The definition of chaos according to the online Cambridge dictionary is: “a state of total confusion with no order”. For me, this currently describes very accurately the state of the world externally as well as our internal landscapes. The state of our environment including the current heat wave, our economy with rising energy prices and inflation, the turbulences in politics, the war in Ukraine, the pandemic, including effects not only on our mental and physical health, but also on our health system and job market have all contributed to a sense of chaos, i.e. a lack of solidity and structure, where seemingly one random event is followed by another. One moment, we’re in lock down, the next we’re concerned about supplies of building materials, the next we’re shocked by Russia invading the Ukraine, which is followed by travel chaos and melting runways, railways and roads.
In myself and in my clients, I have noticed a lack of orientation and a feeling of free fall. With little certainty, we then seek structure and control. However, I feel that everything is in flux, everything is moving and there is little that this is certain and we can hold onto.
Yet, there is opportunity in chaos, too. Instead of holding onto what is, maybe this is the time to re-order and re-balance, but not in a controlling way. This might be the right time to consider our overall vision for our lives from an alignment point of view and to ask the following questions: What is important to us and what are our priorities? What do we want our lives to feel and look like? What is emerging right now?
Since the beginning of the pandemic, I have been studying extensively with Dr. Bonnie Badenoch, a psychotherapist, author, mentor and speaker. She leans heavily into Ian McGilchrist’s work of the divided brain, which I have found increasingly fascinating. It is proposed that the left side of the brain attempts to create certainty through categorisation. New information is dismembered and sorted according to familiar classifications. The left side is about plans and goals; it continually asks the question: How will this benefit me? Protocols, interventions and task-orientation is coming out of this side of the brain. There is an “either/or” perspective and a tendency towards judgement. The cortical columns of neurons in the left side of the brain are relatively isolated and there are far fewer interconnections. It could be said that the information becomes somewhat dead.
On the other hand, the right side of the brain orients us to the space between, the “relational space” and how it is unfolding from one moment to the next. Everything is held in context and becomes a unique experience that is unrepeatable. Whereas the left side of the brain is concerned with either/or, the right side of the brain can accept the paradox and a both/and perspective. There is an awareness that there is uncertainty and with that a potential for both suffering and meaning. The cortical columns of neurons in that side of the brain are “richly interconnected”, which makes it a well-wired network.
It is not about vilifying the left side of the brain; it’s about understanding that both hemispheres are important with their relationship to each other being vital. However, it is crucial the right side takes the lead and the left supports. Both McGilchrist and Badenoch postulate that a significant shift in society towards “left dominance” has happened, which essentially prevents us from being fully present and in our bodies. We’re unable to process stress and trauma and derive meaning from life, which can only happen when we inhabit and lead from the right side of the brain.
Whilst spending time in South Africa in April, I was reminded about the importance of being seen. When I walked, drove and rode my bike through the streets of a small village, I was greeted and waved at, which not only made me feel very welcomed, but I also started to experience myself differently.
Although it’s hard to put in words, the best way to describe it is: I felt more human again. I was seen and greeted as me vs. as someone I might represent or a role I might take on.
This in turn reminded me of the Zulu greeting of “Sawubona”, which means “I see you.”. This greeting implies that I exist, because I’m seen. Bonnie Badenoch in her book “The heart of trauma” cites this greeting in order to illustrate the importance of "warm interdependence", which is a natural state in our lives. Even though our culture, which is very left brain hemisphere dominant, encourages and celebrates self-reliance, self-regulation and self-care, we need the other in order to exist and thrive.
I have often written about my own personal process with regards to “not taking things personally”. Recently, when I had a session with my mentor and supervisor, there was another layer that emerged from that. Even though I understood the collapse of the internal boundary beforehand, which is essentially what “taking things personally” is, I experienced deeper layers underneath that; feelings that I distanced myself from. I had been frequently working with my mentor on staying in my body without interpreting sensations or coming to conclusions too quickly. I often felt criticised when she guided me back to my body, as I really wanted her to listen to what I had to say or what insights I had in that moment. I perceived her guiding me back as a judgement, even though objectively I understood that she was coming from a very neutral, allowing and kind place.
I interpreted her intentions and directions as “I’m not enough”, “I’m not doing this right” and “I should be somehow different”. In those moments, my heart was pounding and I felt very exposed and vulnerable. I could feel the increased blood flow to my face, a sign of feeling ashamed. My last session with her was a real breakthrough for me, as I could stay with the physical sensations and discovered the huge amount of fear in my system, which I often override or don’t acknowledge. My go to place has been anger, fight or action. In that moment, I could sit with my helplessness, which touched into very young places inside of myself. Even though it was uncomfortable, it was manageable and the energy eventually got processed and moved. I feel the moment I moved beyond the “taking things personally”, I could really be with the emotion of fear, ultimately evoking a deep shift inside of myself.
What are the emotions you tend to distance yourself from?
Part of my supervision is to reflect on my own process and how it is moving through me. The word that came up recently during one of my sessions is “gestation”, which medically means the period of maturation inside the womb from conception to birth. More generally, it’s about the development of something over a period of time. The normal limits of the human gestation period are from 37 to 42 weeks. It has now been about 34 weeks since the start of the first lockdown and in myself I get the sense that something new will be born in the near future. Since March of this year I’ve completed one of the biggest projects of my life (UKCP registration as a psychotherapist), I let go of a role that I had been holding for the last eight years within the Forrest Yoga community and of course I have stopped travelling completely, which brought about a huge change in the way I deliver my work. I have felt that there has been a true integration within myself of the different passions I have: yoga and body psychotherapy. For me, it’s culminating in a two day training I will be teaching online at the end of the month where I’m bringing together different aspects of my work. In some way, I’m being more un-apologetically me in my work.
What has been developing within you? What new beginnings are lurking around the corner for you? What are you giving birth to?
Watching a recent video on you tube with Lisbeth and Ditte Marcher, I was struck by the notion of “Justice does not exist”, i.e. things are unfair at times. We develop a sense of just and unjust between the ages of 2 and 4 years old. It’s the time the child learns to make decisions and how to choose. The understanding of duality, such as good and bad, is being developed then. During that time, the ability to understand consequences is also established. In the video, both women make clear that choosing something means letting go of something else. In order to make decisions we need to fully embrace the consequences of that decision, including the fact that things might not be fair. We can get stuck in that developmental phase thinking that things are either black or white, fair or not fair. Subsequently, we have difficulties making decisions, because in reality there are no perfect choices. Sometimes the decision is between pest and cholera.
I, personally, feel that this has so much relevance right now. My sense is that we really need to let go of the notion of justice and be real that we have choices, but that they might not be fantastically great.
Where do you get trapped when making decisions? What happens within you when you get stuck in the position of “The world is unfair?”.
I work a lot with Gestalt Therapy, which at its core looks at what is coming to the foreground, in other words what is emerging. Whatever rises to the surface is the next thing to look at and to immerse myself in. What has arisen in my life this week is "shame". It has been prominent in the work I'm doing with others, but also in my own process.
Brene Brown's definition of shame in her book "Daring Greatly" is: "Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging."
I also like her differentiation between guilt and shame:
"Guilt = I did something bad.
Whereas guilt can motivate us to do better in the future, shame often is very debilitating and results in us wanting to hide, not be seen and simply disappear. Even though shame is about the fear of disconnection, it actually keeps us imprisoned in the loneliness and isolation. Shame prevents us from talking to one another and thereby making it harder to get out of the spiral. And, we all have shame. Interestingly Brene Brown says that we can't eradicate shame, but we can be resilient to it, i.e. we can go through the experience and come out the other end being stronger and more courageous. Steps in becoming shame resilient are: recognition, awareness, reaching out and talking about it to the appropriate people.
My personal experience this week was that I made a mistake and I felt ashamed about it. However, instead of trying to cover it up or try to make excuses, I managed to just fess up to it, feel the guilt around it, feel uncomfortable and sorry, but also know that I'm not a bad person, because of that error of judgment I made. I had my own back in that moment. The way I see the process: It's about snuggling up to the uncomfortable and unspeakable places, becoming aware of them, feeling them and then also speaking about them.
My sense is that at the moment, a lot of deeper patterns and injuries are surfacing, accompanied by feelings of shame, anger, frustration and exhaustion. It's easy to move into isolation with that feeling that we are a bad person or that we have not done the work; that there is something wrong with us. I encourage to reach out to people you can trust and who love you and share with them what's going on for you.
We feel the live-streamed classes are an opportunity to check in, to connect with one another and to feel less isolated. We also understand that finances might be a concern of yours, so we've made one recording a week available to especially those of you who truly cannot afford a session. For those of you who have the means, recordings are available daily through our website, where regular class rates apply. Even though recordings don't provide the platform to connect as much and you won't get any live and tailored feedback, we hope they are still useful.
Here is the link to the free class. Thank you Janet for making this possible:
Free Recording of Live Streamed Class
Here is the link to our Timetable including Recordings:
Finally, we'd like to remind you of our changed refund and cancellation policy. Until 1st of May, we will allow partial refunds back onto your client account, so that you are not losing any unused sessions. Please contact us by 30th of April to get this arranged. Your class pass needs to be valid in order for us to be able to issue the refund. We've also currently suspended our 24 hour notice of cancellation policy. You will be able to cancel free of charge up until the class starts. Classes will be charged in full if not cancelled at all. This policy is in place until 30th of April 2020.
Walk in beauty
Since I have finished my personal psychotherapy sessions, my relationship to my two supervisors has become increasingly important. Regular supervision helps me to reflect about the work with my clients, but also about my own personal process and how I'm touched by my clients and what they stir up within me and mirror back to me. Unlike common belief that supervision is about the client, it's really about the teacher or therapist and their own process.
A couple of weeks ago, I felt ungrounded, overwhelmed and definitely not in my body. I felt that I was "failing" my clients and that I was not sure about what I was actually doing as a mentor and therapist. I had a session with my supervisor and I was asking him how I can "tackle the problems" some of my clients were experiencing. I was in the space of needing to find another "solution" for the problems that have been reoccurring - and I needed that solution fast. Metaphorically, my supervisor held up a pin and popped the balloon of busyness with a simple question: "So, there is somewhere to get to, Sandra?". In that moment I realised that I had fallen into the trap of needing to get somewhere and especially fast. I completely forgot that we are already here and that the only moment we have available is the present moment. By frantically trying to find a solution, I had also sent the subtle message to my clients that they need to be different to how they are right now. The fact is: they are whole human beings who simply disconnected from whom they truly are. I felt immediately lighter, more at ease and more embodied.
I feel that this approach is so beautifully summarised by Beisser (1970) in his article "The Paradoxical Theory of Change":
"Change occurs when one becomes what he is, not when he tries to become what he is not. Change does not take place through a coercive attempt by the individual or by another person to change him, but it does take place if one takes the time and effort to be what he is-to be fully invested in his current positions. By rejecting the role of change agent, we make meaningful and orderly change possible".
Be who you are fully and have your own back.
Walk in beauty.
The title "Under Construction" has been inspired by one of the people I work with.
One emerging theme I have been observing - within myself and my clients - has been the one of things being constructed, deconstructed and reconstructed at foundation level. In other words the process of being under construction has surfaced. This in turn has created a feeling of being uprooted, not fully grounded, and shaken up. Within that, there has been a sense of persistency, a feeling that everything has been intensified or in the words of one of my clients "magnified". Emotions are heightened and interactions are at times explosive. Relationships, communities and organisations have been tested, destroyed, solidified, re-defined and re-evaluated. Physical building structures and objects have been broken, deconstructed, rebuild, replaced and repaired.
Even though my personal intent is to stay present with at times a painful turmoil and an intense phase of structural change, my curiosity and excitement are also with the possibilities and openings that are being created through this foundational shift.
In the words of my supervisor: "What needs to be left behind and what needs to be brought forward?" What do we need to let go of and what is worth pursuing and fighting for, so we can bring it with us?
Walk in beauty,
Like the previous years, Brian and I went skiing to the same place we always go to. We took a private session with the same instructor we had before. As a side, it made me realise how important a good teacher is for learning, thinking differently and for experiencing joy in the activity.
On multiple occasions the instructor told me to straighten and relax my arms more and to keep them closer to the torso using minimum effort for the turns. He named my rather ungraceful position "The Wrestler". It totally made me laugh and of course it reflects the way I often wrestle with life instead of being at ease and trusting the process. It's fascinating that how we do one thing, we do everything. My personal intent for 2020 is to be more at ease and not to wrestle on my skis or in life.
Walk in beauty and with ease
Yoga, well-being and mindfulness... always walk in beauty.