In my job as a life art coach, I have learned to create spaces of being fully present between myself and the client. Now, being coached by wonderful Molly Gordon again, I notice how rarely I choose to be fully present for myself. Too often my days are spent feeding inner static.
“Should I take care of accounting, or go for a run? Eat lettuce or make couscous? Should I rest when I’m sick or just work a little? Is it my fault that I don’t know what to do? Am I lying to myself? Should I do better” On and on it goes. Every decision has a loooong story attached to it, that confuses both my inner wisdom and common sense.
Yesterday in coaching, I realized that the static of my repetitive thoughts does the same for my inner senses that an amusement fair does for my outer ones. Instant overwhelm. But just as the clamor in a shopping mall is nothing personal, the inner stories that I run with about my choices isn’t either.
There is nothing that needs to be done about static. It consoles me when I remember that static, no matter how uncomfortable it is, does not need to be fixed, understood or analyzed. Awareness is enough. Of course, in coaching it embarrasingly enough means I sit before my red mini I-Pad, staring blankly at Molly in the Skype window, because suddenly I have no more words.
When you realize you’re immersing yourself in the story about what you should do, just recognize it as noise. Impersonal, neutral noise. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself in worldlessness for a moment, the state where you just are – feeling, sensing and existing.
What are you noticing about your inner world right in this moment?
It’s been a bit quiet for a while here on the blog. I have been dealing with some suprising and sudden changes. So I thought this blog post could be about dealing creatively with adversity.
– Allow yourself to feel everything, uncensored, no matter how conflicting, crummy, hateful, wallowy, self-pitying or bitter the thoughts may seem to your rational mind. Let the feelings move. You do this by simply observing and feeling. When you feel tempted to judge yourself, go back to sensing what your ear feels, what you see around you in the room, how the soles of your feet move on the floor or in your shoes.
– When your thoughts are racing over hurful comments or rehashing what has happened over and over in a hamsterwheely fashion, choose a word that’s neutral to you and doesn’t awaken any strong feelings (oatfield, cucumber, rice or truck work for me) and repeat it to yourself, fast, over and over again. This reboots the thinking process for a while. You may need to do this a few times to change tracks.
– Allow many versions of reality to be true at the same time. The adversity you are facing may be a closing door and an opening window to a new opportunity, at the same time as it pisses you off.
– Take lots of naps, use all of your relaxation techniques and tools, read uplifting books that you can connect with, listen to angry music, break a few dishes in the sink, watch movies where people go through big challenges and come out on the other side.
– Move your body. It doesn’t matter if it’s yoga, running, dancing, walks or horseriding. Your body wants to help you get through this.
– If the adversity you’re facing pushes your money buttons, try two things: Write a to do list about everything you need to do financially, the bills you need to pay, the people you need to contact, everything. Then take a time out. When panic hits, look at the to do list and reassure yourself that you are taking the situation seriously and responsibly. Then, with a conscious choice, move your awareness to your now moment and your basic needs. Are you bodily safe? Is your belly full? Do you need to sleep? Take care of your immediate needs and reassure yourself that this moment, you are in a safe space.
– Ask for support. Dare be vulnerable. Say no to obligations first and then share as much as you want about what has happened and how you feel about your situation in this moment. People will support you more than you can ever believe.
– To the people closest to you, describe what you are doing to cope. Sometimes we look perfectly competent on the outside, although every moment is a struggle. When you tell your loved one what you are doing to remain active solving problems and not crashing, it is easier for them to support you in loving yourself, because the inner work you’re doing becomes visible to them.
– Remember that your point of power is in the present. No matter what has happened, right now you can choose to be your own friend. You can appreciate yourself, take care of yourself and let yourself feel whatever it is that is happening in you.
– Last but not least, remember that you can always draw, paint, write, mold, sing, dance, vocalize or in other ways express what is happening inside of you. The mere act of getting it outside of yourself can give you clarity.
Do any of these tips resonate? Is there anyone you know, who is facing difficulties who could find this blog post useful?
A few weeks ago Carrie Klassen kindly mentioned the About page here on the blog on the Facebook page of Pink Elephant. Their stuff about doing marketing writing in a heartfelt way is great, by the way.
Then Caroline van Kimmenade contacted me about doing an interview. She works with Sensipreneurs, sensitive types and empaths who run their own businesses. I was honored to be asked and enjoyed our work together.
Too often sensitive people are told that they think too much, feel too much and are generally weird and wrong. People who do not experience life this way, often have a difficult time understanding that we cannot not feel. It is not an option.
The good news is that as sensitive intuitive types, we have a finely tuned guidance system that will immediately tell us when we’re on the right track, or when some further clarification is needed. This is available to us when we learn to decode the signal that our emotions really are.
Caroline has some fine steps for this here. I appreciate her take on being a happy sensitive. Although it can feel completely impossible, it is actually highly probable, once you learn to take care of yourself.
My own quickie awareness serum is:
Go somewhere quiet (bathroom works usually, except if you’re at home with small children)
Take a glass of water.
Breathe, ask: What do I need now? What is happening in my body? Which feelings belong to me?
One of the most liberating insights of my life came at a point in my life when I had studied therapy, coaching and been through various self-developmental processes. I was confused, because there were still times of absolute darkness and inner pain. Although they were shorter, they were no less intense. They were also less easy to pinpoint, didn’t seem to have any substance at all, except the emotional pain they contained and gave rise to.
At that point I started finding literature about empaths, about being so sensitive to other people’s feelings and emotions that you start trying to process them in yourself. I started asking myself: “Is this mine?”
If I had that rootless feeling of not being able to feel the feelings in my body, I started to just let them go. I told myself: “Not mine, not mine, not mine.” Doing something physical helped, running or vacuuming the apartment.
One day, while walking around the small lake near us, I felt awash with joy, this simple exuberance of being alive. Memories of childhood and feeling this same feeling started to jump up like happy puppies and I was filled with the certainty that this joy was mine, had always been mine and would never leave.
So still, at times, when my boundaries start leaking, the human sponge effect starts. With good self-care, equilibrium returns, step by step.
How about you, are you carrying stuff that isn’t yours in the first place?
So, of course, most of my life I’ve taken EVERYTHING personally, quite up to the point that it was painful to walk on the street, because people’s looks [that I interpreted as dismissive or disapproving] would turn up the voice of my inner critic. The end to that came with this summer’s bootcamp of boundaries. Suddenly I get what it means to take nothing personally.
Most of the time people outside of us think only of themselves. The actions, thoughts and energy that they focus on have nothing to do with us, not even the ones that are potentially hurtful. We are all the center of our own universe.
When we take nothing personally, but stay in our own core, we free up our energy, focus and time to do things that are both important and beneficial to us (this often includes helping others, too). There is a clarity that comes with it. We are free to connect to other people, without static, projections or worry.
You may notice that the ‘nothing’ part is wobbly. That’s because it isn’t easy. If I’m to take nothing personally, I need lots of time to reload my energy, which I do best alone, enveloped in a world of music and art.
How do you need to recharge in order to take nothing personally?
Silence about the torment
Silencing the regular losing of myself,
that I have come to expect & endure.
But no numbing this experience.
No drugs, thank you.
It is what it is. I am who I am.
I’m drinking it all in. The agony without reason.
The faceless bliss. Everything in between.
My life. My experience. Thank you.
If it frightens you. That is. Fine.
It terrifies me. How identity can melt into
suffering. No catastrophies. No disasters. Just pain.
I do not believe in normal.
Do not sign on the dotted line of appropriate inner
directions and reactions.
To thine own self be true, is a loaded statement. What
it means is a personal journey.
There is too much life here.
Do you know how even a beautiful sound [especially a beautiful sound],
too loud, hurts the ears? So it is sometimes,
with myself and life.
Too much, so loud. That I hurt all over. Lest I keep firm boundaries
around my tender core.
Pad each stimulating event with expanses of
solitude, music, space, physical movement, freedom, love.
Otherwise you find me writhing in pain. Beauty turned excruciate.
Everyday details turned into an elaborate torture of overwhelm.
I don’t understand this woman I call myself.
But dutifully, passionately, I scribe and paint her experiences
With the hope of someday
making sense of all this
happening in the inner landscape of me/her.
It is like understanding the weather.
Why is it raining today?
Why is the sun scorching?
So in the midst of my scribing, I try to remember, how to breathe.
At times like this morning by the traffic lights, breathing
is close to impossible.
Solar plexus moving only by force, doggedly, the air
wanting to hide
at the base of my throat, shy to move.
At times the breath is like a slow tide
I am the scribe.
Remembering to experience
the storms, the lulls, peace.
Remembering I feel everything. I own nothing.
World, make sense
Sometimes it seems I’m permeable
Every mood and emotion floating through me
which is okay,
just as long as I remember to let them. Move.
Getting stuck is when
I start holding on
Soon everything flows over
Too big to contain
It is not mine not mine not mine
I keep telling myself
I feel everything, I own nothing
Get on the track
Let my running feet move everything
Let my words touch what they may
What comes out of me does not belong to me anymore
It touches, flies west, leaves nothing, sticks on
depending on who it encounters.
None of my business. None of my business.
I am here to create and let go. Create and let go.
Sandy Talarmo and her shame are honored guests in our tea party, and she graciously agreed to share her authentic and vulnerable drawing & photo here in my blog. Thank you Sandy <3
Limits and Borders as a Doorway to Who We Are
Yesterday I took a break. Napping away my flu, shame and I took a day of self-care, away from everything. Today, I synchronistically stumbled upon this video from Amy Purdy. She lost her legs, just when she was about to fly out into the world and talks about, not just recovery, but about how her life was transformed through the struggle & creations that followed.
She talks about how she feels more free when she is who she is, walking openly on her bionic legs [as she calls them] than if she were pretending to be someone she is not. Amy suggests our borders are what we can use to push away from. She asks if it is possible to see our challenges and limits as blessings, that ignite our imaginations and help us go further than we ever thought we could. As I look at Amy and her pictures of all of her different legs, I feel this deep joy inside of me – what variety! What a creativity in the midst of the unpredictability of life.
The Source of Our Shame is the Core of Our Beauty
Amy inspires me. My challenges are different, but equally vital to how my life has turned out. Since I was a little girl, my emotions have been racing up and down. Highly sensitive to stimuli, like sounds, scratching clothes, smells, lights, colors and even more sensitive to the moods of others, their reactions to me – life has had an element of the unbearable. Added to this I was born with an emotional intensity, where I can go from a feeling of bliss, through all the nuances in between, all the way to suicidal desperation, in a time span of ninety seconds, no matter how calm I seem on the outside.
Feeling life in all of its nuances can be exhausting and talking about feeling so crappy you just want to die freaks everyone out. I learned to push my feelings deep inside of myself and use the great social pacifier of a smile to put everyone at ease. Inside I felt completely and irrevocably broken. There was no amount of squeezing that could make me fit into the role models I saw around me, no matter how I numbed my feelings.
Living with this kind of an internal reality can be difficult to fathom. One way to describe it is this: Imagine you are severely sunburnt throughout your body, wearing a scratchy sweater. There is loud heavy metal music playing all around you, you can hear what others are saying, but you need to strain a bit. Behind every person you see, there is a billboard, with different kinds of emotional information showing (Anger! Irritation! Sadness! Joy! Suspicion! Enjoyment!) in blinking neon lights. There is the smell of too strong, musky perfume in the air. You have a test ahead that you are unprepared for and your hopes and dreams are riding on it. In the midst of the intensity, you. must. perform. well.
[And I would really want to go hide right now, rather than be writing this blog.] The turning point for me came when I sat with my second therapist and incredulously asked her: “Do you mean that getting well from depression means that I need to feel all of my feelings? ALL of them?” Slowly I learned that wanting to die was a signal from inside that could mean different things. That signal could be listened to, befriended, seen, said aloud, encountered compassionately. From recovering all of my feelings and my search for a life that wouldn’t be just bearable, but worth living, has sprung art, coaching, entrepeneurship, poetry, friendships, a marriage to a soulmate, two beautiful children. A life that is handmade, tailored to embrace my sensitivity, my dancing emotional weather and my need for freedom, as well as built on the strength that lies in all of this vulnerability.
I am not broken. And neither are you.
At this point of this tea party experience, I believe shame can be a pathway to self-compassion and to the very core of who we are. We can trust ourselves and we always begin exactly where we are.
How do your challenges and limitations ignite your imagination today? What is the color of your longing?
That is why I want to talk about something uncomfortable. Last week was a walk of shame. On Monday I felt I had to defend the basic principles of my work and on Tuesday, the financial advisor at my business school for creatives said my work seems like/is fluff. On Wednesday I had my singing lesson, which brings up a combination of shame and helplessness, because “just let your voice go” is a place I haven’t found in my vocal chords and body yet.
The rest of the week was a bit foggy. Today I got tired of the fog, went into my Sunday writing retreat and sat down with my shame to the tunes of Ani di Franco, Bon Jovi, Nickelback and Broadway Here I come, by the Smash Cast. I got a hand from Elaine Aron in her article: Coping Corner: Highly Sensitive People and Shame. Among other things, she asks about when we first remember feeling shame. Turns out shame has been a constant companion for me. From abusive nannies in the past, to alcoholism in the family, to being bullied in High School for being a deep, weird, ugly girl – I have learned to feel ashamed when for being who I am, for being excited, for creating what is true for me.
My strong reaction to the words of my financial advisor and to publishing my art work, to marketing my art work suddenly started making a whole lot of sense. Shame means we feel there is something wrong with who we are and creating is expressing who we really are. So, at least for me, my deepest shame and my most vulnerable, authentic creativity is connected.
After sitting with, working with and feeling through my shame today, I have lots of drawings. As of tomorrow, I’m starting a one week Compassionate Shame Tea Party here on the blog, with drawings, ideas from other blogs and thoughts about creativity and shame. You and your shame are invited in for a cup of tea. Why? Because shame keeps so many of us from creating what we deeply yearn to express. And I believe in creating safe inner spaces, with the power we all have in the present moment and exploring what is real in the moment.
So here’s to choosing a safe space inside and allowing everything to be what it is, in this moment.