The Therapy Booth

resting, doodling and holding love signs

Have you met my friend?

broken record

I feel like a broken record sometimes, posting again and again about experiencing and expressing all sorts of emotions. Here I am today, carrying on the conversation.

I have two parents who have been very focused in their work life. They’ve had careers straight out of graduate school that they’ve been thriving in ever since. They’re both innovators and experts and I admire them both for what they bring to their respective fields. And I’ve also envied them their focus. They’ve known what they wanted to engage in and have been doing it for 40+ years.

In some of our classic father/daughter head butting moments, my dad has told me that I don’t stick with anything. That besides my graduate degree, I don’t finish anything. Okay, Dad, to be fair, it’s been about a year since you’ve said that out loud to me (but I remember). And I’ve wondered about how true it is and also whether or not it’s a problem. I could say that I have a short attention span. I dabble in this and dabble in that. I have an English degree, a few semesters of an Anthropology maters, a social work masters, a certification in nutritional counseling and private chef-ing, and about a billion blogs all over the internet, most of them forgotten by now.

But one thing that’s been consistent over the years is this: freedom in feeling and expressing.

Let me introduce you to an old friend who can help me tell this story.

This is my beloved Sleepy Zombie Monster. He came to me on my birthday, 2007 (funny, it’s the same day another long-term love showed up in my life, but that’s another book in and of itself . . . ). I had been feeling sad that the fella I was into at the time wasn’t contacting me in the way I wanted him to on that day. This was years before the Unfindable and Boomerang Inquiries showed up, so I didn’t really know how to look into what that meant for me without taking on more self-shaming. All I knew was that he wasn’t calling me and I felt bad about that. But what made it so much worse was that I also believed something was wrong with me for having that response. I spent the whole day in this fog, unable to accept the warmth and generosity that my friends were giving and feeling really really fucked up for not being able to.

That afternoon I went home and took a nap and when I woke up, I saw that the fog was clearing. And I thought, “Wow, what a zombie mood I’ve been in.” And then, the image of this big purple furry creature with long eyelashes showed up and the words Sleepy Zombie Monster came, too. I saw, in that moment, that there was something benevolent about this creature. He was not harmful, but he was more a representation of the first line of thoughts and feelings that were naturally coming through but that were being (failingly and awkwardly) repressed by the second line of thoughts and feelings of shame, embarrassment, “what’s wrong with me, even after all these years of therapy?”, etc. Have you been there?

So I developed this relationship (and, following that, a workshop) with this imaginary friend. I learned that there were cues that I could notice that indicated that he was hanging around. The clearest one for me was the sense that there was a veil between me and everything I was looking at. It was almost as if I couldn’t see, even though my eyes were open, because there was so much heaviness hanging over me. I learned to look for the Sleepy Zombie Monster when I recognized the cues, and I’d just turn and ask him what he wanted or needed in that moment. Sometimes he wanted to dance. Sometimes he wanted to leave where we were and wanted to go do something else. Other times he just wanted me to sit down with him and rest, breathe, relax.

He popped up on a 10-day meditation course I was on where there was no talking and nothing particularly fun to do. When I interacted with him there (and, let me tell you, it was a good place to have a friend!), I told him that we were doing this so we could be nicer to each other. He said, “I definitely want you to be nicer to me!” and so I told him we were staying for a few more day, and we held hands and took a walk together. The next time I did a 10-day course, he really wanted to comfort a gal who was in the woods crying, but we aren’t allowed to interact with other people, so we just hoped she had her own Sleepy Zombie Monster and we went on about our way. (The gal ended up leaving the course the next day.)

I’m pretty sure he put in an appearance around here these past few days. I’ve been experiencing some deep feelings, both “good” and “bad” (that distinction, perhaps, lies at the heart of the issue, but that, too, is another post), and realized I was holding off some of both sides. The greatest freedom that came to me in this stretch was in seeing that I thought there was something wrong with feeling and thinking whatever was coming through.

In Living Inquiries, we look to see if we can actually find a separate self who is the generator and experiencer of these comings and goings. It’s a beautiful process. It’s especially great in this context, for one who has thought again and again that hiding out so as not to expose this natural weather of emotion was how life should be. Ugh. How miserable is that! I don’t know if this is true, but it seems like I picked up some ideas in my childhood about how anger and sadness were not okay and that being cheerful and pleasant and kind and successful and smart were the only roads to love and safety and security. But I’ve found that to be bullshit, if you don’t mind my saying so.

Actually, I don’t care if you do mind. I’m saying so anyway. That’s bullshit.

We are creatures with a full range of emotions and innocent thoughts. It’s funny, too, how I don’t analyze a thought like “I love this song,” but I will analyze the heck out of “I love this man.” And if my foot itches, I don’t analyze or blame myself for that, but if I’m experiencing energies in the body that I might label anxiety, I am more likely to follow all sorts of thoughts about what it means about me. It’s pretty classic.

In my experience so far, looking deeply into all of this begins with the allowing of it all. Including the allowing and meeting of the repression or holding-back feelings. I usually find that, once those holding-back feelings and thoughts are met, the underlying thoughts and feelings have more space to come through.

In the end, nothing sticks. I’m a fan of knowing that, too. Which is where this all ties in with expression and creativity, for me. I read something in a Natalie Goldberg book about a poem she’d written that was really sad. She reads it at public readings and she said that people often come up to her with such gloom and doom responses, asking her, “Isn’t it awful to go through this again?” while she reads it. But she said no. She said that once it was written and fully expressed, it lost its charge, its own doom and gloom, and she feels quite good now, thank you very much.

So to use a word from a chat with a friend today, the ephemeral nature of everything is its own paradox. When we express fully, no holds barred, nothing but nothing can stick. It seems like it’s the holding back of expressing that, in some way, keeps stuff around and makes it seem personal.

As always, I could say so much on this topic, I’ll go ahead and wrap up for now. Perhaps one day this will all turn into a book. But what would it be like if I completed a book? Dad and I would have to have a new conversation.

I love you soooo much, and wish you all freedom in feeling, down to the dirtiest, up to the highest, and everything in between. Stay in touch. Love, Carina

xx

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What if I don’t offer you anything?

water hands

What if I don’t offer you anything? Really. What if, when you come to me with a problem, I offer no solutions? What if I meet with you for an hour or so and you pour your heart out to me and tell me every thought, every feeling, every fear, and I give you nothing? Will you still make another appointment? Will you have gained something?

In Living Inquiries, I really have nothing to give you. If anything, I might take away from you, but not really. Whatever I take from you, I don’t keep, though sometimes I might ask you to let me have it so that I may set it down. Let all of those words come through, and let’s just set them down to the side for a moment and stay with the sensation. I might say something like that. But do you even get to keep that sensation? Can you make anything stay?

If I’ve done my job right, we both leave empty handed.

A friend asked me tonight what kind of concrete actions come from inquiring like this, and I replied that I don’t know. It’s different for everyone, just depending on how life unfolds. In inquiry, we sort of get out of our own way. The actions happen — or don’t — but we’re not scrambling and stumbling over thoughts and feelings and memories and anticipations in order to scrape our way there. The actions either happen, or they don’t.

Do I give you power? Do I give you charm? Do I give you a better way of looking at yourself? Do you walk away from inquiry sessions with more insights and explanations?

I hope not.

I really want to leave you empty-handed. Where no way of labeling or categorizing will stick. Where no self, nor compulsive command nor threat can be found. Where all that remains is all that remains. Where even these words don’t make any sense, and they don’t need to.

Looking in this way is not what you think. It’s not even what I think.

I can throw out lots of words to try to explain it, but the fact is, I can’t. Each moment, each experience is unique to the one looking. What’s happened before is irrelevant. What will happen after is too. And, we’ll come to find, even the bits that are coming through right now are not who you are. There’s no one here to hold it together. (On the bright side, there’s no one here to come apart, either.)

Words like gentle, compassionate and safe come up for me when describing these inquiries. But in the end, even those words can only point. Come stand over here beside me, and let’s look, together.

Is there anything there?

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Learn more about the Living Inquiries as developed by Scott Kiloby by visiting http://www.thetherapybooth.com/living-inquiries/ . Write to thetherapybooth@gmail.com to schedule a session.

For an upcoming group course, visit http://www.thetherapybooth.com/deepening-courses/.

Visit the Living Inquiries Facebook page for a community of folks looking in this way. Ask questions, hang out and watch for a while, or dive right in. The water’s fine.

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