Being Present in the Moment
I was sitting with a client reflecting how she looked much more relaxed and at peace with herself than when we started our work together months before. I explained that she felt more present with me and more open, that her body looked softer and her eyes had a sparkle of aliveness. She just seemed more “there.” She took a deep breath and after a pause, said “I don’t exactly know what you do, but somehow just being with you feels healing. I mean, you are so calm, and you actually seem to like yourself, so I just want to slow down and be here, if that makes sense.” She smiled, “It’s as if your there-ness allows me to be here."
After she left, I thought about how far I had come on my own path to get to that place of there-ness, of presence in my life and work. The transformation came at a time when I discovered that whether we intend it or not, we as therapists are the intervention for our clients. The most powerful therapeutic gift we can give our clients is to live fully into the very things we are working to grow in them: awareness, compassion, authenticity and self-love. Our clients look to us as living examples of what they aspire to become.
Living the Mistakes
I've always been an overachiever, working full time in addition to school from the age of 16, pushing myself as far as my physical body would allow. Of course, like many therapists, I uncovered in my own therapy the identity I got from being the rescuer of the world. But even that insight was not enough to stop me from driving myself to exhaustion. However, it is in living the mistakes that we gain the lessons of greatest value.
The “ah-ha moment” came after I discovered yoga and went on to fulfill a lifelong dream of opening a healing center. I was excited about being able to touch as many lives as possible, and threw myself into my business with abandon. As I write this, I realize abandon accurately describes what I was doing: abandoning myself. After just a few months of not taking a single day off, my body began to speak loudly. One form of illness followed another, and I became so sick I had to stop teaching yoga, and eventually cut out most of my client work as well. But the lesson was not learned yet. Finally, after 4 years of managing 25 employees in a business open 7 days a week, I hit that wall so hard I had to stop work completely to heal. I felt strongly that I was living out of integrity, and not living the way I was encouraging my clients and staff to live.
In the Silence
I took a month off. I just walked away from the studio, trusting that if it were meant to survive, it could do without me for a while. I slept 12 hours a day, meditated, journaled and simply sat outside in nature doing nothing. No computer, no phone, no work at all – I went underground and emptied my life of all distractions so that I could simply be and see what would arise from within. Rumi says “Your previous life was a frantic running from silence.” Interesting how in that silence from which we run are the voices that speak loudly and clearly, if we would only stop to listen.
Here is what I heard:
- Your body is a clear reflection of your relationship with yourself.
- Your healing allows others to heal themselves.
- Your self-care allows you to care for others.
- You loving all of you allows others to love themselves completely.
- Your presence with yourself allows you to be present to all of life.
- Being in the present moment is a gift you can give to yourself and others.
Profound Wisdom in the Room
When I returned to work I carried with me the ease and self-acceptance I had gained during my month of fallow time. I began to listen closely to my body as a reflection of my deep wisdom. I noticed that as I grew in compassion for myself, my clients began to feel safe to uncover and explore all aspects of their lives. I saw clearly that on the days I did not practice self-care, I brought the disconnection from myself into sessions with my clients. On the days I did my own practice, whether it was yoga, meditation or taking a walk in nature, when I entered into a session I simply had to get out of my own way, and a profound wisdom began to work in the room. I realized that by growing my relationship with my body and my authentic self, I began to see further into clients, beyond the veil of their unhealthy behaviors or defenses, deeper into their true essence.
I found my own simple approach to being in the present moment. At the time of writing this, it's been one and a half years since I sold the business, time in which I moved to Hawaii to be with family and further recuperate, and then to San Diego to discover the rhythms of my own life, before returning home to the San Francisco Bay Area to consciously choose and rebuild a practice that is an authentic representation of me. I don’t think I have ever been more content in my life or my work. This poem by Rilke eloquently describes my experience:
“The deep parts of my life pour onward as if the river shores were opening out.
It seems that things are more like me now, that I can see farther into paintings.
I feel closer to what language can't reach.
With my senses, as with birds, I climb into the windy heaven, out of the oak, and in the ponds broken off from the sky my feeling sinks, as if standing on fishes.”
Learn more about working with me and the Art of Embodiment.