Friday, August 28, 2009

Returning to Your Center

Returning to Center, wax painting, 6" x 6"

Where is your center located? This isn't a trick question and there are no "right" answers. When I ask my clients where they feel their center is located, they often place their hands on their solar plexus or belly. I've also had a few clients place their hands on their hips or low back or even their heart.

Put in another way, where do you feel your core resides? Your core may be interpreted as that balancing element inside you that gives you feedback when something is "off kilter"? Sometimes you feel this area only when things feel off--when you get that itchy wool sweater feeling all over. I find that when I am centered and balanced my body, mind, and life in general run smoothly and the itchy sweater turns to satin.

So if you'd like to explore your inner center, first, scan your body to determine where your center resides. Allow whatever sensation, image, feeling, or thought come to you in determining this center place. Respect that tomorrow this center may change location for you. That's okay. For now, this is where you feel it.

Now, place your hand on this center point, this area that seems to be the source of your balance and equilibrium, your sense of safety and certainty. Make gentle contact with this area and breathe into it, giving it a bit more life--and giving you a bit more awareness of it. What happens when you access your core in this way? Do you feel more secure and balanced or does tapping into this area bring you some anxiety? If you do feel some anxiety, remember to tap in to your breath again, allowing slow, deep belly breathing to calm you.

If you feel like like taking this exercise a bit further, try giving this area of your body some issues for feedback. Think of a life issue you are struggle with (or an issue you are just curious about). Keep contact with and breath work at your core as you try on this issue like you are putting on a jacket. How does your center respond? Does it absorb the problem, deflect it, nurture it, churn it up, or transform it? What sensations and feelings emerge? Does this issue make you feel like toppling over or do you feel strong like the roots of a tree?

And ultimately, how might returning to your center on a regular basis help during moments of stress, dis-ease, or confusion? How might this area of your body help you regain balance and feel inner peace?



Monday, August 17, 2009

Finding Ourselves Again

altered image of The Tender Secret, mixed media collage


Today a friend reminded me that many of us struggle with our changing identity: who we once were can bump up against who we embody today. There are aspects of ourselves that we wish to bring back or bring forth, or there are new traits that we wish to cultivate in order to feel authentic. Sometimes we can manifest a feeling of "losing ourselves" during times of change -- when having children, getting married/partnered, aging, moving to a new home, struggling with illness, immersing ourselves in our jobs, etc.

When our lives change, we change with the current. We are quite adaptive creatures! But what in ourselves do we want to preserve so we don't feel lost or alone or uncertain when we're riding along with the current of our lives? (By the way, these things we wish to preserve need not have "shoulds" attached to them.) Begin by asking yourself what is restless, lonely, uncertain, scary, or strange and then ask yourself, "What will make me feel like me again?" or "What missing piece is needed so I can shine?"

This excerpt from my Body Cards book aims to help with the process of reclaiming some part of yourself that has gotten lost in the murky waters of your life.



SACRUM


Location: Often referred to as the “tail bone,” the sacrum is located at the base of the spine, made of approximately five fused vertebrae, which form the back wall of the pelvis.

Function: The sacrum joins the illium bones (or the top part of the pelvis) to form the sacroiliac joint on both sides of the lower back, allowing the trunk of our body to bend, twist, and turn.

Unique Fact: The name “sacrum” comes from the Latin “sacer,” which is a translation of the Greek word “hieron,” which means sacred or strong bone.

Associated Chakra: Sacral (2nd Chakra)

What makes the sacrum so sacred? Across many cultures and throughout time, people have viewed the sacrum as a “holy bone.” In some cultures, an animal’s sacrum was offered as part of animal sacrifices. And as it so happens, the sacrum is one of the last bones of the body to decompose; because of the sacrum’s long life and resiliency, some cultures believed that the sacrum allowed people to return from the dead. It’s inspiring to imagine a sacrum bone as a seed, re-growing the pelvis, adding muscles and ligaments, and eventually forming the whole human body! What is sacred in you that could be resurrected from an idle or dormant place?

If the sacrum is unearthed from your cards today, it may be time to resurrect some part of yourself that you’ve buried. Perhaps there is a part of you—your playful side, your creative side, or your spiritual side?—that used to see the light of day, but out of fear or boredom or self-consciousness, you threw a heap of dirt on it. It could be that this aspect of yourself is just what you need right now in your current situation. The Second Chakra, also called the Sacral or Reproductive Chakra, is all about the creative life force. It could be, too, that some creative action, expression, or problem-solving is needed now. It may be the perfect time for whatever it is that you’ve kept deep inside to emerge after a long hibernation sleep. Celebrate its return and give it a new, splendid life.

Try This:

  • Cats & Dogs Yoga. To keep the sacral / low back area flexible, do some cats & dogs yoga. Get down on your hands and knees and slowly (and gently) move from the cat position (back hunched and head tucked under) to the dog position, back arched and head tilted back.
  • The Color Orange: Wear the color orange intentionally, particularly around your sacral area to activate this creative area. So yes, that means wear orange underwear!
  • List characteristics of yourself in the present. What do you do now? What personae do you embody? Now make a list of characteristics of yourself you used to embody. After making your lists, circle the aspects of both lists that you like -- the ones that make you feel authentic, true, and vibrant. See if you can cultivate these characteristics a bit more in your life.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Holding Hope, Feeling Empathy


Holding Hope When the Sky is Falling, 16" x 20" encaustic painting

This art piece above used to look a little different than it does now. It was more plain in the older version -- just the crow and the tree. Quite barren looking. I created this piece when my father was sick with kidney cancer in 2008. I was feeling the cool, dark remnants of winter, even though spring had just begun. I was feeling the fear and sadness of impending loss. And it did feel like the sky was falling.


But I do remember quite distinctly how much hope I held in my being, not only for my dad, but for the peace of my entire family. I felt like I was the gatekeeper of hope, and I allowed my heart to embrace both the upturns and low, low downturns. I felt everything--every nuance of my dad's process, every stifled (or expressed) thought or feeling family members exuded. And then there was my own heart beating for everyone -- or trying to.

I imagine that there has been a time (or several times) in your life when you felt as though the sky was falling--when there seemed to be just too much all at once for one person to handle. During these times it is easy to want to shut off the healing energy of the heart because we want to protect ourselves or "be strong" for others.

I wrote this piece below (it's from a work in progress called Body Cards) especially for those of us who live with a strong heart of empathy and hope.


STERNUM

Location: In the center of the chest and articulates with the clavicle bones and first seven pairs of ribs.

Function: The sternum, or breastbone, serves to protect the heart, lungs, and main blood vessels from physical damage.

Unique Fact: During cardiac surgery, the sternum is sometimes cut open to gain access to the heart.

Associated Chakra: Heart (4th Chakra)

The strong sternum bone provides a layer of protection for those all-important ingredients of your body: your lungs and heart and major blood vessels. On an emotional level, the breastbone is often a place where we place our hand when we are moved or in some way affected emotionally. It is here on our chest where we can feel our own (or another’s) heartbeat and the rhythm of our breathing. The sternum bone can feel like a powerful center for connecting with our own feelings or the feelings of others, for it is here where we often feel love and affection for another. And during our grief process, our heart chakra often emits a tremendous amount of energy as we feel our losses deeply.

The Sternum Card appears to remind you that your heart is always protected. It reminds you that you can feel deeply and you will not crumble into a million pieces. If you have been resisting your body’s call to feel love, grief, joy, or sadness, this may be time to take the risk and let the emotions come. When we hold our emotions tightly in our chest, we trap them there to live constricted, unexpressed lives. When we hold in our feelings, we may feel tightness in our chests and lack of full breath. It can feel like a risk to feel deeply, but the message of the sternum is that of safety and protection. And showing your emotions to another can feel exposing and intense. But it can also be intensely satisfying and freeing. What feelings are pulsing in your chest at your sternum, waiting to be released? Place your hand on your breastbone, feel the powerful pulse of your heart, and ask yourself what emotions are ready to become known.


Try this:

Tap your sternum lightly to a one-two-three waltz beat to activate and help open the heart chakra. Tap away to your heart's content until you feel a little shift in your awareness.

Find a safe, comfortable place to relax and close your eyes. Imagine there is a beautiful pink rose in the center of your chest. It is radiant and glowing and warm. As you inhale you see the rose petals open to reveal the inner petal colors, and as you exhale you watch the petals softly close. Continue to watch this rose open and close, open and close until you notice your breathing feels easy and your chest is full and open.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Interview about Art and Healing

A Healing Hand, encaustic, 8" x 10"


A few weeks ago my friend and writing group comrade Tanya Ruckstuhl-Valenti, a Seattle-based clinical social worker, interviewed me about how I see art as a healing force in my life.

To view the interview, click here:

http://seattletherapist.wordpress.com/2009/07/29/art-and-healing-courtney-putnam/


I just noticed that she has just posted a great interview with best-selling author Amy Bloom as well, so please check out Tanya's Trauma Blog for more thoughtful goodies: http://seattletherapist.wordpress.com/

Monday, August 3, 2009

Summer Special: Flight


My goodness, we are well into summer and I've yet to virtually announce my summer special. I am delighted by this throat-chakra, bird-loving two-hour experience and I hope you do, too. Here are the details:

Summer Special: Flight


This summer, embrace the gifts of the throat chakra -- the chakra for creativity, communication, and expression. With an open throat chakra, imagine yourself speaking your truth, living with authenticity, and like a bird, light and graceful, taking off and manifesting your dreams...

This two-hour special includes the following flight-inducing experiences:


• Sip some throat-opening tea, while the warm, moist heat of a Bucky heat wrap surrounds your neck and shoulders.

• While absorbing the warmth, you will take a throat chakra questionnaire aimed at revealing areas you may wish to explore.

• You will then receive a Bird Signs card reading for wisdom from our feathered friends.

• After this reflective time, you will receive a thirty-minute massage focused on your neck, shoulders, and head to help release physical tension.

• Finally, you will receive a reading of your throat chakra and a thirty-minute Reiki session to help open the throat for clear and meaningful expression.

Cost: $130. Credit cards accepted.
Gift certificates available.


Call or email to schedule your appointment:
(206) 228-9124 or cputnam@rising-bird.com.