So much FUN!


Wow, what a great group we had last night at the Bioenergetic Bodywork Group Session.   We had some people who had been at the group before, quite a few new people, and some folks with other connections to bio and to bodywork.

I really felt like dancing when we were finished…. The movements were great, we moved a lot of energy (you can tell by the heat and the sound!) and I was very relaxed and also energized by the experience.

Doing this kind of work within a group provides unique opportunities.  For example, the movement and sounds may bring up feelings, thoughts, or images.   You are invited to just stay with your own inner experience.  Doing that in the presence of other people may be new for you.  If, for example, you have a pattern of worrying about what other people think, or feeling responsible for other people, you might struggle to be yourself in a typical group.  In a bioenergetic group, however, you can just be with yourself, notice any orientation you may have toward other people, but continue to practice being YOU even when there are other people there.

I remember in my early group exercise experiences, I was perpetually looking at the other participants and trying to measure my performance against theirs.   Part of me NEVER wanted to be the first to drop out of the bow.  I wanted to be the very LAST person to stop sounding, the very strongest, the most stoic.   It took awhile to see how that pattern – working as hard as I could, hoping that I would be noticed and seen as a Good Girl  – is one that I was also playing out in my life outside.   When that became clear, then I was free to start to make changes.

The group exercise moves through a predictable sequence.  We connect to the ground, we charge up the body to increase the energy flow, we do some exercises to discharge the energy, and then we move back to a quieter experience after we have opened up some blocks and eased some tensions.   But the bioenergetic part of it is about taking the time in the process to reflect, and about staying open to the thoughts, images, feelings, and sensations that arise.   This is a way of making the unconscious conscious, and that’s what we are after.



Descartes was wrong.

That’s it.  That’s all I have to say.  He blew it big time with his assertion about thought and existence.

You don’t exist because you think.

You think because you are currently housed in a body.  Or, if you like, because you ARE a body.  Your body, through complex and intricate biochemical and electrical processes, feedback loops, and messenger systems, your BODY creates the opportunity for thoughts.

And when you think about thoughts as just that, as a perceptual process that is trying to make sense of an orchestra of bits of chemical, mechanical, and electrical energy, well, then, isn’t it hard to take your thoughts so seriously?

Just sayin’.

And if you want to know more (like a LOT more), see Antonio Damasio’s books:  Descartes’ Error and The Feeling of What Happens.

My friend and colleague, Melissa Arsenau, gave me a great refrigerator magnet.  It says, “Don’t believe everything you think.”  Good advice!   Just a thought!

Whose problem?

My friend calls me to tell me about her boyfriend’s latest critical comment.   She is angry, and she is calling for support and also to get some validation.  So I get mad, too, and tell her she should be angry, that he has no business talking to her that way, and that I want to tell him a thing or two.

So I get on FaceBook and send him a message that says he better shape up, because my friend deserves better treatment than that, and that all of our friends are going to be mad at him if he doesn’t start treating her better.  And I stay mad, and tell as many people as I can about what a jerk he is, and how their relationship is probably falling apart, and then she calls me up and says that everything is fine and why don’t I just leave him alone?  And I don’t know what happened but I am certain that she is making a mistake in staying with that jerk and so I tell her that.  Then she gets mad at me, so I post on FB that she is making some dumb moves and that he is a jerk, and then I block them both.  And I am mad.

Okay, if you know me, or if you have been reading my blog for awhile, you probably can guess that the above is a totally fabricated scenario…for me.  However, lots of people live like this on a daily basis.  Lots of people  find interpersonal drama to be the stuff of life, and get so caught up in it that they start to lose track of themselves.  When you can’t really feel yourself, one attempted solution is to get angry about something.  Anger is a feeling of movement, of motivation, and if you can figure out some way to call that anger “justified” or “righteous” then you can even turn it into a crusade.

So what’s wrong with that?

What’s wrong is that when we lose ourselves, we end up not living our own lives.  We are not in our lives, but in some surreal, in-between place, where our emotional involvement in other people’s stuff is our focus.

What to do differently?

The place to make a change is at the very beginning.  When my friend calls me, I can ask myself a couple of questions.  First, what does she want from me?  Perhaps she is looking for social support;  most people are, under these circumstances.  Social support means someone to LISTEN.  It doesn’t mean that I have to agree, or have to validate, it just means that I listen to her story but particularly to her feelings, and I validate the feelings.

Second, who has the problem?   In this case, she has the problem.  It isn’t mine, and if you look at the answer to question number one, she isn’t even looking to off-load her problem.  She is likely just looking for someone to say, “Wow, that sounds really hard to deal with.   I can hear that you are angry about that.”

If I grab that problem and get mad on her behalf (mad on her behalf?  Is there such a thing?  Sounds like yet another blog post…), I make her problem MY problem.  In fact, by the end of the story, she had solved her problem and I was left with a whole bunch of collateral problems.

If the problem is NOT mine, I can limit my involvement.

How would I know if the problem did belong to me?   Well, suppose she called to say that she was angry with me for MY critical comments.  Yes, then that is a problem for me.   Suppose she called to say that her boyfriend was making critical comments about ME…, what do you do with that?  Who has that problem?  Is that a problem?   In my world, that is not a problem, but I do wonder why my friend would want to share that information.   Is she trying to create a problem?    In either case, we may have some things to talk about.

So….ask yourself if the problem is even yours.   Byron Katie suggests that there are three kinds of business in the world.  There is MY business, stuff that actually has to do with me directly.  There is YOUR business, which is pretty much everything that isn’t my business, so pretty much everything in the world.   And then there are the things that are not mine, are not yours, and really aren’t anyone’s business….like tsunamis and blizzards and earthquakes.  Those are God’s business.  Unless something is MY business, I have no business trying to manage it or even having big emotional stuff around it.  In fact, I can keep my thoughts, feelings and ideas right out of it.  It is Not My Business.

This week, check in and see if you can be clear about whether a problem belongs to you before you try to solve it, or before you even react to it.  What do you find out?

Drink your water…it makes a difference!

This link goes to an Atlantic article that summarizes a new research study demonstrating a causal relationship between mild dehydration and slowed thinking, poorer concentration, and lowered mood state.  The lesson?  Drink your water even before you feel thirsty!  It can’t hurt and it might help.


Study of the Day: Mild Dehydration Alters Mood, Makes Thinking Hard – Hans Villarica – Health – The Atlantic.

Anger: What’s mine, what’s yours?

Trying to figure out anger just doesn’t work.   Mostly we want to “figure out” who is to blame for our anger, who “made me angry?”  Along with that, we have a belief that we can only let go of our anger if some other person changes their behaviour;  apologizes, for example, or starts to pick up their socks, or uncross whatever boundary we think that they have crossed.


Trying to figure it out is a way of trying to give someone else the responsibility for our anger.  Another way we try to avoid taking responsibility is to try to make the anger go away.  We press it down into our bodies somewhere;  squeezed into our tightly held lower backs, or our shoulders and necks.  We hold back the impulse to strike out, to hit or to kick, and we hold it back by creating a chronic tension in the body.  Well, of course we can’t go around hitting and kicking people.  We learned that when we were two years old, at least most of us did.  And when we first tried shoving those impulses into words, we also learned not to use our words as weapons.  (Think of a five year old calling names;  that gets stopped pretty quickly.)

So we learn quickly that we don’t want to be responsible for this feeling of anger, so we can blame someone for it (“the devil made me do it!”) or we can suppress it in our bodies, and if we get really skilful at suppressing, we can actually REPRESS it, so that we are unaware of the feeling at all.  That actually makes it not a feeling.  We have the body sensations that go with anger but we can’t feel it as anger.  We just feel our heart race, our face flush, our shoulders, backs and jaws tense, and we may have an impulse to say something unpleasant or cutting.  But we don’t label that experience as anger and so we don’t think we actually GET angry.

This is a very deep level of denying of the self.  Your self gets angry.  It is an automatic response to other people crossing your boundaries.  But if you don’t feel it, don’t express it, don’t claim it, you are denying  a part of yourself.

Finding your ground

What do you do when the ground you stand on has been swept away from you?  There is a diagnosis….a relationship is breaking apart….a child on the way…..your job has disappeared?

According to Pema Chodron, the moment when the ground has disappeared under our feet is opportunity.  This is when we can notice ourselves scrambling, struggling for a foothold, for anything that feels a little secure when we feel like everything we have counted on is crumbling.  We can make a decision to just sit with the experience, to just notice what is happening and how we are responding.

If we can actually FEEL the ground, literally ground ourselves in our body sensations, we can often take the moment to stop clutching, stop scrambling, and just breathe.  It makes sense to me that we want to feel the ground.  We are not  tree dwellers, nor descended from tree dwellers.  We are not birds, equipped with wings.  We are creatures of the earth, whose feet depend on the earth for support.  When we cannot feel our feet, we cannot feel our support and connection.  The loss of support and connection can be profoundly disorienting.

What to do?   Check in with your feet.  Are they touching the ground right now?  Stand up, and check again.  If your feet are tense, then you will not notice as much contact with the ground.   If you habitually wear shoes that distort your feet, it may be harder to feel that connection, so slip off your shoes.   Now let the weight slide over onto one foot.   Use the other toe to balance, but just let all of your weight down onto one foot.  Soften your knee, even bend it a little, and see if you can drop your shoulders, soften your belly, and let the weight down on that one foot.   Move your toes a little, so that you can be sure they are taking some of that weight.  Stay there, pushing that foot into the floor and letting your weight down, until you start to feel a bit tired.  Now hold it, tired, feel how tired your leg is getting, and then, only then, gently allow the weight onto BOTH feet.

STOP!  Don’t do anything yet…just notice…notice both feet.  How do you experience them?  Do they feel different from one another?  Once you have explored this, then allow the weight to slide to the other foot and repeat the experience.  Work until you are feeling tired, and then wait, going into that tiredness a bit before resting on your two feet.  Then notice the absolute LUXURY of having two feet, and having two feet on the ground.   And notice anything else that is different in your body, or different in your mind.  Do you feel more connected to the ground?  Do you feel more relaxed in your shoulders, or softer in your belly, or more peaceful in your mind?

Where do we go when we stop resisting?

On Saturday mornings, the dog and I have a routine.  We head out to the market for whatever goodies I need at home, plus my coffee and his dog treat.  Then we go down by the river for our walk.   In the summer, we go elsewhere but in winter, we head to the river.

When you do something repeatedly, you get to see more than just the individual experience.  You get to see what it is like to repeat an experience, and thus look at the ways in which the same routine changes as a result of time and, in this case, the passage of the seasons.   I have been deeply moved by our walks by the river, as I have melted into the landscape.  Some mornings, we were the first to make prints on new snow.  Some mornings, we crunched across snow that many others had crossed before.   Most of my Saturdays this winter of 2012 have been gray days, and while I would often dismiss a gray day from my everyday working life (“Oh, another cloudy day…”) when I am at the river I SEE differently.  I can see that a gray day means many shades of gray, and even brown and green and pink and blue, too.  I can see that the apparent quiet of the river, frozen and quiescent, is but a mask.   When I take time to stop running, to stop resisting what is, to just be present to what is present, then everything changes.

On this particular March Saturday, the river was open in the middle but there was still ice from the shore.   The crusty snow was immutable, or so it appeared.  I slipped and slid, and suddenly the gray day opened up to sunshine.  Pulled by some impulse to just open to that sunshine, I sat on a flat little icy patch, legs out in front on me, face to the sun.  The dog freaked, of course, and had to lick and poke his nose and wondered what I was doing, but he settled in to my rhythm and then left to go sniff something more interesting.  I sat.   I sat, and felt the sunlight.  Over time, I felt the cold leaking through my snowpants.   I saw the open water, and the ice with the deep fissures that reflected last week’s thawing temperatures.  My thoughts slowed, my senses opened, and I stopped wanting things to be different than they are.   I just sat with what was there, inside me and outside me.

After awhile, I noticed sounds and looked off to my left.   On the open water in the middle of the river, there were birds.  I wanted to name them, so I thought perhaps cormorants, but there was no real need to have a name for them.  Then I heard the cracking;  soft, subtle, irregular and infrequent.   I saw myself wanting an explanation for that cracking.    Oh, of course, the sun is softening the ice.  I noticed then that chunks of the solid stuff were breaking off and floating into the open water and twice, I saw chunks turn and then disappear.  My mind questioned this:  ice that sinks?  But because I am just taking whatever is happening, I have the peace inside to just let my perceptions be my perceptions.  I don’t have to be right.  I don’t have to be wrong.

After some time, I became aware of an impulse to move, to get up.  I waited until I knew more about it, and found that my backside and legs were becoming uncomfortably cold, I needed to pee, and I was hungry.  That was enough information for me, so I got up, and noticed that my inner space was peaceful, and open and that I needed to move, to pee, and to eat.  I was profoundly touched by the shift in my sense of myself and the space I was inhabiting.  I was free and open and there was space in my body and in my mind.  And I needed to move, to pee, and to eat.  The dog, of course, became ecstatic when I moved.  Finally!  you could almost read his doggy mind.  We’re finally going to do something interesting!

But of course we didn’t.  We wandered off to the car, with my empty coffee cup and crumbs of his dog treat, and drove off into real life.   But I had a sense that I would keep that moment, or those moments, no matter what.  No matter what happened later that day, or that week, or ever, really, I will always have had those moments of peacefulness and acceptance.   Even when I get caught up in busyness or overthinking or analysis or emotional storms, I will have had those moments.  They are now part of my experience.

When have you dropped the resistance?  What have you found?

Resistance is futile….

No, no way.   I’m not doing THAT.  No how, no way am I going to look at THAT issue.  Nope.  You can’t make me. But our issues have a way of wearing us down, wearing us out, as long as we resist them.   What could happen if we just stopped resisting?

I remember reading something years ago that struck a chord with me.  It was a statement that we most resist that which we most need to look at.  I have tried to keep that in mind as I move through my life, and take notice of those things that I avoid doing, or that I procrastinate on, or that I “hate” or that I try to palm off on other people.   Those things are the things that I really need to look at.

How to do, it, though, when resistance is peaking?    Usually resistance is just felt as “I don’t want to…” and often you can feel it in your body as well.    Try it:  think of some conversation you don’t want to have, or some issue in your life that you don’t want to deal with, and say “I don’t want to…” and notice what your body does.  Perhaps you find tightness in your jaw.  Maybe your upper body pulls back.  Maybe you find your breath getting more shallow.   Whatever your response is, notice how your body mirrors your thought of resistance.

Sometimes just noticing is enough and we can soften and move through the resistance and do what needs to be done.  But sometimes it works better to actually go INTO the resistance and act it out.  If your body wants to pull back, then really pull back.  If you find yourself making fists, well, then, use them to hit a pillow or shake them…saying, with emphasis,  “I don’t want to!”   Or lie down on your mattress and kick your legs, using your whole leg and shouting, “I don’t want to do that!  I won’t!  I won’t!”

Can you imagine being able to do that?    Maybe you can go and try it (or maybe just try it out in your mind, first) and then let us know what you find out.

Getting your money’s worth

Money, like our other resources, is important...make sure you get your money's worth out of therapy.


Why do people GO to therapy?

Generally, people begin because they are suffering.   They are experiencing emotional distress and would like some help with it.   Often, though,  once people start, they learn that therapy is a productive way to learn a lot about yourself.    The more you know yourself, know your thinking, feeling and behaviour patterns, know your emotional stuck points and your hot buttons, the more freedom  you have in your life.   If I don’t know about my tendencies, about my defenses, about my patterns, then I am doomed to keep repeating and repeating them.   It is only through self-knowledge that I have any chance at all for creating a new life for myself.

You could argue that you don’t need a therapist to develop self awareness, and I would agree.  In fact, there would be no argument there!  But for many of us, we have a pattern of isolation and independence (“I can do this myself…I don’t need any help!”) that can lead to a lack of intimacy in relationships, or can be related to problems trusting other people.   Sometimes allowing ourselves to accept the support and the disinterested perspective of a therapist is a way to break out of a pattern in itself.

But suppose you have decided to start therapy.  What can you do to make the most of the experience?   Therapy isn’t like medicine;  you don’t just go for the hour every week and wait for it to work.     The more actively you involve yourself in your therapy, the more you’ll get from it.

Usually therapy helps you to see things in a different light.   This can be because of the experience of relating to another person in a different way, or because of hearing yourself say something in the presence of a caring other, or because of other experiential processes that happen during the therapy hour.  You can extend this shift by continuing to “process” during the week or weeks between sessions.  The following suggestions might be helpful to you.

  • Reflect on your session.  What have you heard or seen or done that was different for you?  Are there ways that you can bring this difference into your everyday life?  Even if you are not ready to make such a change, can you think about what it might be like if you were ready to do this?
  • Work on body awareness.
    •    Several times each day, take a moment to “check in” with your body.   Notice your energy level, your body sensations, any “felt sense” that arises in your awareness.  Notice any thoughts that are persisting.
    • Use body movement to help you identify what’s going on in your body.  Try grounding exercises,  or alternating vigorous movement with stillness to just see what’s up right now.
    • Journaling.   Handwrite about your thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Do this without allowing your inner editor to have a voice.  Just write.  This is for you, not for anyone else.
    • Process emotional material.  When you have an emotional response to something, take time to notice it, notice what you do with that response, and watch the consequences.   What was actually happening?   What can you know about how you felt, what you did or said?  Would you like to be able to think, feel, or behave differently in the future?
    • Accept that you are a work in progress, and so is everyone else.   See how close you can get to accepting things as they are, including other people just as they are, and yourself, just as you are.   Acceptance isn’t condoning and it also isn’t necessarily forgiveness, but it is a step that can allow you to relax into reality rather than struggling in resistance.

So…that’s a short list of some ways that you can get your money’s worth out of therapy.   What other tips do you have?



%d bloggers like this: