Monday, March 30, 2009

Energy Fairies and Energy Gremlins: Oh, my!

"If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there the whole while waiting for you, and the life you ought to be living is the one you are living." -Joseph Campbell

Right now I am sipping a cup of goji berry green tea and Stanley the dog is warming my feet by talking a nap on them. My friend Kristen is sitting on the adjacent couch eating apple slices with peanut butter and typing away on her laptop. I can breathe easily, clearly. My diaphragm is relaxed, my throat is open, my shoulders are unusually soft and lowered.

This is certainly a form of bliss. These Monday writing groups with Kristen energize me. They give me a three-hour period to write, to read, and to just be. I began today's writing session by reading a chapter called "Discovering the Essence" in Susan Zimmerman's Writing to Heal the Soul, and I found myself exploring what enlivens me and what drags me down.

Zimmerman writes, "What fills our cups? What soothes our anxiety? What helps us confront and accept the most difficult challenges in our lives? What gives us distance and perspective on our lives? What leaves us feeling drained and saddened? We owe it to ourselves to answer these questions, to name, and by naming to know, what feeds our hearts and minds and what starves them."

I love how Zimmerman writes that we owe it to ourselves to explore these questions. It's so easy to follow along the current of life without stopping to examine what really charges you and what makes you feel flat or chewed up or lackluster. There are unpleasant or draining tasks we must do as part of life, but we owe it to ourselves to notice when we are out of balance--when the gremlins come out of the shadows and zap the fairy light out of us.

Try this meditation:

Sit or lie down comfortably, breathing fully and deeply into your chest and belly. Imagine you are walking through the forest of your life. What does this forest look like? Is it lush and green with ferns or perhaps there are lots of conifer trees and a stream running through. Take a few moments to explore the environment around you. Now allow aspects of your life to surface. Perhaps people emerge in your forest--or objects or sounds. Think of a typical day in your life: what do you encounter on a daily basis? Allow these things to enter this forest.

Notice what things feel light and nourishing to you and what feels draining and depleting. Now imagine the times when little forest fairies bring you energy that nourishes you. These fairies know that you feel revitalized by a certain activity or encounter, so they put these things in your path, almost like rays of sunshine to light your way. In contrast, there are energy gremlins who pop out from the shadows once in a while. These gremlins gobble your energy up; they know what depletes you so they chomp away your sense of well being. Experience these two different energies in your body before slowly bringing yourself back to the room.

After this meditation, write about what you discovered. Feel free to free-write about your insights if you want a more free-form experience. For a more structured experience, divide a piece of paper in half and on one side write "Energy Fairies" and on the other write "Energy Gremlins." Start listing those things that give you bliss and those things that give you dread. When you are finished, notice if your "gremlin" list is longer than your "fairy" list. If so, how could you create more balance? And feel free to return to these lists when you feel like you are dragging a bit. Peek at that "fairy" list and chose something to do that will enliven you and lift your spirits.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Exposing the Chamelon to the Light

I have recently discovered that a little chameleon lives inside me. She is great at tuning in to others, but she worries too much what others think. When she gets unclear and uncertain or nervous and self-conscious, she changes her color--sometimes several times--in order to feel safe and accepted. The chameleon fears criticism and is often unnerved if someone does not like her, sensitive creature that she is.

This chameleon, you see, has been with me since my early days on the playground at recess, and maybe even before that. She has been my protector in many ways, shielding me from potential hurt. But she is awfully tired these days and she has been asking me for a break. I think I am finally ready to give her a vacation (she's requested Mexico)
.

Do you ever feel one of these uber-adaptive reptiles crawling around inside of your mind?

In my journey to understand this ever-changing lizard, I looked to Wikipedia for some insight. According to Wikipedia, a chameleon's instinct to change color isn't just for camouflage:

"Some (but not all) chameleon species are able to change their skin colours. Different chameleon species are able to change different colours which can include pink, blue, red, orange, green, black, brown, yellow and turquoise. Recent research indicates that they do not typically change their colour for reasons of camouflage, but instead use colour changes as a method of communication, including to make themselves more attractive to potential mates."

Ah, so chameleons do as we do: they change themselves not to hide, but to be more pleasing to others! To varying degrees, I think we all possess this desire to be loved: we want to be accepted and even admired by others.

But how do we stay true to ourselves as we engage with this acceptance? And when is being just yourself--in your natural hue, so to speak--good enough? What happens when we choose true authenticity over the exhausting task of trying to please everyone?

And the big, mega, super-duper question becomes: who is my authentic self, anyway? Yikes. Seems a bit unmanageable, doesn't it? What I do know is that I can feel it when my authentic self is not very present. When my nerves take over, the authentic self gets foggy, ghostly, like it's been drugged.

Tonight I resurrected a poem I wrote in graduate school that speaks to the way the chameleon can take over, hiding the authentic self in layers of social constructs and shoulds.


THE PUPPET

It happens to you on occasion.
The Angel of the House approaches,
tangles your composure into a web of endless
yes’s and sure’s. Strings rise up
from the corners of your lips, produce
the smiles of clowns and dolls. Strings
pull at your limbs. I watch you lift
pots and pans you rarely do
and you can’t help it if you suddenly feel
outside yourself, commanded perhaps
by some force passed down generations:
your grandmother’s hand-woven potholders
and recipes for baked goods sold at bazaars
and county fairs. This is not your world.
No need to compare anymore. Don’t pretend
to love my Girl Scout craft day and talk
of matching dishes at bridal showers. I know you,
like me, would rather sit in the corner petting the dog.
I have never wanted this: your limbs attached
to strings, bent like sad stalks,
controlled like a puppet as I first noticed at four
when I swiped my hand over your head
checking for strings, when the expression
of false happiness hung from your cheeks
and I asked, “Where is my real mommy?”


Where is the real you? Is she standing tall and clearly visible, or is she hiding in the shadows with the chameleon?

Try this:

Think of times in your life when you felt you stepped out of your authentic self, even for a little moment, in order to conform to someone or something else. We all do this--and it is necessary. In order to be empathetic creatures, we must step into another person's reality and live there for a while in order to show compassion. Think of a time, though, when this chameleon-like behavior exhausted you and did not necessarily serve the person or situation for the better. Expose the chameleon through writing as I have done with this blog post. Give it a name and a personality. Explore how you interact with this lizard of the rainbow. How does it help you and when does it leave you feeling strained?


Image credit: http://www.chameleonproject.net/asabutcher/index.html

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Learning to Let Go Workshops



Are you interested in learning more about the delicate art of letting go? Please consider joining me for an evening (or two or four) of relaxing and releasing the tension and holdings in your body. These workshops are interactive and kinesthetic. You'll breathe, meditate, listen to music, contract and relax your muscles, stretch, learn ways to stop muscle guarding, and let go of the anxiety or worry that may be contributing to your daily stress. I hope to see you in a few weeks!


"Learning to Let Go" Workshop Series

Where: Rising Bird Healing Arts
When: Tuesday nights: March 24 &31; April 7 & 14, 2009; 7pm- 8:30pm
To Sign Up: Email cputnam@rising-bird.com
Cost: $15 per workshop (pay at each workshop)

Once a week for a month, we will learn the delicate art of letting go. On a daily basis we hold our muscles tightly, often without even noticing. We experience stress our muscles contract, and we don’t notice our shoulders are up to our ears. Muscle holding or guarding is one of the major contributors of aches and pains we experience in our bodies. That kind of holding, accompanied by short, shallow breathing can cause us to feel tight and depleted.

Part of the letting go process also involves releasing stress and any thoughts or emotions that contribute to our holding patterns. When we learn to recognize the triggers that contribute to our stress, we are able to adjust our bodies, breathe deeply, and avoid guarding ourselves against impending fear or worry.

In this workshop, we will engage in relaxation exercises, such as progressive muscle relaxation, breathing techniques, guided visualization, and others. In addition to tuning into our own body’s holdings, we will also learn to identify the holdings in each other. I will be participating and learning along with you in this process. Come prepared to relax, play, and let go with an open mind.

Please bring: A blanket or yoga mat and a pillow. Wear comfortable clothing for relaxing and moving.

Note: This series does build from one session to the next, but you are welcome to attend as many or as few that fit your schedule. Whether you attend just one or all four sessions, please do sign up with me prior to each workshop so I can plan my space accordingly. And feel free to bring a friend!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A Little Spotlight

Hey there, everyone!

I've experienced a little spotlight of abundance that I would like to share with you. Those of you who have read my newsletter know this already, but for those of you who don't yet know, I have been included in this month's issue of Seattle Magazine! The March 2009 issue is the health and wellness issue and I was interviewed about Reiki. It's a little piece, with no big, glossy pictures (well, no pictures at all), but I was so honored to be chosen!

Here is my little spot in the sun:

(click image for a larger view)

I have been practicing Reiki for over seven years now and it feels powerful to honor the work I do by sharing it with others. Over the years I've realized that Reiki is not just something I
do, but a way of being. To live in the way of Reiki is to see the interconnections between us all and to live with openness, awareness, and compassion. Univerisal Life Energy (or chi) is in all things, and to truly feel this on a daily basis is a gift that Reiki gives to me.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Winter 2009 Newsletter Has Hatched!

Happy March, everyone.

March just makes me want to, well, march. Or at least walk. On one of my walks yesterday, I encountered full-blown purple crocuses! Spring is on its way and boy does that lift my spirits!


Walks have been important to me lately because I have been hard at work on the Winter 2009 issue of The Healing Nest Newsletter. Computer breaks kept me from melting into the computer screen or getting a rigid claw of a wrist from gripping the mouse. This newsletter ended up being a whopper -- ten pages long! Below I have included the contents of this artful, healthful issue, along with links to the full PDF version.

I am happy to bring you the fruits of my labor! Enjoy!

peace & crocus power,

Courtney

Winter 2009 Newsletter Contents

(To view/download the complete newsletter, click here.)

In this issue, you'll find...


Returning
What needs some attention? How can you respond to your mind/body/spirit in a way that will inspire, relax, and recharge you?

The Emotional Side of Bodywork
It was clear that my tension and holding was not purely a "muscular event." It became apparent to me that not only was my mind causing my arms to contract, but so were my emotions.

Elongate Your Mind
How many times do we keep trying to transform our thoughts with other thoughts by engaging in a sort of cerebral gerbil wheel, when perhaps what we need is to breathe or get a massage or do some yoga?

What Your Posture Might Say About You
People who embody the Overachiever Posture "live life in the middle of an inhalation."

Art Heals: Two Artists Show How Creating Art Can Be a Force for Healing
Featuring Karin Bartimole and Kathy (Alberta) McCullen

Cerebrum: Balance

By accessing both sides of your brain more equally, you may find that you start feeling a bit more balanced and integrated.

Rising Bird Healing Arts in the News!
In the March 2009 "Wellness" issue of Seattle Magazine, you'll find an article about Reiki, featuring Rising Bird Healing Arts!

Self-Care: Fun with Fascia!
Sometimes the aches and pains we experience as muscle tension may actually (or also) be indications of fascial adhesions.

An Art Show Close to My Heart
Because of your generous support of my art, I was able to donate close to $600 to the Kidney Cancer Association in honor of my dad.

This is What Doggie Reiki Looks Like
When we connect to a dog's heart center, we may well be connecting to their raison d'etre.

Creativity Corner
Art Prompt: "Harmony" / Writing Prompt: "Fabulous Feet"


(To read these articles in full, view/download the complete newsletter here.
)


Upcoming Workshops, Announcements, and Events


You, Yourself, and You: A Self-Portrait Workshop
Sunday, April 12, from 1-5pm at Rising Bird Healing Arts

"Learning to Let Go" Workshop Series
Tuesday nights at Rising Bird Healing Arts:
March 24 & 31; April 7 & 14 (7-8:30pm)

Next Art Show at Rising Bird Healing Arts
Friday, April 24; 6-9pm. More details to come!


Rising Bird Healing Arts