How separated families changed the direction of my Hakomi practice

Like perhaps others of you I was almost immobilized with grief upon learning about families being forcibly separated at the Southern border of the US this summer. Although this is not the first time such a thing has happened and it is not limited to happening there, it shook me to my core. I spent many days in a fog of tears and confusion; I made space for that grief as it continued to appear - and still does. And one day I decided to start learning, reading and acting. I knew clearly that such atrocious and heartless acts could not be committed without racism. These acts also required a severe disconnection from self and a deep-seated fear of “the other”.

Up until that point I had seen the healing work I do through Hakomi as needing to be more or less neutral or apolitical in order to welcome anyone into this transformative experience. I have long had a heart for justice; my earliest memory of this was in the 1st grade when I noticed ALL the African-American kids in my class were asked to leave when we practiced for a special ceremony for the “smart kids.” I knew in my bones there was something very wrong- and not just inside those teachers- but in a system where that would happen. But as a 6 or 7 year old I did not know what to do about it. I pursued social justice in various ways throughout college and in my jobs after graduation. But I burned out and had babies and couldn’t deal with the pain of the world and so I turned it all off. That is, of course, something that white privilege allows me to do; highly sensitive people of color will never get that choice.

Through Hakomi I found transformation and restorative somatic resources and I knew that this is how change is created- through mindful attention to the body and to underlying, unconscious beliefs. But I still thought I needed to keep my convictions to myself lest I offend anyone or make them uncomfortable (white fragility in action).

But now I see that I must integrate healing and justice work because they have been part of one whole all along and my effort to separate them only serves (and replicates) systems that are based on disconnection- from our bodies, ourselves and others.

And so now, here I am boldly proclaiming that Black Lives Matter and Families Belong Together and healing without justice is not healing at all.

I have some nervousness about this and yet my understanding of this is clear and I am determined. I believe in our human potential to confront hard things and know the relief and strength that comes from that process.

If you want help and support unraveling embodied dominance and oppression through mindful somatic practices or understanding how internalized patriarchy is making you feel inadequate and depressed, or embodied white supremacy is causing you to see the world through a binary lens- call me. I would be honored to work through this with you so that you can find more resources and a felt sense of self-compassion so you can be present not just to your own pain, but to the pain of the world and then an active part of collective liberation.


Self-Care begins with Self-Compassion

Self-care is an important concept and one that we hear a lot about these days. I am so glad that we are talking more about how important it is to take care of ourselves.

However, there is something lacking from our conversations around self-care; and that is that in order to take care of yourself you have to actually care ABOUT yourself. Many of us speak most harshly to ourselves, we treat ourselves with criticism, cruelty and disdain. If we are coming from that place (which most people are) then the idea of self-care does not have any real pull other than another thing to feel guilty about NOT doing. Why would we take care of someone we don't think is deserving of care?

The images and ideas associated with self-care are often thin white women getting a massage or going for sunset runs on the beach with flowing blond hair cascading behind them. If you feel far away from the cultural standard of a beautiful person the idea of self-care may only cause you more distress. You might think you can't take care of yourself UNTIL you are different in some way. That you don't deserve to take care of yourself or that self-care has to be only eating broccoli for dinner- even if you hate broccoli. 

The most important part of self-care and THE MOST FOUNDATIONAL FORM OF SELF-CARE IS SELF-COMPASSION. This is learning to love yourself and be kind and gentle to yourself AS YOU ARE RIGHT NOW. Because YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH EXACTLY AS YOU ARE AND YOU DESERVE YOUR OWN LOVE!

If the idea of self-compassion seems impossible, I understand. I felt that way for a long time too. Now it is something I tap into nearly EVERY DAY and I can't imagine my life without it. 

My work as a Hakomi client helped me build a kinder relationship with myself and the Mindful Self-Compassion course with the Grand Rapids Center for Mindfulness gave me important skills and tools that have brought self-compassion into my DAILY life and for that I am so grateful. 

If you want more of this in your life, a good place to start is with these free guided meditations on self-compassion. The Grand Rapids Center for Mindfulness offers Mindful Self-Compassion courses and in my work with clients I integrate self-compassion AND the barriers we bump into as we work toward it as a critical part of your healing journey. 

May you find some compassion for yourself today. 

A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day, a string of such moments can change your life..png

the gritty reality of mothering

A new mom friend of mine sent me this photo and gave me permission to share it. I am so glad. Because it is so real and can be such an accurate representation of the intensity of mothering. It is beautiful and frustrating and overwhelming and full of love and often confusion.

We all choose to parent differently and there is NO ONE RIGHT WAY! So this isn't a comment on parenting styles but on the all-encompassing nature of parenting that we all respond to differently. But that for each of us is challenging. Mothering isn't easy for anyone- no matter how it looks from the outside.

Because children (especially babies) need care ALL THE TIME but we- as adults- also have needs! And parenting often is a very tricky high-wire act of trying to address as many needs as we can as often as possible. Our culture seems to promote (both implicitly and explicitly) that becoming a mother is easy and seamless and we should just know how to do it. And it turns out that is NOT TRUE. Because even if we have come into contact with the reality of family life we haven't been the one to have our wounds constantly poked at by our offspring.

It is hard to come into contact with the reality of mothering until you have already crossed that threshold and find yourself nursing your baby while you take a shit or carrying screaming toddlers out of the grocery store or wiping your child's dripping nose with your sleeve and calling it good and on and on.

The reality of mothering is gritty and intense. It starts with blood and screams and pain and also joy and just keeps going in the same vein.

I wish for you moments even in the chaos and confusion and nursing-your-baby-while-on-the-toilet intensity of parenting that you can breathe deeply and give yourself compassion for how hard this role is. Because this is hard and you are good enough just the way you are.


The beauty of spaciousness

Spaciousness is my favorite thing.

There is such a different quality to an experience when we invite some space into it.

We can get so contracted around things- physical or emotional pain, expectations, beliefs, pressures, and on and on. I do it all the time and I know I am not alone.

When we do that there isn’t any room for allowing that experience to move or show us anything, no room for reflection or contemplation. And also it feels worse. As I was reminded in a amazing presentation by Judson Brewer last week, suffering = pain+resistance. When we experience something uncomfortable and then contract around it- which is what most of us do- it makes it a more unpleasant experience. One of suffering.

I remember speaking about some issue with my kids that was I was really contracting around and experiencing suffering about. One of my teachers said, "Can you make bring some spaciousness into that?"

Wow. Yes. I could and I was able to realize that was a possibility. To make space-to allow things inside of me some room to breathe. And I felt so much better and more clear. I was able to get in touch with the bigger picture- gain some perspective about what matters most to me. That is the essence of mindful parenting; to stay aware of the big picture. It was still an issue that I didn’t know exactly how to deal with, but I wasn’t all tied up in knots about it anymore and somehow we found a way to be with that issue with more ease.

It’s sort of the difference between how you feel when you are 10 minutes late and still 5 miles away from an important appointment and how you might feel if you knew you have all day to do whatever you want with no time constraints.

Ahhh! Relief.

When I was learning about Hakomi as a student and a client my favorite request was- and still is- can you make some space for that? For whatever experience that is arising. It might be one that feels good and expansive already or it might be something hard- sadness or fear or discomfort. It’s so important to turn toward those things and make space for them. They need that. We need to do that for ourselves.

Tonight or tomorrow just notice if you feel yourself contracting around something and see if you can make some space around it, or in it, or beside it. Just make a little space. And notice what happens.  

I know this doesn’t come easy and lots of us have a lot of practice and conditioning around clamping down on things, so please be gentle with yourself if this doesn’t make any sense or is really hard for you to do at first.

I’m planning to share a guided meditation on this shortly- so look for that soon!




Mindful support for #metoo

I am sure many of you have seen the #metoo campaign on FaceBook.

I know that for many many people, this can be an incredibly difficult, sensitive and emotional subject. And how we react varies greatly from person to person depending on our experiences and how we show up in the world. For some, this may feel empowering and enlivening to speak out and see so many others who can share in their experience. While for others this may be terrifying and re-traumatizing and overwhelming.

Today, I wish to remind us that there is no one right way to feel or respond to anything in life- this included.

As you see the #metoo's on your scroll I encourage you to take a mindful moment. To sit with what comes up for you. To notice how your body responds, how you feel emotionally.

To not do anything right away. To make space for what might be significant emotions. To give yourself some room.

And then to seek help and support if that is something that you can tell you need. Don't be with your overwhelm alone. We need each other. And if you are someone who can be supportive, reach out to those you know who may find this triggering and scary.

And to all of you out there who can say me too. I see you. I hear you. I believe you. And I am so deeply sorry that you have experienced this pain. It NEVER SHOULD HAVE HAPPENED TO YOU- or any of us.

mindful parenting is NOT perfect parenting

So today I yelled at my kids

“STOP! Stop right now!”

They were fighting and I was focused on accomplishing something and they started slamming the door on each other and my stress level outweighed my ability to stop and breathe and decide how to respond to them instead of just react.

In the past, this action- which is out of alignment with how I want to be with my kids- would have dragged me down further and further. “I’m a terrible mother” I might tell myself - or similar harsh messages.

But let’s face it- it happens! We get overwhelmed, we yell, we behave in ways we wish we didn’t. Because being a parent is impossible and we all have a lot of history that comes to the table with us that gets regularly triggered by our own offspring.

Being a mindful parent doesn’t mean never yelling or being an attachment parent or any other “type” of parent. It is about doing our best in the moment.

In that moment, I yelled. And they both looked at me and cried. And then I took a deep breath and offered myself some compassion, and gathered them on my lap and listened to them cry. When they were ready to listen I apologized. I was sorry and I also knew we could move on. That what matters most is the repair. It feels pretty amazing to be able to move on so quickly from something that in the past would have yanked me down for days.

I am grateful to the Hakomi process and the ideas of mindful parenting which aren’t about doing anything right but rather staying present, having compassion, being authentic and repairing those inevitable points of disconnection.

May you be gentle with yourselves and with your children- even when you can’t be the first time around.

"Mindful parenting does not mean being a “perfect parent” and is not something you can fail at. It is not easy and it takes practice, but like many aspects of parenting, some days are good and some are bad and you can always try again. You may forget to be mindful, but the second you realize you are distracted, it is an opportunity to make a different choice – the choice to be present.

Mindful parenting means that you bring your conscious attention to what’s happening, instead of getting hijacked by your emotions. Mindfulness is about letting go of guilt and shame about the past and focusing on right now. It’s about accepting whatever is going on, rather than trying to change it or ignore it.

Being a mindful parent means that you pay attention to what you’re feeling. It does not mean that you will not get angry or upset. Of course you will feel negative emotions, but acting on them mindlessly is what compromises our parenting." - Jill Ceder


How Hakomi is like a bike ride- an analogy

Today I rode my bike to get to a meeting. It was farther than I would have usually ridden my bike and any other time I have come to this place in the past I have been in a car.

I didn't really want to do this, in fact I noticed some internal messages about not being able to do this and even felt anxious about it. It was new and different and a far ride and a hot day. Part of me did NOT want to ride. I just wanted to get there in a car- like I always do! But another part of me (encouraged by my husband) knew I could do it and would be glad I did.

While I was riding it struck me how much this experience speaks to the Hakomi method.

Our brain likes to be efficient when it can be. As we are developing we quickly create neural (brain) and somatic (body) pathways to ease the effort of our daily activities. For instance, once our body/mind learns how to tie our shoes- we rarely even think about it while we do it. When we experience a certain situation or stimulus it only takes a few times of responding a certain way for a pathway to be laid down in our brain. This makes it easier, when faced with any similar situation, to respond - unthinkingly- the same way.

This can be helpful and wonderful- it can be great to be able to tie your shoes or chop an onion or drive your car without thinking about it. But, often we get stuck going mindlessly down the same pathways, behaving the same ways - especially in relationships or with ourselves- without feeling satisfied. We want to take a different path but we don't know how.

Today as I rode on a bike path right next to the road that I usually drive on I was so aware of how different an experience it was. I was curious, I was alert, I was paying attention and there were so many different and new things to notice.  I heard the frogs and birds and the chipmunks scurrying through the dry leaves. I saw the trees and the river and the berries and I felt the subtle shift of temperature on my skin as I went through patches of sun and shade or near a river. I felt wonder at all of this beauty and depth being so close to and yet so far removed of my normal experience of this commute.

All of this information and experience is always available to me- it's right there- but I had to chose to slow down. It took me much longer to ride than it would have to drive and I had to decide to arrange my day differently- to prioritize slowing down.

This difference is one of being in ordinary consciousness rather than being in a state of mindfulness. The same experience is so different depending on what state we are in. This is why Hakomi prioritizes mindfulness, because we can access and repair and learn so much more readily from a slowed down and mindful state. It's the difference between speeding down the highway or meandering down a bike path. And when we engage in this exploration mindfully we are creating a new path- one that we can strengthen by riding down again in the future.


Loving Presence- the foundation of Hakomi

"Nothing we could ever do or work on or accomplish or achieve in life is worth as much as making our relationships more loving and kind… no task is so demanding, so difficult, so significant, so valuable as the task of being loving with the people in our lives."  -Donna Martin, Hakomi trainer

In the Hakomi method there are several guiding principles that we use to navigate how we interact with clients and with ourselves. One of my favorite parts of the method is the idea of loving presence. It is a unique and incredibly helpful aspect of this method. The practitioner is always coming back to mindfulness and loving presence, which is also known as unconditional friendliness. In early Hakomi trainings we practice listening to others speak while holding in ourselves the intention of finding them inspirational and, let me tell you, it is so easy to do. Every human being is amazing in our ability to adapt and survive in so many different circumstances. Inside us all is the inner human knowing that we each have, at our core, a precious fragile glow; and we do all sorts of things to protect that part of ourselves. I find such beauty in that and I find such beauty in each of my clients as we sit and I am privileged to be with them as they explore the deeper parts of who they are and what they believe.

And it is amazing the kind of space that can grow when we feel free of judgement. As a Hakomi client I knew and trusted that my practitioners were genuinely attentive and unconditionally friendly to ALL THE PARTS OF ME! Even the parts I didn't like. When I felt that- really truly felt that- I was able to start learning about accepting those parts of myself and MADE SPACE for them and that was an amazing transformation.

"When someone maintains loving presence with another, it has a powerful effect. Possibly without even noticing it, the other feels safer, cared for and even understood. When this happens in a therapeutic relationship, healing has already begun."      - Ron Kurtz, Hakomi Founder



Making Space (in real life)

Sometimes things get cramped up, squished down and compacted. Sometimes it feels like there isn't enough room, or time, or space or even air. Sometimes it is 3am and your baby is screaming and your other child is puking all over your new shoes. Sometimes your life is so full of to do lists and things on the calendar -for the kids- that you aren't sure if you are even there. Sometimes you are surrounded by dirty laundry and just can not connect with your partner or your kids. Sometimes becoming a mother takes who you thought you were and twists you in knots and spits you out and you just aren't sure anymore. Sometimes you yell at your kids, even though you REALLY don't want to because in the moment it just happens- you don't feel like you have any other options.

I have been there too. It is hard.

But sometimes I remember to breathe. To stop. And breathe. And make some space. For myself and for what is going on inside of me. To make space for feelings of failure or despair or confusion or fear or joy or delight.

If you have been a client of mine you know that my favorite phrase when some emotion or experience or memory surfaces, pleasant or not, is, "can you make some space for that?" It is sort of incredible what that shift can bring. To imagine making some space from the inside. To push out or spread out or expand.

In making the choice to make space you are choosing to be present with what is happening right now. In Hakomi, when we do this in a mindful way, we uncover amazing realizations about what is going on with us- just under the surface.

This is NOT an easy skill to learn. Our brain has established very well worn paths of reactions that are habitual and protective. But, with practice and intention, we can learn to do this. Every time we make the choice to stop, and breathe, and make space, we begin creating a new pathway that offers new and nourishing possibilities.