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?
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.
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 are 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.
In 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 orienting 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.
Because 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
“Fostering our children’s creativity, we are fostering
our children’s spirituality as well.”
-Julia Cameron, The Artist’s way for Parents
It’s been Spring break this past week. The challenge for parents everywhere: WHAT TO DO ALL WEEK with no school? One challenge for me as a parent is not planning anything. I’m a planner. I like to have things mapped out. But kids and the right brain (and kids are right-brained) do not plan. They are not operating according to the calendar, the clock, or the latest apple device on your wrist. Here is something that emerged spontaneously this week after seeing a log with a fairy door in it in our local park:
- We also made a Roly Poly house from an old honey pot filled with dirt and leaves.
- We’ve also made about 5,000 Lego “microbots.” Microbots are tiny robots made from Legos. Who knew (except for parents of Lego-fiends).
Here’s the point: If you follow the thread of your child’s creativity (which you can see by watching them play), it will lead you to magic. It will lead to that place where your hearts are connected. As the Child Psychologist Gordon Neufeld (co-author of Hold On to Your Kids, 2006) talks about, kids don’t run away from home. Kids run toward home. Home is their heart. If you don’t stay connected with your child’s heart, they will go elsewhere (drugs, eating disorders, their electronic devices) to find it.
But what if playing with your child bores you to tears? Here are some thoughts:
- 1) Fully engage in play in a way that engages you as well as your child. (I was seriously into that fairy house. So much fun. I think my child might have picked up on that 🙂 ) Your child wants to connect with you. Show them it is possible to find the vein of gold in play and creativity and this gives them permission to find theirs.
- 2) Plan in lateral passes. I think that is the right metaphor? I don’t watch football, but apparently, there is a way to pass the ball sideways in which you hand it to a team-mate? Anyway, what I’m trying to say is get support and “hand off” kid playing and creating to other caregivers, whoever they may be (your souse, your mommy friends, your children’s grandparents, your nanny…). No-one can play for 8 hours (except kids – let them. This is how their brains develop). I know you need to do the dishwasher, the laundry, go to work, oh, and by the way, take a break. Patty Wipfler, the fabulous director of hand-in-hand parenting, recommends 10 minutes of special time per day with your lttle one. Anyone can do it for ten minutes. Then you can lateral pass.
- 3) Do your own creative practice. Do it regularly so you can stay connected with your own emotions and creativity. I’m not talking about “being an artist.” I’m talking about writing in a journal for 5-10 minutes a day, or collage-ing, or dancing, or going to a yoga class, or meditating, even if it is only for 5 minutes.
“Someone once asked Somerset Maughham if he wrote on a schedule or only when struck by inspiration. “I write only when inspiration strikes,” he replied. “Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.”― Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles
If you need to get up before everyone else, do that. If you need to hire a babysitter, do it. If you need to tell your co-parent: “I need 10 minutes before dinner (or after the child/ren are down in bed) every night,” DO IT. This is self-care for mamas, which is usually the first thing to go down the toilet. Get your self-care back to the top of the list. And practice it every day. If you are a planner, like me, go ahead and schedule it 🙂 Your emotions will have an outlet and your dreams will (re)emerge to you. You may feel happier, less bored, or not quite as angry. If so, everyone will benefit.
Let me start by saying I’m a Psychologist that has worked with recovering women for the past 15 years as well as recovered from my own eating disorder 18 years ago, so there are many, many times I have encountered resistance, both within myself and working with clients. Two of the most common areas where resistance rear up are: Money and Spirituality. Though these may seem to be two entirely different topics, they each point directly to a similar underlying question: What do you value? I remember one time, early in my recovery from an eating disorder, looking at my relationship with money. A mentor of mine had me keep track of my spending for a month and the tally up total of what I was spending in different categories (Food, Shelter, Entertainment…). We then compared what I valued in my life with what I was spending money on. What was I spending the most money on, the least? Did that match up with what I believed to be important and valuable? I had a client (shared with permission) do this exercise recently and she noticed she was spending the most money on: housing, therapy, student loan repayment, food, her car, and tea. (Yes, tea.) She was spending little to no money on: clothing, yoga, dance. We then looked at what she valued:
- Emotional authenticity
- Doing work that helps others
- Being in her body
Where did these values match up to her spending and where did they not? She discovered that food for recovery, her apartment, her therapy, her work that helped others (that she was able to do as a result of her education/student loan) were very important and therefore she continued all of these areas unchanged. However, the tea wasn’t important to her. She found she was buying (bingeing) on tea compulsively every day because she felt so deprived and restricted. She felt like she didn’t have enough money to spend on what she really wanted and needed, which was yoga, dance, and new clothes. Then we looked at her car: how important was that and did she need it? She found that she could easily walk to her work or take public transportation. With the money that used to be going to her car, she could take yoga and (recovery oriented) dance classes as well as buy clothes that fit her new recovery body size.
Another area I often encounter resistance is around the question of spirituality in recovery. Many recovering women were raised in a faith that was abusive or invalidating toward them or they didn’t have any spirituality growing up in their childhood. So when looking at including spirituality in their recovery, they (understandably) either shy away from it or are confused about how it could be helpful. One way I look at spirituality in recovery is to again ask what values you believe in and how you can be living your life according to these. When you are in integrity with your true Self, the Self you want to be in recovery, who is that? That is what many 12-steppers call “walking the walk” (instead of “talking the talk”). When looking at what the Eating Disorder (ED) part-of-your-self has to say about values in which you believe and what your Recovery part-of-your-self has to say, you can get clear on how and where you would like to “walk your talk” in recovery. Here (below) is a chart of some examples of Recovery values and what “ED” and “Recovery” might have to say.
|VALUE||ED/CRITICAL VOICE||RECOVERY VOICE|
|Authenticity||Don’t show vulnerability. People won’t like you. Hide the parts of yourself that you don’t like.||Be authentic! It is so freeing. The people who mind won’t matter and the people who matter won’t mind.|
|The Thin Ideal||This is important. Looking good is more important than being authentic. Try and keep your appetite, your voice, and your body small. If you are thin, you are better (or at least good enough/acceptable).||This is a cultural construct created to keep you disconnected from your power. Fight it. Listen to the-part-of-you-that-knows.|
|Spirituality||This is not supported by empirical evidence. And has nothing to do with you. It’s nice for other people. And you should be thin in order to be spiritual. And you’re not. You should work on yourself more before you are worthy of connecting in this way.||After going to yoga class, church, or 12 step meetings, there is a feeling of peacefulness and ease. That is important to pay attention to.
It doesn’t have anything to do with body size. You can, are allowed, invited, to connect with a source of Love any time you choose. It is always available.
|Connection/connectivity||Looking good/pleasing is more important. You will always feel lonely, anyway.||Seek this- in yourself, with others, with a Power Greater Than You. This is a key: one of the most important ones. Feed this! Turn toward this. Stop pushing it away.|
|Creativity||Not so important or valuable. We don’t have time for this. Just say no to art therapy or other “creative” endeavors. Not meaningful. Fluffy.||It’s so important to make time for this, no matter how small. Making art, collage-ing, cooking, dancing connect you with your body and your emotions. This is where recovery lives.|
What are YOUR values? How can you value your Self?
Feel free to make your own chart! You are also welcome to track your money for a month and see what you do and do not value according to the evidence you gather. (Note: NO shaming or blaming- just curiosity).
Identifying, Naming, and Taming the inner critic
Many women compare themselves to others. Women recovering from food, weight, and body image issues and, often, new mothers, have often honed this skill to an excruciatingly sharp pointed edge that goes right back into the self. As a colleague of mine has put it “an eating disorder is an over-developed superego,” and “Supermom doesn’t exist, but we all keep desperately trying to be her.”
Some common self-judgments for women in eating disorder recovery that I often hear include:
- If [insert body part such as stomach, thighs, or arms here] was different, I would be more successful in my career, lovable in romantic relationships, and not have these feelings (ex: anxiety, depression, anger, sadness, shame).
- If I were not eating this [insert “bad food” here], then I would be “better,” “good,” not feel this way (see above list).
- “She’s thinner, and therefore more attractive, lovable, worthy, than me.”
- “She’s sicker than me, and therefore deserves treatment/to get better more than me.”
- “She has a real/valid reason for an eating disorder (ex history of abuse) and I don’t.”
- “There is something wrong with me that can never be fixed or healed.”
- “She’s in a romantic relationship and therefore more lovable than me.”
- “None of my romantic relationships have worked, so none will ever work.”
- Her eating disorder (whether it be starving, bingeing, or purging) is more dangerous than mine. I don’t deserve to tend to my recovery and self-care because it’s not that dire or important.
- I’ll never be a Mom if I can’t even take care of myself.
OUCH! Obviously they all fall into the categories of Great-Palace-Lies and Cognitive Distortions such as personalizing, emotional reasoning, and globalizing. New moms, like women in early eating disorder recovery, are also in the terrain of developing a new self identity. Growth periods such as these are often when the critical voice is loudest. Below, I have named a few of the many critics that attack many moms internally:
- The ecological critic: That mom has never used any kind of plastic in her child’s lunch, even if it is BPA free. All her food has been made from scratch and the vegetables have been grown in her organic backyard garden. If I use plastic, have anything not made from scratch in my child’s lunch, I suck as a Mom.
- The Body-image critic: She lost the baby weight sooner (or at all) and is therefore a more attractive, functional, lovable successful career woman/mom/wife.
- The stay-at-home-mom critic: I am mommy-tracked and my skills are not valuable/outdated/my sleep-deprived brain-body doesn’t remember how to have a career. I can’t move ahead with my career, because people won’t take me seriously anymore.
- The work-outside-the-home-mom critic: My kid(s) are more attached to the nanny than me. I should start saving for therapy now, as I’ve probably already damaged them with abandonment issues/insecure attachment.
- The Attachment-parenting critic: I stopped wearing and co-sleeping with my baby, and therefore they feel traumatized and insecure. I should breastfeed at all costs for the first three years. Moms who leave their kids in daycare are bad.
- The Feminist Mom critic: I should be able to bring home the (vegan organic) bacon, fry it up in a pan, while simultaneously playing with my non-screen watching child after writing an updated introduction and research study on The Second Shift and presenting it to the National Association of Feminist Sociology conference.
OK, so I have an overdeveloped Superego (Critic). What do I DO about it?
Here are some strategies for combatting the critic and assist yourself in arresting the Compare and Despair Trap.
- NOTICE IT.
In eating disorder treatment, it is often encouraged to notice “ED” (the voice of the eating disorder). You can also think of this as “Inner Critic.” Although this can be painful (it is not a kind voice), it is important to notice that this part of your self is just that- PART of you, not all of you. And as you start to notice it is not all of you, you can then begin to cultivate other parts of you that are more fiercely kind and compassionate rather than shaming and harmful toward you.
- NAME IT.
Naming the “ED” or “Critic” voice can be helpful in continuing to separate and dis-identify from it. It can be fun to make a collage, picture, or funny character name for it. Though this may sound silly, it can actually help take some of the power away from it. Sometimes I think of my critic as a Spikey haired teenager: it looks fierce, but really it is a soft mollusk inside and the spikes are trying to protect its vulnerability. This allows me to invite the scary-looking critic back into my larger Self rather than try to cut off from it.
- GET SUPPORT
It can be hard to develop a fiercely compassionate voice within yourself to assist in combatting the critical voice and making peace with/tolerating distressing emotions. Sometimes a wise therapist, person further along in recovery or motherhood can be helpful to verbalize kind, discerning support until you can cultivate strengthening this voice within yourself.
- IF YOU ARE GOING TO COMPARE, BE FAIR.
For example, if you are a newly postpartum mom, when you wear a bathing suit, it is NOT fair to compare yourself to an airbrushed image in a magazine or even a woman’s body who hasn’t given birth. Your body is different. If you MUST compare, then compare to another newly postpartum mom (though my recommendation would be to talk about what is really going on regarding the stress of being a new mom!)
- FIND AND CULTIVATE A REGULAR CREATIVE AND/OR OR SPIRITUAL PRACTICE
Fighting the critic needs to include rather than cuting off from your feelings and your body. This can be sitting meditation, moving meditation, writing, collage-ing, art-making. It is usually an activity that includes the right (creative) brain and somatic (body) awareness such as movement or following the breath. You will know that you have found a practice that works for you when you discover (usually after the fact when it returns) that your inner critic was quiet for a time. Cultivate that activity, whatever it is for you. Keep returning to that Big Mind, Big Self, Coonected-ness again and again. Your critic will start to lose its power when it is invited into a larger, more spacious creative and enticing place to be. I will end with an affirmation borrowed from 12-step program reading: Just for today, I will not compare myself to others. I will accept myself and live to the best of my ability. Don’t compare—identify. Don’t intellectualize—utilize. To keep it, you have to give it away. You can’t give away what you don’t have. May the growth continue!
Self-Help: Taming Your Gremlin: A Surprisingly Simple Method for Getting Out of Your Own Way By Rick Carson 8 Keys to Recovery from an Eating Disorder By Carolyn Costin and Gwen Schubert Grabb Creativity and Spiritual Practice: Women, Food and God By Geneen Roth The Artists’ Way and The Artist’s Way for Parents By Julia Cameron Soulcollage Evolving: An Intuitive Collage Process for Self Discovery and Community By Seena Frost Sweat Your Prayers By Gabriel Roth Buddha Mom: The Path of Mindful Mothering By Jacqueline Kramer Humour: Shitty Mom: The Parenting Guide for the Rest of Us By Laurie Kilmartin, Karen Moline, Alicia Ybarbo and Mary Ann Zoellner Ketchup is a vegetable and other lies moms tell themselves Robin O’Bryant