I have a confession to make to you…

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2013 has been full of some serious body image blues.

You know how it goes:

  • not feeling comfortable your skin
  • feeling like none of your clothes fit well
  • not wanting to see your image in a mirror or a picture
  • struggling not to be tempted by the false promises and quick fixes of the diet and so-called “wellness” industry
  • feeling less then, ummm, hubba hubba with your spouse
  • not wanting to be very social
  • playing the compare game

A couple things crept in that started to take away from my New Year’s calm and clarity (my word for 2013): lack of sleep because of all things toddler (winter colds, potty training..) and my newly diagnosed asthma.  I was missing my time with my boot camp buddies – my one-two punch for social and active time.

I hit a wall. Right about the time I was doubling the staff at Potentia.  We just completed two successful cohorts of our 8 week Cultivating Courage workshop and put dates on the calendar for three Cultivating Courage Weekend Intensives.

All good stuff.

I was super pumped about all these happenings but was getting really depleted and disconnected from my social support.  My health was starting to suffer, too.

And in walked my body image blues right through the front door.

Shame said, “You hypocrite.  You are leading these men and women to heal their relationship with their bodies and you do not even feel good about your own.  You are a fraud.”

Ouch.

But here is where things took a different turn.  My discomfort in my skin did not necessarily dissipate but how I responded to these thoughts and feelings took a rather radical detour.

I practiced, practiced and continue to practice my shame resilience skills.  I dug in and wrote my daily gratitudes and read my daily devotions.

I got really clear on my needs and spoke them to my friends and family, not as demands but as requests.

I made my self-care – mind, body and soul – a priority and made sure my schedule reflected these values.

I practiced empathy with myself and others when judgements and crankiness reared their ugly heads.

I re-evaluated my boundaries and made sure I was not setting up walls which protect but also isolate.

I spoke my truth to my really, really safe people.

I now know I am enough even on days I do not feel enough.  I can hold that space while I feel yucky and not attack my core worth. Some days it is a bit of a knock down, drag out fight – but shame resilience has helped me run the marathon of living life reflective of my values and my true worth.

Wow.

Those who work in the eating disorder field are not immune to struggling with their own food and body issues.

And I am no exception.

It was pretty incredible to see how the ongoing practice of shame resilience kept me from dancing in the pit of self-loathing for very long.  It has helped me practice respecting my body even when I do not like it much.

Yeah, I am not immune to these thoughts or feelings.  But how I respond when they hit has truly been, well, awesome.

And as I say every day in my office, “Rarely are bad body image days about food, weight or the aesthetics of a certain body part.”

Negative body image is often the equivalent of that scratchy throat you get when feel you are starting to get sick. If you ignore the symptoms and do not take extra care to build up your immune system, you will get leveled and feel even worse, taking longer to recover.

And instead of going old-school and obsessing over weight, looks and what others think, my shame resilience skills are (almost) my default now and the obsessive tendencies to measure my worth by the number on the scale (if I had one) or how much I have worked out were not nearly as loud as they used to be.

This new response to shame has been so, so, so freeing and healing.  Instead of fearing vulnerability, I have grown to understand and respect its place in my life – though I do not like the feeling of it most of the time.

Reading Brené Brown’s books over the last few years have been so helpful in building my awareness about shame and normalizing the universal experience of shame.  I developed a whole new vocabulary.

But these last 9 months training with Brené, Robert Hilliker and the rest of the Connections team to complete my Certified Connections Facilitator Certification moved me from an intellectual insight of this work to a daily (well, mostly daily) practice.

I have seen the fruits of this practice in my marriage, my work as therapist and in my relationships with God, myself and others.

And this is why I can barely contain how excited I am to offer this work – Potentiafied for you in our Cultivating Courage Workshops and Weekend Intensives.

We have three Cultivating Courage Weekend Intensives scheduled for the remainder of this year: June 14-16, Aug 23-25 and Nov 1-3.  And my colleague, Molly LaCroix, and I will be launching our 8 week Weekly Cultivating Courage Workshop Series in January 2014.

For those who are local, we have some digging deeper workshops which will be launching this summer to give people a chance to freshen their Shame Resilience skills or have a toe-in-the water experience with this powerful work.

And plans are in the works to take this work online so our Potentia friends outside San Diego can have access to this material, too.  Make sure you are signed up to receive email updates so you can get the latest details on all of these happenings.

I would love to know what your questions are about shame and Brené Brown’s shame resilience theory.  Please email me directly at rbass@potentiatherapy.com or post your questions below.  If I feature your question in a future blog post, you will receive a copy of Brené’s most recent book, Daring Greatly.  So don’t hold back, I really want to hear from you.

Working on being my own cheerleader while cheering you on, too!

Rebecca

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Yoga Buzz Words Part 1: Grounding

kelly_web1Recently, our team was talking about the lingo of all of our various professions and how distancing it can be to those who are not in the loop of our profession’s vocabulary.  For me, this is especially true for the world of Yoga.  Potentia’s Yoga Coordinator, Kelly Schauermann, has taken on the challenge of breaking down the vocabulary of the yoga world in this first part of her series, “Yoga Buzz Words”.  And to experience Kelly’s grounding gifts as a teacher, register here for Kelly’s upcoming yoga workshop on May 18th, 2013.  

“And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”        -J.K. Rowling

Wanderlust, angst, confusion.

Ever felt those emotions? I have. And when I do, there’s a sense of just wanting to be still, to have everything stop, and feel balanced again.

The one word that quickly sums up all those things I wanted in my moment of peril is GROUNDED.

Of all the yoga words that fly about incense laden studios, grounded is the first that comes to mind, and appropriately so, as it is the beginning, the postures we commonly practice early in our classes.

How many times have you heard an instructor, or anyone for that matter, say to ground yourself? Have your ever just thought, ‘What the heck does that mean?’ Well, I have. I mean, it’s obvious that it has something to do with the big mass of dirt underneath our feet, but is there something more? I can easily get on the floor and lay down, and take a nap. Is that what it means?

The answer is, yes…and no.

Yoga lingo is confusing to many because it has this enigmatic quality, like we all walk onto the mat thinking we’re supposed to have some transcendent experience because we put our hands at our hearts and say,”Namaste” (I’ll address “namaste” in a separate post). And it’s somewhat true that there’s deeper meaning beyond just the physical postures, but how often do you get that explanation in a 60 minute Flow class? Pretty much, never. So, I’m here to demystify.

When I researched the dictionary definition of grounded, they all referenced something having to do with boats, shores and beaches. Essentially, the dictionary defines grounded as being stuck somewhere, mainly that of being stuck to a solid mass of land, far away from technology and people. It sounds kinda lonely, if you ask me.

I thought about this…and thought. And it hit me, that’s kind of what being grounded is: being anchored to something solid, that solid thing being who you are at your core, no matter how pretty, or ugly that core is. It doesn’t involve anyone else but you.

In that way, it’s kind of like being at rock bottom.

Typically, rock bottom is associated with being in a place where we’ve been stripped of all our distractions and fillers, left with nothing but the truth of who we are. It’s sobering and very real. It’s solid, like the earth. It’s not a place of feeling free and flowing and all hippie like.

It’s just who we are. No one else.

In my own experience, and in the countless sessions, classes and conversations I’ve had with those around me, I’ve found that people start feeling the most grounded and connected with themselves when they are at rock bottom.

Even the term “rock bottom” conjures up an image of being literally on the ground.

Rock bottom also tends to have a negative connotation in our society.  But what if we shifted our thinking and recognized it as a place to start over, a new foundation from which to anchor ourselves and start sailing again?

So, are you ready to experience this IN your body?

Try this GROUNDING EXERCISE:

  • Find a quiet place with a solid surface to rest on. Yoga mat optional.
  • From seated on your knees, bring your forehead to the ground, and rest your arms along side your legs. This is embryo pose (a beginning place). 

Embryo Pose

  • Observe you breath. Can you breathe easily? Is it hard to breathe?
  • Observe your mind. Are your thoughts racing? Do you feel self conscious? Do you feel emotional? What emotions?
  • If you’re being really honest with yourself, right now, what is happening? What are you feeling?
  • Take as much time here as you need, then slowly rise to a seat, take a deep breath, and open your eyes. Journaling optional.

If you’ve ever been in a yoga class and heard this described as a “grounding posture”, here is why: it literally brings you to the ground, in towards yourself, away from distractions. It anchors you to the space that’s right beneath you on your mat.

Being connected physically to the earth mirrors the connection to the core of who you are.

To be grounded does not necessarily mean you’re going to have it all figured out. It doesn’t mean your going to turn into Kathryn Budig and start doing some crazy inversion, naked, with nothing but Toe Sox on (no offense to Kathryn, as she is amazing and I follow her, but that’s her practice…not mine). It doesn’t mean you’ll walk out of the room enlightened, happy or sad.

What it does mean is that you’re consciously choosing to hit the restart button. It’s about having a strong sense of who you are, regardless of who you are.

It can be unnerving sometimes, being left with just you, but it is You.

So, hang out for a bit and see what lives in the space you are.

– Kelly Schauermann

Kelly is the founder of beulahwellness.com, CPRYT, Yoga Coordinator at Potentia Family Therapy, Inc and Yoga Teacher at Core Power
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Seeking True Health in a Health Obsessed Culture

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True Health

Is your definition of health keeping you unhealthy?

Maybe. Maybe not. But I recommend taking a critical look at how you define health in your life and to reflect on how your definition of health is impacting your overall wellness.

When you say something or someone is healthy, what drives your sentiment?

I usually hear the following impacting this statement the most:

  • Looks
  • Weight
  • Fashion
  • Food choices
  • Fitness routines

And by the frenzy of advertisements everywhere about all of the above, the definition of health in our culture has been skewed to meet the needs of for-profit industries while also fueling disconnection and shame about the food we eat, our bodies, and our stories.

It is time to start thinking critically about the messages we are integrating into our definition of health.

Any person, book, or program that touts drastic weight loss, cutting out major food groups, or specific results is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. None of these diets or “lifestyle choices” are sustaining after 1-2 years. The facts show weight cycling from dieting, disordered eating, and serious eating disorders are continuing to wreak havoc on our health.

I respect and totally get the desire to look good and feel good. Yet, there is a dark side to these pursuits when the meaning and motivations are based on fear, obsession, and untruths.

I am troubled by the loud chorus of people in the medical and wellness fields that are getting on the bandwagon of fear of fat and an over-focus on the number on the scale as a measure of true health.

And I am even hearing health preached from the pulpit. Yet when people in faith communities are equating virtue with the number on the scale or whether you eat certain foods, it only results in more anxiety, confusion, and discontent. Shaming people to lose weight or eat well in the name of God hits below the belt and increases psychological and spiritual wounds.

I am surprised how many people are still using the archaic BMI (Body Mass Index) as an indicator of health. It is simplistic, formulaic, and reductive. The BMI does not take into account your genetics, unique physical makeup, and lifestyle. Yet it is still used as the gold standard for whether someone needs to lose or gain weight.

And I am still skeptical of the FDA standards of the BMI knowing that many of the people on the board have or have had connections to the diet industry. If the BMI is a part of your definition of health, I encourage you to take a step back and reconsider its role.

We do have some serious issues to address regarding wellness in our country, but the myopic focus on weight + good food/bad food is missing so many other factors that contribute towards true health. And until we have a multidimensional view of health, we will keep spinning.

I talk a lot about what health is NOT.

I believe health is not:

  • determined only by the number on the scale;
  • achieving the “perfect” body or striving for unhealthy perfection;
  • eating food restrictively or based on a “good” food or “bad” food mentality;
  • unsafe relationships;
  • an obsession with eating healthy where there is no room for flexibility;
  • dieting and demonizing foods and food groups;
  • shaming, blaming, or judging self or others.

I also talk a lot about how I define health.

I believe true health is:

  • finding something you are passionate about and striving to spend most of your waking hours in this space. When people are bored or feel trapped in jobs or situations that drain them of their creativity, their motivation, and ability to sit in vulnerability, this has a negative impact on mental and spiritual health which in turn can develop into physical ailments.
  • having a relationship with money where you are living within in your means and have enough to give and save. Leaning too heavily on finances as a means of control or comfort gives money way too much power over your peace of mind. And using money as a means to medicate can create chaos and a cycle of stress that negatively impacts mental, physical, and spiritual health.
  • involvement in your local community. So many people are disconnected from the places they live, but emotional wellness comes when we feel safe, have purpose, and community.
  • having a faith + regular spiritual practice. Understanding we are loved beyond measure and there is a greater purpose for your life gives perspective and meaning in all circumstances.
  • having a deep soul connection with a special few individuals who you can be real with, share your fears, mistakes, dreams, and hopes. Feeling heard and understood creates connection. Connection breeds empathy and gratitude. Gratitude impacts how our brains fires and improves our well-being, body, and soul.
  • living in a body that has energy, its needs met, is rested, moves well, and is free from pain. And when many are living in chronic pain or have chronic illness, practicing the previous five points can actually help improve their physical health. The only numbers of real concern are on your labs checking your bloodwork and other internal functions.

In the days and weeks to come, I will dig even deeper into these components of true health.

I am curious: How do you define health in your life? What do you think of my definition of health?  I look forward to and value your thoughts and feedback on this important and controversial topic.

Rebecca

 

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(re) define Valentine’s Day

Be known by love

Another Valentine’s Day is here.  At my house, there is an explosion of hearts: garland, paper, stickers, lights, plates, cookie molds, place mats, table cloths and more.  It has been fun to celebrate love with the three people I adore the most on this planet and who are responsible for healing my heart+increasing its capacity to give and receive love.

But this day was not always a fun one for me.  When I was in elementary school, I would measure my loveableness by comparing the number of valentine’s I received in my uniquely decorated tissue box and then comparing that amount with the booty my other classmates received.

In high school, I did not have a boyfriend (though I always had a crush or two) but would be privy to the elaborate date night plans my friends and their sweet hearts would make for this oh, so coveted of nights.  It was fun to hear about all the fun ideas and caring gestures my friends would put together.  Yet, behind my smiles and words of support, was a heart wanting to be seen + loved.

It was not Valentine’s Day for me.  It was Vulnerability Day in neon lights.

Now, I am especially grateful for the people in my life day in and day out who show me continually what it means to be loved and feel loveable – even when I am far from that.  I am thankful for a God who loves me in the fiercest of ways though that fact is so hard for my mind to comprehend in the noisiness of this world.

Yet, I am still keenly aware of how hard this day is for many.

It is salt on the wounds of loneliness, desire and longing.

This day can poke at the cumulative distressing life events stored in your heart+mind depleting your motivation to do what you need to care well for yourself.  While I have seen EMDR help many experience healing from distressing events in their lives, I know safe and loving relationships are crucial for sustained healing.

So when I read Anne Lamott‘s Facebook post on Sunday, I was inspired. I also laughed out loud – because she has that way with her words – getting you to laugh about the most deeply painful experiences because she taps into what is shared by so many.

Here is an excerpt of her post:

I would estimate that approximately 17% of people enjoy Valentine’s day. Mostly, women will be given boxes of chocolates that they don’t want and can’t resist, and will be really mad at themselves for inhaling. Many people will be filled with resentment, anxiety, and guilt at having forgotten, or having shown up late, or having accidentally been having affairs with other people. Many people will feel a sheet-metal sense of loneliness and rejection. They will be comparing their insides with other people’s outsides, especially those happy valentines actors in advertisements and commercials.

Most of the day, except for the lucky few, will be a nightmare.

So let’s start an Occupy Valentine’s Day movement.

Let’s begin with the premise that another word for Valentine’s Day is Thursday. And on Thursday, as an act of radical self-care, we will celebrate the miracle that a few people love us SO much, that we can go on, and bear up, no matter what; that even though they know the darkest, most human and intimate and disgusting stuff about us, they still love us. In fact, they love us more and more through the years. This is so wild, and is really my only hope. It is what salvation looks like. A handful of friends is the reason my faith in God is so deep. Because they ARE love; they (along with the dogs) are my most obvious connection to divine love in this joint, the looks of love on their faces.

I think Anne is definitely on to something.

So let’s follow Anne’s lead and get all subversive on the current rituals and commercial imagery of Valentine’s Day.  It is in need of a make over and I think we are up for the challenge.

If you are wrestling with feeling loved and finding meaning, please know you are not alone.  Listen for the collective shout out’s rallying from those who are wrestling with their own heartache+despair.  Look behind the masks of “I am fine.”, “It is no big deal.” and “Don’t worry about me.”

Hug. Write a note. Make that phone call. Send a text.  Reach out.  Listen.

Take the bubble bath.  Wrap up in your cozy blanket. Listen to the music that evokes the emotions you are trying to numb out.  Get outside and breathe in some fresh air.  Let some sunshine radiate in on the darkness you are fighting.

I do not need a day to celebrate those in my life who love me regardless.  But I agree with Anne Lamott: it is indeed a miracle to have their love. And that is what I am going to celebrate with extra care and intention tomorrow.

Who is the person you want to celebrate in honor of the love they have given you?

How are you going to show love and respect for yourself+others outside of the traditional hype tomorrow?

Do share!  I want to celebrate with you.

Cheering you on –

Rebecca

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Because I Can.

 

I will

  • crawl into my daughter’s bed in the middle of the night and not worry about waking her up from her slumber;
  • tuck and re-tuck the covers over my son’s sleeping body while watching his chest rise + fall;
  • never cease to be grateful for my amazing teacher+lifeguard husband who rescued my heart the day we met;
  • not push aside the quiet nudges to reach out to someone when I am thinking about him/her;
  • allow myself to sink into the pain of grief+loss+horror of those I do not know but with whom I still feel connected;
  • cling to the promises of my faith to guide my way during the unfathomable;
  • stop taking so much for granted only to be woken up by senseless tragedy;
  • fight to keep blame+bitterness+fear from consuming my thought life by limiting my intake of news and social media;
  • live a life that would honor the innocent souls whose lives ended way to early;
  • live a life of courage reflected by those who put others’ lives before their own in the face of danger;
  • continue to advocate for + treat those who seek healing from traumatic/distressing life events;
  • respect the different ways people grieve and hold that space with tenderness;
  • remind myself the only person I can change is myself knowing changes I make start the domino effect of change on a grander scale;
  • pray without ceasing for the Sandy Hook Elementary Community;

because I can. 

Rebecca

PS: Here are some excellent resources for talking with the young people in your life about tragedies put together by high school teacher, Larry Ferlazzo (hat tip Joanna Poppnick), and Brene Brown.  I also love this post on what to say and what NOT to say to someone who is grieving.  Brilliant!

 

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Choices

 

Make healthier choices.

Make safer choices.

Make wiser choices.

Make the right choice.

Make. a. choice.

Everyone has an opinion on how you should best live your life, what is healthy, what is holy, what is true.

Yet, if you delegate your life-compass to the opinions of the collective other, you will flounder.  This delegating of our power of choice takes many forms:

If you use a diet as the foundation of your choices, you will be on a path to crazy-making.
If you let shame inform your choices, you will live a life of disconnection.
If you are a slave to chronic people-pleasing, you will be in constant despair.
If you are surrounded by unsafe people, you will be robbed of your dignity + your voice.
If you struggle with perfection, indecisiveness will emotionally paralyze you.

What is the basis by which you make your choices?

If your foundation for making choices is not clear and life-giving, then life may end up being quite difficult.

Do you make choices to get the approval of others?  To get relief from pain? To get the best results? To simply just move on?

Choices bring up the fear of making the “wrong” decision.  Sometimes the best choice is so, so clear.  And often, choices can feel murky and overwhelming.

You can choose to do more of the same or something different.  More of the same is often easier – for a while.

No matter what your circumstances, you always have a choice (though the choices before you may all be less-than desirable.)

Can you choose to tolerate disappointing others, the pressure of expectations, the fear of failure?

I do not know about you, but disappointing others, failing, unmet expectations have crushed me + leveled my sense of worth + left me doubting my ability to make the “right” choice.

My lack of trust in God and my inability to bench negative emotion left me wrestling for years with all the choices in front of me subsequently draining my peace + sense of purpose.

And then something changed.  I did my own deep soul work.  Deep. Soul. Work.

Because of this work, I am able to bench the fear of the unknown.  This new super power strength led to my ability to manage a career change in my 30’s. It also helped me choose to be vulnerable and to fall in love + become a mom (which brought in a whole new slew of choices to stretch my new super powers.)

I started listening instead of reacting.  Resting instead of fighting.  Praying instead of always asking others for advice.  I started to trust God and myself like never before.

It has been liberating finding my voice and choosing not to put my worth on the table for debate. It has been healing not to feel consumed by fear of losing control but instead grounded by the compass of Truth+Peace.

But it still gets gnarly at times.  Heck, this whole growing and healing thing is a process that never ends – which is extremely annoying at times.

But the men and women I work with on a daily basis inspire me to press on and do the work I am challenging them to do.  Not a day goes by without witnessing a client wrestling with the choice to turn away from harmful thoughts, actions, relationships.

Now:

I choose to try instead of striving for perfection.
I choose to risk failure instead of never taking a risk.
I choose to slow down and be proactive instead of reactive.
I choose to not hate myself and instead strive for self-grace.

I see my choices differently now.

Choices are Power.  Clarity.  Opportunity.  Experience.

Can you choose to trust the small, healthy voice in you that encourages you to take a leap of faith; to take action; to choose to do something different?

Go… Stop… Say No… Say Yes…

Start… Finish… Create…

Rest… Nourish… Leave… Love.

What choices are you struggling with today?  What one simple action can you take to today to tackle your challenging choices and turn the struggle into your super powers of clarity and power?

Choosing to live in faith instead of fear –

Rebecca

 

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