by Alison Chan, Craniosacral Therapist
"Anxiety is nothing more than sensation in the body that we cannot manage, contain, and resolve, and release." (Irene Lyon, Somatic Experiencing practitioner)
Today's post is the first of a series on understanding anxiety and addressing it through your body. Each time, I'll include one or two simple things you can do to help yourself feel calmer and more grounded.
Part 1: Your Body, the Survivor
So maybe you're working from home now but it's hard to sit still because you feel antsy. You might be having trouble focusing on tasks -- even sometimes literally, if your vision feels blurry. Or you know you have several things you could be doing right now but you feel kind of stuck and can't settle on one to tackle.
These are all signs that your body's in a survival state. At times like that, our nervous systems can feel really disregulated. And no wonder! We are currently in a situation where life and death is on the line; many of us don't know how we're going to cover the cost of living; our lives have been turned upside down. It's a hugely uncertain time.
At the same time, all these symptoms are actually part of an amazing survival strategy that your body has kicked into gear to protect you, through fight, flight or freeze (or a combination). The problem is that this nervous system response is only meant to last as long as a brief threat -- say, an attack by a cougar -- and then get dissipated in various ways.
But when the stress is ongoing, we have no way of discharging these energies and returning to a more regulated state. That's where working with our bodies can help.
Over the next few weeks, I'll be introducing a series of actions you can take to downshift your feelings of anxiety. You'll help your nervous system to take a break and hopefully experience some moments of calm!
Exercise: Feet, Seat, Breath Body Scan
You'll feel a difference immediately, and the more you do it, the more it helps to keep you grounded and keep your nervous system regulated.
For the first few times, try it sitting or lying down. Then you can adapt it for standing (say, for instance, standing in line).
That’s it! Stay tuned for the next post on using movement to help with anxiety.
By Melanie-Dawn (Ollenberg) Bessa
The outbreak of COVID-19 can be stressful and overwhelming for both adults and children. According to the Centre for Disease Control, stress during an infectious disease outbreak can include:
Did you know that elevated levels of cortisol also interfere with our capacity for empathy, learning, and memory retention? Daniel Siegal, psychiatrist and leading world authority in the fascinating field of interpersonal neurobiology, explains:
The release of stress hormones leads to excessive death of neurons in the crucial pathways involving the neo-cortex and limbic system - the areas responsible for emotional regulation (Siegel, 1996: 106).
Left unchecked, millions of brain cells in the hippocampus and orbitofrontal cortex are destroyed - the areas of the brain responsible for human empathy and impulse control. (Wright, Camden-Pratt, and Hill, 2011). So many of the short-sighted, competitive, violent tendencies prevalent in our society are actually symptoms of a system that teaches fear, shame, and aggression rather than amity and collaboration. Be it the authoritarian, competitive ranking system of our school system, the deluge of "bad" news in the media, or the economic disparities maintained in our societies, it is easy to live in a constant state of self-focused anxiety and shame.
Tips and Solutions to Quelling Fear
Thankfully, we are innately a people of emotion and relationship. Social researchers Miburn & Conrad confirmed that individuals raised under punitive parenting styles tend to prefer harsher law and order policies domestically, and support war as a foreign policy, and oppose pro-environment policies (1996). If we are to take back our own minds and hearts, and create a better future, what can we do?
Sound Healer Valerie Moysey explained to me that the key is coming into coherence: "By introducing / reintroducing a resonant field, we come into coherence". By coherence, in this case, Valerie was referring to the Heart Math Institute's work, which describes coherence as a measure of the pattern in the heart's rhythm, which reflects an orderly and harmonious synchronization among various systems in the body such as the heart, respiratory system, and blood-pressure rhythms (Heart Math Institute, https://www.heartmath.org/support/faqs/research/)
"While a number of techniques can be used (grounding, sound, breathwork, nature, prayer, etc) to come into coherence, the result is an activated parasympathetic nervous system and slowed fight-flight response." explains Valerie.
When we are afraid, anxious, or overwhelmed, we are ungrounded - we lose our sense of center, get swept off our feet, and lose our ability to make decisions clearly.
Grounding is a process of dynamic contact with the earth, with its edges, boundaries, and limitations. It allows us to become solidly real - present in the here and now - and dynamically alive with the vitality that comes from Earth. (Judith, A. in "Wheels of Life", p. 66)
When we are grounded, we can a sense of inter-connection with life, which brings clarity through stillness, and ultimately enhances our ability to make decisions easily, expand our consciousness, and manifest our goals. In this sense, grounding is quite literally "foundational" to all of the practices suggested in this article. But how do we get there? Valerie Moysey shared a number of easy strategies with me which one can do:
Valerie also speaks to the matter of "Entrainment" that happens when you spend time and proximity with a person who is grounded. Entrainment describes the way the body gradually syncs up with either a biological or external rhythm. In this case, when one who is in fear is with somebody who is not in fear, and that person is grounded, the fearful person will eventually become more calm. In this way, it is important to choose your company wisely, and ensure you give yourself the chance to resonate with others who are grounded and not in fear. This could be a friend, a family member, or even a paid practitioner. If you'd like to explore or discuss this further, please don't hesitate to connect with Valerie.
2. Take Heart
For more resources, the Heart Math Institute has some really great tips for managing fear from a heart-based space here: https://www.heartmath.org/calendar-of-events/coronavirus-technique-for-reducing-and-overcoming-fear/
Coincidentally, in the middle of writing this blog, I came across an Instagram post by sculptural fibre artist Marina Dempster, whose craft is a transmutation of materials, thoughts and emotions. Marina's work explores human paradoxes: comfort and discomfort, stillness and action, acceptance and change. Her "Dear Friends // Near Enemies" series of tufted cushions explore the paradox in language and get us thinking more deeply about our unconscious beliefs, urging us to go within for our answers. The cushion that caught my eye was F/EAR, pictured below. I reached out to ask if she could describe for me her take on this piece, and how we move through fear, and her response really resonated with the need for self-compassion, kindness. This is what she said:
At a time when so many are struggling to breathe, it's easy to get caught up in the fear and forget to breathe ourselves. I mean REALLY BREATHE. We are always breathing, but doing so consciously gives us constant access to the sacred, and a tool to shift our attention to what is sustaining us.
4. Vitamin N
While living in a culture that teaches accumulation, it is important to also spend time clearing the physical, mental and emotional debris that we collect. Creating space for the sacred, we bring awareness to the foundation of our being and learn to sift through and release what no longer serves.
6. Sounding Through Fear
When the vagus nerve in our bodies is overstimulated (eg., due to stress or fear) or inactive; the right frequencies can bring it back to normal working order.
7. Prayer / Intention
The coronavirus pandemic is indiscriminate, affecting lives across races and religions. This global angst has simultaneously inspired interfaith unity and solidarity. There are examples around the world of leaders coming together across faith groups as well. On April 22nd, in fact, Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Druze religious leaders in Israel were set to hold an interfaith virtual prayer Wednesday afternoon amid the coronavirus pandemic (The Times of Israel). In a Statement from the Parliament of World Religions, it invokes in us the need to "find new ways to bring comfort to one another, to cooperate with one another, and to overcome the ravages of disease and death." Meanwhile, the The Canadian Interfaith Conversation was pleased to participate in the development of the statement, "Hope, Gratitude and Solidarity: A Message to Canadians from Religious Leaders in Canada in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic," released March 30, 2020. They also offered an interfaith message for spiritual and religious leaders to be beacons of support during these difficult times. "Together with over 80 leaders of religious communities, we pledged to "witness hope to each other and so become beacons of light during these uncertain times."
While we witness this outpouring of support and solidarity from spiritual and religious leaders around the world, many of us are also turning to prayer more and more in our own daily practices, to ask for support in with our fear. When we bow our heads, bring our hands to our hearts, or kneel on the ground in prayer, we open up to the invisible world and the intangible presence of our heart, mind, and soul. When we listen with all of our senses from this place, we connect, participate with, and witness the Divine and attune to the sacred.
Valerie also strongly recommended prayer: "Set a strong focus / intention for help, ask what is it that you need to move through this time, and listen to what comes through". It reminded me of this quote by Rumi, which seems to thread all of these tips and strategies together.
Make everything in you an ear, each atom of your being, and you will hear at every moment what the Source is whispering to you, just to you and for you, without any need for my words or anyone else's. You are - we all are - the beloved of the Beloved, and in every moment, in every event of your life, the Beloved is whispering to you exactly what you need to hear and know. Who can ever explain this miracle? It simply is. Listen and you will discover it in every passing moment. (Rumi)
This quote really touches me, and the words can carry all of us through each of the practices recommended throughout this article.
May you be blessed by these medicines as you listen to, navigate, and learn from your fear, into a place of beloved expansion, compassion, and hope. And through all of this, please know that you do not need to navigate this alone. You are supported and loved.
By Melanie-Dawn (Ollenberg) Bessa
The shift from winter can now be felt as the streams thaw, life reawakens, and the buds emerge. Since the Spring Equinox in March, when the day and night were of equal time, the light has been gaining momentum. We can feel the effect in our own restlessness as the seeds and buds make their way to the surface.
Historically, there are many myths and archetypes of reawakened life. Here are a few examples:
The return to life has so many qualities that we experience in our own lives when we live seasonally. Renewal takes strength, endurance, and eagerness in order to amount to an abundant harvest. Just look at how hard yet how calm that seed has to work to reach up through the mud to the surface. Like those seeds, we need to root around in the dark, make mistakes, and clarify our boundaries. With the heightened energies abounding, fears and doubts also emerge as a barometer for change, exposing opportunities and processes to bring you us closer to peace, or expose an area in our journey that is being called to grow. Renewal also requires discernment around what to keep and what to release, to make room for the new - it's the perfect time for Spring cleaning, both inside and out.
5 Personal Reflections for Spring
Developing confidence in your innate ability to shed and rise up will both strengthen your connection to yourself as well as your ability to trust and surrender to your soul's yearnings. To help you on this road this season here are some personal reflections to consider:
Blessings of Growth, Healing and Renewal,
by Melanie-Dawn (Ollenberg) Bessa
Imagery of the Earth's seasons and cycles surround us every day, poking and prodding us to pay attention to the messages that each season has to offer. Seasonal Living is about listening to those messages. But with all that's going on in life, it's easy to pass these messages by, and it gets harder and harder to even see why listening to the signs of the seasons and living seasonally is so important.
Why should I live seasonally?
Each season has it's own unique attributes, purpose, mythos and medicine. When we shift our inner world so that it aligns with the natural world, we open up to a power that is deep, real, and empowering. As a divination arts practitioner, reading the signs and symbols in the world around me has become a very natural part of each day. But I remember when I didn't have this connection - it was a lonely, overwhelming, and confusing time. If we open up to listening to the messages in the seasons and cycles of nature, we will find some real gems to help us cope with our human experiences. Here are a few that come to mind:
1. We are not and never will be, truly alone. When we open up to the life that surrounds us in all things, we see how interconnected we are with it. Like trees sharing a communication system beneath a forest floor, we are not separate from nature but a part of it. Separation is illusion.
Personal reflections on living seasonally
Looking for other ways to enjoy the season?
Our Members are offering opportunities to tune in, nourish your soul, and keep connected to yourself and the world around you. All within the comfort of your home, while we work through this time of social distancing.
11/25/2019 1 Comment
“I’m so tired of feeling like I’m in a rut, running around in circles, doing so much but not doing the things I want…”
Does this sound familiar?
It’s been a common theme in the conversations I’ve been having with people this season. It seems like we’re all so…busy. Busy catching up, busy watching the clock, busy checking emails, busy with the errands and the chores and the plans we’ve made…
And as soon as a window of time becomes available to be alone, at home, with nothing to do…another invitation, text message, or task appears to fill that space.
It’s not always easy to carve out time to step back and look at the bigger picture of where all of your energy is going each day.
If you’re pouring yourself into the things you love and want to do, it’s a lot easier to go with the flow and feel aligned with the hustle and bustle.
But if you’re feeling resentful, burned out, over-committed, under-appreciated…
If you’re realizing that days, weeks or even months have gone by since you last had time to work on your art, read a book….
…or just have a day where you could do whatever you wanted, without having to watch the clock or plan your whole day around a specific schedule…
The days ahead give you a window of opportunity to step back and take a bird’s eye view of where your energy is going, and whether it’s time to redirect it elsewhere.
The New Moon in Sagittarius arrives on Tuesday, November 26 at 10:06 am. This is a new threshold in the rhythm of life that encourages you to reconnect to creativity, freedom, and spontaneity.
In today’s world, “freedom” can make some people bristle: “How dare you even think about working less, doing less, or saying no when we are all supposed to be producing, hustling, and available at all hours?”
But that’s the issue, isn’t it? The relationship we have constructed with time, productivity, and efficiency is so entwined with guilt that some of us have forgotten that we’re allowed to question why we do what we do.
Here’s the thing: Change is always possible.
It doesn’t have to be drastic, or dramatic. It doesn’t have to happen overnight. It doesn’t have to rock all the boats in your dock…but it may cause a wave or two.
That’s okay. The fiery energy of Sagittarius offers a boost of confidence to create a little more freedom, fun, and excitement in your life.
p.s. If you’d like to work with the New Moon in Sagittarius using tarot as well, here’s a spread that will help:
1. What does freedom mean for me at this time?
2. What can I do to feel freer?
3. What is it time for me to focus on?
4. What dream of mine wants to become real?
11/18/2019 1 Comment
If you have been struggling to take action, or get back to yourself lately…
Or stay focused on your priorities, you might want to check in with Mars.
The planet of action has been stretched a bit thin in the sign of Libra since October 4, putting an emphasis on relationships, community, and social time.
Which are not bad things at all. But in Libra’s people-pleasing world, Mars sometimes has trouble saying no, or sticking to its own to-do list. Except rather than slacking, it tries to do it all.
If you’ve been trying to be everything to everyone lately, or you’ve said “yes” more times than you should have, things can start to calm down when Mars enters Scorpio on Tuesday, November 19 at 2:40am.
Mars is powerful here. It’s a time to regain control over your intentions, your schedule, and your energy. To recharge your batteries in Scorpio’s quieter terrain and reconnect to some of the plans or projects that may have gotten pushed off to the side since early October.
Another factor that can help get things back on track is Mercury stationing direct on Wednesday, November 20. After being retrograde since October 31, the planet of communication, strategy, and ideas is getting ready to go
Here’s a question to meditate upon this week:
What is your relationship to growth?
Growth can come in many forms. It can be personal growth, such as maturity, better self-care plans, or deeper self-awareness.
It can be professional or financial.
It can be health-related, such as making conscious choices or changes that take you from one state to another.
Whatever growth might mean for you right now, and whatever kind of growth you might be focused on, this week’s Taurus Full Moon highlights themes of growth.
Arriving at 8:34am EST on Tuesday, November 12, this week’s Full Moon connects back to the New Moon in Taurus back on May 4.
Did you set any intentions around that time around stability or security? What were you hoping to solidify around that time? Was anything feeling tenuous, or due for a change?
11/4/2019 0 Comments
Mercury went retrograde last Thursday, October 31 in the sign of Scorpio, where it will continue to backtrack until Wednesday, November 20.
This year’s Mercury retrograde periods have all taken us through the watery depths of the zodiac. First it was Pisces, then Cancer, and finally Scorpio this fall. These periods have been ripe for intuitive development, self-reflection, and heart-centered decision making.
Take a moment to reflect on the kind year 2019 has been for you, as well as what you’re noticing in the world around you.
Maybe you’ve taken a big leap of faith this year.
Maybe you’ve started to make changes in the way you think or make decisions, especially if you tend to ignore your heart and listen exclusively to your head.
Maybe you’ve reconnected to your spiritual self, or awakened to a spiritual side you didn’t know you had.
This year has been a strange ride in many ways, but I think for many of us it will also be one that we later look back on and see as a major turning point in many ways, too.
Mercury retrogrades always get attention when they happen. We start blaming all kinds of things on them: travel delays, busted computers, lost emails. But what’s important to remember is that all astrological events, including Mercury retrogrades, are part of larger cycles and stories.
They are not stops-and-starts along the path, and are not meant to be looked at as isolated incidents. They are part of the seasons of your life, and part of the fabric of the collective and universal energies we all experience together.
There may be things that have happened to you this year that were painful and confusing. When Mercury travels through the element of water, things get distorted. People aren’t always thinking as clearly, or presenting themselves as honestly as they could be.
Misunderstandings arise because it’s hard to hear when your head is under water, which is what is happening to us right now. Mercury rules the mind, and it’s swimming in the ocean right now.
These are the times when you really start to see that not everyone thinks like you do. Or feels like you do. Or wants what you do.
And that can lead to personal transformation that comes in many forms.
The Fall Equinox is a wonderful time to check in on what your energy is flowing into.
Change your schedule to move towards more of what you want. Correct any imbalances in your priorities, boundaries, and sense of time.
And by all means, don’t forget to look at what you are doing to rest, renew, and recharge amongst it all.
This Saturday, September 28 brings the Libra New Moon at 2:26pm EST. Venus and Mercury are also in Libra right now; this weekend will be emphasized by the element of air, making each of us more open to connection and conversation.
Libra likes to get to know you. It likes to be inspired, and likes to take time for beauty, art, and elevated senses.
What are you hoping to make a little more room for these days that will help you feel more inspired about the world around you?
Now is the time to get clear about what will make your life feel a little more beautiful to you.
If you sometimes struggle to keep your energy focused on your own priorities and want to clear your head so that you can take better control over your time, my New Moon Meditations will help.
These guided meditations take you through each New Moon to help you shape the life you want to be living. Get ready for this weekend’s Libra New Moon by purchasing these meditations today.
Until next time,
p.s. Want to connect with this weekend’s New Moon in Libra through tarot? I’ve got a spread for you right here:
1. What is coming into harmony for me?
2. What is out of balance at this time?
3. Where is my energy being misdirected?
4. What can I flow my efforts into instead?
Take some time this week to reflect on the changes that have occurred for you since late April:
Saturn retrograde can sometimes bring up things that worry us, because it shows us where the work remains, or where we need to improve.
But the purpose of these lessons is not to send you running in the opposite direction: No, Saturn wants you to do the work. It rewards those who fix those leaks and prevent future cracks from forming in the foundations of their lives.
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