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Renewal & Resilience

31 Mar

If you are anything like me, you’ve had a winter sprinkled with colds and the flu. That can be depressing. I tried to make the best of it and gave myself permission to spend a couple of days in bed, and hours on the sofa, a book close by and the cats snuggled up with me. Now i am really ready for spring renewal.

I enjoy the sun and the warmer days, but today my head is hurting and my energy is not totally back. My reality is not either/or at this moment. But I have choices. I can focus on all that is not right: having a headache, feeling low energy, feeling melancholic when thinking of some recent deaths—one in my family, several in my circle of friends—or, i can focus on what is right. I can focus on the lovely sunshine that warms me, the delicious tea i’m drinking, the slight breeze that keeps me fresh, the cats who teach me how to relax. I can focus on the love i experience coming my way and the love i feel for others, and on the perseverance of mother nature who continues to produce greenery and new buds even though we humans constantly attack it.

Even though my main focus as a coach is on the positive, i do not always and exclusively focus on the positive and on easy feelings. I know the benefit of acknowledging the dark. I know that we can only blossom fully when we embrace our history, and our capacity for light and dark, and are in touch with all our feelings as they occur. Like the lotus that roots in the mud, and many flowers that feed on compost, we have to integrate the dark to flourish and to become whole.

A word that comes up in this context is resilience. How do we train ourselves in resilience? A friend shared a learning incident from a movement class she was in. One of the regulars had a foot injury and meant to sit out. The teacher encouraged her to find and explore movement within limitation. She began to use her arms and hands and upper body to express herself. I find this a lovely metaphor for resilience and strength: find the movement within the limitation. For me today, it means sitting in the sun, writing to you on my laptop while listening to the birds and the wind in the leaves. It does not mean that i do not mourn the recent passing of my brother-in-law (who joined the family when i was still a little girl) and all the other loved ones that i have lost and that i miss and that this death reminds me of. It means that i try to find a balance in my reality. I try to find movement within the current limitation.

How can you find movement within the limitation of the moment?

© Eva Ruland, March 2018

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Hesitations and blessings

26 Jul

In August, i will take 3 weeks off to visit friends and family in Germany. I had some hesitations manifesting in me that caused me to procrastinate finalizing my plans. Eventually, i made the decision to go and to address the reasons for my hesitation. I was worried that i would not feel at home at my sister’s place. She and her family live in a small apartment without a guest room. When i last visited, i had a hard time adjusting to their schedule and getting enough sleep. I never recovered from my jet lag while i was with them. My sleep deprivation and her sense of being encumbered in her space led to unnecessary arguments that we both suffered from. So now i am being proactive and have created conditions for my visit that are more conducive to cheer and shared moments of joy. I will first visit Berlin, where a friend will put me up in her guest apartment. This will give me the space to withdraw and rest, and to feel welcomed by several friends. When the time comes to visit my sister, i will not stay with her; i am renting a small apartment close by. Once i got all of this figured out, all my hesitations vanished and now i am looking forward to my time in Germany.

How is your summer going? Have you been taking time off, or are you planning to do so? Perhaps you are not traveling but finding ways to relax at home or visit places nearby that nurture you. That’s what i have been doing once weekly for the past few weeks. Whether it’s a walk on the beach in Alameda or a hike in the forests of the peninsula, it’s amazing how nurturing even the tiniest mini vacation is. Try it out. Just ask yourself these questions: What are the places that nurture me? When can i take 2 or 3 hours, a half day, or even a whole day off to venture out? How can you make your summer relaxing and reenergizing?

 

Let go and be yourself

31 Jan

A while ago a came across a poem of great beauty and wisdom that i want to share with you and reflect on. Here is the poem:

She Let Go by Safire Rose

She let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go.

She let go of the fear. She let go of the judgments. She let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around her head. She let go of the committee of indecision within her. She let go of all the ‘right’ reasons. Wholly and completely, without hesitation or worry, she just let go. 

She didn’t ask anyone for advice. She didn’t read a book on how to let go. She didn’t search the scriptures. She just let go. She let go of all of the memories that held her back. She let go of all of the anxiety that kept her from moving forward. She let go of the planning and all of the calculations about how to do it just right.

She didn’t promise to let go. She didn’t journal about it. She didn’t write the projected date in her Day-Timer. She made no public announcement and put no ad in the paper. She didn’t check the weather report or read her daily horoscope. She just let go.

She didn’t analyze whether she should let go. She didn’t call her friends to discuss the matter. She didn’t do a five-step Spiritual Mind Treatment. She didn’t call the prayer line. She didn’t utter one word. She just let go.

No one was around when it happened. There was no applause or congratulations. No one thanked her or praised her. No one noticed a thing. Like a leaf falling from a tree, she just let go.

There was no effort. There was no struggle. It wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad. It was what it was, and it is just that.

In the space of letting go, she let it all be. A small smile came over her face. A light breeze blew through her. And the sun and the moon shone forevermore.

I believe that this poem describes a key to happiness. The letting go described here is the letting go of judgement of self and others, the letting go of the wish to please. It is the letting go of expectations, our own and those of others, and of fears. Our world changes drastically once we let go. While everything around us might continue to be the same, how we experience it changes for us once our attitude changes. Just imagine life without being self-conscious or worried. Once we let go of expectations we not only let go of a major source of stress, we also side-step disappointment. Once we stop caring about what others think and expect, and throw our own harsh inner critic in the wind, we make room for our essence to unfold. We become more ourselves.

Once we free ourselves from playing a role and squeezing ourselves into a box of expectations that doesn’t fit, we gain authenticity. We finally become true to ourselves. We shift from living a life dictated by outside factors to living our soul’s longing. When we do that we connect with the river of joy. This river of joy runs through us and every animate being. It springs from the source and runs through our soul. Once we take down our walls of defense and pretension and allow our soul to shine through, we automatically connect with this river of joy. It is as if “the sun and the moon shine forevermore.”

————

Having trouble letting go? I can help you. Choose a modality (coaching, SoulCollage, or Midlife Alchemy) that resonates with you, or contact me at eva_at_evaruland.com.

© Eva Ruland, January 2016

Wow, I have become my Mother

1 Jun

In a couple of weeks it will be the tenth anniversary of my mother’s death. The dull feeling of grief is not there anymore but I still miss her. Recently, i have been thinking of her more, perhaps because i was taking stock of my own life.

Peonies
Peonies remind me of June in Germany.

I started coaching the summer my mother died. Soon, it will be 10 years that i have been a coach. I love my work and i love my clients. It makes me happy to know that i make a difference in their lives. The acknowledgements i receive for my work are ambrosia for my soul. I feel deep gratitude that i have found what i was looking for for many years: my calling and my passion. And, it occurs to me that, interestingly enough, in many ways i have become my mother, something i actively rejected as a teen and young woman.

My mother was generous, big-hearted, and never stopped championing her children. She was intelligent and a free-thinker, and in her life prior to motherhood she had been a respected professional. But, growing up, my mother was more of an anti-role model for me. She did not care about appearances when everyone else did. She believed in authentically being yourself even when doing so brought you into trouble. She was kind, and i saw that others-—her children included—-could all too easily take advantage of her. I loved her with all my heart, but, as a teenager, i wanted to be anything but my mother. I wanted to be in control of my life and craved the power needed for that, and i also wanted attention and admiration from others, things that my mom did not seem to need at all. She was a Mother Theresa, seemingly without any need beyond caring for others and doing good.

Growing up under my mother’s protection i was allowed to have my own reaction to situations and people. But i was not immune to the judgement of others the way she was. She seemed to shrug it of and continued with her life. I was far from having that true independence from others’ approval. I remember that when i was 11 and had recently started at a new school, my mother invited a classmate to come home with me, hoping to help me cultivate a new friend. To my mom’s delight, the invitation was promptly, reciprocated. And that is when the girl who was groomed to become my friend—but with whom i never bonded—introduced me to the power of comparison and judgement. While her mother asked me friendly questions, my classmate noted to her that my mother wore neither lipstick nor nail polish, and later incredulously asked me why my mother’s appearance was so generally unglamorous. I hated the girl for being so shallow, and i hated my mother for not making efforts at glamour at all. How could it be that she did not care?

I loved beautiful things, followed the latest fashion, and enjoyed adorning myself. I wanted splendor and beauty in my life-—things that later motivated me to become a fashion designer. As a teenager i suffered much frustration being surrounded by schoolmates who mostly came from wealthy backgrounds and had everything beautiful that money could buy, while i had to be creative to bridge the financial gap between them and me. I came from a family with 5 kids living on one retirement income. My parents shopped at the cheaper stores to make ends meet. The clash between my family’s financial limitations and the material circumstances i was surrounded with at school was difficult for me. It was not only the reason for my frustration, it was also the cause of shame. I did everything i could to hide my family’s meager means and to pretend that i was like the rest. I worked hard tutoring younger kids to earn the pocket money i needed to afford hanging out in cafés with my classmates and living the bohemian life they did. I began to sew my own outfits to save money and still be fashionable.

In these years, appearance mattered a lot to me. Plus, always having to be the understanding one who has to share and make room for her needier younger siblings, left me frustrated. I craved attention. My mother’s model of self-sacrifice in the name of family did not suit me. I wanted a different life for myself. I defined myself and what i aspired to in opposition to my mother. I wanted splendor, attention, and bohemian carefreeness.

Yet, when i look back today, i notice how much of my mother is in me. Yes, beauty is still one of my core values and i still care how well my top goes with the rest of my outfit. But, i realize that many of the things my mother did for me i now do for others. During my formative school years, when i learned to step into my power and to change my frustrating reality, my mom was the one who sustained me, cheered me on, and celebrated my achievements with me. She supported me and held my hand, while letting me take on responsibilities and walk my own path–which i realize now are some aspects of my work as a coach.

I give myself credit for the good work i do. And i know that i would not be doing any of it, if it hadn’t been for my mother and her strong ethical values. I now know that the financial limitations i experienced early on, and the juxtaposition of my lifestyle with the lifestyles of my classmates was a blessing in disguise. I learned that favorable exterior circumstances make life easier but are not necessarily soul-nurturing. And, as much as it would shock my younger self, now i don’t need to hold up the appearance of being ms. perfect anymore. I did that for much of my life. I now know that i am worthy with or without lipstick, and that my worth is not measured by how well i am put together. Now i appreciate my mother more than ever, and i am proud of the things i have in common with her.

I’d love to hear if you see your mother in yourself too. Or did you have another strong role model? What did your role models look like when you were a teenager? Who did you want to become and why? How has that formed the person you are today?

© Eva Ruland, May 2015

Winter Pleasures and the Psyche

2 Nov

In the few last days i have experienced a major shift. Even though we still have warm and sunny days, the grape vine plant and the apricot tree begin to lose their leaves. The days grow shorter and the evenings have become colder. And i follow suit, enjoying hot chocolate and a good book. I am reading In the Land of the Long White Cloud, by Sarah Lark. The book is an engrossing story about early settlers in New Zealand and focuses on the lives of two young British women who agree to marry strangers, in a country they have never seen, half across the globe. The two have different backgrounds and different motivations but as the story unfolds they cross paths and their stories intertwine. Big adventures unfold for each of the women, some in the wild of nature, most in the wild of human psyche and interpersonal relationships.

in the Land of the Long White Cloud

Why am i so fascinated with this book that i would mention it to you? It beautifully illustrates the complexity of life. The many story twists nurture my psyche. The part of me that likes a good adventure is engaged. The part of me that is curious about other cultures and other places is stimulated. The romantic in me suffers for the misfortunes the heroines have to endure, and cheers them on as they carve their ways to more independence from oppressive situations. I am glad for their moments of joy, and hold my breath when they have to endure yet another violent fit by a man who thinks he owns them. I admire their resilience. In a way you could say that i live through them vicariously as i am reading the book.

The same happens when i see a captivating movie. I immerse myself, resonate with a character or situation, and have a strong reaction against another character or situation. We all do this—it’s a built-in function of our psyche. It makes us respond emotionally, with compassion, with rejection, disgust, awe, joy. Most of this happens to us unconsciously. The art of growing into psychological maturity—that which Jung called individuation—is the art of becoming aware of our unconscious responses. The automatic responses do not go away, but as we become more aware of them we enter a new level of self-knowledge and we start to enjoy ourselves in a different way. We learn to step outside of ourselves and chuckle compassionately at ourselves as opposed to becoming all worked up by whatever triggers us. 

I have a practice that helps me to get in touch with the rich depth of my psyche on a regular basis: my SoulCollage® practice. The other day, in Midlife Alchemy, i had a bunch of my SoulCollage cards out for an exercise. One of the group participants remarked “You really seem to like your unconscious.” Yes, i do. My unconscious is the biggest part of who i am. I better like it! And i suggest that you begin to make friends with your unconscious too. You might have heard the model of the psyche mirrored by an iceberg: there is a relatively small top above water—that’s the conscious mind—and a huge foundation invisible under the water—the unconscious. This huge invisible part of the psychic is hidden from consciousness but is nevertheless very actively contributing to our daily lives. Our mood and our likes and dislikes all arise from the depths of the unconscious. 

I love the adventure of lifting some of these hidden psychic auto-pilot systems into the light of day. Reading novels with awareness for nuances and my responses to characters and story twists can do that, watching certain movies with that same awareness can do that, and practicing SoulCollage can do that too. How do you connect with your unconscious? Give it a try. Next time you watch a movie or read fiction pay attention to your reactions. Or come to SoulCollage® and learn how to let your soul speak by tuning into the unconscious when you choose images for your collages. It’s fascinating way to delve into the greater Self.