Do not live in fear

“One is never afraid if the unknown, one is afraid of the known coming to an end.” Jiddu Krishnamurti

These are wildly dynamic and confusing times … a fast-moving whirlwind of change … enough to make my head spin. Some days I feel like I am spinning so fast that everything seems frozen. One might call this a stress response, a la the “freeze” of fight/flight/freeze. To me, it feels simultaneously dizzying and stuck.

While our current state of affairs is unprecedented (at least in my lifetime), I also know that facing and fearing the unknown is something all-too-familiar for many of us, albeit often on a much smaller scale. So what practices can we use to bring us comfort and solace and peace?  

  1. Lean in. Surrender to the stillness and make space for fear and grief. Breathe in, knowing you are breathing in … filling your chest and belly, deep into the diaphragm, and maybe even bring your hands to your heart as you breathe out. Acknowledge that very human feelings are here, and tremble or weep if you must. Know you are not alone in feeling afraid.
  2. Turn your attention to what you DO know … the warmth of the sun, the green of the trees, your dog’s cold wet nose. Find solace in the things you know to be true and enduring … your belief in Mother Nature or a higher power, your love for baking, memories of a special place or time or person. Root down into the earth, connecting with the whole world, through the sensations in your bare feet as you walk. Breathe deeply, trusting your body to do what it knows to do. Know what IS, right now … what’s everlasting.
  3. Practice acceptance. Accept that change is happening — not that it shouldn’t happen, or that things should unfold in a particular way. Notice your thoughts and judgments about change … and know that your thoughts do not define you OR the situation. Let the way things actually ARE be the place you begin when making intentional decisions moving forward.
  4. Finally, remember you are not alone.

And may you all live with health, ease and peace as we move through these days and weeks to come, together 💜 Nikki

Nicole Davis is a licensed clinical psychologist at Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches  Dr. Davis has received extensive training in mindfulness, meditation, and yoga, and maintains her own personal practice in these as well.  At Sacred Treehouse, she facilitates group mindfulness courses, including Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention, and other mindfulness-based seminars and workshops. She also offers meditation & yoga classes at Sacred Treehouse.

Less Becomes More

Less Becoming More
 
Slow down,
Soften your eardrums
Birds are singing.
 
Taste with tenderness
Each bite’s unique gift;
And we find we miss little.
 
A fortnight with the Soul,
Under the softening Moon
In relief, my gaze to softens.
 
And let Love in…..
            Anonymous


This time of fear & constriction generated by covid-19 is driving lots of negative messages, here are some thoughts meant to counterbalance and provide some helpful guidance.  The impact of this time will be different depending on your current and past life’s circumstance(s). That being true, there are many ways to consciously both mitigate the effects and elevate your experience to better master the pull to be caught up in what’s to come. 
 
This is a rare opportunity where the entire world is unified in response to the same concern, despite race, gender, country or religion. A massive collective retreat is underway, so here are some things to consider for making this a conscious retreat for you:
 

  • Meditate and/or do any practice, art form, or contemplation that connects you to your wisest self daily. This helps you to elevate above the palpable fear around you.
  • Be aware that the body is usually very passive when watching TV, from your wide-open eyes to your relaxed physical state, so the messages of fear go beyond the mental and intellectual self, and impact the nervous system, body cells and psyche. This affects your energetic body, thereby influencing all perception and also what you transmit to others. Try to limit exposure to TV if you can and if you are tuning in do so mindfully with a focus on fact gathering.
  • Fear begets fear. If you find yourself surrounded by people who are becoming consumed by fear (highly anxious, panicked, and/or conspiracy proponents) strive to redirect and request a different conversation.  If they can’t pull away, then pull yourself back before their fear starts to commingle with you’re fear. Be informed but not consumed.
  • Get out in nature and away from all electronics (yes, even your cell phone!). We are affected by EMF’s even when not tuned into broadcast or streamed content, but now may be a time of greater vulnerability. Nature is a powerful rebalancer, clarifier and healer.  Try to limit the former and increase the latter. Fun tip, going barefoot outside will force you to slow down and notice the plant kingdom even more.
  • This is a worldwide slow down– think about how powerful this moment of time is. Use it to go inward and feed your Soul.  And then when able, project your calm, grounded strength, and loving-kindness outward.
  • Take time to attend to your home and garden- bag up things no longer needed, create beauty, and putter—yes, putter!  Puttering engages the mind and body in a soft way, which allows mental clutter to fall away and at the same time, brings satisfaction when small things are attended to. Look around, aren’t there things that could be: washed, painted, mended, fixed, built, created, mulched, picked, trimmed, fertilized, and/or completed? Embrace your “inner grandparent” and notice what’s right in front of you.

 
In short the slow down around covid-19 is both an opportunity for us to benefit mentally, emotionally and physically and be of service.  It’s also, an opportunity to dig a little deeper, to reflect more softly, to return to and distill what’s really important, and master the waves of intensity which may be moving through you and around you:
 

Maintain compassion for self and other’s in this time:
Face it, Feel it, and become Free of it

Stay tuned forTuesday evening Sangha going live to collectively meditate with the Sacred Treehouse Sangha from your home. Details will be sent out on Facebook so follow us at Sacred Treehouse and look for guided meditations to be posted there too!

With Love and Compassion,

Anni & the entire Sacred Treehouse Staff

Anni Johnston, LMHC-S, BC-D/MT, CEDS, CYT works at Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Movement Therapist.  In addition to her therapy work, Anni offers Meditation and mindfulness coaching at Sacred Treehouse.  She also offers individual somatic work, book studies and special workshops throughout the year.

A Mindful Harvest

The garden of love is green without limit and yields many fruits other than sorrow or joy. Love is beyond either condition: without spring, without autumn, it is always fresh.” 
– Rumi

Have you ever wanted to change your career or transform your life? In essence, this thought has planted a seed that can grow into change. As a garden grows, we flourish and change in life. We start as a small seed, and with proper care and nurturing, we grow. A plant grows with proper hydration, nutrition, and sunlight. A plant grows by the change of season. A plant grows with sunlight, oxygen and the soil of the earth.

Gardening has therapeutic benefits because it teaches us about life, healing, and control. Just as a seed flourishes and grows, we also evolve each day. A garden teaches us to learn to value and ground ourselves. Also just like a plant, we bloom and sprout. We also die and go back into the earth.  A garden teaches us to be present, to be mindful, and to let go and allow the cycle of birth and death to unfold again and again.  

We are not in complete control of life; a garden also is vulnerable to life. There are factors such as weather, bugs, and neglect that can affect growth. In life, we all have weathered the storm. We have had to deal with pain and conflict. When we learn to let go of control, we embrace peace; a flower learns to bloom. As each plant blooms, it is fragile with unexpected nature. It needs the nutrition and care to thrive. In each season, it can change. It might not have an abundant harvest. It might be a bounty of produce. 

I started my garden during a time of change in in my life, and it became a metaphor for a chapter of this life. As a dietitian, it also became a metaphor for my practice. It was symbolic of my passion. Nutrition is necessary for growth and development. With each season and with each year, we provide our body with the energy and needs to maintain body function. As an RD, I encourage my clients to embrace diversity and to learn to nurture themselves. I am passionate about my professional growth and each season that will manifest. 

We are each a unique flower – beautiful and growing each day. We need to breathe and be grounded. We need to be watered and fed. We need to be rooted in our needs and honor our season. We need to learn the skills to live in harmony with our surroundings. We need to learn to build strength against the elements that are not in our control. It is important to be mindful. 

My literal garden continues to grows each day and I planted a variety of vegetables, spices, and herbs to foster diversity. In turn I receive the sunshine and Vitamins with each harvested plant. I love to share my produce with colleagues, friends, and family, just as we share moments of laughter, sadness, and other experiences. The garden in my yard has become a metaphor for life and my practice. It provides me the time to reflect on growth and evolution. It reminds me every day the power of nutrition. It reminds me of the importance of my ability to educate clients on the importance of nurturing their bodies. most of all it brings me closer to what matters most and great joy in sharing the harvest.

Take time to harvest your life intention.  Take time to yield your abundance.  Take time to nurture.  Take time to be mindful of your own garden.

Lee Cotton

Lee Cotton is Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who has a “no diet approach” to eating and is a foodie at heart! She believes in a mind-body approach to wellness.

She helps clients develop an intentional vision for their health, by assessing current food struggles and creating an effective and reasonable plan that can truly be a part of their life long-term. Lee believes in a non-diet approach, centered on mindful eating where individuals learn to stop fighting with food and move toward a peaceful co-existence with it and with themselves. “My passion is educating clients on how to eat for their own overall health. 

Her approach to medical nutrition therapy is evidenced-based and considers the client’s health and goals, providing the education and tools for a client to make lasting health changes.   Believing that there is not a one-way-fits-all nutritional plan, she takes time to listen to each client and understand their concerns and patterns. Lee is compassionate and empathetic, working hard to create a safe and supportive environment for her clients.

Mindfulness or Attachment?

Claude Monet certainly had a love of flowers, perhaps it was an obsession, or an attachment I am not sure. What this quote brings to mind is that we all have preferences and individual things that bring us joy. For me it is the water, the ocean, a lake, a pond, or a creek (at times a motorized water fountain) brings me a sort of peaceful joy and contentment. It was when I returned home for a visit after living in a city, land locked and separated from the ocean for two years that I recognized this deep love and connection with the water. It was through it’s absence that I came to know its importance to me and I instantly felt at peace and at home. 

There are many forms of nature that draw people into this sense of awe, wonder, and appreciation. Some have a love of birds, mountains, jungle, animals, or plants. I am also drawn in by trees and feel both a sense of deep connection and grounding when I contemplate and bring one pointed attention to trees. I am not certain about how these individual differences arise, and certainly do not believe that the deep love and appreciation experienced in daily life is limited to things in our natural surrounding, but I am confident that it is the kind of attention we bring to them that facilitates the feelings of peace, contentment, or joy. 

The kind of attention I am referring to is mindfulness, when one intentionally attends to the present moment experience without judgment or expectation. Simply being present and allowing the senses to be touched by what is alive or happening from moment to moment. Like a sponge, just soaking in all that is there and not attempting to change it or hold on it. I am not sure if this was what Monet referred to in his need for flowers, but I would extend this as a truth for all beings, that it is a basic human need to feel love, to sense beauty, joy, or contentment. It is this that allows us to manage the difficulties and hardships we experience as humans. 

I learned one-minded attention as a DBT teacher and continue to practice and teach it in daily life. This is a skill, it is practiced through simply choosing things to bring attention to in daily life and allowing all other things to fall into the background. I often teach people to start small with a cup coffee or tea in the morning. The instructions are simple, yet the practice is challenging, because our minds tend to view simple things as boring, and they seek novelty and jump from one thing to another.

Just this coffee…
Holding the cup and sensing the temperature…
Allowing the scent of the coffee to come to you…….
Taking a sip and sensing the temperature and flavor…..
Pausing to allow the senses to open and take it in….
Letting all other thoughts fall away…..
Sitting with just this coffee….
Just this sip, like it is the first sip….
Over and over and over…
Just this coffee!
 

I am always shocked when I am able to drop into one minded attention, some very simple things can be profoundly satisfying and calming. I am not always able or even willing to cultivate this state, yet after experiencing it time and time again, even if for only a few moments, I find solace in knowing it is possible and present at any moment and most of that the little things are most satisfying. 

What do you find brings you joy, or a sense of peace, or contentment? Despite all things, even flowers, they all come and go,  so try to catch the moments of presence that can feed your soul with joy, peace, contentment. 

With deep appreciation,

Patty

Patty Thomas Shutt, founder of Sacred Treehouse, is a licensed psychologist and co-owner of Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches Dr. Shutt is passionate about helping others discover the benefits of mindfulness and meditation.  She offers Beginner Meditation & Advanced Meditation classes at Sacred Treehouse, in addition to Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Mindful Self-Compassion and various book studies throughout the year.

This Wild And Precious Life!

Living deeply

The first time I read this quote was on a journal I used many years ago at a mindfulness retreat and it was a perfect time to read it because I was in the position to be slowed down enough to really read it. Plus on retreat all my basic needs were met for food, shelter, safety, and at least relative comfort so I was open to contemplating these final words by Mary Oliver in her poem, The Summer Day. What would I do with this wild and precious life? Of course, immediately my mind jumped to the negative, how I had already wasted so much of it and there was so little left and on and on. Although I do not recall how this first contemplation ended and what, if any, realizations arose at that time, I do recall over the years reading the poem over and over and recognizing yes indeed life is both “wild” and “precious”. 

I owe it to my meditation practice and teachers who continue to raise these sort of questions, over and over again. It is so easy to fall into habitual ways of living and fall back unconscious to what is deeply meaningful and at times both fear and self doubt also played a role in holding me back or led to chasing the wrong things to quell my discomfort. The Sacred Treehouse is one of the manifestations of me listening to what I want to do with this one wild and precious life and co-creating the Therapeutic Oasis is another one that is dear to my heart. Building safe and loving places for people to heal, to grow, and discover their path is what I am meant to do with my life. I am right where I need to be and doing what is most important. There are times I get caught up in comparing myself to others, and questioning again and again, but that is ok, it is just human nature to fall asleep again and again.  This waking up and living with purpose is a process and is available to us at any moment and is truly a path of living true to our heart. Let your heart guide you by meditating or simply sitting with repeating this question and really listening deeply to what arises. Do not be alarmed if some regrets, some sadness, and negative thoughts arise, just acknowledge this as natural and practice some acceptance, non-judgment, self compassion, and tune back into your heart.

Remember that this requires some sense of safety, stability, and quiet time and space. If you want support or guidance come to meditation, attend a workshop or class, see a mindfulness coach or mindfulness based psychotherapist. 

With gratitude,

Patty

P.S. Some photos of Lizzie living large in New Zealand. #vanlife #consciouslyconnecting #lizzieshutt.com #livwithliz

Feel free to share on facebook what you discover as you contemplate this question.

Patty Thomas Shutt, founder of Sacred Treehouse, is a licensed psychologist and co-owner of Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches Dr. Shutt is passionate about helping others discover the benefits of mindfulness and meditation.  She offers Beginner Meditation & Advanced Meditation classes at Sacred Treehouse, in addition to Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Mindful Self-Compassion and various book studies throughout the year.

Living with a Vow

Bringing awareness to our intentions requires mindfulness in daily life.  Even with mindfulness it’s common to get swept into a “limbic-based autopilot mode” (i.e. our highly reactive self). It can happen  as your day unfolds and you are met with daily challenges–sometimes even at the moment of waking up.  I often find I go to bed after reading some inspirational texts and feel a sense of connection and deep aspiration for living from my deepest intention the following day.  Only to wake up and have “forgotten” it all when I am met with a feeling of fatigue, moodiness, anxiety and/or gloom. To combat this frequent pattern, I found it helpful to write my vow, rehearse it, and recall it at the beginning of my morning ritual. In doing this there can be an instantaneous connection and my body shifts in resonance with my vow. Other days it takes much more to return to this intention, it requires some acceptance and self-compassion around the lack of connection I feel.  At times my sitting practice is enough to connect me. There is so much written on intentions, such as Wayne Dwyers well-known book, The Power of Intention( when I speak about intention I am referring to an intent to take a course of action or actions (daily ) that is closely related to  my deepest aspiration). Be aware that if we are not actively and consciously creating intentions we could instead follow the basic drives of survival which live in all of us. 

A daily practice that is based on a deep aspiration or vow to “wake up” and act according to our intentions can help to grow the strength, the presence, and the overall power of these intentions to shine and occupy greater portions of our daily life. This can translate into less autopilot limbic reactiveness, aka, freaking out! My daily practice provides the nutrients and energy to fuel the actions of my intention. So, what happens if I run out of fuel before I even make it to work? Unfortunately, at times I find myself lacking the strength or the resources required to be living according to my vow. The awareness and acceptance that this is also part of the path, discovering that setting intentions does not mean we manifest complete adherence and perfection immediately. Tara Brach teaches, “If there is suffering our intention is often shaped by fear and grasping” so when we are experiencing suffering (sometimes unconscious suffering) despite also holding strong values or aspirations, our actions will be shaped by our limbic reactions of fear or grasping. This is part of our human nature. No need to be disheartened; suffering can also be a great force to serve awakening when it is met with mindful awareness and compassion. I often recommend students in mindfulness courses and training to seek support of a skillful trauma or grief-informed teacher or therapist on this first leg of the journey. They can offer compassion and understanding when students get hit by the strong reactive patterns that can “block us” on the path.

I like to think of my aspiration like a compass heading, and just like other beings, I too am challenged each day to stay the course. Learning to check in with this compass and knowing how to read it comes mostly from tuning into the body, because that’s where the strongest signals come from to guide me. So, part of my practice has become building awareness around the things that pull me off my path, the obstacles on the path, and the signals that alert me along the way. The ability to bring acceptance without judgment to this process and knowing that it is all part of the path, allows me to continue to deepen awareness of my deeply conditioned patterns so I can change the ones that interfere with my aspiration. 

Finally, the moments of self-compassion when I miss the mark, AGAIN, helps me to return much more quickly to my deepest aspiration because my deepest aspiration is literally activated through invoking self-compassion.Since self-compassion is a heart practice, it activates the heart, opening and releasing the energy of love and kindness and my deepest vow and aspiration is….TO BE LOVE IN ACTION WITH ALL BEINGS!I have deep gratitude for all my teachers, for my practice, my students who are also teachers, and all the challenges I face because they are what serves this ever awakening heart of mine. MBSR and MSC courses are amazing places to start this work if you are so inclined to discover your deepest aspiration and live an intentional life. For students who have completed one of these courses, join the Tuesday evening Sanga at 6 pm this week as we explore our deepest aspirations and living our “vows.” 

With love,

Patty

Patty Thomas Shutt, founder of Sacred Treehouse, is a licensed psychologist and co-owner of Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches Dr. Shutt is passionate about helping others discover the benefits of mindfulness and meditation.  She offers Beginner Meditation & Advanced Meditation classes at Sacred Treehouse, in addition to Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Mindful Self-Compassion and various book studies throughout the year.

Stress Reduction: On and Off the Cushion

Stilling myself on the cushion gives rise to greater awareness of the physical condition of my body in this moment, from the tightness and tension of my muscles to the state of my breathing. As I settle on the cushion, or some days a chair because I am already aware of the need for greater support, I begin to scan my body to identify the presence of tension and sometimes this simple practice of scanning the body brings an immediate and automatic softening and settling in a more relaxed stance. This was not always automatic, in fact I recall early days of sitting meditation where I had no awareness of my body and all my focus and attention was in the mind. 

            The practice of mindfulness meditation and training in the foundations of mindfulness through MBSR, taught me the skill of deepening my awareness of the body by examining each part one by one, moment to moment. Through practice and receiving instruction I developed the ability to use attention on the body to change the state of tension, literally the mind can simply invite the body to release tension and soften one little bit at a time. It is here that I discovered the power I have to release stress with my mind. As I continued the self-study of my body, from toes to nose, I discovered the places where I stored years of tension and stress and dug grooves of deeply entrenched postures meant to “hold it together”. Despite the natural tendency for humans to tense in reaction to perceived threat or danger, we are not meant to hold onto this tension for a lifetime and I for one have no intention to hold onto the baggage I accumulated thus far. I have learned to attend to the sensations of breathe with greater ease and by focusing attention on breathing in and breathing out, the thoughts that often generate worry thoughts and strong emotions will fade into the background or quiet and for some time even cease. These practices have taught me a way to peace, even in the midst of a stressful life.

         There are other activities where I become acutely aware of the stress held in my body, such as when I go for a massage or when I practice yoga or other forms of movement and self-care.  The combination of bringing mindful attention to these activities facilitates an even deeper release, making way for detoxifying stress and reprograming my body’s natural resting state. For example, as I lay on the massage table, Hansa moves her hands to various places of tension and when she discovers the knots of tension and digs in deeper, I take a deep breath and exhale releasing the body’s natural reaction of tightening and tensing to her touching those tenders spots. I remain focused on the places she is massaging and communicate with the muscles inviting them to soften and allow the release. This ability to cocreate greater healing, restoration, and wellness allows me to program into my mind-body connection a way home after getting pulled back into a stress reaction cycle by coming home to my body and slowly unwinding the knots from within. 

          Using a combination of practices, on and off the cushion, I continue to develop a varied toolbox that allows me to be flexible and listen to the needs of my mind-body each day. Some days I need a more active practice, others a more relaxing one, and then there are some days I need a mix of both activating and relaxing practices to facilitate the balancing of energies and help me return to a center point. The choices are infinite and the wise choice always begins with awareness and attuning to my body. 

Start off your day with a checking in ritual to determine the current conditions of the mind and body:

1. Notice the overall quality of energy in the body: restless, agitated, relaxed, depleted.

2. Scan the body for the quality of ease or discomfort in various places throughout the body.

3. Notice the activity level of the mind: busy, tranquil.

4. Notice any strong emotions: anxiety, sadness, anger, contentment.

After gathering data of current conditions take a few minutes to do some guided self inquiry by asking yourself what you most need to support greater mindfulness. ease, balance, and wellbeing? 

A walk? Stretching? Sitting meditation, contemplation, or prayer? A run? Yoga? A guided meditation practice? A meal? 

Making this inquiry your own and listening to the body to sense the response, perhaps even visualizing to help the body sense what it would be like to engage in the activity, to complete the activity, and paying close attention to not allow the mind to choose. This is a practice in and of itself so take your time with cultivating this type of inquiry and check in after you engage in a chosen activity to see if it was wise.

Choose well and live at ease,

Patty

Patty Thomas Shutt, founder of Sacred Treehouse, is a licensed psychologist and co-owner of Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches Dr. Shutt is passionate about helping others discover the benefits of mindfulness and meditation.  She offers Beginner Meditation & Advanced Meditation classes at Sacred Treehouse, in addition to Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Mindful Self-Compassion and various book studies throughout the year.

Unbidden Joy

Lately I’ve been experiencing moments of joy from unknown origins. Many times through the years when there seemed to be one test after another, I truly thought joy and happiness were mine no longer.  At times, my happiness seemed to just be moments of reprieve or a lifting of sorrow.  Or I’d have a fabulous experience and believe it was the experience that brought me what I was longing for—instead of realizing the experience had given a moment of silence from the constantly tracking & comparing mind. Joy is an upwelling, not an outward achievement (although it can seem that way). Joy is not about getting; joy is a state of being. 

After years of studying consciousness, my teacher said to me “it’s time for you to practice being happy.”  I had no idea what he was talking about. “Isn’t happiness something that occurs naturally?” I thought.  Actually, he was right. I had had too many years of constriction and challenge, and had gotten out of the habit of making room for simple joy and happiness. What had changed?  For starters I had stopped fighting what was—and let me tell you that was no easy task! I had let go of guilt and blame for the pain of my child, my choices, my fate, my naiveté, my unawareness and frankly for the choices in both my formative years and later in life.  As Maya Angelou said,  “you may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” I had to stop looking over the fence and assuming that life was better on the other side.

        “Comparison is the death of joy.” ― Mark Twain

Today I was trying to help this little gecko get out of my screen room and into the backyard but in doing so I was scaring him. Watching him begin to make some panicky moves, thrusting himself at the same screen that was keeping him trapped, it suddenly struck me how life directs us towards our own freedom- yet the whole way there we resist and feel afraid. Only because we haven’t yet grown into our what we are becoming.  We keep throwing ourselves at the same screens that have kept us stuck because it’s all we know.  We want love, we want aliveness, we want to be seen, we want freedom but not the vulnerability, doubt and letting go that brings them about. To be truly yourself, who you were meant to be—your destiny if you like,  you need to peel off all the layers of non-you.

    We’re only envious of those already doing what we were made to do. 
    Envy is a giant, flashing arrow pointing us toward our destiny.”  
                            Glennon Doyle Melton

Next time you feel trapped or caught by circumstance, pause:  

        Open yourself to Life. 
        See what it might be showing you.
        Because something inside of you already knows the answer…

With love and kindness,

Anni

Anni Johnston, LMHC-S, BC-D/MT, CEDS, CYT works at Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Movement Therapist.  In addition to her therapy work, Anni offers weekly Beginner and Advanced Meditation classes at Sacred Treehouse.  She also offers book studies and special workshops throughout the year.

Embrace the Rain

Bringing mindfulness to difficult emotions.

Rain can get a bad rap in life, especially when it is unexpected and you get caught without the right tools or when expectations are set for clear weather for a special outdoor event. In these situations RAIN is viewed as a nuisance and attention turns to wishing it away like the childhood song, “Rain, Rain, Go Away, Come Again Another Day”. Painful emotions can get the same bad rap and are often pushed away in preference of the pleasant emotions like joy, happiness, and love. Just as different weather is natural and all necessary to maintain a healthy environment, all emotions serve an important role in maintaining humans well-being. 

Emotions have three important functions, first emotions serve as  an internal communication system signaling if something or someone is safe, dangerous, or threatening. Emotions also communicates rapidly to others through our body language and serve as warning signals to others and also can signal the need for support.  Finally emotions serve to activate behavioral actions by energizing the body rapidly for fight, flight, or freeze. Although this is an over simplification of the function of emotions it is often important to challenge the beliefs that emotions are “bad” and see the value in moving toward them because it is natural to want difficult, painful, and intense emotions to go away. This pushing away can lead to highly automatic patterned ways of numbing or blocking emotions that provide short term relief, however can lead to long term consequences that are far more painful than the immediate experience of pain. An important caveat to mention is how it is natural to engage in strategies that block us from experiences of pain and trauma that is beyond our capacity to cope and process. It can be life saving and adaptive during times of trauma, so it is important to hold this in awareness as you go about exploring your patterned ways of blocking or cutting off from emotions. 

Imagine if you shielded your garden from rain. What would be the outcome? Perhaps many will say it is wise, especially if there are torrential down pours that would flood and down the last- so yes too much (unrelenting) RAIN can damage the plants, just as shielding them from all the rain water. Just like plants that need some rain, we need to feel some emotion, not too much or too out of control leaving us flooded , yet not cut off and numb.  We need to FEEL to learn to DEAL with emotions, meaning we learn skillful means to understand and modulate and they can serve the purpose to send and receive important information in guiding our choices and actions. 

My favorite mindfulness tool I learned from Tara Brach used to  increase emotional regulation by moving toward emotion in a modulated manner. The link is to a guided practice by Tara and can give you an opportunity to practice. An important instruction is to start with less intense emotions and recent events that you can build your skills to touch into emotions and then skillfully move away by shifting attention to other present moment objects of attention. This modulated way of touching into then, called touch and go can aid you in building up your tolerance and mastery. 

R: Recognize: Do a guided meditation to open to and recognize the emotions welling up in you. 

A: Accept or allow: saying “Yes” this is what is for me in this moment.

I: Get more intimate. Look and see how it feels in your body/ accept yourself just as you are right now, scared, angry, hurt, guilty, shameful. Notice thoughts, action urges, and the stories that go with what you are experience. Inquire: Is it true?

N: Nurturing presence:
Turning toward the experience with kindness and self-compassion. Tending to yourself like you would a small child who is suffering and allow yourself to feel your natural presence, which is ever present beneath the story we tell our self, the thoughts we have and the feelings in our body and mind.

Want to start even slower? Use light rain and start with simply recognizing and allowing a moment of sensing the emotion, perhaps naming and just acknowledging it and then shifting attention back to daily activities. This is helpful on the go to pause and practice so your ability to feel and deal grow stronger each day.

One final recommendation is when working with trauma, loss, or  deeply conditioned emotional reactions it is best to work with a mindfulness based therapist as a RAIN guide or partner. 

May you weather life one day at time and know you are not alone on this path,

Patty 

Patty Thomas Shutt, founder of Sacred Treehouse, is a licensed psychologist and co-owner of Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches Dr. Shutt is passionate about helping others discover the benefits of mindfulness and meditation.  She offers Beginner Meditation & Advanced Meditation classes at Sacred Treehouse, in addition to Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Mindful Self-Compassion and various book studies throughout the year.

Self Compassion and Healing

Mindfulness + Self kindness + Common humanity = Self Compassion

This past Monday I had  dental surgery to repair my front lower gums. I had to take several medications and received many shots to numb my gums for the two hour procedure. The surgery went smoothly, I’ve been recovering well, and I have  learned a lot from this experience. 

My face has been so puffy with only minor reductions day by day. It was kinda freaky and uncomfortable to look at myself because I looked so different. I couldn’t even open my mouth wide enough to smile or chew food (still not 100% there). 

The hardest part for me was the rest requirement and constant icing my cheeks. I am a person who loves to stay active and productive, but my body was not equipped to go-go-go. I rarely take naps and found this week I could easily take a 3 hour nap- haha it was crazy! This recovery has taught me how important rest is to healing and I developed greater compassion for those who live with a chronic mental, emotional, or physical issue. 

My mom brought awareness to me that surgery is traumatic to the body. I took fro granted that even just because I understood the purpose and necessity for surgery I never considered that the body treats surgery as an injury and would respond as if it was traumatized. This took me by surprise at first, but then it totally clicked! Immediately I had more compassion for my body and started to treat it with more loving-kindness by napping, experimenting with better icing techniques, practicing a trauma meditation each morning, mindfully eating each bite of food, letting go of personal pressures to move and get work done.  

At one point I started to whine as I moved toward the bed because my body was calling for more rest but my mind was frustrated and wanted to work on the projects I was hoping to complete this week. As I laid down it hit me, this is annoying, uncomfortable, but temporary right now and I suddenly experienced a wave of compassion for others who suffer far greater pain, loss, or trauma. If you are in the process of healing or trying to prioritize rest in your life I feel you! Just after a week of not being able to do my normal activities it really made me realize how grateful I am to have a healthy able body and mind. I extend my love out to all those who may be struggling too and hope you can find ways to bring some self compassion to your pain (my mom told me that what I did was self compassion in action!). I did not know mindfulness + self kindness + common humanity = self compassion. What I can tell you is that I shifted from a whiny, irritable state to a more accepting and patient state of mind and I felt a lot better in the moment even though nothing changed except my way of responding to my pain and discomfort. I am grateful to learn this formula and experience the shift that is possible to use in my life. 

With pure gratitude,

Lizzie

Elizabeth “Lizzie” Shutt is a student at the University of Florida.  She is passionate about all things green and currently participates in many forms of environmental advocacy, including the #Unlitter movement.  When she isn’t hitting the books, she enjoys cooking plant-based cuisine, composting, and surfing. Check out her blog Consciously Connecting on www.Lizzieshutt.com