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Posts Tagged healing

I Love Your Story Still.

cowper Titania sleeps
Ive been neglecting this blog as I continue to work on my book, Dancing in the Dark: Lessons from our Darkest Nights. And because I still cant seem to manage to create a new entry today, I want to share a piece that I wrote several years ago.  Although it isnt new, I feel it flowing after all of these years still straight through my heart.

You sit before me now, head down, while your face seeks shelter in your hands. I failed, you confess, sounding hollow and broken. I attempt to comfort and reassure you. When you finally look up at me, Im not seen, and not heard. Youre so lost inside of your pain and disappointment that my words cant find you. I cant find you. And so we sit silently beside one another for a time, both feeling inadequate. Youre hurting so much right now, feeling lost and more than a little sick inside. In my silence, I try to communicate to you that youre not alone. Im here. Right beside you. And I still believe in you.

Later, I decide to write you a letter one you can carry in your pocket to remind you of my caring. A note to read when youre more open to my message. I know it wont take your pain away or magically transform your beliefs, but maybe it can hold a seed, one that might eventually emerge from the rich and fertile ground in which I so lovingly planted it.

And so you failed. And this failure wounds you so profoundly that its penetrated deep into your psyche.  It may have even become an integral part of who you believe yourself to be today.

Today, you look into your mirror and see a failure. I look into your eyes and see the wisdom born of pain. And it hurts, this learning. I know. I know. Ive felt its sting before. Ive been thoroughly haunted by my own mistakes, miscalculations, and self-judgement. Ive fallen too. Again and yet again.

Just like you, I forget during those moments when my folly is first discovered what I know. What we both know. Defeat isnt the theme of our unique stories, it isnt what defines who we are, where well go or who well become. It only reminds us that were not alone. That we share the legacy of all human-kind, that we all will fail from time to time. Each of us stumbles and gets wounded in the fall. Failure, my dear, dear, friend, is a natural offshoot of growth. We churn in it, learn from it, and we become stronger as we struggle to recover from it.

In a commencement address delivered at Moorpark College in 1989, James D. Griffen remembered John Kennedy OToole, a young writer who won a Pulitzer Prize for his book, A Confederacy of Dunces. Imagine what it would have felt like to him to achieve this coveted award. How successful, how triumphant, how wonderful he would have felt. I say would of because well never know how he might have felt. Hell never know. We can only imagine on his behalf, because he never lived to claim his prize. After being rejected by seventeen publishers, he committed suicide. What a strange term, to commit suicide, when the act is above all else, a lack of commitment.

We must all hold fast in the darkness, for regardless of the blackness which may surround us light always eventually illuminates our path. Always…

Experience fully the pain of your failure. You must, bless you. I know you must. But when your body and soul grows weary of the sadness, the recriminations, the what ifs (and they will), accept the compensations, (however modest) that accompany your misfortune. Learn the lessons that follow behind them. Theyll serve you well. Youll be wiser, stronger, and more prepared for the rest of your journey if you take them with you. Rest now if you need to. Grieve if you must. And when youre ready to collect them, let me know. Ill gladly help you gather them up.

So whats the moral of this story? Your story? Its not a story about loss, deficiency, and flaws. Its a story about lessons learned, overcoming, moving forward and onward, and most importantly it is a story about hope.

Some of my most cherished tales have touched my heart and at the same time they have made me weep. And though Im sad for you right now, I want you to know my weary friend, that I love your story still…

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Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes for Depression

http://youtu.be/7HDFEbsGRlA

Are you wondering what you can do to overcome depression in addition to psychotherapy and medication? You may want to watch the video above which features Stephen Ilardi, associate professor of psychology at the University of Kansas, sharing his research findings regarding how life style changes can significantly reduce symptoms of depression. Youre probably in control of much more than you realize.

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When A Loving Heart Breaks

cowper Titania sleeps
To a wounded angel.

Youre so brave, so strong, so beautiful,

and you can fly so high…

Im so often in awe of you, did you know that?

And please believe me when I tell you

that I cherish you every bit as much

when youre stooping

as when you soar…

And right now, crumpled to the ground,

with your wings folded down around you,

I think I love you even more…

Everything happens for a reason,

good people have told you,

and youve done your very best to believe them.

This philosophy offers such comfort and peace.

And in retrospect, when looking back upon my own life,

for the most part, it rings true.

So much that was painful or disappointing

later proved to serve me.

And I know with all of my heart

that your own pain, one distant day, may serve you.

But I cant offer up that everything happens for a reason to you.

My throat closes around those words the moment they occur to me,

and bitterness rises up to meet them.

How can there possibly be a reason for innocent children

to be tortured physically, sexually, emotionally or spiritually?

Whats the reason for the breaking of a tender heart?

The reward for the shattering of a soul?

There is no reason that I can accept,

and Ive long since given up my quest to acquire one.

I refuse to promise that the agony that you suffer now

will surely compensate you later,

and that youll be the better for it.

As a therapist, Ive looked into too many pain filled eyes.

Eyes that reflect such grief, such regret, such sorrow

Eyes that ask WHY? WHY? WHY?

And you know what?

There never was a why that I found acceptable.

Not a single explanation that was ever good enough for me.

And so my weary angel,

I come to you emptied of answers.

I cant take away your WHY

and replace it with an explanation.

I wish I could.

I want so very much to take your pain away.

Although I cannot take away,

I come to you with a modest offering.

One so small, that Im humbled as I hold it out to you.

Its a small stone with one word engraved upon its surface.

The word is AND.

You were hurt so very badly

AND yet in spite of the hurt, youve grown.

You were deeply wounded

AND still you survived.

You were exposed to the worst in human behavior

AND yet youve always tried to give your best.

Your voice was silenced

AND still youve heard and responded to the pain of others.

You were touched by evil

AND youve chosen to embrace goodness.

You were betrayed

AND still you seek to trust.

Youve been vulnerable and exposed

AND still youve sheltered lost souls with your wings.

Your agony cant be denied,

but neither, my precious sister,

can all of the ANDs that are contained within you.

They too have shaped you,

and even as your pain has left you grounded,

the ANDs will surely make up the magic

that will lead you once again to fly.

Take them with you…

Tammie Fowles

http://sageplace.com/

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When Love and Death are Teachers

lens1635638_1316755611angel_grief_rome

This is a dark and dismal season of grief for me. Three months ago I lost my mother, and within this last week I have lost my oldest childhood friend, my anam cara my soul sister

I still remember the first moment that I saw her. She was a tiny little waif, leaning against my grandmother and laughing at something that had just been said. I was a lover of fairy tales and with her blonde hair, dancing blue eyes, and pixie face, my eight year old self imagined that here standing before me, in my very own kitchen, was Goldilocks!

At eight she enchanted me, by ten she was fully integrated into my family, and by twelve she was my confidant and best friend. Im not sure when she became my sister and an essential part of me, but she did.

Her maiden name was Joy, which was both fitting and ironic. As a young child she and her younger brothers had been removed from her parents and placed into foster care. As a very young woman, one of her brothers was diagnosed with schizophrenia, followed by the sudden death of his twin. Next, soon after she and her estranged father began building a relationship, he died from lung cancer. And then, eight years ago, her husband of nineteen years went to work one morning and never came home. He died instantly, leaving her to finish raising three of their four children alone.

Yesterday, as the great storm Nemo surged towards them, those same beautiful children bravely and graciously greeted friends and family who had come to honor their mothers life. She had gone into the hospital with pneumonia and died there.

The amount of pain and suffering she and her children have faced at such tender ages is completely incomprehensible to me. The temptation to scream up at the heavens, why!!!!!!!! why!!!!!!!!!! Why!!!!!!!!!!!!!! sits wound tightly in my chest, threatening to explode, scattering pieces of my shattered self everywhere.

Her maiden name was Joy. And even as she struggled on a daily basis with the fallout of a heart broken way too young and far too often, she embraced her life and held it and those within its orbit close and tenderly. She created countless special memories for her husband and children, faced her fears, followed her heart, and sweetly coaxed me to join her from time to time. For the past three springs I told her that I thought I could manage a visit during the summer, and apologized each autumn when my plans to visit fell through.

She called me right after my mother died and left a message explaining that she knew that I might not have the energy to call back right away, (I didnt) and that she would simply be waiting patiently when I was ready to talk. She emailed me at Christmas time and warned me that the holidays would be brutal, but that Id get through them. I emailed her back and thanked her and promised that Id call her soon. That was our final contact. Now there will be no more phone calls, no more heart to heart talks, no more promises, no more summers

Shortly after losing her husband, she lamented that in working so long and hard in preparation for retirement, he had missed so many tiny inconsequential and yet precious moments. She had made a promise to herself at his funeral that she wouldnt postpone pleasure in the interest of a tomorrow that might never come. She kept that promise.

Stephanie Ericsson wrote:

Grief is a tidal wave that over takes you
smashes down upon you with unimaginable force,
sweeps you up into its darkness,
where you tumble and crash against unidentifiable surfaces,
only to be thrown out on an unknown beach, bruised, reshaped

Grief will make a new person out of you,
if it doesnt kill you in the making.

Its not my grief that threatens to mortally wound me, its my love. And its not my love that has proven to be my greatest teacher, its my grief.

Thirty five years ago four teenagers sat late into the night talking about life and death and making predictions about how their lives would turn out. Before separating in the wee hours of the morning, they made a pact that when they were fifty they would come back together and see whose predictions came true. They never kept that oath. Not because they got too busy, or forgot their promise along the way, but because the only one who lived to see her fiftieth birthday was me.

I grieved deeply each time I lost one of them, and yet failed repeatedly to fully grasp the profound lesson contained within each death. Its a lesson that we learn over and over again without fully comprehending, one that we pay lip service to but seldom turn our lives around to meet. Those we love will die. WE WILL DIE. And so, we must make of our love a sacred practice, allowing it to flow through our lives like a mighty river. We must invite ourselves to fall in love with life over and over again, allowing life and love to become inseparable.

Both my mother and Missie, my golden girl, are gone now, and this is more loss than I can face today. But theres something that Ive learned through the terrible pain of earlier losses which sustains me. The intensity of this grief will fade even as its lesson comes more clearly into focus. Life is a gift of unknown duration the only certainty is that it ends, and so we must learn to hold it lovingly and closely, like Missie did.

Her maiden name was Joy.

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Living with Grief and Listening to Winter

hughes Heart of Snow

The sky is grey today.  My boots crunch and my body tenses when I first step out into this frigid January morning.  I move slowly, huddled against  the cold,  still baring the gravity of  grief and the weariness of long nights with too few exits and too many echoes.

Getting out of bed took little effort yesterday,  my mind was alert,  my movements fluid, and the sun was shining.  I breathed a sigh of relief, finally able to recognize the promise of a morning  without my mother in it.  I didnt have to force myself to leave my house, and I jogged and jumped and danced during my water aerobics class. My body felt light and graceful.  It was going to be a good day.

Someone began to sing, these boots are made for walking and I cheerfully joined her in song, hands on my hips and legs lifting high.  And then my eyes met those of a woman who is older than my mother and the pain slammed into my chest without warning.  I was breathless as a memory consumed all of my oxygen. My young and sexy mother is singing that song while I  prance around her in my imaginary boots.  We are pointing at each other, warning that one of these days these boots are going to walk all over you.  In that moment, all was perfect.  The depression had not found her, she was cancer free - healthy,  happy, and ALIVE.  I was safe.

My eyes filled with tears and to my horror, it occurred to me that I could start crying in a public pool surrounded by perfectly nice and normal women. I took a deep breath, clenched my jaw, called upon my well practiced will, and pulled myself together.

Rumi wrote that our lives are like guest houses. If my life truly is like a guest house, then grief, an unwelcome guest, has settled in for the time being. I cannot move out, and there will be no eviction. And so, If Im to avoid structural and collateral damage, then Ill  need to make accommodations.  Grief, I will make a place at my table for you, but I will not feed you.  Instead, I will infuse my cooking with love and gratitude and nurture my family with them.  And I will stop wasting energy trying to lock you out, instead, Ill open all of my windows and invite beauty in.

My walk is complete. I return to the home that I now share with grief, close the door, absorb the heat, and resolve to not long for spring, but to listen to winter

The Winter of Listening

No one but me by the fire,
my hands burning
red in the palms while
the night wind carries
everything away outside.

All this petty worry
while the great cloak
of the sky grows dark
and intense
round every living thing.

What is precious
inside us does not
care to be known
by the mind
in ways that diminish
its presence.

What we strive for
in perfection
is not what turns us
into the lit angel
we desire,
what disturbs
and then nourishes
has everything
we need.

What we hate
in ourselves
is what we cannot know
in ourselves but
what is true to the pattern
does not need
to be explained.

Inside everyone
is a great shout of joy
waiting to be born.

Even with the summer
so far off
I feel it grown in me
now and ready
to arrive in the world.

All those years
listening to those
who had
nothing to say.

All those years
forgetting
how everything
has its own voice
to make
itself heard.

All those years
forgetting
how easily
you can belong
to everything
simply by listening.

And the slow
difficulty
of remembering
how everything
is born from
an opposite
and miraculous
otherness.

Silence and winter
has led me to that
otherness.

So let this winter
of listening
be enough
for the new life
I must call my own.

David Whyte

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Safire Rose On Letting Go


I have been in Florida for the past month and plan to remain here with my mother until she dies. I find very little time for writing these days, for little else actually other than caring for her and my father. I am firmly planted here by my mothers side although my thoughts and heart wander quite regularly back to Maine where my husband, daughter, grandchildren, friends, and clients go about their lives. I send them love and hold them closely in my heart. There is a great deal of both holding on and letting go happening in my life right now.

The following is a poem by Reverend Safire Rose sent to me by a wise and wonderful woman whom I feel blessed to know. I hope it touches you as it has touched me.

She let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go.

She let go of the fear. She let go of the judgments.

She let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around her head.

She let go of the committee of indecision within her.

She let go of all the ‘right’ reasons.

Wholly and completely, without hesitation or worry, she just let go.

She didn’t ask anyone for advice.

She didn’t read a book on how to let go.

She didn’t search the scriptures.

She just let go.

She let go of all of the memories that held her back.

She let go of all of the anxiety that kept her from moving forward.

She let go of the planning and all of the calculations about how to do it just right.

She didn’t promise to let go.

She made no public announcement and put no ad in the paper.

She just let go.

She didn’t analyze whether she should let go. She didn’t call her friends to discuss the matter.

She didn’t utter one word.

She just let go.

No one was around when it happened.

There was no applause or congratulations. No one thanked her or praised her.

No one noticed a thing.

Like a leaf falling from a tree, she just let go.

There was no effort. There was no struggle.

It wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad.

It was what it was, and it is just that.

In the space of letting go, she let it all be.

A small smile came over her face.

A light breeze blew through her.

And the sun and the moon shone forevermore.

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To all those Abused as Children

The following is a poem by wise and compassionate poet, counselor, and retired Episcopal priest, Alla Renee Bozrath that I first discovered in the book, Life Prayers: 365 Prayers, Blessings and Affirmations to Celebrate the Human Journey edited by Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon. If you are a seeker, a griever, or are struggling in any way right now, I encourage you to explore her wonderful work.

Dont look back,
battered child,
Time then hurt you,
Let time heal you.
Dont look back.

Dont look back,
beaten child.
They knew not what
they did except what
was done unto them.
Dont look back.

Dont look back,
abandoned child,
abused, neglected child.
Denial is salt in your wounds.
Dwelling in repeating
the deliberate disappearance
of your soul.
Dont perpetuate this harm.

Break the cycle,
wait -
stop it here.

Speak out the paralyzing secret
and begin to come back to yourself.
Cry it out to compassionate ears
and be held in the hearts of your witnesses.

The truth shall make you free
but first it will shatter you.
What was broken can be mended,
what was lost, restored.
Find yourself, then,
pure and whole, a child of God.
Look back long enough to let go.
Alla Renee Bozarth

Look Back
Long Enough
and then
Let Go..

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David Whyte, Brother David Steindl-Rast , and the Antidote to Exhaustion

Perhaps one of the greatest reasons I was drawn to become a psychotherapist is that I’m a lover of stories. Storytelling isn’t only an ancient art form and a means through which information and wisdom is shared, it can also be a powerful source of inspiration and healing.

In a speech entitled, “Politics as Spiritual Practice” Larry Robinson, former Mayor of Sebastopol California observed, “Stories tell us who we are and where we belong. They give meaning to our lives and to our suffering. In an age of fear and uncertainty, people are hungry for a story which shows us a way through the current darkness…Story has the power to bring soul back to the world.” And so from time to time, I’ve decided to share one of my favorite soul full stories with you.

Gifted poet and speaker, David Whyte, was visiting Brother David Steindl-Rast one evening after a very long and stressful day at work. Whyte had been struggling with whether or not to leave his job and pursue his calling as a poet full time and shared with brother David that he was absolutely exhausted.

I picture the two David’s in a warm and dimly lit room, wine glasses held loosely, and a book of Rilke’s poems resting on a low table between them. The poet’s broad shoulders are slightly slumped, his dark head bent, and his wise and loving friend is leaning in slightly towards him as he very gently shares the following, “You know David, the antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest.” Whyte tilts his head and shifts his position slightly as something not yet definable stirs quietly within him. “The antidote to exhaustion isn’t necessarily rest,” he repeats slowly. “What is the antidote to exhaustion?” Now it’s Whyte who is leaning forward, entirely receptive to the gift some part of him already knows is on its way. The antidote to exhaustion,” brother David responds, “is whole heartedness.”

And while it was not me who asked the question, not my own exhaustion and depletion that called brother David’s response into being, it is my own soul that stirs in response. “The antidote to exhaustion is whole heartedness.”

Yes.

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How Rollo May Survived his Nervous Break Down

Recently I was appreciating the photographs of a woman whom I admire tremendously – pictures of her garden, the ocean, a number of stunning landscapes, an osprey nest, and an eagle in flight. As a child she was the victim of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, tortured by the kind of cruelty and ugliness that can break hearts and shatter souls. And yet, as an adult she has spent a great deal of time both capturing and creating beauty. I was reminded as she shared her photography with me of psychologist, Rollo May, one of the founders of the humanistic psychology movement.

As a young man May fell victim to a debilitating depression. Many years later, when asked by writer and film maker, Phil Cousineau, what had saved him during that dark and painful time, Rollo replied, “beauty.”

In his book, “My Quest for Beauty” May wrote of wandering aimlessly in the hills of Greece where one day he stumbled into a field of wild poppies and had the following epiphany, “It seemed that I had not listened to my inner voice, which had tried to talk to me about beauty. I had been too hard-working, too principled to spend time merely looking at flowers . . . it had taken a collapse of my whole former way of life for this voice to make itself heard. . . What is beauty? . . . Beauty is the experience that gives us a sense of joy and a sense of peace simultaneously. Other happenings give us joy and afterwards a peace, but in beauty these are the same experience. Beauty is serene and at the same time exhilarating; it increases ones sense of being alive.”

I am thinking about my remarkable photographer friend and about Rollo May when I visit the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay. After a long and difficult week, I lie down beside the waterfall in the rhododendron garden among the ferns, hostas, bees, and beautiful blossoms. I welcome the beauty, allow myself to become intoxicated by it, lost in it. George Washington Carver wrote, “If you love it enough, anything will talk with you.” And so I send my love out into the garden. I listen. It begins to speak

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On Darkness, Despair and Hope

I havent written a blog entry in over a month, the longest I’ve ever gone without writing. Sadly, inessential activities (like this blog) have been overshadowed by my mothers cancer and my daughters illness, and the lion’s share of my life energy is being poured into sustaining hope and tending wounds.

The trajectory of my mother’s illness is too final and predictable to contemplate, while the weight and course of my child’s suffering is crushing and unknowable. It seems that we have set upon one of those night passages that Sue Monk Kidd observes can “blister the spirit and leave us groping.”

As I tentatively feel my way through a murky shadow land, I remind myself that the whole of my life is still abundantly blessed with love, and sweetness and light even as it requires me to be stronger and wiser than ever before demands that I do/think/feel more than I have ever done/thought/felt before. Even though it insists that I. must. become. more.

Julia Cameron reminds us that “creativity like human life itself begins in darkness.” For over two decades as a psychotherapist I’ve witnessed so many transformations that were initiated by heartbreak and cultivated in darkness. And while there have been times when I could hardly bare to look into the depths of despair and suffering, I am especially grateful for them now, each and every one of them, because I have seen with my own eyes and heart what we are capable of surviving, overcoming, and becoming. Because I have seen, I can believe.

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