Monthly Archives: June 2017

Summertime and the Living is Easy – Sometimes

Orchids in bloomIf someone asked me what my favorite thing about summertime is, I would have a hard time narrowing my answer down to just ONE thing.  I absolutely love to swim, so swimming ranks high on the list.  I truly enjoy eating fresh vegetables from the garden and farmer’s markets, and summertime food prep on the grill is pretty sweet too.  And then there are the vacations:  my own annual scalloping vacation is in the heat of the summer, lots of friends and family come to visit to take advantage of the outdoor fun times in the Appalachian Mountains, and I get to hear excitement and joy from clients as they look forward to their own breaks from the day-to-day. Summer also just feels like it’s teeming with life and energy runs high and the long days yield a lot of productivity, but still leave time for some rest and a nap in a hammock. The only thing about summertime, especially in the American southland, that gets a thumbs down from me is the bugs that are just incessant. (But that’s what lemon, rosemary, and eucalyptus essential oils are for!)

Summertime is so sweet that it’s got its own anthem sung by the one and only Nina Simone, who reminds us in the soulfulness of her voice that life is long and complicated and filled with a full spectrum of emotions all the time, even in the summertime when the grass is high and the living is easy. And it is emotion, really, that’s on my mind this morning as I’m enjoying mist on the mountain over a rich cup of coffee.  I’ve been doing a lot of self-inquiry into my own emotional world while doing a lot of reading and listening to lectures and podcasts on the latest developments in the neuroscientific world around emotions, the brain, and the nervous system. There are a multitude of things I’d like to write about over the next few months, but today I am simply thinking about just how IMPORTANT emotions are and therefore how even more important it is that we all learn to discern what emotions we are feeling, especially when we dislike or disapprove of our own behavior or reaction to another person.

I went to bed far later than I meant to last night, as I got distracted with screens.  (Shocking, I know.  Who does that?) I was tired long before I stopped doing “just one more thing,” and turned everything off and got in bed, and by the time I did actually stop and get in bed, I was totally exhausted.  How many of you do this on the regular and find yourself feeling totally drained?  And how do you feel when you wake up after a too late night of distractions?

I realized last night that my emotions had gone flat because my “executive functions,” i.e., all that decision-making and task tracking and over-riding biological urges that tell you to go to sleep were zapped out entirely and my actions were absolutely on auto-pilot. This also meant that when I got in bed and my two sweet cats came into my bedroom to do their nightly power struggle ritual as to which one sleeps at my feet and which one sleeps near my head, I was at first mildly irritated.  After about 2 minutes, I was annoyed and my heart rate was increasing. After about 3 more minutes, I was angry and exhausted and weepy and I made both cats leave the room and sort themselves out somewhere else.  I had to just be still in savasana (yoga corpse pose) and do some calming meditation to ratchet my EMOTIONS back down to just tired and ready for bed.

So, it’s not that my emotions were flat beforehand, it’s that my brain and nervous system were both over-tired and over-stimulated, and my emotions were on a hair-trigger just waiting for some stimulus.  My response to that stimulus, which was from fuzzy creatures that I love dearly, was NOT loving.  Because when our nervous system is over-tired and over-stimulated, the emotions that tend to be triggered are not the sweet ones.

I had the luxury this morning of sleeping in without worries of an alarm clock disrupting the perfect sleep cycle, and was able to sleep soundly, for the most part.  When I woke up today, I immediately felt refreshed, happy to greet a Friday morning before a holiday, grateful for the rain that made sleep so blissful, and then super guilty for being so mean to my kitty cats. Thankfully, cats are more forgiving than people thanks to their smooth brains and infinite superiority complex.  But how often do our hair-trigger emotions lash out in ways that are way more destructive than my mild example above?  And just how much control do we have over such outbursts?

The answer is that most of us have precious little control over our emotions and lightning fast behavioral responses by the time we reach the end of a full day.

Earlier in the day, we have a lot more control, as long as we’ve had enough sleep and fuel for the most expensive part of our nervous system:  the big fancy brain and its prefrontal cortex. When we are feeling well rested, well fed, and in relatively low stress and positive mood, everything about our emotional world and the behavior it triggers is way more conducive to positive outcomes in our relationships and interactions with other people (and cats).

None of this is a revelation, nor is it revolutionary.  However, what I propose we all make time to do during the course of our overflowing days might be.  The world would be a much calmer, safer, happier place if we all took time outs for some restoration DURING our busy days instead of always running ourselves down to the cell phone battery equivalent of that 2% red line and then it just dies and the screen goes dark.

How do you do that?  Here’s a few things that I use, when I’m not trying to be super-overachiever-do-all-the-things-at-once woman and forget to take good care of my brain during busy days:

  1. Schedule a short nap or at least a “resting your eyes” time during your day (21 minutes is perfect and can leave you feeling refreshed without feeling “groggy” and this method works best on a day when you really did get enough sleep the night before.)
  2. Take short walks (inside or outside, though outside is best when possible) about every 2-3 hours throughout your day.  Just getting up and moving briskly for 5-10 minutes can really help re-set your brain.
  3. Do “cross crawls” for 30-60 seconds 5-6 times a day to clear out stress or frustration and give your brain a little break.
  4. Stretch and release your eye muscles by doing what I call the “clock” exercise.  You close your eyes for 10-15 seconds, and then open them and stretch them up (without moving your head up) to the 12 o’clock position and take a full, deep breath in and then out.  Move your eyes to 3 o’clock and repeat the full, deep breath.  Then to 6, 9, and back to 12.  And then reverse the cycle and repeat it moving your eyes counter-clockwise.  It takes about 2 minutes and is helpful to physically let go of eye strain, helps reduce headaches, and reduces stress in the nervous system because the eye circuits are really key circuitry in the brain.
  5. Listen to music, especially while doing tasks that require concentration and focus. Instrumental music is the most effective.
  6. Occasionally, when you are so overwhelmed and pressured that it seems totally impossible to do so, just don’t do all the things.  Or even better, don’t do any of the things.  Just don’t DO for a day on occasion.  Your body, mind, spirit – and relationships – will thank you.

To summarize, how you FEEL is what matters.  If you FEEL flat, watch out!  The trigger is hair sensitive.  But if you’re feelin’ good, then by all means, keep doing what you’re doing!

And if you’re struggling in creating the life you REALLY want, please reach out for help.  We are here to assist.  864-918-2914

Silence is Golden is Not a Metaphor

SunflowerThe human world is very noisy: cars, big public spaces, meetings, gadgets that need our attention and therefore make sounds and flash lights to get it, kids laughing, playing, or even screaming, adults (sometimes screaming) moving clumsily through the world with their attention spans split between tiny screens and the real world.  We could take the rest of the day to name all the noise we hear on the regular. But let’s not, we all know that would just take more talking and a lot of us need less of that too, sometimes.

My point is that in order to experience silence – at all – one must CHOOSE to be silent and make space and time for silence in one’s life.  I assume at some point in human evolution it was quieter, but then we learned to talk and make tools and ever since it’s like we’ve been trying to magnify the sounds and make the world a louder place.  But all this noise is interference.  It’s interference between our souls and selves; it’s interference between the quiet voice of our highest self inside and the maddening cries of our lowest common denominator self that gets more and more insistent under stress and eventually becomes the only voice of ourselves we can hear.  If we do not learn to STOP and cultivate silence:  around us and inside us.

So in the quiet of early mornings, it has become a sacred practice for me to cultivate some silence.  Some days that may mean 5 minutes of simple meditation practice focused on breathing while also doing some mundane task like tidying up the kitchen and making coffee. That morning silent contemplative time will mean I can better navigate any stresses during the day, like people running late to appointments or unexpected traffic on the way to the office. On days that I have even a little protracted silence in the morning (twenty minutes or so), the whole day unfolds with more grace and ease.  It’s like the stresses don’t happen at all or if they do, they seem so minor compared to the vast chasm of inner calm that I hardly notice. And then on the days when I have a lot of silence in the mornings (an hour or so), the days seem to be practically enchanted with wonders, like the silence itself cast a golden spell on the rest of the day. Those days, it’s not just that stresses don’t stress me.  It’s that there are no stresses. It’s like those days are filled with good news, lots of little moments of joy and pleasure, a sense of satisfaction and completion after encounters with clients, colleagues, and friends, and usually some unexpected next step happens on the way to a larger goal I’m working with.

StarfishThat is how I know that “silence is golden” is not actually a metaphor.  Although it is 100% counter to the very Western (read: American) “work ethic” around working hard all the time, and productivity being the number one goal, and “downtime” being a mythological beast that everyone schedules in between the important things, silence is a crucible of productivity. Silence is actually where magic can happen in one’s life.  Silence is the connection between us and all our noise to our Source (God, Goddess, the Universe, the Spirit, our higher selves, or whatever other label may suit your particular beliefs).  Silence is our energetic connection to Source, of which each of us is a part.  We are like holograms, unaware we are holograms until we get silent and begin to sense that “all is one” is equally real and non-metaphorical.

The next time you’re feeling stressed, especially if it’s about what seem to be “hard” material matters like money or a hard conversation or finding a job or whatever it is that has you so stressed that a way out is starting to feel impossible to you, please just stop.  Please just sit down.  Please just stay calm with yourself and be completely silent until you are able to also silence your MIND.  Using a simple mantra (a phrase that you repeat to yourself or whisper aloud to help you focus) like “I am safe,” or “I am calm,” or “I am ok,” or just simply “I am” can be of valuable service to generating silence inside.  Your breath, inhaling and exhaling, and a simple mantra can replace the stressed out chatter of a mind on the brink.  It takes practice, but every time you choose to stop and sit and be silent, you are literally building circuitry in your brain that will help you connect more deeply and allow the inspired answers you need to come into your conscious mind.  You are infinitely more powerful that you’ve been taught to think you are.  Silence is how you begin to access your power.

Go be golden!

Namaste.

PS – Though silence is the most helpful, it can be intimidating to start with silent meditation practice all alone.  So check out some of our audio meditation help to get you started. And if that’s not enough, call us 864-918-2914 or email to schedule some coaching.  We are here to serve.

 

 

Mimosa Magic on the Summer Solstice

Mimosa in full bloom

Mimosa Magic on the Summer Solstice

The energy on the solstice has been building over the past week, and I’ve certainly felt its expansive nature, feeling compelled to just keep going, even when tired, along with the daylight and its abundant offerings of enjoyment! Summertime means swimming, hiking, hammocking in the wilds, rowing, gardening, eating salads, and being with friends and family for me, and I feel all those sorts of urges towards fun and living easy even when I’m working, or cleaning, or doing the things that life requires of us to continue getting to enjoy ourselves.  You know, adulting.

Ah, but this awesome summer solstice energy invites us to luxuriate in summer’s cauldron, enjoying the abundance of life all around us. (All work and no play makes us all dull boys and girls.) So it invites things like a spontaneous pre-sunset mountain lake swim after a long day of working with clients. Because sometimes “a long day” includes a lot of heavy lifting, literally or metaphorically.  Sometimes long days include helping to relieve suffering around grief and learning to live life more fully even with a life-changing long-term mental health diagnosis.  So when you receive such an invitation for fun from your impulse of spirit, please do yourself a favor and answer that call!  Go ENJOY a spontaneous urge to do something FUN for yourself when you can, as often as you can!

When I followed last night’s spontaneous swim urge, it led to me seeing lots of rabbits and blooming mimosa trees everywhere I looked as I drove to and from the lake.  I was just delighted, like a small child, really, because bunnies are cute, of course, and mimosa trees, especially when blooming, make the whole world start to look like Dr. Seuss drew it, which just makes my heart smile.  Mimosa is also called the “silk tree,” and the “trash tree,” which I feel like actually increases its Dr. Seussian street creds.  I mean, mimosa is the real tree most like his famous Truffula Trees from The Lorax, and it’s often used in such environmental *clean-up efforts as landfill soil remediation, having been discovered to do an excellent job cleaning up damaged soil due to its nitrogen affixing properties. Therefore, I was really attuned to the mimosas and how gorgeous they were so that when I turned into my driveway, I immediately saw a bunny and noticed the mimosas along the creek and near the cottage were absolutely in full bloom.  I was overwhelmed by the volume of their sweet smelling pink tufty blossoms, bursting out on tree after tree everywhere along the creek side and base of the mountain.  I knew that it was time to make time to harvest some mimosa and capture its magical medicinal properties of helping to relieve depression, specifically depression related to grief.

Mimosa in honey to relieve sadness from griefKnown in Traditional Chinese Medicine as He Huan Pi or collective happiness flower, mimosa is said to “calm disturbed shen” to relieve symptoms like anxiety, insomnia, and bad dreams.  Mimosa is also a very effective mood elevator, and is used to treat irritability, depression, mood swings, poor memory, and anger in TCM. In addition to these traditional uses, a simple mimosa flower and honey mix helps relieve the deep pain of grief. Mimosa also has a long history in traditional Appalachian folk medicine, which is where I first encountered using it for grief.

My personal journey through the stormy seas of grief, again and again through the loss of so many loved ones, and my professional journey of helping others keep moving through the never-ending waves of grief that accompany losing those we love deeply, has left me acutely aware of grief’s signature sadness. Grief’s sadness shows up sometimes years after we think we’re okay, and some days it just sits, heavy on our chests, like a weight pressing down over which you have no control. On some of those days, I am comforted with thoughts of days like yesterday, when I can think of the mimosa trees and their magical, silky flowers, and their honeysuckle-like sweetness, and how they heal our hearts.

Mimosa blossoms floating in water - living summer potpourri Summertime begins on this longest day of the year, offering easy living as the old song says.  May we all find some peace and joy on the solstice breeze, and if you see some mimosas, go ahead and pick those fuzzy looking flowers and make yourself a nice flower powered drink with some honey. Your heart may lift and your mood may follow it up, into a sense of ease and relief from the deep sadness that accompanies grief, often long after a loss. It is my wish that this solstice and this summer bring you magical, healing experiences with nature and your own abundance.

Namaste.

Practical bits:  Mimosa is easy to harvest and easy to use. But it is also an invasive species and shouldn’t be introduced to new areas without special consideration. For more about mimosa and its  uses, I suggest these sites as starting places. Also, be smart with any plants you may use, and do your research before ingesting anything you read about on the internet. J

http://www.davidwinston.org/formulas/griefrelief_trad.html

https://southernherbalist.wordpress.com/2011/07/02/mimosa/

http://www.hearthsidehealing.com/mimosa-the-happiness-tree/

*NOTE:  Please do not ever consider harvesting mimosa from any used for land remediation due to high levels of toxins, including mimosas alongside highways.

Meditation: Be Here Now

Healing the Mother WoundMeditation is a tool to help us train our minds.  Left untamed, our minds are like a wild horse: beautiful, full of movement, totally unpredictable, and can easily cause a great deal of harm without really meaning to do so.

Through meditation, we learn to tame the wild horse, so that our minds can become beautiful stallion companions that assist us through our daily journeys in life.  The wildness transforms into freedom of thought and expression which allows us to be more fully present to ourselves and to others.

Next Group Meditation at CLC:
Wednesday, June 21, 2017
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Almost every month, Vicy teaches a different meditation practice.  We clarify understanding of the technique we will practice, and then we practice ~20-30 minutes. Afterwards, we share in each other’s experiences, progress, and discoveries, as each individual likes. This leads to excellent questions and interesting dialogue. We love to have new minds join us! We like to engage in what is REAL for everyone when we all show up together.

Because our group falls on the summer solstice in June 2017, we will make an effort to be outside if the weather is hospitable. Come as you are. 

If you have questions about this meetup, please call or text Vicy at 864-918-2914.

*Namaste.

*For anyone who isn’t familiar with Namaste as a greeting or valediction, it simply means that the Divine in me bows and recognizes the Divine in you. May we all experience the Divine in each other, as often as possible. Namaste.