EVENT -Dec. 8 at ConnCAT- Healing with our Ancestors, Speaking from our Hearts

“We come to this life with deep roots that connect us to those that came before us. Just as there may be much suffering, sadness and pain in our lives and lineages, there is also great beauty, strength and joy. With these roots we can draw sustenance, support, and wisdom from our past to send healing throughout our being in the present.”

Greetings.

On Tuesday, December 8th, from 8:30am-3pm at ConnCAT in New Haven, I will be conducting a workshop on connecting with our ancestors in order to heal in the present and to unfold the beauty of our lives into the future.  This is being sponsored by CEIO and is a part of their Deeper Change Forum series.  The first part will involve presentation, discussion, reflection and engagement.  The second part, after lunch, will be a participatory healing circle facilitated by me.

Click here for more detailed information and registration(there is no cost to attend).

I hope to see you there.

EH

 

Ancestors matter

Close your eyes.  Think about someone that you love who is not around you right now.  Connect with the feelings of love and joy associated with them.  Feel the feelings and aliveness of your relationship them within you.  Notice the reality of your experience connected to them.  Now open your eyes.  Is that person with you.  No.  Is the connection that you feel real?  Can you still connect with it and feel it? Yes.

This is part of the same phenomenon that occurs when a person you love dies.  They are not physically around you anymore yet the connection is still there, the relationship with them is still there.  This is the beginning of an understanding that the relationship that you have with your blood, bones and heart people continue even after they have died.  It is just different.  Just as the relationship with the person you may have just seen though is not physically near you anymore continues, relationships with your ancestors continue.  As a result, it also means that we can continue to address the relationship issues with them that we want to.

Now, just because they are our ancestors does not immediately mean that our relationship with them is healed or healthy.  There are plenty of family members that we do not want to invite into the vulnerable, intimate and tender places in our lives.  And there are plenty of ancestors that we wouldnt want to be in there either.  For many people, there are also traumatic family and cultural histories that lead us to want to avoid connecting with the past(even separate form this countries narrative about letting go of the past to move forward).

However, it is possible to connect with our ancestors and heritage in order to help us in the reality of our lives.  Just as a favorite relative just wants whats good for you.  Just as you may want a good and simple successful life for a child or grandchild, they want simple success and a good life for you.  Traditional cultures actively recognize that these relationships continue and can be accessed in order for us to get the guidance and support from our elders who are now ancestors.  It is as important to be able to set limits and boundaries with ones ancestors as you would with those people currently in your life.  It is also important to realize that while there may be events or those in your family’s past that bring up too much trauma, to cut your self off from the thousands of others that could be of support is not useful.

Even though there are few explicit practices or theological validations within the Abrahamic traditions to honoring ones ancestors in an ongoing relational manner, many of us practice some form of this already. People have mantles and areas in their homes filled with photos of those that have passed, people light candles on birthdays of those loved ones that have died, there are annual trips to cemeteries, Dia de los muertos and many other ways that people recognize in their hearts and through actions, the connections between those living and those passed.  People understand and feel in their hearts that there continues to be connection and relationship.

So how do we do this?  How do we deepen this connection with the best parts of our lives and heritage?  How do we get support in the present so that we can uncover our gifts, our purpose?  How do we access these supports for our own healing in the present?  How do we connect to heal past hurts?  How do we accept our wholeness and fullness even as there exists in our past hurts and fear.

Stay tuned…….

Blessings,

EH

nothing to do, no-one to be

Greetings all,

I wanted to share a mindfulness/meditation practice that has been of benefit for me as well as for the people I work with. While this particular structure came out of my practice I cannot say that I created it.  It is very much grounded in the traditions of the Dharma(Buddhism) as a way to stay in the present moment without getting hooked into our various thoughts and feelings that lead to stress and suffering.  It seems to be particularly good for those of us that get caught up in certain patterns and ways that we seek validation for our very existence.

The fields of psychotherapy, self help and Buddhism are full of various ways that people can change their relationship to their internal dialogs, thoughts and feelings to reduce suffering (reducing the effects of self judgement, self criticism, worries, fears, sadness, etc.)  They encourage noticing thoughts without following, believing, being distracted or even rejecting them. Simply following one’s breath and using it as an anchor or central focus alone is a common and powerful method.

However, beginning this practice with only the breath to focus on can be difficult, especially if there is additional stress associated with being in the present moment without a perceived focus/support/distraction.  (Those with significant symptoms of anxiety, depression, grief or trauma for example.)  There may also be stress that manifests physically and negative feelings of discomfort can be perceived as overwhelming unless there are additional supports.

Including a mantra, phrase or intention paired with this attention to one’s breath can provide additional support.  Sometimes having a phrase/intention to anchor oneself to, while other thoughts are occurring, can help to maintain the desired concentration and focus.

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This now brings us to the particular phrase that I wanted to share and discuss: “Nothing to do.  No-one to be.”

The beginnings of this phrase first emerged spontaneously while I stood in the woods, reflecting on my experience, after a training of the Internal Family Systems model taught by Dr. Schwartz here in CT.  The training was good, thorough, provided good clinical skills and also provided more opportunities for me to be myself, grow as a clinician and to continue to value and develop my own ability to be present while sitting and being a witness to clients’ difficulties.

As I stood in the woods, beside a tree, with a thin layer of snow on the ground slowly chilling my feet, I truly felt in that moment that there was nothing else for me to do.  Where I was and what I was doing, how I felt and how I wanted to feel were all connected and enough.  In that moment, I also realized that there was nowhere else I needed to be.  I felt complete(not a typical occurrence I might add).

My sense of well being, peace or connection was not dependent on a particular task being completed or to have to go over there where the grass is always greener.  All was good as it was.  I was enough, just being there, in that moment. There was nothing to prove, and no-one to prove it to, nowhere else I thought I needed to be that would be better.  I wrote this phrase down so that I wouldn’t forget it.  It seemed important.

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Fast forward a few years later while sitting on my own meditation cushion, I began to observe the pattern of my own thoughts.  I had been using a strategy in improving my concentration by labeling thoughts as they emerged and returning to focusing on my breath.  Soon, I became curious about my thinking tendencies and began to categorize the thoughts as I became aware of them.  Over time, and while trying not to be obsessive about the categories, I began to notice some things.  Certain thoughts were particularly good at drawing me away from being present.

The first, had to do with doing. These were thoughts and daydreams revolving around getting things done, worrying about the things that I had to do, organizing things to do, brainstorming, analyzing things I had done to make them better, reflecting on things I hadn’t done, etc.  Some of these thoughts appeared positive and towards goals that I thought were important.  (Ahh the trap of thinking that my thoughts were so important and right.)  Some were negative or self critical connected to doing things wrong, not doing enough.  Overall though, there was an undercurrent that the way that I valued or criticized myself was in the things that I did or did not do.

As I recognized this, I remembered the phrase from those moments in the woods.  “Ah…so.maybe when I inhale I can focus on ‘there is nothing to do’ and on the exhale it will be ‘there is nowhere to be’.”  So I jumped in and began to repeat these phrases with my breath.  (Also recognizing that I was again ‘doing something’.  However, it soon became clear that the ‘nowhere to be’ was not quite accurate.  The thoughts and images appeared more related to roles that I put myself in or imagined I was in that most pulled me away from the present.  So I changed it.

In other words, having thoughts about being in some kind of role justified not being in the present moment.  That the thoughts were justified if related to improving ways that I was a good….therapist, healer, teacher, father, husband, person, etc.  This, I came to understand was a familiar thread in my own sense of self worth.  That if I did well as a …(fill in the blank)  that it made my life worthwhile and of value to myself and others.

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I had been hearing about using phrases to help with focus and decided to use these as ones that I would try out.  While it actually took some time to condense the themes down to simple phrases that I could remember and use, when I did, it was startling how effective they were.  On the inhale I would say to myself “there is nothing to do” and on the exhale “there is no-one to be.”  As soon as I used them I noticed a surge of focused thinking and responses about them. “Of course there are things that need to be done…Well you are doing something by repeating these phrases and focusing on breathing so its not really a true statement…These things are important and its OK to fulfill a role, to be someone that is good and helpful…” and on and on.  And I was able to stay with my breath and phrase and notice the thinking swirling around.  Without getting hooked into them.

As I continue to notice these thoughts on and off of the meditation cushion, it becomes easier to dismiss the notion that I have to abide by certain standards to feel of value.  It also becomes easier to experience the flip side of that as well.  That I am enough and of value simply because I am.  Just as the Buddha touched the Earth as a witness to his right to inhabit his place as an awakened being, overcoming even self doubt.  We also don’t need to prove our worth to inhabit a place of self love, acceptance and wholeness.  What are we trying to prove, anyway?

Our inherent worth is actually not bound up in these notions but goes beyond, or rather, is not even attached to them at all.  Our “value” is not contingent on anything.  And in fact putting value on ourselves and our existence misses the mark on the reality of our life and existence.  So…without getting too far into a discourse of what value means, what “I” mean and what this is all about. I want to encourage you to try this strategy for noticing the varied chatter that goes on(certainly in my head, possibly in yours too.) and not getting hooked into its importance, and instead staying present and just sitting(or standing, walking, eating, whatever you are actually doing).  Inhale,”there is nothing to do”.  For the time you have set aside for this practice there is nothing else to do but to be here, now.  Exhale.  There is “no one to be”.  You don’t have to try and be “….”, anything.  Just be, here, now.  breathe.  Inhale, exhale. notice.

Why do this?  Well it is in the present that we make our decisions, where we live.  The more present we are, the clearer are our decisions, and the more connected these decisions will be to the life we want (or the life we are in).  If we want to encourage change for the better, then we need to be present enough to see where we are and where we want to be. Hope this is helpful.

 

Blessings,

EH-HLC

July events in Western Massachusetts: Anti-racism panel and Ancestor Healing

Greetings All,

It has been a bit too long since I last posted something here.  My apologies.  My private practice officially became my full time gig in April and I have been quite busy.  However, I will do my best to post more frequently regardless.  I believe it has benefit for me and you both. There are two events that I am involved in that are occurring in July that I want to share with you.

The first is on Monday July 14th I will be a member of a panel at the Smith College School for Social Work entitled The Powers of Smith (and Beyond): Smith Alumni Speak.   This is convened to welcome Dean Marianne Yoshioka to the School for Social Work by the Council for Students of Color and reflect on the continued importance of the school’s anti-racism mission.  “In light of the new dean’s tenure, The Council for Students of Color wants to acknowledge the importance of this commitment for students (as future professional social workers), teachers, and the social work field.”   

The panel will be on Monday, July 14th at 7:30 pm in Wright Hall on the Smith College campus.

For more information about the event and participants click here.

The second event is happening on Saturday July 19th at the Two Streams Zen Temple in Westhampton, Massachusetts.  I will be leading a practice session and evening salon discussion on healing in the present by connecting with our ancestors. It is titled “We are alive, Now!  Healing with our Ancestors. Speaking from our Hearts.”  Here is a description of the event.

“During the salon he will share teachings and lead an experiential exercise for participants to connect with their Ancestors to facilitate their own healing and growth in the present.  In the evening he will share a bit of his story and how he strives to live with an open heart.  We come to this life with deep roots that connect us to those that came before us.  There is much suffering, sadness and pain connected to these roots.  There is also much joy, celebration and wisdom to nourish us.  Enroue will share how we can access the reality of our connectivity with our ancestors to shed and heal our burdens to be free.  Burdens that were passed down and burdens that we have come across in our own time and packed up ourselves. We are alive, now!  We have the opportunity to heal and free ourselves, our lineages and others.  We can draw sustenance from the past as we send healing to the depths of our being.”

I look forward to seeing you there!

Blessings,

Enroue

 

Parent/Caregiver Support Group at Common Ground High School

On Monday, February 24th from 5:30-7 I will be conducting a support group for parents and caregivers of Common Ground High School students.

“This will be a group for parents and caregivers of Common Ground students to share experiences and concerns about current and upcoming transitions of their children to being young adults and the stressors that may emerge. This will address issues of graduation, their future and safety, and feelings of grief and loss especially in light of the recent death of a fellow student.  We will address general issues of coping with our children growing up as well as particular fears and concerns that are affecting parents and families.”

The cost of war, the cost of freedom.

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I have been discussing the difficulty of connecting with others and developing lasting, trusting relationships while also living with an armored heart.  It is difficult, to say the least, if that what you are trying to do.

I understand the desire to fully protect those tender parts within.  Feeling that, “I will wait til Im sure I can trust you/him/her” and then when Im sure its safe,  I will engage in caring for others or will allow myself to be cared for by others.  The problem is that our hearts dont really work that way.  I havent found that there is a selective sorting and sifting process that allows only good, pleasant feelings and mutes out the negative, unpleasant ones(Im not even going to get into the judgement of good and bad feelings now since they all come and go like New England weather).  However, it is still a desire that many of us want; to feel the good and avoid the bad. Addiction (shopping, drugs, alcohol, sex, food, etc) feeds this desire quite well, telling us that it will work for us if we never leave the comforts of the addiction itself.  This can have its own, particular disastrous results.

An important issue is that we have been emotionally hurt in our lives.  As such, we have developed  efficient and protective coverings/walls/armor to keep these tender loving hearts safe from hurts from the outside because we didnt have the skills or supports to manage/express those hurts on our own.  These protective strategies have served us well, and for many is the reason that we are alive today.  Literally. I do not minimize this feat and celebrate it with all who are here to read this. But…there may be a time (now…later…) when this protection is doing more to keep you away from those that you longingly wish to connect with than is actually needing to keep you safe now.  The circumstances which brought the need for this emotional distance and safety were certainly important, but is it the reality that you are in now?  Is it possible that you could look at your current situation and current needs with fresh eyes and assess if the wall really needs to be so thick or so high?  Does that armor need to be soo thick, all encompassing and heavy?  It is serving you or are you serving it, working so hard to keep it going that you cannot truly connect with those you love or want to love?  Is there even a notion of love and connection that you feel is possible, not from others but originating from within?  Can you even tell what or if you feel, at all?

This is the cost of war.  After being so skilled at keeping our innermost secrets and vulnerable parts safe, we may have forgotten how to see if the coast is clear? In protecting those hurts so effectively we might have forgotten that life is happening and we might be missing that which is the most important and needed thing to us.  Has our internal world become a police state?  With complete protection on one hand, but with a complete absence of the juiciness of life?

And this is not to say that by opening our hearts that it will not break on occasion.  That a measure of our joys will not be matched by a measure of sorrow.  Though who is to say what is good or bad in this.  It is truly like the weather.  It is always happening.  Can we accept it and be with it, seeing its beauty and possibilities even when our best laid plans are disrupted?  Now, like the weather, feelings can be extreme and bring massive destruction and upheaval as well as surprising harmony and connection.  But let the testament of our lives not to be in the numbing that sometimes follows, but in the bonding and community of humans as we let each other know that yes, it happened and yes, we are still here to hold each other up, bear witness, bear the grief and still find joy in the delicate, tenderness of Life.  In the chance that we will experience the rainbow AND the storm.  This is the cost of freedom.

Blessings,

Enroue

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Community Healing Network

Last night I attended a talk and presentation of the work of the Community Healing Network  at ConnCAT here in New Haven.  The Community Healing Network is committed to the emotional emancipation of people of African descent here in the US and globally.  The founder, Enola Aird is a brilliant and inspirational speaker able to build a foundation on personal and historical stories and facts towards a vision of liberation that has the potential to address our whole personhood in the context of our communities.  ConnCAT is also a wonderful organization doing much for young people and adults here in New Haven.  Keep an eye on their events and programs.

The short version of one of the outcomes of this presentation is that Healing and Liberation Counseling and the Community Healing Network will  find some ways to work together in the future.  Our vision and experience sync up nicely and together we can be much more effective than apart.  This is also one of the key ingredients to liberation: collaboration and community.  It is in our isolation that our worst internal critics find footing and our worst external critics feel strongest.  When we are with others we get to shed light onto these critics and can at least make clearer decisions on how to effectively address or ignore them.  It can be powerful to simply name that which is holding us back while standing in the community of our supporters(which sometimes we have to learn to find and trust), and then, with others, craft our solutions with our eyes wide open.  Sometimes, it is not a matter of dismantling something we dont like, but building something else that is a fuller reflection of ourselves and letting the other sit, rusted and unused in an abandoned field, waiting to be reclaimed by the Earth.

Blessings,

Enroue
Therapist and Babalawo
203.584.0121

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

-Howard Thurman

© Enroue Halfkenny and Healing and Liberation, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Enroue Halfkenny and Healing and Liberation with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.