We need our parks and monuments--the open, unfettered sacred places! We need to value the open spaces in our lands and within ourselves. Our choices reflect who we are. (Photo taken at Chaco Canyon, New Mexico)
Holding you in loving thought,
Can you feel the experience of the painting, inspired by the August 2017 solar eclipse?
The solar eclipse was a unique moment, when time seemed to stand still. Where light and shadow switched places in a way, or played trickster to the "norm." We were brought into the living moment dramatically, reminded we cannot take for granted that which is expected. And, is life ever only what we expect? It doesn't have to be.
We can pause to see the capacity for each moment to be unique, alive and different. What are we missing when we live otherwise? Who knows what new things and possibilities are waiting to be discovered if only we pause, if we listen, if we don't assume, if we bring ourselves fresh and clean into each moment.
The eclipse brought people into stillness and awareness on that August day, in those moments, in the pause so many of us took all around the country. We need more of it! Nature spoke so powerfully, drawing us into inner stillness in that August moment!
(The Preface to my book: Communication Styles and Therapy with Wind River Native Americans. Published through LAP LAMBERT Academic Publishing, and available for purchase directly through the publisher, and also AMAZON.COM).
Through the pines and Douglas firs, from where I sit atop a sun-dappled log, a cinnamon colored black bear ambles in the clearing, taking his time, unaware of my eyes watching. On a Montana June day, I sit here, meditating with trees and bear, while three thoughts emerge regarding this study, now 23 years after completing my Masters Thesis.
The first thought, significant in this 2017 timeframe, is remembering that our differences--individual experience, history, culture, gender, sexual orientation, religion, race--do not have to divide us. We can choose to be open, to understand, to learn from stories different than our own without feeling threatened. It is perhaps those of us who feel threatened and frightened by differences who could use a bit more internal reflection about where the fear comes from--both internally and externally. After all, this is one of the most significant human lessons in Selfhood, to face our fears and to better understand ourselves and our place in the world. In the end, I hope people will feel quite cautious about the motivations for categorizing a group of people as 'other.' The tendency can subtly distance us from our compassion. When someone is placed outside our sphere of relatedness, we can more easily forget that we all are human, complex beings, and deserving of honor and respect. The contents of this study suggest that communion and better understanding occur through openness, humility, and a willingness to listen. Therefore, therapeutic relational approaches described in the study are not only important tools in cross-cultural therapy sessions, but reflect our humanity and how we choose to 'show-up' in all areas of our lives, and collectively as communities, nations, and human beings.
The second thought that came to me, out here in the company of the trees and a cinnamon bear, was the description of balance, and the awareness of potential biases in research. The Literature Review section discusses the Hare-Mustin (1989) terminology of Alpha and Beta biases, where Alpha bias "exaggerates differences between groups," and he Beta bias "ignores differences between groups when they do exist." Pat Parker, renowned poet, speaks to the matter of prejudice and/or bias using a more human lens. She wrote in a poem, "For the White person who wants to be my friend. The First thing you do is to forget that I'm black. Second, you must never forget that I'm black" (Parker, P., 1989). These words capture the sensitivity and openness to a groups' or individual person's unique experience while relating to them as 'fellow human,' not 'other.'
Third, when we explore differences with curiosity and respect, we learn to expand our own worldviews and paradigms. This study and others like it can better prepare people of the dominant culture to help administer to or counsel others, but it can also encourage us to expand and understand ourselves in new ways. Carl G. Jung once said, "The meaning of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed" (Jacobi, J., 1973). Let us be open to our own expansion and transformation as we learn from people and cultures, and let us discard the narrow and the small within us.
Finally, I hope further respectful research will be conducted within Native American cultures and tribes and other minority groups and cultures. It would be interesting to further explore the concept of 'self-in relation' among Native American cultures, and also how it may connect to matrilineal cultures. Self-in-relation was seen in the study findings as the experience of one's honoring of and interrelatedness with extended family, tribe, the natural environment, and spiritual realms.
Meditating on this study's content again, after all these years, in the Montana mountain scape, in the company of trees and a bear, has enriched me again, and I am grateful to all the people in the study who opened up their hearts and minds to me, and shared their stories. I learned so much. Thank you, also, to my editor, Abiir Paraouty, and Lambert Academic Publishing for presenting the study's content to a broader population.
I hope you will enjoy and gain insights from the reading of this study, "Communication Styles and Therapy with Wind River Native American Clients."
by Stacy Montaigne AuCoin, LCSW
Bozeman, Montana, USA
June 26, 2017
For two months, when I was 18, home was the Navajo boarding school at the foot of the mesa. The little girls at the school set the rhythm for my days. They followed me everywhere, watched me with curious eyes, practiced spelling and multiplication tables, and tumbled into my room at night to hear Michael Jackson’s Thriller and twirl in their nightgowns. They taught me Navajo words. The last month I was introduced to a Navajo elder who made traditional clay pots, who called me granddaughter. She claimed me like a thunderclap that echoed inside me, like the Navajo thunder that ushers in spring.
“I’ll be back,” I whispered to the Dzilth-Na-O-Dith-Hle mesa, from the backseat of a government issued car driving to the Albuquerque airport. I rolled down the window after we turned onto the paved highway, and dust settled. The fresh smell of sagebrush and red earth filled the vehicle and my thirsty lungs. It’s scent danced in the backseat keeping me company. Faint traces of gas filtered in.
“I’ll be back,” I whispered again, as the mesa grew smaller and smaller out the rear window.
Lois drove. She had an open way about her that put me at ease. She had taken me under her wing. The wheels on the sedan hummed, but a loud silence filled the grey interior. I closed the window, shutting out the cold and the smell of sagebrush and gas.
The sun’s early rays stretched like fingers across the wide-open land. The roads were long and straight, and I was grateful to let my mind wander. I slid back against the vinyl seat for the five hour ride to the airport. To the flight that would take me back East, to home, to face the culture of elite colleges and application results, my family’s life of public service that was both inspiring and confining, and to my parents’ supportive nest that was growing too tight.
My singing bowls are crystal, most of them smooth and transparent. They pick up the colors of the sun like a prism on sunny days. One is an alchemy bowl, made of cobalt, its deep blue feels like the night sky. They resonate at different tones that fill up the silence. I rub the mallet around the rims to create sound, I play them for meditations and they are healing.
The land did call me back. The wide open spaces where sky meets earth, where magma broke through crust and hardened into monoliths pointing skyward, where mesas turn revealing different facets of the same face, where twilight haunts the arid land with layers of memory beyond my own. The landscape of New Mexico. After 32 years, I have returned.
No longer a young woman, the land awakens a sweet sadness and a remembering of my youth and inexperience before college. Before early work years. Before graduate school. Before marriage. Before giving birth and motherhood. Before divorce. A remembering of a time when my story was just beginning. I do not feel regret; I am grateful for these wisened eyes that carry instead a tenderness for the many roads our human heart can travel.
This time I visit the Navajo Nation and the boarding school with the partner who fits me, a man who has sensitive eyes. He is a gentle observer who knows how to make room for me.
We drive under the light of a waning full moon. I search the horizon for a feeling in my heart and solar plexus. A dark outcropping pushes up from the deep purple ahead and an electric current swells inside me. The rock monolith grows larger as we drive, and it’s still miles away. But I know it. It’s Shiprock, or “Winged Rock” if you translate the Navajo. I remember it. My Navajo grandmother’s home is somewhere nearby.
During the last month of my stay, the school’s head of maintenance, John, took me to visit his mother. The house was a weather worn rectangle—simple, neat, utilitarian. The land rose up and curled around her house. Nearby, an ancient lava flow flattened into sections that linked end to end. She wore a traditional long skirt that rippled when she walked. Her velvet blue shirt draped over her petite frame, the sleeves resting thickly on slender wrists. The house smelled like the moist earthy pots she made.
She knelt on the particleboard floor before me. Her eyes looked into me. I sat as she did on the floor opposite her. Behind her, a well-used broom rested against a wall near the oven. A giant earthen pot sat next to her, like an ancestor sitting with us. Inverted, the open lip rested on the ground, the rounded bulb swelling upward.
She made these pots with earthen clay, rolled into coils. Looking at the grandmother, I rubbed my hands together as if making the long stands I made in ceramics class. I lifted my eyebrows to ask if this was her process. Through thick-rimmed glasses that seemed too wide for her slender face, she held my gaze a moment and smiled. She rubbed her hands together and then mimed a similar motion and nodded. We carried on like this for a period of time that seemed to reside in another realm. We shared in a language behind the language.
Now, at 50, I have returned to search for Lois and John, the grandmother’s son. I needed to find them to let them know how much they impacted my life, to touch in some tangible way the meaning of that time. I had little to go on. I couldn’t remember Lois’s last name. I didn’t know my grandmother’s first. Weeks ago, I called the boarding school, and a man had answered who remembered Lois and her full name. He didn’t know anything more. I knew my Navajo grandmother could not be alive anymore—she had been old when I met her. But her son, John, was surely still alive. If only I could find him. My instinct told me to return to the school. I brought my pictures and the clay pot the grandmother had given me.
At it's simplest, the vibration of singing bowls breaks through mind chatter and creates a space for just “being.” People feel the vibration inside their bodies. We are composed of 70 percent water, and the water in our bodies vibrates with the sound. It vibrates at a cellular level. We experience ourselves connected to something outside of our physical being.
The Navajo name Dzilth-Na-Oh-Dith-hle means “turning mesa,” and I kept turning back to it over and over through the years. In the years before my graduate studies I took a series of pottery classes in Boston and gravitated toward the coil pot making like my Navajo grandmother.
As a mother tucking my own girls into bed, I would look back on my last night at the school. With sock feet I padded to each room and kissed every dear giggly and somber face. My visit spread like quickfire ahead of me as I traveled from girl to girl, bunkbed to bunkbed and room to room. I wanted each girl to know that I recognized the beauty she held inside her and the tremendous worth she brought to the world. I didn’t know it then, but this is the prayer I sing passionately in my heart for myself and others. The song is medicine that must be shared.
The singing bowls cultivate a deep listening and peace. They help us out of linear time, into the present moment. Into timelessness. They assist us in finding the "inner witness" to our state of being, and the recognition that our busyness, stress, and emotions do not define us. They slow us down and open us to greater receptivity, intuition, inspiration, and creativity. They bring people into the "presence" of each moment.
It’s the same painted cement block school I remember, but with new colorful playground equipment and a rearing mustang stature out front. I don’t know the women at the front desk. I walk in and their conversation stops. One woman sits up taller, her smile polite but distant. I inquire about John and Lois.
“I volunteered here when I was in high school. I worked in Mrs. Blue Eyes classroom,” I say smiling.
They find a phone number for Lois that I will call later. They tell me that John still works here. I bring out my pictures. One woman gets a kick out of the old picture of John and says, “Oh look, look at all that hair!” I can feel the kind-hearted teasing they will direct his way. Laughing with them ushers in a comfort and familiarity and I feel the polite wall fade away. Heart pumping, I ask, “Is it possible to visit John today? Is he here now?” He is with a child in detention in the building next door.
Minutes later I spot him in the classroom. His hair is silver now and cut short. He steps into the hallway, but one hand lingers on the classroom doorknob. With a tired smile, he says, “Yes? How can I help you?”
I gush out an introduction, my words awkward. He is polite and pleasant but my heart sinks because he seems not to recognize me.
“It meant so much to meet your mother 32 years ago, “ I say pressing on.
He isn’t catching the significance.
“Uh. That’s unusual…taking someone to meet her like that.” He says.
I can tell my words don’t make sense to him. Maybe he won’t remember.
I show him a picture from when I was the skinny girl standing near Lois. Suddenly, a spark kindles, his eyes light up. He says with a chuckle, “I remember you!” We talk more easily, and he looks at the photos of himself and his mother, shaking his head at the little window into the past.
“Do you remember, your mother spoke to me of the four directions, through a letter you transcribed. She said we were part of the same and that I was her granddaughter?”
“I remember.” he says. He looks down smiling.
“She made a pot for me…” I say.
He looks at me and blinks.
“I brought it with me. We have it out in the car right now… Can I show you?”
He asks a nearby teacher to watch over his charge. Squinting in the sun we walk to our parked car where I had carefully packed his mother’s pot under the passenger seat—secured, away from harm. As I unpeel the insulating layers, he watches in silence. My hands seem slow and inept, but I hold the pot like a mother bear with her cub. I set the bowl in his arms and he cradles it. It was her beautiful gift to me from so long ago, and it seems made for this moment. His eyes don’t leave the pot and he whispers, “She passed away twenty-two years ago.” John’s eyes close. His eyes are like hers. John shares his mother’s teaching about pot making. “She told us to smooth the outer edges of the pot up against our hearts,” he says pulling the pot into his chest.
I realize this pot is a part of her body and being. Her pots are her heart. His hands slowly pass over the red earthen sides and he strokes the hand-smoothed interior. The current inside me rises, and tears come. I feel my grandmother—John’s mother—present with us.
My grandmother and I had met for a day, and something forever changed me. Before that, I had no model, no vocabulary, no awareness in which I could put the soft channeling of energy I had experienced since childhood. One might say it started an awakening. An awakening connected to who I am and who I’m supposed to be, an awakening to something eternal.
My grandmother’s clay pot was the first bowl—from the earth and from her heart. Now I use bowls of crystal to help people remember who they are and heal. They are all sacred containers. My grandmother helped begin this journey long before I knew or remembered anything. I still know next to nothing, but I know enough to listen and trust the right unfolding of my story.
On our way home this time, my partner and I stop at Winged Rock. We hadn’t planned to stop because snow was expected in the mountains on our way to Colorado and we wanted to make it before dark. But I had to take the time and listen to the land. It has a consciousness, it chants the stories of the people that came before me…they seem to walk along keeping company with my memories, sharing a kind of kinship.
We unpack the four singing bowls. Few words are necessary. Wrapping the Navajo shawl Lois had given me around my shoulders, I kneel down in the soil before the rocks and draw the suede mallet around the rims. Waves of sound radiate like ripples on the water. I play another and another, the sound builds in intensity, vibrating in my body, pouring outward to the rocks, and the wide open space. I play and play. I play for the love and deep gratitude I have for my grandmother, for the land, for John and Lois and the love they showed me as a girl and again on this trip as a woman…for the circle completing itself and beginning anew…for family…for the mystery that connects us.
by, Stacy Montaigne AuCoin
by Stacy Montaigne AuCoin
David and I had scouted it out the day before, so we knew exactly where the Bright Angel trailhead began on the south rim of the Grand Canyon. Months ago, we found it on the topographic maps David purchased for the trip. But within the darkness that permeates the early hour, our surroundings cast quite a different impression now. Shadow enveloped us except for the light that beamed out of the lamps on our foreheads. It was 4:13am. Lighting up the trailhead sign with our headlamps, we took its picture to mark the moment, the place…the beginning. This was it; the beginning of our one-day trek to hike from the south rim to the north rim of the Grand Canyon. We had 24 miles to hike…and thousands of feet of elevation to lose and gain again.
Suddenly, at the ledge overlooking vast darkness, the unknown of what lay ahead felt heavy. We would descend the Grand Canyon in the darkness…following a marked trail, yes, but steep and dark…no street lamps. We were going into rugged territory with cliffs and sheer drops, and the path we followed would get illuminated in 10 foot patches along the way. We were going into the darkness and into the profound silence deep within the earth.
Worries rattled around in my consciousness. Did we have enough water? Would the Park have the water pipes pressurized today so that we could fill up along the way…yesterday they couldn't promise us it would be done? Would my knees hold up? Would we make it to the North Rim before dark to meet up with our cohorts who planned to do the reverse rim to rim trek tomorrow? They needed us to drive their car to make it all work, would we let them down? Would I run out of energy?” “Would our packs be too heavy?” “Did we have enough food?” I watched these thoughts shoot across the bow of my mind. I could feel the potential abrasiveness of these worries, and then I let them pass away in the next few seconds.
Standing there on the rim of the Grand Canyon, I opened myself to the sublime stillness of the moment. I could not deny the canyon's gravitational pull…a magnetic energy drew me in…onward…forward. Suddenly, infused with elation, I couldn’t resist smiling, and playfully I began to skip down the descending trail for a few yards. David and I laughed and I felt so happy for his company.
Inside me I also knew our task was really very simple in this moment. David and I were prepared…and if something challenged us along the way we would address it when and if it occurred. Why worry about something that did not exist. Everything in this moment was perfect…and I allowed myself to relax. The moment my mind quieted, I could feel the elation growing from my very center! We were ready for this plunge into the darkness! For climbing all day! For physical exertion! For focus! For the canyon’s majestic beauty! But more than that—or maybe because of it—the trek seemed to symbolize the leap that David and I have made to come together and begin our work. The faith in ourselves and the faith in our need to follow a path that is our truest expression of whom we are and the purpose that brought us together. This trek honors the difficulty, the beauty, the intention of our life journey…and new passage.
With gratitude and love, dear reader,
We are Grand Canyon bound! It’s our second day on the road, and David is driving. Looking out the window, my mind extends outward to the landscape. Yellow grassland and sagebrush stretch out before me, sometimes narrowing into canyons then opening into undulating tundra. Another moment trees gather then wind-swept grasses and sky spread out wide again. As we roll along, the land forms and reforms before my eyes. To my north, the Wasatch Mountains fill up the entire window. They are massive, and seem not to make room for anything else in that direction. There is no sign we are passing them or gaining ground, as we rumble along. They seem constant and undiminished. They keep a silent vigil. I feel their timelessness...their powerful silence. It moves me…deep within something stirs. In contrast, Interstate-15, with its growing lanes, speeding trucks, and rushing SUVs seems irreverent or at least oblivious to the mountain’s presence.
Our white Prius has its own and constant environment…like a little pod with its own climate, within the changing sea of our surroundings. It contains our excitement and intention for this trip. It carries a small mattress and pillow for sleeping should we need it. It carries provisions for the drive to the Grand Canyon, our needs for our planned all-day hike from South rim to North rim, and our continued journey into the Navaho nation. We have hiking shoes, camelback packs, energy food, healthy snacks…humus and veggies, instant strawberries and cream oatmeal, peanut butter & honey for sandwiches, apples, headlamps, clothes stuffed into efficient stuff-sacks, several pairs of good socks, a compact watercolor set and brush, a dictionary of symbols, spiral writing notebooks and pens. We’ve also nestled my Navaho grandmother’s handmade pot under the passenger seat, and pictures of dear people who took me under their wing when I was 18 and lived for a couple months on the Navaho reservation. Will I find them…after all these years?
The pod hums with possibility. I imagine this moment in time and this environment as a human-scale equivalent to the subatomic field of potentiality considered in Quantum Physics. It’s the moment and place before the manifestation of matter or wave. The idea of it lies expectant in the realm of potentiality, just as the coming manifestation of our trip lies in wait…shapeless and unknown at this point in time and space. This is where our intention comes into play, to co-create our future experience. Much like particles at the subatomic level, how they manifest—particle or wave—depends upon our expectation or intention. It depends upon what we believe to be true, what we expect, what we intend. At it’s best, I believe, future experience is co-created by what we know to be deeply true inside us…that point in which we feel in synch, right…like following a trail of resonances as one would bread crumbs along a path marking the way.
With our trip stretching out before us…what will it be…wave or particle? Will we complete the hike from the south rim of the Grand Canyon to the North rim in one day, so that we can support our friends who want to run it from north to south on the following day? Will we allow our intuition to lead us to the next chapter in our trip further south,…perhaps to the Hopi Mesas? Will we find my dear friends from Dzilth-Na-O-Dith-Hle, in the Navaho nation, after 32 years? As we fly down Interstate-15, humming along in our well-packed car, absorbing everything, exploring ribbons of thought and weaving ideas, as we follow the asphalt trail stretching out far before us, I am mindful simply to stay open and receptive. That is the intention…to encounter all that awaits us, with the expectation of finding resonant meaning. Thusly, David and I fly down the Interstate with open wings, open minds, and joyous hearts! Thank you to all who saw us off so well from Bozeman! You are helping prepare our way! Take very good care, dear reader.
With gratitude and warmth,
Today I want to ponder the idea--the experience--of presence and openness. First, what do I mean by presence? Has someone ever looked into your eyes when you spoke with them? Could you feel them with you, harmonize with you? Did you get the sense they were really taking you in? You probably felt relaxed with them, and the conversation probably flowed, reached a deeper level, or maybe it encouraged free-flowing laughter? By contrast, have you engaged with someone whose eyes seemed hard or "not with you?" Did they seem only to pause to formulate their next sentences? Did you feel defensive? Did you find yourself disengage, or your body become tense?
Do you feel the difference in these described encounters? The first experience is one of presence and openness. The second example is one of discomfort and unrelatedness. They are remarkably different, and yet one may find it difficult to explain why each experience feels so different. Presence and openness is a quality of relating. It has everything to do with inner stillness, receptivity, intention with no agenda. So this quality conveys through the eyes. It is no accident the eyes have been called 'windows to the soul.' It's powerful. Cultivating a soulful connection and presence with people...cultivating openness...is fundamental to our health and well-being as social beings. It requires us to dismantle pretense and prejudice, and it requires honesty and dwelling in the moment. It requires us, certainly, to put the cell phones down--or, better yet, off--to detach from our "screens," so pervasive within our culture.
A couple years ago I had the opportunity to participate in an immersive theater experience in New York city that helped bring the power of eye contact and subtle communication into greater awareness for me. The play is called "Then She Fell," about Lewis Carol and his Alice in Wonderland story. The actors' riveting eye contact with audience members stood out powerfully for me. It would convey and color meaning, emotion, direction, connection, and sometimes hostility and danger. It was the thread by which we members of the audience knew where to go next in the story. From our encounters with the characters, we drew a much more intimate and deep experience of the story. In fact it became an immediate experience that affected us more than a story, it allowed us to encounter the story and the characters. To be seen and to see. It allowed for us to encounter our own fears, doubts and feelings. "Then She Fell," the play, reveals many brilliant things that are unrelated to my topic today, but I came away from the experience with an acute awareness about eye contact...and how we so seldom look at one another. How powerful it is to be present with someone...how good it feels to be seen by someone else... It activates a sense of aliveness inside, I think.
Being present keeps us in the now, in the moment, and helps create true intimacy and greater awareness. It allows us to open up to more than the confines of our own limits and prejudices. It frees us from our own projections. It imbues more meaning and intimacy in our relationships. In this age of portable technology when eyes too easily drift away to smart phone screens, can we dare to cultivate presence and openness in our daily lives? I think it one of the most precious gifts we can give ourselves and others. So, here's looking at you! Take very good care.
Stacy Montaigne AuCoin, LCSW
Dear Reader, and Fellow Journeyer,
Do you make room for stillness in your life? Our days are stuffed full of tasks, plans, schedules, meetings, work, paying bills, answering emails, business through our smart phones, picking up the kids, music lessons, homework, dinner…the list goes on and on. Messages from a consumer culture, and fast-paced information, contentious politics assault the quiet spaces when we're driving in our car, working in our office, making dinner at home, or sitting down to dinner. We are constantly bombarded with stimuli and rancor. And when we stop, we may worry about the things we still need to do, or should have done. Or exhausted, we may zone out watching TV, play computer games, or surf the intoxicating web. In this way, we lose the compass to our inner selves as the frenetic energy of our lives takes us over, and begins to pilot our lives.
You are not alone if your answer to my stillness question is "no," or "not often." Many of us don't allow ourselves to get quiet, to seek stillness. In fact, we can feel uncomfortable, fidgety, and even guilty when we stop and "do nothing." "Do nothing" is an interesting phrase. Do you feel the judgement within it? We are such a "doing" culture that the pursuit stillness can be see as wasteful and lazy. Yet all the "doing" is often empty of meaning. And we feel the emptiness, although we may not be fully conscious of it.
What I am coming to realize is that the frenzied, empty doing is a consequence of an imbalance in our lives. Making space for peace, for stillness, for quiet, for looking deeply within ourselves is largely lost in our culture. (Although, I do think many are waking up to this need to rebalance). It is largely lost, and we deeply, desperately need it. It is precisely what we need to cultivate to find wholeness, and to find meaning in our lives.
The paradox is that we must fill the "emptiness," with stillness, listening, and receptivity. This may feel like "nothing." But it in this letting go--"emptying"-- that we find fullness. It is where we find our deeper selves. It can restore balance that is found in a dynamic flow that move us from action and to receptivity and back again in a more organic way. Then our actions are informed from our true and deep authentic selves.
Our cultural paradigm, our Western, mechanistic construct of the world doesn't help in this matter. Often it can limit our perspective and orientation in the world. Ironically, we are a culture of "doers," but we insist on seeing the world statically. Our actions are therefore based on rigid, segmented constructions of the world around us. We define, and put into tidy categories, the world and our relationships in life. We concretize them so that we can calculate, measure, and master them. Our actions under this paradigm come out of the desire to control, to conquer and manipulate to suite our wants and desires, our presumed needs. The paradigm often presumes scarcity, and it presumes danger in what we cannot control or define. This paradigm--this orientation to the world--can generate disconnection from our deepest intuitive selves, and it can generate fear. When we are fearful, we don't act from an place of inner stillness, from self-knowledge, from the sense of our interconnectedness to others and to nature.
So, instead, let us work to cultivate wholeness and inner-knowledge. After all, each of us holds great treasures within. They need only to be discovered, to be excavated and brought into the light. So, let us take time to look within, take time for stillness. Take time, WITHOUT APOLOGY, to seek stillness, and let it fill you up…fill you up with nothing. It is everything.
The practice: Create quiet moments of reflection and peace every day, even if it is 15 minutes to begin with. Making a practice of waking up 15 minutes earlier or find 15 minutes at other parts of the day that work naturally for you. You can follow your breathing, or listen to music with pure tones (like Native American Flute Music) that helps bring you into deep stillness. Find the self behind the thoughts, worries, and feelings. Watch the fluidity of those thoughts and worries flow past you. No judging, just be gentle and let them flow away, over and over again.
Sometimes I have found it helpful to write meditatively in my journal to get started…to write what I am letting go of…to write as if the energy of all my worries and fears flows out, like the ink, out of my pen, out of my being, onto the paper. In this kind of emptying; I am made full. Be gentle on yourself in this process. It is an ongoing process, just immerse yourself in the process of letting go, of finding stillness, of tuning into you. In this way, we can slowly discover our inner compass, and learn to pilot our own lives. You deserve this space you are creating!
Take very good care,
Stacy Montaigne AuCoin, LCSW
Passages and Pathways, Counseling and Personal Growth
My first post....
I've been thinking a lot lately about the role of pain in transformation and rebirth. Allowing ourselves to sit with pain, embrace it...pushing away the impulse to run away, to hide.... As we allow ourselves to sit with fear and pain without losing ourselves in it, staying on the edge of it...watching ourselves and our feelings flow past like on a screen before us... great gifts of insight and wisdom can emerge. And a kind of inner acceptance and peace can blossom.
This is a concept not often encouraged in our culture, because we tend not to make room for pain and fear (for many other feelings either). We try instead to outrun or hide from them. We busy and distract ourselves from the feelings, we want to appear strong and productive. We wrongly equate feelings with weakness or being out of control. And besides...we don't have time for this, we have plans, darn it!
Ironically, pain and fear weald greater power over us when we try to run away from them. So, what if we were turn to face these feelings...acknowledge them...from a deep, centered place within?
When such an opportunity arises, take five deep breaths, filling up your lungs...and then let the air go out slowly and deliberately each time. As you do this, ground yourself in the knowledge that pain or fear do not define you, they are merely passing through (some need more time than others). Be gentle with yourself. Feelings often arise to remind you of things you need to know or remember. Now that you've created a quiet space within you with your breath, pay attention to the feelings, locate the sensation of them in your body and make a note of it. Notice, too, that feelings do not have to possess you. You can tolerate these feelings, you can hold them and recognize they are not you, but are merely experiences of this moment within a lifetime of moments.
Become curious about these feelings. Why have they visited? What role do they play in your life right now, or within a particular scenario? What message are they wanting you to hear? Feel their energy diminish, as you tend to them with curiosity, as a friend. There is a kind of freedom that comes from this sitting with pain and fear, from the recognition that it does not drown you, or overtake you*...not when you face it squarely. This practice can be the beginning of quiet strength and significant transformation in your life. See if you can put this into practice more and more frequently. Don't beat yourself up when you don't, just try to incorporate it the next time.
This is my first blog entry. I will write more, but with variable frequency. I would enjoy hearing from you about your thoughts and experiences. Write me if you have something to share or wish to hear from me. This blog is not meant to take the place of therapy, but may be useful in exploring general themes and experiences. My responses will be periodic. I look forward to hearing from you.
Take very good care.
Stacy Montaigne AuCoin, LCSW
Passages & Pathways
Counseling and Personal Growth
*Within the psychological field, it is of course recognized that some more acute and chronic illnesses, such as clinical depression, may require medicine or greater mental health resources to help people pull through.
Stacy M. AuCoin, LCSW
Stacy is a licensed counselor, poet, speaker, and facilitator of workshops & seminars about meditation and cultivating practices for well-being, and transformation. She earned her MSW in clinical social work from Smith College School For Social Work, in Northampton, MA. Stacy has practiced in Massachusetts; Washington, D.C.; Jackson, Wyoming; and Bozeman, Montana.