Monday, September 29, 2008

Your Six Senses



"The problem is that thoughts without sensation are only two-dimensional and, for that reason, often inaccurate. We can think ourselves into a permanent state of stress when everything around us is actually fine."

"Experience won't register on the bones and muscles, let alone the heart, unless the body is hooked up. In fact, when we lose conscious perception of body input, we are likely to suffer from an amnesia of actual experience."

- Johanna Putnoi, Senses Wide Open: The Art and Practice of Living in Your Body


I've been delving back into Putnoi's most excellent book these past few days while working on finishing my flyer for my upcoming "Six Senses" workshop on October 19 (for more details on this workshop, see the end of this post!). I've been meditating on how I've either embraced or rejected sensory information over the last several months, particularly during my dad's illness.

Last February, when my dad was in the hospital, I realize how much I tried to stifle sensory information. After all, most of the smells, sights, and sounds at the hospital were unpleasant. I can see how Putnoi's description of having "amnesia of experience" applied to me during this time. It was a survival technique to hold my chest in tight and to allow as few senses in as possible. Is it just me, or do most people (including doctors and nurses) look like they are holding in their breath at hospitals?

Now, many months later, I am finally feeling all of these senses. The memories and the senses are flowing to the surface. It's as if my body stored up my experiences (in my bones, cells, nervous system) and now it is safe for me to feel these things fully. In February I felt like I might have died from feeling too much, as anxiety arrived and replaced true, safe, actual, in-depth feeling. Now, for the most part, my mind, heart, and body all know I will not die from anxiety. Nor will I die from unpleasant sensory stimulation. In fact, accepting (and beckoning) sensory input is making me feel more alive. More safe. More integrated and connected.

The thing is, I find it's hard to live fully, openly, and truthfully when I rely solely on my mind or my heart for feedback. I need to include my body, too, for without bodily input, I don't have the complete picture. How do I know how I really feel about something without the smell that repels me, the sound that lulls me to sleep, or the cool temperature on my skin that gives me goosebumps? How can I learn to trust my instincts if I turn off my animal ability to feel the world through my senses?

My Six Senses Workshop is all about exploring the ways in which we use (or don't use) our senses. I've included a bit of information about the workshop here:

In this workshop, we will…
  • Engage in all six of our senses and learn how to become “awake” in our bodies.
  • Interpret the wisdom of our sensory experiences as a powerful form of feedback.
  • Uncover which of our senses are keenly awake and which seem to be hibernating.
  • Explore how being a highly sensitive person can influence how we react to sensory input.
  • Learn how tapping into our senses on a daily basis leads to more joyful, fulfilling experiences.
Think of this workshop as a full-body immersion and an experiential play day. You will eat and drink, pamper your body, smell divergent and interesting scents, listen to and create sounds, relax deeply for guided visualization and meditation, experience giving and receiving touch, play with color, and tap into your body’s natural system of intuition and inner knowing.

For more information about this sensory play day, click here to download a PDF flyer.

And in the meantime, Try This:

Go to your spice cupboard. Randomly pull out 5-10 spice bottles, turn the label away from you, and open the lids. Now, smell each spice. Really take in each scent one at a time. Before you describe the smell (i.e. "woody," "floral," or "musty," etc.), just feel the smell in your body. What does the scent do in your body? Does it make your throat feel more open, your nose feel congested? Do you feel free and relaxed or tight and rigid? Is it easy to identify the smell without looking at the label first?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Sneak Peek...

I have been moving a little slowly lately, so my apologies for not writing here more frequently. These gray skies are making me feel sluggish and I seem to want to sleep a lot these days. My grief process has sure added more nap time to my schedule. Sheesh.

But I do have one mini accomplishment to share with you. I have just devised my 2-hour fall special (after long, long brainstorming sessions) and my postcard order is at the printers as I write this!


I want to give you a sneak peek at what goodies are in store for you this fall. So, here you go...

Autumn Special: Pumpkin Spice

This autumn, surround yourself with light and warmth while taking in the nurturing scents of pumpkin, cinnamon, and clove.

This two-hour experience includes:

• A citrus spice foot spa, warm herbal chai, and a light fall-inspired snack to awaken your senses.

• A full-spectrum light therapy session to boost your mood.

• A pumpkin spice body polish treatment to revitalize your skin.

• A hot stone massage using heated basalt river stones for deep relaxation and warmth.

Cost: $120. Gift Certificates Available.

What a way to embrace the coming of fall! This is going to be a fun special and I am lucky to benefit from all of those wonderful autumnal smells as well.

Alright, I'm off to receive a massage, so I'll say goodbye for now. But my goal is to write here much more often and to offer exercises, prompts, and other bits of healing wisdom for you. Thank you for your patience as I work my way through the fog.

pumpkinly yours,

Courtney

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Catalytic Musings

"Catalyst for Beauty," collage, 4" x 5"

1. Chemistry. a substance that causes or accelerates a chemical reaction without itself being affected.
2. something that causes activity between two or more persons or forces without itself being affected.
3. a person or thing that precipitates an event or change.
4. a person whose talk, enthusiasm, or energy causes others to be more friendly, enthusiastic, or energetic. Source: Dictionary.com

Have you seen the movie Amelie? This film is on my top-ten list of favorite movies in large part because of the catalytic actions of the main character Amelie. Through her deliberate actions she ignites an artist's creativity, teaches a grumpy man a lesson, sparks a reunion of once-estranged family members, and helps repair a widow's broken heart. And she does all of these things with curiosity, compassion, and hint of mischievousness.

In what ways have you been Amelie-esque in your life? In what ways have you been a catalyst for change of some kind?

Try this:
Freewrite about your feelings about being a catalyst. Is this a comfortable place for you to be? Or do you feel awkward or uncomfortable in the role? Perhaps you've been the recipient of some catalytic intervention. What was this like? Write for 15 minutes without stopping and see if you can write fast--like you're sprinting on a track. Keep the pen moving as much as possible and allow yourself to be messy.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Spine Metaphor

"Spine Hawk," mixed media, 4" x 6"


Alright, creative wonderfuls,


I know that you think about your spine. I just do. It's rare that someone comes to me for massage and doesn't ask for their back to be addressed. I don't often hear comments like, "You know, today my back feels so loose and free, you can just avoid even touching that area." So that is how I know you think about your spine. Or at least you spend a portion of each day feeling and interpreting sensations in your back and spine.

So I invite you to tinker with this writing exercise (below). If your spine were another "thing" in the world, what would it be? And please, please, oh please consider emailing me your metaphor writing for inclusion in my next issue of The Healing Nest Newsletter. Oh, pretty please. Email: cputnam@rising-bird.com

Writing Prompt: Spine Metaphor
What is the life of your spine like? On a typical day, do you feel expansive in this area or cramped and compressed? Write about the purpose and function of your spine, as well as how you experience your spine in your body. Now imagine your spine is not your spine at all, but something else. Is it a ladder for your headaches to climb to reach your head? Is it a river flowing from your cranium to your sacrum? Is it a snake? A rain stick? If you get stuck in your writing, I recommend that you connect with your spine by doing some small movements and stretching in your torso. What does it feel like when you bend forward, back, or to the side? How does your spine respond when you engage with it? Perhaps this movement will help you to reveal the metaphor.


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Landslides

"My Island," mixed media collage, 6" x 7"

My, has it been over two weeks since I last posted here? I thought about writing last week and then this last weekend -- and both times I got cold feet. I had that feeling I used to get as a high school student when the longer I was quiet in class, the harder it was to speak. I used to get red blotches on my neck just thinking about raising my hand to answer a question. But I digress a bit. I don't have red blotches this time; I just feel a little shy.


I created the above piece today when reflecting on where I've been these past two weeks. I do feel like I've been on an island -- a little island of grief. And just when I think I'm ready to leave my island, I slip off the edge and fall. I am still so curious how grief can come like a sudden landslide. I can feel fairly steady and then I'm flat on my face and sludging through mud. The little things seem to cause my fall. Last week when playing cards with my partner, I felt the loss of my dad so keenly I couldn't breathe. With cards fanned out in my hands, my body suddenly remembered the marathon games of "manipulation" I played with my dad. I didn't expect this memory to surface, and there I was falling again.

This Jane Kenyon poem reminds me of the the little things that can create mountains--or landslides--of emotion.

What Came to Me

I took the last
dusty piece of china
out of the barrel.
It was your gravy boat,
with a hard, brown
drop of gravy still
on the porcelain lip.
I grieved for you then
as I never had before.

Try this:
Think of the physical details of your life--household objects, jewelry, trinkets, stones, clothing, dishes, etc. Choose one you are energetically drawn to and write for 15 minutes about this object. What feelings does this object conjure for you? What big idea, feeling, or event does this small object carry for you? Allow yourself to feel whatever emerges as fully and deeply as you wish. And remember to breathe. Breath will calm you and reconnect you to your heart center.