NonDuality and Me

What do you think of when you hear “spiritual counselor”? I’ll tell you what I think of; bible verses in the therapy room.
It conjures up for me a practice where a “guru” or “minister” tells you how to be. I think of the thousands of years of injury and oppression that religions, teaming with white supremacy and patriarchy, have inflicted upon the world. I think of the crusades, and AIDS, and Jonestown, and acculturation, and the gross injustice of the “power of positive thinking” movement. Ugh.

It isn’t a good look.

BUT

Heads up, I am going to start calling myself a spiritual counselor. I feel myself moving more and more in that direction…or rather I feel myself finally allowing that to be true. I am not sure what it means for my practice or my branding, but I think most you probably knew it before I did.
I recently found my typed notes from a course in grad school I took on non-duality. They are non-linear and unedited. Check it out.

Non-duality

Foundationaly important for how we work w clients

The tao that can be talked about is not the tao

"Not two" The end of the scriptures, end of knowledge, self knowledge in relation to everything. End or goal of spiritual questing. Is not two. Atman and bratman. Atman is individual continuousness, bratman is cosmic continuousness. Atman is bratman. Not two. Equal sign between them. Essentially saying “i am god, you are god.” Yoga is method prescribed for attaining this realization. Many different paths all yoga.

Artie Mandell physics, cosmology, quantum level or cosmic level things get strange. Consistent with Eastern traditions. Science has led us there as well.

"Both in and out of the game and wondering about it"...Whittman.

Put your self on in the morning. But we are not those things! We contain them all but are not them. For the forgetful as they put them selves on in the morning they have forgotten parts of them self so it is easier to see that they are not those things. Get out of yourself. Forgetting yourself is a fast way out. But sometimes it seems like people try to hold on to the shreds of themselves that are left. What makes that difference? How can we alleviate the holding on to self? By letting go of our own sense of self?
Modeling the deep belief that we are connected some how.
You are incarnate in the work.
Positive counter transference.

Both and...thinking. But it is pointed at the difference between self and other. It does and it doesn’t. Diagnosis is dualistic. I am not sick you are sick thinking is limited thinking. The expert position is Separating as opposed to we have a disease or something is happening here. Questions. Put myself in there quickly? Over shined? Can you help me? Safety when therapist joins? Because the field is not safe.

Within non dualism there is room for dualism?
The world is named and marked and it is also an illusion. The allegory of the cave.
Therapist shines light in the cave. That is all…
Cruel? Expert thinking? Who wants light shined in their cave?!
It is a shitty thing to do to someone! Especially at the end of their life when they are about to leave the cave! Or maybe the light revealing the cave makes it easier to leave the cave. No; just sit there with them.
They must do it themselves.

No one wants to be fixed, just loved!!!!!

Are we one or are we two? Are we neither or both? being witnessed will change the experience.

“I am connected to you” is dualistic. “I am you” is non duel. The frame is necessary for safety. Boundaries are important, dualistic thinking is useful? Relationship is dualistic. To call nondualistic good is to call dualism bad. That creates a split. My greatest tool is my self... And you.
Comparing non-duel vs. duel seems ridiculous. Be in the world and not of it! Have and don’t own. Can't i believe in a non duel reality and a duel reality? I am self and i am not; God in three persons. They are both true! I am both separate and i am connected.
It is both the beginning and the end.

Caspar David Friedrich_-_Der_Mönch_am_Meer - The Monk By the Sea

Caspar David Friedrich_-_Der_Mönch_am_Meer - The Monk By the Sea

Warmth. The music behind the words. Freud actually said, "it is love that heals"…
What brings you peace, beloved client? "interconnectedness"
I want to be of service.
Genevieve, you see all of this and can you use it?
Non-duality is both everything and every thing.

As a therapist, and a celebrant, my work is to lovingly and patiently awaken clients to their own truth. However, it is also to help them realize their role in creating that truth and to dip toes in the deep waters of unknowing. That sounds pretty spiritual to me, y’all.

I believe that all therapeutic work is spiritual work, because true healing happens across all the plains of life; physical, mental, emotional, social, etc.; and that includes spiritual!

Yep, best to call a spade a spade; I am a spiritual counselor. I agree to own all of that label. I can hold the duality of religion; it’s ability to both heal and hurt. I keep awareness on the lineage I come from; there is a nasty kind of danger in stepping into a power that has long been abused. I know the history of this work isn’t clean. In fact, Spirituality isn’t clean at all (why should it be?). IT IS DIRTY WORK… But it is real, and it is important ,and it is clearly who I am.

So, send me your outcasts, your empaths, and your creative types; those longing for love and connection with their own souls. I am ready to sit in the cave with them and see what we uncover.


Labyrinth Lover

Sometimes folks ask me, “why the labyrinth?'“. I love the shape and look of a labyrinth, and I think it covers a good deal of what my practice is. It is about consciousness, in that it is based in a meditative practice. It is creative in that each labyrinth is designed and created to sit in its unique world and serve its community. Change is goal of each labyrinth as it invites us to walk on a journey of transformation.

If you live in Austin and would like to walk a labyrinth, the link below is a list of places you can meet a labyrinth and explore it yourself.

https://labyrinthlocator.com/locate-a-labyrinth?city=austin&state=TX&simple_results=no&action=locate&offset=0

Marriage and Love

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I write and perform a lot of weddings. I also do a good deal of couples counseling AND I happen to be married myself, so to say marriage is something I think a-lot about would be putting it lightly.

Perhaps that is why this episode of the Hidden Brain podcast from last year struck me so deeply.

https://www.npr.org/2018/02/12/584531641/when-did-marriage-become-so-hard

I think it should be required listening for all of us who think a-lot about marriage. And may we all find our way to the top of the mountain.

Enjoy, Genevieve

Art of the Heart

These were made for the Art of the Heart Workshop 2019. Mixed and recorded by Genevieve and Amber for our friends.


Spiral Meditation.

Find a quiet spot, grab a journal, and enjoy.

PAINTING MEDITATION.

Set up some art supplies; paint, water, brushes, and canvas in a beautiful spot.

DANCING Meditation.

Find a private place where you have space to move.

apothecary..tea.

Honestly, you can’t do this one at home without a lot of set up…but it is cool.

The Art of Giving and Receiving

Most of us get overwhelmed by gift giving this season.

We thoughtlessly bumble about collecting items that may somehow represent our social relationships and obligations; or worse we spend hours shopping for just the right thing for those we love to no avail.

It can be quite the rollercoaster! …not to mention the sometimes awkward and often painful feelings that can come up as we give our gifts and watch others open them.

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Oh, then there is all the emotional baggage we can feel in that moment when someone hands US a gift.

Yikes!

Do we have to?

Well, yes, we probably do.

So how can we survive…and maybe even thrive through the process?

Here are a few little rituals you can fold into your gifting routines. It is late for Chanukah this year (sorry!), but hopefully these can help those of us with Christmas shopping still to do.

Oh, and maybe circle back here when it is birthday time?

GIVING

  • Breathe- before you step into the store or open up the browser; take a second. Connect with your breath in whatever way you do so and let your breath support your process.
    Notice how it changes and flows as you peruse and collect.
    Let your breath guide you.

  • Set a budget- Making the simple decision of how much you want to spend before you begin can shift the experience. Set a budget not just over all, but per person. (maybe that feels icky to you… ask yourself why?)
    Money is a symbol and if you can invite yourself to consciously unpack it a bit, it will loom less threatening over the shopping experience.
    Remember, how much money you spend is not a sign of how much love you feel…unless you want it to be.

  • Dedicate time- Go ahead and care for yourself by scheduling shopping/creating, and wrapping sessions.
    Your time is valuable and it is part of the gift.
    If you can set aside time to focus your full attention on the process, it may lead to a more enjoyable and mindful gifting practice.
    Maybe even light a candle as you settle in to wrap, little rituals like that matter.

  • Detox- What do you do to release tension? Yoga? baths? walks? work outs? cooking? crafting?
    Try setting aside a space to do so more often than usual during gifting season.

  • Use Santa Claus-  Humans creatd these archetypes for a reason. The idea or spirit of Santa/St. Nick can help us get through this.
    Call on him to inspire you. Maybe when you see Santa out and about he is pointing the way to mindfulness as you give. Sit down and meditate with him; ask Santa what it means to give.
    When you feel worried about how your gifts will be received channel some Santa spirit and give anonymously or with no strings attached.
    Not a fan? What other holiday archetype can you draw in? (Frosty, elves, Rudolph, temple keepers lighting candles, baby Jesus or Mother Mary, sheep, angels, etc.)

  • How to let yourself off the hook- Sitting around and worrying about what to get someone is torturous. So much so that many of us simply ask for lists from loved ones so that we don’t have to guess what they might like, or maybe we just give money or gift cards in hopes that the gift receiver will unburden us of our work by just buying themselves something. That is fine, but it isn’t the right choice in all relationships.
    Love is hard, brave, work and part of that is tolerance of getting it wrong sometimes. 
    No need to fret if you can’t find the right gift to express your love You don’t have to make the other person do your work for you!
    Do this instead; take out a piece of paper. find something to write or draw with. imagine the receiver, imagine them feeling the way you would like them to feel when they open your gift. Draw a large heart on the paper. At the bottom of the page write “I.O.U.”. Put the heart in an envelope write their name on it. If the big day rolls around and you still haven’t found an appropriate gift, give them the envelope. Tell them you love them, that their gift will come later. Trust that you will find it some day. Wait. See their gift randomly. buy it or make it. give it to them immediately. Hugs. 
    See, it is okay to think outside the box.

RECIEVING

  • Breathe- Use your breath to guide you through the receiving process.
    Let it hold you as you open your heart and let the love flow through you like air.

  • Imagine a Wall- If you feel overwhelmed by the energy of others coming your way via gifts, this one is for you.
    Before you go into an experience where you know you will be given gifts, build some rudimentary imaginary boundaries. Make one very permeable, like a line drawn on the ground. Make one semi permeable, like a picket fence. Then build a very strong fortified one, like out of brick. Once they are imagined, add a gate or doorway in each one. Again the gate should reflect the level of security needed per wall.
    Then as you receive each gift, imagine it must pass through one of these walls to reach you.
    You decide what gets past the boundary and into your world.

  • USE SANTA, Y’ALL!- When was the last time you visited Santa? You know he (the US postal service) receives letters from grown ups sent to the North Pole too? Find a fun way to tell Santa what you really want for Christmas.
    If you get your hopes and desires out of the way, perhaps your heart can be more open to receive.
    Maybe you will find that what you really want for Christmas isn’t things, but experiences or feelings…that is cool to know.

  • Thank you notes- At the least, say thanks (I am a mom so I know that it doesn’t always come naturally, generate that thank you!). Consider writing individual notes to those who gave to you, or even thank you emails and texts.

    This old tradition really can close the whole process when done thoughtfully.
    No need to fret about what to say, we live in an age of emojis!

  • Practice- Breathe. Open your palms. Imagine a bright light flowing from your heart center down your arm and into your hand. hold it there for a second. Let it warm your skin. Then thoughtfully transfer it to your other palm. relieve it. hold it there for a second. Let it warm your skin. Allow it to flow up your arm and in to your heart center. Breathe.
    (repeat as needed)
    If it is helpful you can also do this exercise with an actual item in your hand; like a marble, a candle, or a flower bud.

Please use and edit these ideas in what ever way works for you!

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Regardless, just setting the goal to keep your heart open and your thoughts grounded as you give and receive will transform your experience.

Thanks for making time to be thoughtful.

May the warmth of generosity and the awareness of abundance flow through you this holiday season and every day.

-Genevieve

PSA from Thunderstorms (and a free power up ceremony)

There is nothing like a Texas thunderstorm. The hot wind knocking at oak trees and beating rain on rooftops are powerful reminders of the force of nature.

Thunderstorms can cause a great deal of destruction; knocking down trees, damaging road ways, flooding homes, and even in extreme cases taking human lives.

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However, the flip side of a storm is that it quenches a dry and thirsty earth, supplying the landscape with new life and refreshing water.

The overall message of the storm is a simple one; power can be destructive and/or it can be rejuvenating. Much like a thunderstorm, we each have the ability to do both great harm and great good in this world with our thoughts and actions.

I think that we all need to be taught (or reminded) just how magnificent we are. We need to be told from the very beginning and everyday there after that we are indeed powerful. Often we get the opposite message, we are told we are not enough, that we are at the whim of circumstance and fate. But this is a lie, no matter how the world has tried to disempower us, each of us is a remarkable being capable of moving mountains.

You are powerful. I am powerful. We are powerful. The way we think, move, and relate has an impact on the world around us.

Take a second…notice your own power. Just bring your awareness to it. Where is it in your body? In your thoughts? How does it manifest? Get to know it…please.

Because most importantly, we are not actually thunderstorms. We are conscious beings and we have choice in how we put our power to use. We can use the agency and magnificence we have how ever we like.

What will you choose? How will you take action in the world, in your own life, in your body. What ever you choose, please do it consciously from a place of truly knowing who you are and what you are capable of, because if you come at life “disempowered” you are destined to wreak havoc.

There is another way.

When we become aware of, embrace, and respect our personal power then we can (each of us) water the earth with our powerful love.


The following is a brief ceremony you can do to get in touch with your own power

POWER UP

  • read the whole ceremony before you start and make an amendments that you like

  • Start by picking the right time to do this ceremony. perhaps during a thunderstorm?

  • Make sure you dress in something that makes you feel very much like “you”.

  • Pick a space where you already feel safe and empowered. This could be in your home or workplace, just make sure you won’t be interrupted for a few minutes.

  • Gather: a candle, a lighter or matches, a piece of jewelry or a stone that you like and can wear or carry with you as needed, something sweet to eat and some favorite music of yours…perhaps a power ballad?


    dim the lights and light a candle.

    As you light the candle invite in protection and resource to guide you. You can say something like “I open to my resources and my wisdom. I am safe and protected in this space.”

    Allow your self to sit in front of the flame of the candle and look into it.

    Contemplate. Ask yourself these questions one at a time and sit quietly until you get a reply to before you move on to the next. Feel free to read the list as you go or even to briefly write the answers that come to you down in a journal.

    How am I like this light?

    What parts of me get lit up easily?

    How do I feel and think when i am lit up?

    How do I act when I am lit up?

    What holds me back from feeling lit up or empowered all the time?

    How can I lovingly move those limits out of the way for now?

    What does it feel like to be limitless?

    What would change if I could limitless all the time?

    Do I want that?

    Take the piece of jewelry or the stone and hold it over the flame as you say the following or something like “ This is mine and mine alone. I fill it now with light and resource. Let it radiate, let the heat of my own power warm it. This is mine and mine alone. May it warm me on cold days. May it remind my wandering thoughts of their own power. May it slow my actions towards wisdom. This is mine and mine alone. I am limitless.”

    Take a deep breath

    Feel the power of your own body, your thoughts, and your emotions as they are right now. Know that what ever you feel is enough and it is real.

    Feel gratitude as you put the jewelry item on or place the stone in a safe pocket to be carried with you as needed.

    Prepare to close your ceremony. Say this or something like it “I close this time in gratitude. I am safe and protected always.”

    blow the candle out.

    watch the smoke until it dissipates.


  • Afterwards and as you clean up eat something sweet or listen to some empowering music. Maybe a dance party?






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.

Stages of Change Chart.jpg

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.