Fall is upon us. That means, according to Eastern medicine, it is the season of grief and the lungs. I've been learning a lot about how to hold my own grief in the last year after the passing of my father. I've also been noticing many of my clients facing variations of grief in their own life lately, so I thought it timely to write on this topic.
Firstly, feelings of grief can arise from to a variety of experiences. There are the obvious losses like the passing of a loved one. Then there is disenfranchized grief: losses that aren't widely recognized or supported by society, like the loss of a loved one to suicide, or addiction; loss of a pet, or patient; letting go of an idea of and connection to family due to abuse; loss of an identity, job, or home; loss of hopes and dreams (miscarriage, infertility, divorce, lay offs, the childhood you wish you had had), and more. We might experience anticipatory grief as a loved one declines from illness, or addiction, before the "official" loss actually occurs. There are many shades of grief, contexts of loss. It's helpful to remember that our experience with each scenario will be as unique and multi-faceted as our relationship with that being, dynamic, or aspect of our life.
Our American culture doesn't really create much space for grief in our day-to-day life. The support structures that many of us need aren't woven into the fabric of our social spheres unless we are a part of a community that consciously acknowledges and tends to that aspect of living and dying. It can feel lonely being in a process of grieving, and we may judge ourselves that we should be over it or move on, or that our feelings may not be warranted because it might not compare to someone else's loss/experience. I can't tell you how many times I've heard someone grieving say that once the funeral is over, or a few weeks have passed that many people stopped asking them how they are doing. Most workplaces only offer a few days of time off for bereavement, and some may not offer grace for the sense of "nonfunction" that some people experience following a loss. Not to mention, the alienation that some feel for having a disenfranchized loss, because lots of society doesn't know how to hold the mixture of uncomfortable and conflicting feelings that can arise from a loss related to suicide, or abuse, for example. It's easier for some to not look or talk about it. In turn, it can create a weird feeling in griever, a sort of cognitive dissonance, and a need for someone to "Please, acknowledge the elephant in the room!"
I could go on, but for now, I will offer a few final thoughts and suggestions. Take what resonates, and leave the rest. Since grief is so unique and personal, not everything may speak to you.
For the Griever:
For Those Who Care for Someone Who is Grieving:
Hope this helps if grief is showing up in your life these days. If you are grieving, is there anything else important that needs mentioning? Share with us in the comments.
Lots of care and comfort for you,
Wisdom from my father.
This one goes out to my pops, Bob the Nice Guy.
Today, and all days, but, especially today, I remember him.
During his time, this kind, gentle, creative soul emanated a love that I'll be nestled within for the rest of my life. Dad modeled how to be a brave, compassionate human, spirit undampened by challenges. He believed in me, and this instilled a confidence in myself to step into the world as I have. He gave me my goofy, and sometimes ridiculous sense of humor, for better or worse. I'm sorry? ;)
There aren't words for all that I could say. Perhaps someday, I'll reach across time and space to him in the Great Beyond, capture the words in poetry like the great mystics Hafiz and Rumi, bottle them up as some elixir to share with you. But that is for another day.
What I have for you today is wisdom he shared with me often during my early decades:
"Life is what you make it."
When I muse over this, I meditate on the essence of what I want to cultivate in my life. Compassion, kindness, joy, wonder, acceptance, love. I aim to help myself and others find relief from pain in healthy ways. To delight in the unique facets of life. To laugh and marvel at the beautiful intricacies that are revealed when we pay attention.
I suppose there are some specific "outcomes" that maybe, someday, I'd like to experience, but I hold them lightly now. I know that life is more than the boxes we check off. It takes twists and turns. Sometimes it pans out as expected and sometimes not. A lot of it we can't control. But the way we choose to show up with what is given, we can. I do believe care, love, wonder, and shared humanity exist in all these moments, though sometimes it can be hard to find or access. Yet, if I trust in my ability to find these qualities within myself and the world, there will be a little more internal grace, no matter what plays out. Even during the hard stuff.
In the months following my dad's passing last fall, the prospect of Father's Day rolling around without him felt pretty grim. Around the new year, inspiration came of an epic adventure to connect with him, and let a shared dream finally come true. This gave me a light and a focus amidst the grief, a way to make a long-held vision come to life. As you read this, I am likely in ceremony, honoring this sweet soul and our shared love of mountains, land, and nature. Making a bit more magic out of this life, and if I'm going to really make Dad proud, a joke of it too. But more on that later... right now, I'm busy.
Happy Father's Day.
So it goes.
P.S. Dad would want me to share this with you. :) If you want to sing out, sing out...
Strategies to help you get through
Do you have certain days or times of the year that bring up "stuff" for you?
For some, these might be holidays, like our upcoming Mother's Day. It could be birthdays, or death days of loved ones lost, or perhaps anniversaries of significant challenging events (like a car accident, move, break up, etc).
It is not uncommon to feel in a funk on such days, and the time leading up to and following them. It's like the energetic echo of those experiences still lingers, and we experience it as that date rolls around. Sometimes we can reduce the energetic charge of those anniversaries by working through our experience in a conscious way. Or, we might just want to plan to be extra kind and loving to ourselves, knowing we might feel tender, vulnerable, or cranky (and that's okay).
If you relate to this, and have an anniversary you would like to support yourself through, here are some thoughts to consider.
First, know that it is okay to be feeling off. Give yourself permission to feel and make space for what comes up. If you are not experiencing what mainstream society says you're "supposed to feel" (on holidays, for instance), that is okay. You are not alone. Many people struggle on these days too.
Contemplate ways to take care of yourself, then make a plan to make it happen. Here are some ideas to get you rolling:
What speaks to you?
Do you have an anniversary coming up? How will you tend to yourself?
Sending lots of love to you, no matter what might be bubbling up for you at this time.
Catch some z's...
Before I began my professional Reiki practice, I was an early childhood teacher. Everyday after lunch, the kiddos would pull out their mats, grab their blankets and stuffed animals. We'd cue up the Enya and pull the shades as the kids got cozy. The other teachers and I would tuck them in, and rub the backs of the children who wanted help falling asleep.
Sometimes I joke with my in person Reiki clients that I went from being a nap assistant for kids to adults, as I help "tuck them in" while they climb under the blanket on the massage table. Once the Reiki gets flowing, now and then, I'll get a snorer on the table. They weren't the first, nor will they be the last. (I've certainly been one of those people too!) It honestly brings me a lot of joy that people experience enough comfort and safety to let go during a session. I notice this during remote work too.
The soothing energy of Reiki often helps put people so at ease that they settle into a meditative or sleep state. This is where the magic happens, and the body repairs and heals itself.
In this world of hustle and bustle, and stress, sometimes we have a hard time drifting to sleep and getting rest. Sometimes we need help to calm and get ourselves regulated. If you need assistance with this, I've been in training for a long time. ;) I'd be happy to support you with a session, or perhaps you'd want to try one of my new meditations to settle.
Goodnight cow jumping over the moon...
Ease gently back into the world.
Happy Spring Equinox,
Today, we find the light is balanced with the dark. Here, in the Northern Hemisphere we are going to get to enjoy more and more daylight until the Solstice in June.
I've been reflecting a lot lately about how we've just lived through three years of the Covid era. My conversations with clients and others have shown that this has felt like a bit of a time warp. It's hard for many of us to take in that this lasted three years, yet we also experienced moments that felt like an eternity or a standstill. My life changed in so many ways, and I can imagine that may be true for you too.
I noticed that in the earlier days of the pandemic there were several voices telling us to be aware that we were moving through a collective trauma. As such, we should be mindful, gentle and forgiving with ourselves. To adjust our expectations of ourselves, because we were doing the best we could in survival mode. Perhaps, it's just me and the information that I consume, but it seemed to me that message petered out at some point, though we all continued to live through this experience. I think many of us just got tired, and were doing the best we could to get through.
In case you need to hear this today, I want to remind you that the last three years were not business as usual. As things settle, and the light returns, continue to be gentle with yourself. It may take some time to make sense of what we all just lived through collectively, and, of course, what you experienced personally. (I'm waiting for the Ken Burns documentary! ;) ) If you feel tender, or cautious, or just ready to get on with it, I hear you! Allow space for what's there. Be kind to yourself. Try to be kind to others who are relearning what it's like to live again.
Make space to bring with you the wisdom that you've gleaned during this time, and permission to shed the stress and dysregulation that may have come with it. If you feel called, share with our community what wisdom you are bringing with you, or perhaps what you are most looking forward to or hopeful about as the light returns in the comments below.
Wishing you all a gentle, easeful transition into the spring.
In the fallow times of winter, the garden lay idle, the air brisk. The surface offers stark reflection and quiet. Though below, the compost integrates into the soil. The wrigglers and the crawlers hibernate, or dig down deep, insulated from the cold, continuing to work their magic. During this time of yin, the ground has time to digest the previous season, and rest, hopefully to be replenished and renewed for the spring.
I am giving myself extra permission to lean into these dormant times this revolution of the sun. After sudden loss in my family this fall, I'm choosing to be gentle with myself this year. The Universe gave me a nudge to put my group Reiki classes on hold for the time being so I have time and space to let the reality settle, to grieve, but also to dream. I feel comfort and more room to breathe knowing that I don't have to do all the things right now. That it is enough to enjoy the therapeutic space of one-on-one work with clients, and know that when I am ready to return to teaching, I'll be refreshed and with my soil reworked.
In the meantime, I have some guided meditations that are incubating, and hopefully will be ready to share later this year. I sense shifting focus to these meditations will not only feel restorative for me in the making, but also, hopefully, feel supportive for you when you all are able to enjoy them. While we wait for those, did you know there is a opportunity to join me once a month for a live guided meditation on Zoom? Learn more, and sign up here. Our next meditation is this Thursday Jan 26th from 5:30-6:30pm CST. Recordings go out after if you can't join us live.
Are you embracing this fallow time, or would you like to? Let us know how in the comments.
Let's face your fears... together
The days are growing darker, the veil is growing thinner. We have entered a time of inward turning here in the Northern Hemisphere. The advancing quiet welcomes our reflection, and often provides the right conditions for subtitles to bubble up from our subconscious.
Our modern Western celebration of Halloween plays with ghouls, goblins and spectres, while offering us a sugar high to face them all. While this can bring fun and fancy, we can choose to explore the theme of these celebrations in relation to our own healing to take them deeper.
(Note: If you've been finding yourself in an activated fight/flight response you may want to skip this reflective practice. Continue reading at the bold text.)
So, dear one, what fears lay present within you?
Oh boy, did you notice yourself contracting or resisting at all to that question? Perhaps that is your body's response trying to protect you from seeing these fears. I invite you to breathe with me, remind yourself that you are safe, and invite the presence of light and compassion to be with you.
What fear wants to be witnessed by you in this moment? Maybe you write it down. Continue to breathe, and observe it with curiosity. Just like with the quintessential boogie man in the closet that we realize is a coat once we've opened the door and turned on the light, so too, may we feel relief when we hold our fears with brave, loving, compassionate interest. We realize things aren't always as they seem. Some of our fears will boil down to these distortions of reality that need gentle correction.
Others may be of another variety, revealing the fragility of the human experience. Things that we may likely or inevitability face at some point: a fear of loss, pain, death, rejection, etc. These things we can run from, pretend that they are not there, or do whatever we can to try to prevent them from happening. Of course, we would do that. These fears and potential realities can be difficult, and scary. We are trying to protect ourselves. But, what if, for this moment, with me and all the other readers here with you, we breathe and acknowledge this fear and how it feels in your body. In truth, we may not ever be able to stop or change some of these fears from happening. But, we can be with our vulnerabilities with compassion. We can know that this is part of the human experience, and each of us is not alone. There are so many people out in the globe who hold this same fear. Though that doesn't take it away, somehow, for me, I find this shared humanness can be a balm for the experience.
When facing these types of "inevitable" fears, I try to remind myself of my own resilience, and tools. That no matter what I might face in the future that I have the ability to move through that experience, and ask for help if I need it. I remind myself of the times that I have faced my fears, whether by choice or life dragging me through them. I see that those experiences I've survived, and perhaps I've gained greater wisdom or tools as a result.
Sometimes though, working with our fear is something we need to do in a safe, supportive environment. We might need to untangle stored trauma in our bodies to release us from the fight/flight response. Soothing our nervous system, and coming to a place of regulation is key. If this resonates, you might find Reiki, or working with a skilled trauma-informed practitioner supportive.
No matter how you might find yourself today, remember you are not alone, you matter, and there are loving forces in the universe out there to support you, you just have to ask.
Feeling brave? Want to share with us one of your fears, or how you are feeling after sitting compassionately with them? Let us know in the comments.
Sending lots of love,
P.S. Reach out if you need support! :)
One of the things that I appreciate about Reiki is its ability to meet us where we are at in any given moment. When we are stressed or anxious it can bring calm and comfort. When in physical pain, it can provide ease and relief. When running on a lack of sleep, it can offer deep relaxation. When unable to leave the house for feeling sick and tired, it can help us move through the illness and heal more quickly. When struggling to find a way forward in work, relationships, or projects, it can offer clarity. When feeling alone and unsupported, it can reunite us with connection and hope.
Because Reiki is a spiritual and energetic modality, it can mold itself to whatever the situation requires and help bring a greater sense of balance. Reiki is flexible and transcendent of time and space. It can support us whether we are receiving in person, at home on our couch connecting over the phone, or about to go into surgery or to court. Even if we are not able to tune in due to circumstances, the Reiki still flows and brings balance. We can receive it from others, as well as from ourselves if we are attuned.
This adaptability of Reiki, and its gentle way of responding to all situations makes it one of the most grounded, practical, and compassionate tools I have ever had the privilege of adding to my tool box.
Perhaps, you have had the opportunity to see how Reiki supports you in the various scenarios of your life, or perhaps you have yet to discover this unique quality of the modality. I would love to hear the ways that you may have experienced Reiki in our comments. Were there any things that you were surprised about?
Many blessings to each of you.
Strengthen your spidey senses
An intention that commonly comes up with my clients is a desire to awaken or strengthen their intuition, so in this installment of Musings from the Journey, I thought I would share some of my tips.
Would ya know that you can approach developing your intuition scientifically? I mean, you don't have to chart or record your experience judiciously (unless you want to), but, holding the posture of a neutral observer will help you immensely. The key to tuning in to our intuition is to listen and notice.
Gather data over a period of time. Pay attention to the subtle cues you pick up on in your body and environment. In our culture, it is common to write off certain types of input we receive because we are "making it up" or "imagining things." This perspective squashes intuition like a bug, before we can even see that it may be a beautiful, rare butterfly. Now, disclaimer, not everything you experience will be information you want to take as guidance, but we want to at least open the door so you are receiving some info.
Some examples of "data" to make a mental note of: if you see something out of the corner of your eye, you feel a twinge in your belly when around someone you aren't fond of, your body feels drawn to move in a certain direction, you hear a buzzing in your ear when thinking of something in particular, your dreams, etc. There are all sorts of ways that we can perceive energy. What I invite you do to when you notice something to is to say to yourself, "Oh, isn't that interesting? I'm experiencing ______." Then you don't have to make theories or projections of what it may or may not mean. You are just making note of the data.
Flex your intuitive muscles in small ways. As part of the data gathering process, give yourself low-stakes decisions to make, see what kind of information you get, then make a judgement call. Then, see how that plays out in time. For example, when driving or biking home from an errand, ask yourself which direction to turn as you approach an intersection. Do you hear the word "left," feel a pull to go in a certain direction, see a line of energy guiding you, feel a sensation in your chest, etc.? Based on what you notice you make a choice about which direction to turn. As you continue on, maybe everything goes smoothly. Maybe you have to stop and wait for a train, or there's an accident. Maybe you pass your best friend, and pull over for a chat. Whether it goes well, neutral, or not the best, this is all giving you additionally insight into how you receive information and what it might be telling you.
Continue to intend to have awareness. Even if you aren't noticing seemingly anything at first, keep your intention open to receiving information. It is called subtle energy because indeed it is subtle. The Universe speaks to us in whispers, unless we are being really thick... then sometimes we can get hit over the head with it. I will say there have been times I've had a negative thought then I bonk my head on something... that's a cue!
There are some practices that will help you flex your subtle perception muscles: meditation, yoga, Reiki, being in nature. Practices that help you slow your thinking mind, and tune into your body are very helpful. As well as practices that get you in touch with your spiritual, energetic, and animal nature. Also, if there is an activity that you enjoy that you find you get "in the zone" with this is great! Notice how you receive information when in that kind of a space.
Over time, patterns will reveal themselves. I was not always in tune with my intuition, and when I set out to develop it, I really didn't know what to put stock in for a long time. After maybe a year or so, the meaning of one of my indicators became very clear. I had enough real-life experience and feedback by that time that helped me know that when I feel strong chills through my head, back and body that either: there is something that is being said that has truth and warrants special attention, and/or there are spirits that are letting me know that they are present.
Developing your intuition is an ongoing process. While there will be cues that become more clear in time what they are indicating, you probably won't get to a time when you've figured it all out. There is so much subtlety and nuance that it is worth coming to your intuition from a place of discernment, gratitude, and humility. Hold the information you get lightly until (and even if) the patterns become clear. There are factors can can complicate the process, like our ego! But, what I've found is that this continuous inquiry and relationship can really enrich our lives, and help us live more and more in alignment with who we really are.
I would also be remiss not to mention that the way each person receives intuitive information and what it may mean is individual. Just because chills means I'm onto truth or spirits for me, doesn't necessarily mean it is the same for you. This is all about getting to know your body with it's (extra)senses for the unique instrument that it is. The more time you spend tuning in and "practicing" the better trained your ear will be to when things are resonant, or out of tune.
So, anyhoo, that's what I'll leave you with for today. Do you have reliable intuitive signals, or experiences you'd like to share? Perhaps, you have questions that I can address in another article. Leave them in our comments.
Where are the little glimmers of light and beauty?
March of 2020 I was signed up to take an ancestral healing training with shamanic practitioner Debra Morrill. Shortly before, the Covid outbreak hit, and, like so many other things, the class was postponed until it was safe to reconvene. While we waited, Debra and my teacher Ana Larramendi, her host, suggested that we go on a shamanic journey to connect with one of our ancestors that had survived a pandemic in their time. Since we all were here, no doubt at least one family member had made it through similar times. Now, about two years into the pandemic of our era, I've been reflecting on the wisdom that came from that journey.
I was led to a woman in France during the bubonic plague. She lived with one or two other people, and I could see that in time one of them would succumb to the Black Death while quarantined away in a separate room. My ancestor kept to herself as the sickness spread around her town.
When I asked what helped her move through those times, I saw her going out into her garden behind the house. Looking up at the sky, the sun radiated down on her face, the light and warmth melting away some of her preoccupation, burdens, and grief. In that moment, she was alive and she could feel. She bent down, plucked a vibrant strawberry, and delighted in its sweet juices. As the Black Death spread around her, these visits to the garden kept her connected with enough light and enjoyment to sustain her through those years.
I planted several strawberry plants in my garden the spring after I did that journey. It was too late to truly enjoy their fruit that year, but I grew other things in the meantime. By June of 2021, the strawberry plants had established themselves. I would step out each morning, my shadow cast over the leaves, crooning as I gently searched for tender, ripe berries. Inevitably, I would find a few. Then I would stand eyes closed, slowly savoring the sun-warmed crimson flesh as the morning sun glimmered through the trees on my face.
These moments, and moments like these... snuggled with my kitties feeling their steady purr and poofy fur, laughing at a silly comedy, feeling snowflakes land on my face, receiving a small act of kindness or shared humanity from a stranger or friend, these seemingly small things have helped sustain me, and tap into resiliency. While there has been so much constriction, challenge, and loss over these last two years, there are still little glimmers of beauty hiding under the leaves. We just need to take a moment to pause, look, and allow ourselves to receive it.
What has helped sustain you during these times? What has brought comfort, relief, or even joy? Share with us in the comments. If you haven't found much of these qualities in your life lately, how can you make space for it to enter, even amongst the struggle?
With lots of love and care,
Reiki Master Teacher and Owner of Embrace Your Essence