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
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.
Mindful and Multicultural Counseling Clinical Team
Therapists and psychologists committed to improving well being and mindful living.