Each and every day we are creating and sculpting our future. The choices we make, the things we do or don’t do are shaping and forming our lives, our bodies, our finances, and ultimately our futures. Sometimes, we don’t have control over what life presents to us. However, we always have a choice in how we respond to those events. Take a moment, to take inventory of your life. What future are you creating for yourself today? If you don’t want the future that you’re creating in the present, then take an honest look at how your choices, behaviors, or relationships are contributing to it. As always, remember that it takes courage to see our full selves, that there’s no shame in starting over, and grace and self compassion go a long way.
PARENTING, THE SELF-COMPASSION WAY
Wednesday, September 4th • 6:00 p.m.
Location: Institute for Educational Advancement
540 South Marengo Avenue, Pasadena, California 91101
As parents of gifted and exceptional children, we are often focused on the pursuit of finding the individuals, services, experiences, etc. that will adequately meet our children’s ever-changing needs. But what about us? What about our experiences and inner worlds? In this presentation, therapist and parent of gifted and 2e children, Michelle Bodwell, will discuss the importance of tuning into ourselves, recognizing our inner dialogue, and cultivating a practice of empathy and self-compassion for the parenting journey.
As parents, we’ve all had our share of “those moments.” Like when our child has a enormous melt-down in the store aisle, or when we are late for school or work, because our child decides that they don’t like the breakfast options that day, or when we’ve reached our limit and yell, because, well we’re human too.
After experiencing one of those moments, what do you tell yourself? Do you quickly blame yourself or others, do you berate yourself for messing up, or replay the situation over and over reminding yourself of what a failure you are as a parent? Have you ever responded by telling yourself, ‘This is really hard. You’re really suffering now. You’re going to be ok, you’re doing the best you can.” Take a moment to reflect on a recent one of those moments. Now imagine if you were to hear the same narrative from one of your dearest friends. What would you say to them? Would you have a critical response, blaming or shaming them for a mistake, or would you offer them compassion and empathy? I’m assuming that if you’re like most people, you wouldn’t imagine telling them some of the same things that you so easily tell yourself.
Parenting is a slippery slope. It’s one of the most challenging endeavors we encounter as human beings, and yet, there are no absolute instructions. However, when we look around us, someone else always seems to be doing it better. It’s really easy to fall into the shame trap as parents: never feeling good enough, being keenly aware of our shortcomings and mistakes, or replaying the highlight reel of our latest blunders. However, learning to practice self-compassion is the antidote to all those shame poisons we commonly ingest after a challenging day. Self-compassion quells the voices of doubt, shame, criticism, and judgement.
So what exactly is self-compassion? It’s offering ourselves empathy and compassion, just as we would to a dear friend or to our child in a time of suffering or pain. When we learn to recognize our own voices of criticism, perfectionism, comparison, judgment, or shame, and turn them around into kindness and empathy, we are practicing self-compassion.
Researcher and author, Kristin Neff, Ph.D., (https://self-compassion.org) talks about self-compassion as 3 essential components.
Self-Kindness vs.Self-Judgement: “First, it requires self-kindness, that we be gentle and understanding with ourselves rather than harshly critical and judgmental.”
Common Humanity vs. Isolation: “Second, it requires recognition of our common humanity, feeling connected with others in the experience of life rather than feeling isolated and alienated by our suffering.”
Mindfulness vs. Overidentification: “Third, it requires mindfulness—that we hold our experience in balanced awareness, rather than ignoring our pain or exaggerating it.”
I’ve noticed in my own life, along with other parents that I know, it’s easy to begin with good intentions to make positive changes, or develop a new practice, but then life seems to always get in the way. For me, I’ve become conscious of what I need to be stay aware and grounded, and in turn able to be compassionate to myself and others. There are four things that will always work against us, and sabotage our efforts of self-compassion.
“The Shoulds”: Whenever I detect disappointment or resentment creeping up inside me, I know that I need to check my expectations. When we can be honest about the expectations we have for ourselves as a parent, or for our’s child’s behavior or achievements, then we can explore where they’ve come from and if they’re realistic or not.
Shame: When we see ourselves as flawed, not good enough, or as a failure, our core worthiness is in jeopardy, and we will inevitably struggle with showing ourselves kindness and compassion.
Shrinking Space: A packed life and schedule leaves no room or margin for error, reflection, or intentional practices. Practicing simplicity of schedule builds in space for the unexpected moments of life that will inevitable come.
Swift Speed: When we are able to slow down, we are able to cultivate patience for ourselves and towards our children. Patience is an important piece of showing kindness and empathy.
Take a moment today, to play back something that happened recently between you and your child that didn’t go well. This time, adjust your lens to see yourself and the situation with empathy and self-compassion. Then offer yourself words and actions of comfort and compassion, just as you would to a good friend. Nurturing yourself is not selfish or indulgent, it’s essential for our own emotional well being, and goes a long way in modeling self-compassion to our children as well.
Fall is here. School is starting again, and the wonderful freedom and fun of summer has come to an end. As a parent, I do my best to embrace the fullness of each summer season. The loosening of the scheduling belt, the extended bedtimes, invitations for play and rest, and the messy, frivolous fun. But to be honest, by the 10th week, I’m usually ready for it all to be over. Although I might be longing for the relief that the school routine brings me as a parent, I am aware of how this transition may stir new stressors or triggers for sensitive children.
With the passing of each season, and the beginning of each new year, I am reminded of how parenting is a long-distance journey. Sometimes it feels as if I am just “surviving” each passing season, while experiencing the fullness of life and living from a place of intentionality eludes me. My deep desire is to live each season of my child’s development being engaged, present, and intentional. This is far from being a “perfect parent”, and includes giving myself permission, to not necessarily like each challenge and struggle that my child and I face. Rather it is about making sure that I show up and be present with and for my child. To be able to attain this desire, I have to regularly practice awareness of my own strengths, resources, and most of all, my own needs.
As parents we are so diligent in preparing our child for their future, making sure that their academic, relational, and physical needs are met. Additionally, parenting emotionally intense and sensitive children can pose a unique strain on our personal and internal resources. Yet, as parents, we often neglect our own needs for connection, renewal, and personal growth. We’ve all heard the saying before, “Put on your own oxygen mask first before assisting another person.” Tending to our own physical, emotional, intellectual, relational, and spiritual needs is vital for our own health and well-being, but also for our children’s. Daily, our children are seeing us model what adulthood looks like. How we tend to our health, growth, or relationships can set a valuable example to them that they may emulate in their own lives.
For me, the beginning of a new school year has become a time to reevaluate my own life and needs, and set new intentions for the season ahead. This fall, I encourage you to take some time to reflect on your own life. I like to call it a “life inventory.” Reflect on the five domain life areas and which ones you tend to favor or nurture, and which tend to be forgotten or even dismissed. Ask yourself the sustainability question: “How long could I go on this way, and what would be the results?” Sometimes the answer to that question can be fairly revealing or shocking. After taking inventory, set some intentions for yourself to develop some of your more tender areas. This isn’t about packing your schedule with more “to do’s” or activities for yourself. It’s about listening deeply to your life, and recognizing what changes you need to pursue to bring about more intentionality, meaning, and wholehearted living. Not only will you be refueled for the continued journey at hand, but I fully believe that our children will benefit from us modeling a life well-lived with purposeful engagement and authenticity. Wishing you a wonderful fall season, and may we all never stop learning and growing!
If you’re raising an emotionally intense child, then check out my group, A Mother’s Retreat beginning September 6th. For more information click here.
Creativity is something that’s always been in the forefront of my mind. What makes us inherently creative beings? What’s the difference between innate creativity and having specific talents in art, music, or some other field? Are there specific things that we can do to enhance or stimulate our creativity? So being curious about this topic, I was intrigued by the recent documentary, The Creative Brain now on Netflix.
The filmmaker and neuroscientist, David Eagleman, indentified three essential aspects to being more creative.
Try something new: Challenge yourself to get off the path of least resistance.
Push the Boundaries: Create something that lies between the not too new or familiar, but somewhere in between.
Don’t be afraid to fail.
As an artist and an art therapist, I have seen and experienced all of these aspects first hand. Art and creativity have been integral to my own process of self exploration, healing, and integration of all the aspects of myself and my life history. As a therapist, I witness each week with my clients, the power of creativity in change, healing, and the pursuit of wholehearted living. Through creativity we are forced to get out of our comfort zones, to be challenged, to take risks, and to push through failures. If we want to grow and change, we have to risk, and with taking risks, we just might fall. It’s in the being stretched or falling where we are fully alive, engaged and inspired, not in the staying safe with the familiar and the known. Rather than just avoiding risk out of fear, how can we employ creative thinking and ask ourselves, “What would I do if I did risk and fall?” It’s what we believe about how we might come back after a fall, that is more important than the fall itself. It’s through the struggle, the risk and falls, and the rising back up that begets transformation.
Questions to ponder:
What risks are you taking currently? What risks are you avoiding and why? How could creativity play a role in transforming the ways you look at risk, falling, or rising up again?
I’ve done my fair share of wandering this summer. Familiar places, new sites, and pushing out the geographical boundaries has kept me challenged and inspired over the past few months. It’s a false pretense, that if you wander, you’re lost. However, I’m finding that for me, it’s just the opposite.
Through the struggle of uncertainty and unfamiliarity, I am not lost but rather found again. I find the deeper places of curiosity, inspiration, and authenticity within me. I widen and grow in ways previously unknown, because I have embraced the challenge of risk and opportunity. As I mentioned in one of my earlier posts on inspiration, (“Living an Inspired Life”) travel for me is essential for fueling creativity and inspiration. It sparks new connections, it provides a different perspective, and it keeps me from settling in too deeply to what’s familiar and safe. Rigidity kills growth and change.
So, I’ll keep wandering, leaning into the unknown, all the while finding myself in deeper ways. Happy wandering to you too!
One of the biggest challenges for me as a parent, has been learning how to address to the emotional needs of my children. My bookshelves hold a host of books aimed at parenting attuned, sensitive, intense, explosive, inattentive and out-of-sync children. (The plight of being a therapist-parent!) Even though prior to motherhood, I was already trained as a Marriage and Family Therapist, I had to dig deep to find new tools and methods to handle what my parenting duties required: navigating huge meltdowns at transitions or changes, soothing the deep anxiety and existential crises that would ward off sleep night after night, or quelling the anger that ensued after a perceived injustice.
I remember the relief that came when I learned of Dabrowski’s research on overexcitabilities, which normalized these responses for certain children who felt deeply and expressed fully. This knowledge also helped me to adjust my responses to my children’s behavior; to offer more understanding and empathy, and to work on reinforcing the connection that I had with them, so that when we had rough times, we had a strong foundation to support us. Through these changes, I was able to shift from seeing these challenges as “issues or problems,” and rather to acknowledging them as the gifts that they are, the capacity for deep emotional awareness and relational depth.
Over the years, I have worked with many mothers who are raising exceptional children. Their experiences range from feeling exhausted and tired from the non-stop energy of their children, or being overwhelmed with handling intense emotions, to feeling isolated and lonely from those around them who couldn’t relate to their parenting stories. The mothers described all the energy they were directing towards getting all the necessary support for their children, while desperately being in need of support for themselves.
In response to hearing about these needs, I launched A Mother’s Retreat, a group designed to support the mothers of children with emotional intensity and sensitivity. By providing a safe and nurturing environment, my desire is for each person who attends to be encouraged, supported and to most importantly, know that they are not alone. Taking what I have learned both personally and professionally, I now have the opportunity to provide for others a unique space where mothers can come together and share their lives, to gain insight, and be refreshed. Find more information here about the upcoming Fall 2019 group,
In my earlier post, I wrote about how the word inspiration means the “drawing in of breath, inhalation”. In our society today, we are often struggling to catch our breath amidst the swirling details of our lives, that we don’t have the energy to think about what thoughtful inspiration may look like for us.
Next, I highlighted how silence, solitude, and stillness can be the pathways to becoming more attuned and aware of our own life and inner voice, in turn allowing ourselves to nurture inspiration. In bringing this inspiration series to a close, I want to turn to the idea of cultivating a rhythm of “drawing in” and “breathing out” inspiration. It’s what I call the Inspiration Cycle.
One of the highlights of my week, is walking into the ceramics studio where I take a weekly class. About a year ago, I decided to put into practice this idea of drawing in inspiration; to feed my creative side with a steady flow of nourishment, just like I do for the other parts of myself. Now each week, with my tools in hand, I put on my denim apron, and get hands and self lost in the clay. It’s time well spent. I learn more each time about myself through the process of being creative: I don’t like slow processes, I struggle with perfectionism, and I don’t like surprises. I like predictable outcomes!
However, these are also the reasons why I stick with it, week after week; because I know that these areas are being expanded within me, through each part of the ceramics process. I am witness to my own growth. By taking in the inspiration of practicing a creative process, I am inspired to live more fully, and to grow and change.
For me, creating art is just one of the ways that I pursue drawing in inspiration. Other ways include spending time in nature, having conversations with others, watching films, reading books, listening to music or podcasts, trying a new recipe, riding my bike, or traveling to new places, and the list goes on. I’ve learned the critical importance of always fueling my life with meaningful inspiration, that not only energizes, but fulfills and sustains me.
Often times, we think of these things as the “nice extras” to life, and often they are the first thing to go when our time or resources are low. However, I’ve seen how I live, feel, and act when these are left out and I don’t like the person I am at those times. Since I desire for my behavior and choices to align with my values and beliefs, these aren’t luxuries but rather essentials.
Since our breathing has a cycle of taking in and sending forth, so must our inspired living. The inspiration cycle, is a multi-transformational process. The inspiration we draw in, not only transforms us, but then is also transformed into something new, unique, and valuable. It becomes a precious contribution that we make to our immediate circle and the greater world beyond us. We may be inspired to make something that adds beauty to the environment, to write words or music that speaks deeply to another’s soul, or design a program which lifts another life out of poverty or despair. This is the cycle of inspired living. Drawing in fuel, which transforms us, and sending forth our inspired contribution into our spheres of influence.
The fullness of taking my ceramics class isn’t just for myself, when I learn about myself, or create a satisfying piece. Rather, it’s in the collaborative energy between classmates, when we share ideas, offer admiration of a finished work, or encourage each other through a challenging process. Also, the fullness is reached when I gift a handmade bowl to a friend, and share a part of my inspiration with them.
Inspiration is meant to be drawn in, to not only act as fuel for our lives, but to also be shared with others. The cycle is a reminder of how we’re all connected with each other, and builds integration within ourselves and others. Perhaps in living our fullest, most inspired life we can bring more kindness, love, or inspiration to others. Imagine the possibilities of what we have to give, when we live from our place of fullness and inspiration.
1. Make a list of all the things that inspire you. Try to be specific about activities, places, people, etc. that are life and joy giving (you can also think in terms of your 5 senses).
Next go back over the list and code them in terms of how often these are in your life- never, sometimes, always.
Finally, go through the list one more time, and circle a few which you’d like to have more of in your life, and then make a commitment to yourself to intentionally pursue them.
2. Reflect on the presence of the inspiration cycle in your life. In what ways are you taking in inspiration, and in what ways are you sending it forth? How is inspiration transforming you? Take it one step further, by drawing or journaling what your cycle looks like in this season of your life.
Over the last few posts, I’ve been writing about and unpacking the idea of inspiration…what it is, how we can cultivate it, etc. This week, I wanted to share an article about how we can live lives that are an inspiration to others. We’ve all had someone who has been an inspiration to us. Someone who has spurred us to grow, create, take a risk, or just to keep going in life. Later on, in my last post of this series, I’ll be writing about how we can be inspired and then be an inspiration to and for others. Enjoy your week!
So in my last blog post, I talked about how inspiration (the word) is also about breathing... taking in the very air we breathe. If we use that as a metaphor for living an inspired life, we have to think about breathing. If we’re running a sprint (something I never do) our breathing adjusts to quick, rapid, often shallow breaths. Our fast paced culture often presses us to live at this same sprinter’s pace, racing from work to home, filling up our calendars, and overwhelming our hearts and minds. When we live in this stretched, overscheduled way, we fail to breathe in the long, deep inhales that we so desperately need. And so it is with creative inspiration too. Like others I hear so often, I too have fallen captive to the belief that, “I don’t have time to be creative, or take that class, or do that activity that I’ve been wanting to, the one that I know will bring me joy, and life, and true inspiration.” Yet, despite our better intuitive judgment, our frenetic pace keeps us pounding the payment, mile after mile, day after day. The fact is, to breathe deeply we have to slow down.
Silence, solitude, and stillness, are the dynamic trio that can radically change our lives, but at the same time are so very hard to practice. These elements are not only counter-cultural, but in someways counter-human. I heard once, that typically one of these three is a primary growth area for us, but sometimes it’s all three. Even though over the past several years, I have been working on making a conscious practice of silence, solitude and stillness, it always requires intentionality and focused awareness. As an introvert, and one who rejuvenates through my alone time, silence and solitude aren’t extremely challenging for me. Taking a walk with my dog, spending time in nature, reading a book, diving into some creative endeavor, are all wonderful times in solitude and silence that refresh me, body, mind and soul. Stillness, on the other hand, is my growth area. I come from a long line of over productive, women who can work from dawn to well past sun down. Sitting down to rest, or ceasing the constant onslaught of work is almost unheard of. However, I’ve learned to recognize when I’ve moved away from my center of groundedness and health, when I am feeling more like a human doing than a human being. When my to-do list soars, and I feel the drive to accomplish and check off boxes, I recognize that I need to revisit my stillness practices. These include time in nature, quieting my mind with meditative prayer, and returning to my core identity and values.
I truly believe that all three, silence, solitude, and stillness are the pathways for slowing down that we need to breath deeply, to inspire. Then through drawing, we will be filled with inspiration, the life force that we need to live wholehearted, inspired lives, ones that transform us, our relationships, and our world.
If you’re inspired to live more fully come check out my Creāre Workshops. Living Into Your Creative Potential, is all about finding your inspired pathways and how they can fuel your wholehearted life revolution! To learn more about Creāre, click on the link below.
For the next few posts, I’m going to be writing about inspiration. I want to lean into this word and learn more, and to allow it to form how we’re thinking, being, and acting. So return to read more, and hopefully be inspired!
As an artist, I’ve often heard or used phrases myself such as, “I was inspired by... or this person or situation was an inspiration for me to in turn do/make something else.” My thinking about inspiration was limited to something that spontaneously found it’s way to me, something that I may not have been even aware. The other way I saw inspiration was as a launching off place that in turn triggered something else, whether it was a thought, idea, created image or object. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I started thinking about inspiration from a widened lens and a more intentional perspective. My thinking about it changed and I started looking at inspiration as necessary fuel for my whole life, not just my creative output.
One thing that I enjoy learning from is word definitions. So, when I was wanting to know more about inspiration, I turned to the dictionary. Interestingly enough, when I read the full definition of inspiration it finally made sense to me as why it is so critical in our lives. Here’s what it said:
in·spi·ra·tion [ˌinspəˈrāSH(ə)n] NOUN
the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.
* the quality of being inspired, especially when evident in something.
* a person or thing that inspires.
2. the drawing in of breath; inhalation.
The first definition was the one that had always resonated with me for the word inspiration. It was that second one which took me by complete surprise - inspiration is inhaling or breathing. Wow! Now it made sense to me why I was beginning to see why inspiration was so important, because it is imperative for living. To be inspired isn’t something we can afford to be occasionally, once in awhile, or when we have the time. We need inspiration, just like breathing, to live.
This little lesser known definition at the end of the list, has been a game changer for me. It’s meant changing my priorities to not wait for inspiration to find me, but rather to intentionally pursue avenues of inspirations actively and regularly. What inspires me and you may be vastly different, but whatever it is, we must decide that it is important and valuable, and recognize that our lives will either flourish with it or languish without it.
So now that we know that inspiration is imperative for healthy, vital living, what’s next?? In the coming weeks I’ll be sharing more about inspiration-what can get in the way, how we can intentionally pursue it, and how that can lead to a life that’s abundant, creative, and an inspiration to others!
One way to lean more into inspiration is to attend my Creāre Workshop on inspiration! Living Into Your Creative Potential, is all about finding your inspired pathways and how they can fuel your wholehearted life revolution! To Learn more about Creāre, click on the tab below:
After many months, and frankly even a few years of incubation, I am thrilled to be finally launching my Creāre Workshops. We live in an information driven culture, and most of us have reached our saturation point. The Creāre experiences are geared for everyone and anyone who desire to move away from the onslaught of information, and into a more embodied life experience, that flows from their authentic core self. They are designed to allow for play, intention, reflection, and ultimately growth. Click on the Creāre Workshops tab above to learn more and to sign up!
For years now, I’ve “collected” quotes, along with pebbles from the beach, and shades of yellow vintage bowls. I like to surround myself with things that have stories, symbolism, and history. There are several things that I love about quotes. First, is how they inspire me in the here and now: how to love, stand strong, or live creatively. Quotes also connect me with those who walked through life before me; those who have said or written the words, which now inspire or speak to me. It’s a reminder that as humans we are all inextricably connected with one another. Lastly, quotes serve as a visual reminder for me to stay the course in my journey, and stay focused on what’s most important to me.
One of my favorite things that I have in my office, is a vintage magnetic photo frame, which now serves as a scrabble-tile quote board. It’s there to remind and inspire me and those who enter my space of how we live creatively unique, yet interconnected similar lives, and how we all need the support of another to make our way through this life.
A few years back, I took a great class with another Art Therapist which focused on developing our identity as artists. During that time, I learned about the stages of the creative process, and fell in love with the concept of incubation. I think what drew me to it so much, was the fact that I spend a lot of time, thinking, musing, wondering, writing or drawing about ideas that I have, but maybe haven't fully formulated yet. So for the last 2 years, I've been incubating the idea of launching some art based workshops that focus on developing creative identity, utilizing inspiration to fuel life, and living our most authentic and wholehearted lives.
My vision for these workshops will be to delve into art making as a way to seek answers to the questions. As author and artist Austin Kleon puts it, "Take time to mess around. Get lost. Wander. You never know where it's going to lead you." It's freeing to give ourselves permission to stop thinking everything through, and allow another part of our brain and body to lead for a change. As an artist myself, I've been able to learn so much about myself and my interaction with the world through observing my own engagement with art. It's my hope that these workshops will give others an opportunity to explore and expand new or forgotten areas of themselves, and even leave with some clarity, direction or answers!
I'm working on the details now, and am really excited to see where this wandering leads. Keep posted for more details. First workshop is aimed to take place in the beginning of 2019. If you are interested in learning more, stop over on the contact page and send me a message.
Earlier this year I was interviewed for an article regarding the coloring book craze, and those claiming to be "Art Therapy." I am absolutely an advocate for people to explore and engage in their own creativity and artistic endeavors. Not only does it give us more ways to express ourselves and our feelings, but studies have shown that it reduces stress and helps with problem solving and flexible thinking! Both of which we can never have enough of! However, making art in isolation does not substitute for Art Therapy with a trained clinical Art Therapist. If you are dealing with intense emotions, relationship crisis, or pain from life's battle scars, then seeking the help of a therapist is recommended. I am always amazed by how powerful the art can be in helping clients express themselves and their inner worlds. Contact me if you'd like to know more about working together, with or without art!
Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Heal from Distant, Rejecting, or Self-Involved Parents by Lindsay C. Gibson, PsyD
I can’t say enough good things about this book. First of all, it’s important to remember that most parents do the best job that they can when raising their children. One thing that I valued about this book, was that it never takes the tone of bashing or blaming parents for all a child’s difficulties. However, it does not shy away from addressing what results from core emotional needs being unmet during childhood. Secondly, I appreciated the author’s empowering approach; aiming to help the reader take responsibility for their own needs and teaching strategies for learning to negotiate relationships with people who lack emotional maturity. I found the book to be extremely helpful in breaking down these into manageable steps: learning to stay observational not emotional, practicing emotional maturity awareness, and stepping out of old roles. Lastly, the book ends with a chapter on how to recognize emotional maturity in others. Often, when children grow up in homes with emotionally immature parents, they continue to seek out other people who have similar or familiar emotional patterns. This can lead to a lifetime of hardship and broken relationships unless they can learn to recognize and pursue healthy and mature people. I believe that learning to identify the characteristics and behavior patterns of mature individuals is beneficial to everyone, regardless of childhood experiences.
For many years now, I have journeyed with women who have found themselves in a pattern of frustrating, chaotic, or imbalanced relationships often as a result of an emotionally unfulfilled childhood. Many of them have found freedom by growing in their own awareness, acceptance and emotional maturity. If this resonates with you, please contact me so that we can talk further about working towards your own healing.health.wholeness.