the more apt we will be to seek it out.

This month, practice imagining, feeling, asking for, and then receiving the support you deserve. Your potential is waiting.

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Healing our Inner Critic

So often in our relationships we get triggered into believing stories about who we are. Our partner forgets to call us when they’re running late and we find ourselves frenzied; with a closer look we see that his or her behavior triggered us into believing the old tales about us being unlovable, invisible or not mattering. The truth is that all of our unspoken autobiographies are pure works of fiction that were created in response to a primal need to be safe and survive in this world. As adults, we now have the resources to ensure we will not only survive, but thrive. We no longer need to coax ourselves into believing lies about who we are.

Get curious about the stories and self-judgments that lurk behind your frustrations, upsets and fears. Become aware of your inner critic and judging mind. What narratives have you told yourself so frequently that you’ve actually believed them to be true? Many times, these stories relate to our inherent worth. Challenge yourself by challenging these stories and notice what happens once you stop believing them.

Fulfilling relationships are only possible when we become aware of our own inner judge and make a conscious choice to stop believing the lies our mind tells us. Byron Brown, in his book, “Soul Without Shame: A Guide to Liberating Yourself From the Judge Within” he gives us a taste of what we can expect once we’ve become an expert in dismantling our inner critic:

“Working with the judge is a journey of recovery. Disengaging helps free you from the harsh oppression of the judge and also accelerates your movement into experiencing the aliveness of your soul nature. You have the opportunity to recover a fresh and dynamic aliveness at the heart of your life. And aliveness means the presence of passion and spontaneity.”

Today, write a new story about who you are. One that embodies the truth that you are valuable simply because you are alive.

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The Gift of Intimacy

Oftentimes, when we hear the word intimacy, we think “sex.” Somehow, and especially in our culture, these two terms have become synonymous. Yet the truth is that so often, the sex we westerners experience is void of any true intimacy. Intimacy – the ability to fully be with ourselves and others – is an inborn quality we all possess.  For many of us, this capacity to be with ourselves – our thoughts, feelings, sensations –  without judgment or damnation, has gone underground as a protective response from those people who have dismissed, shamed, or scared us.  Many of us have been conditioned to avoid being with our own uncomfortable feelings because we haven’t had adequate support and role-modeling in how to experience fear, for example, without the dread of annihilation. In order to cultivate intimacy with others – to really be with them and their experiences, and then experience a deep connection with them – we must increase our own capacity to be with ourselves. To sit alone in a room and actually feel our body and the sensations coursing through it, observe our thoughts and decipher those that are based in reality vs. those based in fantasy, and experience our emotions, the lightness of joy and the heaviness of sorrow.

In his most recent book, In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Resolves Trauma and Restores Goodness, Peter Levine offers a simple way to increase the intimacy we have with ourselves. He writes, “Befriending one’s internal sensations through pendulation (the intrinsic rhythm pulsing between the experiencing polarities of contraction and expansion/openness) allows the person to access this rhythmic flow within. Therefore, ‘infinite’ emotional pain begins to feel manageable and finite. This allows an attitude shift from dread and helplessness to curiosity and exploration.” In other words, when your body feels tight, notice where else it might feel less tight and move back and forth between these two sensations. The more we can become curious, rather than aversive, about our own experiences in life, the more we can fully engage and genuinely connect with others.

 

I’d like to encourage you to increase your capacity for intimacy and closeness, not only with others, but more so with yourself. Below is an excerpt from the book Undefended Love, by Jett Psaris, Ph.D. & Marlena S. Lyons, Ph.D. This has recently inspired me to meet my own fears head-on and cultivate a deeper level of intimacy, both with myself and others:

“For undefended intimacy to unfold, we must not only develop the ability to be close to another in a healthy way, we must also develop the capacity to relate to ourselves in a healthy way. This fulfills the other basic yearning of the human heart–to realize and live from the profound and responsive core of our being…when we have developed the ability to be present to the entirety of our inner experience, can we be fully available–and emotionally open–to our partners.”

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Nicole joins Restoration Inn!

I am proud to announce that I have joined the team at Restoration Inn– a San Diego treatment center for women. The Restoration Inn is Practical Recovery’s four-bed treatment facility for female survivors of relationship trauma. The focus of the residence is to provide trauma-informed treatment while creating a safe environment where women can resolve past issues of trauma.

Here is their press release:

“SAN DIEGO, CA – Practical Recovery, an addiction treatment system located in San Diego, CA is thrilled to announce the opening of The Restoration Inn, a place where women from all over the world are invited to come and renew their sense of self following a traumatic event or set of events.

The specialized team at The Restoration Inn is committed to addressing the unique needs of survivors that have endured any sort of relationship trauma, including but not limited to child abuse, molestation, relationship violence, sexual assault and stalking. While all of our clients will present to treatment with some form of substance misuse, our intention to address not only the substance issues, but also the underlying trauma as a primary factor, makes us a unique treatment option.

Practical Recovery is meeting the needs of communities around the world as we respond to the following statistics:

• Nearly 3 in 10 women (29%) in the US have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by a partner and report a related impact on their functioning.

• 1 in 4 women (24.3%) aged 18 and older in the United States have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

• More than 1 in 3 women (35.6%) in the United States have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

• Nearly half of all women in the United States have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime (48.8%).

• A recent study by David Sack, M.D. estimates 33% of female drinkers have experienced physical abuse, a rate nearly 4 times greater than that of the general public (8.4%).

The Restoration Inn offers trauma informed treatment for women from a self-empowering perspective. Our integrated, individualized and compassionate approach to treating the co-occurrence of trauma and substance misuse provides women a guided opportunity to restore their physical, social and emotional well-being. We believe that each woman who comes to us deserves the support of a warm and caring professional staff and specialized treatment team as she explores her substance misuse and the traumatic experiences that have brought her to us. Individualized treatment and group sessions incorporate therapies and holistic methods designed to gently restore each woman’s sense of self while nurturing her toward a path of hope, healing and long-term recovery.

Our goal is to create a personalized approach to recovery from addiction and trauma for each woman, based on her own goals, values and situation.

Services include:
• Two individual sessions and two hours of group daily
• Trauma-focused therapies, including EMDR, CBT, DBT and somatic experiencing
• Biofeedback, massage and acupuncture performed by trauma-informed practitioners
• Hypnotherapy, guided imagery and meditation
• Yoga, Pilates, individualized breath work
• Medically supervised detox
• Psychiatric monitoring
• Psychological assessment
• Transportation to outside appointments as needed
• Aftercare services

Optional activities include:
• Beach walks
• Gardening
• Dining out
• Outings

To learn more, visit http://www.practicalrecovery.com/drug-rehab-for-women/

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Getting Unstuck

The feeling of being stuck – whether because of a job we dislike, an impasse in our close relationships or because of a chronic health issue – is often exacerbated by the fear that lurks beneath this temporary stagnation. When I feel stuck in any area of my life, loads of anxiety-laden thoughts flood my mind and create an inner unrest. My mind does its best to coax me into entertaining thoughts like, “What if I stay stuck forever?” or “What if all I’ve worked to create in my life disintegrates before my very eyes?” or “There must be something wrong because I’m not accomplishing anything” or “I’m not going to be okay because I don’t know what to do next.” Many of us think (myself included!) that fear is what will propel us out of feeling stuck; that if we worry enough we’ll eventually find a way out. But in reality, the opposite is true. Fear does not create movement, it thwarts it. Remember: where our attention goes, so it grows; the more we focus on the fear, the less capacity we experience to notice new possibilities for movement and change.

Life isn’t as complicated as we make it out to be. There isn’t some intricate plan or mysterious solution deliberately hiding from our view. What is key is knowing where to place our focus. In this case we have essentially two choices about where to look when we feel stuck; we can either focus on (1) the trapped quality ridden with fear or (2) the resting quality filled with possibility. If we choose to focus on the resting quality, we likely are able to settle down and absorb what is actually happening in the present. When we do this, we see the myriad of possibilities, both externally and internally available to us. Focusing on the right place when we feel stuck (in this case the opportunity to rest, integrate, and open to new possibilities), and bringing our attention there again and again, illuminates the answers we need to feel fulfilled, alive, connected, and receptive to divine direction.

Let’s take a moment to incorporate a practice that supports finding possibility in stagnation. Find a comfortable position standing or sitting upright with your feet touching the ground. Now, shift your awareness to the ground beneath your feet. Feel the ground and get to know its quality-whether it is it soft, hard, smooth, rocky, warm, cold. Pay attention to how it feels to have the earth be a support for your entire body. Begin to notice what happens inside your body as you become aware of the solidness of the earth’s support. Do you start to feel calmer, more present, and looser on the inside? Move back and forth between noticing the support of the earth and then noticing how your body feels when it is supported in this way. Practice this exercise for a few minutes.

The invitation is for you to incorporate this simple exercise into your daily routine. It is something you can do anywhere-at home, in the office, or on line at the supermarket. The more awareness you bring to the ground and the support it provides, the more you’ll feel anchored when life throws you curve balls. Grounding yourself in the present is a primary step in finding growth and joy amid feeling stuck.

Your conscious awareness is not only a gift, but in this case, the antidote to feeling stuck. Consciously choosing how to relate to your experience allows you to connect deeply with what is. It is in this connection, both with yourself and your environment, that you will have a greater capacity to receive your next step. So, how can you find clarity, ease and fluidity today? What can you open your eyes to, breathe deeply into and connect with that will promote your wholeness and reveal what you need?

 

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