The Art of Non-Attachment – Learning to let go

heather edwards psychotherapy letting goI heard the crash of my beloved pottery as it shattered on the cement floor. It jolted me. It freed me.

17 years ago when I was starting out as a potter (one of my passions), I toiled endlessly to make each piece perfect. The walls needed to be straight. The mouth perfectly circular, and the form of the body exact – that’s the beauty and the art of it.

My instructor painfully witnessed my labor and determination for perfection everyday. I attended every open studio session and took multiple classes per week. I knew if I worked hard enough, I’d get it.

One night that instructor suggested non-attachment to the work. I had no idea of what he meant. He might as well have been speaking a foreign language that I couldn’t understand.

That platter was my baby. I devoted hours to making each curve exactly how I wanted it – the thickness, the angle, and the integrity of the lip. It all had to be a certain way.

heather edwards psychotherapy in new york

Despite my efforts, he saw a flaw. One that was unfixable. I pleaded with him to let me try to make it right. He insisted, “No, Heather. You have to let it go. Smash the platter with me.” I couldn’t believe my ears.

It took a moment, in front of a classroom of students but I decided to comply. He took a piece of his pottery and we agreed to smash them together in the air and allow them to shatter.

The moment that platter left my grip, there was no turning back. I gasped. I closed my eyes. I heard the breakage and the outburst of joy among my peers.

It liberated us all. It was freeing. It was a literal breakthrough. There would be no more toiling.

Now I had a clean slate and a fresh start. I could refocus and begin anew. Fresh possibilities emerged and my work improved.

Who knows how many more hours I would’ve spent on that unfixable platter? Almost two decades later, that invaluable lesson sticks with me.

What are you holding onto that no longer serves you? What is unfixable or  keeping you stuck that needs to be released?
heather edwards psychotherapy in new york

When you release what you cannot change, fix, or control – you are free. You become open to the real possibilities of the  moment and live wholeheartedly.

Ever since that day, I try to recognize the point where it’s time to let go. It serves me and everyone around me to be diligent in that effort.

I’ve lost contact with that teacher. I’d like to thank him for the lessons I learned. It’s shaped me in ways beyond my art.

My pottery continues to develop but, with much less angst and much more joy and fluidity. It’s become a model and metaphor for living authentically, without regrets and fully engaged in the now.

 

From Scarcity to Abundance – Healing after loss

heather edwards grief loss wellness“How do you want to die?” These are the haunting words spoken by her doctor after being diagnosed with stage four cancer. Three months after her passing, I’ve turned toward and through my grief seeking peace.

Grief takes time. It can feel overwhelming and eternal. But it eventually changes. The cloud lifts. Clarity and lightness return.

Our love for those who have passed before us never dies and perhaps that’s what keeps us moving forward. They’re never really gone. They live on in memories, moments, and a felt sense of connection to them.

While sitting on the edge of loss and wholeness, I’m struck by the flood of ideas about cultivating a robust authentic life. It’s an integration of real science from multiple areas of psychology, neuroscience, trauma treatment, somatics, and mindfulness.

It takes effort to embody them sometimes. But that’s natural, too. From time to time, we are all challenged by real trauma and loss that interrupts our natural flow toward health and happiness. So today’s blog is a free association about the science behind wellbeing. Take a moment with each concept and consider ways to incorporate it into your everyday life.

Love

Abundance

Passion

Connection

Meaning

Movement

Wellness

Happiness

Authenticity

Showing up

Trust

Courage

Mind body

Engagement

Purpose

Flow

Yoga

Gratitude

Relationships

Silence

Meditation

Nature

Stillness

Reflection

Mindfulness

Notice

Observe

Let go

Drop in

Presence

Groundedness

Openness

Non-judgement

Hear

Sense

Experience

Positivity

Light

Choose

Imagine

Act as if

Family

Friends

Support

Animals

Sunsets

Music

Nutrition

Wholeheartedness

Boundaries

Yes

No

Truth

This moment

Vulnerability

Freedom

Breathe

Love


Since our bodies and minds naturally move toward wholeness, healing, and wellness a concerted effort can only accelerate the process. I’m not suggesting ignoring or numbing the painful feelings. That’s part of the hard work. It’s necessary to feel them. It makes the other side of those feelings more joyful when they’re reached. The contrast, the conflict, and the competition of emotions beckons us to examine them and welcome them.

heather edwards grief loss happinessIn the words of Rumi…

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.

meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.

— Jellaludin Rumi,

translation by Coleman Barks

Jumpstart Productivity: 7 Tips to Get on Track

productivityThose long lazy days filled with sunlight and flowers are nearing an end. Dawn and dusk last a bit longer as the sun’s angle lowers in the sky. Shadows dance through the trees upon the breeze while the air cools, just a touch. As the gardens wilt and turn to seed, shorts and tee shirts no longer comfort you. Instead, you reach for sweaters and pants each morning and enjoy the crisp new season. You begin looking forward to what autumn brings – change, purpose, and productivity.  While summer will be missed, you know it will come again. It’s bittersweet but the time is nigh to look ahead and plan for your most abundant fall and winter.

Here are a few tips to get started on making the new season a fruitful one.

  1. Establish a routine. The power of routine is immeasurable. Once you’ve created an order in your life that allows your brain to focus on higher level or creative pursuits, the mundane and trivial activities of everyday life become almost unconscious. This allows your mental effort to be applied to what you really want to accomplish, rather than getting bogged down in the details.
  2. Create accountability. Verbalize your goals with people around you to create an external source of responsibility to them. It’s motivating to answer publicly to your proclamations. Set clear boundaries and expectations for what you want. Use timers, calendars, and a daily schedule to keep on track.
  3. Clear your mind. Meditation is the most effective way of creating peace, clarity, and focus in your life. It can happen in just 20 minutes per day. It physically changes your brain structure to allow better coping with stress. Madonna, Clint Eastwood, Lady Gaga, Howard Stern, Katy Perry, and the list goes on… practice meditation to create a sense of calm groundedness amidst the chaos of a busy life.
  4. Just say, “no”.  This is an undervalued skill that makes life more manageable. How often have you overcommitted? When you’re frantically striving to complete many tasks, your quality of work is reduced. When you focus on only a few projects that are really important to you, your quality of work skyrockets. Practice the art of graciously declining invitations. It’s better for outcomes, relationships, and your health.
  5. Get some shut eye. The research into sleep is exploding. Recent studies are finding that sleep allows your brain to encode (save/remember) information, organize information, and cleanse itself of toxins. It not only allows your mind and body to rest, it can improve learning and memory, performance, and mood.
  6. Fuel your machine. Would you drive your car on an empty tank of gas, or expect your cell phone to ring when the battery is depleted? How could you expect peak performance from yourself without the proper fuel? Reduce your consumption of alcohol, caffeine, cigarettes, and other vices. Increase consumption of lean meats, leafy greens, fruits, fatty fish, and nuts. They provide nutrients that reduce depression, increase energy, promote healthy brain function, heart health, and immunity. The benefits of eating right are endless.
  7. Burn it off. Exercise increases feel-good chemicals such as endorphins, norepinephrine, and dopamine. It lowers stress related hormones like cortisol & adrenaline. Combined, these improve energy and balance emotions. Getting sweaty develops brain regions responsible for memory and learning, improves your overall physique, and can boost your self esteem. Commit to regular exercise.

productivityWhile the long, lazy days of summer are coming to a close, a new season of growth and opportunity beckons. Go with the flow, stay in the present moment, maintain your focus. When you implement these tips, you will improve your life. Start small. Begin with one change that will get you closer to the way you want to experience life. Make it a habit. Reap the benefits.

 

“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” – Michelangelo
1st Photo courtesy of free digital photos.net. by David Castillo Dominici.

Today I Cried During Meditation

Heather Edwards meditationAs I followed my breath, body, and the sensations of the moment in meditation, I noticed a warmth filling and illuminating my heart. It called to mind the hurt, trauma, and despair of so many in this sometimes devastating human experience.

As I attempted to gently escort my mind back, anchor myself and release the thinking, I noticed an urgency to project those feelings outward. I realized they weren’t thoughts, requiring effort to be quieted, tamed, or changed, but they were feelings and energies reflecting a genuine presence, atunement, and compassion.

As I connected with them, a tear softly rolled down my cheek. There was light, peace, strength, safety, trust, and connectedness. I meditated on this.  The tear wasn’t a cry of sadness or joy, but of wanting goodness and freedom from pain. Not for me, but for all.

My meditation room has an energy that is palpable. With an increasing mindful presence, the paper lanterns hanging in the window begin to dance. As I connect with the symbolism of the objects in the room, it comes alive.

Each item holds a personal meaning. I honor each and what it represents – the seashells from my visits to beaches around the world, the sand from my honeymoon, the heart shaped tray holding an homage to my late cat Tony, and finally the Guan Yin statue.

Heather Edwards meditationShe is Bodhisattva, enlightened being of compassion. There is something grounding, uplifting, warming and centering about her in that room. Those moments of expanding mindfulness and meditation materialize a unique visceral energetic experience there.

Along with my three cats, the incense and candles, the flooding natural light and atmospheric music, a spacious calm fills the tiny room inside the endless chaotic frenzy of New York City. It makes me small, insignificant, and expansive all at the same time.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art houses the oldest Bodhisattva, Avalokiteshvara (Guan Yin) statue. She is magnificent. At about 20 feet tall, she is a symbol of an enlightened being offering hope, passion, purity, and good fortune to those around her. She was believed to hear the cries of the world in the time of Buddha in the 5th Century B.C.

Heather Edwards meditationI met her not so long ago, the miniature statue version at a Manhattan holistic wellness center, and brought her home. She sits with me compassionately, always ready for an inward journey.

The paradox is that an outward healing is released seemingly by natural consequence of meditation with her. Call it metaphysics, religion, or spirituality. Whatever it is, she soothes the cries and opens up a universe of possibilities.

 

Empower Your Inner Goddess – Yoga and Coaching Beach Retreat

IMG_3592Stretch your body. Nourish your soul. Free your spirit.

Relax in the quiet seaside retreat of Kismet, Fire Island:

Join a small group of amazing women eager to find their center, build their energy, develop their passion, and empower their spirit.

Realign your body and mind:

Experience Beach Yoga, Coaching for Visualizing Your Ideal Self, De-cluttering Your Mind, Building Energy Sources, Improving Your Mind-Body-Emotion Connection, Embracing Empowering Beliefs, Sunset Yoga, Yoga Dance, Chakra Meditation and Relaxation Exercises. Leave the island feeling invigorated and ready to live an inspired, confident, and passionate life!

DSC_0029Our program features:

Fresh whole foods and juices.  Breakfast x2, Lunch x2, Dinner x2, and healthy snacks. Mealtimes are relaxed.  Enjoy healthy, balanced nutrition and the company of creative, inspired Retreat participants and instructors.

Fall asleep to the sound of waves crashing outside your window.  The two night stay is in a beautiful home 1.5 blocks from the beach.  The house features outdoor decks, bicycles, a grill, umbrellas and beach chairs.  Just bring your clothes, swim suit, and a yoga mat.

Kismet is an easy commute from Manhattan.

Take the LIRR from Penn Station to Bay Shore.  Walk or take a cab to the Kismet Ferry. If you’re driving, take the Long Island Expressway to Exit 53.  Follow the signs to Bay Shore.  Park your car in the LIRR lot for free and walk or cab it to the ferry.  It’s a lovely way to start the get away!

DSC_0052Call or email now to reserve your spot!

We are limited to 10 people.  This will fill up fast!  It is one weekend only from May 30, 2014 to June 1, 2014.  Click here to register now!

About Us:

Pamela Tinkham, LCSW, RYT is a Psychotherapist, Certified Yoga Instructor, and Reiki Master.  She has a Private Practice in Stamford, CT.  See more about Pam here: MindBodyFitnessLLC.com Heather Edwards, LMHC, BCC is a Psychotherapist, Board Certified Coach, and frequent contributor to Psychology Today.  She has a Private Practice in Manhattan, NY.  You are on her website right now!  Thanks for visiting!  🙂

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Yoga and Coaching Beach

Turn Chaos Into Calm: Five ways to create a Zen day

Whether there are too many obligations or too much stress, feeling anxious and overwhelmed can bring your productivity to a screeching halt.  When the stakes are high, the last thing you need is low focus and low motivation.  Our bodies are designed to protect and preserve our well-being.  But when stress is prolonged and our sympathetic nervous system (SNS) takes over, it can have negative effects on our health and peace of mind.   The fight-or-flight reaction that our SNS creates to keep us safe from danger actually causes panic like symptoms including, short & shallow breaths, tightening of the muscles, increased heart rate, and intensified negative emotions in preparation for survival.  When this happens, we’re lit up like a billboard in Times Square on New Years Eve.  Use these quick tips to bring mindful relaxation practice to your day.

Mindful Breathing

There are many ways to practice mindful breathing.  Being mindful simply means being fully aware of something, without judging or resisting it, and being  fully present in the moment.   Begin by getting into a comfortable position and take three deep breaths all the way into your belly.  Feel your belly rise and fall as you notice the sensation of the air entering your nose, filling your lungs, and exiting your body.  Now relax each breath to feel like a natural, full breath without forcing its length or depth.  Simply focus on the the act of a comfortable inhale and exhale 10 times.  This can slow your heart rate, reduce the activation of your SNS, and activate your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) which calms, soothes, and relaxes your body.

Progressive Relaxation

Bring your attention to your body.  Close your eyes and scan your body from head to toe or toe to head, progressively working your way up or down all of your body.  Notice your shoulders, arms, hands, chest, back, hips, legs, and feet.  Where are you feeling tension or tightness?.  Remembering to take  mindful breaths, focus on the area that aches.  Breath in and out while focusing on that part and gently say or think, “relax”.  Spend a few minutes on this each day.  Deer

Meditation

Meditation is known to develop regions of the brain responsible for attention, compassion, and empathy.  Studies have shown it decreases stress related cortisol, strengthens the immune system, and improves mood.  So what’s stopping you from doing it?  It only takes 10 minutes each day.  Begin by getting into a comfortable position.  Focus on mindful breathing.  Take 10 breaths to get started.  Use your breath as your anchor.  Be aware of what is moving through your mind – thoughts, dreams, wishes, plans, images, memories, feelings, environmental sounds.  Simply notice what you are experiencing without getting pulled into them.  Keep settled into your breath, noticing increasing peacefulness.  Be aware of the changing content of your mind as you accept and let it go.  Fully experience the growing peace and spacious awareness.  When you are ready to end your mediation, take in the calm relaxation.

Imagery

Imagery quiets the internal verbal chatter, the self critic, the worry wart.  It can activate your parasympathetic nervous system by processing images rather than words.  When you are feeling stressed or are having trouble sleeping, imagine yourself in a favorite place.  It might be a beach, a lake, in the mountains, or your in own bedroom.  Maybe its an imaginary place you’ve never visited by always dreamed about.  Visualize walking around in that place or lying down and simply observing.  What do you see, hear, smell, and feel?  Fully put yourself there in your mind.

Exercise

The benefits of exercise are not a mystery.  The physical exertion reduces stress as it balances hormones, and builds muscle strength and bone density. Once a certain level of intensity is reached, endorphins are released which soothe and calm the body.  They are your natural source of morphine-like chemicals.  Cortisol, a stress hormone diminishes through exercise.   Refocus your thoughts and efforts to self care and strengthening your body.  It will help you feel better physically, mentally, and emotionally.

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