Fargo to Croatia – The Unknown becomes Known

 

The trip was scheduled – off to see the country of my husband’s birth.  Did I know much about this country of Croatia?  Did I ever remember studying it school?  I remembered Bulgaria because I did a school report on this little known in America country when I was a 5th grader.  When I met my husband, he had to draw a diagram of the eastern European countries, so I could get a visual on how the former country of Yugoslavia was set up.  

Yugoslavia was created in 1918 as a gift of the world to Serbs who risked everything during the Great War.  It was built on the ruins of two empires, Austro Hungary and Ottoman, bridging West and East.  This country is rich in history from the  beginning of time.  I won’t go into any more details about the history of these countries as it is complex and layered with many peoples and rulers.  I made an attempt to summarize the important aspects of Croatia’s history and had flashbacks of college  research papers – finding the “right” info fast and easy.  This approach  – outdated and stressful for this sensitive, brave soul  so I created a new approach…how did I feel when I was a part of this country’s world?

I made the trip to Croatia alone as my husband was already there visiting family.  It seemed to take such a long time to pack and prepare for this adventure – I consulted travel guides and friends who were in unison to the pack light phrase.  I still chose to check a big suitcase but pared down to the essentials.  My rain jacket was an excellent choice as I wore it on the one rainy day we had in the city of Pula.  My cousin lent me over the head scarfs to use as light cover ups to provide variety to the few tops I brought, were light and spiced my look up.  Good tip.  The plane was late from Fargo to Chicago.  My mood?  Mixed with anxiety, body in reactive mode from hip/shoulder issues and a little down about my ability to withstand this kind of trip.   My first journal entries weren’t lighthearted like I would have preferred.  The difference here is the awareness of my state of mind/body.  I observed the stream of negativity and just let it go onto the pages of my paper.  We were late arriving to Chicago and it looked questionable.   I literally “almost ran” with my purse and orange rolling backpack in tow.  I heard my name in the overhead speakers giving last call for the doors would be closing any minute.  My heart was in the zone – My lungs were on overload as I made my way there.  I had the image of Fred Sanford on Sanford and Son holding his chest saying” it’s the big one Elizabeth.”  I made it to my seat on the plane and the door was shut.  Luckily my seat was close, and the flight attendants were kind.  They offered me water.  After all, I’d upgraded myself to business class…now that made me smile.  Some luxuries in life are out of reach but at this time in my life, I made it a priority and for me the investment was worth it.  It made the overseas leg of the trip much better.

We arrived in Munich 8 hours later – the connecting trip to Zagreb was late and we had to take a bus to get to our airplane.  Once in the air, the pilots of Lufthansa apologized several times for the 45-minute delay – he sounded sorry and noted that it was unusual in this airport.  Once I got to Zagreb, it took time to confirm that my luggage had stayed in Chicago.  It would be 4 days before I would see it again.  Good thing I was wearing long pants with the zip off option into shorts.  The first night was spent at a lovely hotel called the Esplanade.  We were lucky to have a cousin who worked there.  It is a 5-star hotel that had origins with the Orient Express stopping there with all their luxury passengers from Paris to Istanbul.   Now this train only travels this route once a year and I don’t think it stops in Zagreb now.  I happily fell into the softness of the sheets and ate homemade cheese pie and baklava that my husband’s cousin packed for him.  The mood of the trip’s beginning had evolved.  The Aleve that I had taken had probably helped too along with all the amenities and clear weather of the flight.  Gratitude expressed!

The next day we traveled to Pula, the coastal town of Istria.  A side note, Croatian buses are not equipped with restrooms.  After 3 hours we finally stopped at the gas station….one of the male passengers had to ask with pain on his face to pull over to the side of the road and there it was.  Pula is a beautiful sea side town that is peppered with Roman ruins and cultural influences from Italy, Austria/Hungary, and Venetian among others.  Its ancient connections are such a difference from Fargo’s culture.  Here history is measured differently so as I traveled I was overcome with awe in the remnants such as the Roman Amphitheater, monuments and huge gateways constructed to create the grand presence of the times.  I’ve never traveled to see the original Roman architecture but now have the feel of it.  We stayed at the seaside resort called Del Mar.  This was a new (2011) resort with all the amenities of the family vacation – food, music (think loud 80’s American rock) and an assortment of other types of fun.  It was busy, noisy and after the initial emotional meltdown, I got to appreciate the charm of the small apt.  The first night was an adjustment from the 5-star hotel in Zagreb. The music drowned out the non-vegetarian friendly menu and I left in frustration to find the little grocery store.  Once inside I stared at the yogurt shelves unable to read the language of what types of product they were.  A woman reached in front of me and took all the containers of yogurt I thought I wanted and I just stood there – frozen, tired and teary.  I would say I got lost in the adjustment of my sensitive brain.  Research points to about 20% of the population born with a finer attunement to energies of all types, keener pain and other emotional signals.  In other words, it’s hard to just hang out and enjoy.  Yet, joy and freedom are worth the efforts of our experiences.  This knowledge has helped me understand some of the challenges of changes, being around other people and managing the mind.  I’m also developing more appreciation for this minority of people.  We are vital to the whole!  Appreciate yourself despite the circumstances.  It helps.

Pula is the home of the Roman amphitheatre or the Arena.  It is known as the emblem of the ctiy and was built in the first century.  It was rennovated by Augustus and is the 6th largest among the preserved amphitheatres in the world.  For approximately 4 centuries, it functioned as an arena with gladiator and animal fighting being a main event.  Things changed when emperor Honorius prohibited the games in 405.  In modern times, it is used to house events and music festivals and it a big tourist attraction.  There are levels underneath the theatre that we explored and learned all about how they pressed and stored olive oil.  

 

 

We spent time with a couple of my husband’s friends.  They had lived in Pula for 30 years and took us to a chapel in city Rovinj.  It was a beautiful structure with the sea all around.  A man sat on the wall overlooking the water and played Stairway to Heaven on the guitar.  Amazing contrast and one of my highlights.  They took us to a monastery where we heard a young local chamber orchestra play classical music.  The one monk that resides there listened out of sight in the upper level while the light from his room glowed. I remember thinking it was special in some way.   Olive trees are prolific in many areas of Istria and the olive oil produced there is some of the best in the world.  We took a class to learn the many details of how to select good olive oil.  A grassy taste and smell, not bitter or pungent and buying from companies that bottle and produce the oil in the same place.  Truffles are another delight in Croatia.  It is a rare mushroom product that is harvested by first finding them.  Dogs or sometimes pigs are used to locate them as they are underground.  They are highly valued and have aphrodisac effects or so I’m told.  I ate them several times waiting to see if I felt something.  They are used in tiny quantities and mixed with food such as pasta and vegetables.

There are many islands around Istria and one that we visited was called Brijuni.  This was the island Tito, the Yugoslavian President, spent 6 months of the year while in power.  He had a zoo built to house all the exotic animals he got as gifts from famous dignitaries, movie stars like Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren and leaders from around the world.  We couldn’t see his home but got a firsthand view of the area, artifacts, lots of stuffed animals from the zoo and his famous Cadillac convertible he only drove on the island.  This was a favorite place of my husband as he remembered Tito and his powerful god-like influence over the people in the Yugoslavia.  I enjoyed the ferry ride, the blue waters, the lunch served on the boat and the time spent on an uninhabited island that many use for day trips.  It was the home of a psychiatric facility, a school for disabled children and a monastery. This was one of my favorite spots – the history and the energy was palpable.  I enjoyed meditating and watching a man dive off the rocks into the sea.  

Another highlight was our day trip to the inland of Istria.  We hired a guide and made our way to Groznjan and Motovun, both castles from ancient times and both still inhabited with people, mainly artisans and city workers living in close quarters and I imagined very connected with each other.  We had lunch at a winery in the country where we were greeted with shots of Mistletoe liquor.  I went with the local wine, enjoyed while the bees hugged the windows and men worked the land just outside.   I am happy to say that I didn’t run from the restaurant fearing the bees which I’ve been known to do.  Instead I just watched them as they came to the table from time to time to check out the food.  They were happy bees.

We had contemplated a ferry to Venice which would have been a 6 AM to 11 PM kind of a day.  As romantic as it sounded I decided to listen more to my body which needed some rest from all the activities.  Part of the challenge of the trip was testing my endurance as my recovery from “life injuries” was still ongoing.  At one point 1000 touristy steps proved too many and I needed to slow it down a little.  I was brought up to push through challenging times.  When the going gets tough the tough get going was my motto for many of my crazy busy years.  I’ve needed to learn new strategies – sometimes kicking and screaming – my mind yearning  for the old.  Anxiety or negative emotions are the result of resistance to what life is really calling for you to do.  This trip was a challenge and a gratitude practice.   I admire the natural travelers of the world while accepting and appreciating my own travel style.  Note to the interested:   Travel business class.  I did for 2 legs of the trip.  Yes, yes and yes.  No guilt.  Just appreciation.

Croatia is a beautiful country, full of history and beautiful people.  I felt safer there walking around than I would here in our cities given that there are very few guns there.  Our friends told us that to even get a gun it would be a long and arduous process.  Interesting.  Economically, people seem to struggle a little more to make ends meet and build careers…. but there is positive movement, lower unemployment now and a growing tourist industry.   Lessons from my road?  Respect your traveling style and get outside your comfort zone – whatever that may mean.  Each of us has that felt sense of leaving the known and facing the unknown.  We are, after all, made of of “mostly space” and very little matter.  Being able to center oneself and learn be comfortable in our own unknowns is BIG.  Beginning  a meditation practice last year  was helpful to ground and manage my emotional fears and physical challenges while traveling.  I suggest any type of mind relaxation that can get us out of ourselves so to speak and allow the connection to the universe show itself in whatever way is right for you.  I send gratitude to my husband who got to be born there which enabled me to have the experience.

Allow life to work for you while you do the work on yourself.  Here’s to life’s adventures!

 

Heart Power – Transforming Stress and Anxiety

Heart Power – Transforming Stress and Anxiety

 

Stress and Anxiety – Synonymous with life in the current culture.  Sometimes we are oblivious to its impact on our very lives.  At other times we minimize or rationalize it, “normal” for  living in today’s world.  As a therapist for many years, I have a unique perspective of how this all works – on our beliefs, attitudes and relationships.  Emotions, real and perceived have a powerful effect on our lives and lifestyle we choose to follow.  One way humans are unique in the mammal world is that we can create stress with a thought.  Compare that with a deer.  When they perceive a threat, they go into high alert with all the stress hormones working together to assess and deal with the threat.  When the threat passes, they quickly return to their regular routine, all body systems operating at the parasympathetic level – meaning relaxed and ok.  We have an 18 yr.  old cat that reminds us daily of these differences.  For many years, I lived the life of worker bee with the passion to help others and a desire to be seen in a positive light from others around me and in the community.  When I did take time for myself, I tried to manage a marriage, exercised, went to church and tried to create the best home life for my children.  In other words, time was at a premium and stress levels were high.  As life would have it , there were more bumps in my life than I had anticapated.

Get ready.  I hadn’t intended to get divorced or co-parent and found myself coping with the stigmas of relationship failures and parenting challenges.   In my 20’s I went through 2 divorces and had one child.  In my 30’s I had another marriage and another child and later in my 40’s I had another divorce.  I couldn’t figure out why my life wasn’t going according to this grand plan that I had dreamed up.   I was filled with anxieties that I had no vocabulary for.  I was educated in the realm of social work, had spent many years in service to helping others have a better life, yet didn’t have the answers or understanding to tune into what I needed to change.    From a young age I was passionate about helping and relationships. Unfortunately, the road to understanding was long.  Despite theses  failures life did take some wonderful turns after the decision was made to find the way in to understand myself and tap into the wisdoms of my heart.  My son introduced me to this quote from Samuel Beckett that is now a tatoo of character:  Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better. 

I walked the walk and tried to fit the mold and still wonder why I missed the many flags along the way.   I sometimes ponder the life that would have been if I had really understood the ways of anxiety, mood and thought.  I walked around with chronic anxiety and didn’t even know it. Now, I am realizing new perspectives of hardships and challenges that all humans have in one way or another.  Joe Dispenza refers to genetic destiny as the path that many will follow based on the learnings and conditionings of their earlier life, sometimes way earlier life.  We bring into this life emotional DNA which is related to the physical DNA characteristics we are born with.  Some refer to these energies as karma or perhaps past lives and there are many theories about this phenomenon.  My focus keys into the choices we have at various times throughout our lives.  These choices involve questioning ourselves and learning lessons we need to learn given our soul essences.  We can make changes and are not locked into our genetic destinies if we make the choice to do so.   “Be all you can be” or “Live up to your potential” or “You have to go through the fire to get to the gold” are some of the phrases that come to mind related to these critical times in our life.  Failures can turn into successes beyond our knowledge at the given time.  The key here is intention.  What do you really, really want.  I really wanted healthy love relationships.  Later on in my life path I met my husband; the one I had envisioned in my heart but not been able to realize until I had made significant changes and learned the lessons life was giving me.  Other positive and supportive  relationships have evolved and hopefully will continue.  Learning is a life long pursuit as they say…and very good for brain health…challenging the status quo and stepping into the unknown.

I recently returned from a conference in Sedona, AZ where the energies of the earth are particularly strong.  I was reminded again of the importance of stepping out of the comfort zone to “Embracing Bliss” (the name of the conference) where many new and creative ideas were shared and experienced.  Prior to this conference, I had decided to read and implement some of the practices of one of the presenters.  Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself by Joe Dispenza was the book that tapped into my mind.  Learning ways to quiet the mind and be in the zone of No-thing the goal.  To design the life you desire and taking the steps on this path to see it manifest are highlighted in the book.  Mind blowing, yet I was open to experiment and work the steps so to speak.  Sometimes we are drawn to things – books, experiences, opportunities etc. that make us Feel.  This is the time for questioning yourself and following up on the draw of emotion in the response to whatever grabbed you.  I learned that about 60% of us humans have addictive behaviors that cause us suffering and that the keys include knowledge about ourselves and practices to tap into this self…and the better we know ourselves the less we fear change.

A primary job of a therapist is to help others tap into that inner self that really does know what to do and release those negative beliefs/emotions that have caused untold havoc.  We all have the secret knowledge and keys to a good life underneath all the stress layers formed over time.  The puzzle is how to tap into it without having to retreat from life and meditate/pray for long hours.  Greg Braden, researcher, scientist and spiritual teacher spoke about the heart brain – that our hearts contain 40,000 sensory neurons that are active in affecting our behaviors.  It’s where the wisdom lies in a sense.  You may have heard the phrase, “Listen to your heart”; now there is science to back this up.  Heartmath’s website indicates that “the heart’s input to the brain during stressful or negative emotions also has a profound effect on the brain’s emotional processes—actually serving to reinforce the emotional experience of stress. In contrast, the more ordered and stable pattern of the heart’s input to the brain during positive emotional states has the opposite effect – it facilitates cognitive function and reinforces positive feelings and emotional stability. This means that learning to generate increased heart rhythm coherence, by sustaining positive emotions, not only benefits the entire body, but also profoundly affects how we perceive, think, feel, and perform.”  I purchased a bio-feedback tool that connects with your heartrate, measures the variability of the beats and lets you know when you are “out of coherence”.  It works with a smartphone and an app.  Finally, a gadget I could figure out!

When you learn how to tap into this inner wisdom, there is the potential to access deep intuition on demand.

Heart/brain coherence practice: 

The best part is the ease of this practice.  There are 3 steps.

  1. Touch your heart with your hand of fingers, whatever feels comfortable.
  2. Breath into your heart and slow down your breath just a little.  Maybe count to 5 on the inhale and the exhale.
  3. Think/experience gratitude, thoughts of appreciation, compassion or love for at least 3 minutes.
  4. Notice how you feel.

This has been powerful as I have worked with this practice and have seen the benefits in with those I teach it to.  I encourage you to research this and practice yourself.  It does involve closing your eyes from the environment that is so seductive with all its constant distractions.  We can easily succumb to the addictions of stress hormones of the daily grind but the power of really getting our heart’s desires is to create this quiet state; to really listen to what it is your heart – true self really needs to create happiness.  Couples that can enter this practice together have the potential to bypass trouble and create the life best for each other.  I am excited to experiment and see the results.    Let’s get to work!

 

 

 

The Body and Love Relationships

 

hug imageCan the type and quality of your intimate relationships affect your health?  You are probably wondering, “What doesn’t affect your health?”  There are many studies that indicate stress as a trigger for most of today’s ailments and problems.  Emotions and the stress we feel are intimately connected.  We can’t control our emotions but we can learn to be aware of them and  the good news about managing these emotions is  that love is the big winner here.  So, how does love affect our health? It has a lot to do with it!  I’ve really only been tracking this with intention over the past 5-10 years  after I met and married the most authentic love of my love and, might I add the best teacher of myself.  The other factor was turning 50.  Nothing like a little age factor to wake up to the physical body.  Glasses and menopause came on the scene and life changed again.

Menopause in most women enters their lives in the 50’s….give or take a few years.  I entered this decade relatively naive – despite “education” I had little experience in the process of menopause in the women of my family history.  I grew up in the era of “grin and bear it” or “It’s not a subject worth mentioning” or “It’s not that big of a deal”.  Each woman has her own set of beliefs for this life stage too, and hand them down to our family, we do.  I often encourage women to examine the women in their lives for information to unearth their own guiding rules.  What does menopause have to do with love and health?  For me, these transitions melded together.  Other transitions include the birth of a child,  moving, caring for parents, or others that require major shifts.  I won’t speak to men’s mid life transition to this decade here.  That will be another piece to work on with my husband.  It’s a big deal too!

I have  worked with many couples in my psychotherapy practice over the years and noticed patterns of stress management depending on the stage of life, stressors experienced, and family history – meaning here the  family dynamics and biologic/personality traits inherited.  Humans generally have a huge capacity for doing what they believe they want.  We’re designed that way. We have strong defense systems.  Denial, minimizing, avoiding and blaming/projecting are examples of how we deflect our stressors.    How else are we going to survive?  I remember the drive I had earlier in my career to make a living and do something good for the world.  I choose a traditional path of social work and walked the way I was taught at home, school and at work.  I got married when I thought I was supposed to and ….well that’s when life’s twists and turns really started showing up.  Negative emotions fuels stress and if you don’t have the emotional skills, they will erupt into depressive or anxious periods, self- medication with any number of addictive substances or things and physical illnesses.   I’ve experienced divorce in all its complexities and traumas, been a single parent twice and all the while still believing that I would someday find the trail of happiness.  I eventually realized that it is usually not the most trodden one.  I had to find my own path outside that “box” of what I thought life was supposed to look like.  When I realized that it was OK to go outside the box, life changed dramatically.   It lined up with finding a healthy love relationship.   Interestingly, I needed to learn that before I was ready to begin that relationship which reflects one of those wise truths about tending to yourself first.

baby imageThe body is your first intimate relationship.  I was spending time with a baby this weekend:  Lucy, her 7 month old body in hand, reacted to impulses and stimuli with her whole body.  Her ear hurts, her fists try to go in, her curiosity aroused, she observes intently, tired, she reacts with fussiness.   She responds in relationship to how she is treated when she reacts to her body.  Much is written about child development and there are various theories of why we learn to behave in the ways that we do.  The point here is that our body is our best guide…always.  We just have to evolve back and integrate our first true and authentic relationship.  How does that relate to love relationships?   When you give your partner a hug next time, just notice what happens to your body.  Notice what happens in your mind.  That’s all you need to do to get started on a new path.  Your body won’t lie.  Notice if you are feeling any tensions, sensations, especially in your stomach. (the second brain)  If you can communicate what you are observing and your partner understands what you say then you have practiced a core communications strategy called Confiding.  Confiding is the ability to communicate what you think and feel and feel safe with your partner. Confiding is not complaining.  It is stating your reality of the moment.  If you find yourself rehearsing what you should say, then you are filtering and feeding your stress.  For more information on this skill I will refer you to www.pairs.com.

Another way into your body is a technique called muscle testing.  There are simple strategies to access your own body’s wisdom.  One easy one is called the sway test.  Stand with balance and a calm mind.  Make a statement that you know the answer is Yes.   For example:  I like chocolate.  Then, watch the way your body moves without intentionally moving it.  Make a statement with a No response and observe your reaction carefully.  Practice for awhile and soon you will notice a pattern.  When the answer is Yes, your body will sway one way and when the answer is no, it will sway another.  Once you have it mastered, you can use this technique whenever you want.   Anyone can learn it if they want to.  I suggest you don’t use it when you are emotional – wait until you are calm and able to focus in on yourself.  website couple image

My husband and I recently organized a workshop called Re-Awakening Love Relationships.  One of the main experiences of the day was learning to do just that –  are at any given time.  If you can master that one, you will never be one of those couples that sit in a restaurant with nothing to talk about.  You can always go back to your body and ask it what it is noticing and share these observations with your partner. It can be very sensual!  See where the conversation goes and you will be surprised.  Our bodies can talk and we can listen!  Loving our own selves is the best investment for a long and lasting love relationship.

If you are interested we will be doing the workshop in the near future.  Info on my website at https://www.relatecommunicate.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who Am I Trying to Fool? The Jester Pain Body Strikes Again

fire image sillouetteWhen you least expect it, the pain body can jump right in the midst of your day…the moment  you were just minding your business.  The phone call may come in, the comment at the other end of the line, a person cuts in front of you on the street, the interaction with a loved one  sparks the fire.  I tried not to pay attention to the my reaction…”no big deal” I told myself.  “I’m beyond these kind of things.”  I’ve read numerous articles, even books on the subject of cognitive restructuring.  This is the fancy term for reorganizing your negative thoughts into ones that are more realistic to the situation and applying them to replace the negative thoughts you have identified.   “Who am I trying to fool?  I’ll never be a success.  I’m just not wired up the right way.  What’s wrong with me anyway?  Why can’t I be like ….? ”  I felt the fire start to go from a spark to the kindling stage each time I noticed another negative thought – one just slipped in after the other; some slipping in between the ones I could catch.  It wasn’t long before I felt the  waves of emotion begin to impact my body.

Life as a therapist has allowed me many opportunities to practice what I preach so to speak…but this one was a big one.  It involved one of my core issues…being good enough.  This, of course is what the researchers call shame.  Again, there are volumes out there; a recent body of research by Brene’  Brown,  a social worker and  researcher  is making all the media headlines with her emphasis on vulnerability and shame and strategies to re-think and re-shape our attitudes and perceptions of these emotions within all of us humans.   She slogged through many challenging times, learned some hard lessons and persevered all the way to the Super Soul Sunday with Oprah.  She is all about realizing our inner gifts and being who we were meant to be.  Sometimes just Being is plenty.

sloth imageThis is all well and good but today I slogged  – The good news about slogging is that it does end.  Once the pain body fire gets ignited and goes through it’s fire dance it gets played out and like a fire burns itself out where, according to Eckhart Tolle, the author of A New Earth,  it goes into it’s quiet place until it’s re-ignited again. He states that an emotion can be a response to an actual situation or event, bit it does so through the filter of a mental interpretation, through mental concepts of good and bad, like and dislike, me and mine.    For example, Tolle points out that you most likely will not feel emotion when you are told that someone’s car has been stolen, but if it is your car, the emotional impact will be felt. “It’s amazing how much emotion a little mental concept like “my” can generate.   Our body’s intelligence is amazing in its ability to function but it has trouble discerning worrisome, fearful thoughts as just thoughts.  It treats them as if they were reality.  If we have past conditioning that have created unconscious belief such as “people cannot be trusted” or “There is never enough money” or ” I don’t deserve love”  then these unconscious assumptions create emotions in the body which in turn generate  mind activity and /or instant reactions.  These negative emotions are connected to our egos and again cause all kinds of chaos and conflicts.  The good news here is that with each new breath one takes there is another opportunity to move forward.    Through practice I have learned to be more aware of my own pain bodies and can sometimes trace them back to their origins, whether that be in childhood or beyond.  Sometimes we can inherit these pain bodies from our families where they take up residence on the emotional level and cause havoc when triggered.

What does a wave of emotion feel like?  Pay attention to your reactions sometime and you will begin to experience your own unique expression although it usually involves the brain and the stomach, the 1st and 2nd brains according to the literature.  I feel heaviness, mood changes, irritability, some back/neck aches and pains as well as anxiety symptoms; not the ideal way to spend a beautiful fall day in ND.  There is much to learn about the power of these emotional pain bodies and no matter what stage of life we are in there is hope.  I need to hear this again and again when my mind/body is in this state of agitation.  So what did I do yesterday?  I lived through it.  I began to write which is a creative activity to counter negativity.  Painting, singing, music  and any number of mindful movements can help tame this lion. I would avoid any compulsive exercises where it is easy to numb out.  There is a place pushing and working hard but this is not the time.    I used my centering prayer ideas – to the best of my abilities and tried to be compassionate with myself.  I’ve been following Pope Francis as he has traveled among the people in this country.  I noticed the feeling of warmth and love whenever I would see him move throughout the different environments.  I became curious about the lives of others, the role of the Jesuit, the special roles of each and every one of us.  Everyone matters.  The truth of this is overwhelming yet it connects with each and every pain body reaction that occurs.  Pain gives us an opportunity to dive deep and look for what needs to change and  accepted with that same base of Love and Truth.   Here’s to encouragement and perseverance.  Taming the pain body lion is an act of your own truth and a connection to the Universal one.  I wish myself and the reader the tools of a compassionate Lion Tamer.fire lion

Spider Sense – Weaving through the Wheel of Life

spider image 1Spider entered my path this weekend; not in the usual “see on the wall” kind of way.  Instead, it was the result of a bad fall on the sidewalk of life – only this time it was of the concrete type.  I fell directly on both knees and face which I quickly realized was one of those “bad falls”.  A woman pulled into the driveway near where I was sitting/laying and got out of her car. She was older, dressed in one of those brightly colored tunic tops; her reddish short hair possibly with a scarf in it as I recall.  Actually, I remember wondering if she lived in the house and was just returning home. Stopping for me was not in my radar.   She walked over and said, “This happened to me two years ago and no one stopped for a long time.  I remember just laying there and no one came.”  I thanked her angel presence and assured her that I could make the short walk home.  The last few days have been spent figuring out how to walk up steps and get on and off chairs as my knees were quite painful.  Just on the verge of  Memorial Day weekend, I’d planned many activities/tasks that “really needed to get done” and looked forward to time with my family.   Things were now different and I sat there in frustration and tension created from the negative emotions.   One of the healing tools that I frequently use with clients is  what I call “my animal cards”.  These cards were created within a mystical and historical context and have been “right on” for many in challenging situations.  Now, I was the one who needed guidance.  Spider was chosen – the keynote: Creativity and the Weaving of Fate.  I did some research about Spider medicine and found deep secrets embedded.  That’s the magic in these cards – it’s all about what is awakened or related to by the individual.    According to Ted Andrews in Animal Speaks, in India, it was associated with Maya, the weaver of illusion.  It has connections to the Fates in Greek mythology and the Norns in Scandinavian lore – women who would weave, measure and cut the threads of life.  To the Native Americans, spider is grandmother, the link to the past and the future.

The body of the spider has 2 sections which gives the appearance of an eight when on it’s side.  This is the symbol of infinity.  It is the wheel of life, flowing from one circle to the next.  It isn’t always easy navigating those circles or balance between past and future, male and female, physical and spiritual.  Spider is the symbol of infinite possibilities of creation.  Do I want to caught up into the web and become dinner, succoming to the illusion of just one perspective or be open to other dimensions to the situation?  Why did this happen to me now?  Now what am I going to do?  Of course, I did that for awhile and noticed the impact of that negative thinking pattern.  This is an all too familiar road for most of us humans – probably since the first stories of spider appeared.  This web of fate also represents a wheel of life, the tendency to polarize (good or bad, all or nothing approach) With this line of thinking we forget that we can change things at any time rather than being consumed by our fears and limitations.

Spider symbolizes creativity.  Creativity is the antidote to stress is the phrase I often repeat to others.   Suddenly the idea to CREATE  takes on a new perspective for me.  Funny how that happens when we are busy making other plans.  Andrews states that spider, because of its characteristics is associated with three expressions of magic: the energy of creation, creative power, reflected in its ability to spin a silken web,and assertiveness of that creative force: keeping the creative energies of creation alive and strong.  The third expression involves the spiders spiral energies.   “Are you moving towards a central goal or are you scattered and going in different directions?”  This may involve looking at ourselves with reflection and asking ourselves some questions.  Are you over focused on others or too self absorbed in your own matters?  Do you notice the emotion of resentment in your life?  Balance and creativity are key concepts to learn about spider totems.  Totems are another term for spirit animal to help us in our life journeys.  We have close connections to nature in all aspects of our lives, what we eat, wear, love and nurture.  Respecting what animals symbolize is powerful, positive and fun!  When things aren’t going as we want, seek out ways to connect with your animal totem.  In my case, I am stepping up my creativity by spending time thinking about my creative abilities and asking the question “Are there new ways to be creative at this moment?”  Thinking positively can be very creative when it is not your norm.

Earlier this week, I was drawn to review a book by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, The Wheel of Life.   She is known for her groundbreaking work on death and dying and teaching others about the stages of grief and loss.  Her work with terminally ill  adults and children helped “humanize” medical settings in how they approached the dying process.  In this book she writes about her own dying process, the suffering she experienced over a long period of time and how she applied her own principles to herself.  She felt  a purpose for what she was experiencing despite the angst.  She summarizes her life truths very succinctly:  “The sole purpose of life is to grow – the ultimate lesson is learning how to love and be loved unconditionally. ”  All the hardships that come to your life, all the tribulations, and nightmares, all the things you see as punishments from God are in reality like gifts – they are an opportunity to grow – which is the sole purpose of life.” Taking steps to love self and others…basically the base of therapy and recovery from stress and trauma.   I remember being on the same elevator as Elisabeth during a conference she was speaking at in Winnipeg in the early 1980’s.  She was a very small woman with a German accent whom I knew little about; but this moment was one of those unforgettable memories of life to appreciate now.  Sometimes the rug is pulled out from under you; whether the size is big or small, these rug moments make you pay attention.

When we pay attention, life speaks.   spider image 2

Fifty Shades of Midwest Intimacy

 

The countdown began as the media and modern day America prepared for the opening day of 50 Shades of Gray.  Talk shows buzzed and parties planned; romance business blossomed on this February Valentines weekend.  I noticed the parking lots full at the local theater where they were showing the film multiple times in as many theaters.   Marketing wise, what a brilliant idea – sex, love and romance – big movie and even bigger hopes and fantasies of many of the fans.  I didn’t read 50 Shades of Gray until I had several clients reference it.  I have to admit, I didn’t read it to the end.  When I found out there were 2 more books following the main characters and  got the gist of just how steamy and edgy it was, I could just imagine the rest.  It didn’t take long to “get engaged” as I scoped out a few more sections at the end.

 

From E L James’s book, Fifty Shades of Grey; Ana is thinking during a visit to her mother: “What does Christian know of love?  Seems he didn’t get the unconditional love he was entitled to during his very early years. My heart twists, and my mother’s words waft like a zephyr through my mind: Yes, Ana. Hell what do you need?  A neon sign flashing on his forehead?  She thinks Christian loves me, buth then she’s my mother, of course she’d think that.  She thinks I deserve the best of everything.  I frown.  It’s true, and in a moment of startling clarity, I see it.  Its’ very simple: I want his love.  I need   Christian Gray to love me.  this is why I am so reticent about our relationship – and because on some basic, fundamental level, I recognize within me a deep-seated compulsion to be loved and cherished…..and because of his fifty shades, I am holding myself back.”

 

Ana goes on to say that all is meaningless without his love and expressed her fears that he may not be capable of such love because of the abuse he experienced in his complicated relationship with his mother.  Still, the sex is amazingly fierce, creative and prolonged.  The scenes are filled with passion, youth, fantasy, and hope.  I’m engrossed again…but wait!  Today is Valentines Day, the day many couples will relate with each other in countless ways – beautiful and messy  as the case may be.  Most couples that I work with are seeking love and acceptance and priority – that feeling they are Number 1.  When dreams fade, symptoms and problems begin.  It can be a long and windy road once the bumpy road of frustration/conflict begins.  But Wait!  Can this relationship be saved?  Can my dreams be once again resurrected?   Can we once again feel the attraction or the passion or the warmth of positivity; that state of being that embodies trust and well-being, creativity and safety of soul?  Many relationships fail – their intentions and abilities to do the work are not able to create a new style and foundation.  The passion of the beginning, the unknown, the unbearable state of excitement and anxiety – the brain bathed in the love cocktail of endorphins and dopamine.  Not all couples fall into this intensity of emotion but all experience the illusion of creating something good and feeling happy withing their relationship.

intimacy-picture2-300x286 Intimacy is that combination of confiding (sharing our thoughts and emotions) and physical touch.  Sexuality is the connection glue – powerful.  The combination of being open to explore each other’s bodies and minds and respecting one another’s differences.  Most of us Mid-westerners were not brought up in these open/affectionate households.  Stoicism  – a family trait in many of our family lineages still rules.  Being reserved, private and role-oriented.  This worked to help us survive; it doesn’t help us thrive.  We need to THRIVE!  We can do it!  But we can’t do it alone.  In my practice, I see a common theme of misunderstandings and resentments that zap the zing out of a healthy sensual life and creates symptoms we do not want to have in our life.  When they persist, we get sick…one way or the other so to speak.  We all deserve loving relationships and to get our needs met.  The book I routinely suggest is Hold Me Tight by Sue Johnson.  There, you can test yourself and learn the inside scoop on why our early childhood, stress and negative beliefs impact us so much.  Just like Christian Gray, he had many shades and shadows to his life.  Just like Ana, who was attracted to his complicated energy to experience “the wild side” of love and sensuality, sex and maturity.  I have yet to finish the Shades of Gray series  – to see the evolution of these 2 characters of fiction who have touched and inspired many, both positive and negative reviews to take note of these sides to our humanity.

 

I encourage couples to have massage tables, use fantasy and role play, experiment with passionate essential oils, and have or learn to have fun together.   Many of us never learned that as kids – that was not on the top of the survival tool kit.  Fun can be learned – I’ve seen it done.  Start with intention, a beginners mind and avoid all judgement.  If there are negative emotions, see them together as a sedgeway to learning something new.   Seeking therapy is one tool but there are others as well.  The first step is doing a Couple Check up.  Know about your relationship!  There are several on-line resources for this as well as resources for learning how to “spice up” your sexual relationship in a healthy and loving manner.  Search couple check up and Better Sex.com., goDesana.com/newpath (romance oils)  Awareness has turned on America and beyond.  Let’s use this for the good and keep the chatter going.

 

50 Shades of Midwest Intimacy

fifty shades of greyThe countdown began as the media and modern day America prepared for the opening day of 50 Shades of Gray.  Talk shows buzzed and parties planned; romance business blossomed on this February Valentines weekend.  I noticed the parking lots full at the local theater where they were showing the film multiple times in as many theaters.   Marketing wise, what a brilliant idea – sex, love and romance – big movie and even bigger hopes and fantasies of many of the fans.  I didn’t read 50 Shades of Gray until I had several clients reference it.  I have to admit, I didn’t read it to the end.  When I found out there were 2 more books following the main characters and  got the gist of just how steamy and edgy it was, I could just imagine the rest.  It didn’t take long to “get engaged” as I scoped out a few more sections at the end.

From E L James’s book, Fifty Shades of Grey; Ana is thinking during a visit to her mother: “What does Christian know of love?  Seems he didn’t get the unconditional love he was entitled to during his very early years. My heart twists, and my mother’s words waft like a zephyr through my mind: Yes, Ana. Hell what do you need?  A neon sign flashing on his forehead?  She thinks Christian loves me, buth then she’s my mother, of course she’d think that.  She thinks I deserve the best of everything.  I frown.  It’s true, and in a moment of startling clarity, I see it.  Its’ very simple: I want his love.  I need   Christian Gray to love me.  this is why I am so reticent about our relationship – and because on some basic, fundamental level, I recognize within me a deep-seated compulsion to be loved and cherished…..and because of his fifty shades, I am holding myself back.”

Ana goes on to say that all is meaningless without his love and expressed her fears that he may not be capable of such love because of the abuse he experienced in his complicated relationship with his mother.  Still, the sex is amazingly fierce, creative and prolonged.  The scenes are filled with passion, youth, fantasy, and hope.  I’m engrossed again…but wait!  Today is Valentines Day, the day many couples will relate with each other in countless ways – beautiful and messy  as the case may be.  Most couples that I work with are seeking love and acceptance and priority – that feeling they are Number 1.  When dreams fade, symptoms and problems begin.  It can be a long and windy road once the bumpy road of frustration/conflict begins.  But Wait!  Can this relationship be saved?  Can my dreams be once again resurrected?   Can we once again feel the attraction or the passion or the warmth of positivity; that state of being that embodies trust and well-being, creativity and safety of soul?  Many relationships fail – their intentions and abilities to do the work are not able to create a new style and foundation.  The passion of the beginning, the unknown, the unbearable state of excitement and anxiety – the brain bathed in the love cocktail of endorphins and dopamine.  Not all couples fall into this intensity of emotion but all experience the illusion of creating something good and feeling happy withing their relationship.  Intimacy is that combination of confiding (sharing our thoughts and emotions) and physical touch.  Sexuality is the connection glue – powerful.  The combination of being open to explore each other’s bodies and minds and respecting one another’s differences.  Most of us Mid-westerners were not brought up in these open/affectionate households.  Stoicism  – a family trait in many of our family lineages still rules.  Being reserved, private and role-oriented.  This worked to help us survive; it doesn’t help us thrive.  We need to THRIVE!  We can do it!  But we can’t do it alone.  In my practice, I see a common theme of misunderstandings and resentments that zap the zing out of a healthy sensual life and creates symptoms we do not want to have in our life.  When they persist, we get sick…one way or the other so to speak.  We all deserve loving relationships and to get our needs met.  The book I routinely suggest is Hold Me Tight by Sue Johnson.  There, you can test yourself and learn the inside scoop on why our early childhood, stress and negative beliefs impact us so much.  Just like Christian Gray, he had many shades and shadows to his life.  Just like Ana, who was attracted to his complicated energy to experience “the wild side” of love and sensuality, sex and maturity.  I have yet to finish the Shades of Gray series  – to see the evolution of these 2 characters of fiction who have touched and inspired many, both positive and negative reviews to take note of these sides to our humanity.sensual-touch

I encourage couples to have massage tables, use fantasy and role play, experiment with passionate essential oils, and have or learn to have fun together.   Many of us never learned that as kids – that was not on the top of the survival tool kit.  Fun can be learned – I’ve seen it done.  Start with intention, a beginners mind and avoid all judgement.  If there are negative emotions, see them together as a sedgeway to learning something new.   Seeking therapy is one tool but there are others as well.  The first step is doing a Couple Check up.  Know about your relationship!  There are several on-line resources for this as well as resources for learning how to “spice up” your sexual relationship in a healthy and loving manner.  Search couple check up and Better Sex.com., goDesana.com/newpath (romance oils)  Awareness has turned on America and beyond.  Let’s use this for the good and keep the chatter going.

Balneotherapy -Mineralizing for Mind and Body


What is the connection between mental health and the ocean?  I recently embarked on a new path of study; that of aromatherapy and the use of essential oils to help support positive mental states.  I quickly learned that there are  many uses of aromatherapy to help support physical health.  Over the last couple of years, I’ve been able to integrate some of this knowledge and  help others learn and benefit from using these essential oils for health and wellness.  Recently, I embarked on a professional aromatherapy  certification class that will require  extensive study and travel.  New endeavors require courage and energy which is one of the reasons I am seeking ways to strengthen mind/body.   I will need it all.  The good news is that it is available to us.  Balneotherapy refers to the art and science of bathing for the treatment of various disease/disorders.  The aim of these treatments may be to enhance the immune system and stimulate lymph and blood circulation.


Many people feel drawn to the ocean, plan vacations there, dream about beaches and imagine warm salty breezes while out on a sailboat.  Negative ions abound in the ocean.  When water and salt connect, the negative ions in the water molecules surround the positive ions in the salt, and the negative ions in the salt are surrounded by the positive polarized particles of the water molecules.  This changes the geometric structure of the water and the salt, and creates something entirely new, a third dimension.  The water is no longer water and the salt is no longer salt.  The elements have liberated themselves from their restrictions, given up their polarities and become a third substance, a whole new synergy.  These last statements are gleaned from my recent Aromatherapy training in El Paso, TX.  Alexandria Brighton, a noted herbalist, aromatherapist and educator at this conference highlighted this new synergy.

himalyan salt image

What is this new synergy?  When you combine Himalayan crystal salt and natural spring water Sole is created.  After 24 hours, the water has reached a 26% salt saturation level and is ready to use.  A teaspoon or perhaps a little less when you are beginning, is all you need to start the day.  This is best used on an empty stomach .  Bio-chemically, the stomach and intestinal activity (peristalsis) is stimualted and within minutes, which in return stimulates your metabolism and digestion.  Electrolytes are created which improve the body’s conductivity and stimulates the circulation.   Salt allows the current to flow.  Every single element within the salt has its own vibration pattern that resonates with the vibrational  patterns in our body.  People of any age can benefit from Sole; a drop for a baby and gradually increase as children grow up to the suggested serving of one teaspoon.

Dead Sea Salts were used therapeutically in ancient times.  King Solomon presented the Queen of Sheba with Dead Sea Salts upon her visit to the Holy Land.  Numerous medical studies have documented the efficacy of the minerals in these salts in treating and preventing various diseases such as psoriasis, acne and rheumatism.  The skin, being the largest organ of the human body absorbs the minerals, vitamins and other substances into the body and is known to help circulation and metabolism.  The regulation of sodium and potassium in the fluids of the body is essential for healthy body and mind.  This balance is regulated by the Adrenal gland, which in turn affect healthy function of the kidneys.  I didn’t know that the kidneys are responsible for controlling 28 chemicals in the body.   Visually, I imagine what that must look like in the body.  The dance of the fluids.

kidney balance image My background is in helping people understand their behaviors and in a sense help balance and regulate their emotions.  Intimate relationships all have their own dance made up of  attraction, experience, history and emotion; love being the heart of the matter so to speak.   In researching  the Dead Sea and the Himalayan Salts, I began to realize the vital role of our own body’s relationship with nature and creation.  We are energy, have long experience and history with the earth and filled with the influences of our emotions and behaviors.  Love still lights our hearts with meaning and has amazing energy.  Our brains continue to evolve – the pace is breath-taking.  Balance is a huge challenge for us today and often overlooked.  That is one reason adrenal fatigue and burnout is more prevalent today than the past.   My interest in balance connects now with the kidneys.  How amazing.  Just as we need the healthy balance of  feeling  loved and being able to love others.

Dead Sea Salt contains 10 times more minerals than ordinary sea salt.  They absorb essential oils with ease and can be used in the bath or a foot soak at home.  Many essential oils work well this way.  There are a few that are not recommended for the bath so check the information before using them.  For example Lavender and Marjoram would be effective bath oils to help ease hypertension.  Pamerossa, Geranium, Ylang Ylang, Bergamont and Roman Chamomile are oils to help with stress and anxiety.    For travel and jet lag the recipe for a foot soak is 1/4 cup Dead Sea Salt, 4 drops Basil, 8 drops Lemon and 2 drops of Pepperment.  Use warm water 100-104 degrees F and soak 8-15 minutes.  the recipe for Depression and/or Anxiety foot soak is 1/4 cup Dead Sea Salt, 15 drops Bergamot, 5 drops Neroli, and 1 drop Sandelwood.   Using a mister spray with Neroli during the day can help keep your mood positive.

If you can take a trip to the Dead Sea or go to one of those fancy European Spas that utilize balneo-therapy treatments, I would invite comment!  For those of us living in the Midwest, October reminds us of  what is to come and ponder ways to endure through the winter.  Consider a trip to your personal spa room in your home and try one of these foot soaks or bath experiences.  It is important to note that doing these soaks regularly is the key(2-3 times per week); just as a balanced diet is to our digestive system.  Enjoy the ions!

Website to learn more on the goDesana website:  www.goDesana.com/tinajohnson

Brain Revealed and All Those Tests

Calling all you impulsive, compulsive  or anxious people.  For that matter, everyone else can jump into the bus as we all have a lot to learn about this brain of ours.  I’ve been in the mental health field for over 25 years and have weathered many changes, career shifts and passion shifts, I  find myself again at a marvelous crossroads.  I use the word marvelous because the vision of  the everyday person getting savy with their brains is sweet to me…(I’ve cut back on sugar, the mind creates diversions)  Sweet because knowledge and accessible strategies are now available.  We still have a long journey ahead but it is on the road.  I begin with the second brain assessment that is mentioned in Dr. Amen’s book,”Unleashing the Power of the Female Brain” which I have been referring to in the last several blogs.    Falling in love with your brain means having a working knowledge  about how your brain works.   This test is the thinking test – no distractions allowed.  Thirty minutes of focused concentration.  “I can do this, I can do this.”  My rather seasoned mind reflected  both concern and curiosity.  The last time I considered taking the ADHD test in a clinic I worked at was in the 90’s which was conveniently put off for another day.  This test examines emotions, thinking style, concentration and problem solving.   My brain felt exercised by the end; with some harried moments between the tests.  Think fast Zumba class of the mind.  Mind boggling.  The reward for my brain gymnastics was the results page.  I was expecting some kind of grade; where I did well, where I didn’t etc.  This was not the case.  They covered the four areas mentioned above and labeled you in terms of what may create more balance in your brain and the strategies you need to strengthen it.   In my case, I was labeled the Empathizer, great in understanding others, but stress sensitive to the world around me.   Novelty problem solving was the term used  which I think is one way to imply challenges in step by step organized process of negotiating life.  I am researching this as this is a different type of approach to evaluation; positive and novel which, for my brain type is pretty awesome.

There is an app that was recommended  for me and I noticed it was a free one: MyCalmBeat   This is an exercise in calming the breath and can be done multiple times a day to increase awareness and tune into your body which strengthens your brain!  Back to that.   I almost always teach specific breathing strategies to clients in my practice.  Breath is one autonomic system in the body we can control.   No matter what stage in life you are in, managing breath is managing stress and a key to life, love and mental health.  I have decided to follow up on the strategies suggested for me to sharpen and balance.  We’ll see what happens.