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

Psychology Today: 5 Steps to Happiness

Heather Edwards Happiness

Psychology Today – Mark Banschick, MD. Article By Guest Blogger, Heather Edwards Reclaiming Happiness

Guest blogger Heather Edwards has a five important tips that’ll help you align with your heart’s desires.

The quest for health and happiness today seems like an uphill battle. Each day, the  issues gracing our headlines challenge the equilibrium of our hearts and soul. The politicsof the moment burdens our psyche. Many worry about jobs, paying for college or for rent; and the world continues to show its openness to violence, depressing our sense of peace, love, and hope for a better tomorrow.

We’re further misaligned by our own personal demons. Whether it’s illness, relationships, or finances, each of us has a complexity of individual struggles.

At times, it’s overwhelming.

Reclaiming Happiness:

Let’s go back to base camp. Hit the reset button.

Clear your mind of the negativity that surrounds you. Refocus. Try these five basic acts of goodness for your body and mind to revisit the quest for health and happiness in the short and long term…

  1. Honor your body. When you need rest, rest. When you need hydration, hydrate. When you need movement, move. Ignoring your basic physical needs leads to illness overtime. Sleep cleanses the neural pathways in your brain. Water cleanses your blood stream of toxins. Healthy meals provide essential nutrients to your organs, muscles, and bones that keep them strong. Don’t skip meals because you’re too busy.
  2. Surround yourself with people who lift you up. Healthy relationships support healthy lives. You need to feel supported, loved, and connected to those around you. Get inspired. People who dream, aspire, and grow help you do the same. Shed the toxic relationships in your life. They will inadvertently kill you through negativity and stress.
  3. Focus on gratitude. Noticing what you already have creates a sense of peace in your life. When you stay focused on the positive, you naturally shape your entire outlook toward the good around you. The way you think affects the way you feel. The way you feel affects the way to behave. The way you behave affects your character. So who and how do you want to be?
  4. Get out into nature. There is evidence that staring at a tree reduces anxiety. It takes you out of your head and into the moment. Nature is awe inspiring. That’s an expansive, open, gracious experience. Go to the beach, look at a flower, google pictures of a mountain. It’s calming and can reset your mindset.
  5. Mindfulness = Heartfulness. Be truly present. In Chinese, heart and mind are the same word – xin. It is believed that if we are functioning with an open mind, we are also functioning from the heart. When you let go of opinions, wants, and judgments you experience freedom. Approach each moment with curiosity, openness, and generosity. Accept the reality of what is, instead of fighting against what you already know to be true. Just be.

These actions won’t directly change the circumstances of your life, but they will change your relationship to them. Just a moment of peace, love, and joy each day cumulatively strengthens your body and psyche. In the end, it makes a healthy heart and mind. And that makes the world a better place for everyone.

—————————————————————————–

Heather Edwards, MA, LMHC, is a therapist and life coach located in New York City. She can be reached for consultation at: 347-515-3966

www.NewYorkPsychotherapyandLifeCoaching.com

Follow me on Twitterhttps://twitter.com/nyctherapy

Thanks Giving: Donate your coats

thanks givingLast Saturday, my husband and I were outside enjoying a 70 degree afternoon among the crisp fallen leaves of autumn. It was magical. The warm, full sun cast dancing shadows on the ground through the trees. Acorns, a light cool breeze, and the fresh scent of earth filled our consciousness. It hardly felt like a November afternoon. We were visiting family for an early Thanks Giving.

Eight hours later, the wind picked up, the temperature dropped 30 degrees, and sleet began to fall. We were hardly prepared for this dramatic change. We were away for the weekend and he didn’t have a coat. I only had warm-weather shoes and no socks! It was a stark reminder of the brute strength of winter.

It called my attention to those in need. “On a single night in January 2015, 564,708 people were experiencing homelessness nationally — meaning they were sleeping outside or in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program.”, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness.  New York Cares reports that today more than 60,000 New Yorkers spend their nights in shelters, and 25,000 of of those individuals are children. 

I’m thankful to have a roof over my head and a warm winter coat. It’s a luxury that not everyone experiences every night. I am truly grateful.

Since living in NYC, I’m confronted by the harsh reality of homelessness the moment I step outside. There are two men and a woman who have become regulars in the park next door. While we sleep comfortably in our beds, they sleep on wooden benches, covering themselves with blankets and plastic, or nothing at all, no matter the weather.thanks and giving

Due to this, and inspiration from my generous and loving late mother-in-law, it’s with a heavy and hopeful heart that I am sponsoring a Thanks Giving coat drive with Oasis Day Spa through New York Cares beginning November 28 to December 10, 2016. It’s a small gesture that can make a significant difference in the lives of our neighbors who could die without it.

Our goal was 25 coats, – but since we’ve almost reached it before the actual start date through social media – we’ve increased our goal to 50 coats. New York Cares reported record numbers of donations this year just in time for the blizzard in January, “Collecting 100,000 coats enabled us (NY Cares) to distribute coats earlier in the new year, delivering 70,000 coats before a blizzard hit NYC in January 2016.” Let’s do it again! Express your thanks through giving.

This kindness not only helps the less fortunate but it helps you, the giver. Positive psychology proves that acts of kindness improve our sense of well-being and life satisfaction. It’s one of the seven habits of happy people.  Martin Seligman demonstrated through his research at UPenn that people who help others through charity, volunteering, or simply assisting a neighbor or coworker with a task experience greater happiness. Others suggest that lowered depression and longer life expectancy occur as a result of giving.

thanks givingSo, warm your heart and spirit by increasing the positive emotions, safety, and well-being of others. If you’re local to NYC, drop off your new or lightly used coats at my office – Heather Edwards Mental Health Counseling, 1 Park Avenue, Inside Oasis Day Spa, New York, NY 10016. If you’re outside New York City and want to help, contact your local charity to give to those in need.

From the bottom of my heart, I’m wishing you and those you love a happy, warm, & healthy Thanksgiving!

Until next time,

Heather xo

5 Steps to Happiness Through Xin – Heart & Mind

Heather Edwards HappinessThe quest for health and happiness today seems like an uphill battle. Each day, the national and international issues gracing our headlines challenge the equilibrium of our hearts and soul. Breaking news alerts of yet another terrorist attack, policemen murdered in cold blood, and the battle between Trump and Clinton for the White House burdens our psyche, sending shock waves through our collective central nervous system. It’s unnerving and overtime, with repeated acts of horror and chaos, it depresses our sense of peace, love, and hope for a better tomorrow.

We’re further misaligned by our own personal demons. Whether it’s illness, relationships, or finances each of us has a complexity of individual struggles. At times, it’s overwhelming.

Let’s go back to base camp. Hit the reset button. Clear your mind of the negativity that surrounds you. Refocus. Try these five basic acts of goodness for your body and mind to revisit the quest for health and happiness in the short and long term…

  1. Honor your body. When you need rest, rest. When you need hydration, hydrate. When you need movement, move. Ignoring your basic physical needs leads to illness overtime. Sleep cleanses the neural pathways in your brain. Water cleanses your blood stream of toxins. Healthy meals provide essential nutrients to your organs, muscles, and bones that keep them strong. Don’t skip meals because you’re too busy.
  1. Surround yourself with people who lift you up. Healthy relationships support healthy lives. You need to feel supported, loved, and connected to those around you. Get inspired. People who dream, aspire, and grow help you do the same. Shed the toxic relationships in your life. They will inadvertently kill you through negativity and stress. 
  1. Focus on gratitude. Noticing what you already have creates a sense of peace in your life. When you stay focused on the positive, you naturally shape your entire outlook toward the good around you. The way you think affects the way you feel. The way you feel affects the way to behave. The way you behave affects your character. So who and how do you want to be?Heather Edwards Happiness
  1. Get out into nature. There is evidence that staring at a tree reduces anxiety. It takes you out of your head and into the moment. Nature is awe inspiring. That’s an expansive, open, gracious experience. Go to the beach, look at a flower, google pictures of a mountain. It’s calming and can reset your mindset.
  1. Mindfulness = Heartfulness. Be truly present. In Chinese, heart and mind are the same word – xin. It is believed that if we are functioning with an open mind, we are also functioning from the heart. When you let go of opinions, wants, and judgements you experience freedom. Approach each moment with curiosity, openness, and generosity. Accept the reality of what is, instead of fighting against what you already know to be true.  Just be.

These actions won’t directly change the circumstances of your life, but they will change your relationship to them. Just a moment of peace, love, and joy each day cumulatively strengthens your body and psyche. In the end, it makes a healthy heart and mind. And that makes the world a better place for everyone.

Psychology Today: 5 Ways to Happiness

Heather Edwards Happiness Psychotherapist CoachTime to get inspired. 5 Ways to Happiness.

This Psychology Today piece is by guest blogger: Heather Edwards. It is meant as wind behind your sails. It’s poetry, an action plan and modeling.

And, yes, it’s time to get going.

——–

Throughout the years, people have asked me how I do the intensive work that I do. This question perplexes me. I wonder the opposite.

How could I not do what I do?

Power Of Inspiration:

I am inspired by the healing, wanting, dreaming, changing, and transforming that happens in the therapy and coaching room everyday.

The person who leaves my office is not the same person who entered it 45 minutes earlier. They have a new insight, idea, peace, or focus to carry with them into the world.

Yes, it is sometimes difficult work. And it is always challenging. It ebbs and flows. But when you meet someone where they are — whether it’s a high point or low one — it validates them. It invites them to go somewhere else – somewhere better with you.

The Art Of Listening:

Non-judgment. Open awareness. Empathy. Compassion. Belief. That’s what I bring to the room.

Sure, I have a toolkit of therapy and coaching techniques, but those are rendered useless without the former as a foundation. With Carl Rogers as my teacher, I learned how to listen. When you truly hear someone, you can help someone.

Manifest Positive Intentions:

My mother is a birdwatcher, wildlife painter, and lover of life, family, and friends. I consider myself to be very similar in my passions. I’m not in the woods with binoculars, or in my artist studio with a paintbrush, but I’m in my office with eager people ready to stretch their wings and fly. They want to create. They want freedom. They want joy, purpose, and relevance. So do I.

It’s exhilarating, unpredictable, and yet, grounding.

Stay Grounded:

Trust. Authenticity. Courage. Hope. Intention. Abundance. Expansion. That’s what happens in the therapy and coaching room. It’s moving. It’s life changing. It’s what keeps me there and invites me back.

Balance:

Two sides of the same coin… Frustration/Hope…  Sorrow/Love…  Fear/Safety… And so on…  Spin it however you want. Whichever side of that coin faces up when the spinning stops, remember its source. A positive place, a wanting of light.

Embrace what you want.

Go deep down inside your gut.

Live. Love. Glow. Give.

Gratitude. Abundance. Positivity.

Believe in it. Embody it. Make it your truth.

 

Photo Source: iStock

When Did Life Get So Hard? 10 Reasons Why & What to do …

Heather Edwards Inspired

1. When you stopped believing you are worthy – and quit taking inspired action. Tune into what you value about being you and write it out. Give yourself credit. If you don’t see it, who will? Dig deep into your core self and embrace what matters most.

2. When hardship took over – and you stopped leading with your heart. You gave up your power and lost trust that things will get better. Like a Tsunami of overwhelming emotion, things may seem unbearable now but, this too shall pass.

3. When you started avoiding, numbing, or ignoring the pain you dampened the opposite, too – joy, love, & positivity. You must tolerate the darkness to see the stars.

4. When you forgot the glass was beautiful – not half full nor half empty – whole regardless of its contents. Practice open awareness and acceptance. Stop judging yourself and others.

Heather Edwards Inspired5. When you stopped feeling gratitude – and only noticed the negatives. Gratitude creates a mindset of abundance. It changes neural pathways and the attitude you apply to everything. Notice what you would miss if you didn’t already have it. Pause. Reflect.

6. When you stopped cultivating self compassion –  nurture YOU. Soothe yourself. Forgive yourself. Be flexible, patient, and kind to yourself. Treat yourself like a friend.

7. When your expectations weren’t met – you hoped for something different than what you got. Suffering comes from wishing things were different. Enjoy the journey. Every bit of experience changes you and helps you grow. Find the nugget of wisdom in everything.

8. When you stopped claiming your life as your own – everything and everybody else’s needs took priority. You forgot say, “No.” and ended up feeling taken for granted. Know and assert your boundaries.

9. When you stopped noticing the natural beauty around you. Just looking at a tree and experiencing a sense of awe and wonder for a moment takes you out of your head and into the moment. It measurably reduces anxiety and worry.

Heather Edwards Inspired10. When you started believing the cruel things others said about you. We naturally notice negatives in our environment. It’s kept us alive as a species since the beginning of our time. So you have to work harder to consider the positives. Question and refute tired messages. You don’t have to hold onto them.

 

 

 

Photos courtesy of Aleksa D, Gualberto107, and dan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net, and Mark Robert Turner.

 

At the Table (Podcast)! With Nutrition Expert Jessi Haggerty

heather edwards nutritionNutrition experts, Allison and Jessi invited me to join the conversation, “At the Table with Allison and Jessi.”

At the Table is the love child of two nutrition experts who want to help others improve their relationship with food by making eating a sacred and enjoyable experience again.

Allison is a Holistic Nutrition Counselor and blogger behindwww.friskylemon.com. She specializes in empowering people to heal their digestion by creating their personalized healing diet based in the Paleo Diet framework.

Jessi is a Registered Dietitian and Personal Trainer who provides an excitingly educational, deliciously nutritious, and slightly sarcastic sustainable approach to food and wellness. To boot, she’s my amazing cousin! You can find Jessi on www.jessihaggerty.com

In this episode of At the Table, we discuss everything from mindfulness and positive psychology to a milkshake-a-day diet I followed as a teenager, and our Mastermind group!

Find out about how Jessi and I find our flow by getting lost in our favorite activity.

There’s a secret and goofy holiday mix up revealed, too that will get you rolling with laughter at the chaos we call family. The one rule in Fire Island is bantered about.

Jessi asks me questions like, “What’s your favorite food memory?”, “What was your relationship to food like growing up?”, and “If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?”.

It all ties into health, wellness, and being the best version of yourself. You’ll find that it’s light, fun, and entertaining! Kick back in your comfy chair and listen to a conversation about food and wellbeing that’s exciting, educational, and inspiring.

Stop reading and check it out here!  Please let me know what you think about it and if you’d like more posts like these… audio blogs, podcasts, and videos.  See you at the table!

 

 

 

It’s Not Too Late! Set Your Goals for 2016

Heather Edwards GoalsWe’re still in the first half of 2016! But the fourth month & second quarter have begun. Where do you stand with your 2016 goals? If you didn’t write them down, draw them out, or mentally obsess about them, it’s not too late.

When you consider celebrating New Year 2017, what do you want to have accomplished? I heard a rumor earlier this year that 2016, according to numerology, is the year of personal development.  So I ran with it. I won’t bore you with my plans, but it helped me shape what is important to me.

If you’re still waffling, try out the following tips to start improving your life…

    • Choose one task to do differently each day. Yes, mix up your routine. My yoga teacher encourages this with our poses and breathing. When things become automatic, we do them mindlessly. We lose our passion and connection to them. Since we aren’t robots, practice staying engaged and thoughtful in the art of doing things – whether it’s exercise, drinking coffee, or petting your cat.
    • Go slow to go fast. Breathe. Take a moment to slow down and check-in with yourself. This gives you the space to clear your mind, and gain clarity and momentum. It’s paradoxical but it works. When your mind is racing, let it be your cue to focus on the basics. Take three deep breaths. Notice how it feels. Enjoy the 30 seconds of “me” time  you just found in your hectic day.Heather Edwards Goals
    • Be curious. Where curiosity ends, judgement, blame, defensiveness, and burnout begin. Wonder about stuff – textures, people, sensations, colors, sunsets, ANYTHING! Just wonder. It promotes an open mind and creative thinking. When you’re feeling stuck for an answer, pose a question. It opens you up to possibilities you might not have considered otherwise. The human brain can’t stand an unanswered question.
    • When you imagine yourself in your most peaceful and fulfilling place, what do you see? Notice the details of where you are, who’s with you, and what you look like. What do you feel, sense, and think about? Witness your life as you would like it.  What needs to change in your life now for you to be in that peaceful place? What is in that picture that doesn’t exist now? How did you get there? Identify one step you can take today to get the metaphorical ball rolling toward your future self. Spend a few minutes each day with that image.
    • Write it out! Putting your ideas on paper makes them real, observable, and tangible. When you do, they’re no longer just ideas swirling around in your head. When you can see them, clarity is gained, and actionable steps emerge.

Heather Edwards GoalsIt can be simple to get out of a rut. Spring is here! Summer is coming! Get outside. Notice your surroundings. Find something new to wonder about.

Breathe. Mix up your routine but stay grounded. Slow down to speed up. Spend a few minutes everyday focusing on what you want.

If you’re like most people, too much time and energy is spent on what you don’t want. They say that what you think about you bring about. Allow your mind to wander and revel in the possibilities. Get real about your goals. It’s not too late!

“People with goals succeed because they know where they’re going.” -Earl Nightingale

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.