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The Key to Parenting Peacefully

peaceful parentingI’d like to offer a parenting reframe here around children’s behavior.  Rather than your child giving you a hard time, they are having a hard time.  You may have heard this before, but take a moment to really think about it and consider this:  all behavior is an attempt to meet a need. This goes for adults and children. Thinking about it in this way is so helpful when interacting with your child and when trying to do the emotional work with yourself.  If you find yourself stuck repeating a behavior that you’d rather not, get curious about what need that behavior is trying to meet.  When you dissect it in this way, it becomes that much easier to find another way to meet that need in a way that actually serves you.   So if you take that same idea and apply to your child when they’re behaving in a way that is less than desirable, look past the behavior.  See through their eyes. What is going on for them? An example from my own experience: My son can get very obnoxious when he wants to play with his sister.  He’ll start taking her toys, hitting her with his blanket, etc. It is soooo easy to get annoyed and show anger towards him. Why can’t he just leave her alone?!   But when I look closer, when I take the time to pay attention, I can see that he is doing it in a good spirited way, despite the fact that it’s pissing off his sister.  I can see that he really just wants connection, or maybe he wants play. Sometimes it can be difficult to figure out the need under the behavior (this is true for ourselves too).  But I know when I get curious and I put myself in his place, I can see that he just doesn’t know a better way to meet that need for connection. He’s not a “bad” kid. So I step in and offer gentle guidance.  There is no punishment involved. To punish would be to punish for him acting like a 3 year old…which he is. AND a punishment wouldn’t teach him anything about empathy or meeting his needs. All it would do is shut him down.  He might learn to no longer do that behavior, but at what cost? At the cost of developing a deeper understanding about himself, his needs & how to meet them. And at the cost of connection with me. I don’t believe in making a child suffer for going about meeting a need as best they know how.  I do believe there is a way to teach him the valuable lessons through peaceful means. what peaceful parenting looks likeNow let’s look at me.  If I were to have gotten angry and lost my cool with him, that would have been a less than desirable way to meet my need for peace.  I could have shut that shit down. He would have cried because I yelled but hey, he would have stopped bugging his sister. Less than desirable because it didn’t actually create peace.   I know you Mamas know how chaotic it can be with little ones. Sometimes you just want everyone to get along, at a reasonable decibel and for the love of all that is holy, give me just 5 freaking mins of not needing me so I can think straight.   parenting together The beautiful thing about peaceful parenting is that responding to this scenario with calm, gentle guidance is that I create peace in that moment. I source it for myself…and for my children. Had I flipped my lid, I would have not only contributed to the chaos and lack of peace, but I also would have been modeling chaos and a lack of self control for my children…the exact opposite behavior I’m hoping for from my children.   AND on top of that, it was a mini moment of connection. It built trust between us & fostered a sense of security. He trusts and feels safe that I am here for him and will do my best to help him get what he needs without making him feel wrong or bad for doing his best.
Written by Peaceful Parenting Coach & Collective Member, Sarah Gimel. You can learn more about Sarah on her Collective page or on her website.

Endometriosis – A Health Journey

My Endometriosis Story

I had painful periods for over 20 years, starting when I was 16. I accepted this as normal and incurable all the way back then. What medicine could not fix, I was told pregnancy eventually would. I thought the pain, nausea, vomiting, etc. were just how my body worked, endometriosis was never part of the conversation. About 15 years ago, I started developing other symptoms as well, such as GI issues, yo-yoing thyroid hormone levels, abnormal ovarian cysts, and malabsorption issues that no provider could fully diagnose. These additional symptoms were weirdly cyclical in a way I could not pinpoint at first, but after multiple tests and procedures – ultrasounds, an MRI, a colonoscopy, tests for parasites and many blood tests – found nothing really wrong with me, I started keeping a detailed diary of my symptoms. Because I had long accepted the incurable nature of my painful periods, my diary was initially a way for me to keep track of these “other” symptoms, but over time I started to wonder if they actually could be related to my periods. My symptom diary led me to think back about when I first started to feel sick and began to try different herbs and foods as remedies. That took me back 20 years to the first time I felt sick on my period – I was so ill, vomiting so much that I couldn’t leave the bathroom, and I was in pain. Once I noticed that connection, I began to research with the knowledge that all the symptoms I had outside of my period were way worse during my period – so maybe that was the place of origin. After watching a documentary called Endo What?, I started to suspect I had endometriosis before any provider had a chance to diagnose me. endometriosis excision post-operation On February 18, 2019, I had surgery to excise endometriosis. At the same time, my gallbladder was removed, as well as my appendix. My gallbladder was chronically inflamed and functioning at a level of only 3% – only the second lowest level my surgeon had ever seen, and the lowest was 0%. My appendix was scarred and wrapped around behind my colon, where it was attached. Endometriosis was found on my sigmoid colon, cul-de-sac, rectovaginal septum, left and right uterosacral ligaments, left and right pelvic sidewalls, and my right ovary was scarred down with endo and attached to my pelvic sidewall. Almost every day, I notice myself feeling better. It’s crazy because since my symptoms were so chronic, I had learned to live with them – and with some of the symptoms the truth of their existence occurs to me when I no longer feel them. I am going to pelvic physical therapy to address the dysfunction that is happening in my muscles and nerves after years of pain and symptoms. I’m working on getting stronger through movement. Endo is a chronic, life-long condition, but I am hoping I continue feeling the benefits of excision surgery and other lifestyle modifications. It is possible I will need more treatment later, but I will cross that bridge when I come to it In the last week, I have also been diagnosed with celiac disease, and I hope that going strictly gluten free will alleviate even more of my symptoms. This is all a process, and I hope that in 6 months, I feel better than I have in many years. freedom from endometriosisFor so long, women’s health has been focused on fertility, and I think that it’s the truly upsetting thing – that we are only concerned with a woman’s health when it hinders her ability to conceive. Even the stages of endometriosis correspond mostly to fertility – the higher the stage, the more infertility is expected. But the stages do not illustrate how much pain or symptoms are present, nor do they indicate where in the body endometriosis was found. As women our health is tied to our menstrual cycles and the hormones made by them, but fertility or lack thereof is not the only indication that a cycle has gone awry. And, we need our hormones for more than just reproduction. I read this somewhere and can’t recall where: Would a man ever be told he doesn’t need testosterone until he’s ready to be a father? As a yoga teacher and someone steeped since childhood in the world of “unconventional” medicine, I often notice anger in those who hear my story. They are frustrated at how long it took for doctors to listen to me and for me to find skilled care. It is true that Western medicine took a long time to diagnose me, but naturopathic, functional medicine did not diagnose me, either. And highly specialized, highly experienced Western medicine has also saved me with endometriosis excision surgery and detection of celiac. There are so many providers out there on both “sides” who want to learn more and want to do good, but the true symptom profile of endometriosis is still unknown to most doctors and patients.
To many, it is still seen as simply painful cramps, and trouble with conceiving. In my body and in the bodies of so many other women, it is much, much more than that.

endometriosis resourcesEndometriosis Resources

  • EndoWhat.org – start with watching the documentary.
  • Nancy’s Nook Endometriosis Education – an online patient community on Facebook. This group is more for research purposes than support, though you will find support as well through education.
  • Greater Seattle Endometriosis Group – also a community on Facebook. They host meetups throughout the year, and have more localized PNW resources than Nancy’s Nook will. I found my pelvic floor physical therapist through this group.

About Endometriosis

(info from Nancy’s Nook, EndoWhat, etc.)
  • Endometriosis – when tissue similar to the lining of the uterus that sheds each month during a period implants itself in places outside of the uterus. It can be found on the ovaries, uterus, uterine ligaments, appendix, bowels, fallopian tubes, lungs, liver, brain, etc. It causes inflammation and pain (though some can have it without any pain).
  • Endo can be found in anyone born with a uterus, and, though rare, has also been found in cis men.
  • Laparoscopic excision surgery is the gold standard of treatment today, and reoccurrence rates are much lower than for ablation
  • Endometriosis is rarely seen on imaging tests, such as ultrasound, MRI, or CT scan. The only way to definitively diagnose and treat endo is with surgery.
  • Excision does not equal ablation – ablation is like burning the top layer, leaving the “root” of the lesion intact. Excision is removing the lesion at the root.
  • It takes an average of 10 years for a person to be diagnosed with endometriosis.
  • Hormonal birth control (includes Lupron, Orlissa, and the Pill) is often prescribed for endometriosis, but its use is now understood by endo specialists to be palliative only. Hormonal birth control does not shrink lesions or make them disappear. If it helps symptoms, that is great, but beyond that it does not treat endo. Lupron and Orlissa often have terrible side effects that do not go away once the medication is stopped.
  • Pregnancy is not a cure for endometriosis. While many people do have a reduction in symptoms while pregnant, that is not true for everyone. And symptoms can come back with a vengeance after pregnancy and breastfeeding are complete.
  • Hysterectomy is not a cure for endometriosis. Endo is a disease that by definition occurs outside of the uterus. Removing the uterus does not remove endometriosis. Removing the ovaries (an oophorectomy) does not cause lesions to shrink either – endo lesions can make their own estrogen, so they do not need the ovaries to persist.

Going to the Doctor – When you think you have endo (but also anything else)

Some of these are my own, some I’ve heard along the way.
  • Make a list of concerns you want to cover, and any questions.
  • Make a separate doctor’s appointment for each concern you have (i.e. don’t tack on a question about possible endometriosis to your yearly check-up – give it its own space.)
  • Be direct and as concise as can be.
  • Practice describing your pain and when you have it. Is it hot? Stabbing? Does it feel like pulling? Does it happen all the time? How long have you had it? Do any movements or positions make it better, or worse?
  • ALWAYS ask for records, and read them. It is much easier to do this right after the office or hospital visit rather than years later. It is in my record from an ER visit in 2011 when I had classic appendicitis symptoms “patient admits she may have overindulged at her wedding two weeks ago.”  
  • At the end of the visit, re-cap what was covered with your doctor, so that you both are on the same page.
  • If the treatment does not work, and you still think that doctor can help you, go back and say the treatment did not work. Or if you find the answer through another provider, share that record with your previous doctor, so they get feedback.

Written by Collective member Lindsey Toledo, a local yoga teacher who lives on Vashon Island. Follow her on Instagram, or stay connected by joining her email list or sending her an email.

MAPS: A Self-Healing Framework

Through my studies in psychology, mindfulness and meditation, Buddhism, Mysticism, diverse spiritualities, metaphysics, and self-compassion I have learned quite a bit about the practices of self-study and internal listening. While there are many methods that we I use with myself and clients to engage in this process of being present with what is in order to heal and rebuild a deeper connection with the heart, one that I feel called to share with you is one that I developed a few years ago. Through my own process of sitting with my heart and the layers of beliefs and feelings that arose, I intuitively found this self-healing method which I call MAPS. It is an acronym to help provide a framework for somatically grounded, heart centered, shadow work and healing, which breaks down into 4 basic steps:

M: Mindfully notice the suffering that is present.

This is the step where we consciously tune into our experience of suffering on a somatic, emotional, and cognitive level with mindfulness. We bring our mindful attention to our bodies and notice the sensations that arise, becoming curious about them. We bring our mindful attention to our emotions and identify the different feelings that are present, being open to them. We bring our mindful attention to our thoughts, and notice the content, pace, flavor, and quality of them without judgement or following them.

A: Allow the feelings to be present.

In this step we take our mindful noticing of our suffering even further by truly accepting what our experience to is by allowing it to be. By letting go of our minds (now that we have noted our thoughts we can release them with gratitude) and allowing the felt experience of our emotions in our heart and body we give space to the shadows to be known and understood by welcoming them into the forefront of our consciousness.

P: Peel back the layers of feelings and beliefs to get to the core of our present suffering.

After we become mindful of our suffering, and allow it to be, we are ready to work with our heart to understand our suffering. With gentleness and compassion ask your emotion what it is believing. An answer will arise, and in this first layer of belief it may be one you are familiar with from your regular conscious experience of this suffering. With all answers that arise, allow them to be. In that allowance of the belief to be seen and heard, another emotional layer will appear in response to it. After allowing the next emotional layer to be present and felt, again ask this feeling layer what it is believing. Again, an answer will arise stating a new belief. This will again be followed by another layer of emotion. With mindful compassion, gentleness, and allowing we continue to peel back the layers of feelings and beliefs until we find the core of our suffering. This is the place of not only the core belief at the root of our suffering, but the core wound that began it. This is something you will intuitively know and feel. There will be a sense of a bottom to it, and you can recognize it often because it revolves around feeling unworthy in some way. This step is the meat of the practice and depending on the shadow we are working with and how hidden it has been from us (i.e. how many layers we need to go though to get to the core), it may go by quickly or take some dedicated sitting time.

S: Soak with self-compassion.

In this final step, after we have identified the core belief at the root of our suffering, it is time for healing this wounded aspect of self with self-compassion. There may be tears, perhaps a lot of them. There may be moaning and/or sounding. There may be the desire to punch a pillow or stomp your feet. There may be exhaustion and silence. In whatever way it is that your heart wants to express this core wounding, allow it. By allowing and witnessing this expression, you begin to release the emotional energy of the suffering, freeing yourself from it. When the expression has come to its completion, you now have the honor and opportunity of becoming your own source of compassion and healing. By placing a hand on our heart with a compassionate touch and speaking to yourself in a compassionate tone, offer yourself the compassion that you need to hear and receive. This could look like acknowledging the suffering, and the pain of this core wound and the core belief that arose from it. It may include offering yourself forgiveness and understanding. It may be the offering of loving words and affirmations to yourself. It may involve the recognition of how this suffering is common to humanity. It may be the declaration of a commitment to more deeply love, accept and protect yourself in the area of this wounding. Listen to your heart for guidance, as it speaks through you and acts as both the source and recipient of your compassion. The heart will let you know what it needs. When this process feels complete, continue to listen to your heart. What do you need next? How does your self-compassion continue outside of this sitting practice? Whether your heart guides you to make a cup of tea and watch a movie, to take a shower or a bath, to go out into nature, or to call a family member or friend, continue to strengthen your connection to your “heartuition” and deepen your healing and integration process by listening to the wisdom of your own heart.
Written by Alicia Sunflower of Sacred Spiral Healing Arts Counselor · Medicine Womxn · Artist

Energy Forms & How to Set Them

Each morning I take healing walks. During my walks I set a series of energy forms that are particularly helpful for keeping us balanced and processing amidst the tremendous social, emotional, spiritual, political, and environmental upheaval and change of our current time. These forms came from the beings Kwan Yin, Miriam, and Leah (not me), channeled by my long-time mentor Linda Crawford, an empathic healer and therapist in Massachusetts. These forms are equipped to replace the energetic grounding practices many of us have used for decades (rooting into the Earth) when Earth herself is in a state of massive change. These times call for a grounding tool that can be stable amidst massive change and movement. One of these forms is gyroscopic. If you haven’t ever seen a gyroscope look up a video, it’s spinning keeps it steady even when it’s axis tips or it hops to another location. To set the forms: I have described a visual of the forms below. Imagine the visual in your mind’s eye, then allow the mode(s) you experience energy to confirm your setting of the forms.  For example you may experience energy in pictures, little movies, energetic/physical sensations, colors, sounds or words, scents, or taste. Visualizing the energy form in your mind’s eye is all you need to set the forms, and don’t be surprised if you get your own sensations that accompany it. I like to set my forms as I walk. It feels important to my process and growth to work at this spiritual level while also moving physically through the world. However, you may find it is much easier to concentrate on setting the forms while in a seated meditation or stillness. Experiment with what works for you.  You could even pair each one with a yoga asana that embodies the energy you feel from it. Form 1: Pranic Tube/Central Power Core See/feel/locate a circular column of white light 3” in diameter reaching from the heavens down along your spinal column and down into the core of the earth. At your heart feel a tuning chamber of unconditional love and acceptance, that tunes all this white light/charged pranic life-force energy and sends it out to all parts of your body. Form 2: Universal Heart Chakra (the gyroscopic form) Between your heart and solar plexus chakras place a basketball-sized spinning golden ball of light, with a denser band of golden light at its vertical midpoint. Notice that as you move this Universal Heart Chakra stays steady. Form 3: Labradorite Form From the crown of your head to the base of your spine (in the same geographic location but on another dimensional level than the Pranic Tube/Central Power Core) set the form of a 4” square column of Labradorite-colored light (think winking greens, blues, golds, and oranges within a base of translucent deep grey). At both the crown and base of the spine a hopper shape flares out from the square column parallel to your shoulders and hips. These hoppers would appear triangular when viewing you from the front or back and have a shallower (4”) side profile. Once the hoppers are set ask to connect your Labradorite form to the Labradorite Net or Web, which has been with Earth since her beginnings and connects you to all those beings working to bring forward the Divine Feminine on Earth throughout all times, levels, dimensions and lifetimes. Using the Forms: Now your forms are set! You are ready to do any healing/balancing work you need to through them. To do this I use whatever is up for me at the moment. These forms will help you balance literally EVERYTHING!!! It can be current events, anxiety, shame, anger, gratitude, joy, power dynamics, hopes, I dedicate all that I am working with through these forms.  Even through the INSANITY, massive flux, and chaos of what is happening in the world with the presidency, white supremacy, xenophobia, famine, sexism, and environmental devastation—all very much up in our collective for us to face and heal in heal in humanity and in relationship—I am able to keep my personal balance through the use of these forms. How to do it: When you notice a pattern, a thing out of balance, a physical discomfort, or a strong feeling (I dedicate gratitude and joy too, to benefit the collective!)  Say the following: “I dedicate this _____ to and through the web, for the benefit, blessing, and healing of all beings who may take benefit and blessing from it throughout all times, levels, dimensions and lifetimes for the greater good of all.” Often my first dedication scratches the first layer of the thing and will start a release of emotion. I continue with what emerges from that layer until I get to the foundation/root of the pattern. After I am done with setting my forms I journal each dedication I made, this helps you to ground the work allows you to grow in your use of the forms and track what you are working with. Much of what needs to be worked through in this current time are distortions of Ignorance, Intolerance, and Power. So, you can add this to the dedication too, starting with: “I dedicate the ignorance, intolerance, and power related to____to and through the web…” When you do this work know that you are healing a pattern for yourself and the collective simultaneously. I imagine it as a dual-ended violet flame of healing that burns both inward and outward simultaneously. When something triggers me in the news, I do inner work related to it, for example: “I dedicate all parts of myself that turn those in need of help away, distance myself from others, or build walls to protect myself to and through the web…” And I also work with the outward distortions so I am healing both the piece of the pattern I hold personally and part of the collective pattern to ease the balancing and shifting of that pattern in the world.
Written by Leah Nguyen, Artist-Healer and Creator of Planet Paint People.

One Question That Will Change Your Relationship With Yourself

I showed up to yoga, stressed to the max with everything I had to do. I had talks to give, taxes to do, people to get back to, a book to complete, and a blog article to write. As my yoga instructor was guiding us through her sequence, I found myself cycling between feeling overwhelmed about how I was going get everything done, what I should write my blog article about, and trying to remind myself that I needed to be present.
When suddenly I had an epiphany.
I realized that with my crazy workload, that I was treating myself in the same way my parents treated me. Growing up the mantra was to work hard, and if you weren’t good enough, it was because you weren’t working hard enough. There was no room for taking a breath. There was no room for fun and play. There was no room for acceptance of myself just for being me. Nothing I did was ever enough. But just because my parents instilled these workaholic, you-will-never-be-enough messages on to me, it didn’t mean that I had to continue to treat myself this way.
And so in the spirit of yoga, I asked myself, ”What is the most loving thing I can do for myself right now?”
Suddenly with this one question, everything shifted for me. I realized I need to infuse this question throughout my life. I realized that asking this question would help me say no to the things I did not want to do. Asking this one question would help me have more my balance in my life. Asking this one question would help me forgive myself when I do things I regret. Asking this one question would help me better recover from loss. This question is a profound expression of self-compassion. There are many other benefits to self-compassion. An increasing body of research is showing that self-compassion foster’s mental health. When we realize we are all human, and thus will make mistakes and even fail, it becomes easier to pick ourselves up, brush ourselves off, and get back on our feet again. So many of us beat ourselves up when we make mistakes or fail, and that only takes us into a downward spiral of self-loathing, and increases our stress. Alternatively, when we exercise self-compassion in those moments, we can focus on how to do better next time. Self compassion breeds resilience. Self-compassion also helps us recover from loss. We might be good at being there for others when they experience loss, but struggle to do it for ourselves. Learning to treat ourselves as if we were our own best friend, will help us deal better with loss and move on. My answer to this question was that I needed to limit the amount of time I spend on each task, and to make sure I prioritize my need for rest and renewal. Just by making this decision alone, I felt an enormous amount of relief! My new goal is not perfection with my work, but practicing self-compassion in the face of imperfection. So in the spirit of the upcoming Valentine’s Day, I invite you to express love towards yourself by practicing self compassion. You can do this with one simple question sprinkled through the day. Make sure you have the question handy when you feel stressed, have experienced a loss, or feel inadequate. The question is:
What is the most loving thing I can do for myself right now?
Has this question inspired any insights? How do you think it will change your life? Please share in the comments below!
This post was written by Collective member Dr. Tina Huang of Lifelong EnerJoy.  If you would like more support in expressing self-compassion, Tina has a relationship detox to empowerment program that might be a good fit for you. Learn more about it here and contact her here to schedule a complementary consultation.