Category Archives: recovery

Vision boards: Guidance on Creating Your Vision for Your Recovery, Your Life, and You

Twenty years ago, I vision-ed what it would be like to no longer have an eating disorder. I wasn’t sure it would be possible for me. But I was ready to vision the possibility.  I discovered, by visioning the possibility, and then taking the actions steps into that vision, that it was possible. Every year since then I have made a vision board. Fifteen years ago, I started facilitating others in this process.  

What is a Vision board?
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Vision boards (also called vision collages or treasure maps) are just what they sound like: a collage of your vision!  The word “board” is used when you make it on cardboard or other thick material for backing. You can also use paper or posterboard. When making this collage, you can be very specific with putting what you want 1-year-from-now as well as choosing images that make you appeal to you without knowing why. You can make sections of your collage for different areas of your life such as family, health, career, and spirituality. You can also have a “theme” for the year. For example, the theme of the year for the collage on the left was “Flow.” My most favorite option is to just glue your images on the paper as you go. As one client of mine stated “you can just slap images on the paper and trust that it’s going to mean something.” Here are some more specific suggestions. 

Pick the right images (only you know what they are)

You do not need to know why an image speaks to you. Listen to your gut. Trust what wants to stay on your vision board and what doesn’t make the cut. Years ago, I had an image of a sacred family and a pregnant woman on my vision board. At that point, I was still in the “no kids” camp, and it was a metaphor for other aspects of my life wanting and needing to be born. In addition, it was an image of family healing that I needed.

However, the beauty of images is that they can hold multiple meanings. A newborn baby can mean taking good care of yourself and your new recovery, giving birth to a new business/creative endeavor, grieving the loss of a child, the desire to have a baby, or all  of these. IMG_3166

I have had people come back, year after year, again and again, saying “I don’t know why I put that image (of Italy, or a Balinese woman, or a Hawaiian flower, or…) on my collage last year but guess what happened?” and then telling me about the synchronicities that emerged.

The person who made this collage went to Hawaii and got engaged after image-ing this on her vision board.

Make it In Real Life. With Real Supplies

For your vision collage, use actual paper, actual scissors, and actual images. Pinterest is great, but it is not a vision board. You need to be a be able to move things around, use your hands, and decide what feels right on your collage. The boundaries of your paper/board collageare important. You want your vision to be clear. Some things will not make the cut to being on your vision board this year. That is important to honor. Holding those boundaries for your board, (and in your life), will create the space you need for your vision. (Also, notice if you have trouble leaving any space on your board- is this true in your life? There is usually a parallel process with how you make your board and how you live your life.) Post your vision board on your actual wall, so you can see it in your actual life. Look at it throughout the year, so your body and mind can take in your vision. This will help you make it real!

Make it with Other People.

IMG_2727In my experience, vision boards are best made with other people. Just like recovery and motherhood, you don’t have to do it alone, and it is easier if you do it together. When you do it with other like-minded people, the experience has the opportunity to become much more ease-full and meaningful. When you run into obstacles (as happens in recovery, motherhood, and vision board making), it can be helpful to have support around you. When I facilitate the process for groups, we give each other feedback on what we see in their vision collages. Often, you are so in-the-thicket-of-your-own-trees (or your collage/life), you can’t see the beautiful forest you are in!  Having other people reflect back to you what they see can be eye-opening. Ten people looking at the same images see ten different things. That can feel abundant! Remember, you as the artist of your vision board and of your life always get to decide what it means to you.

Include specific goals and intentions

(AND surrender the timeline and the way these come to fruition)

It is ok, even fabulous, to have specific goals and intentions for the year ahead. A goal is a realistic, tangible and measurable outcome. An intention is a desire and a deep orientingimg_1241.jpg of the self toward a direction. Both are important.  When I was pregnant and approaching my first year of motherhood, I had a “comfy, dry and sleeping like a champion” baby displayed largely on my vision collage. This was an intention. This didn’t happen for either myself or my baby very frequently the first year.

If you, like me, have a left-brain that is a bit obsessed with accomplishing goals, by all means put them on your vision board. (Important side note: Diets are not allowed in any of my vision board workshops. Diets don’t work. Diets suck your energy away from your real visions. This is not a die-t. This is a live-it.) If you struggle with impatience or perfectionism, you may need to give your self more time than originally planned to accomplish your goals and intentions. I had the goal completing the doctorate and getting licensed as a Psychologist on my vision boards for many years.  It was important to keep setting the goal, again and again, with patience and perseverance.

In addition, vision boards often manifest your visions in Soul-time, which can be nonlinear and surprising in how they come to fruition. Sometimes an image you originally thought meant one thing when you put it on your collage, becomes something else entirely. That is part of the magic. Which leads to a question I often get asked:

Isn’t it magical thinking to make a collage and then expect these visions to happen in your life? 

No. Let yourself dream big. And then, TAKE ACTION on it!

There is a famous quote attributed to Goethe, “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” I like how the words dream and do are both here. Dream, and then DO. Obviously you have to take action to make your visions come true. But image-in-ing it is often the first step. What is most threatening, fearful and truly exciting to imagine yourself accomplishing, having, being? You have to imagine it is possible before you walk your way into it.

IMG_2043Because the truth is, it’s not about the collage. It’s about you letting your vision turn into the imperfectly beautiful surprise of your life. YOU are the vision you are creating.

What’s your vision? If you haven’t made your 2018 Vision Board yet, now is the time!

Dr Linda will  be facilitating a Vision Collage workshop in San Francisco on January 7, 2018. For more information, go to DrLindaShanti.com or email Linda@DrLindaShanti.com

 

The Winter Solstice

img_1192I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure

the darkness for it shows me the stars.

-Og Mandino

We are in a dark time of the year. There is a reason why there has always been a light-in-the-darkness time, and not just for those needing light in recovering from depression. Historically, in an agricultural society, December was a time when the harvest was done and therefore it was a time to rest, turn inward and reflect. With the days being darker, and Winter Solstice being the shortest day of the year, bringing and celebrating light is a natural response to, well, not going mad in the darkness. We need light. Not only does the vitamin D literally stave off depression, but symbolically we need to know there is light in the dark.

One theory of the origins of December 25 as the date chosen for the birth of Jesus is that it was originally the pagan festival in Rome celebrating “the birth of the unconquered sun,” celebrating the sun-god and the solstice. Hanukkah is also known as “the Festival of Lights,” Kwanzaa ritual include lighting special candle holders called kinaras, and in the December Hindu festival Pancha Ganapati, a shrine with Ganesha (the Hindu elephant god who clears away obstacles) is lit. Shabe Yaldā or Shabe Chelle, held on the Winter solstice, isan Iranian festival celebrating the victory of light and goodness over darkness and evil, and Chahar Shanbeh Sure, the Iranian “festival of Fire” celebrates light over darkness on the last Tuesday night of the year.

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“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”

-Elizabeth Kubler Ross

 

For recovering people, this can be particularly challenging to remember the light: the light of hope, the light of “this too, shall pass,” the light of love. It can be difficult to remember you have an inner light to which you can listen.

There is a lot to be concerned with in the world right now. So much suffering. Holding the light of hope can be hard. So many religions and cultures have this light in the darkness in their symbolism for this very reason. It is a human need; an archetypal commonality we share. Remember that you are only responsible for your light, your candle in the darkness. Light your candle. Revisit, hold onto, re-light this light. In the words of Anne Frank,

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“Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.”


Light your candle. The world needs it. The world needs you.

2 Ways to Take Care of Your Self During the Holiday Season

The holidays can be hard. They can be especially difficult for people recovering from disordered eating, alcoholism, depression, or anxiety. The intention of this blog is to help you be a bit more fierce with your own self-care and a bit more compassionate with yourself and others. This is not a list to use to beat up on yourself for not doing enough or being imperfect! May it be helpful, useful, and ease some of your suffering during this time.

  1. HALT

Try not to let yourself get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. Getting too tired, hungry/hypoglycemic, resentful, or isolating is a recipe for addictive behaviors and/or haltdepression. Imagine yourself to be a little one (this will not be hard for you parents to imagine) who needs regular meals and snacks, regular emotional understanding, and regular sleep. If little ones get too tired/hungry/emotionally not heard, there will be meltdowns. Be a kind parent to yourself. Pack a self-care bag with protein snacks, water, get to bed on time, make plans with friends and/or providers that “get” you so you can feel nourished and grounded. Practice what a friend of mine calls “aggressive self-care.”

2. Keep 1 Thing Constant

Choose one thing – morning meditation, weekly support group, your meal plan, sobriety, journaling, daily inspirational reading. Whatever it is, just keep coming back to this.

A Word About Kindness and Self-Compassion

The intention here is to help you be a bit more fierce with your own self-care and a bit more compassionate with yourself and others… not to beat up on yourself for not doing enough or being imperfect. So if you HAVEN’T kept one thing constant, just restart it. And when you notice you haven’t kept your thing – whatever your thing is that keeps you grounded and sane – constant (We all fall off the wagon on this. It is part of being included in humanity.), notice with kindness and compassion. Imagine you are a puppy. Gently pick yourself up from the place where you are being unkind to yourself and bring yourself back to the place where you are being kind. Gently bring yourself back to the thing that helps you. Just keep coming back.

 

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)

 

 

 

 

“You must give birth to your visions…”

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“You must give birth to your visions. They are the future waiting to be born. Fear not the strangeness you feel. Just wait for the birth, for the hour of the new clarity. ” -Rainer Maria Rilke

Vision:

1. the act or power of seeing something with the eyes
2. the act or power of seeing or anticipating that which will or may come to be “prophetic vision, the vision of an entrepreneur”

     Every year I make, and then facilitate others making, vision collages. What is a vision collage? It is just as it sounds- a collage of your vision. It is a visual representation of what you would like to live your way into.  It can be as literal and/or non literal as you would like. It may include very specific items (a new car or job) or how you would like to feel (safe, loved, free from anxiety). I usually focus on the year ahead to ground it: What is your vision for the next year? However, the Soul works in its own way and its own timeline. There is a 12-step saying about spirituality, which goes like this: God has three answers: Yes; Yes, but not now; and No, I have something better in mind.

Yes:

Although this may sound easy, it isn’t always easy to live your way into the yes of your vision. I often think of vision collages as a map of where-you-will-arrive-after-clearing-the-obstacles-to-where-and-who-you-already-are. For example, four years ago, I put on my vipriussion collage a brand new prius. That year, when my toyota corolla, (which had been going and going and going), died, I went to the car dealer and looked at possibilities. I looked at many cars, including brand new prius-es and another used toyota corolla. That night, when went home to think about it, sleep on it, and talk with financial advisors, I still couldn’t make up my mind. Finally, my husband who who had been talking about how much more long term financially feasible it would be to get the new prius when I was whining about “maybe I should just get another used corolla,” brought me over to my vision collage and said “IS THAT A COROLLA UP THERE OR A PRIUS?!” Suddenly, I realized it was my own fear of stepping into my vision that was the obstacle. The next day I got my prius.
Many years prior to the prius, I put a pregnant woman on my vision collage. At the time I was not in a romantic relationship and was a No-or-ambivalent-at-best on the question of having children.  I didn’t even know if I could have children due to having an eating disorder and the possibility of damaging my fertility earlier in my life. I wasn’t sure why the pregnant lady appealed to me and appeared on my collage, but I went with the intuitive process of putting the image on there without needing to know what it meant. I thought this was more about birthing myself in recovery and my career, which was true at the time and did occur that year.

Yes, but not now:

However, many years later, the pregnancy became literal. I am now happily a mom when I thought I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be.
Another Yes,-but-not-now expeIMG_2066rience was putting “Licensure as a Clinical Psychologist” on my vision collages. All through working at substance abuse rehabs, eating disorder rehabs, hospitals, graduate school, pre-doc, finishing the dissertation process, post-doc, post-baby, post postponing the first licensure exam, post passing the first licensure exam, post starting a private practice, and FINALLY passing the second exam, this was on my vision collages. There were many times I lost faith in the process, but just kept putting 1 foot in front of the other toward the vision and finally manifested it.

I have something better (or different) in mind:

Even before the pregnant woman, a blue-eyed “ideal partner” was on my vision collage. This never came true. I was ok with that. My husband has crinkly brown eyes full of depth. I had actually forgotten this was even part of my vision until a friend and colleague pointed out years later that my child has beautiful blue eyes. When I realized that, tears came to mine because of the mysterious ways that spirit brings our visions true. I never would have imagined that I was to become a mom, nor that my “blue eyed partner” was going to be created inside of me from two brown eyed parents.
Just in case you think visions always come true in exactly the way you wish they would, here is what I had on my vision collage the year I was pregnant:
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Well, he was comfy and dry for the most part, but “like a champion”is most definitely not how I would describe my baby’s sleep patterns the first year!
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The next year I was a bit more realistic about affirming the shadow side, difficulties, and imperfections of mothering (while still loving the miracle and privilege of it).
I didn’t go to Hawaii that first year, but this year we are going as a family.

     For 2014,  I had “Recovery Mama’s” vision statement on my collage. It included guest blogging, creating affirmation cards for new moms, writing my book, and supporting moms recovering from eating disorders in my psychotherapy practice.
The book proposal is being edited, and stay tuned for my newly coming guest blog next month!
Here are the affirmation cards: www.drlindashanti.com
I feel truly blessed to work with the clients I see and witness their growth in recovery and motherhood. It is literally a labor of love and the work I feel called and honored to do.

What are your visions for 2015? There is no wrong way to make a vision collage. Sometimes people I work with use all words, sometimes they use all pictures, sometimes they use a board and sometimes colored paper. Often they will choose magazine images that speak to them intuitively that they don’t necessarily know why. And sometimes they will choose very specific images. One of my favorite quotes is from Meister Eckart and says:

“When the Soul wants to experience something she throws out an image in front of her and then steps into it.” 
That is my wish for you!
To learn more about vision collage workshops, go to:

PRESCHOOL AS THERAPY: 5 GREAT IDEAS FOR ADULT WELLNESS

IMG_1360(I’m guest blogging this month for a fabulous downtown group of psychotherapists)

1. All feelings are allowed.

At my child’s preschool, they have a saying: You have to get the bad feelings out to let the good feelings in. In therapy, we know there are no “bad” feelings. However, feelings such as anger, sadness and hurt don’t feel good, and they need expression. To express your true feelings within the context of a safe attachment relationship is a deep form of wellness.

“When children [and adults] experience an attuned connection from a responsive empathic adult they feel good about themselves because their emotions have been given resonance and reflection.” 1

If the bad feelings don’t come out, they stay in, which can show up later as…(To read the full article, click:
http://www.psychedinsanfrancisco.com/preschool-therapy-adult-wellness/

How Neuroscience is Helping Us Understand Eating Disorders and Recovery

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Have you ever eaten “comfort foods” to calm yourself down? What about having a little ice-cream when feeling sad or depressed? Or does the thought of eating chocolate cake after a meal totally stress you out with anxious thoughts about your body? According to the latest research into neuroscience, there is a reason for it…

To read the full article, click here:

http://www.psychedinsanfrancisco.com/how-neuroscience-is-helping-us-understand-eating-disorders-and-recovery/

Bellies

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     This is my son’s belly. He is very proud of it. He is also proud of his poo and pee. He lives in a shame free land (so far). I will protect him from shame for as long as I can. He is in Erikson’s “Shame vs Doubt” stage exploring the question “Is it ok to be me?” He happily runs around, showing off his belly, exploring this question. I will fiercely fight for him to hold onto the truth that lives in his belly that it is not only ok but ESSENTIAL that he be himself.

     I remember 15 years ago very early in my eating disorder recovery thinking in the midst of horrible body image distress “My belly is so fat- it looks like it is pregnant!” It wasn’t pregnant- it was full of shame, anger and unexpressed emotions. It was FAT: Feeling Are Thick. It was also nowhere near the size of a pregnant belly, having lived the reality, I now know. If I were to talk to my younger self now, I would say, with great compassion and fierceness, “Honey, you are nowhere near to having a pregnant belly. You want to see a pregnant belly? HERE. Now. What is in there that needs to be birthed and expressed? Get it out because it is not only ok but ESSENTIAL to your recovery and your life that you be yourself.” My older self has learned that. And my belly is now (mostly) free from shame and anger having receivied many apology letters for how I abused it and having been listened to much more frequently over the past decade and a half.

this belly

I’m not going to say it wasn’t difficult with body image postpartum (see “Dear New Mama” and “Does being a Mommy make me look fat?” previous posts). However, I AM proud of my Mama belly. I grew a child in there. Yes, my belly looks different in a bathing suit because I GREW A CHILD in there. Wow. That is pretty miraculous. Thank you belly.

A friend of mine sent me this video postpartum. It is well worth watching the celebration of a woman’s body and belly.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kfOBGQpG9fA&feature=player_embedded#

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