Back to Business

Hello Clients and Colleagues,

I am so excited to return to seeing clients (old and new).

As you might know, I’ve been away on maternity leave. Baby Sage was born two weeks after his due date in late May. He has been healthy and happy from the start. While we have had an awesome time bonding and laying on the couch together, I am so looking forward to getting back into working with those in transition.

For my therapy clients
My therapy practice focuses on couples and individuals in times of change. Sessions will again take place at the PassageWay Arts office in North East Austin on Tuesday evenings and Thursdays.
I AM NOW BOOKING ALL MY THERAPY APPOINTMENTS ONLINE!

To book a therapy appointment visit the counseling page of my website or use the button below. 

Request Appointment

 

For my celebrant clients
Celebrant clients who are interested in booking baby blessings, weddings, memorial service, home cleansings, or other ceremonies this fall should fill out this form.

As I return to my practice, I will continue to take on new clients – if you know someone who might benefit from my services, please feel free to forward this newsletter or share it as you see fit.

Thank you for your encouragement, patience, and well wishes while I took this break from my practice. I feel fortunate to have been able to take this maternity leave. It has been a season of healing and incorporating Sage into our family.

Warmly,

Genevieve Saenz, MA, LMFT-A 

The Stages of Change

All life transitions happen in three stages. 

  • Preparation- A time of great planning and anxiety where the looming change is approaching and we are separating from our past perceptions of who we are.

  • Culminating Event- The moment of "In between" when we are neither here nor there. The experience during these times is very "here and now" oriented. We may feel overwhelmed like we can't find solid footing.

  • Acclimation- This is the "calm after the storm" where we slowly piece our selves back together. Grief can loom over this stage and thoughts of the past. However, it is also here that we settle into the new patterns of a new life.

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Expressive Arts

Expressive Arts

1. Expressive- The focus of Expressive Arts Therapy (and perhaps all therapy) is to facilitate client expression with the goal of clarity and meaning making. Sometimes having a caring conversation is all a client needs to gain insight. However, it is really just one mode of communication in a sea of possibilities. Writing, moving, singing, stretching, laughing, crying, breathing, painting, pointing...they can all be expressions of truth. As an EXA therapist I am interested in multiple perspectives and ways of being in the world. In the expressive arts the value is always placed on the expression and the process, rather than the product.

2. Arts- There are so many ways to be an artist; a gardener is an artist at work in the medium of dirt and water and possibility. There is a reason we say "arts", with and "s". In Expressive Arts therapy there is an emphasis on all creativity and creative acts as a healing tool. Sometimes this means we pull out the paint in session, sometimes it means we play in sand or tell stories or explore song lyrics. The magic of the expressive arts is in the transition between mediums; multiple art forms can meld in to a unique creative experience. It might sound intimidating, but every arts intervention offered is simply a suggestion; an invitation to step in to your own creativity and see what treasures you can uncover there.

Baby Meets Moon

All children should be welcomed. Every new life deserves to be introduced to the earth, family, and body they were born in to. Every community is enriched by acknowledging and giving thanks for the baby. 

A welcoming ceremony can look a multitude of ways and doesn’t need to be ornate or extravagant. I encourage all new parents of new people to take the time to honor the arrival of their child in their own way. 

In anticipation of the upcoming full moon and lunar eclipse, I want to share this moon focused  baby blessing ceremony. I crafted this when I was just one day postpartum and we performed it in the bright light of his first full moon. 

Feel free to use or modify it as you see fit.  

 

SAGE MOON INTRO

May 29, 2018

OBJECTIVES

  1. Gratitude for him

  2. Aquatint him with his gifts and inheritance by naming them

  3. Set him up for a healthy relationship with the moon and earth

  4. Celebrate

MATERIALS NEEDED

  1. Salt

  2. Water in silver bowl

  3. Sage and lighter

MEDIA

  • Daniel 2:19
  • Harold and the Purple Crayon
  • The Maywomyn’s Blessing
  • Moon Shadow by Cat Stevens

ACTIVITY

  • Light Sage (plant not person) We open this sacred time by connecting worlds and truths through the smoke of the smudge stick. Tonight we honor the connection of this new life to earth and stars and moon and sky. We invite the spirit of God into this ceremony as we begin with a reading.
  • Give thanks (mother reading)
  • Touch feet to ground and see moon shadow We honor this new life and introduce him to his mother earth. May the earth hold him and root him in his strength and wisdom. Parents please touch your child’s feet to the ground and let it hold his weight for a moment.
  • Name gifts and strengths (father reading)
  • Introduce him to the moon by full name We stand tonight in the light of the flower moon to raise this child to the heavens and let him be seen by the open sky. May the open sky call him to evolve into all his fullness. Parents please hold your child up and speak his name aloud.
  • Healthy relationship (moon reading)
  • Water Blessing We honor the light of the moon. It shines into darkness to illuminate that which is deeply felt but just on the edge of contiousness. May the moon bless this child with its mystical and secret wisdom. May it remind him to shine his light into darkness, to build fires of love in times of need and to connect with his world as he grows towards his truth. (Prepare salt water to be blessed by the moon and used in his first bath)
  • Celebrate with a dance We close this time together in gratitude and celebration. Sage Daniel has been held to the earth and lifted to the sky, his name has been spoken and his life is begun. May it be a life filled with joy, truth, and love. In gratitude for his life we dance in the light of the flower moon.(moon shadow by Cat Stevens)
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Packing My Bags for Maternity Leave

I feel like I am about to step out into the abyss; into suspended animation. After about two years of love sweat and tears poured into building my private counseling practice, it is time to take a little break. My second child is due next week and my maternity leave starts when ever he arrives. 

 This image is actually a wooden sign you can buy from Sleepy Hollow Prims. Click on the image to find purchase info and check out her store for other super cute witch themed art. 

This image is actually a wooden sign you can buy from Sleepy Hollow Prims. Click on the image to find purchase info and check out her store for other super cute witch themed art. 

The postpartum period is one of the most sacred and intense times in a mother's life and so I plan to honor the transition by taking a full three months away from all work. My son and I will have time to bond and learn each other's smells and patterns. My family will have time to accept and integrate this new life into our household. And my practice (another sort of child) will have to fall to the back of the line. 

Needless to say, it is terrifying to step away from something I love so dearly and need so much. I can not know what will remain when I come back and I can't even know in what capacity I will make it back. But I have to refer my clients out, clear up the sage and the chimes, lock the door to my office and step away in good faith that all will be well until August. 

I have to hope that all I have built is strong enough to be waiting for me when I return. 

In the meantime, my bags are packed for a big life change and they are filled to the brim with things I have learned these past two years from my clients; so much #couchwisdom ...like:

"I can live deeply and fully right now"

"Life is a cycle so I can just be where I am"

"One small change opens the door to more change"

"I am grateful for my pain"

"I deserve love"

"It is okay to be less than perfect as long as I am honest"

What treasures! I am sure they will serve me well as I take this time to go inward and really focus on being the mother that I am. My son is lucky because he gets a mom who knows what she loves, who knows who she is, and who takes the time to put all that aside for a few months to just be herself with him. 

Wish me luck, and I will see you on the other side. 

-Genevieve

 

The Price of Love; or why the fourth episode of season four of Black Mirror made me weep

I watched an episode of Black Mirror last night that made me cry. Now, as far as Black Mirror reactions go, that isn't that unusual. However, this particular episode "Hang the DJ" was a (theoretically) happy and not terrifying one. So, why did I cry so darn much?

 

I think the weeping was a reaction to just how intense and meaningful human connection can be.  Love is a deeply powerful force and this episode reminded me of that.  It also brought to my awareness something that has been bubbling up ever since I started my private therapy practice a year ago; the price of love is grief, and the loss of love that brings grief is inevitable.

Or in simpler terms: all love results in heartbreak, all of it...and always. (and I am not just talking about romantic love here, I mean any kind of love or human connection...they all end eventually). There will be the loss, there will be the disappointment, there will be grief. Ugh!

I have been volunteering several hours a week at Hospice Austin's Bereavement Program; leading groups for loss as well as seeing individual clients who are working through grief. The stories I hear are an honor to witness and have taught me that love and grief are two sides of the same coin. 

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The amount you feel the loss is directly correlated to the amount of love and connection you shared with that other person. 

So the more we love, the more we lose and the more it hurts. (I am sorry but, what a shitty system!)

Ugh, sometimes it is just SO much that I have to throw my arms up to the sky and wail. I wail for the unfairness of loss, for the depth of joy, for all the ways I feel when I love another person. How intense, how terrifying, how fundamentally beautiful. 

So, then I take a deep breath and move into my thoughts. I ask myself...if the cost of love is grief, is it still worth it? I know how the horrible pain of grief hurts like a thousand arrows and never stops hurting, but is it still worth loving richly and deeply? 

And the answer is...of course it is.

Of course. 

We have to choose love, because the other option is also costly. It is the closing down and walling up of our hearts. It is stillness and defense and denial. The other option is death or at least a sort of death. (again, what a shitty system!)

So, all of this meandering is to say; I wept last night because I know that I must always choose love. I must see the full cost of love and continue to choose it; day after day and night after night. 

I know that all the love I feel for all the people (and animals) I love will eventually bring the worst pain imaginable, but I also know that it is always worth the price. 

And thank goodness I also know, that it is okay to cry. 

 

 

How To Use Pinterest Like a Therapist

Pinterest is a free website where users can upload images or save images from the web. Those images once saved become pins and user pins are then saved to pinboards. These boards offer users an opportunity to sort and manage their pins into different categories and sub categories. Imagine cutting up images from magazines and newspapers and using a thumbtack to pin them to a cork board, except it is online. Honestly, it is pretty hard to explain...but pretty simple to understand once you interface with it for a few minutes. If you aren't familiar, recommend you mosey on over to get a feel for it before you continue reading here. 

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My friend, Melissa, introduced me to Pinterest at a bar in San Francisco,  way back in 2010. I remember scrolling through her profile and immediately feeling like this was the social media outlet I had been waiting for.  I have been an avid "pinner" ever since. I have stayed up late many a night scrolling through the artwork of ancient masters or imagining my perfect kitchen. For many people pinning is a great way to start a project, design a wardrobe, or collect inspirational quotes. It offers the thrill of shopping with none of the price (except the price of time spent in front of a screen of course). 

The "PinterestFail" has entered into our vernacular over these past few years. If you want a good laugh, check out the website dedicated to the feeling/ phenomenon... http://pinterestfail.com 

It should also be noted that approximately 70% of Pinterest users are women. It is most likely that a statistic like that drastically impacts the content of the site. There is more story about that than I can go in to here, but if you are a dork about those kinds of things (be proud), here ya go down that rabbit hole

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In my many years as a pinner,  I have used Pinterest in the traditional ways. I have boards for our dream master suite addition that we will never do, a board with inspiration for my private practice therapy marketing design, and of course a board for all the recipes I would cook if I did or could cook. These are what I lovingly call my "projection" boards or my "waiting to fail" boards because I will never live up to their ideals. 

But that isn't the only way I use Pinterest, and if it was I think my love affair with the site would have died out about four years ago. I also keep "reflection" boards. A reflection board is a collection of images, quotes or videos that reflect upon an experience or emotional state.

Reflection boards help me gain insight on the way I am feeling, what I need, what feels healthy to me, or what I wish was true.

I have a board called "Spirit" where I place images that remind me of my connectedness to the divine. My (private) "Sexy" board helps me connect with my playfulness and sexuality, something I am always struggling to get a better understanding of. Another one called "Life in Austin" is where I pinned images that spoke to me of how disoriented and lonely I felt when I first moved to Austin from San Francisco, now it holds camping spots and hip restaurants to try. 

My Pinterest reflection boards are like mirrors. When times are tough they can help me get a better grasp on who I am, what I like, and what it feels like to be living my life. I can look back to review and learn from them the way I do from my journals. Sometimes the very act of making them is therapeutic.  

For example, some of you may know that my dear father passed away a little over two years ago. Well, when we received his terminal diagnosis in the winter of 2012 I immediately started a board that I titled "Dealing With". This board is a collection of images and words gathered over literal years of my life focused on the way grief and sorrow feel to me. Sometimes when I have felt overwhelmed by my grief I open up Pinterest. I drift in and out of images searching based on the feelings I am having and when an image or phrase pops up that some how resonates, I capture it. Like a butterfly in my net, it is added to my collection. Slowly I start to feel better, to understand my grief in a new way. I can see it. It is outside of me, on the board and being dealt with. 

Multiple psychological theories advocate that self-reflection and a shift in perspective is imperative in the healing of psychological wounds. This is done in therapy by the reflection provided by a trained and licensed therapist who can gently guide a client towards more introspection. Therapy works and you should try it.

If you are experiencing psychological overwhelm, please seek out a caring mental health professional. It isn't an easy step to take but it can make a huge difference in your life. Maybe prepare a Pinterest board or two to your first session. If it is difficult to tell your therapist exactly how you feel (or want to feel) you could try to show them. I advocate that it helps the therapeutic process unfold to have images, quotes, and ideas to get the conversation started. 

OR If you are mostly well and looking for some cheap introspection, maybe try Pinterest? How can you make a board that captures your daily grind, your relationship style, or your childhood experiences? Search key terms that feel authentic and see what art, quotes, or stories resonate with you. 

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Oh, also check out the PassageWay Arts Pinterest page with ritual ideas and boards such as; "Life Transitions", "Arts Experience", and "Emotional Intelligence". 

Pin away...

 

 

Why I am an Expressive Arts Therapist

Just one story of many;
A few weeks ago I was in a waiting room of an office building. There were some interesting elements in there like a set of large rocks and a mini zen sandbox. A woman casually asked me what I thought the rocks were for. "Not sure," I said. Then she leaned over and started running her finger through the mini sandbox. "And this?" she asked. 
"Oh, I don't know," I said "...maybe it is just for playing with. Sometimes it is nice to make choices that don't matter". She stopped and looked up at me with tears in her eyes. We were silent from then on but the idea that her choices might be playful had deeply resonated with her. 
Clearly, that stranger and I had happened upon something quite vital about play. Sometimes the greatest gift of process oriented artmaking is allowing yourself to enjoy your own natural instinct. To just follow your curiosity... what a relief; to not have to be right...just to be. 

And here is a bit of science as well; 
This article outlines an experiment done to test reactions to art making. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/06/170613120531.htm

"In fact, in surveys administered to the participants after the activities were complete, respondents indicated that they felt more like they had "good ideas" and could "solve problems" than before the activities. Participants even said they felt the three-minute time spans for art-making weren't long enough."

 

 

 

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Groups of Summer

It turns out the summer is slow in the private practice therapy world. Clients take vacations and (maybe more importantly) that which was a crisis in the dark days of winter somehow melts into "manageable" as the days get longer and the air gets thicker. There is just somehow less need. So, my schedule has opened up and so has my worry. 

I am only a few months into this new venture and I still get pretty nervous when a week goes by with no new clients calling me. So, I do what any budding professional would do...I call them. Kind of. I have started to solicit group work from local agencies. These groups are contract work where I a hired to come in as an art therapist and lead several sessions of Expressive Arts interventions. 

Even though all this started just to drum up more work, I have to say it brings me such joy. I love therapy groups. I think they are rich with deep learning if you let them be.

Each group is like its own little life form made up of individuals gathering for a common cause. The group has a life cycle, a purpose, and a product. The way a group forms, grows and establishes norms seems magical, but it is actually delicate science.

Like all life forms, its main goal is survival. A group's members are always unconsciously doing a delicate dance to maintain health and ease within the group. They are balancing power dynamics, tasks, and established patterns. If a member doesn't have enough "buy in" if they threaten the group as a whole, the group will find a way to either enlist or expel them just as our bodies do with bacteria. All parts of the whole are working for the good of the whole and they are working because being a part of the group is nourishing to the individual.

What an amazing reminder of the systems that we are, that we are a part of, and that we rebel against. The universe is just gatherings joining together to make organisms, joining together to make bodies, joining together to make groups, joining together to make organizations, joining together to make collectives, joining together to make planets, joining together to make systems. It is an infinite web of connection, of individual and other.

And the most amazing part is; when you pull on any one part of it everything moves. 

That is why therapy groups can be so powerful and can acelerate the healing process so much. They offer an opportunity to witness and play a part in the growth of others and every time one person shifts, they all do. 

 

The Diagram

Regular followers, if there are any, will be familiar with my theories about the stages of change. I believe that life transitions happen in three basic parts; preparation, culminating event, and acclimation. These parts can look many ways and be concurrent, fast, slow, or very delineated.

Each phase is marked by a certain focus of thoughts (Future, Present, Past); a negative mental state that can occur if people get overwhelmed (Anxiety, Disassociation, Depression); and a helpful mantra to remember. 

The process follows a natural story line with a beginning middle and end, or a rising action climax and falling action. Also, we come across many changes in our lives some are small and the big ones are the ones that most often get our focus and make us feel overwhelmed. 

That is a lot of theory to understand verbally, so sometimes it is helpful for me to imagine a wave of change; which rises in action, reaches a peak or a plateau, and then falls back into the sea. 

So...I made a diagram. 

It is crudely made, to say the least, but I wonder if you could really look at it. See if it makes any sense to you or resonates with any truth in your life. I am going to guess it does, but please let me know... genevieve.therapy@gmail.com.

Also, please let me know if you are a graphic designer who wants to help. For now, this will have to do. 

Join me as we ride the waves, friends.  

The Art of Sacrament

Sacrament is traditionally explained by use of the definition given by St. Augustine of Hippo a Christian theologian who was instrumental in many of the formative ideas of the church through his writings in the 4th century. The definition is simple:

"Sacrament is an outward sign of an inward grace"

Although it was expressed in a Christian context, I feel this definition can explain why ceremony and rites of passage are so important in all human experiencing. They are the both the evidence of and the facilitators of evolution.

Last month my husband and I celebrated a wedding anniversary with a vow renewal and a party for our friends and family. As I prepared for the event, I wondered why I had decided to celebrate this way.

The details of the event had become overwhelming, food, flowers, travel, schedules, iced tea! I could not remember why we didn't just go to Cancun or something. I mean who cared that we were renewing our vows. Why did it matter to anyone except for us? Why did I feel the need to create such a public display of our private life?

I know from the inside of my marriage how much love we have put in to our partnership. It is extremely hard and beautiful work. We have changed and grown so much together over the years and I am grateful to have a partner who is just as committed to development as I am. We are not the same people or the same relationship we were ten years ago.

By inviting our community to witness and honor our development with us, it becomes a hundred times more real. We are a hundred times more accountable to it. People can see how renewed we are and confirm that yes, it is real. 

The cool thing is when they see that we have grown, they also grow. They think about their relationships, their life ten years ago, the things they have to be grateful for, the challenges yet to come. In that way, our one sacrament shared could set in motion a domino effect of growth. 

Love is meant to be shared...and so is grief, so is joy, so is truth. 

If human beings horde those inner graces (experiences) by keeping transformation and learning private, it all just ends there.

The lesson of the change sits inside the heart like a seed in the earth. We have rites, ceremonies and sacraments because the light of community must shine on that seed in order to fulfill it. 

I argue that to fully receive the grace of the change, we must invite it to be both inward and outward; to become a sacrament.

The script is simple. Stand up in front of those you trust and say; "Look at me...I am different than I was".

Thus a grace is not just confined to one soul's evolution. Everyone who sees and says "Yes, you are", also grows. 

 

 

 

Get Behind Me, Satan

I had a powerful spiritual experience this past month in a group I was leading. It was a watercolor class, designed to allow the participants to relax and enjoy the free flowing fun of a simple medium. But I know, as much as any other teaching artist, that any time you invite people into a creative process you are also inviting something darker...more sinister. 

The course went as planned and all participants seemed to enjoy the activity. It wasn't until afterward that I realized something strange and powerful had happened. As we were cleaning up one of the older women in the class approached me. Her gentle energy instantly grabbed my attention.

"I just want to thank you." she said. 
I listened.
"I am going to say something the only way I know how and it is going to sound crazy.", she whispered.
I nodded.
"I have had this thing lately, this devil. It has been in my way and it has been telling me things; lies."
"go
on", I said.  
"Well, today when we started our class I thought there was no way I could do this, that whatever I made would be terrible. Then I realized it was the devil speaking to me and I told him to get out."
"Then what happened?"
"Well, I loved it. I am so proud of what I made", and she held up her artwork for me to see. 
I smiled at her "beautiful".
"It is. So, thank you for helping me get Satan behind me."
"Oh, I think you did that all on your own. I hope you start to banish him more often"
She smiled.
"He has no power here". 
She chuckled and gave my arm a squeeze.

"He sure doesn't"

Who knew that the strength and might of the very devil could be swayed by simply picking up a brush and dipping it in water!

 

Although I don't often think in terms of demons, I did know exactly what she was talking about. It is what I call the "inner critic", but has had many names throughout the ages. It is simply the part of ourselves (or our egos) that tries to stop us from being who we fully are. 

The devil's intentions are sometimes honorable. This part of us is just longing for survival, it wants to save us (or our egos) from annihilation. Sweet...kind of...because, most of the time we can keep it in check. Sometimes, however, our inner critic gets out of control. It starts working over time, day and night, stopping us in our tracks by letting us know how weak, undesirable, incapable, and unloved we are; lies!

It is in these instances that we must figure out a way to get the devil behind us. We must say "you have no power here" and let him slip out for a coffee break. Once he is no longer blocking our view, we can return to the light and see our own beauty.

 Similar watercolors

Similar watercolors

In Bloom

Oh boy, central Texas is alive with renewal.

I always want to write about flowers at this time of year because, in Austin, the beauty of the wildflowers feels like a joyful invasion of color. They spring out from the yellow dullness of dead winter grasses and fill my world with renewing energy.

I know that we all see them, those patches of delicate life on the side of the freeway or in the field behind the grocery store. How could you miss them? 

The springtime invites us to see our own beauty and goodness mirrored in nature. Each flower is a reminder of those things in our lives that are truly, and delightfully, good.

I feel the spirit of wildflowers in my work as a therapist and celebrant. Each client I sit with is a gift of color and surprise. Each ceremony I craft and perform brings new life to familiar roads. It is a slow build, but my private practice is begining to bloom and I can now imagine the fruits of an abundant career in front of me.

Ah, springtime; what a joy!

I hope you feel the same. I hope you have a person or a place in your life where you can truly be yourself; where you can grow, thrive, and know that all is well. 

...And if you some how forget how wonderful you are, simply look out your car window and notice the sweet, vibrant beauty of nature. This is also your springtime; what parts of you are in bloom? 

 

 

Temenos

Temenos is an ancient Greek word. It means something like; a piece of land designated as separate from the common domain and dedicated to god. A sanctuary.

Jung used the term to describe the therapeutic space; a space of perfect holding in which growth can occur. In his conceptualization it is not simply a safe place where we go to rest, it is also a place where challenges await; a sacred space where we may meet and learn from our change agents. 

Holding and shaping...that is the work of therapy. I invite clients to find their own temenos in my office, their own sanctuary, a place marked off from the demanding unsureity of the world; held. We can then start to shape their experience and their thoughts and their very spirit into the truth they most long for. 

However, it is my opinion that you can find temenos outside of a therapy office. You can find it in the delicate combination of a book and a cup of tea; comfort coupled with conflict. Temenos is alive in those moments when we can still ourselves and let our hearts open to mystery.

Perhaps growth is just on the other side of this breath. 

Take it.

Start Close in by David Whyte

start close in ~david whyte

Start close in,
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
thing
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

Start with
the ground
you know,
the pale ground
beneath your feet,
your own
way of starting
the conversation.

Start with your own
question,
give up on other
people’s questions,
don’t let them
smother something
simple.

To find
another’s voice,
follow
your own voice,
wait until
that voice
becomes a
private ear
listening
to another.

Start right now
take a small step
you can call your own
don’t follow
someone else’s
heroics, be humble
and focused,
start close in,
don’t mistake
that other
for your own.

Start close in,
don’t take
the second step
or the third,
start with the first
thing
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

~David Whyte, River Flow: New and Selected Poems

Symbol in Ceremony

My favorite thing in this world might just be a good symbol. Defined by Webster, a symbol is "a thing that represents or stands for something else, especially a material object representing something abstract." 

The abstract is inherently hard to grasp, and so we humans have developed a complex language of symbols and metaphors to help us make sense of the biggest parts of our lives. I often tell the people I work with to look for the symbols, because having a symbol follow you through your experience can really enrich the meaning making. A couple that I recently had the honor of working with embodied this philosophy perfectly. 
 

Let me first say, I adore these two and working with them was an absolute pleasure. I know Sarah and Rafael through the local storytelling show Testify and so I have known for some time Sarah has found a lot of joy in and a deep connection to birds. As she and Rafael grew in love, he also grew to share her deep respect for birds of all types. Which is one of the reasons that they chose to hold their intimate wedding ceremony at a local bird sanctuary. Chaetura Canyon is located just a 25-minute drive from downtown Austin, and while the facility is only open for special events and Travis Audubon programs, I recommend that you attend one of their programs if you love natural beauty.

 

Once Sarah and Rafael made the decision to include birds in their ceremony by holding it at a bird sanctuary, my work was set. How could we build a unique ceremony that incorporated their love of birds without beating the subject over the head? The beauty of a good symbol is that it has many interpretations; many points of potential connection. By subscribing specific meaning to a symbol, you can very quickly remove all its power.

When using a symbol in your ceremony, the goal should be to offer it to the event as openly and loosely as possible so that the symbol can expand and grow right along side you.  

The task for me as their counselor/artisian/celebrant was to find out what the bird means to them and where they find personal connection to the symbol, and then to build slowly and carefully from there. We started by collecting images, songs, and words that spoke to how they felt for one another.
 

 Photo credit Lowell Bartholomee

Photo credit Lowell Bartholomee

As I listened to them, I began to get some clarity. Rafael seemed to me to be a deeply visual person -- he connected with the natural beauty of the bird, with its softness and its motion. Sarah is a writer (check out her funny and insightful blog), so she seemed to really meet the bird in its story, in its character. 

After sorting through all the media we had shared, we all landed on a short story that featured a bird and that felt right. Sarah wrote up a beautiful retelling of it and we included it as a reading in the ceremony. That was the only direct mention of birds in the whole ceremony and it (along with the beautiful setting) was just enough to honor the symbol out without pushing it in everyone's face. 
 

Much like a bird, the symbol sat quietly and peacefully in the milieu of the event. The result was a wedding ceremony beautifully tailored to fit a creative and insightful couple. It was a joy to be a part of, and I wish these two "lovebirds" tons of goodness as they build their life together.

New Directions

I have decided to persue my LMFT license and to open a private therapy practice. This will be a long and expensive process, but I think it will ultimatly bring me more of the work I love.

It is a big transition for me and I am still in the planning stage. But it makes me wonder, what draws us to these transitions. I think we move towards a new phase of life when the old stuff is just not working for us any more.

I am reminded of that quote "And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.".- Anis Nin (who is also just the best writer ever)

Is it always pain that pushes us out to newness? If so, what funny creatures we are...stubborn and yet so hopeful.

I will keep the website updated with test results, suppervission decissions, and new office details. In the meantime, let me know...what motivates you to grow? to take risks? to blossom?

Somethings Happening Here

Is it just me, or have you been having an intense summer as well? 

So much sorrow and anger has been afoot in the world.

I wonder what exactly is happening, and then I remember that in transitions there are three phases. I'll remind you of them.

The first is Preparation; in which our false beliefs and old ways begin to crumble. The second is what I call a "Culminating Event"; the moment that time stops and it becomes clear that everything has changed. The third is the Acclimation phase; when life re-assembles around us and we piece our concept of self back together forming something the same and yet new. 

These phases may take various lengths of time or energy but they are none the less present in any transition. Even in natural science we can see these phases. A caterpillar first eats a great deal, then builds a cocoon, then emerges from the chrysalis as butterfly. Trees conserve their nutrients as their leaves turn yellow, then they slumber naked through the cold, and finally awake with new green. 

As I spin through this tumultuous summer of my own life, in our country, and abroad; I am prompted to consider that perhaps these are the birth pangs, the yellow dead leaves, of a global transition.

If so, and if we are on the cusp of some big shift (and I hope we are) then my work tells me that this is the time to be finding firm ground and consciously building the future. What kind of world is passing away? And what new one do we long for? 

Although life seems in chaos, it can be a time of great revision and perhaps even hope. 

Are you also feeling this pain of Preparation? Will you stand with me in these Culminating Events? Are you ready to Acclimate by taking clear, brave steps towards a bright tomorrow?

I am not sure what those steps look like to you but, if you know where the best parts of you want to go next...please...go there.

By listening to, and taking action from, our core selves we will slowly begin to shape all this murder and rage into creativity and connection.

The Soup Mama

*This story was written for a children's class on Self-Kindness. I would love to find an illustrator and editor to help self-publish it as a children's book. 

Once there was a family with lots and lots of children. The family was not wealthy

but they had plenty of love and all the children were happy because they

felt much loved.

There was a Mama who took care of all the children. Every night she gathered

together all the ingredients she could find to make soup, because a little soup

can feed a big group. She would cut up the potatoes, dice the tomatoes, brown

the onions, and add the water.

At supper time all the kids would sit around a big table and pass the soup pot.

They would each take a spoonful for their bowl and pass to the next kid. Every

night the pot would go around the table, and every night when it got back to

Mama it was empty. She would sit quietly and watch as her beloved children

laughed, talked and enjoyed the flavors of the soup.

 

Then, with full bellies, one of the kids would volunteer to do the dishes while the

others tidied the house for bedtime.

 

The next night Mama would once again gather ingredients for soup, because a

little soup can feed a big group. She would cut up the potatoes, dice the

tomatoes, brown the onions, and add the water. The kids would pass the pot and

by the time it got to Mama it was empty, so Mama would sit and soak up the joy of

her children as they laughed, talked and enjoyed the flavors of the soup.

 

It went on like this day after day for many years.

 

Then one day the littlest child grew old enough to notice the world.

“Mama” the Baby said, “you never eat any soup at dinner, don’t you get hungry?”.

The Mama laughed “of course I get hungry, Baby, and all the joy and love at our

table feeds my soul.”

“But Mama”, Baby asked “doesn’t your body get hungry?” (Baby had been

learning at school that all living things need nourishment to survive.)

Mama smiled. “Baby,” she said “I think it is time that you help me in the kitchen.

Will you help me make the soup tomorrow?”

Baby nodded yes. All the older brothers and sisters had helped at some

point, but this was the Baby’s first invitation to help.

 

The next night Mama called Baby to the kitchen as she started to gather the ingredients.

Baby watched as she cut up the potatoes and saw that as she cut them she ate

pieces of each one to make sure they were fully cooked. She handed Baby

some pieces to sample. The potatoes melted in Baby’s mouth.

Then Mama started to dice the tomatoes. Baby noticed as she lifted a few

handfuls to her mouth to savor the sweetness of the red fruit. She gave Baby

bites of tomato too, they tasted so good.

As Mama started to brown the onions, Baby watched her lean over the pot and

smell their spicy sweet aroma. She carefully lifted Baby over the pot to smell. It

was so good.

When she added the water she poured herself and her Baby a big cool glass to

enjoy while the pot bubbled. They drank the water together and Baby felt revived.

Then Baby laughed as Mama dipped her big cooking spoon in to the pot and

pulled out taste after taste for them to share. Baby could taste the soup

ingredients melding together as they took the spoonfuls in to their mouths.

When the time came to share the soup, Mama and Baby were already full- just

from cooking.

 

That night Baby sat at the table with all the brothers and the sisters. Baby watched as

they laughed and talked and enjoyed the flavors of the soup.

 

“Mama” said Baby “Thank you for inviting me to cook with you tonight, I have

never felt so full”

 

And Mama just smiled and kissed Baby’s head, then she sat back and quietly

watched as her beloved children laughed, talked and enjoyed the flavors of the

soup.

 

Reflection:

What did Mama do to keep herself from getting hungry?

What do you think would have happened to the children if Mama had really not

been eating all those years?

Have you ever had the experience of having to make your own meal or do

something good for yourself?

I wonder how taking good care of ourselves can help others.

Rituals for Pregnancy Loss

Rituals for Pregnancy Loss

There are experiences in life that change us.  A rite of passage takes a life changing experience out of the body, out of the secret, so that it can be seen clearly and moved through.