Tag Archives: 5-Week Author Blog Challenge 2015

You can go your own way… (day 34)

The Day 34 prompt is:

What has been the best part of participating in the Author Blog Challenge? What are your suggestions for improving the next Author Blog Challenge?

There are several wonderful things that happened as a result of my participating.. I think the first was getting to a point where I realized something major that was holding me back and which needed to be dealt with.  Recovering from a serious illness, which sounds somewhat crazy since I was a lucky one and did not  need even more aggressive treatment, but facing our own mortality and doing that within the context of family is a strange thing to navigate.  Participating reminded me that I have this story, that has been bubbling up for a while, just needs to get put on paper.  I learned that I am my own worst critic, but that is something that is OK.  I was put in to a very reflective mode through this challenge,  on a personal side, it was helpful to speak about this to complete strangers… when I talked to friends and family I was told to just celebrate how lucky I was… but talking to strangers allowed me to work through something that was nagging at me, and I am feeling much better.

How would I suggest one could improve this challenge…? It is hard for me to feel like I can come up with something relevant. I loved the prompts, they were hard to work through (when I stayed “on prompt”), Sometimes when they were directed to published authors I felt hard to come up with how to answer something I had no idea about, but that was a fun challenge.  As for my going off prompt,  at that point when I realized I had something much more pressing that needed to be done I had to rely on a vague recollection that the prompts were not mandatory and that we could indeed go our own way and write the things that needed to be written about.  I was impressed by how organized this was.

 

 

Today, my hat-tip goes to Mary Ellen Stepanich, because having a do-wop quartet sing at your book reading is about as wonderful as it gets!

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These gems have life in them: their colors speak… (day 33)

The Day 33 prompt is:

What is/will be the subject of your next book?

The story I am writing about centers around a young woman named Clara and how her life is filled with love… a gift imbued through some magical experience had during her parents conceiving her. It is a story about how love has so many faces and how it is so important for humans to experience it. The story looks at how love contrasts with so many different emotions (as personality types). It examines the duality of life, but with rose-colored glasses. It begins with a description of Clara and her family and how they fit in to her ancestry. It follows her as she navigates out of childhood and moves into maturity. It examines the people she loves and how they are part of the magic spell she was cast upon her conception. It is a story about the role of others in personal redemption stories. It is about love, all the different kinds of love.

Image used from this article.

I remember, as a child, sitting in my gated front yard in Quito, Ecuador, looking at the people passing by on the street in front of me. A mix of men in hats, women in indigenous clothing carrying a small child strapped to their back and leading a yellow dog on a rope used as a leash.  Considering the tremendous difference between the huge Spanish colonial home behind me and the various levels of poverty and status in front of me…

I knew the gate was to keep people out, in part because I was young and vulnerable and with a high potential to be kidnapped. I stared at the glass shards embedded on the top of the wall surrounding our property, and thinking that the sun glinting off the various colors of glass made them look like jewels.  This memory, combines with many others serve as background material for the story. I had a truly magical childhood. While it was not without some pain, it was still magical and I want to re-tell it in the style of literature that came from that part of the world.

These gems have life in them:  their colors speak, say what words fail of.
~George Eliot

My hat tip today goes to Laura Hile, because she had me at pirate!

Shout, shout, let it all out (day 32)

The Day 32 prompt is:

Time for some shout-outs. This may mimic your acknowledgement page, but whom would you like to publicly thank for their help in creating your book or completing it to the point where it is presently?

As I ponder why it is that I have reached this certain place in my writing I have several people to thank.

 

My son, who allows me to keep magic realism alive. The other day we were walking and I was telling him that I wanted to show him where I grew up because it is so magical. He turned to me, puzzled and asked what that means. I told him that “it is in everything, the way the sun rises and sets at what seems like the same exact time every day… the way an evening fog will roll in and make everything seem so mysterious, it is where fences grow. “He stopped and asked, “the fences grow?” I told him that they will “cut slats of wood and will use them to build the fence, and those that are dug into the earth will start to grow branches and leaves.” He understood what I meant by magic. He allows me to bring that to him, here is the beautiful dusty desert that we live in now.

My husband, with his rigorous Austrian ways promotes a certain discipline for doing things that we enjoy. That discipline and work ethic is to be envied and emulated. I am not sure he understands magic realism, but he fully supports me imagining it.

My mother, a fine editor and academic story-teller.

My friend Bill, who has an amazing ability to pull out a story in days. His getting started  on his stories prompted me to work on mine. His first book bring a lot of magic realism in to it, though I am not sure if he would agree, though it is possibly allegorical since he is, after all, a philosophy  major. He has often offered me tips and strategies  that have worked for him. I think he is responsible for me getting as much down as I have.

My friend Kelli, the first time I met her she was at a party taking pictures of Nepalese momo’s and I remember her with her camera to her face talking to a group of people following her around the party about where she was in her first book. She mentioned she had a blog at that time, so I found it and started following her in my feed reader. I that party was the first time that I thought I could actually do this book writing thing. She is now working on her second book, I am very excited for her!

Embracing my perfect imperfectness

And now we are at the last step of the suggestions this article has for addressing the negative:

7. Next, mentally (or verbally) say to the image that you know it’s there and you promise to care for and hold it with compassion until it’s ready to go. Do your best to say these words from a very sincere place in your heart.

I think the most shocking, and not surprising (in an after the realization  kind of way) was that I have a deep need to forgive myself for getting cancer… which sounds so shockingly ridiculous on some levels.  I think it has something to do with what this article touches on.  As I approach the finish line of one year of what we call remission, I have to say this was one of the most difficult and vile parts of my life. I am not sure where this heartbreak comes from… when I ponder why this is how I feel, so many things pop into my mind.  The is nothing gentle about cancer. I think I am saddest that I was not able to prevent it from taking so much from me.  How does one forgive cancer? Forgive that it took part of your body, but also part of those more ephemeral human attributes like my heart, my courage, my joy, my hope. It is as if I was Pandora and when I opened my box and let all the evils of the world escape. I will tend to this new part of me with great care, I will strive to forgive myself. This kind of vulnerable is shocking to me, as someone who has considered herself to be strong and had that reinforced by others. The great news is that getting cancer and living life are not pass/fail. I will find something beautiful from all this, even if it is just giving in to my own vulnerabilities. IN the end, after all, all the negative are things I allowed or brought in to my life and maybe on some level I knew I needed to go through them .

Action – reflection:

I was at a leadership retreat recently where we did an exercise in which we had to picture us as an 8 or 9 year-old. We were to talk to her about how wonderful she was, because it is easier to do that than to tell ourselves. It is much easier and carries a much deeper felt reaction to do this exercise.

IMG_7461                 E62EDBED-16E4-46FD-B424-D4875F8D33E9

Little girl Blair, embrace your humanity it is wonderful and strong. It has a resiliency that will keep you persevering. Realize just how much control you have over your own life, and don’t forget that your own life affects others just as others affect you! Carry on with gentleness.

 

Sleep, Pretty baby, Do not cry, And I will sing a lullaby. (day 6)

I now get to step six of the suggestions this article has for addressing the negative:

6. This step is where everything begins to change! Once you have the mental images of what your thoughts and emotions look like (and even if there’s no image at all, this practice still works), picture yourself holding the image (or lack thereof) in the same way a mother holds a newborn baby. Picture the image of your painful thought and emotion wrapped in a warm blanket, being held with very loving care closely to your heart, your chest, as you extend it very sincere compassion from your heart center. (You can also use the imagery of wrapping the thought/emotion in a warm blanket and placing it in a baby carriage, and rocking the carriage back and forth.)

It is interesting to get to this point and realize that in some way, I have been doing this when I talk to little girl Blair at the end of each exercise leading up to this one. I don’t know what I should do other than what it says. I will start by saying that it is awkward to picture myself rocking a lava-lamp like image like I did my own baby. I am not attached to it, I don’t particularly like this image-child. But I am guessing the intent is to see these emotions as something that come from a need for love. So, I am picturing myself trying to love it. It feels much like the way I came to love the color orange.

orange

Growing up in South America my friends and I often talked about how much we loved one color over another, but it never occurred to me to hate a color… at least until I moved to the USA. In “America” stating one favorite color was often a conversation that included what colors we did not like… and I recall sitting in my classroom, with girls proclaiming a love for pink or red or purple and boys loving blue or green… While this gender division for color preference was a bit of a surprise was the number of child who emphatically stated a dislike for yellow, and a hatred for orange.  I was so taken aback as one child after the other made these proclamations, and as someone who loved all color having to pick one, and not knowing which… but seeing how much people disliked orange aroused something in me, something that felt sorry that it was so disliked and when my turn came, I proclaimed my love for orange. I don’t recall what I said for the color I disliked, I probably said I did not dislike any color.   I embraced orange, which took some getting used to, after all I really did not have a favorite… but tried it on, as they might say, as my favorite. So here I am over 35 years later fully loving of that magnificent color orange.

So, I am trying to love this image of my feelings in a similar way.  It feels awkward, but manageable.

Action – reflection:

I was at a leadership retreat recently where we did an exercise in which we had to picture us as an 8 or 9 year-old. We were to talk to her about how wonderful she was, because it is easier to do that than to tell ourselves. It is much easier and carries a much deeper felt reaction to do this exercise.

IMG_7461                 E62EDBED-16E4-46FD-B424-D4875F8D33E9

Little girl Blair, love as fiercely as you have since you were a baby, and keep doing it for the rest of your life. It will serve you well.

 

Every breath you take (day 5)

I now get to step five of the suggestions this article has for addressing the negative:

5. Breathe. We’re at the half way mark and I’d like to offer you a sincere congratulations on completing the first half! Our natural tendency is to suppress these uncomfortable thoughts and emotions, often telling ourselves that we’ll deal with them later—but honestly, does later ever come? Unfortunately for most of us, it never does. So even just by taking the time to become conscious of, and identify these unpleasant thoughts and emotions is a huge step! Let’s not stop there however, because here’s where the really good stuff starts to happen.

For the past week, I have been taking part in the mindfulness summit. I can say that this has all been very complimentary to what I am trying to accomplish personally. I first learn about mindfulness from my doctor.   For the previous year I had endured a health problem that we had trouble trying to identify. I was sleeping almost 20 hours a day on average, and felt a lethargy like no other. I know something was wrong, but I had no idea what.  A fluke helped us diagnose me with valley fever, and the immense relief was fleeting. After a year of intense worry, I was frayed and very depressed and prone to sudden and intense anxiety. My doctor, as luck would have it, was a practitioner of MBSR, and was getting ready to host a session for willing patients. It was something that my insurance at the time would cover. I signed on right away. I hated being medicated for the anxiety and depression. I took his 8 week course and my life was changed. This happened about 20 years ago, I have had maybe 3 anxiety attacks since then and all within the first six months after I finished the course.  Within three months after finishing the class, we decided to stop my medication. I felt like a new person in so many ways. I was able to bring a mindfulness to everything I was doing.

My cancer diagnosis, really threw it a curve-ball. While I don’t think I was having anxiety attacks, I was experiencing something very different, though built-in with anxiety. As I found myself less able to manage the stress that I had been able to manage in my early days of practicing MBSR. A friend mentioned that she was considering doing it, I told her she should and then realized that I might need to have a chance to revisit those lessons. That I had most defiantly moved away from a life of intention and presence.  I decided to bring my son on this journey with me. In part because another friend was talking about how the school he works at is bring in mindfulness to their curriculum, for both students and teachers.  If they could do this with kids, I certainly could with my son. So, I found a free online class, and we started the lessons.

They are something that I consider both easy, and not easy. They make you ask yourself some interesting questions and you have to make some big choices about the person you want to be.   While not a physically taxing endeavor, it can be emotionally.  I had to realize that I was not in a very good place. That it had to do with how my family and I behaved before, during and after my diagnosis. That I could not be accountable for them, but I could be accountable for myself. Sounds easy, it really wasn’t.

I have since learned that it is not unusual to experience the year or so after your treatment options end with more intensity than any other part. This article outlines pretty well, though it speaks to breast cancer which is not what I have had.

“But for many, the time after treatment is a stage of uncertainty physically, mentally and socially.”

I find thoughts of maybe I should have asked for Chemo just in case (I did not need it, my stage 1a1 and type, said it was not necessary), mixed in with concerns over aches and pains being signs of recurrence. This is all a brain trick. On one hand I know better, but my body doesn’t believe me.

I have arrived at a point where I know this is ok. I have three weeks of my efforts and personal mindful mediation coupled with one week of mindfulness summit behind me, these experiences have re-awakened me to less of that negativity that was invading my space. I look forward to my future much more than

The next steps are vaguely reminiscent of the aspect I have been including as a reflection at the end. I wonder how this will go. ♥

Action – reflection:

I was at a leadership retreat recently where we did an exercise in which we had to picture us as an 8 or 9 year-old. We were to talk to her about how wonderful she was, because it is easier to do that than to tell ourselves. It is much easier and carries a much deeper felt reaction to do this exercise.

IMG_7461                 E62EDBED-16E4-46FD-B424-D4875F8D33E9

Little girl Blair, don’t forget to breathe. You are loved. Never ever forget that.

monkey see, monkey do… (day 4)

For the past several days I have visualized my way through step four of the suggestions this article has for addressing the negative:

4. Once you’ve clearly identified the thought(s) and emotion(s), close your eyes and explore the imagery they subsequently create in your mind (once you’re familiar with the practice, you won’t always need to close your eyes—i.e., if you’re driving, or in public you can still do this.) Do the thoughts and emotions create colors, shapes, figures? Are they abstract or clear? The important thing is to let your thoughts and emotions create the imagery while you simply become aware of what they are.

Action – part 1: I am already in a much better place, though I wonder if it is just circumstance and I will again fall in to that well of negativity. I am hoping it is that I am actually better at managing that stress.

I also found out that a very dear friend of mine has passed away. A crueller than usual death in that she was young, much younger than I am and I don’t consider myself old,  and perfectly fine the week before.  A friendship that spanned countries and ages. I will miss her dearly, she was difficult and wonderful and just everything anyone would want in a good friend.

Action – Part two: The emotions are much harder to bring up now. But they were masses of reds and greens… blurred, and reminiscent of a lava lamp with roiling and boiling and always changing. These shapes were pictured as being in my chest and arms, surrounded by a dark gray or black.

sourcemagma

Action – reflection:

I was at a leadership retreat recently where we did an exercise in which we had to picture us as an 8 or 9 year-old. We were to talk to her about how wonderful she was, because it is easier to do that than to tell ourselves. It is much easier and carries a much deeper felt reaction to do this exercise.

IMG_7461                 E62EDBED-16E4-46FD-B424-D4875F8D33E9

Little girl Blair; don’t be discouraged. Life has so many ups and downs. You have been blessed with a gift to live in an upstage, even when folks would call it a down. You have a gift for being able to learn from your mistakes. Stay with that. Don’t let yourself be invited to a place where you are forced to celebrate failures, that doesn’t work for you, it brings you down… instead you should keep using the failure as your lesson learned, love the mistake for what gifts it brought you and move on, it is what you do best.

This is going to be hard, and it was (day 3)

Today I gird my loins (ironic, huh?) through  step three of the suggestions this article has for addressing the negative:

3. Next, identify the specific emotions that arise in you as a result of said thoughts. What do they feel like? Is there tightening in your chest? Is your stomach turning or is there a throbbing sensation in your head? Again, any emotion that causes dis-ease is applicable.

[deep breath]

Well, this is going to be hard.

I will start with the easier one for me to discuss, the shame. The  shame is like a flush, it is deep and internal. I feel it come from my heart, and it rises into my throat. It weighs heavily in my brain.  I met, one night, with a friend who is my mentor, she was trying to find women in the Mormon community that would be a word of mouth conduit for encouraging immunization, specifically the HPV vaccine. I invited a Mormon friend to join us.  My friend shared that she had had cervical cancer, and explained that her marriage was to a much older man. The three Mormon women at the table with us, one of whom was a physician,  all nodded their heads in agreement… as if to say, of course, he was an older man and obviously slept with someone else. I was dumbstruck that they all went that route, especially the physician. I was so perturbed by that, that I said that I am a survivor too. They all looked a bit perplexed… they were presented with a situation that they could not discount by blaming the older husband… there was a strange silence. That silence was so full of judgement. I can excuse all of them but the physician, she really should have known better (even if she was a Mormon). I remember watching them around the table, after I shared my cervical cancer status, they all cast their eyes away… I was tempted to mention that I was a DES daughter to help them ease whatever it was they were thinking… but I felt that women who were in that position needed to manage their own thoughts about the disease. I felt shame in that instant, and it was coupled with being judged.

On, being judged. In the early 90’s I worked with my mother on a breast and cervical cancer program in our community. It was a nursing model and one that used lay health educators. I recall my mother telling me that women who had cervical cancer either had husbands that were philanderers or who were themselves “loose”. I feel like those who understand that cervical cancer is transmitted this way judge me. I want to start screaming my sexual history (which is really no ones business other than mine). The judgement plays itself out similar to the shame, but it filled with some indignation. I need to want to explain but with a sense that I really should not have to. I feel this in my stomach,  I get a horrid stomach ache when I feel judged.

There is a related story in which I would say I felt grace. Six months after my surgery I helped host an event to educate people about HPV and the HPV vaccine. One of the other community partners invited a male survivor. He had an HPV related cancer in his throat. During the social hour before the actual event, I talked to him. He told me he was a survivor, and I looked at him and said “So, am I”. We stared in each others eyes. It was as if we had found a kindred spirit. There was a brief moment of silence. And he then whispered at me, “So, you understand”. I felt grace in that moment. I was spiritually lifted in a way  I hadn’t’ been for the 10 months prior. I am so grateful I had that moment.

In terms of the betrayal. I think the hardest think one has to go through might be learning how fallible ones parents are.  The anger I feel at my mom and my aunt is fierce and fiery. When I think about how many times my mother felt that she needed to tell me that I needed to be more grateful to my aunt, to understand that she is awful about being nurturing that for her it was a tremendous success. I feel a heat start in my chest. I feel angry that my mother failed to see that I had recognized that, that my aunt felt that somehow she had gone above and beyond the group of friends and stranger that had organized dinners to be delivered to my home. Really, it was on par. I had thanked her as much as I had thanked them, the only thing being that I realized that taking a dinner to family you don’t really know was a generous act. The underlying thought is that if someone you do know is ill, you actually do, in fact, offer to help. After the burning fire of anger and sense of betrayal form in my chest, it moves to my jaw where I begin to clench my teeth as if I am trying to stop myself from yelling.

These usually all come together at the same time, starting with any one, will lead to the others. It feels like a vicious circle. I also feel like I need to get closure.  Often when they all come together, I wish for a state of non-being. I do not mean in any way that I want to kill myself, but it is more like wishing that I were not sentient, that I were not here, that I had never been. I hate it when I get to this point, thankfully it is not all that frequent that I get that bad.

My mother has apologized to me (I did demand it), though I got the distinct impression she has no idea what for.

Action:

I was at a leadership retreat recently where we did an exercise in which we had to picture us as an 8 or 9 year old. We were to talk to her about how wonderful she was, because it is easier to do that than to tell ourselves. It is much easier and carries a much deeper felt reaction to do this exercise.

E62EDBED-16E4-46FD-B424-D4875F8D33E9

IMG_7461

Blair, you are an amazingly little girl. You live boldly, you love boldly. You have only made human mistakes, and you should not be ashamed of anything that happens to you because of them. You have an amazingly wonderful gift of learning from your mistakes, quickly and deeply. I see you striving so hard to be a good person, that is a good thing, because it means you are.

You willed always be judged, it is an unfair circumstance that we live in a world where people love to cast judgement. So, remember that you don’t need to do that for them. Go to your tendency to look at yourself, learn from it deeply and honestly as you often do. Move on, don’t let that dampen your spirit. No matter what other may say or think, you are a nice person, you always will be.

People will betray you. It is sad. They will betray you in so many ways. They will leave you without rhyme or reason, they will use sacred confidences and toss them out without thought to any consequences other than their right to do so. They will hurt you physically and emotionally. Don’t let them take away your view that the world is still glorious, that mean-ness and cruelty are the exception not the rule. Don’t let them belittle that you believe there is more good in the world than things dark and sordid.

Facing the past/present/future (day 2)

Today I face embrace step two of the suggestions this article has for addressing the negative: 

2. Become very clear on what the specific upset is by identifying the exact thoughts that are bothering you. Are they self-judging, bad memories, or anxiety about future events? Any thought that causes dis-ease in you, regardless of past, present or future is applicable.

I think there is something very complex here, at least for me. One on end I feel very betrayed by my mother. She chose to stand up for my aunt and chastise me over my not thanking my aunt enough. I was in a more vulnerable place than my aunt, I was desperately seeking a place where good was abundant, I was beating myself up for getting a cancer that is considered sexually transmitted. So, maybe I saw the motivation behind my mother taking me down as an effect of her (and obviously my own) judgement about that. There is a lot of feelings of being a failure, there is a lot of feelings of feeling abandoned. And with those, there is a certain anxiety about my future.

Action:

I was at a leadership retreat recently where we did an exercise in which we had to picture us as an 8 or 9 year old. We were to talk to her about how wonderful she was, because it is easier to do that than to tell ourselves.

E62EDBED-16E4-46FD-B424-D4875F8D33E9

 

Blair, you are a strong, kind, wonderful little girl. You are loving and kind, you are so willing and eager to take care of people and over that sentiment is a sense that you love everyone deeply. I see that, I see that these feelings are more complex than you can fully articulate. I see that you are so easily hurt when people tell you are not kind, but you are… don’t let those words close you off from doing that, it is where you find grace. You are human and that means that it is ok to learn from hardships. Fight that urge to tell all these people who have hurt you to fuck off,  even if it comes from some deeply embedded hurt… you are more gentle than that. I love you, be strong.

What a difference a year makes

In 27 days I will celebrate one year of remission.

Today, I reflect on one year since I got the telephone call.

At 8:58 AM my doctor left a message that did not pop up on my phone for  at least another 20 minutes.

I was at work, and my office is in a cellular black hole. I was unable to listen to the message through my phone. I had to call my voicemail from a land line. I learned that I had cancer via voice mail.

I’ve left the voicemail unheard, like this, since, that day.

I remember looking at my desk, that space between my keyboard and the edge, staring at the wood as I listened. He gave me the pathology report results, and then gave me some names and numbers of oncologists to call, and of course asked me to call him back if I wanted.

I remember taking a very deep breath. I had a moment of overwhelming helplessness. Didn’t know what I should do first. I didn’t want to call my husband or my family. I tried to think of a way to get through this without telling anyone. I realized that was going to be impossible. I decided to take care of business. I think this all happened in 16 seconds. I called and made an appointment with the first oncologist he had recommended and then called my doctor back.

So began something I had not signed up for.

Looking back, I can honestly tell you that in so many way this has been the darkest year of my life.

I try to hang on to those moments that gave me moments of brightness, but it’s some of the hardest most desperate hanging on I’ve ever done…

Especially during those times when recurrence, in spite of a “98%” survival rate (which is the same as any of us pretty much) becomes that focus on the knowledge that I am on that low end of that 98%  spectrum and a swirling mess begins. I wish I could invoke my husbands Austrian pragmatism and just eschew that as silliness.

Actually, there is a part of me that can. What ends up happening is that I have conflict.

So, since I have dedicated October to mindfulness I want to explore how I can manage this conflict. I hate feeling the way I’ve felt this past year.  This article gives some clear steps on how to do that:

  1. Whenever you become aware of negative thoughts and emotions arising, rather than ignoring them, or setting them aside for later, identify, acknowledge, and honor them.

Identify: As a result of my cancer diagnosis; I am scared. I am angry. I am sad. I feel lonely. I feel ugly. I feel unloved. I worry that it will come back, every little pain or ache can bring that worry to mind. I feel unworthy. I feel like crying. I feel tired.  I feel selfish for being so sad and upset about these emotions. I feel let down. I feel like family is a joke. I am heartbroken that my mother chose to defend my aunt and berate me just a few months after my surgery when I was trying to find the good things in this. I’m angry that my aunt was a crybaby about my not thanking her enough. I feel like friends can bring greater value in times of stress (and this haunts me). I feel weak. I feel like a failure. I feel judged. I feel helpless. I feel like something I considered vital was beat out of me by this cancer, and by those I love. I am heartbroken to realize I no longer think I’m a kind person.  I miss the pre-cancer me.

Acknowledge: I clearly can see that these are all related to my diagnosis and experiences relating to all that has happened to me in the past year.

Honor: I have tried to do this, this is where I am stuck.

This past weekend I was at a leadership retreat where we did an exercise in which we had to picture us as an 8 or 9 year old.


I was told to picture that little girl in front of me. And tell her that I loved her. That she was bright, and kind, generous, and beautiful… loved. I was to caress her cheek, and hug her. I was to tell her she was valuable, important, strong, and brave.


2. Become very clear on what the specific upset is by identifying the exact thoughts that are bothering you. Are they self-judging, bad memories, or anxiety about future events? Any thought that causes dis-ease in you, regardless of past, present or future is applicable.
3. Next, indentify the specific emotions that arise in you as a result of said thoughts. What do they feel like? Is there tightening in your chest? Is your stomach turning or is there a throbbing sensation in your head? Again, any emotion that causes dis-ease is applicable.

4. Once you’ve clearly identified the thought(s) and emotion(s), close your eyes and explore the imagery they subsequently create in your mind (once you’re familiar with the practice, you won’t always need to close your eyes—i.e., if you’re driving, or in public you can still do this.) Do the thoughts and emotions create colors, shapes, figures? Are they abstract or clear? The important thing is to let your thoughts and emotions create the imagery while you simply become aware of what they are.

5. Breathe. We’re at the half way mark and I’d like to offer you a sincere congratulations on completing the first half! Our natural tendency is to suppress these uncomfortable thoughts and emotions, often telling ourselves that we’ll deal with them later—but honestly, does later ever come? Unfortunately for most of us, it never does. So even just by taking the time to become conscious of, and identify these unpleasant thoughts and emotions is a huge step! Let’s not stop there however, because here’s where the really good stuff starts to happen.

6. This step is where everything begins to change! Once you have the mental images of what your thoughts and emotions look like (and even if there’s no image at all, this practice still works), picture yourself holding the image (or lack thereof) in the same way a mother holds a newborn baby. Picture the image of your painful thought and emotion wrapped in a warm blanket, being held with very loving care closely to your heart, your chest, as you extend it very sincere compassion from your heart center. (You can also use the imagery of wrapping the thought/emotion in a warm blanket and placing it in a baby carriage, and rocking the carriage back and forth.)

7. Next, mentally (or verbally) say to the image that you know it’s there and you promise to care for and hold it with compassion until it’s ready to go. Do your best to say these words from a very sincere place in your heart.