kindness

Becoming the Person My Dog Thinks I Am

Becoming the Person My Dog Thinks I Am

Contributed by Anita Howard

 

 

 

One summer day in 2012 I happened upon a Ted Talk by Adam Baker entitled, “Sell your crap. Pay your debt. Do what you love.”  In that talk, Adam challenged his listeners to one important question, “What does freedom mean to you?” 

There are certain moments in life that can be traced back to true turning points, where you begin to reconsider, unravel and evolve.  This was one of those moments on my path.

I’m a self-described “Earthy” girl wild about plants and animals and living in harmony with nature on this planet.  For the past 15 years, I’ve followed my heart and volunteered with various animal care and conservation organizations including a wildlife refuge on the Emerald Coast of Florida, a wildlife conservation center in the Shenandoah Mountains of Virginia and farm sanctuaries, an equine therapy center, City Dog Country Dog and the Oregon Humane Society here in the Pacific Northwest.

So I asked myself, what does freedom mean to me?  This was the answer that I kept coming back to…

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

This passion for animals and the environment ultimately drove me to create an eco-friendly tiny home to minimize my footprint which now advocates for my chosen lifestyle.  The house utilizes solar, rainwater catchment, composting, and wood heat. It is approximately 10% of the average-sized home in Portland.  As a happy herbivore, I grow much of my own fruits, vegetables and herbs. Between whipping up nourishing smoothies and cultivating my meditation practice, I’m rooted in the belief that the earth freely offers the resources to sustain a balanced life.

What is my work?

I am becoming the person that my sweet rescue dog Kingston thinks I am.  I became certified in naturopathic animal care at the Northwest School of Animal Massage in Seattle, WA, retired from my desk job and recently launched a full-time practice nurturing happier and healthier tomorrows for pets through therapeutic small animal massage, holistic aromatherapy, and gentle Reiki energy work in addition to pet sitting. 

Living lightly with natural resources and ultimately choosing to do what I love as a vocation is the happiness that Mahatma Gandhi spoke of. 

Happiness is my freedom.

How do I practice Mindfulness in my community?

I created a “Paw It Forward” program to further my commitment to community service and donate therapeutic massage sessions to hard-working service animals and shelter animals in need. 

What’s the best advice I’ve ever heard?

“When someone you love walks through the door, even if it happens five times a day, you should go totally insane with joy.” – Denali, the dog (and his human Ben Moon)

Why do you do what you do?

To put it simply, I live for the benefit of all sentient beings on this beautiful blue-green world.

Today is a very good day to ask yourself…

What does freedom mean to you?

* * * * * *

Anita Howard is a lover of the natural world, animals, plants, stargazing, altruism, Rumi poetry, open hearts, gypsy meanderings, enchanted forests and is naturally drawn to benevolent spirits that swim against the current.  She is a Master Practitioner and Teacher in the Usui System of Natural Healing known as Usui Reiki Ryoho and the owner of Now and Zen Pet Massage & Natural Care offering pet sitting and holistic pet care throughout the Portland metro area.  To learn more, visit:  http://www.nowandzenpet.com/

 

 

If you would like to follow her journey on Instagram: @nowandzenpet or find her on Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/nowandzenpet


Finding a Path

 

 

 

Finding a path

Contributed by Allison Burt-Tilden

 

 

 

 

 

As a small child growing up in 1980's Portland, I felt like I had it all: a loving family, a nice home with lots of other children nearby, and a secure spot as teacher's pet at school. All of this came crashing down shortly after I turned seven. My parents declared bankruptcy, my dad had to sell our home and his flourishing business, and we began living a pattern of chaos that would last more than a decade. My parents fought bitterly until their eventual divorce, I was enlisted as a secondary parent to my two much younger siblings, money was always an issue, and we moved every six months on average, often living with my grandparents in between rentals. Needless to say, I developed some pretty gnarly anxiety and as a result, I started to struggle in school.

By the time I turned 18 I had already dropped out of high school and gotten my GED. Despite having worked full-time for a couple of years already, I had no idea how to manage money or how to find my purpose in life. I went to work, paid the rent, paid the bills, bought some food, and spent whatever was left on make-up and clothes. As a life-long lover of fashion, I used my free time to read high fashion magazines and shop, which was my main joy in life. As far as I could figure out, life was about working so that I could shop.

In my early twenties, I was overjoyed to make the move from the service industry to an office job – and just like that, I fell into real estate. For a high school drop-out, it seemed like my golden ticket; a good salary, benefits, evenings & weekends off, and most of all, stability. Never mind that the work itself didn't interest me, I was doing what people are supposed to do. Naturally, it didn't take long for me to feel completely dissatisfied. Remembering how easy it had been to fall into my job, I gave my notice and went back to the placement agency to ask for something else. That's when my total disregard of news and current events first bit me in the ass. The year was 2002 and apparently the country was in a recession. After six months of unemployment, I got swept back into real estate after finding a series of dead ends elsewhere. Apparently my experience was quite sought after.

For the next ten years, I slogged my way through the industry. I worked in escrow and in mortgage, I worked for a listing brokerage, I negotiated short sales, I went back to mortgage – and what I remember most of those years is being utterly miserable. I dreamed of quitting and going to school - but for what? My interests were so varied and the harder I tried to decide on a path, the more confused I became. Part of me has always wanted to do something in science or health care, while another part of me desperately wanted in on the fashion world. No matter which ideas I entertained, I always felt like someone who was peering through a thick glass wall and I couldn't imagine ever getting past.

The turning point was slow in coming and in some ways, I feel like it's still happening, like I'm at the halfway point through a revolving door. It all started with meeting people at parties and dreading the inevitable question: 'What do you do?' I didn't want to talk about it! I would reply that I hated my job, that it doesn't define me, that I wanted to do something else, something in fashion, and ultimately, all the reasons why I couldn't make a change. This is where I want to take a moment to thank each and everyone one of those people who were such good sports listening to my negativity, but mostly, I want to thank each and every one of them for also telling me: Just do it.

 

It took years and probably a hundred such meetings and discussions before I had the epiphany. There I was at another social gathering, introducing myself to someone new and dreading the inevitable. 'So what do you do?' came, but this time I answered, 'I'm a blogger'. Granted, at the time my blog was more of a personal thing and I hadn't shared it with many but that simple sentence enabled me to think of myself outside of the real estate box, to talk to someone about something I genuinely enjoyed doing, and to give up the negativity that was really starting to grate on me (I can only imagine how it came across to others). Sure, I was still working in mortgage but suddenly it was just my day job - something understood as just a means to an end and not really worth discussing.

Once that first shift occurred, suddenly, I realized I was indeed a blogger. I started brainstorming new content ideas, I pushed my boundaries (like, a lot), I upped my game, and I started sharing the results with people. Crazily enough, they liked it! Blogging is not my ultimate goal but it has helped me in so many ways. I now understand my talents for writing and photography and how I can apply them to my love of local & indie fashion. Most importantly though, I have learned that not only can I step outside of my comfort zone, I can re-define my comfort zone.

 

Four years later, my blog has a small but steadily growing following and I work as a contributor for a really big blog (honeykennedy.com - check it out!). I'm about to take the next big step in putting myself out there for even bigger jobs in fashion writing and photography - I'll be honest, it's scary as hell! When I look back at miserable me sitting in a cubicle, processing loan applications and hating life, I remember the hard work and determination that has, so far, gotten me out of that cubicle, resulted in a body of work I'm pretty proud of, and helped me make real connections with amazing people doing amazing things.

When I think back to all the praise I received for my writing in school, how much I enjoyed learning photography from my dad, and how much time I spent engaged in anything and everything fashion related, I see that this has been my path all along. Despite having not had the best role models when it came to living a happy and purpose driven life, nor any real education to speak of, I found my path, and not only that, I'm working on forgiving myself for finding it later than some others. Finally, I see a glimmer of light over the horizon and it’s lighting my path. 

Allison Burt-Tilden is a Portland based indie fashion blogger and freelance photographer. She's the creator & editor of Votre Grande Soeur and a contributing writer & photographer for Honey Kennedy. When she's not working, you can find Allison enjoying a burger at one of her favorite spots on N. Mississippi. Follow her on Instagram @votregrandesoeur.

Intervening

 

Intervening 

Contributed by Robbyn Peters Bennett

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Knowing that I speak openly about the need to end spanking, people often ask me for advice on how respond to a parent who threatens or spanks their child in public.  Their fear of course, is the offending parent will strike back with the classic response, “mind your own business” or “who the hell are you to tell me how to deal with my child!”  And then later on, is the child the worse for it?

Alice Miller, author of “For Your Own Good,” talked about the importance of the Witness in helping a child buffer the effects of abusive treatment. A witness sees and acknowledges the suffering of the child.  I suspect in some cases, a witness who voices disapproval may cause a parent to feel shame, which may further provoke the parent to blame or attack the child at home. At the same time, the child does hear another point of view beyond the message of “I am bad. I do bad things and deserve to be hurt.” The child also hears, “it is not OK for me to be hit.” This is a very powerful message.

Sometimes, witnessing may be the only thing we know to do.  The role of being a witness for a child has often left me with a lingering feeling of dissatisfaction.  Yes, I spoke up, but I still felt I was abandoning the child to his fate and was unsure if I had really helped the parent.

Awhile back, I tried something different. I was at the airport with my granddaughter who was six at the time. She was getting ready to return home after a sweet summer visit.  We were both pretty sad.  We wandered into a gift shop looking for some kind of craft she could enjoy on the plane ride.  As usual, I was overloaded with bags and suitcases and I accidentally knocked over a toy from the display. I’m not always the most graceful and my granddaughter started to giggle at my exaggerated “oops” face. A woman standing nearby let out a sigh of relief, “Oh god. At least it isn’t my son!” A young boy about my granddaughter’s age was launching through the isles flopping his legs and arms about nearly missing the candy trays and dental floss display. It was like his body was floating through space where there was none.  His mother grabbed his arm and pulled him out of the store. Just watching those two gave me a pit in my stomach.

My granddaughter and I found our way to the waiting area after we purchased some greasy airport pizza. The worst. We ate a few pieces just in time for the intercom announcement, which was urging her to board. She waved me goodbye after our elaborate hug, handshake, love you more than the ocean is deep goodbye ritual. My heart ached with that deep sadness that comes from your children and grandchildren living too far away, followed by waves of love and gratitude. My husband and I decided to wait and watch the plane take off, a sweet and lost ritual in today’s airport experience where usually only passengers can linger at the gate.

It was then that I saw the mother and that rambunctious boy sitting on the floor, also watching my granddaughter’s plane.  The mother was yelling at the boy, threatening to spank him “if you don’t knock that off!” Things were escalating and the mother rose up to grab hold of him. It always makes me cringe when I hear a parent threaten a child. My initial feeling is always an urge to retaliate against the parent. It enrages me.  I took a deep breath and heard myself exhaling. Her son was becoming more and more upset, yelling back at her, and then it happened. He punched her and ran away. He did to her, what I felt like doing.

Maybe it was my grieving heart that opened me up to the suffering of this mother. Maybe it was because he hit her. But when I looked at her furious face, I could feel her exhaustion. I could feel her feelings of being defeated, overwhelmed, and completely alone. I walked over to her.

I just let all the judgment and anger go.  I opened my heart to her and felt tears welling up inside of me.  I gently rested my hand on her back and said, “Be kind to yourself, mommy. I can see you are doing the best that you can.”

I guess in that moment it didn’t occur to me that she might turn her fury on me. She slumped down and started to weep. She cried and cried and told me everything.  Everything. How her son is autistic and he gets crazy, how her teenage daughter who is on the plane hates her because she didn’t do right by her when she was younger, and yet she did the best she could and didn’t know what to do, and how she is working full time and moving soon and needs more time with her son, and isn’t sure about how to make ends meet.  She talked and she talked, sharing her worries and pain. I mostly listened, while rubbing her back and smoothing her ponytail, gently pulling the bangs from her eyes. I listened. As she talked, she softened. I listened, nodding, and understanding. Her son, who had been ramping up for a fight, started rocking himself moving a little closer over time.  The mother didn’t seem to notice.  She had so much she needed to tell me. As her tears subsided, her son crawled into her lap. She held him, kissed his forehead and started rocking herself with her son in her arms. “Thank you,” she said, as I stood up to go. I don’t remember what I said at that point. The whole day was so surreal.  I know I didn’t change her life, and that her son would continue to struggle along with her. But somehow, the harshness of life seemed a little less so.  There was this moment where this mother found relief and her son found comfort, and I felt compassion where I often mostly feel despair.

What we see in others is so often just the surface of their deep struggle and suffering.  Parents who bully and aggress their children are parents who are out of control and who need those of us who can, to connect with them. Feeling into the world of another person and problem solving with them takes time. In neuroscience, it is called co-regulation.  It sounds scientific, but it really is an art form. We all want our children to manage their emotions and relate to others with courtesy, warmth, and empathy.  Children learn these skills by developing the self-regulatory equipment of the brain and this essentially happens through our connection with them.  Deep connection is the art of co-regulation.  Psychiatrist Alan Shore, MD explains how the development of self-regulation occurs within relationship with another brain. We essentially are our relationships. The beauty of co-regulation is when we are able to stay connected with another person who is distressed, feel into their world and create a sense of safety, we feel better.  When I was able to connect to the mother at the airport, when I was able to listen and rub her back and understand – I felt better. I felt connected.  Connected to her, to my family, to the little boy, to my granddaughter, to all the mothers and fathers that struggle and to myself as a mother and even to myself as that vulnerable child.

Robbyn Peters Bennett is a psychotherapist, educator, and child advocate who specializes in the treatment of mental health problems due to early abuse and neglect. She also helps parents whose children struggle with tantrums, anxiety, bullying, and ADHD using sand tray therapy, with a sensitivity to advancements in neuropsychology. She believes children do well when they can and that behavioral problems stem from unmet developmental needs and lagging skills.  Her work with children supports the attachment between the child and parent,  so that the child's developmental needs can be met within the parent-child relationship. 

Robbyn also works with adults suffering from anxiety, depression, and symptoms of post traumatic stress.  She works from a Jungian perspective, and believes that the psyche contains the seeds to its own cure. To learn more about her work, go to http://robbynpetersbennett.org

 

The Ritual Reveals Itself

The Ritual Reveals Itself

Contributed by Kelly Sunrose

 

 

 

 

 

The spring is a special time for my practice. I celebrate the anniversary of my practice (18 years, half my life) as well as the anniversary of my becoming a yoga teacher (9 years, a quarter of my life). It’s only natural to reflect on how things have changed, the expansions and contractions, the elements that have remained constant (in a sense) through all of that time.

I carried around a book about meditation for 7 years before I started to sit still. “You can’t hurry love, no you just have to wait.” The Supremes sang the truth.

Somewhere between my very first class and today, the state of being that is yoga began to reveal itself to me until I had the visceral, embodied memory that it is, indeed, my natural state. The times of longing for it were manufactured by my own ego. My attachment to the story that I’m separate, less than or greater than everyone else.

abhyasa vairagyabhyam tat nirodhah

stillness is the result of practice for many years without attachment to the outcome.

-Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, 1.12

My morning practice has the potential to set the tone for my entire day, so I am devoted to it. The work is to remain open to whatever happens during that practice.

At least five days a week, this is the sacred ritual that begins my day.

My morning ritual really begins the night before. I create conditions that support an early morning by winding down early. When my 4 year-old daughter gets in bed at 7pm, I slip into my evening-wear, tidy the house, turn on the robot vacuum (game-changer for a working mom, by the way), shower & lay out my clothes for the morning and retire to my bedroom to read or watch something on my iPad. (This is my social-time with my husband, so I am looser with the rules about “no tv in bed.”) We are usually fast asleep by 9pm (we adopted this particular ritual about 9 years ago).

I wake up feeling super-refreshed between 5 and 5:30am. (I do set an alarm as a back-up, but don’t really need it if I adhere to the 9pm bedtime.)

Quiet as a mouse, I tip-toe downstairs once I’m dressed and washed.

While I wait for water to boil, I step outside into the first sounds and smells of morning. Non-attached listening is one of my favorite meditation practices. Morning is so good for this.

I make myself a brew of hot water with lemon, and sometimes ginger, turmeric and honey. This practice is newer for me, but it feels SO good to start the day with water. It’s usually too hot to drink right away, so I carry it to my meditation cave to hold in my lap while I ready to sit.

For the last 9 years, I’ve meditated consistently. Mostly every day, but I like to be loose about it because… practice without the non-attachment for me is the road to suffering. There were times when I was still practicing law and again when my daughter was a baby where I would make myself a little crazy just to get in a 20 minute sit, and that very rarely leads me to Yoga, so I am loose about it. I know that I am a kinder human, a better mother, a more loving wife when I meditate, so I treasure the practice. I treat it like my sweet necessary luxury.

After I sit, I move a little bit. Many days, it probably looks like I am just rolling around on the floor, but there is a lot of intention behind that rolling. Locating the balance of effort and ease in the movements requires attention.

After practice, I drink tea or (on occasion) coffee. A hot drink in the morning is a practice in mindfulness. Boiling the water, selecting the cup, steeping the tea, pouring the milk, holding the cup, smelling the brew, the very first sips. It’s a ritual of joy.

When I begin my day this way, the rituals keep on coming. I am in relationship with presence and able to attend to what and whom are with me. I am so grateful for this practice.

 

 

Kelly Sunrose began practicing yoga 18 years ago under the glow of the Hale Bopp comet. Kelly is grateful for every teaching that has illuminated the path, from the grocery store parking lot to the top of Meditation Mount. Kelly has been teaching her signature blend of investigative, devotional yoga since 2006, when she was certified to teach by the Shambhava School of Yoga.

Kelly continues her studies with Kira Ryder, Erich Schiffmann, Patricia Sullivan and many beloved others. Since 2009, Kelly has shared full-length videos and audio recordings of her classes at sunroseyoga.com. In 2015, she joined the teaching family at Yoga Anytime (http://yogaanytime.com). She creates spaces and experiences for transformative practice in-person and online.

She lives in Portland, Oregon with her family.


Acupuncture and the Lesson of Impermanence

 

 

 

Acupuncture and the Lesson of Impermanence

Contributed by Anne Carruth, Acupuncturist and Chinese Medicine Practitioner

 

 

 

 

 

As an acupuncturist, I am regularly asked how I got into Chinese medicine.  I think people assume that I had an awe-inspiring acupuncture treatment that jump-started me onto this path.  Or perhaps a longtime fascination with Chinese culture that evolved into a study of Chinese medicine.  Truth be told, I leapt into acupuncture almost by default, and wound up learning how to both wield needles, and embrace the ebb and flow of life.  

Back in the day, I was searching for a complete and holistic style of healthcare.  One that emphasized preventative medicine and physical touch, and focused just as much on a patient’s emotional stress, lifestyle, and diet, as it did on their physical symptoms.  When I couldn’t find this in traditional western medicine, I visited a rolfing institute, toured a Buddhist liberal arts campus, researched nutrition programs, and personal trainer certifications.  I pin-balled from one option to the next, but it wasn’t until I stumbled upon the Colorado School for Traditional Chinese Medicine that I found a path I truly resonated with.  The program encompassed everything I was looking for in healthcare, so I decided to trust the universe and jump in.

That was ten years ago, and my work as an acupuncturist has proven to be immensely fulfilling.  Chinese medicine is an incredible field that has educated me on disease processes, herbal remedies, acupuncture points, meridian theory, nutrition, the management of stress, pain, emotions, and more.   But the most valuable lesson acupuncture has taught me, is that of impermanence.  I see it in both my patients and myself every day, and it has changed the way I view my life and my health.

Acupuncture ultimately boils down to movement.  Our bodies and minds are constantly moving, regulating, thinking, responding, filtering, adjusting, pumping blood, breathing air, taking in fuel and excreting waste.  My role as an acupuncturist is to enhance wellbeing by balancing these movements within the body.  Stagnation of qi, blood, or nutrients within us allows for pain and disease processes to set up.  Acupuncture prevents stagnation by promoting the smooth, even movement of these things within our bodies.  In fact, the only time we are ever static is when we die.  Wellness = Movement = Impermanence.  Thus, we are impermanent.  We are constantly changing and so is the world around us.  And acknowledging that you are impermanent – that everything is a balancing act, a cycle, a flow - is as liberating as it is motivating. 

Impermanence means that everything you are experiencing right now – in your mind, body, and environment - will change.  Negative things will eventually shift, good can become great, and great cannot be taken for granted.  It means that poor health can always be improved upon, and that good health needs continual support to remain good.  Knowing that everything I am right now will evolve, motivates me to set positive intentions, and gives me solace when things aren’t going as planned.  Impermanence provides opportunities to improve all aspects of your life.    

Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine have given me knowledge about healthcare in all the ways I was hoping for, but more importantly, they have taught me that we are truly impermanent, that we are constantly changing, and that life is supposed to work this way! 

So, in my professional opinion, I recommend that you:

  • Embrace change! 
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff…it’s not permanent.
  • Set intentions to move forward in all aspects of your life.  Don’t let anything get too stagnant.
  • Remember that it’s never too late to start.
  • Be present.  THIS moment only happens once. 
  • And smile.  It just makes everything better
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Anne Carruth is a Midwest girl, who has followed her career, family, and love of the outdoors from Ohio, to Colorado, and finally to Oregon.  After completing her undergraduate studies in Ohio, she earned her Masters in Denver at the Colorado School of Traditional Chinese Medicine.  She now holds a Masters of Science in Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine, and is certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM).  

Anne’s philosophy on health is founded in preventative medicine and a holistic view of the mind, body, and spirit.  She embraces the traditional Chinese model of treating the “branch” and the “root”; thus treating one’s symptoms, as well as their underlying cause. This approach enables her to treat a wide variety of health concerns, ranging from pain to the common cold.  Anne loves her work as an acupuncturist and feels privileged to help others achieve their wellness goals.  Her gentle needling technique and compassionate approach make her an ideal practitioner for children, sensitive patients, and those new to acupuncture.  While her extensive training and clinical experience enable her to tackle the most difficult of cases.

 

Schedule an appointment with Anne at Portland Natural Health. (Portland Natural Health Bio Page)

You can also find her at the next Taking Care event.

Attitude of Gratitude


 Wear gratitude like a cloak and it will feed every corner of your life. ~Rumi

The attitude of gratitude is one of the most reliable methods of developing inner joy. It’s an attitude that humanity should adopt 365 days a year. This isn’t a profound blog entry; it’s more of a reminder to say “Thank-you”… all the time. It’s good for you and it’s good for others around you. We are constantly faced with obstacles and new challenges and it’s through modeling how to embrace life that we teach those around us how to embark on their own journey of self-study. That’s right, showing gratitude for all of it, the ups AND the downs. As though it isn’t important enough in and of itself, remember that our younger generation, the littles, are watching our every move. They are learning how to tackle life through our example. It’s a big deal and a big job. That’s why we asked moms and dads around the world how they help teach gratitude to their children.

This is what they had to say:

 

  • Our family has a gratitude jar on the dining room table with slips of paper and a pencil.  If anyone in the family notices or recognizes that someone is being kind they write it down and put it in the jar.  Once a week, we read the pieces of paper and discuss the kindness that was associated with the action.  It helps refocus our entire family on acts of kindness and the feeling of gratitude to others.~Sheri Louis, mother of 2, Portland OR

 

  • Every night we each (including parents) share at least one thing we are grateful for and one kind thing we did that day. It is amazing the refocus it has created in our daily reflections and in the valued importance we as, a family, place on gratitude and kindness. ~Colleen Reuland, mother of 3, Portland OR

 

  • Teaching my children gratitude doesn't come in a form of a plan or formal training...it comes from a way-of-life, a flow of gratefulness that comes from the heart. As a mom I have to lead by example even when I don't feel like being or expressing gratitude. Other ways of teaching my children gratitude include reminding them to say "thank you," talking about what they appreciated about their day at the dinner table, asking them what they are thankful for during holidays such as Thanksgiving, etc. I also think it's important for them to understand how to be thankful for each other so we often talk about what we appreciate about one another. ~ Valerie Reed, mother of 3, Belleville PA

 

  • At dinner time we discuss the days "highlights" and one thing they are thankful for today. Even though it will move toward low lights inevitably, it is an opportunity to notice what is going well first, and then what is difficult. Putting the positive in first seems to create a nice balance of positive reality in order to make space for the challenges in life. ~Christy Strange, mother of 2, Portland, OR

 

  • We take a moment together to pause and be thankful for both the big and little things in life -- from taking in the awe of the sights and sounds of Mother Nature on a hike, to the cozy perfection of a mug of hot cocoa together. We also try to go around the dinner table and say one thing that we are grateful for from the day, or sometimes we do that same thing just before going to sleep at night. ~Marie Tindall, Mother of 2, Portland, OR

 

  • My daughter taught me gratitude. You can see she is grateful for every hug, every kiss and every “I love you”. ~Karen Blomstedt, mother of 1, Portsmouth RI

 

  • We talk a lot about water and food waste. Last year my 6 year old son raised over $800 for Charity Water in Kenya. ~Sarasvati Hewitt, mother of 2, Portland OR

 

  • I teach my daughter about gratitude by seeing her share her gifts to the world. I honor that and then tell her "thank you."  I feel so grateful to see her light shine in that! ~Kelly Sunrose Conner, mother of 1, Portland OR

 

  • I talk about gratitude with my son during dinner. We don't say "grace" but rather offer a blessing which usually involves putting words to the gratitude that we have for all of the gods and goddess' and all of our guides and teachers. We thank them for our health, our strength, and any other quality we feel important to offer thanks for on a given day. We offer gratitude for the farmers and all those involved in making our food accessible. And finally we offer gratitude for one another, I thank Zion for his compassion and his kindness, and he often will thank me for my presence. We take turns doing the blessing. It is a part of our day that really touches my heart. I love this time where we are able to look inward and express our love of life with clarity. ~Sondra Bloxam, mother of 1, Portland OR

 

  • With my oldest we talk about what we are thankful for and why. We practice gratitude by saying thank you. I think kids learn by example and repetition so we sometimes play a game of gift giving where they can practice how to show gratitude for a gift.  ~Denae Weaver, mother of 2, Green Bell PA

 

  • We volunteer at a food bank. At night during prayer we talk about the non-material things we are grateful for. We try to teach gratitude through modeling it. ~Ursula Rocha, mother of 3, Alexandria VA

 

  • One way in which we teach gratitude to our kids is by taking them camping for a week every summer. When we return home after a week of being outside in the elements, our small house with its running water and air conditioning seem like a palace! ~Molly Cohen, mother of 3, Franklin MA

 

  • My boys are 8 and 10 and for as long as they remember we have taught them to give on their birthdays. Every other birthday they choose an organization to donate to in lieu of receiving gifts. The process of choosing the organizations and presenting the gifts has humbled them. In their preschool years, we would make a gratitude tree that hung in the house. We would add paper leaf cutouts with grateful notes on it. It was always overflowing with leaves that didn’t fall with the change of the seasons. Now I think the best way to teach gratefulness is to model it. Hearing dad thank mom for dinner, hearing mom thank dad for all the time he puts into coaching their teams, telling the boys how wonderful it is when they help around the house… it all makes an impression on them. One I hope they carry into adulthood. ~ Caitlin MacNeil, mother of 2, Portland OR

 

  • Every night at bedtime we each talk about one thing we are grateful for. I try to expose them or increase their awareness at least to the fact that there are other children in the world who might be homeless or ill. I think stepping outside of their paradigm is important and it fosters gratitude. ~Jill Whitchurch- Dixon, mother of 2, Vancouver WA

 

  • In general I try to model gratitude by thanking people for even the littlest of things, like, “Thanks, Ms. Maria, for putting a clip in my hair so I can see better.” I also try to point out the beauty in nature, like an interesting cloud, how the breeze feels on your face, or the color of the grass. I see my daughter starting to do the same now! ~Elizabeth Wegner, mother of 2, Alexandria VA

 

  • Through yearly giving tree projects we buy gifts for families that don’t have enough money to afford them. We also donate all of our old items- including scooters/bikes/clothes to homeless shelters that house families. We talk as a family about our good fortunes and do what we can to help others in need. ~Michele Bell, mother of 2, Lake Oswego OR

 

  • Children know how to say thank you but they must learn how to feel thankful. I think modeling thankfulness and kindness are the most powerful instruction tools we can offer our children. ~Kristina Komorowski, mother of 2, Portland OR

 

 

The Body is Here and Now

The body is here and now.

Contributed by Anna Chapman.

 

 

 

 

 

The body is here and now.

That is all it can be.

 

I love food and always have. I love the way it tastes, how it looks, the colors, and the smells. Growing up I was raised by a father who showed love through cooking and preparing food, and a mother who showed love by removing food through portion control and eating restrictions. As you can imagine for a small child this was very confusing and caused turmoil in regards to what and how much I should eat. Compounded by the media’s obsession with how a woman’s body should look this was a recipe for a very confused little girl.

Growing up in Guam and Hawaii with typhoons, earthquakes, home robbery, and racism as the norm, added to the internal turmoil I felt.  My home was full of love and food yet I was living in a turbulent environment with a slightly confused state of mind. There were and continue to be many extraneous circumstances that shaped the person I have become and one of the coping skills I developed early on was that food was safe.

By the time I was 11 I was on my first diet, and had a gym membership. At 15 I was “diagnosed” with over eating disorder (Which I now believe to be a sham), and at the ripe age of 22 I weighed in at 417 pounds in the unhappiest mental state a person could exist. Until I had hit what I could only assume was rock bottom, I hadn’t truly felt anything in years. I was sad all the time. It was numbing; an overflowing of sadness that didn’t evoke anything but avoidance. Until that point I had not wanted to deal with, let alone understand why I couldn’t stop eating or why overeating was so physically painful yet emotionally nurturing. Why was I broken?

After seeking help from family and friends I initiated a change. I began researching, working out, and eating healthier. But the real problem I’ve come to understand had nothing to do with food.

Let’s fast forward 5 years, where here I stand more than 100 lbs. lighter, equip with a wealth of knowledge about food production and nutrition. But none of that matters to me anymore, I no longer weigh my worth in pounds.

In the past five years I have been pealing back the layers of who I am, and why I am the way I am. I’ve dug deep into my childhood and healed many old wounds. I have found and reclaimed my relationship with this perfectly amazing body. I’ve developed compassionate self-talk that nurtures myself when I need love over food. I have realized that my body was never against me that it kept growing to keep me safe because I was never able to tell it that I could take over as an adult. I no longer need to worry and go into starvation mode, because I am safe. And the most profound wisdom I can give you is to start an open line of communication between your mind, body, and soul.  Be curious and open about what it is that you do not want to feel.

Mindfulness has been my biggest gift within this work of self-discovery. The moment I check out of my experience my body goes into autopilot and I start doing things I haven’t done in years. Two of my favorite tools that link mindfulness and the body require nothing but an open mind and a playful curiosity.

  • #1. Mindful Eating: Start by creating your meal, whatever it is prepare it with all your senses. Smell your food, take it in with your eyes, and be present while you are putting the meal together. Once its ready dim the lights, turn off all devices (even music), set your place beautifully with a candle on your favorite plate. Sit down and take three deep breaths, arrive in your seat with this beautiful life force meal you have created. As you start to eat chew your food, take it in with all your senses, feel into your body as it goes down your esophagus and into your belly. Don’t rush the next bite, enjoy every mouthful and only eat what appeals to you. If part of it is not feeling good in your body, don’t eat that part. Take in only exactly, and as much as your body wants. If you aren’t sure what this feels like, be present and see what happens if you physically ask, “Body, do you want more? Are you satisfied?” When you are done take a few deep breathes and just give your body a moment to let the experience sync. Feel gratitude for the fullness of the moment.

 

  • #2. Body Awareness Appreciation: I’m a big advocate for self-talk. Throughout the day I am usually having a conversation with my body and soul… often even out loud. When I used to workout my words were very aggressive, “DON’T STOP, KEEP MOVING, PUSH PUSH PUSH!” What I realized years later, is that my body didn’t like being spoken to in this way. Now I practice appreciation, if I go for a run I’m saying, “Wow look at you run, legs you are amazing pushing me forward, arms you are so strong, belly thank you for the strength.” I usually throw in a few, “You are such a brilliant goddess, I am in awe of you” moments as well. When I dance I feel into the movement and delight in the new ways I am able to move. When any part of my body hurts I give gratitude to it for working so hard and for holding me up and for being so strong. This little shift in body awareness and appreciation can be profound; it makes movement more fun and much more fulfilling.

 

I invite you to try these tools, and to be conscious of what you are feeling; specifically when you are checked out of your experience with regards to food and body awareness. It seems easier sometimes to disengage rather then open up to the seemingly hard and uncomfortable parts of life. But this is where growth happens, it’s in the uncomfortable places that we see how strong and stable we are. Trust life and know that you are divinely supported... that you were given the perfect body. Live from a place of love and openness where everything is possible.

 

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Anna Chapman is a hippie-goddess-yogi-cat-lady, living in Portland Oregon. She is passionate about healing her body and discovering the beauty that shines from within. She is offering a workshop in collaboration with Soul Coach, Kathy Carlisle November 15th and 16th called “Dare to live from the inside out”. Inspiring attendees that this life is happening for you not to you, offering tools to live a full, vibrant, and magical life. She also offers one on one Body Love sessions to help bring in positive self-talk and body appreciation through compassion and love. She is a firm believer in the fact that no one is broken, and once we can shine a little light on the dark parts of ourselves we see there is only love there. To find out more about Anna, visit www.iamannachapman.com

 

 

 

Become interested in your body, we are not interested in it most of the time. We have ideas about it, ideas about the shape of it. We objectify it, we label it, but we are not particularly interested in it. Your body is your piece of the universe you have been given, you have been handed this body for the time you are here on earth. So you might as well become interested in it, because unless you begin the process about what its like to be where you are then you can’t be grounded. The mind will bounce from the past to the present with ideas, but the body is here now, that is all it can be!
— Geneen Roth

 

Art as Healing

Art as Healing

Contributed by Rhoda Miller.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don't know if creativity is an innate or cultivated characteristic. I do know that what creativity I was born with was nurtured from a young age by my parents and an influential art teacher I was blessed to learn from for 11 years through my childhood. I also know that at the lowest, darkest times of my life, I have clung to my creativity and art like a life preserver in the middle of a raging ocean, and without fail, it has held me up every time. I've often heard people talk about having pets for their ability to love unconditionally, and it may sound silly, but that is what art has done for me. Art has always given back to me in a way no human or pet ever could. 

Art pulled me from the depths of what could have been a vast depression after my sister, SaraLisa, ended her life when I was 19. A sophomore in college, having recently changed my major to art, I poured myself into creative expression as a form of healing for the first time in my life. For several years after SaraLisa's death, I was very resistant to traditional counseling; I have later come to realize that I am a very internal processor, one who can sit on my thoughts and emotions for weeks without being able to make sense of them. In the early stages of grief, often my only moments of great clarity were found through creating art. In the lowest times following my sister's death, I sank deep into myself and was often only pulled out through visual expression, writing, and the sheer determination to continue living. 

Throughout the years, many people have told me that something good would come of her death. Life events of such enormity are never able to be quantified, nor would I ever begin to find equal the exchange of my sister's life for my expanded artistic repertoire. What I do know is while my loss has brought me great pain, my pain has inspired multiple facets of creative expression that I may have never otherwise experienced. 


Years later, I had the wind knocked out of me again, slowly and repeatedly this time, over the course of a six year relationship and a series of lies I desperately wanted to believe. My therapist likened it to Chinese water torture, each lie another drip. Divorced, childless, and paying a mortgage on a non-profit salary was not where I pictured myself at 31. However, even as I felt the ground shifting again, I was overwhelmed with a vast sense of inner calm; I had already overcome more than I could have imagined and certainly I was stronger than ever before. Also, hadn’t millions of individuals in the history of the world faced tragedy and hardship and yet prevailed? Surely my human experience was not inherently unique.

Again I found myself purging my emotions through creative expression. Tired of keeping secrets and pretending at normalcy, I found huge reprieve in creating a series of paintings I shared with my community in a solo show just 8 months following my separation. Titled “Within”, the series explored depth and layers and sparse barrenness. While my art is incredibly nonobjective in nature and I was purposefully sparing in my artist statement at the time, sharing my work left me feeling inside out and scrubbed raw for all to see. It was necessary for me to realize hiding would no longer suffice for surviving. I wanted more from life.

I credit art more than any other one thing in my life for bringing me great healing. Art has taught me to be gentle with myself, as nothing ever comes out on canvas in the way I imagine it, and I have learned vulnerability by sharing my work with others. Healing never happens in a vacuum or through one mode of processing alone, and I believe the proper combination of these is different for each person. Art is something I take with me wherever I go and I know as long as I have the ability to create, I will feel like a whole person with a world of possibility at my fingertips. 

 

The italicized portions are featured in the book Be Your Finest Art by Joanne Miller and Dorsey McHugh, published this year.

 

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Rhoda Miller is an Ohio transplant living in Harrisonburg, Virginia. When she’s not busy running, creating, hiking, or catching up with friends, you might find her at her day job as a Crisis Response Coordinator at the Collins Center. She shares her art and other musings on her website.

Mindfulness vs. Mindlessness

Mindfulness vs. Mindlessness

Contributed by Justina Hertzler

 


Mindlessness, aka losing my mind, often overwhelms me when I'm at my most vulnerable. Those times when I have to accomplish something in a short period of time while maintaining the calm amongst two tiny people who can sense my growing anxiety. A place I've been in several times over the course of writing this entry.  "Just a minute," or "give me a sec," are flying out of my mouth left and right, while my brain switches into multitask mode.  As if on cue, tiny number two hones in on my location, starts yelling, signing "milk," and demanding to be picked up.  This causes tiny number one to scream and run around the house, inciting dog, assuming the loudest gets the most attention (which is mostly true).  I check the time, feel my anxiety level ratchet up a notch, and push on, despite feeling paralyzed by the noise, and growing needs of the kiddos. Insert favorite mindfulness practice.  Slow down.  Stop multitasking all. the. time.  When I calm my mind, peace settles around us, and time seems to slow down.  It allows me to get down on my children's level to assess their needs, and block out the distractions whirling around in my head.  It may be but a lingering moment, but it feels like an accomplishment.  It’s my answer to my despair about the speed of life.  Intentionally taking one task at a time, literally keeping a slower pace, has been a relief.

 

One might wonder why, if I so desire to slow down, am I'm often hurrying my three year old.  "Lets go, we have to hurry" was a common command at our house until recently.  Resisting the urge to constantly hurry my children, mostly the three year old, is a daily practice  That's not to say that I'm never in a hurry, or that I don't try to quickly usher my children out the door at times.  I've just decided to remove "hurry up" from my vocabulary, attempting to respect the environment we all share.  It also makes for a more pleasant exit.  I adopted this the instant I read Hands Free Mama, "The day I stopped saying hurry up."  My three year old is always mindful, always noticing, always with insight into our adult lives, and she is slow.  As she should be, that is the freedom of childhood.  Instead of rushing her, I give her more time to process.  Instead of hurrying her out the door I make time to engage in what she is doing at the moment, and take it in with her.  Deleting "hurry up" is a reminder to savor this time with my children, rather than rushing mindlessly from activity to activity.  

 

During the day I have very little time to myself to just think.  My youngest still naps twice a day, but her sister is on overdrive from morning until night.  Talking to me or at me, engaging me at every possible moment, is a trait that I work hard to embrace, but gets the best of me at times.  I really enjoy peace and quiet.  No background music during the day (unless we are having a three year old dance party), no ear buds on runs, no special play lists for long drives (probably a pod cast or two, I'm not that crazy), so the all day barrage of three year old banter is tough.  My reprieve comes when I'm nursing the baby to sleep, in three 20-minute windows.  It's tempting to take my phone into the quiet dark room and mindlessly browse the web while she is nodding off to sleep.  But this time feels sacred.  Instead I've committed to just being during naptime.  Rocking back and forth with a sleeping baby and just looking at her, being mindful of this place in time.  No phone.  It's my favorite.  There really isn't an email or text that can't wait.  My children notice when I have too much going on during the day.  Having time to collect my thoughts rather than checking status updates, keeps us all sane.  

 

I want to be here, in this season of life as long as possible.  My three year old can't wait to be a "mommy with a kid, a baby and a daddy (husband),'' but I'm hoping to take the slow road to that party.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Justina Hertlzer lives in Lancaster Pennsylvania with her two beautiful daughters and Brew Master/Frisbee throwing husband. She is a Registered Nurse and Magical Mama committed to holistic health, mindful parenting, and global transformation through personal healing.