The Therapy Booth

resting, doodling and holding love signs

Love Sign Date

Hello dearest ones!

I am happy to share a bit with you about a magical day I had today.

I woke up this morning with the instinct to take the Love Sign to the mall. I don’t hang out much at the mall, but I knew I wanted to look for a nightgown (I’ve been feeling to treat myself to something lovely and loose and pink, like I wore as a little girl), and I knew that, with temperatures getting up around 102 F this afternoon, I wasn’t going to be holding the sign outside anywhere.

Well, don’t you know, it turned out to be a lovely time.

When I first got to the mall, I spent almost an hour audio Skype-ing with my good friend in England, supporting and encouraging one another. I loved having her “in the mall” with me, thank you Nordstrom wifi. It was a nice bridge, getting me comfortable sitting in my chair and having people smile and wave as they were going by, my hands free (ear buds in) to hold the sign and wave back.

Then, after our call, the interactions started pouring in.

First there was the pimply teenaged boy in a black t-shirt who looked back and earnestly said, “I love you.”

Then, shyly but surely crossing the path of people to come see me, was gentle Mary Beth. She was wearing an orange button down shirt with white stripes and said, “I’m usually not very brave,” but she wanted to come say hi to me. She was amazing and we hugged and connected. She said that she and her husband are going on vacation to France on Wednesday, and she’s really excited. I asked her to think of me when she sees a painting that takes her breath away. Sweet, sweet Mary Beth.

Then came a guy who warmly squeezed my hand and said that he and his people were waiting for me to get off of my call so they could come tell me that they loved me too. We took pictures with his friends.

Then came Angela:

angela

Angela waited patiently to talk with me and then said, “Is there anything you need that we can do for you?” What a wonderful question to be asked! In fact, I did need a pee break, and I asked her to stay with my sign while I ran off to do that. She works for Nordstrom HR and thought maybe I was putting on an event that she could help with. So very cool. Thanks for the pee break!

Then I saw a woman across the way (I was facing an open-sided coffee shop, near the entrance to Nordstrom) see me and jump up and down. I had to go toward her, and upon approach she told me that she’s just been in Austin one month and that she doesn’t really know anybody here. She said the gestures that she’s been seeing around town, like mine, “make a difference.” So great! Welcome!

What else is there to tell? I’ve been working through the beloved Artist’s Way course (for my fourth time), and I’ve been painfully aware at my lack of intentional Artist Dates. Well, no longer. I intended that I’d take one today, and the instincts I got this morning were good! I had a great time at the mall. And although I didn’t end up with a new nightgown (still on the lookout for that one!), I made a new friend named Grace (of course) in the lingerie department, and, on my way out, I found and bought this t-shirt.

don't quit your daydream

Your instincts are good too! Follow ’em.

I love you.

2 Comments »

To say ‘I love you’ right out loud . . .

help

Why do we love to read Rumi so much? Because he knew that the crying out for the lover is the lover itself. The oldest of our cats cries a lot. She is blind and mostly deaf and seems like she’s just unsure of where she is a lot of the time. She cries a certain kind of howl and very much wants to be with a person. We can’t always accommodate with a spot on a lap, and she eventually finds a place to lie down and nap, until she comes wandering again.

When I first moved to Austin I worked as a therapist in a nursing home. We had a client named Helen who would sit in the hallway in her wheel chair and call out “Help me, help me, help me, help me, help me.” I’ve been thinking about Helen and Rumi and myself and the little kitty and a friend’s post on Facebook and Patti Smith and Living Inquiries and about telling the truth for you, however that might occur.

It might occur like prostration and supplication.

It might occur like I love you.

It might occur like help me, help me, help me.

It might occur like screaming at a concert.

It might occur like drawing words with your left hand that you wouldn’t otherwise dare say out loud.

It might occur like a text message typed into a phone or a song penned on the back of a napkin or an outpouring whispered to a face, a cheek, a mouth: save me.

Can we actually be alive without a sense of longing?

Maybe not everyone feels these things. Or they have different ways of channeling them. But I think about Helen in her wheel chair in the hall at the nursing home, and I just think she was so sane. Whether it be calling out for help or anything else, I’m in love with the experience of expression. I keep thinking about different lines from Joni Mitchell songs tonight. No wonder. I deeply admire her full on lyrical expression. I’m mystified by it and mentored by it.

To say ‘I love you’ right out loud . . .

There’s something about song-writing that’s mystifying to me. I love to sing and play, thought I haven’t written much yet.  Sometimes I’ll learn a song that just resonates with me so deeply, I love to sing it. I can feel it, as if I had written those words.  I was playing a Patti Smith song tonight, not having picked up my guitar in weeks, but having seen Patti up close [singing this and many others] a few days ago, the guitar fell into my hands. I have hoped to learn from her. To open my throat and my guts and excrete it all

with heart. Complete heart.

I think I must have gathered some ideas along the way that only certain feelings and subjects are kosher, friendly, spiritual, acceptable, successful, ought to be talked about. Funny to consider this if you look at music. If you look at any art. And I think this is why I’m so in love with art, with writing, with music, with full expression.

The calling out and the one called for, one note.

Rumi writes:

Crying out loud and weeping are great resources.

A nursing mother, all she does

is wait to hear her child.

 

Just a little beginning-whimper,

and she’s there.

 

God created the child, that is , your wanting,

so that it might cry out, so that milk might come.

 

Cry out! Don’t be stolid and silent

with your pain. Lament! And let the milk

of loving flow into you.

1 Comment »

Free Expression, Part 2: The Witness Mudra

witness text

I got a text message from a friend today that said she was “caught in the swirl.” She said, “I need to relax.”

I replied asking if I could help. I said I had a Ph.D. in resting. “Dr. Carina,” I said, tongue in cheek, but anyway . . .

After sending that message, I recalled a few days ago (the day I wrote my last post here, in fact) when I’d messaged the same friend with the words Having kind of a sad and scared morning. I could use a big purging cry. Needed to tell someone other than myself.

My friend’s reply that day?

/m\ <3 x 100

I’ll provide the glossary for that first symbol in a moment (the one followed by the heart x 100), but first, I’ll share what I was present to as my friend’s text came through today. I felt the lack of being caught in a swirl, an emptiness and openness from which I could confidently ask my friend if I could help. I also noticed a little thought along the lines of Wow, I was going through such things a few days ago, and she heard all about it; would she feel I could be of use at all?

It’s as if there’s an idea that going-through-it (whatever that even means, and what I’m sure is unfindable if brought into the light of direct looking) is something that sticks around. That it means something about me or anyone else. That it stays with us, when, as evidenced by this morning’s feelings, it does not, in fact, stay. Nothing does. Hesitant to give lip service, I will say from experience: nothing but nothing sticks. From the most intense to the most gentle, from the deepest delight to the wildest fears, no thought, image or feeling stays. And once it’s gone, it doesn’t leave a trace.

And one thing I’ve found to be so supportive and generous during any and all times is the symbol my friend typed to me (and that I’d love to see go viral): /m\.

I call it the Witness Mudra, taken from the image of the Buddha with one hand folded in his lap and the other across his knee, touching the earth. (Although the other day a friend told me she’s pretty sure that’s also the fist bump icon, but I’ll have to check with President Obama to confirm that. I say it works as both.)

The Witness Mudra, when shared this way, is a powerful and supportive tool. It gives us the chance to listen to our people, to empathize, to witness, without attempting to solve or change or contradict or point out opposites or anything else. It gives us, as the witness, a chance to see that there isn’t a problem in what’s coming across. That it’s life expressing itself and it can be felt and heard and allowed to be. And on its way it will go. Like everything else.

For those of us venting or unloading or outpouring,  a Witness Mudra can be a relief. It’s an acknowledgment of being heard and comforted, exactly as the moment is appearing, alive in its mystery and innocence. At the same time, it’s a beacon of impermanence: all appearances are allowed to be, in that they are all known to be transient. Both as the ones expressing and the ones listening, we can rest.

I’m so passionate about this topic, I could go on and on, but for now I’ll just leave you with this invitation. Join with us in witnessing for one another and in holding that space where everything comes — and goes — and is compassionately and comfortingly seen. We can rest together in all of our states and reactions and keep quiet, trusting that each being is moving through whatever it is beautifully.

This isn’t to say that a word or two of encouragement isn’t appreciated from time to time. But perhaps there’s something to be said for not saying anything, too.

With love and exploration,

Carina

witness mudrea

 

1 Comment »

Things Deep in Your Own Heart

moon_girl38

It’s a pity, a gentleman in refined retirement composing poetry:
He models his work on the classic verse of China.
And his poems are elegant, full of fine phrases.
But if you don’t write of things deep in your own heart,
What’s the use of churning out so many words?

– Ryokan (Japan, 1758–1831)

I came across this beautiful passage today from a Zen poet living nearly two hundred years ago in Japan. I’d first come across a different passage from him that touched on the quiet of this day, the laziness of a rainy morning, the comfort in stillness.

I’d woken with a mixture of restlessness and heaviness. A strange combination. The head, foggy, as if I hadn’t had enough sleep or I’d been trying to unplug my nose with a Benadryl (which I hadn’t). Emotions warm and watery, feeling like I could use a good cry — you know the kind. Talking with my housemates last night and setting a date for me to vacate this place where I’ve been harbored for almost a year now. It can lead the mind to tales of aloneness: words like lonely, scared, on my own can come through. A feeling of heaviness across the forehead. A feeling of fatigue.

And still, at the heart of it all, a stillness, a settled quiet, a sense of resting in the midst of it all.

This phase I’m in — sometimes fondly called my mid-life crisis — is woven with ups and downs, joys and fears, departures and arrivals.

And when the river seems to be dammed up, clogged with swirling thoughts and attempts to manage one feeling or another, few things soothe like the flow of expression. Weaving stories from the heart of woe or fear or love or longing or delight or bliss or any other avenue that feels alive in the moment: what joy, what natural relief, what undivided love of life coming through.

This little post on my other blog came out of that warmth (and those beautiful Ryokan lines) today: http://whatamidoingup.tumblr.com/post/44873964742.

Few things comfort me than the true showing of my heart.

I made a little video recently about a few of the things I love about facilitating and practicing Scott Kiloby‘s Living Inquiries. This seems like a good time to share it, since I talk about relaxing (always a favorite topic) and creative expression. And as I leave you with the video, I also leave you with an invitation to do a little expressing yourself today. Throw a little poem to the wind, giving of your heart and its deepest loves and longings. Free to tell, free to let the river flow, free to relax back into the great movement of life, letting the unique expression of the seven billion fingers on the hand of God come through.

Please feel free to share here or write to thethearpybooth@gmail.com.

P.S. In the evening yesterday, I wrote the following note to a friend. I felt to add it here.

It’s been a sweet evening here. The passing of states never fails to amaze me. This morning was so foggy and rainy in my head and heart. I kept getting these glimpses through it, like a door opened a crack, where there was no trace of the emotion at all. I just looked after myself and did what felt good at the time. Fascinated, later in the day, to find no trace of it at all. I love that. To marry the feelings and cuddle up with them somehow has them go on their way. Quiet continues. Love you xxxxx

I love you. And now, here’s the little video:

 

No Comments »

Messy Morning Bed Hair

It’s important to me to write honestly. As you know, one of my greatest passions is creative freedom and freedom of expression. Starting with the Morning Pages, coloring through the doodles, and all of the areas I haven’t yet touched on in the Free Expression series . . . for me, life is all-inclusive. And that really means all. Nothing can be left out in this sort of freedom.

After I posted a few days ago from my fever bed, my mind churning with upheaval and concern, I worried that I shouldn’t have shared that openly, that I shouldn’t have left my post to be read. What would people think of me? How would my words be interpreted? Would I be seen as a poor representative of the Living Inquiries?

I saw, though, that these fearful thoughts were also just part of life and they didn’t need to be followed or believed, any more than anything else. And, what is The Therapy Booth, if not a place for everyone to have all freedom of expression? What kind of Therapy Booth host would I be if I pretended that I’m only feeling well, happy and inspired? And, what if bearing my heart – however it looks – is inspired?

As a creative person – and I assert we all are – this is something I’ve watched and admired in other artists. It’s what gives me such awe for Joni Mitchell and her song writing. Her utter honesty and clarity of description is what has others relate so deeply with her, and it’s what has me wonder, how can she be knowing my experience so directly that she’s singing about it? It is in the details that we find the universals. We are not as alone as we may think we are with our tender hearts, moving minds and oceanic passions.

I find with all of these courses of expression that unencumbered articulation and declaration leaves me feeling more alert, clear and relaxed. To be able to pour it out on the page or on a phone call with a trusted friend or in my doodle notebook or during an inquiry session is to take the chains off of life and let it run free. And then, the direct experience of anicca (a Pali word meaning impermanence) is known. I’m as awe struck by this as I am by Joni Mitchell’s honest lyrics: that something that feels heavy, true and deep – once expressed – goes on about its way as each wave goes back into the ocean and disappears without a trace.

In the Living Inquiries, we look closely and gently at this movement and find out if any of these comings and goings actually equal “us”. Are any of those words I typed during my flu “me”? Are any of the words your friend says to you on the phone “her”? This is done from a restful position, as opposed to a mental one, and it leaves us in a space where all of the comings and goings are totally free to come and go. Life is going to happen. Happiness, delight, fear, anger, sadness, frustration, love, lust, apathy . . . all of them are so welcome to come and go here in The Therapy Booth. Express yourself! I’m gonna.

Recovering! Writing with messy morning bed hair.

Recovering! Writing with messy morning bed hair.

5 Comments »