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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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

 

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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.

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