The Therapy Booth

resting, doodling and holding love signs

I Want to Know YOU

I’ve noticed a trend in Facebook posts in my feed lately where the author writes a general statement:

“Hey people! The right thing to do is to text BACK when someone texts you a question!”

“Wake up, people! You are NOT supposed to look at your phone during an entire meeting. Get some manners!”

“You would think people would know by now, but I guess some people just don’t know how to behave.”

but the author doesn’t say what happened to inspired the expression, or, what I’m more interested in, how are they feeling now? What is behind those introductory and vague words? A few times recently, I’ve asked the authors if they wanted to elaborate. “Do you want to say what happened that inspired this?”

I am curious, and I’m also interested in how we can all become more present, more embodied, more able to feel our feelings and express ourselves directly. Have you ever asked someone how they feel and they tell you what happened instead, or something about the other person? “How do you feel?” “Well she is such a bitch! She said that to me and I just can’t believe her.” I’m sure I’ve done that.

But is it so unusual for us to bypass our feelings with general indignation? Lord knows I’m not always the most accurate communicator, but eventually, I have to tend to my feelings. Maybe it’s a first step . . .

There is a growing movement toward more authentic relating, and maybe because I’m surrounded by such things (including being a Living Inquiries facilitator and client, years of writing Morning Pages, the Tell it! page on FB where we are free to say anything without being coddled or advised in return), I’m surprised when communication isn’t embodied and pretty clear. Like a dork, I expect everybody to be like me and the people around me (ha, or like I imagine we are).

Ranting-Homer

Photo found at http://plasmanc.blogspot.com/2012/08/and-another-thing.html

But how can I encourage it, I wonder? Do I keep on checking in, asking to hear more, validating responses when I hear those generalities? It seems like the writer is wanting to be heard when those rants are typed out. But I also want to know them more. What happened that had you say that, and how does it actually feel?

What does it feel like in your body?
What images are flashing through your mind?
What are the emotions like?
How do you feel about yourself?
What do you want?
What other thoughts are there?
What other feelings?
What do you really want to yell, specifically?
(Hey, this is starting to sound like one of my doodling classes . . . )

I feel fortunate to have practices that make room for all of this stuff to come out without negating or contradicting it, while also not adding further meaning on to it.

Maybe that’s why people are vague on Facebook — because it might be too heady to get into all of those details, and if we’re vague and general like that, maybe there’s more agreement/validation. “Yeah! People should text back and answer questions. That’s right!” It’s just not as interesting to me. Tell me more! It might feel better.

I was not sure about writing this because I don’t want to make my friends wrong. My experience when I see those posts is always wanting to know more. Or almost feeling shut out. I feel like there’s this barrier to intimacy, and I really like intimacy. I’m curious about my own contributions to the vague mindset — I know I am a good communicator in some spaces and horrible in others. I’m paying attention to all of this right now.

It’s my interest to keep on growing in this way, to continue to open to my own states and feelings such that I can bring them forth with the people around me as well and not ever feel like I have to hide out. A lofty goal, perhaps. But seems worthwhile.

And for the sake of transparency, I feel a little awkward writing this because I do feel some judgment. I want my friends to say what they mean and how they feel below the neck.  Ah there. I said so and I didn’t explode. Huh.

Stop teasing me and let me in! There! I said that too!!!

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Experiencing Self-Compassion Directly

“I feel jealous!”

(Try just feeling jealous, then.)

“I feel angry.”

(What happens if you just feel angry?)

“I feel so sad!”

(Go ahead and feel so sad.)

“I am elated!”

(Experience elated directly. Feel it from within!)

“I don’t feel anything.”

(How does that feel? Take a moment to experience it as it is.)

“I feel in love and it scares me.”

(Feel it all. Tell it out loud, too.)

“But I feel so ashamed.”

(What does ashamed feel like? What if you turn right toward it instead of away?)

“Mmmmm, I feel compassion for myself.”

(Rest there, dear heart. Rest there.)

Image source: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/importance-of-self-compassion.html

Image source: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/importance-of-self-compassion.html

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Free Exactly Like This!

The grass ain’t greener
The wine ain’t sweeter
Either side of the hill
– Robert Hunter

I cannot possibly be any other way than how I am. Thank goodness! More and more I notice when the subtle movement of comparison is arising. I should be more like her. I want to be more like him. Something in me is recognizing the impossibility of that — and again: thank goodness! Even in little ways, there is nothing to change! In fact, best to rest.

As the juice I’m drinking couldn’t be any other color of orange mixed with red mixed with green, and the air being moved by the fan and touching my shoulders couldn’t be moving in any other way.

In Living Inquiries we begin to recognize the comings and goings, and in that, we also see their spontaneous innocence. Empty of meaning, sensations arise and pass away. Empty of inherent meaning, thoughts — like internal sounds — come and go, leaving no trace once they’ve passed. And even the idea that there is an “internal” where the sound is happening is questioned and such barriers relax.

Who would have thought that I could be free to be really scared or disgruntled or even happy? Who would have thought that all emotions, all habits, all thoughts even are so okay that they’re beyond okay?!!?

Even to make an error cannot possibly an error! If we really look, where is the error? Is it in the sound “eh-ror”? Is it in the letters E-R-R-OR? Is the feeling in our gut the error? Is the visual image announcing itself as wrong? What about the thought that says, “But it IS wrong?” If you take those letters and look at them, one at a time, which one is the error?

So even if a thought of envy comes and a feeling comes with it, those can come and go — especially when met directly, like we acknowledge our neighbors as we see them coming and going from the house. I can see a thought I want to be like her and find no meaning in it. If it seems to have meaning, there’s simply a feeling and perhaps an image arising with it. But none of that is me! Or you might even say, the whole entire thing is me. Every single thing I can sense. The shapes and the colors and the sounds and the spaces and all of the sensations and the total emptiness of it all when you drop the words and see what it’s like. Right now.

I have found it impossible to live into being like anyone else — thank goodness — and it makes me so happy.

Free-to-be-girl

* * * * * *

For more on the Living Inquiries, visit http://www.thetherapybooth.com/living-inquiries/.

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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.

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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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