Composting egg shells



My life seems to be made up of little realizations.  That is, I keep finding myself suddenly seeing relationships and reasons for things that I either 1) never questioned or 2) had already relegated to the “clearly understood” pile.   So now I am left wondering if I am the only person who sees things in terms of my beliefs about that rather than what they ARE.   In this case, the belief is that eggshells are what holds eggs together.  T’aint so!  T’aint so, I tell ya.


So the story is this:  on the weekend, I had occasion to move my black plastic compost bin.  This was to make way for another backyard project, but I have to say that I wasn’t too excited about my task.   The bin has been the daily recipient of food waste from our kitchen.   That is, spoiled vegetables and limp fruit, the peels and ends of food that was on the menu, the left-over bits and pieces of kitchen, um, stuff.  Garbage, in some people’s language.   I snicker daily about putting food out on the raccoon buffet, because I know that my bin is visited nightly by assorted scavengers, and I am resigned and now somewhat amused by that fact.   I also knew that under this week’s and last week’s layers of kitchen waste, there was likely some pretty rich compost in this bin.  But to get to the compost and move the bin, I had to shovel through the recent additions.  In short, the rotting garbage.


Like most tasks I expect to be onerous, I tried to take a mindful approach;   noticing what was present, noticing my thoughts and how my thoughts tended to influence my ability to appreciate or tolerate the task, and trying to just be with the compost, the day, and the feeling of shoveling stuff into the wheel barrow and moving it.   So it turned out to be an okay job:  in fact, I had a sense that maybe I should be more aware of the waste that I generate anyway.    And the finished compost was a thing of beauty, at least to the gardener in me.   Gorgeous, dark, friable, filled with life, actually, much of which I couldn’t see, but some of which was visible and moving in my gloves…I ended up putting a lot of the lovely black stuff in the garden.

However, I noticed that even the finished compost was full of eggshells.    Okay, I’ll admit that I eat a lot of eggs.    Not just a lot, a lot by probably anyone’s standards…more than a dozen in a week, and that’s just me, not the rest of the family.   But I figured all those shells were breaking down in the compost bin, enriching the soil with calcium and whatever cool stuff they are made of.  Not so!   Those eggshells were just as intact in the bottom of the compost bin as the ones in the top.   So…eggshells don’t break down easily in compost.


I have been pondering this now for several days.   I want the good minerals from the eggshells in my compost.  What to do?   Crush the shells, to make things maybe work a little faster?   That won’t hurt, but I don’t know if it will help.   So I have started saving them to crush them before heading to the bin.   I have discovered that crushing eggshells isn’t as easy as it sounds.  The shell itself is just a casing for the real container for the egg itself.  The membrane of the egg is tough, flexible, and resilient.  It is living tissue, while the egg is alive, though the shell is not.   Egg shells, when the membrane is removed, are quite fragile and do crush easily.   The real protection for this egg cell, this part of a bird that can become another bird (given proper circumstances), comes from that membrane.

I have spent part of my day trying, unsuccessfully, to remove the membrane from the inside of my breakfast eggshells.    I am gobsmacked, once again, by my blindness.  I have always assumed that eggs were protected by their shells, and the hard, solid quality of that shell was what kept them safe, or relatively safe, except from predators like me.   But it seems that the hard, rigid, unyielding shell is a cover for the real protection, that membrane that flexes, bends, is resistant to tearing or breaking, and which is practically invisible.   I have been hoodwinked by eggs all this time.

Stories need a point; this one has both a metaphor and a moral.  The metaphor for me is the eggshell, representing our defenses in the world.   We can rigidify ourselves (many of us do this regularly), become firm and unyielding in our beliefs, our behaviours, our “shoulds.”     The more rigidly and tightly we hold ourselves, the more vulnerable we become to cracking and breaking.  What really and truly keeps us intact is something invisible, something that flows just beneath our tough outer shell, the sense of ourselves as organism, resilient and flexible.

thanks to a lovely blog about writers, writing, and social media
thanks to a lovely blog about writers, writing, and social media

So that’s the metaphor.  I like it.  It will make me think about breakfast in a different way.  The moral?   Well, that’s probably up to you.  Maybe it has something to do with finding out cool stuff even when you are shoveling garbage.  Or about garbage being in the eye of the beholder.  Or about how garbage can be transformed into insight if you look deeply.  Or something profound like that.

I’m going to continue to think about my layers;  my apparently tough but breakable outer shell, and my flexible resilient inner membrane.   I feel safer about letting go of the shell when I think of my other protection.

Weather report


I am soaking in early summer;  wallowing in it, actually.   Yesterday evening, we had the most amazing thunderstorm!   Sheets of rain pelting sideways against the house meant that we could open a window at the back and look out, feeling like being on the prow of a great ship, plunging through wild, windy seas.  I felt full of gratitude for another summer, for summer storms in general, and I could feel in my chest the expansion of being really alive.   There was something, perhaps, about the energy of the storm and my relative safety within that power, that helped me to find that place of openness.  And with the opening came gratitude.

Early summer it is easy for me to find gratitude.   The long, long days support me.  The warmer temperatures soften my resistance to what is.   When I LIKE what is, I can find gratitude.  It is harder for me to locate that body state when winter reigns, or, more accurately, when we are in those interminable “between” seasons that we have here….late fall and late winter, or early winter and early spring….all of those seem to flow together with endless days of darkness, gloom, cold and ice, rain, freezing rain….I can feel my body tightening and closing up even as I write that.

So as a body psychotherapist, I have to ask myself WHAT is responsible for my change of body state that seems connected to the seasons?  Can I just label it some biological reaction of my organism?   If I were a cognitive therapist, I would say it was what I am THINKING about the weather.   If I were to actually practice the mindfulness I have learned, I would notice that it is my liking or not liking that affects how I respond to the weather.

For today, I am going  to let go of analyzing and theorizing and just enjoy.   Humid, stormy, sunny, cloudy, breezy or still, the weather of this season feels like a friend, and I am resting hand in hand with that friend.

When do I get to be me? And who is that, anyway?

Having a little time off has given me some time to think and reflect.  Almost always when I take time for that, I end up reflecting on this work that we do together in the therapy room.  It is often profound work, and I am privileged to participate and challenged by what comes up.  So I have been thinking, and reading, about depression and anxiety.

Oak branches in March

Depression and anxiety are in different categories in the DSM IV, that important diagnostic tome that helps us to decide how to categorize “mental illness.”   But if we move away from pathologizing and into humanizing, many of the issues that come through the door of the therapy room have feelings at their core.   Either not feeling enough or feeling too much.  Depression and anxiety can have aspects of both.

Usually in depression, people can’t feel;  they have suppressed or repressed feelings for so long that numbness is a way of being.  But that might only be part of the situation.   Maybe sometimes, people have told themselves a story about what it is okay to feel, and when it is okay to feel that way.

When we feel differently than our story allows, we might experience anxiety.  There is a sense that something is wrong, really wrong.  If, for example, I am angry but my story tells me that I don’t get angry, then obviously something is seriously wrong and I get anxious.   We can get to a place where every time we feel ANYTHING, what we allow into awareness is only anxiety.   So we believe that the world is scary, or that we are scary, or that feeling anything isn’t possible because all we feel is anxious.  When there is part of the self that is not allowed to feel, either by depression (I don’t feel anything) or by anxiety (no matter what I feel it is always interpreted by my body as anxiety), then that part becomes stunted, or at least diminished….the voice of that part isn’t heard.

Could that be you?   Perhaps a whole part of you hasn’t really had time and space to become whatever it is going to become.   Maybe if you only had some time, some space, maybe then you would find this part  that has not yet fully developed.


What has been waiting for the” right”time…when the chores are finished, or when the kids are grown,or when you’ve lost weight or whatever your particular obstacle is.  What is waiting there inside you? What is the part of you that is whole, perfect,complete just as it is?

When you open up space without judgment, allow just openness and reflection, what comes up?   Could that be a sign pointing to the “real you?”


Compassionate curiosity

I had to retrain my inner critic.   I had a critic who was so skillful, so sly, that she could find something wrong with just about everything I thought or did.   And she could present the criticism in such a way that it was clear that it was both 1) true and 2) necessary for me to know how bad I was.

Woohoo!    If I had a person in my life who treated me that way, I doubt that I would have stayed around for coffee.   But I lived with this person in my head for a long, long time.


One of the side effects of having a strong inner critic is that often the real-life person (me, in my case) is extremely critical of everyone and everything else.   Well, it only makes sense….if that’s what you experience all the time, every day, then perhaps you figure that’s what your response to the rest of the world should be….ought to be…..MUST be.

Oh my gosh, there they are, all three of them in a single sentence….SHOULD, OUGHT, and MUST.   Hmm, my old favorite thought distortion….that there are shoulds, oughts, and musts in the world.   I remember the first time I ever knew that there were other ways to think about things.   An art therapist who was on some committee with me, many years ago, made some laughing comment about “shoulding all over oneself” but that was long before I was introduced to cognitive psychology and I had never heard of such a thing.  But before long, I was able to see that I not only “should” all over myself, but I was continuously “shoulding” all over other people as well.

thanks to a lovely blog about writers, writing, and social media
thanks to a lovely blog about writers, writing, and social media

In some stories, that would have been enough but no, I’m a pretty slow learner, and it took a lot more years, completion of my psychology training (which helped me to be ever more critical), and intensive body psychotherapy before I could start to really recognize the many manifestations of my inner critic.  First I had to detach myself from the messages I had been hearing from myself. And that’s where, finally, the title of this post comes in.

Light and shadow;  can we observe without judging, without labeling?
Light and shadow; can we observe without judging, without labeling?

When I can look at myself without immediate judging (“that’s okay, that’s not okay, I like this, I hate that, I’m doing well, I’m not doing so great”) then I have a chance to see what is really happening in my inner space.   When I can catch a passing thought and see it as a thought, then I can notice….Oh, that was a critical thought.   Hmmm, isn’t that interesting?   When I can have a friendly interest in my own processes, without having to change them, harden against criticism or melt into praise, then I am offering myself compassionate curiosity.

So what happened when I began to observe my own inner critic?  At first I was horrified to hear how much harsh self talk was going on.   Then I realized that some part of me was being highly critical of the critic!   (Yes, check out THAT logic…).  When I realized that the critic was originally a defense, yes, originally something that developed to help me to negotiate a difficult childhood,  then I could bring a bit of compassion to that part of myself.

In my bioenergetic therapy training program, we talked about ways to work with the critic:  our own critics, and the critics that accompanied our clients into the therapy office.  One plan was to figure out ways to off the critic….toss him off a cliff, for example, or trick her into leaving.   I decided to take a softer approach.  I decided to try to befriend my critic, and re-train her.  I wanted to be in charge, so I thought I would approach this situation as if she was an employee who had taken on too much responsibility over the years.

I began a dialog of sorts in my journal, and basically re-wrote the job description.  I thanked my critic for the years of protection, and spent quite a lot of time reflecting on the ways that my strong internal demand for certain behaviour saved me from an angry parent, from dismissal from my graduate program, from neglecting my children despite my fatigue.   Then I just informed her that things were now different.  I was an adult with good habits and didn’t need anyone constantly harping about me.  What I did need, though, was support.

Support is one of those ambiguous terms.  People may mean very different things by that term.  So I did with my critic what I suggest clients do with family members:  I carefully described what I wanted for support.   I wanted, for example, my inner voice to learn to say things like  “Good job on that!” and “You are working hard enough” and “It is okay to take a break.”  Actually, I modeled those kinds of comments on the statements that my therapist offered to me over the years.


Did it work?  Well, it was a program of change, and, like most changes, time, practice, and consistency have been involved, but yes, it did work.   I have to be vigilant, as I expect most people who have lived with an ornery inner critic for about 45 years would have to be.   But I can recognize my negative self talk, I can notice it without labeling and just say, oh, yes, there it is again.   I wonder if there is something going on that has that critic reverting to old behaviour?  And with that gentle sort of curiosity, I can look deeper without fear of what I might find.

The skills of depression

I have found a lovely resource, a book about depression that is unlike other books about depression.  It is called Undoing Depression: What Therapy Doesn’t Teach You and What Medication Can’t Give You.  Doesn’t that title grab you?  The author is Richard O’Connor, who is a therapist but more importantly, is a person who has depression.

Undoing depression

So what’s so lovely about this book?  Well, first off, he discussed the skills of depression…the particular abilities that being depressed seems to hone in people.  For example, depressed people are good at isolating, or separating feeling from experience, so that we have experiences but we don’t have the emotion you might expect to go with it.   Depressed people are skillful at procrastination:  it keeps us from, as the author says, “ever having to put your best self on the line,” because we always run out of time. (Oh, boy, can I ever relate to that!   Waiting until the last minute meant I never really knew if I would actually get through graduate school).    Depressed people are skillful at negative self-talk, at pessimism, at setting impossible goals or having no goals and lots of guilt.  Depressed people are good at setting themselves up to make sure that a negative view of the world is supported:  that is, undermining ourselves…perhaps before we can be undermined by others.  There are more skills but you probably get the picture.

The great thing about this approach is that skills are something that are learned.  They are not innate characteristics;  they are not who we are.    They are coping methods that we developed to manage our depression. So we had a traumatic childhood, or we were bullied in the workplace, or a parent died or left the family.  Or we have family members with depression, and we both inherited their predispositions and watched and learned from depressed behaviour.    Whatever the story that generated our depression,  we have used these methods to cope.  But they are skills….learned and therefore un-learnable.   If we learned these skills, we can learn other skills.

Aha!  so my tendency to procrastinate and put my job at risk, and isolate myself and put my relationships at risk, and to engage in pessimistic and negative thinking and put my own safety at risk…those are skills I have learned to cope with depression.   They are not character flaws.  They are not immutable parts of my self.  They are SKILLS.

Somehow, that is a tremendously hopeful message.

One of the keys to undoing,  according to O`Connor (and a lot of other people, including researchers) is to cultivate mindfulness.   Mindfulness is practically a buzzword these days;  everyone is being mindful of something, somehow.  But the mindfulness that seems to be particularly useful in retraining people who are skilled in depression is of a particular type.  Mindfulness is “spending time paying attention in a particular way:  on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally,”   according to Jon Kabat-Zinn.  According to O`Connor, it is about  “deliberately trying to attain a new attitude toward your own thoughts, feelings, and everyday experience, a viewing of oneself with compassionate curiosity.”  This practice is embodied by meditation, the content of which is one’s own experience in the moment.


The ability to see oneself, to experience one`s moment by moment being, complete with thoughts, emotions, images, and body sensations, is to free oneself from the anchors of the past and the anxieties of the future.  For a few minutes every day, you can be as free as possible from all of those things that otherwise feel like constraints.   During mindfulness practice, we can learn to defuse from our thinking, those beliefs about ourselves, others, and the world that limit us.   We can be just as we are and see what that is like.


This kind of practice enables a freedom in the world, as well as on the meditation cushion.   I am thinking that perhaps that`s part of O’Connor’s message.   When I create some  space away from the skills of depression, I am aware of being able to make choices in how I will be, how I will respond, how I will live in the world.   And that is a place from which skills for the full experience of living can develop.


Sunday morning


Ice Texture 1033

A glance out the window, and suddenly what appeared to be a day of diffuse sunshine includes a shower of sparks floating earthward.  Flakes?  Or drops? Source unknown, their abrupt appearance and shimmering brilliance call to me.

The sight grabs my attention, stops my breath,and draws me out of my reverie.  What IS this?  What is this amazing world we live in?

A moment later, the flurries have passed, and I drop back into my dark pool.  But something has changed for me here, and the darkness carries a hint of possibility.

What can you notice today that reminds you to be present?

Happy Friday…how to have a happy day everyday

candles burning

Early morning, hot tea in hand

Candles on the table burning bright

Steam rises, candle flame flickers

Sighing, I feel the comfort of Friday

Happy every day….that’s what we want.  We want it all the time, every single day.  But happy doesn’t come in big swathes like that, not usually.   Happy usually shows up in moments…just a tiny moment in time, and if you are not paying attention, you can miss it.

See what moments of happy might be available to you today.   Slow down, take a breath, look around you and see what is really there.  Then look within you, and notice what is really there, right now, right THIS minute.   Who knows what you’ll find?  Maybe you’ll even find ….happy.


Finding the deep desires of your heart

What is your heart’s desire?  What do you REALLY want?

Thanks to
Thanks to

Notice what happens inside you as you sit with that question.   What is my heart’s desire?  What do I really, really want?  Watch your mind generate all sorts of answers, excuses, plausible reasons not to even consider the question, and perhaps even responses that are socially appropriate.

Maybe you were taught that it is rude to WANT something.  Maybe you had many experiences of disappointment in your wants, to the point that you stopped WANTING.  Or you told yourself you didn’t have any WANTS.   Maybe you are very busy trying to make sure other people get what they WANT, and your own little wants have lost their voices.

Watch your thoughts as you start to consider this question.  Notice if you resist the question itself (“I don’t need to read this stuff.”)  Notice if you reject your ideas about what you might want.   How do we get past the mind’s pattern of criticizing itself?   It is hard to know what you really want if you have an inner critic telling you to shut up all the time.

A beautiful place to sit and ponder
A beautiful place to sit and ponder

Now try an experiment.   Get up on your feet.  Yes, you, right now, on your feet!   Jump up and down a little bit, get your breathing going.    Now hop around on one foot, then the other foot, and maybe even wave your arms around up over your head.    Yes, get silly and move around vigorously, shaking your head, letting your jaw go loose, maybe letting some sound out of your mouth….
“ahhhh,   ooommmmmm,  raaaahhhhhh,    bbbrrrrrrrr…” whatever sounds come out as you are jumping, jogging, shaking, and waving.

Oh, yeah.  Just let ‘er rip!  Let your body move, let your voice come out, get energy flowing all through your body.   It could be a dance, could be cheer-leading, could be gymnastics or calisthenics  whatever works for you, but it needs to be vigorous, free, and energetic.  Yahoo!

Now let your body come back to a still place.  Feel your feet firmly on the ground, feel the breath in your body, notice your heartrate, still elevated, and notice what is happening in your thoughts, in your mind.   And now, just standing there, let your answer come….What do I really, really want?   What is my heart’s desire?

Let go of any judgment, any self-criticism.  What do I want, now that I have let my body start to have its voice?  Just notice what ideas come up for you, and see if you can make note of them without commentary.  What do I want?  What does my heart want most right now?   Nothing is off limits…whatever arises for you, that’s what you want.

And your job is to let it be okay that you want what you want.   That’s all….you can want whatever it is that you want.  Just wanting is a big thing for many of us.  This  exercise is a beginning. Your heart’s desire is there waiting for recognition.

What did you find out when you tried the little experiment?   I wonder what would happen if you did it several days in a row?  Could you get more skillful at letting the body’s truth come out?  Could you start to recognize self-criticism and learn to just let that go?

Thoughts on a garden chore


This morning my task was to deadhead the trailing petunia in the hanging pot on the front porch.  Petunias have a way of stopping the flowers after they have done their job:  that is, to make seed pods.   The petunia figures well, my job here is done, no more need to put my energy into flowering.  Instead I’ll grow these seed pods to maturity and that way I’ll perpetuate my DNA within the world.  As a result, most gardeners know you have to pick off the dying flowers before they set seed in order to keep your petunias blooming.

The petunia on the porch is a hybrid;  it already has been genetically reprogrammed to keep blooming even after it has set seed.  Of course all petunias have been genetically reprogrammed in one way or another.  But as I set out to nip off the dying flowers I was struck by a number of thoughts.

In trying to be mindful about my work, I focused on the body sensations I experienced as I worked with the plant.  I felt my bare feet on the wood of the porch, noticed the feeling of the air passing over my bare arms, felt the odd furry stickiness of petunia on my hands, and was aware of my dislike of that sensation.   In fact, I have to remind myself that it is just the petunia and that I will wash my hands after the task is completed, in order for me not to be carried away into thinking about how much I dislike petunia aroma and petunia stickiness.  Instead, I tried to be with the petunia  (I know, sounds kind of frou-frou and fluffy).   So I snipped off flowers and noticed my thoughts as part of the experience.  Here are some that surprised me.

  • Deadheading?  Why is this called DEADheading?   Those flowers are a bit past their bloom but this is hardly a dead thing, this seed pod full of the possibility of new life.
  • How peculiar to make a plant that will bloom beyond the need to set seeds.   It reminded me of what my dear partner says about seedless watermelon….that seeds are the REASON for watermelon, and so a seedless watermelon is a paradox and peculiar.  I guess that means so called “ever-blooming” petunias are also paradoxical and peculiar.
  • I thought about my efforts to control the bloom of this flower;  my desire, by doing this chore, to keep this plant blooming and blooming.  By my watering and feeding, by my pruning and my attention, I turn the nature of this plant to my desires.   I felt pretty odd about that.  But then, that’s the nature of gardening and of agriculture, isn’t it?   We don’t really live with nature.   We really do exert dominion over it, even in the small sense of pruning the petunias.


How interesting, too, that we appreciate and enjoy the flowers of the plant but the seed pods are cut off and discarded.   That is a different matter with food plants, where we might save our seeds for next year’s crop, I suppose, but most of us do not do that.   I had a sense while pruning that I wanted to honor the seed pods and the plant for creating the seed pods, in some way flying in the face of the human control that keeps on pushing for flowers.  Yeah, you people might like flowers, I can imagine some petunia voice saying, but I’ll keep subverting my energy to make seeds, and you have to keep on working to try to bend me to your will.

You go, petunia!

Strawberry meditation

Some years ago, I was privileged to participate in a strawberry communion. It was in a church community, a small, very liberal one. The minister and his family had picked strawberries the day before, and on Sunday morning, everyone present was asked to take one and hold it. Everyone ate their strawberries together. This was a powerful experience for me, many years before I had any knowledge of mindful practices or had even heard the phrase, “being present.” Even without those contemporary tags, here was this strawberry communion.

So today, when I tackled the job of getting our annual strawberry supply, I thought to try to make the work my practice for the day. It wasn’t quite as simple as sitting on a cushion or doing bioenergetic exercises! However, I want to really be where I am, so I persisted in bringing my attention back, over and over, to what I was actually experiencing.

I could tune in to the sensory aspects of the work, feeling my knees or seat on the ground, noticing the berries in my hand, the various degrees of effort to twist and tug the berry from the stem, the texture of the berry in my hand. I noticed how coyly some berries hide themselves away, tucked under a leaf or two, requiring my full attention to locate them. And then I had a thought about the nature of these berries, gorgeous deep red, contrasting with the green leaves, provocative and eye-catching. This is no accident. These berries are red because we can see them, can distinguish them from the leaves (well, most of us can. People with red-green colour-blindness would be exceptions), and can pick them, eat them, and conveniently NOT digest their seeds. We are a seed-dispersal system for strawberries. We are being manipulated by the luscious aroma, the rich colour, the melting softness, into eating these berries. It is a pretty near perfect system. And yet the strawberry gardener or farmer thinks that he or she is in control…that the plants are grown to make berries for me to pick, and to pay the farmer for those berries. True, of course, but not the whole picture. Then, because I was practicing, I noticed that I was thinking (“thinking”) and brought attention back to what was right in front of me. Ah, yes, berries. And children and parents, birds singing, a light breeze (my mind goes to gratitude for that softening of the heat)…and oops, back to paying attention!

I also held awareness, while picking, that I was holding onto summer for winter. At our house, we pick berries to freeze, to be turned into jam at a particular cold winter time. That taste of summer in winter means a lot, and knowing that I picked and processed the berries and my dear partner made the jam, and that this is a pattern of our lives together brought me a sense of continuity and wholeness, independent of any discomfort of berry picking. I could feel some sort of sensation in my midsection as I became aware of those thoughts. There was a fullness…or maybe I had been eating too many strawberries.
When I got home, I had berries to process for the freezer. Lots of berries! I scooped up handsful to rinse in the sink. Even an hour after coming home, the berries in the tray retained their warmth. I felt the warm berries on my hands, knowing that the sun had warmed them, as it had warmed me. I stopped for a moment to be aware of that warmth, to take it into my body through my hands. Now those berries, sun-warmed and sun-ripened, are stashed away against the days getting colder (as they will) and the nights growing long (as they will).
What I have, though, besides berries, is the body memory of picking in the warm sun, feeling the stems and fruit and the occasional squishy one, the smells of soil and overripe berries, and the inner peacefulness of being part of a greater whole. And while my mind is a busy place, monkeying around everywhere, the moments I come back to the present are the ones where I feel most fully alive.

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