Your Brain On Music: How Music Helps Your Brain, Your Recovery and Your Heart

Have you ever had a song come on the radio that suddenly transported you somewhere? A recovering alcoholic friend of mine takes it as a “sign” whenever she hears the song from the movie Frozen “Let it Go,” reminding her that she is not in control and that is a good thing. Another woman I know listened to “I Gotta Feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas every day when she was recovering from Postpartum Depression. It was the thread she held onto when she had forgotten what joy felt like. For those four minutes and fifty-one seconds, she could remember. Music enters the nervous system through the brainstem, which neuroscientists suggest may be the “seat of sentience..(To read full article go here, to Psyched in San Francisco, a San Francisco therapy site, where I am guest blogging. Then come back here for the list below!)

Dr. Linda Shanti’s Brief List of Music for Different Life categories

For Recovery, Patience, and Affirmation:

Let it Go (Indina Menzel)

Love After Love (Jami Sieber and Kim Rosen)

Good Day (Nappy Roots)

In My Car (I’ll Be the Driver) (Shanaya Twain)

One Day At A Time (Elton John)

Butterfly, Next Right Step, or Sing, Love, Dance (Jana Stanfield)

Have A Little Faith in Me (John Hiatt)

I Am Loved, Gentle With Myself, Prosperity Chant (Karen Drucker)

 

For Dance:

Cowgirl (Underworld)

Just Let Go (Thin White Duke Remix)

HOPE Let My Love Open the Door (Pete Townshend)

Dream Machine (Downtempo Mix) Hotel Costes

I’ve Gotta Feeling By Urban Beats (Black Eyed Peas)

A Little Bit Of Riddim (Michael Franti & Spearhead)

 

For Meditation:

Golden Bowls of Compassion (Karma Moffett)

Inspiration or Vision (Dr. Jeffrey Thompson)

The Empty Sky (Anugama)

Gaia (Michael Brant DeMaria)

Returning (Jennifer Berezan)

 

For Romantic Love:

The Way I Am and Giving Up (Ingrid Michaelson)

Can’t Help Falling in Love (Twenty One Pilots or Haley Reinhart)

I’m Gonna Be (The Proclaimers)

All My Days (Alexi Murdoch)

 

Breaking Up (the Bitter and Recovery Stages):

Gives you Hell (All American Rejects)

Send My Love To Your New Lover (Adele)

Breakable (Ingrid Michaelson)

Love After Love (Jami Sieber and Kim Rosen)

 

For Kids:

Get Your Booty Out of Bed, Song in Your Heart, or Peanut Butter and JAM, (Charity and the Jam Band)

We’re Going to Be Friends and The Sharing Song (Jack Johnson)

Crazy ABS’s or Food Party (Barenaked Ladies)

Itsy Bitsy Spider (This version: Party Like A Preschooler)

 

For the Earth and its People:

Keep A Green Tree in Your Heart (Charity and the Jam Band)

With My Own Two Hands (Jack Johnson)

Down to the River (Alison Krauss & Union Station)

Creating a Dream (Xavier Rudd)

Imagine (John Lennon)

 

For Sleep:

Dreamy Music For Sleep (Dr. Jeffrey Thompson)

 

 

 

 

A Letter To My Belly

I shared this Body Positive Challenge with Rae of “Rae Across America.” Rae is a beautiful woman on a journey to raise money for eating disorder treatment scholarships. She writes:

Part of my recovery from my own eating disorder is the realization that I’m now here to help others in their path to wellness. My overall goal is to help reduce and remove the stigma and negative stereotypes that our society has placed around eating disorders and other mental health illnesses. I believe the more we can talk about these struggles and share our stories, the more we can heal and benefit from each other.

Here is my BODY POSITIVE CHALLENGE LETTER (please see below if you’d like to contribute to the scholarship fund)

IMG_2079Dear Belly,

“Every morning my little one pulls up my shirt, kisses you, and says, “I came from there!” You are fleshy now, stretched. I feel warmth and softness when I touch you. Mother. You hang over my jeans a bit. My sagging muffin top. I try not to mentally airbrush you out of pictures- the little traces of shame that still linger, the empire cut shirts, even though I haven’t been pregnant for five years.

Twenty years ago disgust for you filled my world. And crushed my spirit. All the self-loathing, anger, fear and shame were stuffed into you. I’m sorry. So many apology letters written to you in those first years of eating disorder recovery. But I did grow to accept you! And fed you. And then you created an amazing child! (Ok it was my womb, but you are the flesh that stretched to accommodate). You grew and stretched beyond what I thought was possible

Belly, I’m sorry that there are so many images in the world that don’t look like you. I know those images make you feel unloved, disgusting, flabby. I’m sorry those images make you feel wrong.

Those images tell you all kinds of crazy sh*t: Be smaller! Be flatter! Do this to be loved! Be big and full of yourself until age seven and then be flat and hungry. But don’t feel hungry! Just look thin! Don’t get angry! Hide your intuition. Don’t listen to it. Be attractive by not being yourself! Don’t get stretched. If you get stretched, get sucked and stitched back in.

I just want you to know, Belly, they’re wrong, those messages. Contrary to what the images tell you, there is nothing wrong with you. Let me say it again as you have received those other brutal messages so many times.

Belly, there is nothing wrong with you!”

 

To contribute to Body Positive and Eating Disorder Recovery Support:

If you would like to participate in the Body Positive Challenge 2, please send a brief paragraph accompanied by a photograph of what you love most about yourself and your uniqueness to raelawrence85@gmail.com! All submissions will be posted to Rae Across America FB page to share inspiration of #bodypositive and #selflove with others!

Along with this, we are collecting donations. All proceeds will go to Eating Disorder Recovery Support, Inc to help fund eating disorder recovery treatment scholarships for those in need! Please consider donating to https://www.youcaring.com/eating-disorder-recovery-support-….

#togetherwecanchangetheworld #bodypositive #selflove

5 Super Simple (But Not Easy) Self-Care Strategies for New Moms

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  1. Shower

We all know how easy this was in our former lives. Just hop in! At any time! With no interruptions and for as long as you want! This is no longer the case. However, a shower can make a world of difference. It is actually one of the main action steps I encourage not only new moms, but also clients recovering from depression to take. Cleaning your body helps your mind. It has the capacity to wash away some of the sleep deprivation and frustration. And it has the added benefit of cleaning away stinky-ness having old milk, snot, and poo that your little one may have generously shared. For at least one moment, your body can be clean, and all your own.

  1. Sleep

Don’t stop reading yet! I know, if one more person tells you “sleep when the baby sleeps,” you are going to punch them. So I’m not going to tell you that. However, I want to encourage you to carve out in whatever way works for you and your family, a good chunk of sleep for yourself. There is a reason why sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture. Sleep deprivation can cause difficulties in concentrating, irritability, problems with reading, speaking, and an increase in appetite. If the deprivation continues, disorientation, visual hallucinations, social withdrawal and/or challenges, memory lapses, and breaks in reality occur.[i] One of the main treatments for moms recovering from perinatal mood disorders (anxiety, depression, psychosis), along with therapy and medication, is sleep. And the sleep needs to be for prolonged period of uninterrupted time. (Disrupted sleep is as bad as no sleep – more on this
in upcoming sleep blog).

Art-HighRez-3932-3157179467-OHere some ideas: hire a night doula, have your partner or grandma take over night feedings for one night, ask your partner to do the middle-of-the-night feeds, or do modified sleep training. Preserve and protect your sleep, however you can. Don’t succumb to the temptation for late night Facebook/Online shopping/Great-ideas-planning-your-new-business-vnture-as-a-mommypreneur. If these are still appealing when you are rested, you will know they are coming from a true need. Otherwise, it’s adrenaline-fueled exhaustion that would be better fed with restoring your sleep.

  1. Sunshine

Did you know that vitamin D is one of the best antidepressant vitamins? Low vitamin D has been linked not only with postpartum depression for the mother[ii] but also increased risk of eating disorders in female offspring.[iii] Getting out of the house can be one of the best ways to bring new perspective to what can feel like drudgery of new motherhood. So pack up all your new accoutrements – diaper bag, pacifiers, bottles, snacks, diapers, etc.- and get out into the sun. It may just be to walk around the block. It may be an adventure like getting to the playground or the coffee shop. You may even coordinate this adventure with another new mom, which leads to the next tip…

  1. Support

It is a recent cultural phenomenon that moms are trying to care for their babies alone, at home, by themselves without a “village” of support. This used to be the extended family, or way, way back in human experience, the tribe. Humans thrive on attachment. Without it, we wither. There is no wrong way to have support as a new mom, other than to not have support as a new mom. Your support could be a mom’s group. It could be your partner. It could be your therapist. It could be YOUR mom. It could be your non-mom friend. It could be your friend who is also a mom. It could be your doula, lactation consultant, or mother-in-law. It could be all of these or some combination of these. But having none of these is a recipe for trying to be Supermom (who doesn’t exist, and lives in the isolated perfectionist imaginations of moms who have no support), which can to Postpartum Depression. I love this quote from Dr. Sue Johnson, the founder of emotionally focused therapy:

“Being the “best you can be” is really only possible when you are deeply connected to another. Splendid isolation is for planets, not people.”

If you are providing attachment to your new little one, YOU need to be strongly attached.

Trying to holdOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA, provide food, and give emotional sustenance to your baby without support yourself is like being a tree without roots. You will fall over, you will wilt, you will not thrive. An then this will happen to your baby, too… It is not only okay, but also essential that you have support! Put on your oxygen masks first, Mama.

  1. Spiritual practice

 Last but not least, having a mindfulness practice can be a helpful tool for tolerating the distress and practicing acceptance with all the learnings of new parenthood. This may be 5 minutes of meditation per day. Or it may be one bite of mindful eating during a lunch otherwise filled with Cheerios being thrown on the floor. It may be a yoga class or writing 1 page in your journal every day. You could practice deep breathing every time you hear your baby cry and your stomach tenses up with anxiety or discomfort. For new moms, it is important to Keep It Simple. Remember: the Buddha was NOT a parent when he became enlightened. Unlike him, you don’t have seven days to sit under a tree uninterrupted. You may have seven minutes. Take it. A good practice is to breath in the suffering of all new moms all around the earth and breathe out loving-kindness to all the new moms all around the earth. I used this practice when I was a new mom. It made me feel so much less alone at 3am.

In Conclusion

You are not alone, Mama. Keep going. Keep practicing any and all of these self-care practices as much as you can for as long as it takes. You are NOT allowed to use this blog to beat up on yourself for what you are not doing. If you are doing that, stop now. Thousands of other moms are struggling right along with you, trying to sleep, shower, get support, see the sunshine, and do spiritual practice! Try, to the best of your ability one moment at a time, to find the kind mother inside yourself for yourself. This kindness is where the real strength of motherhood is: it is this place that is rooted and flexible, fierce and tender. It is the one that defends her right to practice her own self-care as a way to then be able to care for others. It is the mother putting her own oxygen mask on first. In the words of Sue Monk Kidd:

“You have to find a mother inside yourself. We all do. Even if we already have a mother, we still have to find this part of ourselves inside.”

You can do it mama. If you can’t find her, keep looking. You may need to grow your capacity to be a good mom to yourself along with learning to be a good one to your baby. That is okay. She is there, waiting for you to feed, nurture, forgive, and grow her. Oh, and shower her, too!

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Linda Shanti McCabe is a Mom and Licensed Clinical Psychologist in San Francisco.As always, this blog is written to provide experience, inspiration, and hope – not to provide psychological treatment. If you are struggling with a perinatal mood disorder, a good resource is Postpartum Support International.

All original art images copyright Linda Shanti McCabe

[i] Bulkeley, Kelly, “Why Sleep Deprivation is Torture” Psychology Today, December 15, 2014.

[ii] Robinson et al. Low maternal serum vitamin D during pregnancy and the risk for postpartum depression symptoms, Archives of Women’s Mental Health, 2014.

[iii] Allen KL, Byrne SM, Kusel MM, Hart PH, Whitehouse AJ.  Maternal vitamin D levels during pregnancy and offspring eating disorder risk in adolescence. International Journal of Eating Disorders. Jun 26, 2013.

 

Befriending Pleasure and Intuition

 

Following the theme of trusting and listening to your intuition, I have a marvelous guest blog by a colleague of mine, Ondina Hatvany, a licensed marriage and family therapist in San Francisco. Please read on for her take on the Pleasure Principle and how listening to it can help improve your relationship to food and your body through the practice of intuitive eating.

The Pleasure Principle is simply this: Our bodies are wired to move towards pleasure and avoid pain. We naturally gravitate towards things that taste, smell and feel yummy and delicious. We naturally avoid the opposite. To try to fight the pleasure principle, as so many diets encourage us to do, is to fight one of our most basic instincts. Is it any wonder then that so many diets fail?

What if following and listening to our pleasure was really the secret to it all? What if by listening to our bodies instead of fighting them we started to come into a better balance around our weight and body image?

Impossible you say? Let me invite you to temporarily suspend your disbelief until you read the rest of this article…

Pleasure is the key to the practice of intuitive eating.

If you are practicing intuitive eating (which, in a nutshell, is to eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re satisfied, and to eat what your body wants), then when you are hungry you ask yourself:“What is the most nutritious and delicious thing I can eat right now?” You need to have your pleasure muscle well toned and flexed in order to be able to answer this question. In fact the more tuned in you are to what will bring you pleasure, the better you will be able to intuit what your body wants and needs.

Left to their own devices, our bodies are naturally going to want to eat what will increase our chances of survival. Our default mode is for strength and health. Of course, if you have been dieting most of your life, some of these natural predispositions of the body might have become skewed, so it’s important to be patient with yourself.

So many of my clients who have spent a lifetime going from one diet to another are terrified at the thought of practicing intuitive eating. “I won’t be able to stop eating chocolate!” wailed one of my clients. Chocolate was her number one forbidden food, so of course once she considered legalizing it, that is where her mind went. There is nothing like scarcity to increase our desire for something.

Although this is a valid fear and one that might even get played out, in my experience, this phase of overdosing on forbidden foods is relatively short-lived. Once your body gets that it can eat what it wants, when it wants, and even as much as it wants, a forbidden food like chocolate starts to lose its grip on you. In their book When Women Stop Hating their Bodies Hirschmann and Munter tell us:

Always having large quantities of the food you love at hand is critical to the process of legalizing. As a rule, everyone starts this process by doing just that—stocking up. There is no question that the biggest surprise for people in the early stages of legalizing food is that, contrary to popular belief, the more food you have at hand, the less you eat. Scarcity produces anxiety; surplus makes people feel more secure.

Pleasure can also be used as a barometer for when we’re starting to feel satisfied and have had enough. When we first start to eat, we are truly hungry; the food tastes that much better because we have an appetite for it. However, once we start to fill up, our pleasure begins to diminish. This is our sign that we have probably had enough food. If we know that there will be more food and plenty of it when we are hungry again and can really enjoy it, it won’t be so hard for us to stop eating.

If you’ve been trying diets and they haven’t been working, try using the pleasure principle. Our bodies don’t do well with deprivation and punishment; they are so much more responsive to pleasure. Like it or not, our bodies are wired for pleasure. Try working with your body instead of against it for a change.

What I am writing about here is completely counter-cultural to what most women have been spoon-fed since birth (pun intended). It’s certainly not what the dieting industry wants us to believe. They have spent billions of dollars convincing us that our bodies are battlegrounds to be controlled and conquered. Has this approach been working for you?

If you are going to try some of the suggestions I have outlined here, please enlist some support, whether it is individual or group therapy or both, because it is hard to change these deeply encoded messages on our own. The more support you can get, especially in the beginning, the better your chance of success.

Here’s to your pleasure!

The author, OOwebsitePortrait_blur_sept2013.jpgndina Nandine Hatvany, MFT

assists traditional, alternative and queer couples and partners with an approach that combines the latest discoveries in neuroscience with powerful and effective developments in couples research. She uses an approach called Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT)  to help her couples get past blame and shame to a place of more understanding, trust and intimacy.

As former Director of the Eating Disorders program at the Community Institute of Psychotherapy Ondina advocates a Health at Every Size (HAES) approach that empowers women to befriend their bodies.

 Ondina works with trauma/ abuse survivors using EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing), hypnosis and somatic (body mindfulness) psychotherapy techniques with a high effectiveness rating. Finally as a somatically trained psychotherapist and former yoga teacher, one of the ways she can assist you to make lasting changes is to foster body mindfulness. She uses somatic psychotherapies such as Hakomi and Somatic Experiencing to facilitate transitions and shifts that last.
For more about Ondina visit her website ~   www.OndinaWellness.com
Feel free to call for a free initial phone consultation confidential office line  (415) 381-1065 
or e-mail: Ondinah@gmail.com

“You’re Too Sensitive” and Other Lies Your Eating Disorder Tells You

This month’s theme is Honoring Sensitivity, and I’m going to jump right in with what I hear on a weekly basis in my therapy practice working with recovering women:

  1. “You’re too sensitive.”

My adult clients often say, when entering eating disorder recovery, “I’m too sensitive,” as if it were a curse, or something that needs to be gotten rid of in the recovery process. Often they received this “too sensitive” message as children. Maybe when they

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Butterflies do not tell themselves to “Stop being so sensitive and get over it.”

cried, felt things deeply, were highly intuitive, or were sensitive to stimuli such as noise, textures, or smells,
they were told: “Get over it,” Don’t be a crybaby,” “If you feel scared or ashamed don’t show it” or (covertly)”Don’t talk about feelings. They are weak and we don’t have room for them here.” Your Eating Disorder (ED voice) is the one that judges (and then tries to hide, numb or cut off from) your sensitivities because they were not embraced and/or too painful to experience as a child.

I tell these adults that, even though it may be the opposite to what they want to hear,

Recovery is an invitation to embrace what wisdom your sensitivity has to offer.

Being sensitive means that your are strongly in touch with the part of you that knows, intuitively, what is right for you and what isn’t. It is the part of you that gets, on a gut level and often immediately, (even if it’s not what you want to know) whether someone is a good or bad fit for you in dating. It is the part of you that feels a palpable rise in anxiety before you engage in disordered eating behaviors, because it knows that you are about to act violently toward your sensitivity, trying to numb it rather than listen to it. It is the part of you that senses when a friend is feeling sad or mad, even when they try to mask it. It is the part of you that easily connects with nature or animals or young children being themselves. It is the part of you that knows when someone needs help or is not being treated fairly and feels a protective and empathic response toward them. People who struggle with disordered eating often are highly attuned to other’s feelings. However, they can be insensitive toward their own feelings, judging them as “bad” or “wrong.”

2. If I’m having a feeling, it is bad and I should make it go away.

Closely related to being sensitive is having feelings. The voice of the Eating Disorder (ED) does not like to have feelings. It really doesn’t matter which feeling – sadness, anger, shame, joy, happiness ED doesn’t like it. However, as Brene Brown, author of The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, states:

“We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.”

Feelings-Wheel-ColorWe have to go toward the feelings we’ve left behind in childhood in order to reclaim those parts of ourselves nd become full human beings again. We have to go toward, not away, from the feelings that scare us. I often give clients a feeling wheel to look at and identify which areas they are comfortable and which areas they are not. Some people like to hang out in “purple,” some in “red,” some in “yellow.” You may be very comfortable with sadness, but terrified of anger – or vice versa. Instead of judging this, recovery involves getting curious about it and learning to inhabit all the different colors. Because if you don’t feel, you can’t heal.

3. Needs are bad/weak/not okay unless you are taking care of someone else’s.

It’s so interesting how sensitive people can be fabulous caretakers but – how shall I say this – absolutely and completely suck at identifying, asking for support, and receiving care for their own needs. It’s called codependency in recovery lingo. The underlying unconscious assumption is: If I take care of you, you won’t be uncomfortable. And then I’ll be okay, because I’ll just match all of my needs to yours! But people have different needs.
And people who develop eating disorders usually haven’t been allowed to idchameleonentify their own needs separate from others. There are many good reasons for this, often stemming from family of origin dynamics. Being a chameleon pretending you don’t have any of your own needs certainly has some benefits: you can blend in to many environments and “fit in,” You are not going to be singled out as “the scapegoat,” you can get along with many different kinds of people and work environments without being offensive.

However, at some point, a person recovering from an eating disorder will need to start risking the vulnerability of identifying their own needs. And this can be uncomfortable because, as a wise friend of mine says, “When you stop people pleasing, people aren’t pleased.” However, you WILL most likely, as you identify and start risking having some of your needs seen and met, feel less anxious, more at peace, and less concerned with the necessity of pleasing others.

4. If I just get the RIGHT food plan then I won’t have these uncomfortable feelings or needs anymore.

This ED belief can actually hang on for a long time. Because, even in recovery, it morphs and becomes clever, saying things like “I’m just trying to help you be healthy. You felt so much better when you were eating (fill in your own ED’s version of no sugar/whole grain/not wholegrain/gluten/fat-free/high-or-low protein obsession here).”

You are most likely to need a food plan in the beginning of your recovery. That is appropriate. If you have been skipping breakfast and lunch and bingeing on ice-cream for dinner, you are going to need to add the first two meals back into your day as well as get some vegetables, protein and carbs in there. If you have been avoiding “fear foods” such as cookies, bread, or salad dressing with fat, then you will need to practice having salad dressing (on the salad not the side), dessert, or scary snacks, in order to know you can tolerate the anxiety and be okay. Your food plan may be more structured or less structured during different parts of your recovery. It will change, just as you will. But finding the exact “right” food plan in order to not have uncomfortable feelings is a lie. Your food plan should support you having feelings rather than restricting or numbing them.

If you are sensitive, you are going to feel. Therefore you are going to feel the food you eat. If you have an allergy, are celiac, or have another medically related issue regarding food choices, then you need to tend to this. Otherwise, we need to look at the feelings not the foods. Because the feelings are what your ED is trying to avoid by obsessing on whatever food plan you are convinced will make you “right” or “better.”

Here is one of my favorite quotes from Cheri Huber, a zen writer and teacher:

“There is nothing wrong with you.”

Really. There is nothing wrong with you. There is nothing to fix around you being you. Be YOU and consider there is nothing wrong with that. That is the work of a lifetime and not fixed with any food plan.

5. And the number one lie I hear from ED in my office every week is: Once I’m recovered, I will be “thin” (which means…)

And then we work on filling in the dots for the associations with what “thin” symbolizes. Some of them include:

  • I will feel confidant/comfortable in my skin.
  • I can dance, wear a bathing suit, do the-thing-I-won’t-let-myself-do-at-this-size.
  • I will be worthy of a romantic relationship.
  • I will be worthy.
  • I can go back to work (postpartum) or
  • I can get or go after the job that I really want.
  • People will love me.
  • People I love won’t leave.
  • People I love won’t die.
  • I won’t have to feel grief, sadness, anger or shame.
  • I won’t be sensitive anymore.

The list can go on, but the important piece here is calling ED out on the lie: if you are human, you are not always going to feel confidant, you are going to be imperfect, regardless of the size of your body. You are going to experience loss. You are going to die. What are you going to do before that? Because that is what ED is doing its darndest to prevent you from experiencing and engaging in: your LIFE.

Stop believing the lies and keep taking tiny (or huge, this can change day-to-day, moment to moment) steps toward fear: your recovery is there, as is your life. Because FEAR can mean many things:

F*ck Everything And Run (in the land of ED);

Face Everything And Recover; or

False Evidence Appearing Real.

I hope you choose to walk right into and through that false evidence that appears real according to ED.  It is worth it. Love is on the other side of this false evidence. You are worth it. You always were.

The Doctor Within and Wild Medicine

 

Guest blogging today is Dr. Marilyn Steele, A Jungian psychologist, dream consultant, author and artist. Marilyn is a dear friend and colleague with whom I have consulted on my own dreams, in mining for wisdom. I am so excited to share some of her medicine with you!

The Doctor Within and Wild Medicine

A few weeks ago I dreamed I was in labor but my OB-GYN, Susan Griffin, was out-of-town on vacation. After an initial moment of panic, I remembered that I had already birthed three children naturally. I know how to do this.

Although now I am laboring to birth a book The Way of the Wild Feminine rather than a baby, the dream includes three themes of my own awakening to feminine power: Dreams. The creative process. And motherhood. I had not actually planned on growing up to be a woman, since it seemed they had very small, boring domestic lives without much power or freedom in the world. But in birthing my first baby forty years ago, I felt in every cell of my body a deep love for the lineage of birthing mothers, and the shocking revelation that we were magnificently powerful. Amazed and angry, I was determined to tell a new, truer story of the self in psychology from a woman’s point of view. Along my weaving life path have been brilliant thinkers like my dream doctor –visionary, feminist author of Woman and Nature (1979). Making art and writing began to root me in my own inner authority, and helped to open a channel to Spirit. My strongest medicine came from dreams. And so became my reclamation of the wild woman.

We begin our search for the wild, whether as girlchildren or as adult women, because in the midst of some wildish endeavor we felt that a wild and supportive presence was near…We sensed the sound of a familiar breath from afar, we felt tremors in the ground, and we knew that something powerful, someone important, some wild freedom within us was on the move.”     Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Because the Feminine has been in exile for so long, we must go down to the roots, to the realm of the imaginal, mythic and archetypal unconscious to retrieve her stories, her values, her visions. Dreams are a direct pathway to this realm.

There is intelligence in the Universe- call it the Great Mystery, Spirit, Higher Power, Goddess, the holy – that wants the best for us and calls us to healing, to wholeness, to holiness. To wake up, we dream. Dreams help us grow soul, strengthen body and mind to house the bigger Self, so that we may bring a new story to ourselves and the world.

We can learn to trust, too, that the symptom or illness, the uncontrollable or irritating or even dangerous behavior has some gift to bestow. Soul speaks through the body. These are signs of a future pulling us in the direction of our divine destiny.

One of the great cosmic jokes Spirit has made through me is developing me into a feminist, an artist who loves science when I had never planned on becoming a woman, certainly not a “feminine” one, and had nearly flunked out of UC Berkeley due to the science requirement. I have learned to trust my dreams, to strengthen the dialogue between ego and Self, and to continue to find and empty those stubborn pockets of perfectionism which squelch the joy from my life.

Some gifts you can find in your dreams:

  • A truthful self-portrait of your psyche
  • Meaningful dialogue between Ego and Self
  • Creative renewal
  • Animal allies and spirit guides
  •  The secret wishes of your soul
  • Initiation to your vocation and calling
  • The playful and loving presence of the Great Mystery

The archetypes of the collective unconscious function like strange attractors in a quantum field. Our brains are like tuning systems, tuned in to our collective memory and our collective becoming. We are not our past. We are not our present. We are always in the process of becoming and we carry this process into being. We wild women carry the emerging possible.

The journey to a wild Feminine wisdom is a weaving way, a sometimes harrowing path, until we can become self-earthed, rooted in our natural feminine sourceground. We are the weavers and Wayfinders for a different kind of world, one in which it will be easier to love.

Here are some practices to reclaim your own wild feminine power and wisdom:

   Welcome your dreams. Take action on them.

   Walk in Nature.

   Do yoga, dance, swim.

   Begin each day by writing three pages.

   Read inspiring spiritual prose or poetry.

   Be quiet for a half hour every day to listen for the still, small voice within.

   Create something, often. A poem, a song, a dance, a collage, a drawing.

   Be alert to the synchronicities around you.

The more you practice the more you can begin to trust and be peaceful, rooted in the faith Spirit will let you know what needs your attention, what is flourishing as well as offering creative possibilities for your future.

 

About the Author

Steele Bio

A Jungian psychologist, dream consultant, author and artist for over thirty years, Dr. Steele has taught extensively in the Bay Area and abroad on women’s psychology, the wisdom of dreams and the essential role of the wild and sacred Feminine archetype in the evolution of consciousness. Her office is in Lafayette, and she consults via telephone and Skype.

She has published creative nonfiction and spiritual memoir in numerous journals and anthologies such as Psychological Perspectives: A Jungian Journal, SageWoman, Zone 3, and Left Curve.              

In 2012 she published a deck of Wild Cards, poetry to empower and awaken women. A memoir, The Wild Feminine: Stories to Inspire and Embolden, was released in May 2013 and recently chosen as one of The Spirited Woman Foundation’s Top Book Picks. A second book, The Way of the Wild Feminine:Tell a New Story, Draw a New Map for the World, is forthcoming in 2016.

For further information, go to theWildFeminine

Yoga as mirror: Curiosity instead of scrutiny

I’m so happy to have Jennifer Kreatsoulas, PhD, guest blogging on Yoga and Recovery! Read on to discover how yoga can be a different kind (it has kindness) of mirror than the judge-ing one of the Eating Disorder:

The yoga mat is commonly described as a mirror that reflects our reactions, habits, strengths, and weaknesses. As the metaphor goes, what shows up in our lives plays out on our yoga mats.

For a long time I resisted this metaphor. After all, mirrors could never ever offer the safety, solace, and freedom that my yoga mat provides. My mat is home base, a playground for creative and physical expression. When I am on my yoga mat, I tend to forget I have an eating disorder. On my mat, I am me, just me. That other part, the illness and tireless efforts of recovery, is quiet. My mind and body are at peace.

Mirrors, in comparison, have been a source of angst and duplicity. More times than not I stared back at a self filled with doubt, unease, and disgust. Amid all the panicked body checking and countless wardrobe changes the mirror could never provide comfort. It only fed my irrational need to scrutinize my body nearly to death.

Years of yoga and recovery have both fostered in me a steadfast practice of svadhyaya, the Sanskrit term for self-study, which means turning inward and observing your actions, reactions, emotions, and habits. From the awareness born out of self-study we can tap into insights about our relationships with ourselves and others. In this sense, the self-study we do on our yoga mats is deep, true reflection, making our mats figurative mirrors. The body scrutiny we do in front of the mirror, however, is not reflection; it’s compulsion and self-mutiny.

In my experience, self-study can help us redefine our relationship with the mirror–yes, that very same mirror that has appeared to be the enemy all this time. As we stand in front of the mirror we have a ripe opportunity for self-study instead of body-scrutiny. Our habit is to despise, disdain, and be cruel to ourselves, but if we can catch ourselves body checking or spiraling into self loathing, we can than begin to study those responses. In other words, we can literally push pause on these highly charged habits (or rituals) and reflect on what beliefs are driving those behaviors.

Some questions to jumpstart your self-study might be

  • Why am I obsessing about my body right now?
  • What is this body checking really about?
  • Why do I feel “X” right now?
  • What does berating myself in front of the mirror get me?
  • How can I be more kind to myself?

Once we pull back from the reflection in the mirror and turn inward, we neutralize the mirror and it’s power over us. We literally turn away from that version of our reflection. We shift away from body-scrutiny and practice self-study, and we re plenty strong to handle what we learn about ourselves.

Jennifer_Yoga-9076

Jennifer Kreatsoulas, PhD, the founder of Chime, is a yoga therapist specializing in eating disorders. Her program Resilience Yoga for Eating Disorders™ aims to help individuals
with navigate the daily challenges of recovery with yoga. Jennifer is also a yoga therapist at Monte Nido Philadelphia, a treatment center for eating disorders. Her ultimate goals in life are to be a positive role model for her daughters and to teach them that anything is possible when we ring true (Chime) with who we are at our core and live with strong intention.

 

What You Need to Know About Pregnancy and Eating Disorders: A Podcast

In introducing this month’s Butterfy Effect theme of CONNECTING, I am honored to share an interview by the founder of Recovery Warriors, Jessica Raymond, MS. Recovery Warriors is a multimedia resource hub for hope and healing from an eating disorder. Here is a link to the podcast: RecoverywarriorsPodcast

An overview

The desire to become a mom can be a motivating factor in eating disorder recovery. However,the challenges of pregnancy and the postpartum period mirror the early stages of recovery. Both pregnant and new mothers and women recovering from eating disorders experience anxiety, body image distress, difficulty sleeping, hormonal changes, appetite changes, and ambivalence/excitement/distress around cultivating a new identity. In this episode of The Recovery Warrior Show, expert Dr. Linda Shanti shares personal and professional stories of recovering from an eating disorder and entering into motherhood. Listen in regardless of where you are at in the biological cycle because there is much to learn.

What You’ll Learn

  • Why people don’t talk about miscarriages
  • How pregnancy is similar to early stages of recovery
  • Why you need to be proactive in seeking professional help before having a baby?
  • Why how a mother eats affects her child
  • Is there a right time to have a kid

 Favorite Quote

The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new. -Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh

Advice to Former Self

You’ll get through this honey, you will. It’s going to change you and it is changing you and that’s ok; that’s the way it’s supposed to be. There’s no parallel life that you’re supposed to be leading; this is it, this is not a detour. Just because you’re suffering doesn’t mean you’re on the wrong path; you’re absolutely on the right path. Keep going.

Definition of Recovery

Taking care of yourself physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. Not engaging in behaviors that hurt me. Moving toward growth edges. Accepting my body as it is. Allowing and inviting all feelings. Lowering the bar on perfectionism. Thinking in the rainbow between black and white. Listening to my heart and connecting with a larger purpose.

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Why I Do This Work

As I’m wrapping up this month’s theme of CREATIVITY, I’m reflecting on some of the fabulous resources I found for recovering women, moms, people who think-they-are-not-creative, and mommy-preneurs (which I’ll share at the end of this blog). 

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Dr Linda Shanti’s Mission

One of those resources was The Right Brained Business Plan by Jennifer Lee (Novato: New World Library, 2011). In it, she offers all kinds of creative tools for entrepreneurs, mommy-preneurs, and people recovering from vagueness in their finances and their visions (which is a lot of recovering people!). 

One exercise looks at the values you want to embody, and that you want your business to stand for. As I started to collage this, I realized the best way to image it was to use the thank you notes I have accumulated from clients over the years. These expressions of gratitude most clearly vision WHY I do this work and feed the values I believe in, and want to continue to cultivate in being a therapist:

EmpathyFullSizeRender-4

Compassion

Creativity

Healing

Hope

Inspiration

Steadfast-ness

Listening to your Heart, Trusting your Body, and Finding your Recovery Voice

Mostly I want my clients to know: YOU CAN DO THIS. I believe in you. It is possible to recover. I am so grateful to have been given the gift to be of service to help women on this journey. As they say in recovery, You can’t give it away unless you have it, and you cant keep it unless you give it away.

Stay tuned for lots of fabulous GUEST BLOGGERS as this month’s theme is CONNECTING.

In the meantime, here are a few fabulous creativity resources for recovering women, moms, and mommy-preneurs. (This is by no means an exhaustive list):

  • The Artists Way or The Artists’ way for Parents By Julia Cameron
  • The Creative Journal (or anything else by) Lucia Cappicione
  • Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
  • Bird by Bird, Operating Instructions,  or Help, Thanks, Wow by Anne LaMott
  • Soulcollage Evolving by Seena Frost, MFTFullSizeRender-4 copy
  • How to Make MeCards: Creative Expression for Children and the Grownups in their Lives by Nancy Weiss, Jane Raphael
  • The Right Brained Business Plan by Jennifer Lee
  • Momosas: Fun Alcohol-Free Drinks for Expecting Moms (and those that are sober) By Paul Knorr
  • Color with Me, Mom! Color, Create, and Connect with your Child by Jasmine Narayan and Hannah Davies
  • Between Mom and me: Mother Son Journal by Kayie Clemons

 

5 Things Moms Can Do to Prevent Eating Disorders

I recently gave a talk for parents on Eating Disorders and what parents wanted to know most was: How do I prevent my child from developing an eating disorder?

Here are five things you can do (and some you can be conscious of NOT doing) to assist with preventing your child from developing an eating disorder:

  • 1. DON’T Diet. 

Diets don’t work. This has been proven again and again. Here are a few scary statistics:

*95% of all dieters will regain their lost weight in 1-5 years (Grodstein, Levine, Spencer, Colditz, & Stampfer, 1996; Neumark-Sztainer, Haines, Wall, & Eisenberg, 2007).

*80% of 10-year-old girls in America have dieted to lose weight. (Bates, 2016)

And yet

Women who were put on diets as young girls are more likely to struggle with obesity, alcohol abuse and disordered eating as adults. (Keel, 2014).

*35% of “normal dieters” progress to pathological dieting. (Shisslak, Crago, & Estes, 1995).

  • 2. DO eat intuitively.

Intuitive eating can be summarized by: relying on internal cues for hunger and satiety, eating for physiological rather than emotional reasons, having no dietary restrictions/unconditional permission to eat, and body size acceptance (Tribole, and Resche, Intuitive Eating A Revolutionary program that Works, 1995, 2012). Listen to your own hunger and don’t restrict. Give yourself permission to enjoy eating!

  • 3. Take care of your own body image.
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The Onion, Aug 25,2014

Be mindful that you are your child’s mirror. You may be tempted, as I saw in a humourous newspaper wear a “Mom’s Bathing Suit as One Giant, Body-Ecclipsing Ruffle.” You many gaze disgustedly in the mirror at your postpartum muffin top.  Postpartum body image and ageing can be brutal. However, don’t allow yourself to buy into the culture’s message around self-worth being tied to “getting your postbaby body back in shape.”

A) Your postpartum body will never be the same shape. You grew a baby in there.

B) Your worth is bigger now. You have been changed by life. Try and embrace and radically accept that. Be proud of your tummy like your child is proud of theirs. You are beautiful because of the life you have lived and your body reflects that: all the scars, stretches, and wrinkles. A wizened tree does not Botox itself to look like a skinny leaf-sprout. Be the tree that you are proudly (or, on a bad day, good-enough).

  • 4. Follow the “Division of Responsibility” when feeding your child.

FullSizeRender-4 copy 3Briefly, the division of responsibility is: The parent is responsible for What, When, and Where you eat. The child is responsible for How much and Whether they eat. This is based on Ellen Sattyr’s work. To see a handout on this, click here

I know it can be hard to trust that your child WILL choose to eat vegetables. But it CAN and DOES happen. See this amazing transformation in my own little one, who used to only eat anything soft and white. Notice how one carrot and two bits of pepper have grown into a plate almost entirely filled with vegetables!

FullSizeRender-4(By the way, DO respect sensory sensitivities. If your child prefers soft texture, make soft texture food and gradually without a fight and making it fun introduce other textures.) And, remember: there are no bad foods. Kids need carbs and fat, and so do you. They help you have enough energy, they feed your brain.

  • 5. Allow all feelings in your family (especially uncomfortable ones like anger, fear, and shame).

Low tolerance for negative affect has been shown to be one of the factors contributing to eating disorders. What does this mean? It means, in order to create an environment where your child willFullSizeRender-4 copy not feel they have to hide or stuff parts of themselves in order to be loved, you have to allow discomfort. Anger is a tough one. Most people error in one direction (rage at others) or the other (blame self and stuff into depression). Work on expressing anger at the level of irritation before it gets too overwhelmingly big. Have weekly family meetings. If you get in a fight with your partner, make up and show your child you have made up so they can see people re-unite after being mad at each other. When your child is mad, don’t withdraw your affection. Notice: “I see you are mad. I’m going to help you. I love you even when you are mad. You can hit the pillow, but not me. I’m going to stay with you until we work this out.” Allow fear. Allow insecurity, embrace imperfection. When someone makes a mistake in our house, we say “Yay! I made a mistake!” This is not my natural inclination. The natural inclination with shame is to hide it. Sweep it under the rug quickly! Pretend-like-you-know-what-you-are-doing-before-you-get-in-trouble-or-someone-sees-that-you-are-a-fraud! Don’t do this. Turn toward your own and your child’s imperfections and growth edges. Growing requires failing, and failing, and failing before succeeding. Support your child in practicing new skills. When your little one is learning to walk and falls down, you say “Hooray! Try again!” Continue to do this with yourself and your little one. Again and again.

It is possible to prevent eating disorders. And it is also possible to build a strong protective factors so that if your child develops one, they can recover with more ease. Do what you can. Eating Disorders are complex and develop from a unique and individual interplay of many factors. Eating disorders are no-one’s fault, but everyone’s responsibility. Prevention and recovery are possible.

 

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