Archive for gratitude

Finding the Gold: How Chronic Pain Has Transformed My Life

“Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.” ~Bernice Johnson Reagon

It is a vulnerable thing to talk about pain. There can be such a fear of being seen as weak or defective. New Age philosophies can create a sense of shame for those with pain by proposing that we should be able to manifest perfect health with the right meditations, health practices, and positive affirmations. So here I am, at this precipice of truth-telling, ready to take these risks, ready to face this fear.

I have struggled with frequent headaches for the last 6 years. After devoting a great deal of money and time to trying to understand and heal the underlying cause(s), I have settled on a self-care regimen that works most of the time. I have also, after years of conflicting information, come to recognize that these migraines are linked to some genetic predisposition. I am (at the least) the third generation in my family to have them.

Last week I had a humdinger of a headache, brought on by travel, rich foods, and not enough sleep. As I lay there with an ice pack on my head, I started bargaining with my body, with any force outside of myself that might be able to do something. “Please,” I said, “please!” and I started listing off all the reasons I thought my plea was justified. I felt the energy of striving, of struggling against my experience, of feeling I deserved something different, that I shouldn’t be having the experience I was having. I noticed how this perspective kept me feeling like a victim, and how it took me away from the moment.

As I recognized the contraction this approach was creating, I decided to shift my outlook. I chose to turn towards what was real in that moment. I thought about all the societal expectations that were weighing on me- the fear of disappointing my friend, the idea that special-once-a-year-visits-with-friends are not supposed to look like this. And I surrendered. I felt the weight lift as I consented to receive this experience just as it was. If this was what this visit would be, then so be it. It felt better to meet reality on its own terms. As my mental chatter subsided, my attention came to rest on my experience in that moment. I felt the soothing coolness of the ice, the soft rhythm of my breath, the weight of my body. I breathed into my forehead, touching sensations of pressure and constriction. I allowed them to be there. Slowly a sense of expansion arose that felt a little bit pleasurable, even joyful. Just feeling myself existing in this body was a gift.

The experience started to become more easeful and I reflected on how much these migraines have taught me. I have had to slow way down, to be quiet for long periods of time. I have had to release so many beliefs about how my body is supposed to function, how I am supposed to be in control of my experience. I think that these headaches have been one of my greatest teachers about mindfulness. Over and over again they show me that life is so much more easeful when I meet it with openness and non-judgmental awareness.  Spending so much time being still has greatly enriched my relationship with my body and my capacity to feel tenderly towards myself. I have found this great sense of presence and aliveness that is more and more accessible whether my experience feels desirable or undesirable.

So, what adversity in your life is asking for your attention right now? What do you resist that might be asking for your acceptance? What might it be communicating to you? It seems that the challenging aspects of life often offer these hidden gifts. What gold have you found in the darkest moments? I would love to hear about your experiences including the parts that are still conflicted or confusing.

Reflections on 2013


I am feeling particularly enlivened and inspired as I start this year. This has been such a powerful year for me of CREATION. I finally took the plunge and developed my own business from the ground up. This has allowed me to offer the kind of work that most inspires and nourishes me. It feels amazing to really be offering my full gifts into the world. I just love the creativity and depth I get to bring into my individual work with clients and the classes and workshops I offer. The essence of my work is becoming more and more clear: Radical Acceptance Through Embracing Our Shadows. This phrase includes both Mindfulness and Shadow Work® and really speaks to the connection between the two.  You can check out my Free Talk at Ashland Public Library on February 3rd to hear more about what this phrase really means to me and how it is the essence of my work.

There is so much I am GRATEFUL for from this year. My family and friends have given hours of time and heaps of energy to help me think about my work and bring it out into the world. February 2013 saw the birth of a wonderful partnership with my mother, Zoe Alowan, in offering our newly created PaintDanceSing workshop. Our retreat was so well received that we offered two more within just a few months and are getting ready to offer our 4th retreat at the end of February. Our workshop has a new name- “Creative Acts of Power”- and is now open to all genders. The dates are February 28th-March 2nd. See the flyer below for more details!

I am also very grateful for all my clients this year. I have been so delighted to work with motivated adults who are willing to dive deep and explore their inner landscapes. It is a new experience for me to feel so greatly enlivened by my work. This is in large part due to the quality of the people I get to work with as clients.

I am grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had this year to share my passions with my community and for all of you who showed up to make these events a success.

– Public Talks at both the Ashland Public Library and the Ashland Food Co-op

– Sensuality workshop at Love Revolution

– Stress Management Class for SOU’s Music Department

– Monthly classes on Radical Acceptance and the Four Archetypes of Shadow Work®

– Three PaintDanceSing retreats

– My annual ReWilding the Body retreat


AND, I am so excited for these next steps for 2014:

  • A new website with a Blog
  • An interview in the February issue of the Locals Guide
  • Another Free Public Talk at Ashland Public Library

– The Creative Acts of Power Retreat in late February

– A new series of 1st Monday classes on Radical Acceptance of Our Emotions (Sadness, Joy, Anger, and Fear) starting in March

– 3rd Mondays Mindfulness Groups

– Developing and Facilitating an Online ReWilding the Body Course

– Offering Despair & Empowerment Groups in Joanna Macy’s tradition

– and much much more!