Seeking Slow and Seeking Loud

I let yesterday’s moments pass as slowly as I could.

Two months have passed since the last chronicle and I can say that I have been choosing to make my way into learning more intentionally the much needed rhythm of rest.  It’s necessary after realizing how ungracefully I’ve been walking this journey of burn out recovery.

This scene from the new television series Pitch spoke deep into me and I saw memories flashing back before my eyes.

I’ve been working hard as far back as I can remember.

Two hours of practicing piano pieces from Mozart’s Sonatas or Debussy’s First Arabesque or Beethoven’s Sonata Pathetique.  All nighters at the grad school to read Harvard Business cases back to back until dawn.  Sitting in board room discussions for 6 hours that depleted all creative inspiration. Taking apart process after process and sewing it back together.  Finding ideas to bridge gaps that need filling. Listening to the lives of people young and old in need of company, companionship and direction.

I work double the effort because I knew I’m just not wired like the rest. It isn’t always easy for me to navigate through the residue of extreme mental effort and extreme emotional intensity.  I’ve realized these moments all become tight  knots in my mind and take the experience of rest away primarily because of one thing — approval.

I want approval.

I’ve known this already but I’m still working this lesson out because it shows up again and again when the pressures of life come up.  Whether it’s work or relationship or your very own vision for yourself.  Each stage you feel you have accomplished leads you to wanting more approval or even aim for even more achievement and significance and meaningfulness because…you want approval.

The mind is such a stubborn place to rest while the heart can be such a turbulent one. But there is truth in that verse from the book of Jeremiah (29:17) saying,

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all of your heart.

I would say to Jeremiah that I am there already  in that phrase, all of your heart.  Perhaps I was seeking with half a heart or three-fourths of a heart.  But the mental captivity you experience from the life stressors that burn you out can bring you to that point of desperation that you need to make this act of seeking the one thing that you really have to get right.

Seek with all your heart and you will be found.  That’s the promise.  You will be found in your wanting, in your longing, in your aching.  You will be found in your wandering, your lingering, your staying.

You will be found and seen and that knowing you are found and seen is what brings you to a realization that girl, your efforts are approved of.  Your tireless compassion is received. Your relentless wrestling has brought you to a place where you have come to know that  in your desperate desire to seek truth, the greatest Heart Seeker has long sought after you. 

It takes courage to preach to yourself especially when you’re bowed low in fatigue. But this episode of Pitch preached to me like a clanging cymbal.  And this is me doing this for me. This chronicling and digging and sifting.  Inspired by the stories of women who have taught me that sometimes you just have to live out the questions, sometimes you just have to keep your gaze to the sky, sometimes the broken way is the path to wholeness, sometimes by sitting through your gasping breath your lungs become desperate for deeper inhales and longer exhales.

That moving to and fro does not mean you are aimless but maybe it means you are riding the waves out as they ebb and tide. And staying still right on top of its crest is the way to catch the perfect surf.  That the swinging and swaying of restless time on restless days does not mean you’re wandering lost instead sticking it out can be the way you find your heart’s gravity so it can love wide enough to live free.

It’s a rainy Sunday and I have some books to read and some dreams to recover. And a cup of jasmine tea for a long and restful exhale.

There is the necessary, satisfying work of serving others in all the places where you are loved and needed. But there is also this: the soul’s work, which you ignore at your peril. And so, for today, anyway, you commit yourself to it fully: The journey inward to find your own truth. The stillness of your mind behind the noise of your doing. The willingness to see the beauty inside yourself, and to honor that. You are a little rusty and awkward in your quest. The privilege of solitude is also a skill that requires practice.

In a little while, you will walk the long road back. You will return home tomorrow a little different, still holding the hand of your wilder self, having touched for just a moment your own infinity.

(Katrina Kenison, On Being Blog)

He Knows How To Reach Me

When your life is a layer of moments criss-crossing one another and sometimes you get tired of how you’re part of this weave that you don’t understand, you come to a place of slight desperation and you begin to ask questions and really need some answers.

I’m not saying I’ve been off-track.  Maybe I have never been this on-track.  Closely paying attention to myself, my life and where I’m going.  But I suppose I’ve just been wanting to see a little bit more fruit in what I feel has been a little bit of a dry and barren season filled with a lot of effort with a few moments of rest.

Sometimes it’s not evident.  People have said that I carry things pretty well.  I’m pretty put together.  Maybe it is a gift to be that kind of person.  But sometimes I do wish people could see how despite my very able legs, I’ve been walking with a strain.  Despite my very outstretched and welcoming arms, I’ve been feeling like my arms are lifting lead.

Compassion fatigue.

It’s not easy to admit this for fear of being laughed at and being just told, “Oh, burn out? Just relax!” or “You’re taking life too seriously!” or “Just take things with a grain of salt.” or “Maybe you haven’t been attuned to God enough or you haven’t been praying enough.”  

But no.  It’s real.  And yes, it’s an experience people do go through and sometimes it takes years to heal.

And I still am…healing.

I guess it’s not so important to think about how I got here anymore or maybe those are stories for another day.  But what I find really meaningful to ponder about right now is how God continues to be faithful in not giving up on me.

When you pray everyday and hope for even just whisper, but there’s silence.  When you dutifully try to keep up with all the facets of devotion and there’s nothing but a dry and arid presence.  When you keep knocking and the door just won’t open.  Those seasons in the faith journey can be excruciating.

Thank God for these moments where I’m pushed into a place of need and the longing to have a deeper intimacy with the Author of my life, my days.  Perhaps that is the reason for these moments of weariness when the oasis feels too far beyond my reach.

It’s to keep on digging into what I say I believe.

Nothing else will makes sense unless you begin to see things with God’s perspective.  And you’ll only begin to understand what He sees and how He is moving in your life when yield your own version of understanding to Him.

Trust in the Lord and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways be mindful of Him and He will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

So I’ve been walking this new season of seeking and I have found myself in the most exquisite of conversations with the Lover of my soul the past couple of weeks.  But today’s conversation with Him was undoubtedly the most gut-wrenching for me.  Because He said the words that really described what I felt, through the preacher today.

“A dead battery does not need to be recharged.  It needs to be replaced.  If that is you, if you feel you loved it all out and you have nothing left.  If you feel depleted. Then lift your hands today and let me pray for you.” 

I’ve been in many prayer gatherings such as this one.  While I’ve taken a year and a half break from attending, I am not new to the ways of God when He pierces the atmosphere with a certain clarity that the message you just heard is unmistakably meant for you.

But this one was an arrow headed straight for the bulls-eye.

And there it stirred, the sheep does recognize Shepherd’s voice.  His everlasting arms can really reach the places no one can.  Who would’ve thought I would find myself in this place today.

But then again, why would I surprised, when the very desire that rises up from our hearts to seek our Maker is already our Maker seeking us.

Healing Stories

The Healing Workshop 

This week was like a culmination of many things.  I had attended a training workshop (that almost felt like a retreat) on arts based interventions for healing and learning.  While I’ve been exposed to the expressive arts practice for almost 3 years now, it is through this workshop that I’ve really begun to deepen my appreciation of the process and the experience that emerges from it.

During this workshop I experienced a deepening appreciation of the Filipino indigenous culture and have even experienced soulful connections with the Badjao tribe.  Their spirituality while different from mine speaks so universal about how  people in touch with themselves, their living traditions and their faith can find  a reservoir of strength that carries them throughout their lives and opens doors for miracles and new discoveries.

I’ve also discovered how simple rituals that you add to your ways of communicating with a team of co-workers can help you in being able to connect better to one another. Sometimes you need an instrument of peace.  Sometimes this instrument comes in the form of another person, an art piece, or a leaf.

Sometimes it’s hard to feel fully understood by another but I’ve realized that when you go through the process of deepening your understanding of yourself by engaging in the art of mindful expression you will find space inside to give room for another’s longing to be understood.

All of these things have helped me carry my own weight as I continue my journey of unravelling and this morning as I sit here silent and grateful, I am overwhelmed by a peace I cannot explain.  The creative act can indeed return you to yourself.  And when you are feeling more at home with yourself, something inside you opens up and becomes a refreshing home for others.

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Healing Stories

There are so many stories to tell about healing that I cannot even begin to enumerate them now.  But perhaps I shall start with one story that has healed me in particular this week.

I saw 5 butterflies dance just right outside the school parking lot before I went into the office.  They were light yellow and they flew from the bamboo trees that lined up the house across the street.  The sun was shining softly against the leaves and the rays of light made them flicker.

I was on the phone with a friend who needed advise on which path to take in his life given the pressing issues of his predicament.  We had been on strained conversations for almost 3 weeks and I had started to feel helpless.  But last Monday after my morning meditation and prayers I felt a surrendering yet again.  Perhaps it is another layer of weight being peeled off of me.  In the call, I had shared with him about the butterflies instantly.  He told me he had been asking God for  a sign and he felt that my telling him about the butterflies was one that confirmed it.

There I felt an exhale. A sigh of relief.  A connection revived to be more life-giving. But most of all I felt grace pour out and just heal.

I don’t know what it is about butterflies that have made me so attuned to nature of late. But I have been seeing a lot of butterflies since last year and sometimes I feel like they follow me or are actually angels in disguise.

The Healing Journey

Now that I think about it, this healing journey of mine has actually been going on for more than a decade.  And it’s a mix and match of many different ways of healing.  I would say I’ve spent over 15 years going through spiritual healing and getting to know God in a more personal way and getting to know the traditions of my own faith so that I can appreciate living it out better.  While that has helped me for the most part, there was something missing.

The more I became “spiritual” the more I wanted to disconnect from my own reality.  It was as if spirituality became an escape for me because I didn’t want to face the things I felt discontented about in my life.  I needed to understand why I felt this way and through the expressive arts practice and the disciplines of psychology I have found a path emerge that converges with the path I’m currently on.

I have grown to understand the different modalities of healing and that there can be many across disciplines and cultural traditions.  It’s been a wonderful patchwork of discoveries that aside from the expressive arts, I’ve gone into a journey of understanding the physiology of my own brain.  Where the psyche resides and all the mysteries of my life are stored in my memory.

Two weeks ago I decided to participate in the study of neurofeedback.  An emerging technology that allows you to map out the different ways your brain responds.  I got myself a brain map and there I also discovered how my life experiences have affected the way I cope with stress and trauma.  I’ve started to take neurofeedback sessions and see a neuro-therapist who has helped me understand how my responses are not just “a mood” or “a behavior” or “a personality”.  This part of my healing process has made me understand that a large part of how we heal is also dependent on our physiology and our brain.

Why have I found this to be important? It is important because I didn’t think that the spirit, mind and body have such great parts to play in a person’s healing.  More than just forcing myself to exercise or eat right (which ends up not really lasting anyway) I had to realize the meaning of why an integration of these aspects of my personhood needed to happen.

It’s a beautiful thing to discover that while we are not of this world we can be in this world and still continue to love it.  That there can be gifts in the daily experiences we go through even if it’s difficult.  That with an outlook of curiosity and love for learning and discovering, one can live life more meaningfully by being compassionate to oneself so that we can be more compassionate to others.

The Stillness of Breath

It was a rollercoaster week for me.  I can’t even begin to describe what it has been like. It’s a mix of all the things that need to be done, to be figured out, to be fixed.  It’s experiencing the wrestling of everybody else’s well-being that begs for space to be heard. To exhale.  To be given breathing room.  It piles up moment after moment and when you start losing you’re awareness of your own self, you begin to feel fragmented all over again.

Thankfully, it didn’t last  that long  for me.   Somewhere in between I caught myself. It was my body in restless sleep waking at the wee hours of the morning praying for a dear friend’s aching soul, lost in a tangle of knots that I’ve been trying to help unravel only to find myself caught in them.  It reminded me again of why I needed a deeper anchor.

I went to church to pray that morning and found myself practicing what I’m learning about meditation lately.  Pay attention to your breath.  Be present to yourself, to your body.  Slow down and do not abandon yourself.  

It’s not easy to be still when there are a million thoughts racing in your head and your phone vibrates with messages that are strained and seeking for help.  If only there was something I could do.  If only I knew what to do.  If only I can help everyone or fix everything.  But I can’t.

That reality sunk in and as I surrendered to it the restlessness began to cease.  I found myself looking at the altar and let the silence of grace fill my mind and calm the rhythm of my anxiety filled breath.  I found an acceptance for the situation.  An acceptance of the frailties and the limitations of what I cannot do when I am trying to do too many things at once.  An acceptance of what I cannot help with when your friend chooses to keep the door closed.  An acceptance that there really are many things that need to be fixed, but I’m not the one who can fix them all.

Surrendering and being present to myself in the midst of what I’m feeling helped me accept the hustle and the bustle, the choking and the wrestling of life around me that needed attention, needed care–including my own.

I found my breath.  I found the rhythm of my heart beating into my prayers and I felt heard.

I am not alone.  I am held.  I am seen.  I am loved.  I began to be aware of the light inside me, of God’s presence stirring and I find the stillness soothing, anchoring deeply into the truth that I am still here. I am making meaning.  I am making things count.  I am doing something of significance.  I am alive.

The silence slowly eased from its tension and began to move inside me like a silent breeze clearing the clutter and making space.  I felt less disturbed as soon as I surrendered into what I felt and the reality that God’s presence holds me through it.

It’s easy to be shaken by outside circumstances when your inside world is not well kept. While I’ve been trying to keep up with tending to my interior life as I’ve told myself with great intentionality this year, I still need to learn how to keep to a healthy rhythm of self-care.

So today, I finally went for that break and found myself enjoying a day with Adi and our spontaneous discoveries because of an accidental turn of events.

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The Softening of Days

I invited my sister to my room  yesterday morning because the sunlight comes through my window a little bit brighter in there.  The chair I let her sit in is a chair that’s been in my family for as long as I can remember.  When I was a little girl I used to be able to fit both my feet all huddled up in that chair reading a book.  And now here’s my younger sister with her son, my nephew Ryce catching some rays before 9:00am.

These are moments of softening the heart and mind especially when days go busy and there is no time to slow down.  I’ve been attentive to my need to slow down lately and have been learning how to choose moments where I participate in motion or rest.  I don’t think I still know how to completely rest yet.  I figure that there is a kind of rest that is lazy and there is a rest that is mindful.  The rest that leads to laziness becomes a futile kind of relaxation.  It’s that kind of rest that happens after a really long busy day where breathers weren’t taken and all you want to do is slump deep into your couch and not think of anything at all.  These are the kinds of moments that make me feel restless after a while.

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The mindful kind of resting is one that awakens and rejuvenates all your senses and makes you feel you’re flowing moment after moment even when you’ve paused from the usual rhythm and motion.  This is the kind of rest that I feel I need to learn how to do even more.  And this restfulness, if I may, only happens when I am able to cultivate a gentleness of heart and kindness to myself and others.

I feel emotionally fatigued easily because of my own recovery from burn out and this isn’t always easy to do.  I have made myself aware of what moves me away from this state of rest and it’s usually when I am put in a situation where I feel like I have to fix something and it needs to be done urgently.  I’ve often prided myself for having survived a lot of transitions in life and helped others in their own transition seasons as well.  But being this kind of person both in my professional and personal life has made me exposed to a disposition where I have to always be alert and quick to act.  In a way, it feels like I’m always in a battle and if I am not able to act right away, something is going to give way or someone will die.

This performance and achievement focused mindset has allowed me to experience  a great deal of growth but it has also turned me into someone who cannot stop until the work is done or the problem fixed.  And it’s that kind of disposition that leads me to believe that my worth is only evident when I’m able to do something instead of be somebody.

It is during these moments when a balance in paradigm is much needed.  Achievement is noble but so are moments of rest.  As I navigate these situations, I’m learning more about self-compassion and how being compassionate towards oneself is much needed today.

Self-compassion involves wanting health and well-being for oneself and leads to proactive behavior to better one’s situation, rather than passivity.  And self-compassion doesn’t mean that I think my problems are more important than yours, it just means I think that my problems are also important and worthy of being attended to.

Rather than condemning yourself for your mistakes and failures, therefore, you can use the experience of suffering to soften your heart.  You can let go of those unrealistic expectations of perfection that make you so dissatisfied, and open the door to real and lasting satisfaction.  All by giving yourself the compassion you need in the moment.

Kristin Neff, Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself

I have found ways in the past to bring me to a place of compassion for myself.  It largely revolved around prayer and community service.  However, this hasn’t been as helpful as I had hoped it to be all throughout because I felt limited in my ways of expression and longing for the deepening of self-discovery.

I’ve realized that what has worked for me lately is being mindful of my unmet needs of creative self-expression, slowing down to soften into moments so that I can capture them in a photograph or a poem, weaving a story of what I see and making new meaning from what has distressed my days, moving at a rhythm that is intentional but graceful and un-rushed.

There is something about the arts that helps you be brave enough to go soft into the moments that feel hard to go through so that you can keep the tenderness in your soul and the light in your heart.

I’m finally admitting to myself that I’m incomplete without it.

Rituals of Restoration

I spent a week in the hospital taking care of my mom who was confined because of pneumonia complications.  A day after that my one week old nephew was confined as well. It was a week of trying to understand what was happening and why people in my family were getting sick.  I was also trying to sort out my own exhaustion and decided that instead of resisting what I was going to have to go through, I will find my place in it.

The week was supposedly a holy one.  In usual circumstances, we as family, would have spent it in church and attend all the traditional ceremonies there were to commemorate the passion of Christ. But this year was different and I welcomed the change.  I didn’t actually mind ending up spending most of my time in the hospital doing things for my mom who was mostly bedridden.  I found my place in being able to show her that I was someone who can listen to her and attend to her when she needed me the most despite the many times I never felt the same.

This is not to say that my mom never did things for me.  She has.  But our lives unfolded with many  twists and turns that it became difficult for us to initially move peacefully beside each others’ journeys.

Ever since last week, I’ve been mindfully taking stock of how I’ve been spending my time and observing all the things I’ve been paying attention to.  I’ve realized how disconcerted I can feel when things are not in my control and I can’t seem to turn the light on just to see my next step.  I navigated my time at the hospital like I was in an incubator.  It made me see all the things that easily exhaust me and there are many.

 

I realized how hard it’s been for me to experience joy because of the many things I let myself be concerned about.  Which was why it was a welcome breather to just go into a craft shopping binge and buy those beads because it shifted my attention to other things.

I’ve been too concerned about the people I’m trying to help and I’ve embraced their burdens as my own which has caused me to feel too much of what they’re going through and have lost myself in it.  Like I said, it’s been a pattern.  It’s also a cry for help which most often than not, never really gets heard as deeply as I  hear and listen to theirs.

Compassion fatigue and the reality of it

The more I listen to myself, the more I recognize how fatigued I have been in showing compassion to others.  Compassion fatigue is real and sometimes I still dismiss it as just a passing thing but as I learn to  recognize and be aware of my own reactions to situations, I’m beginning to realize more how this condition has affected me.

Compassion fatigue is caused by empathy. It is the natural consequence of stress resulting from caring for and helping traumatized or suffering people.

Dennis Portnoy, Health Progress

I’ve often prided myself for how I’m able to empathize easily with other people.  It’s what has motivated me to get into human resource work and youth ministry.  Discovering the stories of other people also inspired me to stay authentic with my own.  However, I have been quite irresponsible with my own wellbeing that it’s been very difficult for me to move in a relaxed manner when I’m in interactions that require me to carry a large amount of weight or responsibility for another because they’re crippled by their own life situations to do so.

Improved self-care is the cornerstone of compassion fatigue prevention. This may seem obvious, but most helpers tend to put their needs last and feel guilty for taking extra time out of their busy schedules to exercise, meditate or have a massage. On the personal front, helpers need to carefully and honestly assess their life situation: Is there a balance between nourishing and depleting activities in their lives?

Françoise Mathieu

My own upbringing has taught me a whole lot about sacrifice.  At the same time I’ve also learned a lot about giving from an overflow.  We cannot give what we don’t have.  But these two tenets of wisdom  always seem to conflict within me when I’m being who I am to other people.  When I am pushed to keep persevering, I begin to ask myself, why can’t I do more and sacrifice for those I care about? When I’m running on empty another voice says, you cannot give what you don’t have.  It’s a push and pull and I’ve had to find my way to sit with these seemingly opposing values so that I don’t end up caving in back into the deep.

I’m learning that I cannot sacrifice anything when deep inside I know I’m really feeling a deep need to be looked after or be attended to.  When I feel a deep need to experience refreshing moments of joy and relaxation.  There is nothing to sacrifice when I’m depleted.  And when I push myself to sacrifice to the point of breaking myself, I do it because I want someone to recognize what I am doing for them and show me the same kindness I’ve shown them.

We always end up looking to others the things we cannot find in ourselves.  And this is a very human thing.  But when they don’t come around and fall short or when they put you down a notch in the priority list because there is something more pressing for them to attend to, something that’s just more compelling in their realm of attention, there is that sinking feeling of being treated unfairly.  There’s that question that nags, what worth has been my time to them then? 

It is during these times when the triggers of compassion fatigue manifest in turbulent forms.

It emerges suddenly and with little warning, and it is usually more pervasive than burnout. In addition to regular burnout symptoms, a person experiencing compassion fatigue can feel a loss of meaning and hope and can have reactions associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) such as strong feelings of anxiety, difficulty concentrating, being jumpy or easily startled, irritability, difficulty sleeping, excessive emotional numbing, intrusive images of another’s traumatic material. Past traumas can also be activated. Long-term effects include reduced empathy, diminished sense of personal safety, reduced sense of control, hopelessness, increased involvement in escape activities and chronic overeating, drug or alcohol use.

Dennis Portnoy, Health Progress

I can’t say that I’ve experienced all of the above but what’s been glaring at me has really been the irritability, excessive emotional numbing, intrusive images of another’s trauma. My own traumatic experiences being triggered and having to relive and sort out the feelings associated with them.  Experiencing a diminished sense of personal safety and hopelessness.

Returning to self, a mindful exploration of what brings you ease

I wrote early into the year about David Whyte’s poem Coleman’s Bed and how these lines really resonated within me.

Find that inward symmetry
To all outward appearances,
Apprentice yourself to yourself,
Begin to welcome back
All you sent away, be a new annunciation

Sometimes  I lose sense of myself because I lose sense of the spirit that’s in me.  The created manifestation of who I am at my core.  It becomes displaced and sometimes relegated into a definition that I’m merely just a “vessel” or a “catalyst” or a “conduit”.  It all feels so immaterial.

I’ve read many things about self-denial or finding your identity in God or your identity is really connected to everybody as one great big consciousness.  And those things do mean something in one way or another but they cannot be absorbed by my own personhood when I’m dealing with my own fragmentation as a result of my own deep self-giving.

I cannot transcend anything until I know exactly what I am feeling about my fragmented state.  Until I have admitted to myself that yes, I am indeed fragmented and I have mindlessly given myself away.  My awareness and attention has been aimless and that’s why my own inner knowing has been a broken compass that cycles me in and out of patterns that deplete me.

Parker Palmer describes this feeling of fragmentation and it’s effects on a person’s life when it is not attended to or acknowledged  in his book A Hidden Wholeness

We sense that something is missing in our lives and search the world for it, not understanding that what is missing is us.  We feel fraudulent, even invisible because we are not in the world as who we really are.  The light that is within us cannot illuminate the world’s darkness.  The darkness that is within us cannot be illuminated by the world’s light.  We project our inner darkness on others, making “enemies” of them and making the world a more dangerous place. Our inauthenticity and projections make real relationships impossible, leading to loneliness.  Our contributions to the world especially through the work we do are tainted by duplicity and deprived of the life-giving energies of true self.

The truth is that the more dividedness we perceive in each other, the less safe and sane we feel.  Everyday, as we interact with family, friends, acquaintances, and strangers, we ask ourselves if “what we see is what we get.”  Being cautious about the degree of congruence between outer appearance and inner reality is one of our species’ most ancient ways of seeking safety in a perilous world.

Rituals of restoration

Staying with these realizations the past few days and allowing them to unearth for me a desire to make meaning from them, as if to incarnate them into my reality has been the reason why art making has become  a ritual of restoration.

Stringing beads, while an ordinary act of simple jewelry making, has become more meaningful because of the choices  I’ve been mindful of making. The type of bead, the color, the associated meaning.  The intention of stringing them into something that helps me pray or meditate and forming a phrase I can speak out when I’m trying to find my own interior anchor has slowed me down considerably and given my awareness the space to feel more expanded instead of constricted in pressured impulses of productivity.

I’ve been learning a lot about the practice of expressive arts and how this discipline can be healing for someone  like me who has been experiencing a long burn out.  I have not gone so deep into the practice but have been involved in it as more of an observer than someone who really has done my own soul-work with the arts.  It is ironic because I’ve been longing for the time and the rhythm to be able to unearth what I’ve put off for quite a while.

Yet, I find myself in these cycles of helping others to be more important than helping myself.

Perhaps it’s time. And I have the hospital experience to thank for that.

on beads and meaning-making

It’s been about setting intentions for me lately.  I’ve realized how quick I am to cower and change in how I navigate my own experience that I need a tangible reminder of what I want myself to be guided by and lately it’s been about clarity.

I listened to Michael Hyatt’s podcasts two weeks ago and I got the jolt of my life.  I’ve been trying to be productive but I have a muddled up vision.  I am not clear about what I want to pursue.  I am not able to articulate in words.  I only know what I don’t want to feel.  But I don’t know exactly what I want to feel.

Starting this blog at the end of last year was situational.  I’ve maintained many blogs before but I realized that I’ve been wanting to get myself to deliberately focus on writing to navigate myself in getting  more clarity.   When I sift and muse about my day, when I think through my plans and schedules, when I ruminate about the memories that stay lodged in my mind, these are the things I do when I am not clear about what I am experiencing. It takes the act of meaning-making to discover and see the dust settle until my own perspectives can be clear.

It isn’t so much the desire for control.  I have had my own lessons of wanting too much certainty.  But I suppose it’s just my own desire to be able to sit a little bit more settled in whatever it is I go through so that I don’t strain myself too much and end up feeling spent and resentful for having showed up living my life a certain way.

It’s a cycle I always run into especially since my life is always made up of helping, caring and nurturing others.  I’ve realized how important understanding myself is in the process of tending to relationships and deepening them.  I’ve realized how important being mindful is especially when your attention is always focused on people you’re surrounded by and interacting with.  I’ve realized how short-fused I get when I do not pay enough attention to myself and haven’t given myself the space to express and feel what the flow of my emotions are really telling me.

I experienced another burn out break-down two weekends ago.  It was at the height of trying to finish a proposal for another client and I found myself feeling all alone in the strain of stretching my mind to ideate a plan that will help this group move out of its plateau.  The strain was horrible.  My head ached, my chest ached and I just felt very used up and hopeless and didn’t feel that anybody cared about what I was going through at all. Sure there was Adi, the faithful companion  who would always be there and who has been there. But I wanted other people to see what I was going through.  Especially the people who I was doing all this for.

I wanted them to see how difficult it has been to choose to spend time doing this over the weekend just to make sure things happen.  I wanted them to see how much I have sacrificed. I wanted to be affirmed so deeply because I have spent so much.

It’s obvious how worked up I have been the past years that this need to be seen keeps showing up especially when I have just poured out an overflow of my own creativity that could go to something that will nourish me.

I haven’t tended to myself.  And my tending to others has been an unhealthy pattern to compensate for my own need to be tended to.  It’s a cry for help.  And I am glad I’m aware about it now and can actually tell others about what I need from them without feeling so pathetic that I’ve done so.

I need more time for soul-work and meaning-making.  So last weekend, despite my mother having been confined to the hospital again for pneumonia complications, I was able to find time to go buy myself some beads and make myself a mala to remind me of my intention.  My intention is to move and do things for clarity.

I bought many with Adi and I ended up re-doing it 3 times because I didn’t feel settled into it.  I chose garnet, amethyst and labradorite beads to set the theme of my mala.  These beads are said to have meaning that helps one move towards clarity, healing and growth. And they look pretty for my old amethyst pendant to rest on.

I don’t really know how to use a mala but to me it’s a necklace that I’ve attached a specific purpose and meaning to.  I’m Catholic and making something like this might be to the shock of those who I’ve served church with but I am realizing that bead-making is such a rich tradition which is why the rosary has become so meaningful a devotional to many.

My mantra or prayer (if you must) as I use the mala to guide my thoughts is based on Christ’s last words.  Since I made this mala during Black Saturday, I felt that for the intention of clarity, I can anchor my prayer to the Easter promise of light and love and resurrection.  Light pierces through the darkness.  Love pierces through the pain. Resurrection redeems.

It is finished, for the kingdom.  In Greek,  échei teleiósei gia to vasíleio.

The Easter promise gives me hope that toil and strain can be worked on when I am anchored to the realization that Love is ultimately always present.