Archive for the ‘self-healing’ Category

Healing vs. Curing

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

mesaBreast Cancer Awareness month is October, and so this month I’ll be focusing on how any of us facing illness can take steps to explore more than repairs and curing. We want healing as well!

Allopathic medicine focuses on repairing what is broken and on fixing symptoms and altering structures that cause disease. I am very grateful for our advances in these areas, since I feel that allopathic medicine is responsible for at least half the reasons why I’m alive today after my two bouts with breast cancer.

And, I’m grateful for my training and experience in the other half of the story, which is about healing. The word “heal” means to make whole again. (And my birth name, Hale, comes from the same root as “heal,” and means strong and hearty. This is why I use that name as my author and professional name. I am becoming more and more “Hale.”)

When we “get” or “have” an illness, there are some steps we can take to make ourselves feel whole again.

 We can remember that it’s “both…and.”

On one hand it’s horrible, frightening, evil, a bad sign, and all the other things we could say along those lines. And, it’s still true that the way the shadows of the mesquite trees are dancing on the wall outside my window is beautiful. Can I hold both the horrifying and the beautiful? Actually, I can. And so, I’ll bet, can you.

We can feed the white wolf.

Remember the story about the man who is followed by a black wolf and a white wolf? He visits the village shaman and tells him how these two wolves fight and follow him, and asks which one will win. “The one you feed,” is the answer. How can you feed the white wolf of beauty, truth and meaning right now?

We can decide to be the well ones.

There is plenty of toxic, sick, fearful, angry energy in our world. We are all tempted to join in, and when we do, we feed that black wolf. So we can decide to say Yes to life, even with its pain and imperfection. We can decide to be healthy emotionally and spiritually even when our body is suffering, and to have well-being.

How do we accomplish these three things? I think we draw on the creative energy within us. For creativity isn’t limited to art; it refers to the ability we have to decide, to make choices, to change and shift things in ways that affect our destiny.

The Divine One isn’t the only Creator; we are co-creators.

Healing involves our claiming our role as co-creators.

We stepped into a world that was already formed, but we create our own experience every day. We create the world within. We create the lens we use to see ourselves and our lives.

How will you create wellness and wholeness for yourself today?

 

This post was adapted from the original, which appeared as Creativity & Healing on theSpiritedWoman.com.

How to Clean a Foggy Lens

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015

Tibetan mandala
For me, everything is material for our personal, spiritual, collective treasure hunt. And so I offer you some reflections that have emerged from my weeks of solo retreat…

My journey has had its complications. When two weeks out from surgery my “index toe” still remained blackish purple, the surgeon admitted there was a question about its being viable.

Since amputation was not on my list of desirable activities, and since medically there was nothing to do but wait until outer layers of dead tissue peeled away, I had to do something. What “different lens” was I going to use on this situation?

My spiritual first aid drill was first to call in good help, in the form of local healers and mentors. Next I decided I’d better pull together all the healing tools and experiences I’ve gathered over the years and use them on myself.

The first way to clear out some of the fog over my different lens was to re-frame this as an adventure. 

*******

Metaphors are a way for me to see the bigger picture.

As the purple skin turned blacker and crustier, it began to look like a caterpillar in a chrysalis. Now, there’s a metaphor I could hang onto! A little butterfly was forming inside, and so nothing to do but surrender to the transformation. 

So as if it were under my control, I gave the toe permission and let go of any parts of it that needed to die in order for new life to emerge. During this period I had a lot of tears, and many of them seemingly unrelated to the toe, or to anything else I could identify. I just knew certain old ways of walking in the world were passing away.

I did ceremony every day, and made my house even more of a sanctuary than it usually is. It became my own Red Tent for healing and transformation. I read spiritual wisdom, chanted, prayed, and also watched some great movies and ate too many chocolate chip cookies for someone sitting on a couch 24/7.

I was happy when a friend came to visit who had taken a toe reading class. That’s right, toe reading! She told me the left foot is connected to the inner world, the big toe to the soul’s path, ad the second toe to the inner voice. So I did work with healing the parts of me that have muffled that inner voice and strayed from that soul’s path, and called in a new day.

Seeing in metaphors gave me a way to enter that temple within and to do the deep work needed for healing to have a chance. 

 ******

My new art photography collages have emerged from my theory that part of making lemonade out of lemons is calling in the muse.

For me, having creative work is another way to “polish the lamp,” as the Sufis would put it, or to clean my foggy lens.

My future book is taking form, and as I read voraciously and listen to some online teachers, ideas pop onto index card and into my journal and my spirit is happy.

Way back in my cancer journeys I found that one’s world can shrink severely during illness, and so one way for the body to be able to exit that crisis cascade of chemicals is for the soul to remind it that we are creators, capable of unexpected glories, even when our bodies are limited.

Having lost too many body parts at this point, I had to admit that even if worse came to worse and I lost my toe, I would still be me, still live, and walk on. It wouldn’t be my favorite, but I remembered I was more than my toe and more than this particular time. Creating helped me get there.

 ******

I learned to live with limits

Of course, a lot of my learning was the practical kind that we all experience when we’re limited by illness or injury. I learned to get around on a scooter and crutches. Learned how to re-organize the kitchen enough to make simple meals. Figured out how to take a shower when I couldn’t get my foot wet. Signed up for some great online courses so I wouldn’t be bored. Figured out how to do an upper body workout sitting down. And figured out what makes me tired and when to give in to that.

Two things come out of my experience living with limits.
First, gratitude, for sure. If you’ve been on crutches, you know how you tell yourself you’ll never take walking for granted again. I’m so fortunate that my disability is temporary, and I bow to those who have made life work with physical limits.

Secondly, I realize that being human is about living with limits. As spiritual beings, we are limited in certain ways on this earth plane. It’s hard here. Our minds drive us crazy and our bodies don’t always cooperate.

So bringing heaven to earth is about bringing an the reality that we are unlimited to a plane where we perceive ourselves as limited. I want to live with limits in gratitude, while continuing to stretch beyond them and remember my greater being.

******

How to Clean a Foggy Lens:

1. When you can’t see, do a re-frame. 

When all I could see was fog ahead a possible loss, I had to re-frame this incident as an adventure where I would discover and learn some crucial things.

2. Find a metaphor. 

What object or symbol does this incident or challenge remind you of? Brainstorm until you find a metaphor that makes you smile. My toe as a caterpillar in a chrysalis did that for me, and it gave me hints about how to process my own transformation inside.

3. Call in the muse. 

You are creative, and so whether you play an instrument, paint, arrange flowers, or whether you solve corporate problems or are a techie, you ARE creative. So create something that delights you, and watch your world expand.

4. Learn from your limits.  

What is limiting you now? How does it feel? How can you adjust your world and learn to live with the limits in a way that frees you a little? How, how can this situation point to ways you could expand beyond your limits and remember the essential you that has none? 

What happened to the caterpillar?

Even though I was feeling optimistic, I held my breath in the doctor’s office as he peeled off the part of the now-black, crusty skin on the outside of my toe.

It was pink underneath!

I cried and he beamed. Told me I could start putting weight on it. Encouraged me to peel the rest of the black off when it was ready.

I have been celebrating this small miracle, and as I venture out, now able to walk with crutches to my car and drive to the mailbox or even the grocery store…I can’t help marveling over all the butterflies in my yard. They seem to be loving the flowers that are blooming and thriving with our summer rains.

One butterfly lives on inside the house. She’s protected by a boot cast most of the time, but from time to time I unwrap her and let her flap her wings. They are still wet, a bit tender, and not flying yet. But we know what possibilities lie ahead.

Ode to Serena and the Mastery of Power

Monday, July 20th, 2015

Serena+Williams+04

I’m a big tennis fan, and so Wimbledon on TV was a bonus during this time of recovering from foot surgery. Feeling rather powerless and in need of some inspiration, a second bonus was spotting the invisible battle going on while Serena was winning the singles championship at 33.

Watching the outer battle…I mean, wow. The woman is a national symbol of the potential for feminine power. I remember watching her play with her sister when they were teenagers, the only black feminine faces in a privileged white sport. Not only have they both risen through the ranks, Serena has navigated the politics of sports, become an international star, and now has maintained and surpassed herself. She has overcome injuries, illness, inevitable aging, incredible competition—and is dominant in the world of athletics. That’s power.

Still, in her final match I watched her battle the personal demons that have come out to haunt her on international television in the past. As she admitted in her interview, her biggest challenge is not physical, but mental. Despite all her achievement, training, hard work and success, mastering herself is the hardest work of all.

I have compassion for her in this struggle. Tennis was my sport, and my biggest enemy was myself. I could rip myself apart faster and more viciously than any critic could have managed. I never did master myself through the crucible of tennis.

Watching Serena reminded me of the Hindu story of Arjuna, Krishna and the chariot. Lord Krishna drives a chariot onto the battlefield and Arjuna is a passenger seated in the back. Arjuna represents the embodied individual soul and Krishna, the higher Self– going into the midst of a battle between the armies of our “lower nature” and our Divine nature, on the inner battlefield. The reins are the mind, the horses the senses. And the whole operation works depends on collaboration between them all. (https://chandrugidwani.wordpress.com/2014/02/09/the-significance-of-the-chariot-with-krishna-and-arjuna/)

I saw Serena’s real battle was to harness and channel the huge power she has amassed. It can be used, like all power, for destruction or for good. The bigger the power and the more fully we enter the bigger area, the more intense the tension gets. Looking through my lens it was not, “Will Serena beat Garbine Muguruza?” as much as it was “Will Serena let Arjuna keep the reins?”

Under pressure, we are all tempted to regress into the habit of allowing our ego or smaller self to grab those reins, triggered by whatever bugs us the most. When Serena’s serve goes sour, it must feel like her power is betraying and eluding her. Her ego must want to scream out obscenities and try to force the issue.

The maddening thing is, the opposite is required. The real battle is to create enough quiet to remain the neutral witness, to listen to higher instruction, to trust that magical flow is just outside our reach, possible once again if we relax and allow it. Letting go over forcing the chariot. Trust over fear.

It’s a mighty challenge for every one of us, collectively and individually. And at the top level of sports, we see the truth: that in a battlefield where every top player has already achieved top fitness, strategy and skill, it comes down to the inner stuff.

What we’re all after is Realization, or whatever you’d like to call it. Peace, happiness, joy, flow. We’ve all had it, and we’ve all lost it. Every one of us is on that battlefield and the skirmishes won’t stop, whether we’re playing on a tiny neighborhood court or in the halls of Washington.

Who’s driving your chariot, or piloting your plane? Are you even acquainted with that higher Self? You’ve met her in those moments where the magical flow just swept you along through difficulties you didn’t think you could master. That’s what I’d call your Arjuna, your Divine Self. You could just call it The Friend. I call it Big Pam, as opposed to Little One.

How can you allow the Friend to take the reins again? Well, I think the first step is always, Just STOP. When anger or panic or pushing or striving or forcing has got you by the throat, just STOP.

Now breathe. Just breathe right into the feeling, wherever it lives in your body. Give it a chance. Give it a little space, a little pat. It’s just your own private angry toddler. Surely you won’t let it drive. You know how that ends. DUI’s or worse.

Now ask. Ask your Self, your heart, for help driving this unruly vehicle. Ask, and it shall be given. Maybe you won’t win the match. But you will have practiced your power serve. You will be one step closer to what I see Serena mastering: authentic power.

Finally, thank your inner Self, your master charioteer. Serena thanks her Jehovah God, which used to annoy me. But now I get it. “It is His strength I rely on,” she confessed. You can call your charioteer Joe if you want, or Delilah. But when you have surrendered the reins and harvested the reward, give thanks and then try to keep doing that.

Your inner crowd will stand up and cheer.

 

What to Do When You Get Stung

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015

IMG_1311

Two days ago, while trying to help a beautiful looking black bug with broad orange wings to leave the confines of our bathroom, I found that the double layer of toilet paper I used to create a portable cocoon was not enough. I got stung by what turns out to be a “tarantula hawk” wasp. Online I found that their sting is reputed to be the worst insect sting in North America!

I felt stung in more than one way. I felt kind of betrayed. I was trying to be nice, and I got hurt. Ever happen to you? And when it does (because it happens to all of us in some form), how in the world are you supposed to be spiritual?

You might think of your own examples like having the check you reluctantly accepted from someone…bounce. Or having someone you loved a lot betray you. Or find out someone you counted on has just let you down. These all sting. So what to do?

We’ve all experienced letting one hurtful incident ruin our entire day and seemingly take over our whole world. One more thing that went wrong may lead us to the conclusion that everything goes wrong for us, or that the world is evil in general, or that we’re drawing dark energies to us. Going down the victim road step by step, conclusion by conclusion.

Seeing it Through a Different Lens

Here’s a process I tried on myself after the tarantula hawk got me, so that I would not go down the victim road:

  1. Breathe deeply and ask yourself how your heart feels.

Mine answered that it felt hurt and betrayed, whether that made sense to my mind or not. And, my heart said it felt a little hurt that my mind was telling me I was just stupid.

  1. List 3 reasons this might have happened.

Mine were: a) I didn’t know it was a stingy creature. (I’ve lived in Southern AZ for 26 years and never heard of this kind of wasp.) B) I made an assumption that an encounter with an unknown creature was harmless  and c) Maybe I needed to learn a lesson about things that sting.

Take a moment to see if anything seems a little clearer.

 

  1. Do a compassion practice for yourself and the person or creature involved.

Breathe into your own heart and offer it your love and gratitude for how it bears all hurts. See if the hurt lightens a bit. What happens inside your heart?

Imagine breathing the person or creature into your heart and ask what it needed when the “sting” occurred. Maybe you’ll at least see something you didn’t see before, and your feeling of anger or resentment might lift a bit.

Do this practice as many times as it takes, even if it takes days or months. Some stings are bigger than others!

 

In my case, I found out that tarantula hawk wasps don’t sting very often, and only when they feel very threatened. I had to admit that if a giant hand with a tent on it came down over me, I’d sting too, if I could.

My husband was able to get it out into the yard in one (slightly wounded) piece, and it disappeared the next morning. Look out tarantulas! This wasp will capture you, sting you, drag you to a hole, lay an egg on you, and bury you. The larvae that hatch will feed on you alive. A much worse fate than mine!

Even with a more personal “sting” than this one, the compassion practice eventually won out over the anger and resentment that can act like poisons in our system. (They are worse than the original sting.)

I love all the versions of compassion practices when bad things happen. By taking the hurtful thing into our heart rather than chasing it away, we open the possibility of re-framing, or seeing the incident through a different lens. It may not take the sting away, but it’s a whole lot more healing than a bandaid could ever be.

Wishing you sting-free days,

Pam

 

Which Road Will You Take?

Saturday, January 10th, 2015

roads

As I weep over the multi-layered tragedy in France, I am also aware of pain in other areas, both personal and institutional, all around us. The pain raises that age-old question once again, a question that is more dramatic than ever in this age where we are exposed to global events in the media in a very tangible way. What is our role when we see suffering, and how do we handle our feelings about it?

When I move away from the huge issues surrounding terrorism, religious intolerance and violent fundamentalism and concentrate on my own life, certain themes become clear. Some examples…

Clients always come to me with a story, and I come to myself with my own stories. All of us want these stories solved, and we usually approach them by trying to figure them out. When we get engaged on that level, we usually get caught in a loop, going round and round. I tell my clients and myself, “The answer does not lie within the story.”

My shamanic training taught me to be an ally for clients by looking at their story “through a different lens.” Instead of engaging with the drama, my job is to hold space for a larger possibility.

The story has brought the client to a crossroads, where there is a decision to be made. Do I take the same road I’ve always taken when issues like this come up, or do I take a road I’ve never taken?

I ask them to choose the road not taken, which is to engage not from the “smaller” self that becomes victim to every drama, but from the larger self which knows better. This self can look at things from a larger consciousness, from the soul level. From that level, there is a big, long journey visible.

And so the larger self can say about the current tragedy, “Of course you have these emotions about it.” And then that soul-self can add, “And what could be good about all this?

On a personal level, what could be good about a tragedy is that someone might respond to it by deciding to go down the road of truly seizing their life and going after their heart’s desire. Now there’s an exciting opportunity!

On an institutional level, when things fall apart, the good thing could be that the leadership sees old patterns that are not sustainable and embraces a larger vision that really serves their dream and also serves the planet. Hooray!

And on a global level, the good thing about a terrible tragedy is that it brings things to light that have not been recognized by the general populace, and they have the chance when they see what’s wrong, to stand for a new and brighter road to a different future.

The crossroads in all three situations present the choice between submitting to something that may feel like fate, or seizing our soul’s true destiny. I would like to hold the vision of that destiny, and to take a stand for that.

I do that through spiritual practice that reminds me of who I truly am and of my unity with unseen spiritual support. And I hold energetic space for change to flow through me and through others, who will make their own choices.

This is a tough discipline for sure. But that is what we are being asked to do, and why we may be on the planet at this time. So join me in responding to it all with–along with our natural grief and compassion–a larger and more powerful force that holds it all.

 

 

 

 

Passages

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

 

In my 30’s I began to photograph in earnest. Now that was back in the ‘70’s, so picture me stepping out in a safari-like photographer’s vest and smoking brown More cigarettes. (The More bohemian and rebellious, the better.)

I set out to explore the other side of the tracks. Mind you, I was raised in San Marino, CA, bastion at that time of white privilege, the John Birch Society (sorry if some of these references are too representative of another generation) and suspicion of “others not like us.”

I feel shame as I write this, but it’s my history.

I had lived in NYC and taught public school there for three years, so I was well “over” San Marino. But now in my adult, parental state (and back in the state of CA) I had only moved four miles away, into South Pasadena. Lawns still looked green, houses gentrified, and attitudes were changing slowly. I was in the mood for a rebellion.

I went north, into the “ghetto” of Pasadena at that time, an area full of lovely old Victorians neglected because of poverty and segregation. My camera was my passport. And architecture was my proof that I was documenting unappreciated treasures. I gained entrance into a new neighborhood and a new form of education.

What was valuable about “the old architecture” in society and in my own being that had been neglected? And what needed tearing down and renovating? What was family about? What if all the races lived together and formed one? I photographed these questions.

It was a time of great opening for me. My Victorian grandmother had passed on, and so had her way of life and viewing the world, graceful as it was. My parents appeared confused: pleased to offer me two lamb chops for dinner at the mahogany dining room table, and willing to work hard for my excellent education…yet mired in the ‘50’s view of life. I was just now trying to emerge from it.

The photograph you see is just one of the many photographs I took during that period. I had a show at a hip Pasadena gallery, showcasing several years of 35mm architectural photography. I considered it a tribute to a history that was passing, evolving.

I chose to show you this photograph because I took it in a beautiful old Pasadena classic house that I admired. On the chaise, upholstered in the perfect fabric for that period, lay a book that had been seminal for me: Gail Sheehy’s Passages. After all, I was in one.

Out the window lay some other land, one that was natural and still impressionistic and undefined for me—but one that was beckoning me. So I colored it with Marshall’s Oils, to represent new life. The path ahead.

What is your ‘old world’ now that you wish to honor as it passes and evolves? What would you photograph to represent it? And how does the new one look? What will be your passageway into that new way of seeing, that new life?

The creative wellspring

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

 

When I was about 30, I entered therapy, thinking that what I wanted was a better marriage, but unconsciously beginning a long journey into becoming more of my real self. I wanted wholeness, the real meaning of the word “healing.”

During that same period, I bought my first 35mm camera and began taking pictures of my two adorable daughters. And then, photographing in a much more serious way. A symbolic way.

One of my photos was of a cutting from a houseplant  The photo was of slender roots emerging into the water contained in a Mason jar.

 I made a print of my photo and gave it to my therapist, explaining that it was a self-portrait. I was like that cutting now—severed from my past and growing my own tentative versions of new roots. When I finished therapy years later, I gave my therapist a tree! I had grown, and now identified as not just the tree, but also a bird whose nest was in the tree. I could fly and also had a safe home. (And, I later wrote Flying Lessons!)

All of this was expressed best by my creative self, who also took up the guitar, filled numerous journals with bad poetry, and played the piano and sang sad old standards. She (that creative self) had come out of the closet, and the observer in me wondered why the explosion of self-expression.

Along with that creativity came a flood of sexuality (I’ve always been a late bloomer) and a deep dive into spirituality. I began to ask myself, “Do creativity, sexuality and spirituality all emerge from the same wellspring?”  And, “What is their connection to my healing journey?”

I’ve had plenty of opportunities to pursue those questions as a writer, photographer and two-time breast cancer survivor. And, I’ve watched many clients now over the years. And here’s what I think:

1.     Creativity, sexuality and spirituality are all forms of the Life Force, and so they do all emerge from a deep wellspring within us, and within the Universe as a whole.

2.     Healing happens from a deeper place than the mind, which understands little of the Creation and its miracles.

3.     When we begin to heal, Life Force is released, and we can’t help wanting to express the joys and sorrows we experience when that happens.

 

4.     When we express ourselves in any creative form, the life force has a place to be seen, appreciated and anchored in our system.

5.     And so, creativity begets more healing. It’s a positive cycle

So here’s the takeaway for you:

1.     What form of creativity is YOU, right now? Remember, it doesn’t have to be art. Cooking, gardening, decorating, creating something beautiful…these are creative acts.

2.     What does it feel like in your body when the life force is moving through you? Call on that feeling and trust that it is healing you in every way.

3.  What if you trusted that just giving yourself time to create might heal all that does not feel well or whole or right within you?

Even if you’re in a period of your life where you feel cut off from your self or your past, you may be growing the roots of a great tree. See if you can trust the life force within you to show you the way.

A Tribute to Lives Cut Short

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

 

Ninety-five years ago this man, James Struthers Lochhead, was born.

I took this snapshot of my Dad in the late ‘80’s when I was an adult with my own children, He was visiting us in our house, and so it seemed like the moment for a photo. I didn’t think about it much.

But today, in the turbulent wake of the Boston Marathon tragedy, I’m thinking about him.

My Dad became my Dad when I was 6 ½, having been without my biological father for 4 years. Robert Hale was a bomber pilot shot down over Germany in 1945, just before World War II ended. He left my mother bereft, saddled with a mysteriously troubled mind (many years later she was diagnosed bipolar) and unprepared for either the world of work or full time mothering.

My Daddy Jim adopted me, and my name was changed from Hale to Lochhead. He treated me as his own, equal to the son he and my mother would have together. I can’t imagine what my life and my mother’s life would have been like without him.

Dad was the rock. A classic optimist, his mantra was that we could be whatever we wanted to be. He worked hard, and provided us with a wonderful education. He barbequed the best ribs in the world, loved corny jokes, and cried at Lassie on TV. He drove old cars and saved his money, leaving me with enough to allow me to follow the work that is my calling.

After my mother died of cancer in 1990, Dad married one of her best friends. After I got over the shock, I saw them free to have fun together, to be equals, to harvest. But two months after their wedding, Dad was diagnosed with Stage 4 brain cancer. He lived for 9 months. Life was cut short at 74.

So maybe I’m thinking of Dad because of all the lives that either got cut off way too soon, or altered forever by the pressure cooker bomb at the finish line in Boston. For a sporting event, this was not fair.

I see in this photo of my Dad his open and friendly manner, his love for me, and also I see tension in his jaw and a sadness around the eyes that speaks now of the disappointments he would never have mentioned then.

I changed my name back from Lochhead to Hale because of a circle I got to complete by getting to know my biological roots. And, the word “Hale” means “whole,” “healthy” and “hardy,” encouraging words for a two-time cancer survivor.

But today I raise my imaginary glass to the legacy my Daddy Jim gave me. He always said that he wanted to live in such a way that any day would be a good day to die. I feel him still, giving me that encouraging look about my journey.

I pray today that the spirits of those lost and injured in Boston live on so strongly that when their loved ones look at their photos, they will do more than remember. I hope they will feel the spirit of their precious one and know they are not alone.

My Daddy tells me he is held in strong arms, that he flies with the stars, and that he knows his smile can still be felt, even in the midst of troubled times.

What does my wild heart desire? #1

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

This is the first of a series of blogs where I’m going to share some techniques I’ve developed for looking deeply within, using the lens of our creative inner eye. I’ll pose a question that I want to explore and share with you, and then present that question using several different processes.

The first question is, what does my wild heart desire?  By my wild heart, I mean the part of my heart that has not been domesticated or tamed by others, by my own traumas and wounds or by the wounds and expectations of the culture. This heart has not been conquered; it is indigenous, in close relationship with the earth and nature and the heavens. It is wild.

The first process is to use the core concept developed by The Painting Experience (processarts.com) to make a painting by feel. That is, I pose the question before a blank paper and my palette, which only has the primary colors, for simplicity. I clear my mind of thoughts as much as possible.

What color wants to go onto the paper? First, it is blue. So I paint blue wherever it wants to go on the paper until that feels finished. Next, I want to make a green of different strengths, so I mix my blue with some yellow and paint until the energy for expressing green quiets. Now I want a bit of red, and then a lot of yellow. And then I feel finished. This painting only takes me minutes, though I have done many that become more complex.

Now I leave the Painting Experience behind, because they do not analyze or name part of the painting. I will involve my left brain and my right to see what message or information I can get from my painting.

What does the blue feel like? And how does the feeling relate to a part of me?

Blue feels like my beloved ocean, like waves, like the part of me that is fluid, flexible, deep, clear and free.

And the green?

Like rolling hills, a beautifully carpeted, lush surface on Mother Earth that supports all life here. The part of me that is both solid, grounded, earthy, and graceful.

The red is like drops of blood, like the life blood that is both from wounds and passion that punctuates and sustains life here on earth.

The yellow is sunlight, the energy of warmth that sustains life and moves through every part of it. My wild heart wants a warm, lively connection with me and with my journey.

Feeling into the painting, is there more I want to add?

I want to finish with some blue dots in the upper left hand corner that feel like stars, a portal into the unknown Universe of which I am a part.

And so I ask the painting as a whole: What does my wild heart desire?

My wild heart wants freedom, flow, beauty, pulsating life, a connection to the sun and stars and to water and ground—to All That Is. Including a warm, lively connection with me and my journey!

And so what if I made those qualities of experience the benchmarks for success? What if success in my life were to mean pleasing my one wild heart?  Hmmm.

And what would that mean for you? I look forward to your comments!

 

Choosing Oxytocin

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

Last weekend I surprised myself by getting scared on a routine flight with my husband in our Cessna 182. He had purchased a new gadget to increase our safety and he needed to test it. That meant I would be the co-pilot and observer, looking for traffic while he did some maneuvers.

Truthfully, I didn’t want to go in the first place. I knew when I asked him what maneuvers he’d be doing.

“Just some stalls,” he answered.

Stalls.  The S-word.  Especially accelerated stalls, my nemesis.

To practice a stall, you fly along and raise the nose higher and higher, ignoring the stall horn, which sounds when you’re about to force the airplane to stop flying. You keep raising the nose and then you can feel it fall, feel the airplane stop having lift. It’s not very comfortable.

Accelerated stalls are more uncomfortable than power-off stalls, because you’re going faster and the plane’s reaction is faster and more intense. My terror in flight training was not recovering fast enough and entering a spin.

Now, I trust my husband Jon as a pilot with every fiber of my being. An ex-Marine F-4 pilot who flew over 230 missions, he is fully capable of all these maneuvers, probably with his eyes closed.

But. It’s been 11 years since I had to do these stalls myself, and never have I had to sit in the right seat and be the passenger while he does them. So I didn’t like it. My stomach was rising to my throat and I felt light-headed and sensed a big lump forming in my throat.

“I’m not doing well,” I said. An understatement.

“It’s just a stall. Just breathe and get into it. You’ve done these a hundred times.”

“Not as a passenger,” I retorted, probably a little too sharply. He must have looked at my face, which had no blood in it, because he stopped.

There was no talking me out of it, because the fear reaction had already cascaded through my body. Adrenalin. Tension. No resuming a confident air at this point.

I tried my litany of techniques. “I’m just feeling fear,” I told myself silently. “I am not fear; I just have fear right now. I am the witness, the one observing myself having fear.” I shooed the fear energy away, asked it to return to earth.

My body didn’t buy this at all. It wanted to go home and take a nap. It wanted relaxation. It wanted oxytocin.

Oxytocin is the chemical we love to feel when we orgasm, or when we feel any other kind of intense pleasure. We can invite oxytocin instead of adrenaline by doing what Ellie Drake of Braveheart Women calls an “oxytocin breath.”

Right now, take in a big breath and feel it all the way down into your abdomen, which should rise. Now as you let it out, sigh your exhale out loud. Feel your body “let down,” releasing tension.

This is an important notion for me as a two-time cancer survivor. I believe the story Anita Moorjani tells in her book, Dying to Be Me. Her wondrous healing from a near-death experience taught her that fear not only stops us from performing; it can cause cancer. Or at least create the environment that allows cancer.

My advanced flying lesson was probably related to what I wrote about in Lesson #7, “Give Way to the Winds.” To recover from a stall in an airplane, you do what is counter-intuitive: you release pressure on the controls, even though your impulse is to keep pulling back, since you want badly to go UP.

To recover from a stall in life, you do the same. You release pressure.

I had to risk disappointing my husband, appearing to be  wimp, or suggesting to my critical self that I no longer had any piloting skills. I chose oxytocin.

“If we’ve done enough maneuvers,” I said to Jon, I’d like to go back now.” As I breathed my oxytocin breaths and took care of the “little Pam within,” the one who had regressed to the pressure of flight training a dozen years ago, Jon suggested I cure my ills by flying us home.

Dear Jon.  Getting back on the horse is a man’s method. That would produce more adrenalin. I choose to give way to the winds. I choose oxytocin. I need the feminine way. And so, I believe, does the world.

It doesn’t mean I won’t go flying again, or that I won’t ever be the observer when he does a stall. It just means I choose to allow my body to recover now, instead of pushing.

By the way, he’s forgiven me. It took me almost an hour to return to a relaxed happy state, and I think I was a lot nicer after that.

(Want more “flying lessons?” Order the book at FlyingLessonsForLife.com)