I sat quietly with my eyes closed. With a whoosh(!), I felt my entire being swept gently-yet-firmly backwards at a “starship-enterprise” warp speed. In rapid, repetitive wave patterns, I was swiftly moving away, gaining distance from something—as if to offer me a 40,000-foot spaceship view and perspective. [Read more…] about Transcending Tumult
I’ve had a long-standing love affair with words. During high school and college, while studying Latin, French and Spanish, I became infatuated with words and their origins. In early adulthood, I amusedly discovered literal commonalities among “dirty words” across language and cultural boundaries. Over time, I have come to a deeper, more mature relationship with words.
My mom was a continuing fount of wisdom in my evolving relationship with words, nurturing a curiosity to know more than what’s simply IN a given word or its origins. For example, if someone was injured, she would opine whether they were actually “broken” or perhaps simply “bent”. And, if mom was in pain, she would often distinguish between whether it was a “hurting” or “healing” pain.
Years later, I am able to extract ever deeper, more personal meanings of my life experiences. Sometimes, it’s by inquiring, “What does this particular word mean for me, within this particular experience?” or “How does this word help me ‘make sense of’ an experience?” Increasingly, it’s helpful to ask, “What lies ‘between’ multiple words and symbols that emerge out of my experiencing?”
In preparing to write this article, I invited an inner sense of what wanted to be written concerning “finding meaning”– this 11th dimension of wellbeing. First came “felt meaning”—coinciding with my dog, Blue, standing up next to me, physically “asking” to be petted. A moment later, Blue went back to his own quiet place on the floor. I, too, sat quietly. Then, suddenly, Blue was back–this time pushing his nose determinedly through my arm….with a firm insistence. Ah, perhaps I also want to emphasize the idea that acknowledging one’s feelings always plays a role in the meaning-making process.
A few more moments passed. Blue was again lying quietly at my feet as I began to freshly acknowledge something inside—a recognition of how often I find it difficult to give voice to my feelings…..to identify them…..to say them out loud. Suddenly, Blue began quietly growling at something unseen. It almost seemed as though he was offering a quiet reflection of my own inner feelings.
Ah, there’s a low grumble of sadness. Expressing my feelings was something I was never allowed to do. Moreover, there’s a wanting to express my feelings. Except, it’s a fearful, growly-protective sort of wanting…as if it half expects to be squashed or scolded. There’s also a tightness, somehow related to that fear. Yet, there’s also a sense—even with my eyes closed—as though the sun had come out…a momentary, wondrously warm light…..that would graciously accept and welcome my expression.
I smile when the inevitable yawn comes. These yawns have become a kind of shorthand reminder [for me] for letting and allowing…for accepting multiple channels of meaning-making as a way to understand my own life-experiencing…for opening fresh pathways for living forward.
* Originally published as => Kiener, M.E. (2016, November). Choosing Courageous Wellbeing: What’s In a Word? Sibyl Magazine. For the Spirit and Soul of Woman. Retrieved from www.sibylmagazine.com.
How can three little words strike such fear and dread inside? When someone asks “Can we talk?”, I instantaneously assume “I’ve done something wrong!” Yet, the resulting conversation is often quite “harmless”. So much adrenaline and worry wasted over something that was never going to happen!
I recently found myself immersed in a variety of “we NEED to talk” discussions with several different people within a concentrated period of time. The intensity of these conversations—both in time span and range—offered me a seminal edge for deeper learning, growth and—ultimately—healing.
From a quiet space inside, I intuited something deeply personal about challenging conversations that I find are so difficult and painful. I could sense an underlying feeling of fear, as I acknowledged a shaky-tightness in the front and center of my chest. This was followed by a slippery-slope kind of connection to something even further underneath. There, I recognized an all-too-familiar shame-filled and guilt-ridden territory of “I’m not doing it right”.
Then, two recent memories emerged, seemingly connected, yet distinct. In the first, I recalled being part of a group experience in which each participant later acknowledged feeling uncomfortable, while also identifying an inner sense of guilt as they recalled their individual response within the situation. In the 2nd, I marveled that a friend could seamlessly shift from a rare, transparent moment of vulnerability while discussing her current pain and anxiety right back into her usual bright and chipper cheerleader mode – as if her acknowledged feelings had never existed.
In the midst of all this, I recognized how difficult it has always been for me to identify (let alone “be with”) my own negative emotions. Both in my childhood upbringing and in relationship with my late husband, emotional expression was eschewed, in favor of thought-filled, “logical” dialogue. This continual de-valuing of negative emotional responses only served to compound my ongoing challenges around “feeling not heard”—in spite of any well-reasoned, unemotional response I might carefully present.
I noticed a pattern: Each conversation included both a strong negative emotion and some combination of inner judgment, guilt, shame and/or blame. An inner invitation soon followed: Might I be able/willing to acknowledge and name my negative feelings as they occur? And/or compassionately notice whether it is a “pure” emotion or one that is linked with judgment/blame of myself or another?
Since then, I have found that naming my feelings continues to present a personal challenge. It is easier to separate out and let go of lingering judgments. I can even laugh about remaining minuscule, tingly “uh-ohs” inside when a colleague invites me to her office “to talk”. And, not surprisingly, I immediately, wholeheartedly and compassionately understand a friend’s plea to “Just tell me what I did wrong!” in response to my asking whether we might talk.
* Originally published as => Kiener, M.E. (2016, September). Choosing Courageous Wellbeing: Can We Talk? Sibyl Magazine. For the Spirit and Soul of Woman. Retrieved from www.sibylmagazine.com.
I woke up in the middle of the night, in the middle of a dream, midway through an unfolding mystery drama. The setting seemed familiar, but it was dark both inside and out. I was all alone (or so I thought). As I moved through the building, turning on lights, I recognized it as my friends’ cabin at the river. Suddenly, a woman appeared from the back porch, bearing both fresh and aging bruises (as if from multiple beatings). She resolutely recited her chilling tale while my mind shivered with fear, longing for safe rescue for us both. Suddenly, I felt something softly caress my back. With a startled thought of “Oh sh##, now what?!? Who else is here?”, I bolted wide awake—never learning who or what had been behind me.
Sitting with the dream’s memory, I was surprised by a growing sense that—in spite of a myriad of sinister elements within the dream–this unknown hand (or energy) was somehow different. I wasn’t sure I could venture to say it was a “good” thing; although, I was increasingly certain it was not a “bad” thing, there to harm me.
With that acknowledgement, I felt a deep, humble-ing tremble inside that gave me pause. I gradually understood this humble-ing was showing me something that I might learn. Not something I must learn—nor would I be required to learn. Rather, I could choose to both learn about and from it. Plus, a sense were I to take this opportunity to learn more, it would be well worth my while.
During a momentary mind-wandering, a slender, curious wondering slowly slithered its way through my awareness space. “When learning occurs, is it work or is it play? Or something else, altogether? Or, perhaps, a component of both?”
I then became aware of something resembling spotlights (or headlights of a car) pointed straight-on towards me. The bright lights were shining a question—as if to illuminate it: “And just what IS my work?”
My attention then drifted back toward the dream and the mysterious secret it held, still beckoning me to learn from it. Hmmm…. Sensing within this dreamlike mystery play, an awaiting learning opportunity that now felt a bit like “work”—with bright lights coming from that which stood in full view in front of me. Something palpably real remained behind me, yet was still unknown.
Ahhh—a glimmer of possible meaning stepped forward. Might the mysterious wounded stranger standing opposite me, somehow also BE me? Had her wounded experiencing become the light that now shone upon me, while also creating a shadow of darkness behind me? Perhaps my dream had brought me a playful gift of learning to entice me to embrace my own “shadow work” so that I may continue to grow, heal and flourish. I guess perhaps the Shadow does know!
* Originally published as => Kiener, M.E. (2016, August). Choosing Courageous Wellbeing: Playing and Working in Dreamland. Sibyl Magazine. For the Spirit and Soul of Woman. Retrieved from www.sibylmagazine.com.
What’s wanting my attention right now? How am I feeling about “all that”? Whenever I quietly pause to sense how my body-mind-spirit is holding my experiencing of life—these two invitations provide a welcoming attitude of presence and curiosity.
Recently, the first accessible invitation I noticed was “how am I about that upcoming meeting”….which led into “how am I about that whole project of which this meeting is just one small part”….before expanding into “how am I about ALL the projects currently going on in my life”. Feeling as though a switch had turned on in the center of my chest, I began to notice a warm, round “fullness” inside. It felt something like a sun, although [Read more…] about How Am I Feeling Inside?
I had just begun to describe the general topic of an article I was in the midst of writing. Part way through that description, I uttered two seemingly innocent words: “it’s that…” before turning toward another part of my story. Yet, a moment later, I paused to turn back to that space surrounding those two words. For I had recognized I was just beginning to sense “something….like I was ‘tasting’ right where I wanted to be with the [topic]….It was right there, and yet it wasn’t quite there.”
Because of Focusing, I knew exactly what my next step would be–to take a moment to pause to be with that “taste of something” inside–trusting that some fresh new way of knowing and becoming could come from that inner place.
Sure enough, within the next few moments, more understanding began to emerge, mixed with sense memories and current sensory experiencing, before blossoming into a fresh relating with a familiar analogy.
Before learning about Focusing, I often struggled for months–even years–to find my way forward through that creative, life-forwarding space. Until August, 2008, when I attended the Focusing Institute Summer School, where I began to learn the language of Focusing and its practice.
By the end of that magical week, I suddenly felt as though I had come home–both to myself and within this wonderful community of Focusers. I left Summer School knowing that Focusing had already become an integral part of both my life and my work. Since then, I’ve found my way back to Summer School nearly every year–for a special, week-long immersion of learning.
In the following [10 min] video, my mentor, Ann Weiser Cornell, speaks a bit about the basics of Focusing that she’ll be teaching at the Summer School.
I’ve already registered for this year’s Focusing Institute Summer School, which is being held in Joshua Tree, California from August 21-27.
I’d love to meet you there! And, the good folks at the Focusing Institute have made it possible for you to receive a special “friend discount” when you register–simply by including my name [Mary Elaine Kiener] as instructed in the “choose friend discount” section.
Who knows, maybe you’ll find your way “back home to yourself” like I did my first time at FISS!