by Nathalie Edmond PsyD, RYT-500
It’s the new year, new season. The world invites you into refocusing your energy and creating resolutions or goals or intentions. Aren’t they all really the same thing; it's just how you approach them? I love the freshness of January or any new season really. It is a time to make a commitment or promise to yourself. You can go down the path of intensity and self criticism if you are less than perfect in achieving your goals or you can see it as information. Perhaps the goal was too big, maybe not right for this time, maybe it doesn’t align with how your nervous system is talking to you. What if you picked an intention instead of a goal? What if you focused on a value you want to deepen or be more congruent with. It could be your guide for a season or the year. If we focus on values and intentions there is nothing to fail. An example could be if you choose to focus on health this year or season. Maybe you meditate on health throughout the year. See opportunities for healthier choices? See where it is difficult to have health and be curious about why that is. A resolution or goal might focus on losing weight or going to the gym. You can see how you can not accomplish the goal of losing weight or going to the gym which might lead to disappointment and giving up on your goal a few weeks into the new year. What if we make small incremental changes in our life or move more towards radical acceptance or a sense of ease or contentment, reconnect to our natural rhythm rather than what we think we should do and be.
I am inviting you into deepening your relationship with meditation. A meditation challenge has a tone of goals and you are either successful or not. An invitation is just opening to curiosity about how this may fit into your life and as you practice meditation noticing what arises. Explore the different ways meditation can show up in your life. There are so many different practices out there to help support you. Perhaps you need a few minutes a day of silence or being in the flow of some activity you love. Maybe you want to step onto your yoga mat and do some stretching, intentional breathing, a restorative pose, or sun salutations. Maybe you love the sound of music or chanting. I was leading a seminar a couple of months ago and I asked the therapists in the room what they mindfulness meditation as and this is some of what they said.
What is mindfulness? What is meditation?
I love how Lorin Roche, a meditation teacher who focuses on the rhythms of meditation in everyday life, invites us to find a practice that we look forward to. He normalizes that having a to do list while meditating is an act of love. When we slow down what most needs tending to rises to the surface. Perhaps we can heal by addressing what rises to the surface.
If we approach meditation as a practice we can't fail. We begin again every time we show up. Every cycle of breath. Perhaps turn your attention to the process, the patterns rather than the outcome. We learn from the past and we move forward more mindfully, maybe with more wisdom and clarity.
Learn more about meditation here.. Check out one of the guided recordings or the 7 day meditation invitation on the youtube channel. Every day we explore a different type of mediation practice. Want to move as part of your practice; join our free gentle yoga class the 2nd Friday of the month at 7 pm EST. Register here. Want to do yoga on your own time? Purchase our library of yoga sessions by contacting us. Sign up for our newsletter to keep up with our offerings. Learn more about the team at Mindful and Multicultural Counseling in Ewing, NJ.
May you be well. May you feel nourished. May you have not only enough to survive but enough to thrive.
Emily Suzuki, MA, LAC
We’ve all heard the saying, for one door to open, another door has to close.
Can you think of how this has been true for you? How many times has this organic process taken shape in your life? How many times have you welcomed in new changes and beginnings while simultaneously grieving the shedding of old things?
Despite the normalcy and constancy of this cycle, more often than not, we are struggling against this process. Fear of endings creates resistance. We anticipate the pain and feel anxious about the uncertainty of the unknown. In doing so, we create more suffering for ourselves. We self-sabotage by weighing down the process of letting go with our own habitual patterns that are sometimes not positive or productive.
Endings bring change, and change can sometimes mean a loss. Loss, of course, in some way or another calls to be acknowledged, grieved, and honored. Loss, like a wound, needs time to heal. Time becomes like a salve, the more we apply the salve and care for our wound, the more fully it will heal and close.
The amount of time to heal is different for every person. It takes the time it takes, depending on the person, the circumstances, and the depth of the wound or loss. This period of waiting can be very uncomfortable. Sometimes we try to push our way through more quickly. We bargain, deny, and feel desperate to do anything to make time work more quickly.
But there’s another saying I’m sure you’ve heard before: the only way out is through. This could be extremely disappointing to hear, when you’re ready to do whatever it takes to hurry things along. This saying points to the journey as not the thing that needs to be rushed, but as the site where you gain the most and learn more. It affirms that you are exactly where you need to be, and for one reason or another, which will be unearthed in the process of wading through, you will find out just what you were meant to discover.
When we accept that our journey is purposefully leading us through what might feel like fire, mud, darkness, and blurriness, we can begin to get out of our own way. To step out of the way and let ourselves continue down the path, without creating more roadblocks of suffering, we can choose to move with the current as opposed to against it.
The more times we do this, it doesn’t necessarily get easier, but we begin to accumulate a greater sense of confidence and trust that hard things can happen, and we will be ok, maybe even more than ok. What jewels await you along the journey and how bright might it be on the other side?
This time of year, as the summer starts to wane and the feeling and fullness of abundance levels down, we collectively feel an ending around us. Fall approaches and we move through a time of reckoning and review. What blossomed this summer? Which fruits were most bountiful and which didn’t grow? What do we still have time to finish? What wants our attention before the deep freeze of winter beckons us to stop, let go of summer, and shift to a new, quieter, and slower way of winter?
There are endings and beginnings all around us. In every moment, of every day, within every season and year. It’s the most natural things there is, and yet, the space in between can be one of the most difficult and challenging. Radical self-care can be the extra strength salve that helps as you learn to trust the process. For one-on-one support or tips on tolerating distress, we at Mindful and Multicultural Counseling in Ewing, NJ are here for you. You can read more about us or reach out to contact@mmcounselingcenter to learn more about how we can help you.
With the new school year swiftly approaching, parents and students will still be facing unique ways of learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Depending on your school district, both hybrid and 100% virtual learning have been presented as the new normal for the 2020/2021 school year. No one can tell you what is right for your family.
If in-person options are available in your school district, masks will be mandatory and social distancing will be implemented. Virtual learning won’t be new territory for parents and students, since schools switched to virtual learning in the spring of 2020 to finish out the 2019/2020 school year. However, if your children have the option to go back to school in person, social distancing protocols will be new territory. Either way, approaching a new school season when we’re still amidst a pandemic can induce stress and unease for many.
With all of this in mind, our clinicians here at Mindful and Multicultural Counseling in Ewing, NJ developed tips and strategies for parents as their children begin their back to school journeys:
Nathalie Edmond PsyD, RYT-500 | Founder and Director of MMC
Kristine Aguilar, MSW, LCSW
Taryn Chase, MA, LPC, LCADC, NCC
Lina Lewis-Arevalo MA, NCC, LPC, LCADC
Nadira Keaton, MS, LPC, LCADC, ACS, NCC
Marissa Mangual MS, LPC, NCC
Shashi Khanna, MSW, LCSW
Below is a video created by Dr. Nathalie Edmond for a local high school which addresses unique stressors we are experiencing as more discussions unfold about the Black Lives Matter movement and uncertainty persists around COVID-19. Tips for how we can reduce our vulnerability to stress are suggested. Perhaps you and your child can watch it together to come up with a self-care plan. If you need additional support throughout the year we are here for you. Learn more about our team here at Mindful and Multicultural Counseling in Ewing, NJ.
Other resources to support you:
Emily Suzuki, MA
Fear is a familiar presence in therapy. Therapy is an invitation to explore our growing edges, the places that feel uncomfortable and scary. Often, that’s where our work begins and where we find the greatest growth.
Exploring fear is in the very DNA of the therapeutic relationship. Fear comes up often in therapy, and is present even before we seek out and take what we sometimes perceive as a risk, in asking for support. When we begin working with a therapist, someone who is initially a complete stranger, we may at first be guarded and protective of opening up and being vulnerable. Naturally, a dose of fear shows up to help us assess whether or not the person and relationship is safe and can be trusted.
As we build a relationship of trust, in which the therapist offers the reassurance that their support is rooted in compassion, non-judgement, deep and active listening, clients begin to feel safer. Within the net of safety and trust, client and therapist can begin to explore the layers of fear that may be showing up, both in the therapeutic relationship and in the client’s life.
Fear is an essential survival response to physical and emotional danger. When we experience a threat, our brains are wired to act in self-protection. This process has served us as far back as our ancestors, who had to navigate much greater physical threats. Their survival level instincts turned on in the face of serious danger without so much of a thought, and their survival supported the evolution that led to our being. Check out video about our triune brain by Dr. Nathalie Edmond at the end.
In our modern world, we may not be dodging tigers or samurais like our ancestors, but none the less, there is plenty of ways to feel unsafe in our society. While fear is a universal human emotion, each individual’s experience of it and relationship with it varies greatly. The intersections of one’s social location, identification with race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and ability, shapes our experience and threat to one’s safety. For those whose identities intersect marginalized groups, fear is a lived experience in a wholly different way than it is for those in the dominant groups. The insidiousness of systemic racism and white supremacy, is a system of power that is rooted in fear, in which police brutality is an everyday danger to those who are BIPOC (black, indigenous and people of color) and oppressed, and as a result creates and breeds more fear.
Fear shows up in so many ways, and can be a response to even small or imagined threats. Our nervous system kicks in with a fight-flight-or freeze response, always in service of our protection. However, this process can become so sensitive that it can be activated in moments when it’s not helpful to run, fight or freeze, and when turning towards and engaging whatever feels scary is more purposeful.
This is a place where we can develop a deeper understanding of our fear. Turning our attention inward and towards the fear, we can start to ask questions, and learn more about it. What is it truly afraid of? When is it showing up and getting in the way? How is it perpetuating old patterns and habits of not engaging with ourselves and others? In what ways might it be creating more pain and suffering?
When we feel safely held within a therapeutic relationship, one that is built on trust and safety, we can begin the process of inviting our fear into the room with us. Through noticing and gaining greater awareness of our fear (mindfulness), we can then practice disrupting the moments when fear attempts to turn us away from the work we need to do and instead, learn when it’s okay to trust, and bravely, lean into it.
Learn more about the therapists at Mindful and Multicultural Counseling can help you transform your fear. Read more about us here. Give us a call to begin the healing journey.
by Michelle Gerdes, RYT-200
I can’t remember exactly when I first heard the word “yoga” but it was probably sometime in college in the mid ‘90s. I wasn’t sure what it was all about but I recall being intrigued by something that seemed to be both a spiritual and physical practice. After buying “Yoga for Dummies” (yes, that’s an actual book) and flipping through it, the demands of school and life took over and my interest waned. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-30s that yoga called to me again, and this time I made room for it and its beautiful and bountiful gifts.
I was an editor in a busy and stressful New York City newsroom. I had just come out of my second postpartum depression, with the help of talk therapy and my incredibly supportive husband, and despite “having it all” on paper—prestigious job, nice house in the suburbs, two cars in the driveway, two healthy children, a loving partner—I felt as if something wasn’t right. I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t living my best life. I was living someone else’s idea of what a good life should be.
Sound familiar? It’s reported that about one-third of Americans are experiencing some type of emotional disturbance right now—especially amid Covid-19: depression, anxiety, extreme stress, and with that related conditions like insomnia, feelings of isolation, digestion issues, lack of patience or joy.
At this point I knew I needed to make a change but I had absolutely no idea what that change would look like. And stepping out of my comfort zone felt too scary. It was around this time that I noticed a yoga studio just a few miles from my house. The funny thing is I had passed it hundreds of times and didn’t realize it was there.
I signed up and as I settled in for my first class the teacher did her best to make me feel welcomed, but I’m an anxious person and, to be honest, that first class was an interesting combination of uncomfortable and magical. As I moved my body and felt my breath, the teacher encouraged us to be present in the moment and listen to and respect signals from our bodies. Through this breath, movement and listening I began to catch a glimpse of the peace and joy I had been missing and a true connection with myself. Over time, the discomfort began to melt away as I learned ways to calm my anxiety, trust myself, and recognize and celebrate my innate worth. The changes I needed to make began to become clear. The fear of stepping into my idea of a fulfilling life began to melt away. I discovered myself. I was there all along, but the gifts of yoga allowed me to uncover her and celebrate her! This is yoga.
Simply put, yoga means to “yoke,” as in to join together. We join movement with breath, we join the head with heart, and we join the body with spirit. If you can breathe you can practice yoga. Yoga isn’t about being able to touch your toes or stand on your head. It’s about exploring and practicing its many tools—including breath, movement, and meditation—to help you befriend yourself, your emotions and your nervous system. It provides practices and guideposts to help you lead your best life.
If you are looking for ways to spend more time in a state of wellbeing, if you are seeking tools to help you cope with stress, if you want to map out a route to leading a more fulfilling life, I invite you to join me for the four-week series Yoga for Emotional Wellbeing sponsored by Mindful and Multicultural Counseling in Ewing, NJ. This class will provide a safe space to explore various yoga tools and use them to befriend and join together your unique body, mind and spirit. Find out more about yoga and mindfulness resources here. Check out the intro video below with Dr. Nathalie Edmond and Michelle Gerdes or sample a beginner class.
Mindful and Multicultural Counseling Clinical Team
Therapists and psychologists committed to improving well being and mindful living.