Sunday, November 21, 2010

Wild geese

I've been appreciating my life so deeply in the last few months. A friend just sent this poem to me, and it touched me, as I head out this morning to connect with the birds and the chill in the air with 2o of my closest friends. Thanks, members of my meetups, for filling me with such gratitude and renewing my certainty that I am exactly where I belong. Maybe I'll even have a photo of a wild goose to add to this post later today!!

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
Love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile, the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile, the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting--
over and over announcing your place in the family of things.

-Mary Oliver

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The somatics of emotion

Have you ever noticed what happens in your body as you experience different emotions? Do you know what it feels like to be grounded, centered, and present? When you are grounded, centered, and present, where are your shoulders? Where is your attention? Can you feel your feet on the ground? What does your breathing feel like?

For me, breaths are slow when I am centered. My eyes are forward and relaxed with a soft gaze. I feel the earth beneath my feet, even when concrete and my shoes block the path. My weight is centered over my feet or slightly back so I can take in everything around me.

Now, imagine what your body feels like when you are angry. For me, my eyes still look straight forward but they are squinted- glaring straight ahead, not willing to take anything in outside of the focus of my anger. My weight is forward and all of my energy is directed to the front of me- my energy follows my glare. My breath becomes forceful but shallow and I no longer feel the earth beneath my feet.

What about sadness? In sadness, my breath becomes shaky, my eyes fall to the floor, and all I want to do is curl up into a ball and shut the world out. My shoulders are hunched forward, my arms are crossed or covering my face, and I feel so heavy that I want to sink to my knees. I do not feel the earth beneath my feet or notice anything outside of myself. My focus turns almost entirely inward.

There are many ways to shift our moods but for me the most powerful method is through the body. The next time you feel angry or sad, notice your body. Notice your breath. Then shift back to a centered, grounded, present way of being. This can be done indoors but tends to work more easily if you are surrounded by the natural world. Bring your shoulders back and center your weight over your feet. Take a deep breath and notice your breath filling your head, your lungs, and your belly. Feel the earth beneath your feet. Relax your gaze and take in all of the sights, sounds, and smells around you. When you breathe in, be aware that the air you are taking in was just exhaled by the trees, birds, squirrels, and grass. Breathe in. Feel the breath flowing through your feet and into the earth. Feel yourself filled with the strength of the earth beneath you. Let the earth's strength become your strength. Breathe out your anger or sadness, and breathe in the energy and peace of the natural world.

Has your emotion shifted?

Interestingly, your amygdala, which is the emotional center of your brain, sits right next to your nasal cavity and literally is cooled down when you take a breath through your nose. The next time you hear someone suggest you take a deep breath, realize now how profound that suggestion really is!

Monday, July 19, 2010

The importance of play

How often does lightness show up in your life? When was the last time you did something just for the sake of the adventure or the joy of it? When was the last time you did something not just to get better at it or to prove yourself good enough to someone in your life?

It's funny. I've been a ski instructor for the last 7 years and worked very hard to improve my skiing so I can get my PSIA level 2 certification, to get the higher pay, higher level classes, and the respect and prestige associated with it. Sometimes I can let those goals go, but a lot of the time I over-analyze myself, critiquing my balance, my tipping, turning, fluidity, and confidence level in every single turn......

It almost makes me forget why I love skiing. When I started teaching, I was barely skiing parallel. I made it down some black diamond runs without falling, but it was incredibly slow. I laughed every time I went out. I laughed at myself, laughed at the snow falling on my head from the trees as I skied through them. I laughed so hard when I fell that sometimes I would just lay there, making snow angels until I could stop laughing and find my skis that were buried in the snow somewhere uphill.

Even when I got my level 2 last season, I was so burned out that it was an effort to put my boots on int he morning.

Today, I bought an innertube with the intention of exploring the irrigation ditch next to my house. My neighbor asked where I was headed off to, and I told her of my plan. She looked concerned. She asked "Isn't that water poisonous?" The though had not occurred to me. I've waded in that ditch for 2 summers now, and my legs haven't fallen off yet!!!

Sure, this irrigation ditch is for all of the agriculture to the east of the city and thus may have pesticides and fertilizer and who knows what else downstream... But I'm not planning on drinking the stuff! Not to mention that I don't believe that there is much agriculture upstream of me.

The scientist in me wants to test the water to see what I can learn. My first reaction, though, is that nature is not anything to be afraid of. If I was too afraid to go outside at night because a mountain lion might eat me, I might miss the howling coyotes and hooting owls, and the cool night wind.

Google maps is possibly the best resource I've ever found for dreaming up expeditions near and far. My irrigation ditch is the drainage from Sixmile Reservoir just south of Boulder Res. It heads east past my neighborhood, then swings north to Niwot, then east again for a few miles before finally turning south in a cement lined ditch that leads back to Boulder Creek. It looks tubeable at least through Niwot and possibly beyond. It winds through suburbia until it passes out of town.

I started my exploration where 2 ditches meet, just downstream of the ditch that flows between Twin Lakes. I slipped my tube into the water, knowing some of what I'd pass, but there are parts that are too overgrown to see from the path. The flow was slow, and I had to wave away the cobweb and debris-covered branches that hung over my head. Only a few people passed me on the trail. The first man that passed did not notice me. The family that walked by a few minutes later smiled and waved.

When I was a child, I always wished that there was a stream behind my house. I loved my little patch of poison-ivy filled woods, where I played and swung on vines and built forts and ate berries. I loved it! But I always wished there was a stream to explore too.

I put my tube in the water for no other reason than to see what I could see. I didn't find any secret hideouts, animals, or any other major surprises. That wasn't the point though!

Play just for the sake of playing. Kids do it all the time (as long as their parents let them of course), but somehow we lose that desire as adults. That is, until we remember.

In the last year, I have encouraged every single coaching client I've had to find something to do just for the sake of doing it. Just for the sake of bringing lightness into their life, to balance out the heaviness of the stress in their lives. It's amazing how their perspective changes, just with a night of dancing or a camping trip.

I am going to float the section through the golf course next. I wonder if that's allowed? I suppose I'll find out!!!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Laughter beneath sandstone cliffs

How does it get any better than this?

I went to a networking meeting on Wednesday night and a woman named Rikka Zimmerman spoke about getting out of our own way. I was intrigued. Her work is all about living in the question, and one of her favorite questions stuck with me. I have played with it and felt it, explored it and noticed my gratitude for ordinary moments. How does it get any better than this?


Dave and I took my canoe through a part of Boulder Creek that is rarely boated. I'm not sure if it's even legal. I saw this area so close to my house first on a bike path and then by canoe last October. But what I wanted more than anything is for my husband to share my excitement. There is so much to explore right here. I've spent so much of my life exploring on my own, a side effect of being an only child. I like exploring solo, but it's so much more important for me to share this. I will still explore alone, but I want my Boulder Creek adventure to happen with Dave.

We slipped the canoe silently into the water, and I remembered what it feels like to disappear into a different world. There's nothing like it. I had forgotten exactly what draws me to the river.... It's not even the journey, it's the initiation of it. It's heading away from civilization and being surrounded by birds and cottonwoods, not a human soul in sight.

This is what I love about this river. So many people in Boulder are outdoorsy, hiking the same trails and floating the creek in the same places. How many people know where Boulder Creek goes after it leaves the city limits?

In this place, we see no one. In this place, we are in a different world, away from the crowds, flanked on the side by pockmarked sandstone cliffs and by field on the other. We feel like we're in a different world.

We float on, avoiding fallen trees and sharp corners, laughing as the tree branches cause me to fall backward, into the canoe, feet in the air and gasping for breath because I can't stop laughing. Seriously, did it happen again???? At least I didn't tip the canoe. Now, when Dave and I switched places, the story ended a little bit differently. He leaned back, lost his balance, and I gasped as the boat tipped. In slow motion, the boat tipped, we laughed hysterically, I jumped out and pulled the side of the boat up to keep the water from filling the boat. He said he did it on purpose. He said he was just imitating me. Sure, Dave, sure you were. Mmmhmm.

We fall into silence as the creek runs beside the sandstone cliffs, so close we could reach out and touch them. We are in a different world. Suddenly, we hear a flap of wings and two birds screeching. A golden eagle flies away, with two swallows scolding him, shouting and diving. How can those small birds cause such a reaction? Those little birds are fearless! And the eagle flies over the cottonwoods and disappears from sight.

We see great blue herons taking off from the shore of the river. Red winged blackbirds flock in the cottonwoods, calling to each other and maybe to us? There is something tan on the river side, silent and unmoving. It is the same color as the cliffs. As we float on, we realize this stone being on the river isn't a stone at all! It's a cow! She sits in the river and not even her ears twitch. She hasn't a care as we pass her.

Later on, we saw something floating in the water. It looked dead. We didn't realize it was a snapping turtle until we passed it! The turtle was tilted, half submerged, its skin looking pale and sickly as it slowly moved its legs under the water. He was HUGE! Then he noticed us as we turned back to look closer. He took off and swam under the boat! I guess he wasn't dying, after all! We watched until he disappeared into the mud at the bottom of the river.

Dave's sold on the adventure! He said he would even consider selling our kayaks and instead explore all of these rivers in eastern Colorado. I have my partner in adventure. My wish came true....

How does it get any better than this?


Friday, July 16, 2010

Following the river

Imagine, for a moment. Imagine wandering past the lakes at the St. Vrain state park, passing the edge of the park and wandering along to the river. The St. Vrain river, which flows much more gently this far downstream than it does in the Lyons play park. It's hot. I feel faint, almost, sweating so heavily that my clothes are sticking to me and the now hot water in my backpack does absolutely nothing to refresh me. Yet, still I walk.

After leaving the park and crossing a ditch, I end up on a bike path to nowhere. It's deserted. The path goes under 3 bridges- cars and trucks zooming along above me. Cars and trucks, drowning out every sound... except.... Bank swallows. They swoop and dive and call and there are so many of them it seems as though it's a cloud above me. A cloud that sings and calls and dives. A cloud of eyes, watching. The cars zoom overhead and no one knows I... am... here. I am here.

Except the birds. They know.

I wander along the river, imagining my canoe slipping into the water, disappearing downstream, slipping past farmland and cottonwoods and landowners that very likely would not be happy with me if they knew I was imagining camping on the edge of their land as I float downstream into the unknown.

Cheatgrass gets stuck in my shoes, poking and prodding me, but I do not retreat back to the paved bike path. I am drawn to the river, cheatgrass and all. It's perfect for my canoe. I sometimes imagine slipping into a river and following it all the way to the ocean. This river. I imagine my canoe slipping into Boulder Creek, only a mile from my house, and living, unnoticed, along the highways and farms and cities, hiding in the willow thickets, with the swallows to guide me.

I decide to walk back. I return to the bike path only to realize that I've barely gone anywhere- it's only a 5 minute walk back to where I started! To the left of the bike path, I see birds in a nearly empty reservoir. I see Canada geese and snowy egrets. Snowy egrets!!!! I feel like I'm at my grandma's house in Texas as a teenager, watching egrets fly with their huge white wingspan, I had never seen anything like them, back then. I can't remember the last time I've seen them.... Maybe in Texas as a teenager.

I wander back to the bridge and I look up at the trucks passing over me. No one can hear me. No one knows I'm there. Except for the swallows. They know. I start to sing. Loud. I sing the song that has haunted me for years and years. Here I am. I went down to the river to pray. Studying about those good old ways and who shall wear that thorny crown, good Lord! Show me the way!

Don't you want to come down? Down to the river to pray!

Here under the bridge I sing to the swallows, and I wade into the river, finally cooling off, and finally feeling.... that this is where I belong!!!! Singing to the swallows, standing in the river, smiling at nothing and everything all at once.

I notice the tracks in the mud next to me. There are raccoon and coyote, skunk and heron, fox and... otter? I think so! Maybe my friend the otter is listening to me sing at the top of my lungs too! There is something missing in that mud, though. There is something very significant missing. I see no human footprints except my own. I see no domestic dog prints. All I see is wildness in the mud and on this river, and I wonder if anyone has been here before me.

I'm sure someone has. I'm sure someone else loves finding the secret homes of swallows under the bridge. I am sure that someone else has had the same idea of sliding their canoe into the river here. But right now, the idea feels like it is fully my own.

This is where I belong. This. Is. Where. I. Belong.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Somatics, Soulcraft, and Bullying

I wonder about the somatic effects of depression. My stomach is gurgling and I have felt exhausted.... but I can't bring myself to walk up the stairs to bed. I'm trying to eat well but it doesn't seem to affect my energy.

I had a great meeting today about a training program I want to develop, and it was incredible to be in this group of 6 people who share my vision for the creation of this training. It was my idea, but before, I felt that I was going at it alone. To be in a meeting with other people who share my vision was so incredible. My gratitude brought me to tears.... and I really didn't want to be crying in front of this group (that social anxiety thing.... ugh!). But seriously, I have a ton of faith that this training is going to happen.

Had lunch with a new friend today who suggested that I work with bullied girls in my practice. I've been working with adults and I love it but.... Wow. He said that my triggering is where my greatest healing is going to occur, but also it is where my greatest offering is. Does that make sense? I am intrigued. Sure, my "wounded child" that I'm working with in my study of Soulcraft by Bill Plotkin was born out of bullying I endured as a child. And, I recognize when I'm acting out of that (hmm.... like this intense fear of being around groups of people that I dont know). So. If I were to work with bullying interventions, the way I would want to do it is to get the bully and the victim together, face to face, and facilitate conversations between them.... Because out of understanding comes respect of one another. I have no idea how I would facilitate that. But, it's something I wish had happened for me as a child. There was even an opportunity to facilitate that conversation. In 5th grade I was seeing a therapist and I proceeded into group therapy with a few other kids. How crazy was it that my bully happened to be in this group..... How could a safe space for healing be formed when my bully who had tormented me all year was there? As far as I remember, my therapist NEVER ONCE brought up the torment I had endured at school. I wonder what healing could have occurred then if my therapist had the courage to make us talk about it? Maybe allow us to get to know each other in a different context than school? I don't know. But I've been thinking about that missed opportunity a lot as I actively work through healing that wounded part of me now as a 30something woman.

I'm totally writing in a stream of consciousness. No idea if anyone is reading this but I really don't care that much either.... I want to write. I want to see what it's like to get my thoughts on paper (or the computer as it may be). Maybe someone will read this. Maybe it will be just for myself. It doesn't really matter. I'll just write anyway.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Okay, So it's been suggested that I should start a blog, but I wanted to wait until I felt witty and deep to start it.... But, I figured until that happens I'll just start with what I've got.

I don't know where I should start though! I have had a pretty emotionally tough few months and have some crazy social anxiety brewing, so I've been sitting at home alone WAY too much.... waiting for the phone to ring is not a good way to market for my new business or make some new friends....

It all started with a Tom Brown philosophy course. In my little group of 5 I ended up pissing one of the people off by... talking too much? She said I had been talking nonstop and not allowing anyone else's voice to be heard. Which is funny because I am always so careful (neurotically so) to talk just enough, not too much, to not always be first, to not always be last, to always offer just enough but not too much. And still, even with this neurotic attention to the way I interacted, I still managed to piss someone off.

Anyway, since that time I've been struggling with being in groups of people I don't know.... so much that I have to force myself to leave my house. I sit at home and play video games, try to e-mail people to plan going out for coffee or skiing or a hike or ANYTHING..... And then I feel sorry for myself when people don't write back.

Depression is a funny thing. It's a spiral that's so hard to get out of once I get caught there. I joined a choir, started taking cello lessons, joined a study group to explore the work of Bill Plotkin (Soulcraft), and attended some networking events. Even with that I still haven't managed to bring myself out of that spiral.

So, I'll just start an anonymous blog and maybe if I come up with something witty and thought provoking to say, I'll make a public one. Maybe linked to my business. Who knows.

It's spring and I really want to get out and.... start following rivers. Time to go kayak, canoe, tube, whatever. I want to be on the water. Maybe that will get me out of this funk.

Welcome to my blog, I promise it won't always be this depressing!