Here you’ll find musings on the necessity of solitude, re-thinking perspectives, new paradigms for relationship and intimacy, living creatively, guidance for hard times, questions about what’s essential and some of my own poetry. May you pause long enough to listen and so recognize your own heart-wisdom and beauty in these reflections. Enjoy!
Image: Marc Chagall
What?! I can give myself dose of sanity, and no nasty side effects?
Yes, you can enjoy more receptivity and less reactivity by using this self-care practice! No expiration date or fees apply, but, there’s a catch: you must use the practice. Not only will your sanity quotient increase, but you’ll give yourself a hefty dose of loving kindness, habibi. Your relationships will improve; loved ones, friends, acquaintances…heck, everyone will appreciate your capacity for self-regulation!
Orienting – A Pathway for Genuine Self-Care
The brain has basically two modes – reactive or receptive. When you’re in reactive mode, you can’t think or see straight. Instead, you can reduce reactivity and invite receptivity in mind-body. Do this: through the day, scan the body and note sensations. Whether you note a spike in reactivity (shallow breathing, tightness, clenching, emotions commonly labeled fear, anger, anxiety, etc) or not, pause and apply this practice outlined below.
Orienting takes consistent attention. Stress reactivity (a.k.a., survival physiology) has become habitual pattern for lots of folks. I’m talking about the Fight/Flight modes that are in play when there’s a perception of danger, and Freeze mode when there’s a perception of life-threatening danger.
In day-to-day interactions and activities (assuming you don’t live in a war zone, meaning on-going physical, sexual and emotional violence within your country, community, home or workplace), survival physiology is not typically called for. Such reactivity is corrosive to relationships and hard on the body. Narratives driven by anxiety, fear and anger intensify bio-physiological distress and erode a sense of safety, clarity and resilience.
At the heart of genuine self-care is engagement of the body-mind’s capacity for receptivity and grounded response.
Orienting: A Three-Part Process to Settle the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS)
Scan the body and note sensations, narratives and emotions, then…
1) Breathe; specifically, exhale. With mouth open, exhale; close the mouth and let the in-breath take care of itself. Do this 3 – 5 times. Then let the breath resume its natural rhythm.
This invites the autonomic nervous system to settle.
2) Orient using your senses, especially the eyes. Focus attention on the external environment and let your eyes “take in” what they see. Then notice something that evokes pleasure or curiosity.
This focuses you in the here-and-now and helps settle the ANS and emotional states. (Some people find it easier to start with this step and then attend to breathing; that’s fine.)
3) Bring to mind goodness in your life, for instance, of loving someone or feeling loved, or of gratitude.
This focus invites more “ventral dominance,” versus fight/flight dominance or survival physiology.
Breath, visual orienting and awareness of goodness or gratitude invite receptivity. This stimulates ventral dominance, which is required for a sense of safety and grounded, yet flexible social engagement or connection. You optimize receptivity when you’re not unnecessarily flooded with stress chemicals that mobilize the body for survival. You become more present, resilient, open and available to connect with yourself and others.
Anytime, anywhere, you can expand your capacity to settle the body-mind. This is your super-power, so use it! Onward!
Sources include the work of Peter Levine (author of Waking the Tiger and other seminal works), Stephen Porges, creator of the Polyvagal Theory (https://www.stephenporges.com/) and generous guidance from Bend-based Advanced Somatic Experiencing Practitioner, Janice Castelbaum (http://www.janicecastelbaum.com/)
Music to soothe: Once Upon a Time in Paris – Erik Satie https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UKRY63Buv6A
A True Accounting of Poetry Instigations from October 2006 – October 2019,
in Honor of the 13th Anniversary for Poem of the Month:
Three poems in 2006 + 144 poems between 2007 and 2018 + 10 poems in 2019 = 157 poems shared via…
the POTM flyer box I stuck in the ground in front of my home 13 years ago, an additional one I stuck front of my sister’s home four years ago, and email, this website and newsletters…
plus 102 monthly Poetry Playshops in the last eight years…
plus 24 poetry weekly poetry giveaways in downtown Bend in the last six months…
plus a super long list of other instigations, planned and/or spontaneous, at retreats, community events and so on and so forth…
plus mornings, almost every one, spent reading, pondering and writing poetry = cha ching!
The grand total comes to, well, we’re not bean counters here, but
we might agreethis is a whole lotta instigating, which of course
is essentially an accounting of relationships with sentient beings,
including but not limited to human poetry lovers and other humans
to whom I’ve introduced the joy and (and in my humble estimation)
necessity of poetry.
I didn’t aspire to be a poetry instigator. It happened sans plan
or fanfare when, in October 2006, my neighbor and I shared
our mutual distress over the warfare in Iraq and the role
our very own U.S. of A. had taken. Said conversation
left us both
wouldn’t it be a cool
for people to walk down our street and come upon a flyer box
stuffed with poems for the taking (vs. one that advertises
potential for a commercial transaction), and he said
I love the idea but I just don’t have the time
and I said
and so, 157 Poems of the Month, 102 Poetry Playshops, 24 weekly poetry giveaways and a whole host of other instigations later…
I’m celebrating Thirteen Glorious Years with Poem of the Month and offering this, the 157th poem…
while making it easy for you to visit the one that first kicked it all off.
The centerpoint of this accounting, and forgive me in advance as I’m perhaps stating
the obvious, is about obeying the heart’s bidding and giving one’s self to those alluring
activities that nourish and fill one with delight. You, too, can start something.
Do yourself a favor and make no grand plan, then let me know what happens.
With gratitude to you, dear friends, for your support and love of poetry, poets and word-play!
Avec amour, always! Krayna
PS – The traditional gift for a Thirteen Year Anniversary is lace, and in modern times, textiles or fur. What I shall do is treat myself to a sheet of scrumptious paper, adorn it with lacy scribbles, sip champagne, then write a poem to express my feelings about the human animal wearing the fur of another animal. Long Live Poetry!
Here’s the full quote: “Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. All that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.” (Jamie Anderson)
This is a very popular idea. Reading it, it sorta seems like the way it is. And it’s true, the epicenter of grief is really love. But whatever makes us think grief could stop the giving of love?
Lucky, my beloved canine companion, died 109 days ago as I write this. Five weeks after he passed, Freya, an elder dog, came to live with me for six weeks. People wondered if it would be hard for me to love, let alone foster Freya because of grief. In fact, nothing was further from the truth. I could barely wait to love on her. And there’s 17 year old Annie, a pooch who needs a home for nine days in November. I await her arrival with eager, open arms.
My love for Lucky is the same love I showered on Freya, the same love I’ll share with Annie, the same love that I feel for the 10,000 things, meaning people, trees, cats, garter snakes, sunbeams, rivers. In the years following my father’s death, a divorce, a cross country move and other significant changes, I questioned my assumptions about loss, grief and love.
Here’s what I learned: love is a lavish spendthrift. Amid tears, a lumpy throat, and that ache we all know when sorrow is a visitor, love goes on loving, giving itself without reservation. Love doesn’t withhold itself. That only happens in the narrative that it can’t be given because we’re bereft.
It’s taken time and sensitivity for me to adjust to the new reality of life without the Luckster, just as it did with the loss of my father and ex-husband. Fair enough. But the idea that grief is love with nowhere to go turns out to be just that – an idea.
At the center of grief is love that is not contained in a body. At the center of grief is love with everywhere to go.
Avec amour, always, Krayna