To Begin Again

It’s raw and delicate

to begin again

Sometimes I write poetry. It might not be great – in fact, most of it is probably terrible – but I like to play with words. And it’s okay for us to do things imperfectly, even messily (myself included).
Anyway, I share these lines from a recent poem I was working on. I was thinking about how it can feel raw and delicate to begin again. For example, after a medical event, we transition from healing up inside a safe and cozy cocoon to joining back into the real world. It happens in trauma recovery, too, when we move from the initial stages to re-joining the world in a new way. There’s relief, but also there’s reduced stamina. We might feel less strong, or even impatient to skip a few steps on the road to healing.
I think this is also true when we are recovering from a mental health episode of anxiety, depression, or grief. I think it’s true when we make a personal choice – a job, moving, choosing to end or begin a relationship.  I think it’s true when we vote and our country takes a step to begin again, each election cycle.
There is vulnerability in beginning again. Sometimes it is vulnerability to ourselves and our own hopes, sometimes it is vulnerability as we let others in to assist us in our healing.
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July’s Mindfulness Exercise

Mindfulness involves observing and accepting the things around and within us in the present moment, without judgment.  In therapy, Johanna may involve mindfulness skills to build awareness of various issues and to develop coping strategies to reach optimal wellness.   The exercise below is not individualized to your needs as it may be in therapy, but is rather intended as a general exercise that you may find useful.

July’s Mindfulness Exercise:

Last month, we brought awareness to our thoughts. This month, we bring awareness to our emotions!

How aware are you of your emotions? Take a deep breath in, and exhale out slowly. Keep in mind the statement “as long as you are breathing, there is more that’s right with you than wrong with you.” Similarly, there are no wrong emotions – you get to have them all.

Notice what you are experiencing emotionally in this moment. Name the emotion or emotions to yourself. Maybe even write it down on a piece of paper.

Engage in this emotion-naming three times throughout your day today. Notice the fluctuations you experience in emotion and intensity. Notice what you do with the emotion. Is it healthy for you?

 

Today’s exercise is intended to increase your emotional awareness, both regarding what you are experiencing emotionally as well as what you do with it. As always, if this feels overwhelming, please call Johanna to set up an appointment.

 

NOTE: This is not intended to replace therapy.  Please contact Johanna at (585)406-3012 if you are interested in engaging in counseling for optimal wellness.

May’s Mindfulness Exercise

Mindfulness involves observing and accepting the things around and within us in the present moment, without judgment.  In therapy, Johanna may involve mindfulness skills to build awareness of various issues and to develop coping strategies to reach optimal wellness.   The exercise below is not individualized to your needs as it may be in therapy, but is rather intended as a general exercise that you may find useful.

May’s Mindfulness Exercise:

This month, we are going to engage in expanded breathing. Begin by sitting or standing comfortably, and bring your awareness to your breath. Inhale and notice the feeling of your lungs expanding; exhale and notice the feeling of release. Pay attention to the feeling of air passing through either your nose or your mouth.

After taking several breaths without moving, begin to expand your awareness of breathing by engaging in physical movement. You can start by stretching your fingers out as you inhale, and relaxing them as you exhale. Take several breaths to do repeat this, at your regular breathing rate. Next expand your inhale by lifting your arms, and on an exhale release them. Take several breaths to engage in this practice also. You can continue to engage in this expansion or stretch and release with different parts of the body. After doing so, come back to a still position and return your awareness just to your breath as you inhale and exhale.

What do you notice about your physical self as you engage in this practice? What do you notice about your breathing?

NOTE: This is not intended to replace therapy.  Please contact Johanna at (585)406-3012 if you are interested in engaging in counseling for optimal wellness.

Awkward and Strong

At a yoga class recently, I was reminded in the midst of a holding a very difficult pose that what we need we carry with us. The instructor went on to discuss how we have the ability to cope with difficult situations. Deep stuff, right?

This doesn’t mean I held the pose. I certainly didn’t look the picture of the strength and grace I aspire to be. I was awkward, and shaky, and exited out of the pose before the teacher told me to do so. I may have even rolled my eyes a bit at the instructor’s words.

But it made me think. Not necessarily to agree with the instructor about what we carry internally, and whether it is enough. No, it made me think about how the things we need to grow come from within us, instead of from the material things around us.

I realized that my physical practice of yoga depended on me. Not the room I was in, not the clothes I was wearing, or even the yoga mat beneath my feet. My awkward, strong engagement in physical movement using my own body… that depended on me.

The instructor was right. I didn’t have the tools to bend and contort into a crazy pose, but I did have the ability to engage my body in the practice and own my movements. I didn’t need anything but myself to do yoga.

I often say in counseling sessions that you are the only one who is in your body and your mind 24/7. (It’s a great thing – and sometimes a very difficult thing!). That self is all you need to challenge yourself to grow.

And in my office, all we really need is you (the person who is in your body and your mind), and me (the person who will sit with you). Counseling depends on the relationship between myself and you, the client.

It is nice to have chairs to sit in, pictures to look at, and a window to let the light in; but the real work comes from the connection in the therapeutic relationship. That’s all we really need. It may be awkward at times, it may be shaky, and it will be strong. The real work comes from the changing perspective you develop for yourself and take out of the office with you.

What we need to grow we carry within us.

In yoga, the things we need come from physical movement. In counseling, it comes from the counseling relationship. In both cases it is the internal parts of self and relationship that lead to growth.

March’s Mindfulness Exercise

Mindfulness involves observing and accepting the things around and within us in the present moment, without judgment.  In therapy, Johanna may involve mindfulness skills to build awareness of various issues and to develop coping strategies to reach optimal wellness.   The exercise below is not individualized to your needs as it may be in therapy, but is rather intended as a general exercise that you may find useful.

March’s Mindfulness Exercise:

This month, we are going to use our mindfulness exercise to explore the idea of acceptance. I nearly wrote the word “discomfort” there. We think of acceptance of warm and fuzzy, but a lot of times acceptance is really, really uncomfortable. Today we will do a short breathing exercise while practicing a non-judgmental, accepting attitude.

Take a breath in, and exhale at your regular breathing pace. Without changing it or judging it, notice the pace of your breathing. Pay attention to the feeling of air passing through either your nose or your mouth. Is it warm or cool? Are you breathing into your chest or deeper into your belly? Keep in mind the statement that “as long as you are breathing, there’s more that’s right with you than wrong with you.” Notice what thoughts come up for you. Are you judging your breath? If so, just notice that too. Notice what emotions you are holding. Notice how you feel physically, and where you might be holding tension.

What is it like to accept your breath? Without trying to change or judge it?

What would it be like to accept other things in your life in this way?

It may not be warm and fuzzy.

It might be healthy.

Take one more minute to notice how you feel after completing this exercise, and what (if anything) you might like to do differently as you go about the rest of your day.

 

NOTE: This is not intended to replace therapy.  Please contact Johanna at (585)406-3012 if you are interested in engaging in counseling for optimal wellness.

January’s Mindfulness Exercise

Mindfulness involves observing and accepting the things around and within us in the present moment, without judgment.  In therapy, Johanna may involve mindfulness skills to build awareness of various issues and to develop coping strategies to reach optimal wellness.   The exercise below is not individualized to your needs as it may be in therapy, but is rather intended as a general exercise that you may find useful.

January’s Mindfulness Exercise:

This month, we are going to use our mindfulness exercise to explore the topic of control. Begin by noticing your breathing and without judging it or changing it, check in with your thoughts at this moment, your emotions, and how you are feeling physically.

What is in your control in this moment? Notice your thoughts as they pop into your head. Notice where your thought path takes you.

What is outside your control in this moment?

As you breathe consider these two questions without engaging in any active change. Continue to breathe and practice mindful awareness. After a few minutes, return movement to your body by wiggling your fingers and toes.

Take one more minute to notice how you feel after completing this exercise, and what (if anything) you might like to do differently as you go about the rest of your day.

 

 

NOTE: This is not intended to replace therapy.  Please contact Johanna at (585)406-3012 if you are interested in engaging in counseling for optimal wellness.