Rooted&Open

Root into the body and open the spirit to heal

Stories Within: Julie LoGreco

For my second interview I had the privilege to sit with the lovely Julie LoGreco. Julie has been married to her husband  Shane for 13 years.  She is mother to two children, a 7 year old daughter and 5 year old son.

 If you don't know Julie you are missing out on such a present, gentle, heart opened soul. I have had the pleasure to know Julie for a couple years now and every time I see her I leave feeling a bit lighter.

How long have you lived in Bend?

We have lived in Bend for two go rounds. We moved here in the very end of 2010. We lived here for about 2 years. My son was born here. Then, Shane got a job offer back in Portland in October of 2012. So, we moved back to Portland and did that whole thing and missed Bend. Then,  I got a job where I could work from anywhere. So we just decided, let's get out of dodge. We came back out for a look around trip and ended up putting an offer on a house that weekend. So this coming July we will have been here two years. So we lived here for two years, left for two years, and we've been back for two years.

What was it about Bend that drew you?

 Shane was born here so we had vacationed here and  I love the landscape here. Initially, it was that feeling of being on vacation.. Once we moved here that continued to appeal to me. Just the ease, everything here feels easier to me. Especially since we lived in the suburbs of Portland. Even when we moved back the second time, it shocked me again. When I go to the doctor it takes me five minutes. So I end up showing up everywhere 30 minutes early.  So, we spend a significant amount of less time in the car. It puts time back into our lives. Which is good because things seem a little more simple. Activities here in community tend to center around outside. It's a lot less going, doing, and buying. It just seems simpler for us.

Sounds like you value simplicity?

Simplicity, yes. I really value simplicity. Also too, I had a really good girlfriend that lived in Portland the same time as us. We lived on opposite ends of town. We never saw her because she lived in Milwaukie and we lived in Hillsboro/Beaverton. We had to be serious about wanting to see each other. They just moved to town last year and w still live in opposite end of Bend. She lives in NW and we live in SW, but we see each other all the time. It's so much easier to connect and be connected.

What's your community like here in Bend?

That's a good question. I think I'm still working on building that. That's been the hardest part because we left family behind. We have friends and we're meeting friends. However, there is something about family that you can call and just say, 'hey, I just like need to leave my kids for two hours,.' you know? You have to try to build that here. We're slowly doing that. Having that friend move to town was great and meeting other moms. With the kids being in school I have started to build some of those relationships. You know those friends that also give support. My friendships are still in evolution.

Would you say you are building most of your community with people from your kids schools?

Yes, school or I've meet people through activities I've done in the community. You know, you meet people, but taking the leap to invite them into my life, my home can be hard.

Actually, when we moved here I was working from home in a very corporate job. I didn't interact with people. That was hard because I didn't have a work place to go to. Since I've started a business that's allowed me to connect. I still work from home, but I am so much more out in the community and people are in my space more too, a lot more.

Tell me about this business.

It's LuLaRoe. It's direct sales. I had a girlfriend that was doing it in town. When I first thought about doing that I had the hebegebes. I don't want to sell anything to anybody. Which is funny because in my adult career I was a recruiter. Which if you strip it all away I'm a sales person in a way.

So, I watched my friend sale LuLaRoe for awhile. People who know me well, like my best friends are shocked that I did it because I am risk adverse. I've done the same thing always. It just seemed like it would be fun in a way that I have not had fun in a really long time. There was something that really nagged at me to just do it and go for it.  You feel that little space inside yourself that feels a little giddy when you think about doing something. I can't push that aside, but at the time I had been having a lot of health problems. It just felt like I needed to follow the good stuff. I need to seek out joy a little more in my life. For me it didn't seem as much like a business opportunity. It seemed like a way to pursue something that would bring me joy and playfulness in my life. So yeah, it turned into a legit business now. Which is amazing and life changing and we're still trying to figure out what all that means.

Thinking about doing LuLaRoe you had that excitement in your body. Since you weren't feeling well you wanted to find that excitement and joy? Now that you are doing it, do you still feel that excitement and joy doing it?

I do. I was just on the phone with a friend this morning talking about this. I think, I do so much with it being a full fledge business, now there are piece I do feel not as excited about. I'm shipping things, you know, some of the administrative things. I've started to think about hiring somebody to help me. The good pieces still feel really good. There will always be things that feel like doing laundry.

Tell me about the good pieces.

For me, it woke up a piece in myself that I forgot was there. I've been doing this job I didn't love for so long. I was good at it, but I just didn't love it. I didn't feel super engaged. I think I forgot that I'm good at connecting with people. I think I forgot a lot of pieces of myself that I was good at. Which is probably what attracted me to recruiting in the first place. So, getting to see myself in a different way has been powerful. I have connected to so many people and I feel I've been able to make an impact in people's lives through dresses and leggings.  Just that connection and building community with people in that way. It's been a transformational experience that I didn't expect.

I love how you help women to feel beautiful.

Yeah, thinking about my experience with recruiting, sometimes you go through the motions and you lose connection with yourself. At least I can be that way, walking through life getting to the next place. I think that the ability to connect with other women and  to feel beautiful in your clothes shows you there is a place for everyone. You know I carry things that are all sizes and shapes.

I just think for me its important to connect with people from the place of authenticity. I think that's a big reason why I can be successful and engaged.  I am making this really authentic connection with people. I've been face timing with this woman in Tennessee. She's older and she said she hasn't liked to shop or get dressed in over 20 years. She said I make her excited to do that again and those are the pieces that motivate me. To be able to bring a little bit of that into some peoples lives. Going back to those pieces I forgot about myself.  That ability to connect and have a meaningful, authentic interaction. This is with something that brings in income. So to have that all wrapped up in one package is kinda cool.

It sounds like you've had a lot going on with moving, having kids, health challenges, starting this new business.  What has shifted and changed in you from all of these transitions?

Oh, gosh....everything. Well,  to start off with having the kids. I truly feel motherhood, with my first child, that moment of giving birth to her was my one major transformation moment in my life. In my psyche, my spiritual life, in everything it was really powerful. I guess it seems obvious. So much of my personality and the way I see the world shifted. It was a spiritually transformational experience. Not just becoming a mother, but the physical act of childbirth too. Something just shifted inside of me. It almost feels like I've been two people or lived two lives. That was the start of the second part for me.

With the health challenges I've had, that's been a huge shift. It forces you to slow down. This a big reason why I took this risk on my business and shifted my career. When you have an illness it pushes you into places you normally wouldn't go.

Yeah, motherhood has been an incredible transformation and these last couple of years of navigating through who am I.  An illness will strip you of a lot of the things you think you are. For me, both of those things were huge catalysts of moving into the next place I need to be.

Are they bringing you closer to yourself?

Oh yeah, I think so. Certainly with my children, they bring me to my most center of myself. I don't know if everyone experiences this where their kids do this to them, they are able to melt away insecurities and structures that I view myself as. They kind of just melt away a lot of that.

What is it like for you to be a parent and have health challenges?

It's hard. Just from a physical standpoint. the physicality it takes to be with kids and be present for them, the energy.

I had my daughter and she is such an easy child. She goes with the flow, go anywhere with me, she likes to be with adults, likes to be quiet. My son is a ball of energy that can really push the limits for the capacity I can handle. I think physically it can be really challenging. Also, the uncertainty that comes with an illness, especially one that is mysterious and can't quite put your finger on. It strips you of the ability to be certain about anything. My personality is one where I want to be certain about things. I want to be in order and know what to expect. All those things make me feel secure. Going through this has been a teacher that life is not certain. Being able to be with my kids and be with myself when everything isn't prescribed and stable when I don't know what next week looks like.

That makes me wonder what it is like for you emotionally? You are in the place of having to surrender constantly, having to really be in the moment to appreciate it or even give into it. Has that been hard for you emotionally?

Yes, tremendously. It had not been in my nature to do that when it comes to the nitty gritty of doing that. I think kids do that to you, but to a whole other level. When things were first going on and we didn't know what was happening my brain was like a caged animal. I was constantly racked with a lot of anxiety. All I wanted was to know what was going on. Circling over that, over and over again you get to the point where it's an exercise in surrendering. I'm certainly not perfect at it, but it's amazing to look at what that was like two years ago and what it's like now. I am more able to find a place of peace in my mind.

Are the extracurricular activities you are doing helping you? Does it help you to feel more centered?

Yeah, totally.  I think coming here everything was happening at once. So I really sought out opportunities in community, ways to connect back with myself. A lot of those activities felt like work to me. You know to sit and be still. I'm the person who in my natural being wants to go, go, go and achieve, achieve. So to sit and be, and look at it as worth while work is challenging for me. But, no doubt all of those things have helped me.

What has been the most impactful spiritual practice you have adopted into your life?

Oh goodness. I think that this group I go to twice a month. We call it a presence in healing group. It's other women and one man. I think the opportunity to sit in circle with other people and drop into myself, be present with others as they do that was a very uncomfortable practice for me to begin with. It has now become something I crave. Its interesting, I'll be away or have shifted enough that it becomes painful again. It's constantly evolving, but it's been a really valuable tool for me. Learning how to tune into myself and sit with things.  Things that are uncomfortable is so much about the illness.

That's powerful. 

To not make things go away. I tend to be like, I need to fix it. I need to make it go away or solve it. So learning to sit with things and be with things is my practice.

It's ok that it's not perfect. It's ok when it's messy.

Yes. Even when it's really uncomfortable, painful, and bad I think the lesson is to muck through that and be with that, instead of avoid It, has been powerful.

Have you found a community within this group?

Yeah, I've found some community with people who are consistently there. Although people ebb and flow out too which is part of the lesson too. You know, how do I react to that new energy that just came in. 

Coming back to what about Bend, in Portland everything was just so spread out. It was harder to find those places of being. There is just so much more opportunity here to find space with peopleand to connect more intentionally.

If you want to check out Julie's LuLaRoe threads here is her Facebook page.

https://www.facebook.com/LuLaRoeJulieLoGreco/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stories Within: Heather Smith Kinnard

I'm starting a new two part storytelling series. The first part of the series is this, writing blogs about moms in my community. The other part of this series is a monthly event where women gather together to listen to the oral stories of other women. My intention behind this series is to give women, specifically mothers, a platform to be seen and heard. I'm interested in finding ways for mothers to step into their fullest self.

Since I'm a mom and I work directly with moms I feel like I understand the stories of mothers. From my perspective mothers are pretty invisible. Not only do mothers see themselves as "Jack's mom" they also tend to see other mothers as "the stay at home mom,' "the breastfeeding mom," "the soccer mom,"  you get the idea, we loos our identity. Often many moms end up putting self limiting labels on their self and other women. I think these labels create division, not connection. So, it is my intention to help moms to see themselves in other moms whom they think they don't share much in common. I hope that each story told, heard, or read brings an understanding that we are much more a like, sharing similar fears, triumphs, struggles, and joys.

For my first Story Within I had the pleasure of meeting Heather. Heather is a mother to two children ages 1 and 4. She works full time at the hospital as a registered nurse and runs her own business Fit4Mom. Heather and I have been Facebook friends for a while now, but have never meet in person. I was struck by how sweet, open, and engaging Heather was. Talking with her felt so natural and easy. Her willingness to allow herself to be seen really touched me. If this interview is any indication of the potential of what this series will be I am super excited because this interview really touched me.

How long have you lived in Bend?

We've lived in Bend for about 2.5 years.

Where did you move here from?

Southern California. We lived in the high desert Victorville/Hesperia area our whole lives.

What brought you to Bend?

We were looking for a better place to raise our kids. We loved being near our family. We loved the weather and the beach, which is what we miss the most about being here. But, we were looking for a slower pace and we had family here. We came to visit and just loved it.

Are you happy with the move?

Yes! Absolutely! It's been difficult. We've had a couple bumps along the way. I think we are coming out of that now. We are feeling like we belong here.

With moving you lose your community. How has it been building a community here?

When we first moved here, within the first 2 weeks of being here I found out I was pregnant with our second. It was really hard. I had a brand new job. I didn't really know anybody. Didn't have as much family here. It's been difficult.

In the last couple months I started my own business.  It's called Fit4Mom. We are doing exercise classes. That has helped me to start creating my own space and help other people to create community as well. It's helped me create community for myself and given me a purpose here. So that's been good.

It's been hard. It's hard to move to a new place, we don't know anybody and with a new baby. I'm still working on it. It's a work in progress.

It is. Do you have at least a couple close friends?

I would say so, yeah. It's help it to feel more like home. But, having kids is hard and it can be isolating, even though we don't mean it to be. I think about how we have tiny babies and we want to stay home because we don't want them to get sick or whatever. When what we are actually doing is making it harder for us to be healthy by keeping everybody inside the house. So, it's been a good experience for me to learn how to make friends. And to seek people out who I normally wouldn't ask for help or say,  "Hey can you meet me somewhere because I had a rough night. I didn't sleep and I just need to see an adult."

Do you consider yourself an extrovert? Is that easy for you to do?

No, not at all. I'm absolutely an introvert. The way I recuperate and rejuvenate is with alone time. So it's hard to say, ok , well I have a little bit of time and I need something, I need some self care. To say, well I have been in the house with the kids all day, or I've been alone. What I have to say is what I really need is adult time with another human. Even though I like being alone and that's something I need I feel better in a sense it is also important to have connection. That's been definitely since being a mom that that's changed. I have to actively say, ok this is what I need to do today,.I need to connect with another person. I need to connect with other moms. Other people who have been here and felt these things, it's been incredibly helpful for me.

What inspired you to start your Fit4Moms business?

I'm a nurse. I've been a nurse for about 8 years. I naturally like to care for people. Since moving here, having kids and having another baby I became really passionate about women and especially new moms. I went through postpartum depression and anxiety with both babies and I am still struggling with that. I was thinking about something I could do to help moms and to be able to reach out to create something to help them be healthier. This just sort of fell on my lap. At first I was really nervous because I was like I don't look like a fitness instructor. Are people going to look at me and say her muscles aren't big enough? It was a lot of confidence issue for me. I really had to work through some things and I kind of got over that.  It's been a way for me to help moms to connect with each other, which is really awesome for me to see. I get to make meaningful connections with the moms that come. They get to connect with each other and that is really awesome for me to see. I think also to create a space where we say sometimes we're a mess, it's not always perfect. Life isn't as nice as our Instagram feeds are. It's ok to show up and be tired and to walk while the rest of us do our work out. That's ok to feel sad sometimes. It's ok to show up and say I'm not here 100%, we're going to carry you along the way.  It's empowering to say we are here for you no matter what. Not being an extrovert and not one of those people who say, come into my space and let's hang out. It's really nice to feel that for the first time., to be able to witness that.  So, it's kind of transformed itself into something different.  It's another way to take care of people besides being a nurse in a different way. It feels good.

It sounds like another way to take of yourself.

Absolutely! Yeah, we're coming together for a workout obviously. We're getting outside. The babies are playing with each other. The kids get socialization and fun. They sing songs and they have a good time with each other and they make friends. It's community too.

How many ladies do you have show up usually?

We are just starting. Usually between 4-10 a couple days a week so far. We've had moms with 6 week olds. My four year old is usually the oldest. So a big age range, but we're in the same place in life. It's really nice to meet with other ladies in the same spot as you and they understand what you're going through.

You go to work everyday, you're around a lot of people who don't understand why you so tired. Well it's because I got up 14 times last night.  I'm tired today or I'm just not feeling super happy today and that's ok too. Especially have struggled with postpartum depression.  I'm really passionate about not making it taboo to talk about.

Can we talk about that?

Absolutely! Yeah!

I would love to hear a little bit of your experience with postpartum depression. You had it with both kids?

Both kids. First one I had a really hard delivery and a really hard recovery. Coming out of that I don't know I recognized the symptoms as early as I probably could have. Being a nurse I sort of feel like I can handle it myself. When I did go to the doctor and they ask you those perfunctory questions. You know, how are you feeling and all of that. I knew what she was asking and I knew what I was answering wrong, but I gave her the untruthful answers purposely.

So you would seem ok?

Absolutely because I wasn't willing to admit that I wasn't feeling like I should. I felt guilty like 100% guilty. I have this baby we are both happy and everything is great and I shouldn't be feeling this way. So I struggled for a long time kind of quietly. It took a while, but I came out of it. Everything kind of worked itself out.

How did you come out of it? Can you tell me a little bit about that.

Time and realizing what was important for me for self care. That's been really big with both kids for helping myself to heal. Figuring out what helps me to feel healthy and really keying in on those things. For me it's sleep. Sleep is really big. Eating better, getting some exercise, and alone time. Those things I just know I need to feel my best. It wouldn't have taken so long if I would have asked for help. If I would have known it was ok to say, "I'm not ok."

The second baby came and I immediately knew what was going on, but it was much much worse, much more severe. She slept a lot worse, so I wasn't getting sleep. Having two kids, living in a new place where I didn't know anybody and working full time. It was bad, but I was willing to ask for help the second time. I knew what was going on. I think being in a different place and me being stronger in who I was, or just being able to say , I'm not willing to feel like this for as long.

Knowing what it felt like to be a mom and be happy, I knew that it (PPD) was not a normal feeling. Having already felt what it felt like to be happy and adjusted as a mom, that was helpful. I also had a couple friends that had been through it also, so we were willing to talk about that. They were encouraging me to talk to the doctor. For me that was what was helpful in the end. Getting more sleep, eating better and exercising, getting alone time, taking warm showers, all those things, but also for me medication has helped.

Yeah.  I'm glad you said that.

Yeah and it's not taboo. It's ok to take medicine for a little while. Just a little while, it doesn't have to be forever. Even if it is forever, ok that's fine, but there's no shame taking medication. Help yourself to feel better because I'm a mom now and I can be a better wife, friend. I can love myself better with a little medication. It helps me to be able to move forward and find those other ways that help myself feel better. I think it's really a two part thing.

It sounds like the medication gave you the strength to do what you wanted and needed to do?

Absolutely, yeah. When you are kind of in the thick of it, you're in the valley and it's really hard to see how you are going to pull yourself out of it. So, for me the medication helped pushed me out of that just enough where I could see light. Ok, now what I am going to do today is I'm going to go to my husband and say I'm going to go to the gym for an hour while you are with the kids. I'm going to take a shower, you take this one. You know to just ask for what I needed. To be strong enough to take what I needed. Instead of giving and giving all the time. I say this is what I am going to take.

How has practicing these skills changed you?

I think it's made me a better person. A more adjusted and happy person to say this is what I need too. It's made me a better mom because I think I can teach my daughter to be ok with saying this is what I need. Your whole life doesn't have to be about everyone around you being happy for you to be happy too. I think it's changed how I interact with other people. I think it's made me be able to encourage other women and other moms to do that too. That's been good.

Sounds like that would be helpful in the work you are doing with moms?

Yes, I hope so. I think in a sense what we are doing is self care. We all are going to meet and we are all going to work out because it's important for us to get outside and it's important for us to move.  So that's a good way.  Hey just come work out with us.  Whatever you can bring today, just bring that. However, it's important to decide what you need and do it. That doesn't mean you have to be kid free. Sometimes we don't have the option to be kid free. That's ok, so we can bring our kids with us. they can have a good time and we can also get what we need.

It sounds lovely.

It's fun, it's been good. My youngest is almost two and it's taken a long time. I still take medicine

It's taken longer to balance after your second?

Absolutely! I think being in a space of not having a community when she was first born made it a lot harder. So, if I can create a space for women when their babies are born, just a place to come and hear that other people have been what they've been through and to make it not something we don't talk about. It's ok to say I'm not feeling very good.  I'm not feeling like I should and it's ok to say that and to say that to somebody else and to have them say, "I've been there too let's talk about it."

The more you share your story you are giving other women the courage to be vulnerable in their own story and their own experience in it. That's powerful.

Yes, absolutely.

 

To find out more about Fit4Mom check out Heather's website.

http://oldmilldistrict.fit4mom.com/our-team

If you want to be featured in a Story Within write up please email rootedandopen@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

Retreat Believer

Here is a blog written by Rhea Grogan, one of the organizers of Sacred Mothers Retreat.

Upon beginning my two night stay in an Elk Lake cabin with 12 other women, I thought myself very clear on the benefits of retreats. This one was called Walking in Wisdom. I was ready to get wiser. I’d been to summer camps as a kid and love me some self-reflection. I looked forward to yoga, discussion, and nature. As a cofounder of Sacred Mothers Retreat, I was certain a retreat would be re-energizing. And Lord knows, I needed some sleeps away from my energetic toddlers who love to see Mama in the middle of the night.

I started the weekend thinking it possible I would rejuvenate as much as my previous mini vacays with girlfriends. There would be the usual insane dichotomy of my Mama heart: I’d get time for glorious zzzzzs but wouldn’t remember how to sleep. I’d thrive in connection with adults, but thoughts of my kids growing without me would tug and distract. It would feel incredible to finish a sentence, complete a thought, attend to my own needs, move my own body-- but I would miss the touch of my babes to make my hands, my lap, my lips feel at home. Even with the crazy internal Mama split, I knew I would return from two nights in the woods with new energy for my husband and children. It would be nice.

Upon ending my weekend in retreat, I was no longer split. Through deep inner reflection, authentic connection with self, nature, and incredible women, I experienced a rejoining of my body, mind, and spirit. “It would be nice” turned into “retreats must be prescribed by doctors and covered by health insurance.” Retreats* are not just mini vacations. Retreats* are vital to our health and balance. Saying vacations and retreats are similar ways to escape is like saying Folgers Instant Coffee and freshly ground Italian espresso are similar ways to get a morning buzz. Same idea, vastly different experience and effect.

Vacations are about fun and relaxation. There may be a list of sites to see and exciting new activities which often result in a packed schedule. Often vacations include rich and yummy foods, overeating, and an extra drink or three. Exercise may be postponed and self-care routines thrown out the window. Post-vacation rejuvenation feels more like post-vacation sludge-nation. Retreats* are about fun, relaxation, and HEALING. We slow down, we listen. We return to simple self-care. Planned activities have one goal: nourish and re-energize one important person. Hello sleep, nourishing food, exercise, nature. Hi there Self, what is it you need in order to shine and thrive?

Vacations are with people we know and love. These may be people with whom we share history (baggage?) and dynamics and roles. Whether we notice or not, our most intimate relationships likely hold a mirror that reflects only pieces of us: a role we play, a part we assume by habit. Retreats* are with people we DON’T know. Well, at the very least, they are with people who are like-minded in their intentions. In a retreat environment, there is a special opportunity to shed our masks and come closer to who we are authentically, in the present.  The nurturing space of a retreat encourages unmuddied introspection as well as unbiased outer reflection. The bonds formed through this experience can be nourishing, truthful, and lasting.

Vacations are planned by us. Decisions are required for logistics, coordination, food and all the details of travel. Retreats* are planned FOR us. Show up, choose a bed, eat nourishing food, follow a loose schedule. Outside a small list of supplies, just bring a heart. Freedom from the details creates that magical space to answer “what do I desire in this moment?”

Vacations may have unexpected expenses. As much as we try to stick to a spending goal, restaurant meals, last minute souvenirs, and extra drinks often sneak up—and blow up—the budget. Retreats* INCLUDE all the expenses. Lodging, meals, and entertainment fall under one fixed price tag. Not hard to stick to the dollars we intended to spend. And talk about bang for your buck!

Vacations are for a shared experience. They’re for creating memories, sharing adventures, and deepening bonds with family or friends. We devote energy to fantastic photos for posting on social media. We see new places, learn new things, have great stories to tell. Retreats* are for YOU. The Walking in Wisdom retreat gave me the space (literal and figurative) to remember and reclaim, reconnect and reenergize the Self I so often neglect in the face of attending to my children, my family, and the outer world. It was exactly what I needed to come back inside myself. That reconnection has strengthened my dearest relationships. An experience intended for me had a noticeable reward for my family. And I don’t have one picture because I was living the moments instead of recording them.

I’m not the boss of you. I can’t tell you what to do. But, I’m a retreat believer. If you’re a mom, a woman—heck, if you’re a human functioning in the modern world, I know what you need. YOU MUST RETREAT. Moms have an intense urgency. Moms need retreats bad. The weight of fatigue, expectations, guilt, fogginess, overwhelmed-ness, not-enough-ness and all the other ‘nesses can begin to bog down our souls. Without noticing, our joy, compassion, self-acceptance, and faithful embrace of life can become dull and disconnected. It feels more like surviving than thriving. How do we bring the joy back? How do we step back into ourselves? How do we feel less alone?  How do we thrive once again?

The prescription is retreat. The pill is You.

* When I talk about retreats, I am referring to retreats like Walking in Wisdom and Sacred Mothers Retreat. These retreats are intentional spaces for empowering women to reconnect with their highest Selves.

Circles are important for Moms

Circles are gathering places of deep wisdom, healing, connection, vulnerability, and truth. It is a place that will meet you where you are and inspires you to do and be what you long for.  A good circle leaves you feeling so much better than when you arrived. I believe women, especially mothers need this.

Women are hardwired for connection with other women, we long to share our joys and struggles. When a woman makes the transition to motherhood, she especially longs to share her journey with other women. Motherhood is one of the biggest transitions a woman goes through. She goes from her whole world revolving around her own needs to her whole world revolving around another person. To top it off she is learning how to raise, nurture, and keep alive a healthy little being. Mothers are literally learning how to be a mom while being a mom. It can be an intense and scary learning curve for some.

As if the job of being a parent isn't demanding enough, becoming a mom can flip a woman's world up side down. Mothers have to adjust and re-learn who they are after having a child.  Her sense of self gets lost. This can make each day much harder because she doesn't know what will make her happy or she doesn't have the time or space for self care. Which both are vital in order to maintain sanity and happiness.

Another challenge mothers have is, isolation. Getting out of the house can be hard if not a damn miracle some days.  Not only is it hard to get out of the home, some women are also so exhausted that the energy needed to get out of the home can be hard to muster up.  Some of the lucky mothers are able to create the space to consistently get out to see other mothers. However, seeing mothers doesn't not mean the opportunity to connect deeply is available. These moms run against constant interrupting kiddos. Also, when mothers hang out they tend to connect through their children. Time together is spent talking about each other's children. This is wonderful and there is a need being filled. However, too often the conversations we really want to have,  like last night I got so angry I screamed at my child, doesn't happen enough during a play date.

 Some women feel like they are the only mothers out there who are struggling. The feeling of struggle compounds itself because it can create a cycle of guilt and shame. Struggling can feel selfish and this lends to feeling like you are fucking up your child because you aren't a happy and joyful mother. This fear of not being a good enough mom keeps some women even more isolated. The fear of not being good enough creates judgmental feelings towards the self and jealousy towards mothers who seem "to have it together." 

So, in my opinion mothers especially could use circles. The need for a safe space to vent fears and struggles with people who completely understand is vital to the health and well being of a mother. This is what a good circle can create. Circles are about the women who show up. Discussion revolves around what each woman brings to the group that day,  how she feels about herself, her life, her family, her struggles, and her fears.

The space created allows for the healing magic of vulnerability.  When one person leans into vulnerability it engages other women to show up and share the dark hidden fears they we are terrified to share. I am always humbled by this because majority of the time this happens in a circle of women who hardly, if at all, know each other. What this does though is create an instant connection. All of a sudden each woman sees herself in the other women and it creates the first steps towards healing. There has never been a time when a woman leaned into her fears and shared her failures that it didn't transform her and another woman's experience of herself and her failures.

Another interesting thing about circles is that,  even if you have the same people show up each week, no two circles are the same. Like moods, circles are vacillating between expanding states and contracting states. The level of connection and vulnerability fluctuates depending on who shows up and with what she shows up with. When in a state of expansion a circle can be very healing because each woman has an opportunity to share her pain, her struggles, and to be meet in that place, which can be transformational.. When in a contraction state the harmony in the group is not as readily available, women in the group have to work a little harder to feel the deep connection with the other women. This rarely happens, but if it does it usually happens at a time when one of the women is struggling, but not sharing her struggle. So instead, she feels jaded or judgmental about the group.  If caught, this can be a powerful healing experience. When the woman who is in a state of judgment shares her judgement and is able to process it with the group,  it will change how the woman sees and feels about the group because she is heard and accepted for her feelings.

9 years of leading circles and I feel like I am a beginner. Each circle I learn so much about myself and the women I circle in with. It is a constant learning cycle for me because circles never repeat itself. Each one is unique and completely different from all other circles. Every woman who shows up to do work in a circle leaves changed. Hearing how another woman struggles with or in the exact same way that you do is a healing experience. We all know on some level that we are not alone, that somewhere, someone feels the same way, but to be sitting across from a woman who says something that you yourself could had said is powerful. It is a moment of," I am not crazy," "I am not alone," "This is normal." This allows us to be deeply met in our moments of shame and guilt. This allows for something deep within us to start the path to healing those emotions and changing our stories.

If you are ready to find a tribe of women who can deeply listen to you and meet you exactly where you are at, then please join a circle. What are you waiting for? You'll never know the ways in which it will transform your life until you try it out. If showing up and being seen scares you then make a brave choice to lean into your fear. Show up, try it out and listen to that little voice that urges you to share because you never know how it will transform you and the women who hear it.

 

Deep Listening

 

In my work I see myself as a keeper of secrets, a guardian of stories. I am given the privilege to bear witness to the depth of pain, mistakes, and wishes unfulfilled women carry. For me there is nothing more satisfying than hearing a woman’s truth because it runs through my body as chills.  

 My work is possible because of one of my most treasured gifts, the ability to listen. When I say listen I don’t mean hearing the words a person says. What I mean by listen is; quieting my mind and listening with all my senses. When I am deeply listening to the stories of the women I work with my mind is completely still. I am not thinking about the next thing to say. Sure, sometimes thoughts come into my mind. When this happens I simply notice the thought and let it go.  However, for the most part I am stepping into all of my senses and listening from there. When my mind is still I am able to listen with my whole body. As someone is talking to me I am pulling in information from the words I hear, the tone in the voice, the way in which the body is moving or not moving, the movement in the eyes, the energy around the person, and the emotions behind the words being expressed. When I am listening from this place my whole body is following and reacting. Many sensations run through my body like, chills, tension, stiffness, and butterflies.

My body has a different level of listening and reaction than my brain. When I am listening with my body it feels like it is communicating the emotion and the meaning behind the words. When I am listening from my brain I am analyzing, I am trying to figure out something worthwhile or profound to say, or I am judging the person and/or her experience. When I am listening from this place I feel disconnected to the person. Actually, I miss much of what is being said and more importantly I miss the meaning, the feeling, and the emotion behind the words.

As a deep listener, a lot of the work I do is modeling this skill. The main avenue in which I work is through circles; moon circles, healing circles, book circles, song circles, mama circles, art circles.  I have done this type of work with women for over 5 years and girls before that. I find that women and girls want to be seen and heard. Every woman has a story to tell that needs to be heard by someone who can hear it with an open heart and no judgement. Women want to know that the pain she feels or has felt matters and someone cares enough to hold authentic space to hear it. What I love about circle work is that at least 10 other women get to do this for one woman. It is simple, but powerful. For some, being heard can alter the pain around the story which allows a woman to embrace the story in a different way.  To me this is exciting because I know how powerful and transformative listening can be and in circles I get to see that happen right before my eyes.  

 As a facilitator of circles I try to keep a circle safe from judgment so the sharing can go deep. I find this is done if I am able to hold boundaries around how we listen to one another. If I don’t state this boundary then women miss seeing and hearing each other because they are stuck in giving advice and trying to change how a woman feels. This creates a sense of not feeling safe and therefore women are less likely to be vulnerable. The less vulnerable the circle is the more the topics tend to be about things outside a woman like the annoying co-worker or complaining about not getting enough sleep.  It is in the listening that people feel safe enough to break down barriers to being vulnerable.

Although I love to listen it is still a practice in which I need to monitor how I am listening. Sometimes, when the topic gets uncomfortable, it takes gentle reminders that our work is not to save or fix a problem, but to just hear what is being said. Hearing the pain a woman shares and allowing it to creep into our bodies can be scary. When we allow another’s pain to creep in, we are allowing the woman, the story to be a mirror. We are reacting to what we are hearing because there is something in it that we have experienced or we fear to experience. When we see the mirror, we see the parts of ourself that are ready to be healed. We then can choose to heal those parts that we have rejected or closed off from.  We are giving ourselves the right to feel, the right to see, and the right to be seen. It is in the feeling that we learn where we are in life and what we need to heal in order to move forward.

So next time you find yourself listening to a story try to quiet your mind. Don’t try to find ways to be helpful, clever, silly, or wise. Instead allow your body to hear the meaning behind the words and communicate that to you, follow its lead. If you have a negative reaction use that information to look at what is it in yourself that is not healed or what is it in yourself that needs to be seen and heard.  If you can come from a place of listening first I guarantee that it will deepen your relationship to yourself. Being deeply listened to can be one of the most empowering experiences you can offer another person. Sometimes the only things a person needs from you is to; see, hear and acknowledge that she matter and her story is important.

Attachment and Adult Relationships

I notice there seems to be a lot of talk and articles posted about attachment styles in children and how we parent our children affects attachment. This is great. As a parent I have leaned towards this information to help me feel confident in my parenting approach. However, I notice that I don’t see as much information about adult attachment. I find this interesting because adult attachment styles is just as important to understand as it is in children. Our attachment style as an adult affects our relationships with our partners, family, friends, coworkers, and children.  It not only determines how we seek or run from connection, but also how we parent our children. How can we raise securely attached children if we ourselves are an insecurely attached adult? We can’t. Only securely attached adults raise securely attached children. This isn’t talked about in the attachment articles I have read. These articles talk about what we should and shouldn’t do  to our children, but it doesn’t tell us that if you had an abusive mother you are more likely to have an anxious or avoidant attachment style as an adult. Which makes attuning to your child’s needs a little more challenging because you will either parent from fear, or from a place of having your child meet your needs, or from a place of being resentful or distant when your child seeks connection.

The interesting thing about attachment is that adult’s attachment style is determined by how his or her caregiver responded and connected to him/her as a baby.  So how our parents emotionally attuned to our feelings and responded to our daily needs determines how we as adults seek connection and behave in relationships. The science of adult attachment predicts, with a great deal of accuracy, how people will behave in romantic relationships and whether they will be well matched—on the basis of their attachment style.

Here is a short description of the three main types of attachment styles: Anxious, Avoidant or Secure.. This is not a complete list, but it’s a place to start.

  •  People with a Secure attachment style (just over 50% of the population) are warm and loving, and relationships come naturally to them. They are great at communicating their needs and feelings.
  •  People with an Anxious attachment style (about 21% of the population) love to be very close to their partner and have the capacity for a lot of intimacy. However, they often fear that their partner does not want to be as close as they would like and can be very sensitive to small fluctuations in their partner’s moods.
  •  People with an Avoidant attachment style (25%) feel the need to maintain their independence. Even though they want to be in a relationship, they tend to keep their partner at arm’s length.

What research has found is that a person with an anxious attachment style is usually attracted to a person with an avoidant style. Most often securely attached people date and marry securely attached people. Occasionally an anxious person will marry a securely attached person. This is helpful to know because based on your attachment style you can find out how compatible you are with your partner and how successful the relationship will be.

Do you see yourself in any of the styles listed above?  Are you not sure?  Here is an attachment quiz you can take. Just know that attachment style is not static. Like most things, it can change over time. What it takes is finding a partner who has a secure attachment style. This is important because in order to change your style from anxious or avoidant you need a relationship that will rock your belief system about love. A relationship that will show you how to emotionally connect instead of run away when it gets tough. A relationship that will be supportive and loving no matter what. One in four adults change their attachment style, so be optimistic if your style is not what you want it to be.

If you want to delve deeper into adult attachment styles and how it impacts your life, your health and your relationships you must read Attached.

Simple Exercises to Rewire the Brain and Change Your Life

For a long time doctors and scientist believed that once an individual reached adulthood the brain was not able to change, unless a person was exposed to a disease or aging. We now know that this is not true. The brain is plastic and incredibly dynamic. It potentially has an unlimited ability to change throughout a person’s life. Science now says that at any age new neural pathways can be created and refined, and gray matter can actually be thickened. This means that we can move from habitual negative feelings states to an expanded experience of emotional well being and happiness in our lives.

Below are three ways that you can start right now at home or with a practitioner to change the architecture of your brain and rewire it for healing and happiness. However, there are many more activities like yoga, art, writing, EMDR, working with a counselor, to just name a few, that can be used to rewire the brain. This is just a list of places to start that don’t cost a thing and are easy to learn.

Mindsight

Mindsight is a very powerful exercise to help build specific circuits in the brain, it repairs neuroplasticity and helps to grow connections among neurons. These activities help create energy in our brain. This energy helps to reconnect areas of the brain that are less connected due to adversity and trauma.


“"Mindsight" is a term coined by Dr. Dan Siegel to describe our human capacity to perceive the mind of the self and others. It is a powerful lens through which we can understand our inner lives with more clarity, integrate the brain, and enhance our relationships with others. Mindsight is a kind of focused attention that allows us to see the internal workings of our own minds. It helps us get ourselves off of the autopilot of ingrained behaviors and habitual responses. It lets us “name and tame” the emotions we are experiencing, rather than being overwhelmed by them.” 

You can think of Mindsight as the ability to see and truly know your brain. When you are practicing mindsight you learn how to cultivate three things, insight, empathy, and integration. The first, insight, is the idea of having the ability to sense your own inner life, it’s the self-awareness or self-knowing piece. The second, empathy, is the ability to understand how another person is feeling by sensing his or her inner life.  The last, integration helps a person approach challenges reflectively and this helps a person interact in healthy ways. Integration also helps a person to connect the past, present, and future in a coherent way.

Mindsight is important to cultivate because when you are aware of what you are feeling and are in tune with your inner world you are able to recognize when you are getting activated, upset, or reactive. You notice that your heart rate is going up, your hands are sweating, and your muscles are tensing. When you see these signs within yourself, you are able to pause, take a breath, step away, and do whatever self-care practice to help you calm down.

Dan Siegel says, “Mindsight enables us to go beyond ‘being sad’ or ‘being angry’ and to recognize that we have these feelings of sadness or anger, see that they are not the totality of who we are, accept, them for what they are, and then allow them to transform so they do not lead to depression or anger or rage.” 

To begin building mindsight, simply start reflecting on your inner life and feelings during conversations. Randomly throughout the day close your eyes and ask yourself. “What am I sensing in my body? What feelings are inside me right now? Any physical sensations?” If you get angry pause, tune into the body, where are the sensations of anger in your body. Notice your thoughts and try to simply take some deep breaths to calm yourself down and slow your thoughts.

Meditation

Meditation helps to change our brain and bring it back online. People who meditate are able to recover faster from stress and are less reactive to stress. Meditation can help you learn to calm your mind. It also increases emotional and physical well-being. It has been shown to help individuals regulate emotions, respond flexibly to others, evaluate options, and make appropriate decisions. It increases empathy, self-reflection, and helps relieve feelings of fearfulness. Also, meditation can help repopulate the brain with gray matter and neurons that get prune when you are a child faced with stress and trauma.

When you breathe deeply and bring oxygen into your lungs, that oxygen travels throughout the body, into the cells, where it supports all life-giving biological pathways. As you breathe in and out with long slow breaths through mindful breathing, you also strengthen and recharge the activity of your underactive parasympathetic nervous system. This is important because there is no medication you can take to boost the parasympathetic system. This system controls large amounts of automatic processes such as digestion, respiration, and heart rate. With the sympathetic nervous system it conserves the body’s energy by bringing bodily functions back to homeostasis, especially after a fight or flight response is activated.

To establish a simple regular meditation practice try to find a consistent time of day that you can sit for at least 5 minutes. In the beginning meditation is not about doing it “right.” It is more about developing a regular practice and getting used to whatever technique you choose. Which leads me to the second suggestion, find a technique that you are drawn to and stick with it. I prefer a simple mindfulness meditation.  However, there are many techniques all are powerful and effective.

Here is a mindfulness meditation.

Sit comfortably. Close your eyes. Take several deep breaths. With each breath consciously let go of the day and any thoughts. Relax the body, face, shoulder, neck, hands, belly, and legs. Scan the body for anyplace you are holding tension. When you find a tight area consciously release body tension by breathing into that area. Take as long as you want for this first part. No rush. This is about relaxing the mind and tuning into the body. Now tune into the sounds around you, open your senses, feel the space in and around you. Don’t judge, just tune in, notice. Now choose to anchor your attention. This anchor can your breath, the rise of your chest, your heart beat, sensations in your hands or feet, sounds around you, choose anything to anchor your focus on. Stay focused on your anchor as you breathe deeply. If your awareness shifts or you start thinking just come back to your anchor. Try not to judge what is happening around you or inside your body, simply notice it and let it go, coming back to your anchor and back to your breath.

Guided Imagery/Visualizations

Guided Visualization (also called guided imagery or creative visualization) is the technique of focusing your imagination on healing your past or present, or focusing on behaviors or events you’d like to have occur in your life.  It involves using visual, auditory, olfactory senses, memory, mood, emotions and imagination.

The practice is based on the idea that your body and mind are connected. By providing positive pictures, creative imagery and self-suggestion, visualization can change emotions that subsequently have a physical effect on the body. Guided visualizations change your neural structure. This happens because when you practice guided visualizations you engage mostly the right hemisphere of the brain. This is an important area to work with because it is responsible for mental processing to rewire old patterns.

The other important part of visualization is that your brain does not know that it isn’t real. It will experience imagery as if it is really happening. Therefore, these experiences can be used to enhance your life or any performance. Essentially, mental imagery fools the brain into believing you are actually doing the thing you are imagining. It is thought that this happens because it creates bodily memory within us, which creates physical and neurobiological changes.

An easy way to integrate visualization practice into your life is to add it to your daily meditation practice. Towards the end of your meditation take a couple minutes to visualize what it is you are wanting to create in your life. If that feels too much at first then at night while you are lying in bed take about 5 minutes to visualize.  Whenever you do it, try to focus your energy on something you really need to change in your life or something you want to call into your life.

As an example let’s say you want to change your negative reaction to your spouse’s behavior. As you are lying in bed think about what you are wanting to create, heal or change in that situation. Close your eyes, calm your breath and start to visualize being faced with the situation that upsets you. See yourself, see your partner, notice your surroundings, bring as much of your senses on line with the visualization. Now see yourself reacting or behaving in a way that would feel better for you. Don’t over think it. Don’t try to say “but…” Get out of your thoughts. This is about being playful and curious. When you see yourself behaving as you would like, what happens? Whenever you visualize try not to control the outcome, just see yourself doing what it is you would like to do. Try to bring in as much information from your senses and your body as possible, while being open to whatever information comes.  When you feel complete open your eyes and trust that you are creating new neural pathways for change.

Adverse Childhood Experiences

If you are on a journey of healing you have probably picked up a self-help book or two, worked with a counselor, went to yoga and meditated, you spent time in nature, heck you even took your supplements and ate healthy. I’m sure you have probably done all you can in order to feel ok in your body and in this world.  Yet, you still feel deep sadness, or anger, or frustration, or anxiety, or…….it goes on doesn’t it?

If you are like me you are pretty self-aware. You know that growing up was hard, but you’ve come to terms with your childhood and your parents. You know that your parents loved you and tried to do the best they could. School was painful, but it was painful for everyone right? Sure you were bullied, but that’s not a big deal, most people can’t get through childhood without being bullied.  And yet, here you are, with all of this self-awareness and struggling. Why?  Why can’t I/we/you just be normal? What is wrong that I am not seeing?

What I didn’t realize is that what happened to me in my childhood (I have an ACE score of 7, you’ll get information about how to take the ACE test further down the page) actually changed the architecture of my brain. My experiences altered the expression of genes that control stress hormone output, which triggers an overactive inflammatory stress response for life. Did you get that?  For Life.  In short this means, toxic childhood stress changed my brain making it harder for me to handle stress.

I had no clue that my emotional biography became my physical biography, leading to deep biophysical changes. This is important to know because the two together write much of the script for how I will live my life. I literally did not have the brain capacity to be a “normal” adult. My brain was wired for depression, pain, sadness, suffering and illness.

Adverse childhood experiences, also known as ACE, are one of the most important pieces of information I have come across on my journey to emotional healing and wellness. Did you know that childhood adversity can lead to a far wider range of physical and emotional health issues than overt symptoms of PTSD? Learning about ACEs showed me that my pain and suffering is not my fault. I was not choosing it. I was doing the best I could with the tools I had.

I could say my emotional challenges were my parents fault, but really it wasn’t. See the thing about people who grow up with a high ACE score (mine is a 7 out of 10) come from parents who themselves grew up with a high ACE score and so on. It’s like the saying “hurt people, hurt people,” or it’s hard to give what you never received. Of course I have a high ACE score. My mother, who caused most of my childhood suffering, probably had an ACE score of 10, maybe 9. She isn’t alive because she died of a drug overdose in her early 40's, but I know from the stories she told me her childhood was hell.  She truly did her best and was able to shelter me from certain painful experiences that she had to endure.  I’ve always known that she was parenting me much better than she was parented, but I didn’t know that she was still totally failing and essentially ripping my childhood from me.

This information taught me that childhood adversity hurts our physical and mental health. It puts us at risk for learning disabilities, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disease, depression, obesity, suicide, substance abuse, violence, failed relationships, poor parenting and for some early death. Although I have not suffered from most of these categories, I can see the truth of this in my mother. Take out the obesity, autoimmune, and cardiovascular piece, the rest describe the challenges she faced in her short life. My challenges in life were more about feelings and emotions. I always felt so alone, like no one saw me or even cared to see me. I had a hard time connecting with my peers and adults. I was seen as a negative person who had a bad attitude.  I had a bad attitude because I was in pain. No one in my life knew what was happening at home. I was quietly suffering alone. I deeply wanted connection and relationships, but I was deeply scared of it.  I suffered from deep shame, anxiety, depression, loneliness, suicidal ideation, and substance abuse.  Does any of this sound familiar to you?

There is a lot more to learn about ACEs and the impact they have on our life. A great book to read that highlights this topic and even gives tangible ways to rewire our brain is "Childhood Disrupted" by Donna Jackson Nakazawa.

Below are a few facts and pieces of information I pulled from Childhood Disrupted to highlight the issue of ACEs.

  •  One of the hundred genes that are altered due to chronic childhood stress is the gene that helps manage stress. This gene manages stress by “signaling the cortisol response to quiet down so that the body can return to a calm state after a stressor. But because this gene was damaged, the body couldn’t rein in its heightened stress response”

  •  When a young child faces emotional adversity or stressors, cells in the brain release a hormone that actually shrinks the size of the brain’s developing hippocampus-altering his or her ability to process emotion and mange stress. This matters emotionally because people with high ACEs have a low set point of well-being. This means as adults our moods are fluctuating between anxiety, sadness, and fear-reacting to life without resilience.  It’s a cat chasing its tail. “Epigenetics changes in life cause inflammatory chemicals to increase. Chronic unpredictable stress sends microglia off kilter. Microglia murder neurons. Neurons die, synapses are less able to connect. Microglia proliferate and create a state of neuro-inflammation. Essential gray matter areas of the brain lose volume and tone. White matter-the myelin in the brain that allows for synapses to connect between neurons-is lost. This lack of brain tone impairs thought processes, making negative thoughts, fears, reactivity, and worries more likely over time. An uberalert, fearful brain leads to increased negative reactions and thoughts-creating more inflammatory hormones and chemicals that lead to more microglial dysfunction and pruning and chronic inflammation in the brain. The cycle continues”

  •  A history of insecure attachment also affects what kind of parents we become. Kids whose parents had not soothed them effectively behaved quite differently in their grown-up relationships from kids who’d had warmer, more supportive parents. Young adults who’d been less attached to their parents when small had more trouble managing their negative, reactive feelings and recovering from conflict with their adult partners.

  •  It makes sense that people who repeatedly make poor decisions in choosing partners and have troubled relationships keep repeating their mistakes. Their motivations are as biological as they are emotional. Their brains didn’t receive the love needed to foster the critical neural interconnections that create secure, loving attachment, They keep bumping up against the same neurobiological deficits, over and over again.

  •   “The beauty of epigenetics is that it’s reversible, and the beauty of the brain is that it’s plastic. There are many ways that we can immune-rehabilitate the brain to overcome early negative epigenetic changes so that we can respond normally to both pleasure and pain. The brain can restore itself. We can heal those early scares to get back to who it is we really are who we might have been had we not faced so much adversity in the first place.”

Now that you have an idea of what ACEs are, it’s time to take the ACE test. What is your score?

If you too had a difficult childhood please read Childhood Disrupted. Educating yourself about how trauma and adversity changes the brain and body is very healing. This book just might change your life.