I think about my 99 year old grandmother who passed away a year and a half ago. She and I had a deep love for each other and would always joke that we were kindred spirits. I could see the spirit that was beyond her eyes- ageless and genderless. (If anything, inside she was an 11 boy considering the practical jokes she played!) I imagined the grief would overcome me and be endless and that was not the case. When she passed away, I kept reading Rumi’s poem The Guesthouse visualizing grief as a visitor knocking at the door. This guest would knock randomly and unexpectedly too, as grief often comes in waves. I could choose to avoid my guest but he would just knock louder until I would let him in. So I welcomed him and surrendered fully to the experience of grief. Through that experience, I awakened to the truth that pure love exists beyond time and space and that my grandmother now actually lived within me. Little things that I noticed that she would do, I caught myself doing, like making up songs to sing and bringing humor more fully into life…the best parts of her were within me. When I really grasped that not only in my head but in my heart, the grief disappeared. She’s as close to me as my own beating heart. So if this is a time of grief for you on any level, how can you allow yourself to let go into the grief and trust the process of healing? Perhaps its giving yourself 30 minutes or an hour per day to really be present to the grief. What qualities of your loved one can you now see in yourself? How can you channel that grief energy into a way to honor their life?
How can we live in this world and not of it? Various spiritual traditions discuss this idea of attachment in different ways. I ask myself what is my biggest worldly attachment? The answer: my husband Harold plain and simple (sorry kids, I love you but you’re not first in regards to attachments). We’ve been soulmates together since I was 16 so its hard to remember not sharing my life with him. What causes us such suffering in life is not people, but our attachment to people or things. Detachment is an inward letting go- not of the person necessarily, but of the attachment to that person. I often say to myself, I could lose my house or be bankrupt, but I’m ok as long as I have Harold. Yet with attachment, there is no freedom or ability to love even that person… or anyone else for that matter freely and purely. With detachment some things may fall away that are meant to, otherwise our relationship to them becomes transformed more authentically in the process. I had a realization two weeks ago that I’ve been attached to my business-feeling that that is where I’m meant to be because I LOVE it and I never feel like I work in a single day. Working with my clients is a pure joy for me. Yet through my attachment, what I couldn’t see was the larger picture… my loving husband and life partner’s business was suffering and I was ignoring that when I knew I had tools to help him. When I really saw this, I realized that I was attached to how supporting and giving service to others had to look. I chose to make a shift in my business to allow for me to be able to support my husband in a new way in his company. In just a short time what a difference that shift has made for him professionally and for both of us in our marriage. Do you have the courage today to identify your biggest worldly attachment? Just becoming aware of this can loosen the clenching grip we have on others and in the world.
I’m not sure I can say that opening Newtown Family Therapy always meant eventually having it evolve into a wellness center. The idea was always there, but I was completely unsure how this venture would go and what the need and response would be to it. I don’t think I could have imagined that a year and nine months after opening our doors we would be where we are today. What started as one office and one therapist is now 4 offices, 3 therapists, 1 massage therapist, and 1 acupuncturist. As with many things, it was in the evolution that it became clear to me why it was working and what was needed to move forward.
I remember vividly the time in my life when the word wellness suddenly came to hold a deep meaning for me personally. It was when I needed it the most and when I understood it the least. I was young and felt “unwell” due to a life lived going full speed ahead and never stopping to properly breathe or care for myself. Without going into the gory details of my own evolution I feel charged to share that without the things I feel so passionately about now, namely therapy, acupuncture, healing touch, meditation, and connection, I would be lost. Wellness to me speaks to the life long process of understanding yourself physically, spiritually, and emotionally. It goes beyond seeking a “quick fix” to cure all that ails you to starting the journey to truly understanding yourself and what you need to be well in all areas of your life. Dr. Bill Hettler, co-founder of the National Wellness Institute, developed an interdependent model of wellness that includes 6 categories necessary to balance and wellness: Occupational, Physical, Social, Intellectual, Spiritual, and Emotional. It’s easy to be doing well in one of those areas and suffering in many of the others. What happens then is unbalance and unrest internally.
I believe we can’t do this alone. Any of us. Wellness is a team concept. One that needs connection and honesty to thrive. It is this belief that brought me to turning my private practice into a wellness center. I was seeing clients and constantly looking for other ways to help them and connect them to resources that they needed. My dream of being able to do that all in one place came to fruition as did opening Newtown Family Therapy & Wellness, I knew it was time and the doors opened up in front of me as I pushed on them.
The first step towards wellness starts with owning your story, knowing you want to feel better overall, and taking responsibility for your life. The minute you do that the doors will open for you to begin creating change. I hope we can help in more ways than one. In addition to therapy we now offer online therapy for those who can’t make it to the office, acupuncture, cupping, and massage therapy.
Contact us for a free consultation and to see where your journey to wellness can begin.
In consideration of how to introduce myself as the most recent addition to the wonderful Newtown Family Therapy group, I would like to begin by saying that I wish we could all live in a sorrow free world with the only and ultimate superpower being love. I wish I had a magic wand that could eliminate all things born from the opposite.
However, because I (and you) live in the actual world, I believe I must be responsible for my own happiness as well as find a way to deal with my own pain. It would be lovely if all of those positive quotes on Facebook could provide enough permanent motivation for a complete perspective shift on those occasions when that is called for, but sometimes we need something more in the way of help if and when our suffering becomes too great and whatever we have been doing until now isn’t working anymore.
Or when loss flips our lives upside down and we can’t organize our minds in a way that makes the intolerable tolerable. When our relationships still aren’t working because other people refuse to do exactly what we think they need to do. When our frustration at something seemingly small is completely disproportionate to the actual event due to some unexpressed (until then) sadness about nothing in particular we can pinpoint, or maybe just a whole bunch of things combined. Perhaps those things have gotten compounded by society/parents/friends trying to “fix” by talking you out of having your real feelings all along.
While I do not possess the wand, I do believe there is some magic involved in a really good therapeutic relationship. I have seen this foundation lead to much healing. To less suffering, to changed attitudes and more acceptance. When we find healthier ways of expressing our feelings about so many things we have no control over, depression and anxiety have less power.
I know of no simple solution to our struggles, but I believe that it is in the work we do together that we find possibilities.
I pose that radical question to you. Meditators often see the spiritual awakening that is, in essence, the inevitable outcome of a long-term practice of meditation as the “death of the self” or the “death of the ego.” Like a caterpillar that must die before becoming a butterfly, the “ego self” of human beings must die in order to become “awakened” or “enlightened.” This process is often experienced as an unraveling of the self or a total surrender into the vast unknown.
I worked with a client deep in the throws of grief weeks after the death of her spouse; she had two small children and was working full-time to put food on the table. She wanted to learn how to meditate in the midst of her crisis. I introduced her to an exercise entailing observing her thoughts. She stated that her perpetual thought at the time was, “I want to kill myself.” For purposes of the exercise in observing her mind, I enabled her to see that the thought “I want to kill myself” (although capable of triggering the emotions of despair) was a thought just as much as “what will I have for dinner.” (It is important to note that every therapist must always take appropriate measures to keep clients safe in situations where there is a threat of harm to one’s physical self or others and to take necessary actions to ensure safety, as I did with this client).
Yet, “I want to kill myself,” is felt and often said by individuals who feel at the end of their rope, desperate, alone, cannot go a step further on this path or in this life or with the experience of certain emotions. Further, there is an experience of being “done” with the self or this life following a willingness to surrender to the vast unknown. Looking still deeper, we remember the words of various meditation gurus/teachers who have embarked on the journey of regular meditation as a result of feeling that they could not continue on the path they were on and were willing to seek an answer to the age old question, “Is there more to life than just this?” Many of the well-known enlightened gurus/teachers we read about share a similar story of hitting a wall of despair — becoming so disenchanted with their shallow existence, not knowing which door to open or knock on (or even knowing that there was a door on which to knock). Then, on the other side of that despair, a rebirth or spiritual awakening arises.
So, as it is in nature, death gives birth to something new. Perhaps it’s awakening to — or awareness of — the preciousness or true value of life in the midst of a loved one’s death. Maybe it’s the desire to kill off old patterns or ways of one’s self that are no longer working to then provide for the awakening to our most authentic selves. Perhaps it’s the shedding of relationships or friendships that no longer serve us in order to make way for new, vibrant and healthier connections with others. So, is there a part of yourself or your life that you want or need to “kill off” in order to reach your full potential as a human being? Perhaps we can invite this concept of “death of ego self” (as opposed to physical death) into our lives as a pathway to creating new beginnings in our life and doorways to a richer and more fulfilling life.
(Disclosure: The information and thoughts provided in the above article are not, in any way, to be construed as either encouragement or permission to do bodily harm of any kind to one’s self or to others. If anyone reading this article has such an urge or intent, it is imperative that he or she call 911 Emergency or 211 Mobile Crisis Hotline without delay. Short or long term psychotherapy sessions can also be a resource for individuals experiencing disturbing thought or emotions).