<![CDATA[Spirit Organic - Molly's Blog]]>Sat, 10 Feb 2018 10:50:48 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[The Magical Mystery of Grandma Dust]]>Fri, 26 Jan 2018 04:01:28 GMThttp://spiritorganic.net/mollys-blog/the-magical-mystery-of-grandma-dustPictureThis is our family in 1992. We are at my sister's wedding. Don't we look adorable? That chubby little cherub on the left? She was a terror as a newborn because she has a very wonky nervous system. In the middle of the night we didn't look adorable. We looked shattered.

I get to fall in love every day. I work with people of all ages, but the most tender ones are the newborns. They don’t come by themselves and get on my table. They are brought by (usually) frantic parents: exhausted new mamas and daddies who have a child who isn’t eating well or is colicky or won’t ever settle well on their own.

I bring a lot of different experiences to my practice. And one of them is my own life as a parent of small children and as a member of a large community of families who raised our kids together over the years. I was a La Leche League Leader and a childbirth educator. I taught in a private elementary school for two years and in a Waldorf program for a year. I have been around a lot of pregnant people, birthing couples, newborns and small children. In other words, little people don’t make me nervous. I find babies and small children fascinating.

Working with new parents over the years has its own fascinations. Watching a person become a parent is glorious. It’s a metamorphosis. I experienced it myself: the realities of being a parent are unfathomable until you are doing it yourself.

I often find myself with young families undone by a newborn’s needs. Usually the parents are people accustomed to preparation and success. They are almost always in my office because an obstacle has been encountered: a breech presentation, a long difficult birth, a tongue that can’t make a good latch, a nervous system that can’t transition from alert to asleep, a tummy that can’t digest comfortably.

And they marvel at my “magic”.

Let me tell you a secret: There is no magic. We may joke about “Grandma Dust”, the stuff that makes a shrieking baby settle on an older lady’s forearm or shoulder and fall quiet, but there is no such thing. And sometimes that myth leaves new parents feeling inadequate.
I had a new couple in the office with their newborn a couple of months ago and I felt sad when they left. They were struggling with how to handle their sensitive little one. I put her on the table, followed her movements and had her calm and sleepy in minutes. The parents looked utterly defeated. They wanted to know why I could that and they couldn’t and here’s where I made my mistake: in my desire to make it seem like they could comfort their baby, too, I told them that it was easy, “Just follow what her body wants to do.” Big smile on my face. But I had read them incorrectly. They looked crestfallen. Here was another way they were failing their baby. And, of course, they didn’t come back.

What I should have said was the truth: “I have had 28 years of practice holding babies. I have had 27 years of training in childhood development and bodywork. I have been moving with babies this way as a professional bodyworker for 12 years. Of course you need some help learning how to soothe your sensitive little one who had a rough birth.”

Grandma dust is just shorthand for “person who has held a lot of babies and is holding a baby that she can hand back to a parent whenever she wants to”. That makes me a lot more relaxed when I am holding a newborn. New parents are often told to “just relax”. It is never a good idea to tell anyone to “just relax”. Let me repeat that for those of you in the back: IT IS NEVER A GOOD IDEA TO TELL ANYONE TO “JUST RELAX”. Ever.

Because it makes them more tense. This is something I know and yet, in that moment with those parents, I inadvertantly said it in a different way: “It’s easy; just do this thing I’ve been learning to do for almost thirty years.” Smack my head. Hit me with a wet noodle.

Regardless, I do get to fall in love every day. And on some days I get to watch myself fail miserably, not as a bodyworker or doula, but as a people reader. A lot of my job is sorting out different personality and learning types so I can meet people where they are. It’s a good part of the fun, the puzzle solving. When I am successful it is glorious and when I fail it is like the wrong answer buzzer is ringing in my ear for a few days.

Believe me, I want to send all of my families home with fairy dust that will guarantee their baby will be content, able to suckle and colic-free. It is hard knowing that they will have nights like I did when I wasn’t sure there was an adult in the house (just two exhausted people who were supposed to be responsible but wanted to act like whiny babies themselves – “I’m not an adult, I just play one on TV”).

And yet, that frantic desire to take care of our babies is hard-wired in us for a reason: so we won’t let them die from neglect. We are desperate to get them feeding well because we know their lives depend on it. We want an “easy” baby because easy babies get better care from their community. We want a calm, content, charming baby because we know that will make our baby successful at charming good care from their care providers. These are instinctive responses that need to be honored in parents when they are desperate for solutions. Of course, they can’t “just handle your baby like a seasoned pro.”

The truth is I have no fairy dust to give you, and I promise never to pretend it is that easy again. I love you and you are not alone. Even at three in the morning. You are frantic because you are trying to do a good job and that makes you a good enough parent. Hang in there and text me when the sun comes up.

<![CDATA[How is your play going?]]>Tue, 16 May 2017 23:32:51 GMThttp://spiritorganic.net/mollys-blog/how-is-your-play-goingPictureThree of my favorite forms of play in one picture: quilting, winter camping and lively conversation
One of my favorite parts of my work is that every time a client walks through the door I get to connect with a deeply interesting person. I take time with a new client to get to know them before they get on the table. Then, each time we work together, I have the privilege of learning more about them, how they live, what brings them joy, where the pains live.

I wrote about the importance of joy in this blog post last year. Joy feeds our central nervous system. We can call it bliss, playfulness, deep satisfaction, being in “the flow”, but the vital component is that we feel we are part of something bigger than ourselves, a feeling that we are contributing to or benefiting from a well of good feeling.

As I am getting to know my clients and coming to understand how their bodies tick, I often ask the following questions: “How is your body feeling today?” “How is your partner/family/pet?” “How is work going?” “Where are you finding joy in your life? How do you like to play?”

As I was asking a client those questions last month, he asked a question of me: “Why is it that people don’t ask about play instead of work, like How is your play going?” What an excellent question. Why don’t we ask each other about our joy? “Hi! How is your play going? Tell me about a joyful part of your day!” I love that idea.
What would that be like if we greeted each other with joyful experiences? What if it was cooler to talk about the amazing nap in the hammock, an hour of finger painting, a glorious walk in the sun with the dog, or even a joyful discovery at work. Too often the conversation is about how hard we are working, how busy we are, the pile of to dos that never gets completed.

I know that in my family some of the reticence to talk about joy was superstitious. My relatives would look around furtively if they shared a personal joy, their eyes downcast and voice lowered as they said, “I finished a painting” or “My article got published in the neighborhood paper” or “Look how nicely this shawl turned out.” Braggadocio was fine because it was just about appearances, but legitimate joy was terrifying. If God knew you were happy, then hard times were on the way. Or worse, the neighbors could curse you with envy (a legitimate spiritual malady throughout many cultures.)

Today I hope to spread my joy, not hoard it to myself out of fear. (I have tools to protect me from envy.) And I have started asking people outside of my office, at parties and meetings, “How is your play going? What is bringing you joy today?” I love the conversations that ensue, the joy we generate together.

<![CDATA[The Granny Doula]]>Sun, 16 Apr 2017 17:08:23 GMThttp://spiritorganic.net/mollys-blog/the-granny-doulaPicture At a doula training with one one my granny role models, Whapio Diane Bartlett. Photo by Valarie Welsh
I am embracing my inner granny. With no literal grandbabies on the horizon this is figurative, but if health care professionals can refer to a 35-year-old first time pregnant person as an “elderly primipara”, then at 54 years old I am most certainly a granny doula.

I am a slow learner, it’s true. I needed twenty years to let go of the “helper” in me and embrace the “being”. I no longer believe that it is my job to make a good birth happen. I offer education, a prompt here and there, but mostly I offer the respect of watching my client have their own experience. I have been working with women trying to get pregnant, during pregnancy and postpartum all along, but I didn’t feel ready to be at births again until a couple of years ago.

I began attending births in 1991. I needed to go to a birth to become certified as an independent Bradley Method childbirth educator, and I was blessed with a dear friend who invited me to be present when she gave birth to her son. It was glorious: a vaginal breech birth with the midwife and obstetrician standing in the doorway while my mother/goddess friend did her thing. Her partner and I supported her, but she did it all, including standing on the delivery room table (narrow, metal, cold) with her head in the lights as she pushed her son into the world scrotum first. That was the first of many births I attended over six years.

A couple asked me a question last month that I had never been asked before: “Have you ever attended a birth where the mom took pain meds or had an epidural?” There was a long pause as I thought about it. I recalled the births: home births, hospital births, VBACs, with midwives, with OBs. None with medication. Then I said, with surprise in my voice, “No.” I told the couple I believe there is a place for medical interventions, including surgical procedures, epidurals and pain meds (hey, I had a C-Section), but they haven’t been used at any of the births I’ve attended so far.

One of the labors was traumatic. Not because of the birth itself, but because of how the mother was treated on admission to the hospital. The admitting nurse violated the mother’s privacy in a brutal way. The mother’s labor stalled and I finally left to let the couple regroup.  She couldn’t relax in front of me after what I had witnessed. I was still very young as a doula. I had no idea how to address the situation. Now I have skills to turn that moment around, get her back into her own knowing and personal dignity. I know how to help us laugh it off.

At hospital births I saw other things happening that confounded me: routine monitoring, IVs and episiotomies; badgering and bullying the laboring woman while she tried to figure out how to push; managed third stage featuring pulling on the cord and punching down the woman’s stomach like it was bread dough. Why do we continue to allow care providers to bribe us with their “caring” in return for our compliance? (That’s the phrase medical providers use: “patient compliance”. More sensitive providers inform, then monitor for patient “adherence” to the suggested course of treatment, while allowing for deviation through informed refusal.)

Where did we lose our knowing of our physiological competence? I had no sense of my body’s wisdom before my own first birth. I tried to reach women before childbirth with puberty classes for girls and their moms, and reproductive wellness classes for adult women. I realized that I needed to learn more about how the body deals with trauma and how we heal from traumatic experiences if I wanted to be fully present for pregnant and laboring women. I had processed my own experiences and found great healing in my second birth, but there was more work to be done so I could be present and neutral no matter what was happening. I apprenticed as an herbalist. I studied homeopathy. I took Reiki classes. I heeded the call to become an extremely well-trained craniosacral therapist.

What laboring couples need is a calm, encouraging, birth-knowing extra body in the room (a chill gofer who happens to know a lot about birthin’ babies just in case a helpful piece of info is required), and I’ve taken time to learn how to do that. I’ve let go of feeling it is my job to “do stuff” to be worthy of being present.
I’ve acquired a ton of knowledge and many wonderful bodywork and listening skills, but nothing matters more than being a witness to the glory of the working birthing process, as I was for my friend at that first birth I attended.

I know that, given enough time and space, birth almost always works without intervention. However, many couples aren’t given that time and/or space for lots of good and bad reasons. I don’t have to be invested in the outcome, I’m just here to love what is. Like a granny does.

<![CDATA[Mindfulness: relax in response to stress]]>Tue, 05 Apr 2016 04:31:38 GMThttp://spiritorganic.net/mollys-blog/mindfulness-relax-in-response-to-stressOriginally published in the March 2016 issue of Allen's Creek Living

Feeling stressed? Let out a long slow breath, breathe in and breathe out another long slow breath. As you are breathing, look around you. Find something beautiful to rest your gaze upon: a tree out the window, a pet, a photograph on your desk. Breathe out slowly again.

In 1975 Dr. Herbert Benson wrote a book called The Relaxation Response. A professor at Harvard University Medical School, Dr. Benson sought to put a secular name to the physiological state achieved with meditation. Meditation was not a comfortable word in the 1970’s; many people felt it had particular religious connotations. Dr. Benson sought to share the physical benefits of intentional breathing and what we now call “mindfulness” with everyone, regardless of religious affiliation.

In 1979, Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, brought  mindfulness and meditation to cardiac patients as part of their rehabilitation programs. Suddenly working-class Boston men were learning how to slow their breathing, focus on the present and intentionally relax their nervous systems. Over the years his positive results have brought his tools to the masses and now meditation and mindfulness practices are regular household tools.
So how does this work?

When we need to run or fight our autonomic nervous system tells us to pull our shoulders up, breathe with our chest and crouch. Also, if we are in that posture, the brain thinks we are still in a dangerous situation, so we continue to breathe shorter, shallower chest breaths. If we can’t resolve the stressful situation we stay frightened, and if we have any areas of pain in the body the pain is increased. The more fear we have, the more stressed and tense we remain, and we feel more pain.

If we notice that we have become stuck in the fear/tension/pain cycle we can use belly breathing to get out of it. Long exhales followed by deep belly breaths tell the autonomic system that we are safe enough to breathe a little deeper so we relax a little more, the fear or anxiety become less and we can breathe a little slower and a little deeper. We move into the relaxed breathing/safe feeling/less pain cycle.

Most people find it easier to move from the fear/tension /pain cycle by counting their breaths or focusing on something beautiful in their environment. They are being mindful of their present situation. They are brought back into the present moment and out of worries for the future or concerns about the past. The body can become relaxed and the mind will follow.
<![CDATA[Principles for parenting our teens]]>Sun, 31 Jan 2016 22:09:35 GMThttp://spiritorganic.net/mollys-blog/principles-for-parenting-our-teensA friend asked re: Attachment Parenting International’s Eight  Principles of Parenting, “I wonder what this would look like for teen years? I'm curious about the equivalent [8] principles and what they might look like? Any thoughts are appreciated.”
The API’s Eight Principles in full are here: http://www.attachmentparenting.org/principles/principles.php
In brief:
  1. Prepare for pregnancy,  birth and parenting
  2. Feed with love and respect
  3. Respond with sensitivity
  4. Use nurturing touch
  5. Ensure safe sleep, physically and emotionally
  6. Provide consistent and loving care
  7. Practice positive discipline
  8. Strive for balance in your personal and family life
So how would these apply to parents of teens? Pretty much the same with a couple of tweaks.

1. Prepare
Read books. Talk to parents who have children you like and relationships you wish for with your kids. Consult with a therapist; clear out your own baggage and run situations past a neutral third party.

2. Feed with respect and love
Hopefully, you’ve been doing this all along. Incorporate more education. Explain why what they eat is important. Educate your kids how processed food is engineered to appeal to our natural desire for fat, sugar and salt. Follow their eating rhythms. Model good food behavior yourself (have an issue there? Back to the books or therapist or self-help group for you!)

3. Respond with sensitivity.
Teens can be confused and confusing. Their behavior can cause us and them embarrassment. Perhaps they were going for glamorous, not strip club, but they are still working out the fine points.  Ask questions and don’t feel like you need to know everything. Be OK with being the structure they need to push away from.  Remember their brains are reorganizing (yes, go research that) and their bodies are morphing. They don’t know who they are any more than we do. That Martian who replaced your kid is just as startling to them. Love the beautiful being in the midst of the chaos even if you aren’t sure what’s going on in there.

4. Use nurturing touch
We don’t touch our teens enough. Our kids need to know that they can get nurturing touch (a basic need of the human body) without being in a sexual situation. One great side effect of binge watching together was the “puppy pile” on the couch; it was fine to get some mom or dad snuggle time while we wasted a snowy afternoon in front of the TV. Keep kissing your kids good night and hugging them, even if it becomes a joke.

5. Ensure safe sleep, physically and emotionally
Teen sleep patterns can be different from the rest of the family. This has a physiological basis and is one of the main objections I have to high school. Teens naturally stay up late and sleep in. Trying to wrangle their bodies into a more societally acceptable rhythm is costly to their health. There are ways to make sure your kids are in the house and unable to be on their devices after a certain time (when mom and dad need to be sleeping so they can function). Use your parental controls on those devices and let your kids read all night, write all night or craft all night, but not text and watch porn all night. Then let them sleep in.

6. Provide consistent and loving care
This is what you have always strived to do. If you’re having troubles with that, get thee to therapy.

7. Practice positive discipline
Talk it out. State what is objectionable. Ask why it happened. How can the wrong-doer make amends? How do we move forward? Wonderful learning happens when mistakes are made.

8. Strive for balance in your personal and professional life
As that old chestnut goes: children learn what they live. As parents, we need to earn the respect and admiration of our children; after the age of nine or ten they start catching on if we’re being hypocrites. Are you the kind of person you want your child to be? Again, it’s all about you, the parent. Are you taking good care of yourself? Are your needs getting met? Are you aware of places in your life where you need some help? Are your behaviors and values in line with what you are asking of your teens’ behaviors? Are you walking your talk? Are you treating your children with the same respect you ask from them?

These principles apply to teens as well as babies. We must assume that our child is asking for something important in every behavior they exhibit. If there is something amiss then we need to look to our supports for help. And, in their twenties we get to learn how to be parents to grown adults. Very exciting stuff ahead!

<![CDATA[Sleep: Time to tidy up your brain]]>Sun, 10 Jan 2016 22:36:43 GMThttp://spiritorganic.net/mollys-blog/sleep-time-to-tidy-up-your-brainOriginally published as a health article in Allen's Creek Living magazine

It used to be a mystery: why do humans need to “waste” eight hours (one third) of everyday sleeping? Sleep is so essential to our mental health that if we don’t sleep we go crazy; sleep deprivation is a form of torture. And it is not just our mental health that suffers.  My clients who track their blood pressure find that their blood pressure is higher after a night of inadequate sleep. Chronic sleep deprivation has been found to contribute to increased hypertension, chronic heart disease and diabetes. So what is it about sleep that is so essential?
Researcher Maiken Nedergaard, MD, DMSc, and her colleagues at the University of Rochester have solved a big part of the puzzle. Our brains have a cleansing system that operates more efficiently while we sleep. This cleansing system (called the glymphatic system) bathes the brain in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) under a higher pressure than was previously understood.

Sleep changes the cellular structure of the brain. Nedergaard and her team discovered that when we are sleeping, the space between our brain cells expands so that a greater volume of the CSF can flow into the brain. The CSF flushes waste products out of the brain and into the blood stream where they can be removed from the body.

One of the substances removed by the glymphatic system is beta-amyloid protein. Researchers believe that Alzheimer’s disease is caused by an excess of beta-amyloid proteins in the brain, so they are looking at the relationship between sleep and the development of Alzheimer’s. For those more interested in productivity than health it’s important to note that people who are drunk outperform people who are sleep deprived.

Individuals can vary in their need for sleep. Many people insist they don’t need a full eight hours of sleep to perform and feel well. Excessive sleeping may indicate poor health.  Some researchers believe that we don’t need to get our eight hours in one continuous episode; we are able to get the benefits of sleep in segments that include napping during the day. But all agree that about eight hours of sleep total are essential to optimal health and performance.

Or as Nedergaard says, “We need sleep. It cleans up the brain.”]]>
<![CDATA[Breastfeeding as Baby's Bodywork]]>Fri, 30 Oct 2015 21:18:47 GMThttp://spiritorganic.net/mollys-blog/breastfeeding-as-babys-bodyworkPictureMolly and newborn Elsa, January 1992
Published in the October 2015 issue of "Allen's Creek Living"

We’ve all heard the expression “Breast is best.” It is usually heard as “Breastmilk is best.” There is incontrovertible evidence that there is no superior source of nutrition for a human less than twelve months old, and it is wonderful  that we recognize the value of providing baby with a custom-made food.

Some new parents think the benefit is just in the breastmilk. When health care providers say “Breast is best,” they need to be clear with parents that it is the action of suckling at the breast that is also best for baby. We could consider breastfeeding to be baby’s first bodywork.

While the desire to nurse at the breast is innate in the newborn, the physical act of breastfeeding is a learned skill for both the mother and the baby. Breastfeeding requires a great deal of coordination of the baby’s nervous and musculoskeletal systems, and there is skill to facilitating the most beneficial “latch” of the baby’s mouth at the breast;  this is why La Leche League, an international  breastfeeding peer support group, refers to breastfeeding as a “womanly art” that we learn from other experienced mothers.

Having baby at the breast, baby’s tummy against mother’s body, the mother has a natural opportunity to stroke the baby’s body. She can soothe the baby’s nervous system with her facial expressions and the baby can reward the mother with eye contact and nonverbal cues of being satisfied.

The baby’s tongue and roof of the mouth need to work together to draw the mother’s nipple far back into the baby’s pharynx to produce a seal. Then the baby’s tongue and throat muscles must work together to produce a coordinated “suck/swallow/breathe” rhythm that can convey the breastmilk expressed by the tongue (referred to as a “bolus”) down to the baby’s esophagus, where the baby’s involuntary muscles will take over and move the fluid into the baby’s stomach.

Breastfeeding is a wonderful diagnostic tool. A problem that presents at any point can provide valuable cues to developmental challenges. Any soreness of the mother’s nipples can be an indication that the baby’s body is having a hard time coordinating the suck/swallow/breathe. Lactation consultants assess the suck/swallow/breathe and assist mothers with changes in positioning that might help. They also assess if the baby has soft tissue challenges that might be making it difficult for the baby to coordinate all of the muscles that are required to have an effective suck/swallow/breathe . The lactation consultant may refer the mother and baby to a chiropractor, osteopath or craniosacral therapist for help in resolving soft tissue restrictions.

Breastfeeding is best feeding, facilitating baby’s optimal physical development through excellent nutrition, brain stimulation and body coordination.

<![CDATA[Thoughts about Listening]]>Mon, 19 Oct 2015 18:00:51 GMThttp://spiritorganic.net/mollys-blog/thoughts-about-listeningPictureListener extraordinaire: our cockapoo.
I want to talk about listening. Of course, it’s hard to listen while you talk, but I am writing so I don’t have to listen to anyone except the clamoring voices in my head that want to talk about listening.

I have so much to say about listening. About how I learned to listen.  About how important it is to be a listener. About my struggle to learn how to listen fully and then allow myself to respond instead of just plotting my clever response while the person continues to talk (and I am no longer listening). About how grateful I am that I learned to listen to my children. About how sad I am that I wasn’t always good at it, that I missed some things that I wish I had heard more fully when I was too busy, tired and/or overwhelmed.

First, my babies taught me to listen. Then I learned some practical skills in Reflective or Active Listening as a childbirth educator and La Leche League Leader. Then I took a course in Re-evaluation Counseling and that taught me the value of ONLY listening. Then I started my training as a craniosacral therapist, which requires profound listening.

Truly listening means that I trust that the person I am listening to has something valuable for me to comprehend or notice. Sometimes I lose track of that, but when I do manage to listen intently, I am rewarded with a tremendous sense of peace. Even if the situation is asking me to notice something disturbing, by listening I can stay in a place of accepting the realty at hand instead of hoping for a different version. Listening doesn’t support magical thinking; it supports radical acceptance.

Listening requires that I put my responses aside. If my monkey mind starts bouncing around, I ask it to still so we can be in reception mode. Action will come, but after we listen.

So how does this apply to children and clients and clients who are children? Children train me to listen because they have excellent fraud detectors. They know when I am not attending to them. They will not make excuses for my lack of listening. If I have promised to listen and I wander off, they will either call me on it and give me another chance, or they won’t trust me anymore.

When I am truly listening I am not assigning a value to what I am hearing. I am just listening. For example, do you know someone like this? They go to a movie (or they watched a television show or they came up with a solution to a problem) and they really loved it, so they need to tell someone all about it. And, since you are their special someone, you get to listen to their download of the whole blow-by-blow experience. I call those people talkers. I am married to a talker and we spawned another talker. Some people might call them verbal processors. I don’t know if that fits, because they usually aren’t looking for any input or any kind of a solution, they are looking to share with me this wonderful experience that they had.

I need to remember that these “unimportant” things are very important. When I listen to the downloads I am affirming my caring. When a client goes on about “unimportant” things they might be testing me. “Is she really going to listen to me, no matter what I tell her?” When I demonstrate that I am listening to all of it, then a quiet significant something might come. A quiet significant something that needs complete safety to emerge. We may just sit with that quiet something or maybe something else will happen, but we will both be different because we were both there when that quiet significance emerged.

When I am listening deeply I don’t need to pounce on that significant something. I don’t need to label it, change it, fix it, even if it scares me. I just need to love it, to love the person sharing it.

I wish I had more of this understanding with my kids. Often, with the significant somethings I wanted to spring into action and make the world safe and happy again for my daughters. But that action just communicates that I don’t trust that they will find answers of their own (with our help, if they ask for it, and the help of others in their lives) or that I fear the world is such a dangerous place that it is impossible to find a good solution for them.  And this is true for therapists, too: I need to believe that my clients’ inner wisdom knows what is best for them.  Instead of solving the problem, can I just witness their situation and their own insight? When the client senses that I can be a witness to their natural goodness and resources then they can also access those strengths and put their strengths to work on the problems.

It's not about my ability to say something insightful and "helpful", it's about my ability to listen and then respond from my heart.

<![CDATA[Nourishing resources: where is your Smile?]]>Mon, 14 Sep 2015 00:49:34 GMThttp://spiritorganic.net/mollys-blog/nourishing-resources-where-is-your-smilePicture
As people relating with other people, especially as parents or heath care providers, we can nourish one another by facilitating joy.

Joy is food for our self-healing abilities; it is the fuel for our learning abilities. Joy is what gives us resilience. If we lose track of the joy in our lives, then it becomes harder to heal from everyday living. We need joy to recover from traumatic events. Recent research by the HeartMath Institute has shown that while meditating can help us feel more calm and safe, feelings of joy and delight are what make it possible to heal and renew.

One of the most important conversations I have with my clients is about resources. I use the word resources to refer to the people, places and things that nourish or foster joy. I ask them “Where do you find joy in your day?” Some people can access joy easily. They know where their joy is and can access it well. Others sit quietly and slowly realize that it has been a while since they have felt joy. Maybe it has been so long they aren’t sure where to find it. In the movie “City Slickers” Billy Crystal’s wife tells him to “Go find your smile” when he appears to have lost track of his joy. Other people respond too quickly: they assume their joy is in the same places they have always been, or maybe where they think they should be, but is that really where they find joy today?

My resources can be my husband (sometimes), my kids (sometimes), my dog (almost always), my cats (almost always), and quilting (usually). But small animals, babies, beautiful sunsets, and watching bugs pollinate my garden always bring me joy and delight. These are my personal sources of the joy found in delight.

We also need social resources. The feeling of being in a supportive community, part of a clan, or a contributing member of a team can provide a profound sense of the joy felt in satisfaction. We can play as we dance, sing, cook and eat together.

Health care providers become a social resource for the client. As I begin a treatment, my hope is that my caring demeanor and loving hands allow the client to feel safe, creating the opportunity for their body to settle deeply long enough to allow them to access their joy.

I use the example of a bucket when I talk about replenishing our body’s resources. We all have a bucket that represents our capacity for handling the difficulties/stresses/traumas that come our way. Some people have small buckets and some people have large buckets and most of us are somewhere in between.

Costly feelings, such as anger, disdain and sadness, deplete the resources in our bucket, they activate our sense of “not safe” and cause our body to fight, flee or freeze.  They are not “bad” feelings. Indeed, they are necessary for our full participation in life, but they do cost us resources to experience them.

Neutral feelings don’t change the resources in our bucket. We feel safe in the moment, calm, peaceful and meditative. While I would hypothesize that, if we experience neutral feelings as a discipline over time (like a meditation practice) then that discipline can make our bucket slightly larger and sturdier, according to HeartMath neutral feelings don’t replenish our resources. They also don’t use them up. We could say that neutral feelings prepare the way for joy.

Replenishing feelings like joy, delight, happiness and gratitude refill the bucket. They allow our autonomic nervous system to reset to levels that allow healing and repair activities to function efficiently.

When we are looking at another person, it is important to see them as a whole. If all we notice are the parts that aren’t working well, then we are missing the vast majority of the person: the parts that work perfectly 24/7 like a well-tuned machine. Holding this wellness in our awareness, while noticing the parts that might need some assistance, is a way of acknowledging the person’s resources. Instead of asking “How can I fix you?” We might ask, “How can I be present with you in your experience in a way that allows your healthy parts to give resources to the parts that are feeling overwhelmed?” This does not mean that we only allow “good” feelings, it means we are there to be a resource for the person as they process the difficult feelings. They can feel the joy of being cared for as they also feel sadness or grief or disappointment.

Maintaining a broad perspective allows us to see more than a small piece of the person. When we allow ourselves to see the whole person (not just the part with a complaint or a part we find lacking) we gain access to resources that are nurturing to the whole person. When we see the whole person we tap into compassion and the joy of connection, allowing us both to deepen into greater well-being, refilling the bucket.

<![CDATA[The ever-moving train]]>Fri, 04 Sep 2015 06:51:25 GMThttp://spiritorganic.net/mollys-blog/the-ever-moving-trainGiven our child's present ages/needs/desires, how can we facilitate their growth? We are on a train that is constantly moving. As soon as I figured out how to take care of my newborn, she became a creeping infant, then a crawler, then a toddler, then a preschooler, then that blessed age between 6 and 11 where they can take of themselves physically, but oh no! she has problems with reading (or math or social skills or a physical problem or needs extra attention because of a family situation), then we tear headlong into puberty, the declarations of independence, first jobs, driving, college apps or exploration travel and then, maybe, helping her set up her own independent life. It never stops.

So we must be attentive and flexible. We must honor our own needs as well as meet our children where they are. We must be open and honest about who we are and how we can be of help to our kids. We must be willing to share our children with our close community and the community at large. I am so grateful that my girls have many extra parents that they call when they need help.

When kids need more structure, you can try adding one small thing. Try thinking about it as rhythm instead of scheduling. How do you want to live? What is important to you? How are you allowing kindness into your family life? Is your life an act of kindness to yourself? What is preventing you and your family from living the way you want to?

One of the traps I noticed myself falling into was comparison. I would lose track of my one family. I would see all of these amazing families with amazing kids and amazing resources and feel badly that we weren’t doing all of those amazing things and being those amazing people. As a family unit we were pretty darned amazing, but if I compared us with the sum total of all the other families, then I was holding us to a ridiculous, unattainable, exhausting-just-to-think-about-it standard.

When I was hurriedly running around trying to be like other people I was prone to crankiness and a general sense of failure and running behind. When I thought in terms of purpose, love and kindness I felt satisfied. This is a personal practice that requires clarity and discipline. How can we expect our kids to embody clarity for themselves if we don’t have it to model for them?

We continue to grow together. My community continues to be my inspiration for being the best person I can be. I worried that once Maggie and Elsa lived elsewhere I wouldn’t have that drive to keep learning how to be my best self, but I discovered that my love for my friends drives me just fine. My constant question continues to be “Given our present ages/needs/desires, how can we facilitate each other’s growth?”]]>