Our August has been slower than the rest of the summer — thank goodness! But things never really slow down that much, and Orlando, for one, has been busy creating beautiful, powerful things.
By Stacy Lewis on August 14, 2012
Our August has been slower than the rest of the summer — thank goodness! But things never really slow down that much, and Orlando, for one, has been busy creating beautiful, powerful things.
By Stacy Lewis on August 9, 2012
This is the moment I want. This one, when the tides are turning, when my eyes are clearing, when those deep-down soul dreams show their faces and declare “I am more free than I’ve ever been!”
Like this: standing in the bathroom brushing my teeth looking in the mirror, my hand on my hip, a triangle punctuated by the silver around my wrist — the beaver bracelet I put there a week or two before. This beaver bracelet that speaks to me of home, of making dreams a reality, of construction, of craft. A den. With an inside and an outside.
And it’s the proverbial bonk on the head: Home is within me!
So cliché when it comes right down to it, but it’s how it comes that matters. This idea comes up from within and I catch a glimpse of its brightness as it speeds by me into the world.
What I’ve wanted for ever — kindness, vitality, volition, openness — has moved down inside me, gone molecular, and is coming through me, from the bottom up, appearing in new splendor, wondrous and captivating. Becoming, bejeweled…
Still…. I am speeding up the freeway. It is early on Saturday morning and I am alone in the car, heading to a retreat center an hour north of Seattle for the first Deepening Skills workshop where I have signed up as a client AND a therapist.
I have never been to this retreat center before, there will be 35 people there (almost twice as many as usual), I will be sleeping in a dorm room with seven other women, and I will be a therapist, and it is a lot of newness.
I arrive and I see people, and I know most of them, and it is a big, beautiful house, and still, when I approach Miles I find that I am crying. Just tears and Miles holds my gaze and I hold his hand, and we stay like that, quiet. And Brian is nearby and he sees me too and he says, “Well, hi honey,” and then in a little bit, “What’s going on?”
I tell him, “I think I am just feeling things as I am living them,” and he gives me a big smile.
“That’s good!” He laughs, “Congratulations!”
I laugh, too. It does feel good.
Feelings things as I am living them… rather than not feeling them, or having to spend all this time later, trying to match up the feelings and the experiences, putting them back together again. My insides and my outsides, seamless, right here. Now.
I run in the morning, the kids still asleep while I move up and down the streets, retracing my steps back to the door I’ve been through before. I arrive home, and I lie back and stretch, feeling the simultaneous tug and release. These muscles are so happy to be visited.
And throughout the day, it is as if I have stored up rest and relaxation, moving more slowly, moving at once, the whole of me together.
Except I’ve woken up in some neglected corner of my life, a place where my children argue as never before, where they keen and moan, cast-aside and turn-away. Orlando tells me he is jealous of Mica and that I am too hard on him, that I am always telling him to stop but not Mica. He is right.
And Mica sets his tiny teeth into a scowl he fiercely maintains, at me, at brother… Stuck in foul frustration, I can’t access it – him – and he has been here most of the summer.
This morning, after growling out “You hurt my feelings!” to brother, and setting his face to scowl and swinging his arms, I approach and he both resists me and melts into my arms, and I carry him into the house.
I hear my own thought, “He is so stuck, and I can’t figure out why!!” and I notice how tight it feels. We head up the stairs, and we arrive on the bed. And now I notice he is stretching out his arms and punch-pressing my breasts — the soft tissue, the changing body — these breasts that haven’t given milk since March.
I turn to him and ask softly, “Are you mad? About not nursing anymore?”
The tears come harder, these ones are deeper and more real, and he is trying to nurse again, and lying his head on my chest and sobbing.
I tell him, “Yeah… it’s a big change, and you feel sad. It’s natural… it’s natural to feel sad about a big change.”
He tries to nurse and I say no, and he fusses and cries, and we move through the changes together, and I comfort him, and he settles, soon.
We are lying still together, and then he says, “Let’s say I just got borned! That I just came out of your vagina,” and he curls into my chest and makes a baby face, looking at me, “I am born now!” And then he starts to crawl, and he says, “I’m going over the edge!”
Again and again, we play this game of him almost falling off the edge, of him hanging over the edge, and of me holding him and catching him. We’ve played this before — years ago! and I am sure he doesn’t remember it — and I am in awe that he needs to do it again, that he knows he needs to do it again. It’s never too late to feel what you need to feel.
When he is done, he crawls back onto the bed and makes a little nest out of the blankets, and he tells me, “You be in the nest, too,” and we curl up in the nest and lie there, together.
I am lying there, thinking how he just fashioned his own Hakomi session…. Expressing emotions/grief, receiving comfort, creating a missing experience (safety at birth, support during transitions), receiving nourishment (in the nest).
I just have to stay, and listen.
What am I called to do as a Hakomi therapist?
:: Be still
:: Let my own personhood speak; be authentic
:: Attune to and contact emotions (in the client)
:: Be mindful of my own inner experience (thoughts, feelings, sensations)
:: Follow… and lead
:: Open to my intuition (What did this person decide? What core, organizing belief are they holding onto that might be causing them some unnecessary suffering?)
:: Be willing to experiment
:: Trust and support the natural unfolding of life toward wholeness (organicity)
And two days later, Mica gives himself another Hakomi session… this one with the whole family present. We have just finished eating breakfast, and Orlando says something that hurts Mica’s feelings, and then Mica gets mad at me… I am sitting on the couch and Mica is mad, and he is saying, “Bad Mama! Bad Mama!” and he picks up a gun he and Orlando had made earlier out of Duplo blocks and is pointing it at me, “Bad Mama!”
My first instinct is to stop him (ack! he’s angry and shooting a pretend gun!) but I don’t. I play, and listen. He shoots again, and I stick out my tongue and flop to the side with a big “ehhh!”
It breaks the tension. Mica smiles a little, puts that gun in my lap, and creates a new weapon out of Duplos, shoots me with it, and I die a dramatic death, and then he puts that weapon on my lap. Repeat. And repeat again.
I am saying a few things here and there, not very often… “Frustrated, huh?” and “You want to feel powerful.” And the tension keeps decreasing, and brother joins in, and I say, “You are working together,” and eventually the healing shifts into “just” a game.
I am covered in Duplo weapons on the couch, my kids are happy, and we are connected to self and each other.
Orlando asks me, “Wanna look for beach glass?” Offering to me what I have given him…
I remember the first time we squatted in small coves and sifted through rocks and gathered colored bits of jewel. Now it is the three of us – me and my two boys – on the beach we know and love, and we set out north, Mica exclaiming, “I’ve never been to this part before!” and Orlando mumble-swaggering, “I’ve been here lots of times,” and me holding my tongue, choosing to choose my response (later) rather than reacting.
I tell them I used to beachcomb with my mom – Grammy – when I was a kid.
Orlando wants to know, “Did you find beach glass?”
“Yes,” I tell him. Yes.
I think how it is ingrained in me to head for these washed-up spaces. How I’ve already shown my kids what I know. How we’ve already arrived together in these darker, far-away places, looking for treasure.
By Stacy Lewis on June 28, 2012
The other day I told Orlando to stop acting like a two-year-old.
I heard the words come flying out of my mouth — in frustration, out of mis-expectation, and in the end, weighted with meaninglessness. As if I could sprinkle magic maturity dust upon him, as if I wanted to.
Later I had the idea to give myself some homework. I decided to watch home videos of him when he was two years old.
I woke up early and turned on the computer. I was inundated with hundreds — thousands! — of photos, of both kids, back from ancient times. I was laughing and crying, and Rom, who was trying to get some work done, came over and joined in.
Turns out (no surprise!) that Orlando wasn’t acting like a two-year-old, because a two-year-old is a tiny baby. So little and talking all mish-mouthy with a squeaky voice. Two years old is a different animal, rounder and softer, so directly imitating me and his Papa, talking in two-word sentences and pointing a lot, with very big eyes.
And it turns out that Orlando has really only been ever “acting” one way: himself. My god, it was amazing to watch a video of a child at two, and then be downstairs at the kitchen counter and have the same child, seven years later, walk in and say the exact words I watched him say onscreen only moments ago!
And then to carry that holographic image of the two-year-old all day, to see the chub of his cheeks around those now-big teeth, to hear his floppy feet slapping the floor amidst the assured, smooth gait.
To remember, once again, how these kids are somehow always whole and wholly themselves while constantly forming and maturing and changing. And to remember how much we laughed — oh, the antics!! Tying every scarf in the house around their bodies, eating ice cream while simultaneously signing “more! more! more!”, how every word out of their mouths was a gift wrapped in crooked paper with a hundred pieces of tape — incredibly endearing and so, so sticky.
It’s such a cliché, isn’t it? To not make them grow up too fast, to stay alive to the people they are and to do our very best to honor them and nurture them, and to never forget to laugh, and to be kind.
Well, I’ll take it. I’ll take the tape-covered gift, hold it in my hands, and I won’t get stuck. I’ll unwrap it slowly, and we’ll keep moving along, continually making way for our always-selves.
By Stacy Lewis on June 6, 2012
“So when you are listening to somebody, completely, attentively, then you are listening not only to the words, but also to the feeling of what is being conveyed, to the whole of it, not part of it.”
~ Jiddu Krishnamurti
When Ron Kurtz was first practicing Hakomi, he had an experience with a client. He had flown to Germany to do a workshop and was jet-lagged and tired, yet during the workshop he was scheduled to see many clients during demonstration sessions.
He was sitting across from one client, having a hard time focusing, when he was suddenly struck by something beautiful about the person he was listening to — maybe it was the light on his face, the shape of his nose, the earnestness with which he spoke. Ron allowed himself to take that in, and he noticed something else.
He noticed that the client shifted a little bit, that the client went a little deeper, that there was a connection between the two that wasn’t there before.
Ron called this phenomenon “loving presence.”
Loving presence is noticing what about another person fills you up, nourishes you, touches you. It is a two-way thing within you… noticing what nourishes you, and noticing that you are nourished.
It is not about complimenting the other person, making up “nice” attributes about them, or forcing yourself to like them. And it’s not about what they say — you are listening to how they are in the world.
Loving presence is about attending to the subtle exchange between ourselves and another, focusing on the positive, and feeling the result of that.
After that session, Ron noticed that he felt more energized not only during the session, but afterward as well. He started doing loving presence deliberately and found that it benefited the client — by helping the session move more deeply and smoothly — and it benefited himself, by helping to short-circuit the problem of therapist “burn-out.”
“Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. When we really listen to people there is an alternating current, and this recharges us so that we never get tired of each other. We are constantly being re-created.”
~ Brenda Ueland
“In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.”
~ Yogi Berra
During our practice therapy sessions, when we sit down with a client, we begin with loving presence, and we also spend some time “tracking”… we take that person in, we notice their facial expressions, hand gestures, how they sit, how they talk, expressions of speech. We’re open. And then we switch to loving presence, noticing what about this person we appreciate or are touched by, taking that in, and then we switch to tracking again.
We also practice making contact statements — e.g., “Some sadness, huh?” — to help the client get in touch with their own experience. We offer these lightly, as an opportunity for them to check with themselves. That is generally how a session starts.
We practice going in and out of loving presence.
And each day of our training, we start by swapping loving presence with a partner. Each person speaks for ten minutes while the other one listens, almost always silently. Sometimes we practice with contact statements. At the end of the ten minutes, we share with the other person what filled us up. And then we switch.
We practice recognizing and acknowledging how we are nourished.
Just like meditation, there is practice on the cushion and in real life.
I was having a hard day yesterday… a weepy, depressive day. I knew in the background that there were a lot of criticizing voices but I couldn’t quite contact them or settle into a more smooth or energetic rhythm. I felt the depression settle around me mid-day the day before (while traveling home), and I knew that it would be good to give myself a day or two of rest.
But, as often happens when I want to rest, a voice comes along that beats myself up about resting. So even resting isn’t that restful. It’s ridiculous really! But while I can hear/see it happening, I cannot always find relief from it, at least not right away.
So, yesterday was one of those days… and when Rom came home we went to the phó restaurant down the street and I was sitting across from Mica and next to Orlando, and Rom and Orlando were playing rock-paper-scissors and Mica had a lego guy and was telling himself some elaborate story of combat and I had a moment of “How can it really be okay that my children are always acting out war?!”
Is it okay? Or isn’t it? Sometimes I think it is and sometimes I think it isn’t, and when the criticizing voices are around, they jump right into the debate and take the side of “It’s YOU who is not okay.”
Why, thank you.
But I didn’t go down that rabbit hole, not then. Instead, without really planning it or making an effort, I realized that I would just sit there, across from Mica, and be in loving presence with him.
I watched him, I looked at his face, I listened to him, felt his words… his excitement, how engaged he was, how pleased and involved, I could see when he was thinking something through. I watched his little brow furrow ever so slightly at times, his mouth widen in a smile, his eyes gaze off into distant possibilities. I watched him show me all the ways his lego guy held his ax and what each way meant. I watched him create a mountain out of a pair of chopsticks. I said once in a while, “Excited, huh?” and “Thinking…” just dropping them in as he moved along.
He was in process, and I was attending to him in his process. And what I noticed about him — it is hard with my children because I mainly feel an overwhelming sense of love that seems to come from everywhere at once — but what I noticed about him that was filling me up was his thoughtfulness, his energy, his creativity, his openness, his willingness to pour forth of himself.
That is a gift. And it was one I was able to receive.
photo by jaroslavd
By Stacy Lewis on May 30, 2012
The talent show features headstands, songs, drums, popping balloons, bubble-blowing contests, pirates, dancing, and more. Twice a year, the folks who live here in cohousing get up and show our stuff!
Last winter, Rom and I did a swing dance number together — he is the pro and taught me what to do and basically just tossed and pulled me all over the place while I looked cute in my little black-and-red dress and bobby socks. It was fun!
And right after that talent show, in which my heart and eyes and soul were filled up with these wonderful people, aged 2 to 86, who get out and put it out there, I went home and knew exactly what I wanted to do for the next talent show.
I wanted to talk a little bit about Hakomi, and I wanted to share some poems that I’ve received from my Hakomi teachers. So I went home and wrote something and then promptly forgot about it.
Well, suddenly, it was five months later and time for the next talent show. I got out what I had written, I rewrote it, and I read and reread and chose some poems, and signed myself up.
Orlando signed himself up, too — to do a headstand, a long headstand wherein he walked in the air, did the splits, pressed the bottom of his feet together and then took a completely awkward and lovely bow, twice.
But me, I got up there and I talked a little bit, and then I read two poems. It was great, and fun, and all that speech and drama I did in high school came out, and I stood up there, very calm and centered, at ease, and I talked slowly and made eye contact and smiled. Ha! But boy my heart was pounding so fast right before I went on.
That’s because it has been hard for me to put myself out there… living here has actually made me acutely aware of how introverted I am, or at least how much a part of me is. Trying not to be seen but knowing that I’d like to be seen. So, I just did it.
And I was seen.
Because people came up to me afterward and asked about the poems — I shared this one, and this one — and asked about Hakomi, and told me how beautiful it was that I had this community of people through Hakomi, how much they loved those poems, and they thanked me for sharing, and one person told me he was inspired to share his favorite poems, and on and on, and that was good.
And then it kept going on… because there is a man here who is so wonderful and has babysat my kids a few times. They love him and he loves them, and they have fun, and in the past I’ve thanked him with brownies and this last time I was going to offer him beer but I hadn’t gotten the beer yet and because of the poem I read he told me that one of the poets was going to read at the Skagit Poetry Festival in a couple of weeks, along with his favorite poet, and I knew right then.
I went home and bought him a ticket to the festival and offered it to him — again, this process of giving is a stretch for me, I talk myself out of it, telling myself I have nothing to offer. I don’t think it used to be this way, but I am growing into it again, and so I offered him the ticket without qualifications, something from my heart to his, and he went with his partner and they had a wonderful time. And he told me all about it, and he was so delighted and I was, too.
And that is what I wanted to tell you about: this poetry in motion that is our lives.
By Stacy Lewis on May 24, 2012
“Compassion lives in a wise resonance with the tender and painful aspects of life.” — DaeJa Napier
I want to let go of criticism. Criticism of others, of myself. I could put myself first, since I’ve found that I criticize others pretty much to the same degree as I criticize myself. And I am ready to let that fall away.
I’m not sure how the idea of letting it go came to me — I am sure it has been percolating for a long while — and I suspect my meditation practice pushed it to the fore. I’m in part two of my year-long brahmaviharas practice.
Brahmaviharas = the four divine abidings.
The four divine abidings = lovingkindess, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity.
I am in compassion now.
The brahmaviharas practice is a concentration practice. First, you sit quietly, and then you bring to mind a person, and then you say certain phrases, almost always silently. I also attend to whatever feelings come up, but my anchor, the thing to which I return – the point of concentration – is the phrases.
You begin with someone for whom you feel compassion, perhaps someone you know who is in pain or suffering right now. Then your self, a benefactor, a loved one, a neutral person, a person with whom you have difficulty, and all beings.
There are a few phrases one can use, and I choose from among these…
May you be free of pain and suffering.
May you be held, and come to hold yourself, in compassion.
May you be at peace.
This one has been tenderizing my heart: May I be held, and come to hold myself, in compassion.
These are just words, and they make things happen, on the cushion and in real life. I don’t have a single, tidy anecdote to bring it all to light, rather I have a few sketches to share, forays into new territory.
Things happen…. like this: During my meditation retreat, on the last day, I literally felt my little grinch heart expanding as I saw myself receiving the loving gaze of two of my Hakomi teachers. A relief, and an opening, an experience of the flow of love between living beings, between myself and another. In these moments, it is as if the grief of having been closed is experienced along with the exquisite newness and relief of being open.
Then, the day after the retreat as I sat down to meditate, I saw an image of myself emerging from a pool of water with my arms pressed down at my sides. I saw it again and again, and I suddenly realized that I was being born, and then this spontaneous story rolled out before me, in which saw myself as a little baby receiving the loving gaze of my mother. And all holographic-like, I saw myself as a mother giving that loving gaze to my own children, and to myself as a baby. For minutes at a time, I cried and saw myself seeing, and being seen, with love.
And then, a couple of weeks ago, I sat down to meditate, and I noticed a feeling of tightness around my heart, around my ribs, under my arm. Frozen. Tears began to flow, quiet, seeping tears, and I had a sudden memory, at the dinner table as a child, of my father telling my sister and I to “sit up straight” and I had this searing thought: So much criticism.
I put my right hand on my ribs, under my arm and I felt the pain and tightness… a hitching feeling in my neck, an ache in my shoulder blade, all this constriction my left side.
And I had more memories, from different ages, taking pride in being like my father and being with him. I saw those experiences as I experienced them then and I experienced them now, in a new light — an expansion of experience. I had an idea for an offering… “It’s okay to do things for yourself” or “your own way” – I can’t remember now.
And then another idea… an offering about it being okay to have an open heart.
With that one, an image immediately jumped into my mind, into my body really: me as a football player, holding the ball tight to my chest (in fact, covering my heart) with the other arm straight out as I rushed headlong into life. My every expression defended.
And the tears of insight and melting away, of grief and healing, of transformation come. The space within us grows.
The poetry of the last hundred years is an effort to unfold the left side of the body, to reclaim for the psyche certain disappearing words, thereby preventing the reality behind them from disappearing into amnesia… the thirst for the space of feeling grows.
Antonio Machado says:
It is good knowing that glasses
are to drink from
The bad thing is not to know
what thirst is for
– from News from the Universe
The day after the criticism breakthrough, I was sitting on the couch and I was tired and irritable and Mica and Orlando were squabbling and Mica was coming toward me, crying and discontent. I could feel the exasperation coming up in me, and I did a little switch-a-roo, like putting on a pair of compassion glasses. Suddenly soft. You know what I mean, don’t you? A tilt of the head, softness around the eyes, receiving. Tender.
And oh, this last year and a half with Orlando… a hard patch. I can see myself coming down hard on him (so much criticism! it doesn’t take much). In the same way I watched myself saying “stop crying” before I could stop saying it, I have seen myself saying “Why don’t you…?” right into Orlando’s young and tender face. This sense of pushing is familiar to me, from the outside it came, and I internalized it, and now it is coming to light again. Remember or repeat. I am choosing to remember.
I want to tell you that I love my father — truly. What I learn about myself teaches me about him, and it is like a broadening of perspective, inclusive. Poor parents, I say, and poor children. And poor parents who once were children. Can’t you see it all, the immensity and depth and beauty and sadness of it all? We can reclaim everything that needs to be reclaimed.
And then I have been practicing as a Hakomi therapist… doing full sessions in our last two modules. We are each other’s clients, and we have a coach, but still, a session, and each time, there is some point at which it clicks, the attunement has hummed us into a deeper connection, and the client has gone deeper with themselves, and I can feel compassion arise in me, unbidden, and they feel it to, and it is natural and good, and fundamentally healing. Tender, and connected.
Compassion is not pity. In fact, pity is considered the near enemy of compassion because it is often mistaken for it but has a much different source and effect. Pity arises out of a sense of separateness, a “feeling-sorry-for” that maintains a sense of distance. Compassion comes from an understanding of our connectedness, of the willingness to understand that both pain and pleasure are part of life, of all of our lives.
And I have been taking the Neufeld courses, and he talks about keeping our hearts soft, of keeping our children’s hearts soft, of not making headway in the incident (i.e., it’s too critical and hurtful to children to be corrected in the moment). He also says this: “We must invite a child to exist in our presence,” and it makes me cry every time. What have I always ever wanted? But I cannot invite a child into a space I have closed off from myself.
So, here it is, inside my heart, all coming together, and I thought last Wednesday as I sat upon my cushion to practice compassion: I want to stop criticizing. But I also thought… I don’t want to criticize my way into not criticizing. I will keep a journal of all the times I criticize myself, others, either out loud or silently, so that I might come to know this critic and what she is about. Perhaps she has something to tell me. I have no desire to kung-fu her out of existence, cut her off or out, go all bad-ass on her.
I simply want to hear her at the same time I know I am hearing her.
It occurs to me that she might need to be seen with compassion so she can learn to see with compassion. It occurs to me that I might know how to help her, now. That we are helping each other already.
“The thought manifests as the word;
The word manifests as the deed;
The deed develops into habit;
And habit hardens into character.
So watch the thought and its ways with care,
And let it spring from love born out of concern for all beings.”
– The Buddha
~ * ~
Some things to see and read
Lovingkindness by Sharon Salzberg
The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness, and Peace by Jack Kornfield
Teachings on Love by Thich Nhat Hanh
The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion by Christopher K. Germer
Listening to Shame (TED Talk) by Brené Brown
Here is my sliver of the internet, where I share the salty-sweet of raising two young boys (ages 9 and 6). I write about mindfulness, homeschooling, and our everyday shenanigans...
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