Updated: Mar 6

Oh stillness.


Sweet stillness.


What is stillness? For me, connecting to stillness is a process of falling in love with myself, my meditation cushion, and the meditative space that I've created for myself -- where there are flowers and candles. It's a process of connecting with gratitude for my body's ability to cross its legs, for my living room, for the sun shining through my living room window, for the ability to see the pine trees swaying outside my window.


It's connecting to my breath. My sweet, sweet breath. This friend that I neglect at times, but who's always there, ready for me to notice it and let it calm me, and assist me in connecting with my inner wise teacher and my intuition.


It's this feeling of melting and merging. Melting with the earth. Becoming the earth. Melting with nature. Melting with my meditation cushion and my clothes. Leaving "Sarah" behind and becoming the real me. The me who doesn't have to do anything. The me who can just be. The me who knows that just being is enough. Just sitting and breathing is enough.


Sweet, sweet stillness.


I do have to say that stillness can be difficult to connect with, especially while living in a capitalist country, and being trained since birth that we had to become human doings, and not human beings. How can we possibly "be" if we need to work and work and work, so we can support our loved ones and pay bills and reach the American dream/nightmare.


It's especially difficult to connect with stillness when we've experienced trauma. Tara Brach has described trauma as this process of "severed belonging." We no longer feel that we belong to ourselves, our bodies or to each other. The fight or flight process is activated, and we find ourselves fighting with everyone because we don't trust them and we think they'll hurt us. We find ourselves fleeing -- just constantly running -- to new cities, new states, new countries. Running away from ourselves. From others. Even running away from others who provide a sense of safety, and who want to give us the love we want and deserve. Continuing to run, not realizing that the home, safety, and love we're running towards is right here. Right now. Not realizing that what we seek is already within us.


And then, there's the freeze state. This process that seems like it is stillness, but we're disconnected, dissociated, and so depressed that sometimes all we can do is lay down. We become immovable, uninspired, unmotivated. Life's beauty escapes us. We experience this barrage of negative self-talk where we feel ashamed and undeserving of love or undeserving of anything beautiful.


January, there was a focus on self-care on this blog. Physical self-care is important/necessary, but emotional self-care might be the most important. And maybe they're two sides of the same coin, but with the pandemic, natural disasters, our tendency to overwork, our feelings of overwhelm and loneliness, making time to pause, write, talk to therapists and loved ones, make and hold space for our pain is crucial.


In February, I talked about the importance of practicing self-compassion (SC). And, SC is a perfect practice. Because it essentially says that when we're in emotional pain, we can hold ourselves as we would hold a baby who's crying. We can get into the practice of saying to ourselves "I know. I see you. I know you're hurting. I'm here for you. What can I do? What do you need?"


And, I think if we're able to get to a place where we can be still, we'll naturally see difficult emotions arise, and we can practice being loving and caring parents/friends to ourselves. And eventually, after some work of processing our pain and taking care of ourselves, we might surprisingly get to bliss as we sit in stillness. It's incredible, beautiful, and peaceful when we're able to lose ourselves in stillness. We can just be. And everything feels calm and OK. Everything feels like it's enough -- what we have or don't have; it's all enough. It's all perfect. Through stillness, we can find ourselves literally becoming or embodying love, belonging, peace, beauty, wisdom.


I hope that we can find powerful moments of stillness this month. And if not powerful, at least a little bit peaceful. And if not peaceful, at least it'll feel like a little break from the chaos of life. Even if that break lasts a minute. We deserve peace. We deserve to be.


May you find some peace today and everyday. May you feel loved, my friend.

Oh self-compassion. What is it and why is it my favorite concept in the world? I still remember being blown away by Kristin Neff's book on self-compassion. Thank you to Dr. Neff! The idea that I could be kind to myself was r e v o l u t i o n a r y.


Now, I'm like -- yea yea yea. Be kind to myself.



But, back then, and now -- when I really think about making it an authentic practice to be a good friend to myself, I just. AGAIN. MIND BLOWN!


Unfortunately, our minds need to be ready and open to hear/take in certain messages. I've probably heard this feedback before from elders, often and it never really sunk in. But, so grateful that it finally clicked in my late 20s. It helps that there are hundreds of research studies confirming that self-kindness decreases anxiety, depression, and the tendency to be in survival mode (fight-flight-freeze), and increases the tendency to feel safe and calm.


We can think of babies crying as depression and anxiety, and self-compassion practices as when a caretaker walks over to a baby, says something soothing in a sing song-y voice, picks up the baby gently, hugs them, and continues to make empathic, supportive statements to them. Singing to the child. Dancing with the child. Asking the child -- what do you need? How can I help?


We become that caretaker and we hug ourselves, self-soothe, dance w/ ourselves, check in about our needs and take care of our needs.


Kristin Neff discusses how there are three branches of self-compassion -- mindfulness, common humanity, and self-kindness (e.g., as I check in with my breath and my body, what am I feeling right now? I'm noticing there's some sadness in this moment, and that's OK. We all experience bouts of sadness. May I be kind to myself in this moment. May I continue to breathe and take care of my needs in this moment).


Tara Brach -- a master meditation teacher -- discusses the process of RAIN. Recognizing emotions, Allowing for the feelings to be there, Investigating where those feelings might be in our bodies, and practicing self-nurturing.


I just love this, and I'm realizing now, in this moment, the reason that I love this practice so much is because we all needed that loving, caring, accepting, nurturing caretaker. And many of us did not experience that. And, it's heartbreaking. It's painful. But, with self-compassion, we can finally embody that parent for ourselves. We can learn and practice to give ourselves the unconditional love that caretakers may have not been capable of, or friends and lovers and society as a whole may not be capable of.


We have this incredible power within us. And yes. This is a skill that can take some time to develop, especially when outsiders weren't able to show us this deep level of love and understanding and acceptance. I tell folks that building up this skill and many other skills that contribute to healing, is like exercising. We start slow and overtime, we can increase weights. We notice that we become stronger. That practicing this skill becomes more natural and familiar and automatic. We also notice changes in how we think, how we speak, and in what we do. We become kinder to ourselves and others.


So powerful! So healing!


I LOVE THIS!


I'll end with my favorite meditation --lovingkindness meditation. Connect to your inhales and exhales. Connect to your body. Connect to your feet on the ground. Soften tension, and think --


May I be happy.

May I feel loved.

May I feel deeply connected.

May I feel seen.

May I feel understood.

May I feel cared for.

May we all feel cared for.


Here's to you, living with incredible ease and surrounded by an abundance of love.

Updated: Jan 12

Being human continues to come with challenges. The pains of 2020 -- isms, phobias, chaos, overwhelm, fear, anger -- didn't stay behind. Those challenges are quickly seeping into 2021. Happy new year, indeed.


Now, more than ever, we need to care for ourselves -- as if we're tiny babies who need love, attention, understanding, patience, kindness and care. I'm serious, though. We. Are. Tiny. Babies. Don't ever forget it :D


How's the first week of 2021 been for you? How are you hoping or wanting to care for your mind, your body, your spirit this month?


If you need some inspiration, I'll tell you a bit about what I've been loving. First of all, I LOVE the word: HABITUATE. This word came up often during a 200hr meditation teacher training (MTT) I engaged in last year. The process of meditation compels you to easily and somewhat quickly habituate. If you're wanting to meditate like Tibetan Buddhists, you'd:


1 - Prepare your space. Have all the things you love in the space. For me, this just means candles and tea.


2 - Get my cushion out, and get into a meditative posture or sit.


3 - Explore your intentions or the WHYs. Why are you meditating in this moment? A why could be -- to be happy. To find joy. You can supercharge your intentions by thinking about others (e.g., "may I find joy so that I can help others find joy" or "may we all be happy this moment and every moment" or "may the goodness that arises from making time to meditate help others see their goodness. May I become the embodiment of unconditional love that everyone is searching for"). That last one is great, right?


4 - Meditate. I am particularly fond of practicing loving kindness meditation, where I send this magical light of love from my heart to everyone and everything. And, a Teacher meditation, where I imagine sitting across a teacher or my higher self, and I ask them for guidance, support or teachings.



I had to do this for at least 15 minutes everyday for 10 weeks during MTT. Habituate. Habituate. Habituate. This is a process of falling in love. You know that feeling -- when you first meet someone, and you're so excited. You can't wait to see them again. You eagerly wait for their text. Imagine if you had that feeling for every activity you wanted to habituate.


This is the key, I think, to self-care. Find activities that you can fall in love with. And, like all relationships, there will be moments of deep connection and painful disconnection. But, because you care so much about the practice (whatever it looks like), you come back.


And, do you know what's cool? Eventually, a practice becomes so habitual that you wake up and do it automatically (e.g., brushing your teeth, taking a shower as soon as you wake up, walking the dog, drinking a glass of wine or watching Netflix after work).


Outside of Habituate (such a fun word. Dare you to say it r e a l l y s l o w l y right now :D -- Habituaaateeeeee), I'll list three tools that I have been engaging in outside of meditation.


1 - Yoga. I loved Yoga with Adriene's 30 day journeys last year, and I'm so excited that this year, she's doing another 30-day yoga journey focusing on the breath.


2 - Michael Brown's The Presence Process. The theory is that if we make time every day -- 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening -- our past traumas can be integrated. Even ancestral traumas, and trauma from the womb. We can become more whole. We can find peace, joy, creativity.


There are two things I'm taking away so far. The first -- this really beautiful notion, that when we sit for those 15 minutes to breathe, we're sitting w/ our younger selves, and we can finally be the compassionate, loving, and accepting parent that they've longed for.


You can incorporate this idea with every practice you engage in -- when you're eating, when you're moving your body, when you're in nature. Imagine that the little you-s are with you and they're hoping that you see them and you show them some love.


The second -- whenever we're triggered by someone -- a parent, a child, a cashier, etc. -- those people are messengers. It's pointless to be mad at those folks, because they're just giving us a message. The message probably being -- this is painful. This pain from the past still hurts. Sit. Breathe. Be kind to yourself. Practice self-empathy. Be loving and caring towards present you and past you in this moment.


This perspective helps us take responsibility, and respond, rather than react to triggering situations. Brown has awesome metaphors. He says -- reacting to the messenger is like us being angry at the postal worker for delivering a bill to us. Or, us being angry at the actors as we watch the play of our lives.


And finally, 3, for people who menstruate -- I came by this one by coincidence. I was scrolling through IG, and I saw an ad for this. IG definitely knows me better than I know myself. *Scary* But, I am learning so much from these herbalists. They currently have this 14-Day PMS Reset Challenge, and again. I'm in love. They have so much to say about herbs, the importance of cruciferous veggies, vitamins, and even which ingredients in cleaning products and body care products can increase PMS symptoms. My favorite discussion so far has got to be about how the moon cycles impacts/helps/coincide with our menstrual cycles.


What?


Amazing.


If I could choose any practice to continue to fall in love with, it'd have to be meditation. There's something so special about grabbing my cushion, looking at it with gratitude, and thanking my body for being able to hold me up on the cushion as I melt into the earth the deeper I get into a meditative state.


The 15 minutes of conscious, connected breathing comes to a close second. But when meditating, I'm focused on my breath, and my mind is thinking about ways to help others and love others, so that when I get up from the cushion, I'm more likely to be kinder to loved ones and strangers.


All this to say -- Go easy. Be kind to yourself. Find some quiet, if possible. And, breathe. Hug a tree. Walk on the soil barefoot (if you're in a warm climate :D). Find ways to fall in love with everything and everyone, including yourself, every second of everyday.

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