Monday, August 23, 2010

Learning Focusing to help Free the Artist in You

Join us at the beautiful Vally Ridge Art Studio in Madison Wis. to learn Focusing in a peaceful healing setting. http://valleyridgeartstudio

Do you want to learn how to:

* Be a better listener to yourself?
* Make clear choices?
* Be calm and compassionate to yourself?
* Support yourself through change?
* Feel relaxed and less stressful?

Focusing helps you learn how to be Present and listen to yourself so that you can move ahead in your life in an empowered and safe way. Focusing brings you closer to wholeness and allows you to access your inner wisdom. This helps you move in the direction of your potential. It can help you move beyond blocks and get in touch with your goals. Focusing is a gentle and powerful way to develop a deep interpersonal healing relationship with yourself.

Awareness of sensations in the body can be blocked through habits of dissociation and repression. This is because the sensation maybe uncomfortable or painful, and we are not trained to focus on this inner knowing and awareness of the body. Transformation of energy involves the acknowledgment, and information of the inner movement of sensation. This energy and awareness is essential to reconnect what has been fragmented by life stress, injury or trauma.

In this workshop we will work with:

* artist’s blocks
* money issues that we may have around our art
* time issues that we may have for our art making
* why we can’t get into the studio

This program begins the evening of Friday, September 10 from 6:30 to 9:30 PM, , and continues on Saturday and Sunday between 9:30 AM and 4:30 PM

What is Focusing?
Focusing is “direct access to bodily knowing.” It is a practice that takes a person towards a state of conscious perception that goes far beyond knowing something on a mere conceptual level. As with Somatic Experiencing, Focusing refers to this bodily knowing as a felt sense. As the Focusing Institute’s website explains, “You can sense your living body directly under your thoughts and memories and under your familiar feelings." Focusing happens at a deeper level than your feelings. Under them you can discover a physically sensed murky zone which is concretely there. This is a source from which new steps emerge. This murky zone “opens” as you learn to stay with it longer. Being with it increases the ability to sense feelings behind words or images, even when those are not yet formed. Eventually, you can learn how to let a deeper bodily felt sense come in relation to any problem or situation. It is a subtle process, hard to define in words. Focusing was developed by the philosopher Eugene Gendlin in the late 1960s and early 70s, while he was working with the famed psychologist Carl Rogers.

You will learn the skills of and receive credit for Level One Focusing by taking this workshop. You can continue to take Level 2 to 4 with Karen or another Focusing Teacher after this workshop.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Reflecting on making small changes

Life is a process. We are a process. The universe is a process. -   Anne Wilson Schaef 

 In therapy the concept of making small changes makes sense. We all know that new growth doesn’t happen all at once. Loosing weight, thinking differently, or changing habits all happen by making small, slow changes in our daily life. Any life change can seem like an overwhelming problem. It's too much to take in all at once. We need to remember how each small change can affect a bigger change. Instead of trying to fix the entire problem, we can look at making small adjustments, and what their outcome will be. This approach to therapy not only produces immediate results, but also shows you that it's not so tough to change.

Noting small changes helps to:
-   strengthen our belief that change is possible and happening
-   builds a sense of self-efficacy
-   takes away the overwhelming feeling that the whole problem needs to be changed now
-   helps us focus, be present and slow down 

"[...] the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes 'Awww!' "
— Jack Kerouac (On the Road)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Reflecting on how meditation can help your creative process

When you reflect on what you gain from meditation, you see that these are qualities that help your creative process. When you are calm, centered, free of obsessive thoughts, open and Present, then your creative process works better.

As you deepen into a meditation practice, you find that you concentrate better through out the day. Focusing on your breathing day after day helps you focus in all areas of your life. 

Meditation is learning to sit still and be Present. It is hard work to pay attention to your immediate experience. If you can do this for 20 to 60 minutes a day, you can do anything. 

Meditation is calming the mind. Calming the mind results in calming the body. Calmness is very useful in creating and helps you learn to stay with your creative process. 

Mediation encourages moments of insight. When creating this leads to getting inspirational ideas, being open to new ideas and catching fleeting intuitive urges. 

Mediation chances your perspective. As we sit with and observe the mind we start to let go of some of the trivial clutter that occupies the mind. It helps us focus on the big picture and what really matters. In the creative process, you notice a shift in what you observe, and what you are willing to let go of and to see the big picture.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Reflecting on the Five Slogans

Pema Chodron, was given the following advice by Machig Labdron, when she asked him how to obtain enlightenment. This was his way to work with fear, aversions and suffering. 

1. Confess your hidden faults.
2. Approach what you find repulsive.
3. Help those you think you can’t.
4. Anything you are attached to, let it go.
5. Go to the places that scare you.

Wow, I get overwhelmed just thinking about these five.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Reflecting on Struggling with Groups

A therapist friend has been visiting and we have been talking about how we deal with people who join our groups and then struggle with the process. I wish there was an easy answer. Often when therapists teach groups, there is one member that the rest of the group struggles with. When teaching a group how can we get through our context, create a safe atmosphere and space, keep people engaged and deal with the group member that struggles with, and or disrupts the group? Is it fair to other group members if we bend over backwards to make the group work for this member? Do other members want to hear one member’s endless processing while time and energy is taken away from them and the others? Have you ever been in a group where this happened or have you felt this like you were this person? I have taught many groups: art groups, art therapy groups, educational groups, and many others. Often the process flows and everyone finds a way of being in the group. When it doesn’t, we as therapists are sometimes at a loss at how to create harmony. 

Virginia Satir wrote about how individuals behave and communicate in groups by describing several family roles that can serve to stabilize expected characteristic behavior patterns in a family. For example, if one child is a troubled "rebel child," a sibling may take on the role of the "good child" to alleviate some of the stress in the family. This concept of role reciprocity is helpful to understanding family dynamics because of the complementary nature of roles makes behaviors more resistant to change.
Roles in groups:
   1. Encourager- gives acceptance of the contributions of others
   2. Harmonizer - reconciles differences among group members
   3. Gatekeeper- facilitates the contributions of others and keeps communication open by encouraging remarks about contributions.
   4. Group observer- notes what is occurring in the group and feeds it back to the group with an evaluation or interpretation of the group’s procedure
   5. The follower- goes along with the ideas of other members and takes the role of a spectator.
   6. Individual roles- hampers group functioning
         1. Aggressor
         2. Blocker
         3. Play person
         4. Recognition seeker

The advantage is group therapy is that these roles, if members are aware, willing and able to see them, can be explored and changed. Group members sometimes view the behavior of the therapist as a parent and other members as being like their siblings. Corrective recapitulation of the primary family group happens when the leader and members do not respond the way the clients family members did in the past and the client gains insight into their own behavior. Feedback from the therapist and other group members can help if the member is willing to hear it.
      If the group setting is safe there can be a catharsis expression of feelings followed by insight and learning. What is your experience of working with a client who has difficulty being in a group? What has worked for you and not worked? How are you in groups? Does your role change? 

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Do we need a perfect place to write?

I have spent the last few weeks writing. Where I am it is quiet and lovely. I couldn’t help feeling that it was the perfect place to write. Everyone knows there’s only one perfect place to write, after all. So, do you have to put yourself in that perfect place for the muse to make an appearance?

Rituals always help. I light a red candle, a stick of incense, and then start. If I want I can travel down the road to the ocean, I can write while hearing its soothing and peaceful noises. Laptops are portable and allow me to move. Our cabin is surrounded by trees and the quiet of the forest is broken only by the calls of birds and the skittering of squirrels on the rooftop.

But maybe it’s not the quiet, the setting, and the solitude as much as it has been the routine. We wake up at 6:30 AM meditate, journal write, run, have lunch and then write for five hours everyday. We are here to write. So the writing comes. Maybe that is why this is the perfect place, because we have decided that it will be.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

My Outside Room

"Fear is the cheapest room in the house. I would like to see you living in better conditions" ~Hafiz

My outside living space on Denman Island has room for dreaming, writing, afternoon napping and talking. Fear went for a walk in the woods.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Poetry Therapy

Throughout my therapy practice I have written poetry as a way to reflect, grieve, and make sense of deep feelings that can get stirred up for me and my clients during sessions. Poetry Therapy, a term that became popular in the 1960’s, means poetry that is used for healing and personal growth. "Not I, but the poet discovered the unconscious," wrote Freud. Poetry Therapy is used by many professionals in therapy work including expressive and art therapy. Some ways I use poetry with clients is having them write poetry in response to their sessions, their artwork, as an ongoing journal inquiry, and in response to dreams. I keep several journals of poetry responses to my own personal work and to process my work with my clients.

When researching the history and development of Poetry Therapy, The Journal of Poetry Therapy is the richest source of current theory, research and technique. You may want to refer to The National Association for Poetry Therapy or NAPT.
You may have a collection of poems that you refer to when you need to be inspired. Mary Oliver, Rumi, Rainer Maria Rilke, David Whyte, Marget Atwood, Dylan Thomas, Pablo Casals and many more poets help us by making us pause and reflect.

For the last month, I have been living on Denman Island where we have a house surrounded by woods. I have meditating, journal writing, running and writing. I am working on a book about archetypes and a book of poems that I am hoping to publish that speaks to my experience of working with my clients. In this book, some of the topics that I am writing about are autism, domestic violence, depression, trauma, and divorce. If you are interested in learning how to include poetry in your therapy practice, I am going to be offering workshops for therapists. Poetry is a source of healing for me. What is your experience?

The following is a poem that I wrote on resiliency:

When I was younger it always felt like I was missing some inner strength, or some part. Instead of being able to support myself, I would just collapse.
I was part of the school track team taking part in a track meet in Verona.
I was in the lead, coming around a corner, when I collapsed on the ground.
My track coach, in an angry voice asked me why I gave up.
I couldn’t answer her. I just knew that I did not have it in me to finish.
It felt like something in me was broken or missing.
My brother used to tell me that I was the runt of the litter; there wasn’t enough left for me.
And he was the one in the family who liked me.


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