As I write this practice, we are entering a week in the United States where we are being asked to practice a high degree of “social distancing”. For many of us, that means doing our work on-line. For some of us, it means staying home and not interacting with other people for now. The purpose of this need for many of us to not be in contact with people any more than we absolutely have to is to slow down the transmission of the current coronavirus outbreak so that our health-care system isn’t overwhelmed.
Without question, these are activating and stressful times, and I wanted to share a couple of practices that I’m using to steady myself. Our collective field of human consciousness is intensely activated and that affects us all. Whenever any one of us can orient to steadiness and ease our own levels of activation, we immediately and automatically contribute that shift to everyone else.
One of the practices I use daily, which I’ve shared before and which comes from the work of Peter Levine, the founder of Somatic Experiencing®, is to make the sound “voo” each morning before I begin the day. In the way I use this process, I take an easy breath and, as I exhale without effort, I make the sound “voo”. When you do this, allow yourself to make the sound in whatever tone allows you to feel it vibrate throughout your abdomen, all the way down to the bottom. Then, when the breath is complete, I take in the next gentle inhalation and make the sound again. I recommend that you do this three times and notice how you feel. Be sure to track your physical sensations and orient to wherever you may feel more settled.Read More “780th Week: Returning to the Present Moment”
One of my favorite dynamics when working with clients or managing my own internal process is to notice what’s in the foreground of awareness and what’s in the background. For me, there are certain qualities that are always in the background of my being, whether I’m aware of them or not.
One of these that is also always present in my body, within the core presence that is always inside me even when I’m not aware of it, is the quality of steadiness. Whenever I work with myself or anyone else, I inevitably invite bringing awareness to this ever-present steadiness before jumping into anything else. Also, related to the reference I made in last week’s practice about tapping into universal archetypes, I hold the belief in, and experience of, what I call the Spirit of Steadiness—what you might think of as the Archetype of Steadiness, the embodying presence that radiates this quality as its primary expression.
For this week’s practice, I’d like to share with you a “foreground/background” practice of bringing the steadiness that is always there in the background into the foreground of awareness as well as your embodied felt-sense. I’ll share it the way I’m used to doing, but I hope you’ll adapt what’s below to match what works best for you:Read More “788th Week: Cultivating Steadiness”
In a recent conversation with a colleague, she mentioned reading an article that focused on the fact that what we perceive, where we focus our “seeing”, has a concrete effect in our world. This reminded me of the quantum physics findings around the “observer effect”. The observer effect speaks to the fact that the observer of an experiment seems to have a powerful and important impact on the outcome of the experiment. What the observer expects turns out to be what actually happens.
In the article my colleague mentioned, the author encouraged people to see what is good and right in their world as, in this way, they promote those qualities and outcomes, drawing on the dynamics of the observer effect. This reminded me of something I’ve shared before in a number of experiments on the dynamics of what is called subtle activism. Read More “693rd Week: Orienting to “Seeing What’s Good””
One of the things that most of us find challenging is to manage uncertainty. It’s a natural response to be uncomfortable with not knowing what’s going to happen next or where we are headed, individually and collectively. For some people, finding conspiracy theories offers an experience of “knowing what’s going on” that calms the discomfort most of us feel around uncertainly. For others, anxiety becomes a constant companion and they have difficulty truly soothing themselves. For yet others, becoming numb and shutting down is their natural response to constant and mounting uncertainty.
Also, I want to affirm that having a response to uncertainty is certainly normal and not necessarily something that needs the kind of process I’ll describe below, so please be gentle with yourself when circumstances elicit discomfort and anxiety about the future.
As I’ve been thinking about how we can expand our capacity to be uncomfortable and find some degree of equanimity, I found myself thinking about a concept I have taught for many years—a process of uncoupling trauma-based associations, called over-couplings in the Somatic Experiencing® world. Let me define these terms as I did when teaching SE.
Trauma over-couplings are associations that become “glued together” during times of overwhelm or distress. These are individual elements of experience or learnings that actually don’t belong together. One common trauma-based, attachment-oriented over-coupling is: If I do what I want, they (whoever “they” might be) won’t love me. Those two things don’t really belong together and especially so in adult life. Another common trauma-based over-coupling is: Unless I know what’s going on, I won’t be safe. The problem with trauma-based over-couplings is that they predict something that may not, or probably won’t, happen. They often arise from childhood experiences where we were not only ill equipped to have options available to us but when we also weren’t mature enough to understand what was happening.
I’d like to offer one way to deal with these trauma-based over-couplings. I called it “therapeutic dissociation” in my book, Getting Through the Day, but it’s actually a form of uncoupling adult awareness and options from those arising from earlier overwhelming experience.Read More “812th Week: Managing Uncertainty”
Walking through Central Park one morning, the sound of the birds, the slow but steady haze of green emerging on the trees, the emerging daffodils and other spring flowers all offered gifts that are part of the park’s waking up to a new season. As I walked, I took in the sounds, smells, and visual delight of this emerging season and the experience got me to thinking about the process of receiving.
Receiving is an active, reciprocal process. It acknowledges that something has been given and recognizes that the act of receiving can be an expression of generosity that can enhance this experience. I often invite people to notice their style of receiving. For example, when they sit down on a chair and receive the support available, do they actively take in the support that is present? Do they engage the reciprocal process of receiving what is offered with awareness? This may apply to any kind of receiving: support, friendship, kindness, much-needed food, clothing, or shelter, a smile—whatever is offered. How would you answer these questions? Read More “711th Week: Receiving Generously”
I recently listened to a conversation on the BBC about global responses to our new President-elect and what I heard got me to thinking about survival attachment dynamics. We know that children need caregivers who are, among other things, predictable, consistent, and trustworthy in order to develop a sense of secure attachment. When caregivers don’t have these characteristics, children tend to develop a fundamental insecurity at a deep, biological level. Read More “Week 659: Attending to Self-Regulation”