Friday, December 31, 2010

Breaking Down Resolutions



Happy New Year! Time to change everything about yourself you’re not completely happy with…. but what if it that wasn’t the goal this year. Not that the new year isn’t a good time for self improvement, but what if you were to just pick one area to focus on. I’m suggesting narrowing that list of resolutions down to just one, and then making a list of smaller goals that will lead you to obtaining this resolution. Real change, growth, or development, take time and dedication. Also remember to reward your progress, and not get caught up in challenges or setbacks. Change is not always a linear process but with dedication there will be forward progress. Narrowing the focus of your resolution and creating goals to gauge your progress can help you obtain this years resolution, and not just added it to the list to try again at next year. Whatever change you want to see within yourself this year, have faith in yourself. You can do it!

Peacefully,

Kira Redig

Kira is a master’s level practicum intern from The Adler School of Professional Psychology. She currently leads an Art Therapy group on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, as well as a Women's Body Image group on Tuesday afternoons. If you would like to learn more about the groups or Art Therapy in general, please call her at (773) 929-6262 x13.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Reframing the Holidays


As a child, I never understood why everyone felt that the holidays were a stressful season. At that age, the holidays meant winter break from school, presents, and more time with friends and family. Now, as an adult, I understand why so many people feel stressed during the“most wonderful time of the year,” as the song goes.

An annual event, my clients and I often discuss the holidays, their plans and expectations, as well as past experiences and memories from holiday gatherings. When talking about particular situations, I listen to the words each individual uses to describe the experience or expectation. More often than not, these words carry negative connotations. As a therapist, I often try to work with my clients to reframe such situations by using different words to describe the same situation. Reframing aims to provide a more positive perspective on a situation. Take, for instance, the statement, “I endure the holidays.” The word endure implies hardship and putting up with unpleasantness. I am not saying that people don't encounter unpleasant people or situations during the holidays, but if you approach a situation using different, more positive language, it can help shift your thoughts to be more positive. For example, “I managed the holidays” has an entirely different meaning than “I endured the holidays.” While “endure” implies toleration of the holidays, the word “manage” means to succeed in accomplishing, often despite difficulty or hardship, and gives the speaker more of a sense of power over stressful holiday situations. These small shifts in language help alter people's perspectives.

An example of shifting perspectives can be found in the opening scenes of the movie Love Actually, where friends, family, and lovers are seen reuniting at the airport during the holiday season. Viewers are shown the scenes that make them feel warm and happy, however, we all know that there are probably just as many disgruntled travelers who are bedraggled from missed or delayed flights, and who appear less than thrilled to be arriving into an airport terminal. Yet those negative aspects of holiday travel aren't highlighted in this movie. We can do the same for ourselves by choosing to identify and highlight the enjoyable parts of the holidays, such as catching up with old friends, and reframing negative aspects that come hand in hand with the holiday season, such as crowds when shopping.

Working to reframe experiences and expectations is not easy, however, using more positive language and choosing to think about what we do like about the holidays will lead to more optimistic thoughts and enhanced experiences in general, especially around the holidays.

Katie Anson, MA, LPC
Katie is bilingual (Spanish/English) and sees clients for individual therapy at The Awakening Center. She can be reached at (773) 929-6262 x23.



Monday, December 20, 2010

Creating Your Holiday


The holidays are full of expectations for everyone. We are expected to have a wonderful holiday with all of our family and friends. Usually this includes participating in many extra social activities, giving gifts and intense family interactions. Our internal expectations might tell us that we should be happy and enjoy everyone's company, or something is wrong with me that I'm not enjoying this.

What we don't stop to think about is the holiday activities we have are in addition to all of our normal daily activities. Our life doesn't stop for the holidays. We still have to work, or go to school, pay our bills and feed the dog. Usually, people end up feeling stressed and overextended. They cope by going into overdrive to do everything. But what if you did it differently this year? Instead of feeling overwhelmed, if you took some time to stop and be quiet and listen. Why not ask yourself what is most important to you this holiday? What would you like to see happen this holiday?

Maybe one of your goals is to take care of yourself this holiday. Then build in time for yourself to rest and take care of yourself. This may mean making arrangements with a friend to call each other if family gatherings get to be too much. Let them know ahead of time what your concerns and needs are and how they can best support you. Or maybe there is someone who has been supportive of you this last year that you want to acknowledge? What are meaningful ways you could connect with the important people in your life? Could you write them a note? Make a phone call to let them know how important they are to you? Or just think about what you would like to say to them. Maybe doing acts of service is something you'd like to try this year. How about making a list of all of the things you have to be grateful for this year?

Whatever you choose to do, make it about you and what your vision is for the holidays and not what others tell you it “should” be like.

Maureen McNichols Ed. S, LCPC is an intern at the Awakening Center and a co facilitator of the Tuesday night Eating Disorder Support group. She can be reached at (773) 929-6262 x.12

Friday, November 5, 2010

Inviting Others Into Recovery

One of the most challenging aspects of recovery is that often clients feel very isolated and alone in their journey. The many everyday challenges that may seem effortless to others become a great source of anxiety. A dinner party, a holiday celebration, or an afternoon of shopping are no longer anticipated with a sense of excitement in connecting and enjoying others. These situations become events that end up being filled with anxiety and worry as there are so many possible triggers and moments of being uncomfortable. What will they be serving at the dinner? Will others notice if I am not eating? Will my friends ask what size I am? The everyday activities that one used to look forward to and enjoy are now racked with worry and uncertainties that seem too much to bear.

I often encourage clients to open up with their friends and families in sharing what they are needing in these situations to feel supported. I often hear that they worry about being judged, feeling foolish or simply not being understood. While often we can feel supported by those not struggling with an eating disorder there is a great gift of having the support of another on the same journey.

Group therapy is an environment where clients can share with others who have thought the same thoughts, had similar feelings and can relate in a very personal way. There is a great sense of relief and comfort that comes from knowing that one isn’t alone and has others walking on the same path of recovery. Perhaps another client a few steps further that can offer what has worked for them in a particular challenge. Maybe another that is struggling in ways that the client has already overcome offers a reminder of progress and a chance to support another.

While it may take some time to feel comfortable sharing in a group setting there is a great sense of understanding, compassion and company that truly supports the recovery process. This may be a place to share what others may not be willing to hear or are able to understand. It may be a place to get a sense of encouragement and hope in moving through the challenging times. Group therapy is yet another tool to consider in recovery and a real opportunity to have a sense of community, compassion and support through recovery. Consider joining the Monday evening Women’s Eating Disorder Therapy Group as another source of support in your recovery.

Jennifer Schurman, MA, LPC

Jen sees individuals, couples and families for therapy as well as leads the Monday evening Eating Disorder Therapy Group. She can be reached at (773) 929-6262 x 20 if you would like more information.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Taking an Extra Minute



Recently I have dealt with situations that have instantly triggered the defensive part of me. While working on a project for school I faced less than glowing critiques of my work which engaged the part of me that wanted to bite back at this person's negative viewpoint. Instead of simply reacting though, I took a minute, cleared my head and thought about the situation objectively.

I have always been the type of person who just reacts, as many people do. I would get defensive and react without thinking about the actions I was taking. Seeing how this has affected my relationships and the particular situations where this has occurred, I realized how important it was to take that minute before reacting to the situation. While at points easier said than done, in a time when much communication is done electronically, I believe that many times it can be easier today to take a minute and think through what you are going to say. If that text or e-mail is not responded to within a minute, the world will not implode and chances are you may be able to respond in a much more level-headed way.

For me personally, taking this extra minute or so before reacting has been crucial. In the one event that I mentioned earlier, by taking time with my response I was able to draft a response in which I could articulate my opinions without attacking his. Also, I was able to feel confident about my response instead of worrying about damage control that would need to be done by responding in a defensive manner. At first the situation was something anger inducing and overall negative, but I was able to turn it around into a positive dialogue where all respectful opinions were allowed to be voiced.

Taking an extra minute can be applied to many situations, not just arguments. By taking an extra minute in the morning to gather your thoughts, you may leave the house with everything rather than rushing out and forgetting the one thing you needed for the day. At the end of the day, you can take a minute to reflect upon the day and how you are feeling. By giving yourself a moment to just calmly think and reflect, you can clear your mind and make better choices than by instantly reacting. Although time is a precious thing, slowing down and taking control of time can in the long run save the time that rushing into something erratically may waste.

I encourage you to take the extra minute. For me it has allowed me to avoid placing my foot in my mouth in many occasions and be more mindful of my words and actions.

Katie Infusino

Katie is a Bachelors level intern from DePaul at The Awakening Center. She co-leads the Tuesday night ANAD Support Group.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Meeting Your Needs

Lately, I have been thinking about what it means to have needs, and what we do or don’t do to try and get our needs met. Beyond the basic requirements for survival, such as food and shelter, we have an inborn need for satisfying relationships and connection with others. What strikes me, however, is that we are often afraid to let these needs be known – as if we must be utterly self-sufficient or risk exposing some deficiency.

Women in particular tend to act as caretakers, but we often don’t know how to reach out when we feel alone or depleted. Perhaps we struggle with perfectionism – perhaps our families depended on us to “keep it together” – and asking for help now feels like weakness. Perhaps we have partners with whom we are locked in rigid communication patterns, where we desperately want to understand but somehow keep missing one another. Perhaps we’d like to tell someone that we really care about him/her but can’t for fear of rejection. The longing for authentic communication – to receive and be received as we are – is so strong that we hurt terribly when it somehow fails. So the needs are swallowed up, suppressed, tamed – at least momentarily.

It’s important to “check in” with ourselves from time to time. To get in touch with what we are feeling, to honor the truthfulness of what we’d like to say, rather than holding back or running away in fear. It seems to me that the disavowal of needs is at the heart of many an eating disorder. We’re hungry for something, though we may not be able to always identify it, or to even feel we deserve satisfaction and contentment.

As we transition from fall to winter – and to another holiday season with its joys and challenges – I hope that we can continue to be mindful of these needs and experiment with new ways of expressing them. Is the solution to simply ignore our desires and painful feelings and grimly “plow through”? Might it be worth the risk to approach an argument differently, to tell a loved one that we’ve been hurt, or to simply say “no” and create some quiet time for ourselves? Even subtle changes may affect our relationships and self-concepts in positive and surprising ways.

Luna Sung

Luna leads the GO! Generating Opportunities for Successful Employment group on Tuesday afternoons at The Awakening Center. This group is for those who are job hunting and who want a supportive group setting to stay motivated. Call Luna at (773) 929-6262 x12 for more info.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Taking Time To Enjoy Being Happy


I find there are times that I am so busy or stressed that when I look back on my week I can barely remember what had happened. If I can remember anything it is often the most negative events of my week. However, it's not that I had an absolutely horrible week, instead I just don’t take the time to focus on the positive moments. Thinking about this I realized this behavior is completely backwards. The good, enjoyable moments are the ones that lower the stress and give the body a much-needed chance to relax. They also help make the more difficult moments more manageable. Taking the time to pause and enjoy the good moments seems just as essential as resolving the negative. While it is something I still have to put effort into remembering to do, I can feel the positive effects this practice is having in my life. I encourage everyone to take some time each week to slow down during the good times, and to take the time to reflect and just enjoy. After all, what’s wrong with being happy?

Kira Redig
Kira is a master’s level practicum intern from The Adler School of Professional Psychology. She currently leads an Art Therapy group on Thursday evenings. If you would like to learn more about the group or Art Therapy in general, please call her at (773) 929-6262 x13.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Life's Career Decisions

I was at a college campus last week for a wellness fair with Erin Diedling, MEd, another therapist from the Awakening Center. We were talking to the students about all the different groups, workshops and counseling options that are available at the Awakening Center for students. While we were talking to the students we would ask them what they were studying. Many students talked about how they had changed their major several times and still weren't sure what they wanted to study. Some said they liked one course and then decided to major in it. You could see the uncertainty and anxiety in their faces.
Only one student talked about how she had decided on her unique career choice after a lot of time and hard work deciding on it. I started to think about how so many young people end up making career choices that aren't right for them. They end up 5, 10 or 20 years down the road finally “waking” up and realizing how unhappy they are in their careers.

How so little time is spent on one of life's major decisions that would have such an impact on the quality of their lives. They end up making choices based on one part of themselves. I want to live in a great house so I'll be a doctor. Or I have to get my parent's approval because they are paying for college. Or this major is easy and I'll get good grades. Or I'll do this because there are always jobs in this.

One of the most important decisions of their lives could be based on just one belief. Kind of like throwing a dart at a dartboard and hoping you'll get a bullseye. How many wrong paths and how much unhappiness could be avoided if they were given the opportunity (and took it) to make the decision from a place of self-understanding. If they spent time with someone who could listen to them with no agenda and help them sort through what their true passions and natural abilities are. Help them find out who they really are hidden underneath the expectations and beliefs of others. Someone who could help support them as they started to move forward towards their passion. What a difference that could make in their lives early on. How much frustration and unhappiness would be avoided from wrong career choices by taking the time early on to get to know yourself and make your career choices from a place of self understanding?

Maureen McNichols, LCPC is a therapist in training at the Awakening Center who is one of those who “woke up” and is now pursuing a career she loves! She co-leads the Tuesday evening ANAD Eating Disorder Support Group at 7-8:30pm. Contact her at (773) 929-6262 x12.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Developing a Stronger Sense of Self



Where is your favorite place in your home? What is your favorite restaurant? What is your favorite activity to do outside? What about inside? Where is your preferred vacation destination? What is one of your favorite meals? What is your favorite movie? What about your least favorites of all of the aforementioned?
In order to answer these and other similar questions, you need to know yourself and be able to identify what you like and what you don’t like. How do you figure these things out? Many people, myself included, are experiential learners. You learn by doing and experiencing things first hand – visit the place, watch the show, taste the food, participate in the activity. Learning by doing can be unnerving. It’s scary to try something new. The lack of familiarity and the uncertainty of the outcome can be a strong deterrent.
When I first started stepping out of my comfort zone, I felt uneasy and extremely nervous. I over-thought these novel situations and wondered what other people thought of me when they saw me. I felt incredibly self-conscious. However, during each of these experiences I learned something about myself. Despite my discomfort, I knew I was benefiting because I was developing a stronger sense of self, and although I sometimes didn’t feel up for it, I continued to push myself beyond my comfort zone, which was slowly expanding.
Change often occurs when trying something new, and as a result, experiential learning often generates change in some way. Pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone brings the challenge of adjusting to change, which can seem daunting. Nevertheless, with repetitive practice, your comfort zone gradually expands, bolstering self-awareness, as well as a concrete sense of self.
It’s completely normal to feel uncertain and to lack self-confidence. I encourage you to build a stronger sense of self by stepping outside of your comfort zone to try new things. Luckily, the word try doesn’t mean permanent, but is defined as more of a test, to examine something such as a situation or yourself. Although I still sometimes feel nervous when trying new things, I’m not nearly as timid as before. Consequently, I’m able to confidently convey my likes and dislikes, and if I am unsure of my response, I realize that I just have some more self-exploration to do.
Katie Anson, MA, LPC
Katie is Spanish-English bilinqual and sees clients for individual therapy at The Awakening Center. She can be reached at (773) 929-6262 x 23.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Challenging Your Bad Body Image - Part 2

At The Awakening Center we're gearing up to participate in "Fat Talk Free Week" which is sponsored by Tri Delta Sorority (see their website: http://www.tridelta.org). FTFW takes place October 18 - 22, 2010 - and we'll be having activities and workshops about Challenging Body Hatred & Making Peace with Our Bodies during that week. Keep checking our facebook page for more info. (Won't you become a fan of The Awakening Center on Facebook?)

So my blog article today builds on my last blog article Challenging Bad Body Image from July 15, 2010 - click on the July button to the right to read Part 1. This is an excerpt from my upcoming book on recovery from eating disorders, which I will hopefully finish writing soon - I'm on chapter 12 (of 12!).

As I asked last time, anyone know a publisher? Editor? Agent?

Namasté,

Amy Grabowski


Challenging Your Bad Body Image - Part 2

Okay so how do we Challenge Body Hatred? When we say, “I hate my body” we need to dispute that sentence from many angles. First let’s look at the word ‘hate’ - it's quite a powerful word. Think of every possible thing in the whole wide world that deserves the word hate: violence, war, rape, racism, child abuse, cancer, terrorism, world hunger, global warming, slavery, genocide, pollution, torture, drive by shootings…– these are big things in the world! I’m sure you can think of several more things that deserve the word ‘hate.’ Notice what happens when you consider these things. Now consider where does the size and shape of your body fit on this list? Most people realize, it doesn’t!

So let’s eliminate the word ‘hate’ when we describe our bodies and save it for things that deserve it. Think of ‘hate’ and ‘love’ as two ends of a continuum. (You know how much I enjoy continuums). What words would you put in between? We need to find a softer, gentler word or phrase – dislike, not so crazy about, not my favorite, lukewarm about, half-hearted about. How about, “I am critical of my body.” That feels more accurate. And we are going to challenge even that in several ways…

Next let’s look at some things that are not said, but rather implied when you state, “I am critical of my body.” Let’s challenge the word “I.” As you know, we have many Parts. When you say “I” you imply that all of you, all of your Parts are critical of your body. But it feels very different to say, “Some of my Parts are critical of my body.” It leaves the possibility open that there are other Parts who are not critical of your body – there may even be the possibility that there are Parts who like your body, enjoy your body, and maybe even find your body beautiful! (Am I pushing it too far here?)

So we’ve changed the sentence to “A Part of me is critical of my body.” Now let’s look at ‘my body’ – this implies 100% of my body, 100% of the time. I know there are times when what you look like is important: your wedding day, going on a job interview or a first date. When I gave an important speech to a group of psychotherapists, it was important to me to look polished and professional. But if you think about it, these are the minority of our life. There are so many more times when what you look like is irrelevant or unimportant, like in the example with Gabriela (Amy's Note: See Part 1). It’s not that in those moments you adore your body, it’s more of an absence of criticism or judgment. Sitting alone on a porch swing, reading an engrossing novel, walking the dog early in the morning, hanging out with a really good friend, or talking to your therapist – how important is it what you look like? Not very. There are many times when we are with people who know everything about us and yet, can still see beauty within and without. Who we are on the inside is what is important to them. Pay attention and notice all the times when what you look like is irrelevant or unimportant. Seek out these moments!

This changes the sentence to “Sometimes, a Part of me is critical of my body.” This implies that there are times when the Part is not critical of your body. (Although you may find that the minute you notice the Part is not critical of your body, the critical Part starts up again. Oh well! Just enjoy the brief reprieve and know that the more you practice this the longer the reprieve will be.)

The last step will be to challenge ‘100% of my body.’ Let’s look at your entire body – yes, there are parts of your body that you are not crazy about or dislike. Some of these parts are pretty universal. Most of us think our feet are ugly – if you think about what feet have to do they can get pretty beat up and unsightly. The majority of female clients find it difficult to like the very parts of their bodies that make them female: hips, thighs, rear. We’ll talk more about these parts later in the chapter.

But there are also parts of your body that you are neutral about – how do you feel about your elbows, your earlobes, your forehead, your wrists? And if push comes to shove, I’m sure there are parts of your body you like: your eyes, your lips, your teeth, your nails, your baby toes.

So this changes our sentence yet again to: “Sometimes, a Part of me is critical of some of my body.” Now let’s substitute a mantra you can practice telling yourself. Here are some suggestions, “Every body has beauty.” “My appearance is a small part of who I am.” “I look acceptable (or fine, or OK – pick a word that fits for you).” “I don’t have to look perfect to be lovable.” And then there’s the old standby, “I do not look like I feel. I do not look like I think I look.”


Look for Part 3 of this topic soon!

I'd love to hear your comments, suggestions, questions, reactions.... Feel free to email me at awakeningcenter@aol.com

Namasté,

Amy

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Inviting Your Emotions With Tenderness

As you may have heard the therapists at The Awakening Center say, we all have many Parts -it's normal and natural to have different personalities within us. There's a Part of you who wants to sit on the couch and watch a movie, while another Part knows that you need to study for a test tomorrow. There's a Part which is supposed to be in charge of all the Parts - this is your Self - the person you were meant to be. Sometimes when we lose our Selves, another Part takes over and tries to 'run the show' - the Pseudo-Self is usually critical, judgmental, perfectionistic and very vocal! I call this Part "The Bully". The Bully tries to berate us into change - but it doesn't work. We usually end up feeling hopeless and then another Part rebels against the Bully and does the opposite of what the Bully is yelling about.

So how do we change this negative pattern? By trying something completely different - by "Inviting Your Emotions With Tenderness". Jennifer Schurman, one of the therapists at The Awakening Center has written an article about using tenderness rather than criticism and judgment. Finding our Selves leads us to inner peace and contentment - the opposite of hopelessness and rebellion!

Oh, BTW, Maureen McNichols is running a workshop "Women and their Inner Bully" on November 13! If you would like more information, call Maureen at (773) 929-6262 x 12.

Namaste,
Amy Grabowski

Inviting Your Emotions with Tenderness
“All any feeling wants is to be welcomed with tenderness. It wants room to unfold. It wants to relax and tell it’s story.” From “Women, Food and God” by Geneen Roth

Often when working with clients I find myself saying over and over it’s not about the weight, it’s not about the food, what’s going on that brings your attention back to these things? It seems at times that it is far easier to obsess over what to have for lunch, how many calories are in that latte, or when the skinny jeans will fit. But this focus is keeping one distracted from what is connected to these things. It’s simpler to think that if we do all the “right” things related to our eating it will calm our minds, give us peace, and bring us happiness. This is yet another empty lie. We begin focusing on solving what’s not quite right by focusing on our body rather than ourselves, our emotions or our needs. We look to our bodies to solve what is beyond them to solve and in the meantime beat them up and demand they give us what we are looking for. It is like getting stuck on a path that promises to bring us what we need yet just keeps us going in loops of pain and disappointment. So if our bodies can’t give us these things where do we look? Inside at ourselves.

Some of the most crucial and amazing work begins when clients begin trusting themselves, listening to their voice and hearing what they need. Choosing to slow things down, invite and spend some time with our emotions is what brings us closer to a true sense of recovery. Beginning to make the transition from the focus on our bodies to the focus on our true selves is a scary step as it brings us to the feelings that perhaps we have been avoiding. However, reminding ourselves that this work of feeling what is there, using it as a signal for what we are needing and responding in a caring way is the beginning of finding what we have been looking for. It’s getting onto a new path that has the potential to lead us to true peace, contentment and happiness. It’s not a simple or speedy journey but one that leads to a place of reconnecting to ourselves. Beginning to rely on ourselves and trust that our emotions have a positive intention for us are the first steps on this new path. My hope is that when you feel the focus shifting to your body bringing you answers you challenge yourself to look inside, spend some time with those feelings and ask them some questions as they may have something important to say. Something that just may take you a step closer to finding all that you long for.

Jennifer Schurman, MA, LPC
Jennifer leads a therapy group on Monday evenings for those trying to recover from eating disorders and disordered eating. Please call her for more information: (773) 929-6262 x 20.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Running from the "I Can't's"

Running from the “I Can't's”
I always thought running was not for me. While I watched both my brothers run long distances I scoffed at the idea that I would ever run more than a few feet. I had every excuse for not running as well; my knees hurt, it was boring, my body just could not do it, and the list went on which made not running much easier than actually trying it.

Being that I am the only girl in the family between two boys, I have always tried to keep up with them. If the boys did it, I wanted to as well. After years of telling myself that I could not be a runner like them, my desire to be like the boys caught up with me. I bought a pair of running shoes and embarked on a sweaty new journey. A friend who had always been a runner took me for a short run on the lake front path encouraging me to run just a little further. When I got home, red in the cheeks, out of breath and smelling quite like a runner I had never felt a high quite like this. There was a spark in my mind and all of a sudden I realized that I had been lying to myself; I could run. From that first run a little over a year and a half ago, my love affair with running has exploded.

Today I lose myself in running on a regular basis. While I now run much longer distances, the first few miles of my runs feel just like that first run. My mind is racing with my schedule, replaying the day's events, making to-do lists and more. The loudest voice over all this is the voice telling me I can't. Those excuses come back to me and I contemplate turning around and walking home during this time. There is a much smaller voice that strengthens as I continue on my way though. This voice tells me I can and shuts down all the thoughts racing through my mind until it finally squashes that voice telling me I can't. At this point I can focus on what matters: me. I can listen to my body properly and judge my capabilities accurately, making for a safe and healthy run. Best of all, I can enjoy my run.

For me running has become an activity in which I find peace of mind. Most of my day is spent rushing from class to appointments to meetings to home where my homework awaits. Being able to escape the chaos of the day can be difficult for anyone. I have found for me that the clarity from running calms me for the other challenges in life. Whether it is running, yoga, painting, reading or whatever, finding that one thing that allows you to clear your mind of the to-dos will refresh you making the to-dos in the day more manageable.

Beyond being able to find something that helps me bring my mind to peace, running has helped boost my confidence as well. By challenging all the “I can't's” I have been able to find strength and motivation to complete my first 5k and train for my first half marathon. While this upcoming challenge makes me nervous, I know I can rely on the second voice to crush the voice that tells me I can't and come to a place of clarity and peace in order to finish my run.


Katie Infusino
Katie is a Bachelor level intern from DePaul University who co-leads the Tuesday evening ANAD Support group at The Awakening Center.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Spirit

Last year I joined a Women’s Group. At one of the meetings we were repeatedly asked, “How is your Spirit?” At first I noticed that I answered the question from my head. After a few times, I started listening for the answers from my heart. Then, I heard the answers from deep within, from my Spirit or soul. Our culture does not encourage us to listen to our Spirit. We have to find ways to reconnect to our Spirit – and when we do so, we reconnect to our “Self”.

Erin Diedling, a psychotherapist at The Awakening Center, has written a poignant article about reconnecting to our Spirit. I hope you find it uplifting!

Namasté,
Amy Grabowski
“Spirit”
I was at a wonderfully lavish networking event recently. All invited were asked to go around the room and tell a bit about counseling specialty and to tell what it is that we are passionate about in our work. In my work I’m passionate about spirit. With both trauma and eating disorder clients, it is exciting to see clients inviting spirit into the body and watching the body connect to spirit. One of the reasons clients are drawn to The Awakening Center is because of our holistic approach. My version of that holistic approach is to acknowledge the connection between body and spirit. In my work lately, I’ve been coming across this concept; my clients and I get to explore what this means for them.

I find that this concept can get confusing at times. Is it correct to honor the body? Or to honor one’s spirit? How about both? Some think that if we focus too much on the body experience, then we are not being spiritual enough. Others say that being spiritual is to transcend or even ignore the body. I find that it is important to invite that spiritual aspect, that certain level of awareness, into the body and to allow the body to strive toward an experience of ones’ spirit self.

Internal Family Systems, a popular psychotherapy approach we espouse at The Awakening Center gets around both by calling this “SELF” energy. Smart move. Then our friend Oprah says, “we are spiritual beings having a human experience”. As contrary as I like to be at times, I gotta go with Oprah’s take.

And you know when that is happening, when you are engaged in the moment and something profound is occurring. Maybe it’s the experience of smelling fresh popcorn popping or the joy you feel on the open road, music blaring, singing to yourself in the car. It’s when you cannot put that book down so you stay up all night engrossed in story. It could be at a nightclub, or that warmth in the air at a wedding.

I don’t know about you, but I tend to think of myself as a spirit who wants to have body experiences from the simple to the sublime. When life gets overwhelming, it can be very tough to remember this. And eating disorders can really cause individuals to forget their spirit and deny the body. Eating disorders are designed to send away the aspects of one’s present Self awareness. Eating disorders are a way to escape the body. Amy Grabowski, MA, LCPC, founder of the Awakening Center often says that many of our eating disorder clients wish they could just carry their heads around on a stick, like a lollipop. In my opinion, it’s the integration of body and spirit where recovery happens and the rubber meets the road. And that is one place I find the passion for my work.

Recovering this awareness (an aspect of one’s spirit or Self energy) is a great way to overcome eating disorders. The way I like to think of it is that your spirit would never do you wrong. That part of you that is moved by a nature, travel, a movie, a song, that part of you would never lead you astray. Listening to that inner awareness is a way to move towards wellness (body mind and spirit wellness). There is a Buddhist tenet the holds that we can learn through joy or we can learn through suffering. Dr. Ira Sacker, M.D., a well known eating disorders specialist out of Columbia University in New York endorses this approach. He uses his clients’ passions to move forward in their recovery process by getting them involved in the very things that they are deeply passionate about but haven’t allowed themselves to pursue. I like that. It’s much more fun. And that is where my client work has taken me lately.

But you don’t have to have an eating disorder or even be a psychotherapy client to be invited to connect to your spirit, your passions, your truth.

What is it for you – what connects your spirit to your body? No, seriously. What is it? Have you allowed yourself to have that lately?

For some it’s pilates or yoga. For some, running is a way to connect to body to spirit, (for others running may act as a mechanism to disconnect from and escape the body). For some, connecting body to spirit is painting – a canvas or a wall. For others it’s creating a meal or having a culinary experience of taste, smell and texture in the moment.

What are your moments in life when you have been very clear that your body and your spirit were connected? How can you bring more of that into your life now? Or are there new ways you’ve been wanting to bring forth that connection? Maybe you could give yourself permission to take a step and have that thing! Your body might just thank you.

Erin Diedling, MEd, LPC
Erin is beginning a meditation group at The Awakening Center. Please call her at (773) 929-6262 x 19 if you would like more information.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Walking The Path

I have recently become an “empty nester.” My daughter moved to an apartment close to her college in Chicago – close enough for easy visiting but far enough to not be at home. My feelings about this are mixed. I feel loss and sadness that she is not in my everyday life, while at the same time excitement and anticipation of the freedom that being an empty nester implies. What will I do with my extra time? What is important to me? My first answer is “Finish The Book” – how long have I been working on this now? I’m not sure what comes after that.

Life gives us many opportunities for growth and change. With those opportunities comes finding our answers. Luna Sung, a master’s level practicum student from Northwestern University has written an article on one way to find our answers, “Walking the Path”. I hope it inspires you to seek out a quiet meditative way to find the answers to the questions in your life.

Namasté,
Amy Grabowski
Walking the Path

Have you ever walked through a labyrinth? I wasn’t quite sure myself what it was about until a month ago, when I had the opportunity to attend a training at a wellness center. In addition to the more “typical” and expected offerings (i.e., complementary therapy and meditation rooms, spa facilities, manmade waterfalls, bamboo gardens, gluten-free cookies), there was also a large outdoor labyrinth for guests to use during their stay. Sitting on a bench before it, I noted how visually soothing it was – curved paths of neutral-hued stones arranged in a harmonious circular shape. The sun was going down on a long, hot day and the trees were beginning to darken against the sky; all was quiet but for the evening hum of cicadas.

Though initially skeptical (a bit New Age-y for me?), I nevertheless felt drawn to this ancient symbol and meditation tool. It
looked mysterious and powerful, somehow, as if it might hold a secret or an answer. I had been struggling with a personal issue that seemed to have no resolution no matter how many times I turned it over in my mind. So it was with a curious but (admittedly) facetious attitude that I began this walk. What did I have to lose? Perhaps the ground would open up and this magical labyrinth would provide me with some much-needed guidance.

A labyrinth isn’t complicated in design – at least, this one wasn’t. There was one entrance, one exit, and the only task was to walk the path. I purposely did not look around me or try to guess where the path was leading; I focused on my breath and tried to stay as present and aware as possible. Normally a fast walker, I deliberately took slow, careful steps. I noticed the thoughts that almost immediately came up – and there were many – “what ifs,” “shoulds,” and feelings of doubt, guilt, fear, self-judgment, and confusion as I wondered for the 400th time what I should do.

But as I continued placing one foot in front of the other, I gradually began to notice the pleasure of silence (well, except for those cicadas) and solitude. I actually enjoyed moving slowly and concentrating on nothing but taking steps. I looked down and saw how pretty the rocks were in their infinite variety – not neutral at all, but some gray, pink, orange, burnt umber, ivory, white, yellow, and all shapes and sizes. I looked around and appreciated the chance to see and breathe in the magnificent woods. And while a labyrinth is perhaps an obvious metaphor for life’s journey, I was surprised by how suddenly it struck me as such. I started reflecting more deeply upon the last few years – my educational journey, which brought me to The Awakening Center, and my journey toward personal growth – to a greater understanding of heart and mind. It sounds trite on paper, doesn’t it? But the act of walking the path and focusing on the present moment more fully showed me that I had nowhere to go, nowhere to be, but exactly where I was. I suppose I could have cheated and stepped over those boundaries of stones, but even then, would I have found the exit so easily? (Not with my sense of direction, I’m afraid.)

During my week of training at the wellness center, I stayed at a small inn that provided shuttle service around the area. I became friendly with the driver, who casually said something I found very wise: “You’ve gotta get lost before you can find what you’re looking for.” And it seemed that the meandering path of the labyrinth was a pretty evocative metaphor for the desires, conflicts, and longing for answers that we all experience at some point. Life is not linear, after all; I cannot foresee the future, and I can only plan so much. We’re familiar with that John Lennon lyric:
Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans. And yet the path does lead to a definite place. As my thoughts became less gripped by anxiety and fear, I noticed that the rocks on the ground suddenly seemed to be larger, more colorful. The cicadas were growing louder. Was it always so, and I just hadn’t noticed? And then suddenly, without any warning at all, I had come to the center of the labyrinth. At the center was a large stone, upon which other “travelers” had placed smaller stones, almost like markers, or perhaps they were wishes. I placed my own stone on top. And then there was nothing more to do but slowly find my way back out.

Luna Sung

Luna leads the GO! Generating Opportunities for Successful Employment group on Tuesday afternoons at The Awakening Center. This group is for those who are job hunting and who want a supportive group setting to stay motivated. Call Luna at (773) 929-6262 x12 for more info.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Getting Lost & Getting Found

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “When Life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Sometimes it’s hard to find the positive in negative situations. It’s perfectly normal to want to sit back and sulk about our plight! But that doesn’t mean that Life won’t dish out any more lemons to us. Oh no! Sometimes it’s when we are sitting there sulking that Life decides to teach us another lesson!

Kira Redig, an intern from The Adler School, wrote a blog article about getting lost and finding her self in the process. Hope it helps you to “make lemonade” just one more time!

Namasté,
Amy Grabowski

Getting Lost & Getting Found

The other day as I was walking home, I took a wrong turn and got lost. After a minor panic I kept walking the direction I felt I needed to go, and eventually made it home, discovering a delicious bakery along the way. As I walked up my street, finishing the cookie I had bought, I started to think about the benefits that come from getting lost.

Life throws us some difficult curves, and at other times we intentionally step off the clear path to see what else is out there. Both of these can suddenly leave one feeling overwhelmed, scared, unsure, and well, lost. It is at this point you can become overwhelmed with panic and stay right where you are, or you can push though the panic and walk in the direction you feel is right, possibly asking for directions along the way.
Moving ahead when you don’t know where you are going can seem daunting, but it is amazing what you find out about yourself along the way. It is when we really don’t know what to do, or where to go that we are open to trying a new way. It is also when we really focus on our surroundings. Just as a stumbled upon a bakery during my walk, many of my life changing opportunities have presented themselves just after I have been at my lowest, most lost, moments.

Being lost forces us to try things outside of our comfortable routine. It expands our knowledge of our abilities, and ourselves, as we try to find our way. It offers lows and highs, and the heightened experience that comes with the unknown. Over all, being lost presents us with opportunities we probably wouldn’t have recognize or tried as we followed our set path of life.

For me, there is nothing more satisfying than finding my way home after being lost. I feel proud of myself for pushing through the fear and figuring out my way. I learn from the wrong turns and the gifts of experience they have presented me along the way. With all theses opportunities for growth it seems maybe we shouldn’t be so afraid of getting lost, but push ourselves to do so more often. Maybe its is like Justina Chen Headly says in her book North of Beautiful, “getting lost is just another way of saying going exploring”.
Warmly,
Kira Redig
Kira is a master’s level practicum intern from The Adler School of Professional Psychology. She currently leads an Art Therapy group on Thursday evenings. If you would like to learn more about the group or Art Therapy in general, please call her at (773) 929-6262 x13.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Self-Care

Summer is a hectic time for many of us. We try to cram a lot of activities into our limited supply of summer weekends – I am writing this early Sunday morning after having driven my son back to ISU in Normal IL yesterday, and my daughter hosted a party on Friday night. Today is an Anniversary Party for a cousin and a family reunion picnic, plus getting ready for a day of meetings at work tomorrow.

Katie Anson wrote a blog article about the emotional, physical and social importance of self-care, specifically the need for getting sufficient sleep. I hope you are inspired to squeeze self-care into every day.

Namasté,
Amy Grabowski

Self-Care
I am big on self-care. Historically, I never made time for myself. I was always busy, doing a lot of things that I enjoyed, but many things that I did not, and I wasn’t taking great care of myself. I wasn’t listening to what I wanted emotionally or what my body craved physically. I wasn’t doing things that would make me genuinely happy. To me, self-care was selfish and indulgent.

This perspective held for many years, but as I explored and experienced more, and became surer of my true self, I reframed what I formerly called selfishness as self-care. And the more I practiced self-care, the less selfish and better I felt.

In my mind, self-care can take many forms. Sometimes I treat myself to a splurge when shopping. I do my best to go to yoga on a weekly basis. Occasionally I’ll forego a social activity to relax and spend some time with myself at home. I like to treat myself to morning lattes.

Sleep is an essential aspect of self-care for me. It’s always a battle in the summer - the sun sets later and there seem to be so many activities going on during the day and night, which don’t promote a full night’s rest. I’m reminded of the “sleep when you die” quote, of which I’ve never been a fan. For me, lack of sleep leads to numerous emotional, physical and social side effects that negatively impact my life. For instance, my overall outlook on life is more negative the day after I barely sleep. I’m grumpier and my patience decreases, meaning I’m terse at work and complain more. I’m not as friendly or outgoing and I just feel crappy. I will actually get a sore throat the day after I don’t get sufficient sleep - my body’s way of telling me I’m not giving it enough rest. In order to avoid all of these negative effects, I’ve learned to prioritize, plan and say “No.”

Getting enough sleep is still a work in progress and there are still days, and even weeks, where I feel overwhelmed and wonder if I will ever feel well rested. Luckily, I’m able to recognize that when I feel this way, I simply need to realign my priorities and make myself the main focus.
Taking good care of yourself can be challenging, and with all of the roles we balance in a single day, it’s easy to forget about yourself and fulfilling your own needs. Think about the things that make you happy and then make yourself a priority by scheduling some self-care.

Katie Anson, MA, LPC
Katie is bilingual (Spanish/English) and sees clients for individual therapy at The Awakening Center. She can be reached at (773) 929-6262 x23.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Please Like Me!

Please Like Me!

Have you ever had a date with someone where all you could think of during the date was, “I hope he thinks I'm pretty”, “What if what I order is too expensive”, “I hope that impresses him.” Your mind is racing like a mouse on a wheel with thoughts of what he thinks about you and if he liked you. And he never even asked you anything about yourself! It never crosses your mind to ask, “Do I like him?” You come home from the date after having eaten a steak dinner (and you hate steak) and seeing a movie you hated (it was violent) and you feel exhausted, tired and depressed and didn't enjoy it at all and just want to crawl into bed? Welcome to the draining world of people pleasing!

Do any of these apply to you?
It is difficult for me to say No.
I avoid speaking my mind.
I try really hard to be who someone wants me to be.
I find it much easier to go along with what someone else wants, rather than rock the boat.


If you find yourself agreeing with these statements, a Part of you may be a People P leaser. You may not even be aware you are doing it, but a Part of you may want to please others in order to avoid reactions you are afraid of. When you are people pleasing you may have a hard time setting limits or saying no, setting boundaries and want to avoid others disapproval at all costs.

What to do? First try to pay attention in the moment you feel it happening. Do you feel a knot in your stomach? Do you get fuzzy thinking? Is it only with guys? Your boss at work? Do you feel afraid? Once you understand the underlying feeling you can assure yourself that you won't be rejected and if you are you can take care of yourself. Work on saying what you want and need from other people. Pick safe people to start with and work on knowing what you think and feel and sharing it.

Start small. Reassure yourself while you are doing it that you are just taking care of yourself And finally, surround yourself with friends who will support you in trying this. Maybe it's time to get some of what you really want and start surrounding yourself with people who like you for who you really are and not because you are good at pleasing them!

Maureen McNichols Ed.S, LCPC
Maureen currently is doing a training internship at The Awakening Center

Monday, August 9, 2010

Go With The Flow

Did any of you attend Lollapalooza last weekend? My kids went and described it as "So so so awesome!" But then again, on Sunday morning it was pouring and they had to decide whether to stick it out or leave. Sometimes Life doesn't cooperate and gives you a truck load of lemons (and one can only drink so much lemonade!) So what do we do? We have to learn to "Go with the Flow." Claire Jolly, a summer intern at The Awakening Center, wrote a blog article on that subject. Maybe you'll identify with how she came to terms when Life doesn't cooperate - although a semester in France is a nice truckload of lemons!
Namasté

Amy Grabowski


Go With the Flow


I recently looked at my calendar and couldn’t believe it is August. I will be studying in Strasbourg, France for the upcoming fall semester and the anticipation of leaving stirs up many conflicting emotions. I am excited to embark on this adventure with several of my closest friends but also anxious at the thought of living in a foreign country for four months. In an attempt to ease my worries I began journaling things to pack, possible trips to take while in Europe, and my goals for the upcoming semester. I noticed that my expectations for the trip were quite high considering I haven’t even boarded the plane yet!

I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and realized that when I really got down to it, my number one goal for this experience is to be happy. I am not going to be able to anticipate every possible problem or sticky situation. I may forget to pack something, get lost while traveling, or get homesick but, at the end of the day being flexible and going with the flow will be the best way to achieve happiness abroad.

This approach is not only applicable when traveling but in all aspects of life. Our society often puts a lot of emphasis on being in control. While making smart decisions and planning ahead can be useful tools, things don’t always go according to plan. Sometimes there is an unexpected extra guest at your dinner party or major construction on your way to work. We are often faced with situations we cannot control but how we react to these situations is within our control.

So, the question is, what do you do when things don’t go according to plan? I find it is often helpful to first take several deep breaths; this relaxes the body and the mind and allows you to think more clearly. Then, I try to focus on the facts. If I forgot to pack something, can I find it in France? If there’s construction on the way to work, can I take an alternate route? If I’m homesick, will the feelings pass? The answer to all of these questions is yes. Even when things don’t go the way you thought they would there is always a choice to freak out or be flexible. I hope that the next time you or I are faced with a change of plans we choose to take a deep breath and go with the flow and, who knows, the outcome may be better that we expected.

Peacefully,
Claire Jolly

Claire is a Bachelor's level summer intern at The Awakening Center. She co-leads the Tuesday night ANAD support group.

Monday, July 26, 2010

True Friendship

Here in Chicago, with our bone chilling winters, we cherish our warm Summer weather as much as possible. Summer is a great time to get together with friends - going to the beach, listening to music at an outdoor concert, playing in a park.
But Life is not always rosy, and friends can be the lifeline we cling to when "Life gives us lemons....." The following blog article "True Friendship" is written by Dr Gulin Guneri. The picture is of Gulin with her good friend Victoria on Gulin's first 4th of July as an American Citizen! Congratulations, Gulin!
Namasté,
Amy
True Friendship



A true friend has your back. They accept the real you with all your quirkiness and insecurities. When you are hard on yourself because you thought you made the “worst mistake in your life” they are right there beside you. They are either a phone call or a cab drive away. After a heart to heart conversation, a true friend reminds you to be kind to yourself. They help you to put things in perspective – your “mistakes” are only part of the learning process that allows you to become a better person. They help you to forgive yourself for not being perfect.

A true friend does not allow you to dwell on the past and replay the scenarios over and over again in your head with “I could have done this!” or “I shouldn’t have said that!” A true friend reminds you that the past is in the past and has no power over you in the now! They help you to focus on the present time so that you can take charge of your life again.

A true friend reminds you that you are not the victim, but you are the conductor who orchestrates your life events. They facilitate the process of finding your inner wisdom as they listen to you calmly, non-judgmentally and with loving care. Because of their existence in your life, you strive to become a better person. A true friend reminds you that the path to happiness and tranquility starts with becoming forgiving, loving, gentle and kind to yourself. And you come to that realization that as you forgive yourself, it becomes easier to forgive others.

If you are having a bad day, pick up the phone and call your true friend. Nobody is a mind reader. If you don’t reach out, your true friend will not know that you needed them in that moment. After a heart to heart conversation on the phone or getting together for a cup of coffee, you do feel relieved as you free yourself from your “punitive self” – the one that judges you for what you have done in the past or agonizes you for “all the bad things” that “can happen” in the future. Do not hesitate to pick up the phone and reach out to your true friend. They will never think that you are a “burden” to them.

In the end, they are your true friend because you reciprocate the loving kindness and respect and care for them. Your true friend is in your life because they also learn from you as you also help them to be in touch with their inner wisdom. They are your true friend because they already know that you got their back!


Gulin Guneri, PsyD
(773) 929-6262 x18

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Challenging Your Bad Body Image

While doing yoga at The Peace School* this morning, I noticed how beautiful I felt in my body – not an outer beauty, but a feeling of strength, of being at peace within my body, feeling connected to the bigger picture of my life. As you may know, I have been writing a book, “Imagine Being At Peace with Food, Your Body, Your Self” which is about using “Parts Therapy” to recover from Eating Disorders and Disordered Eating. I’ve been writing this book for a long, long time – it’s embarrassing how long. But, I am very happy to report, I am working on the very last chapter!!! So as my Blog article, I am using an excerpt from the last chapter, “Making Peace with Food and Your Body.” If you all cross your fingers, maybe a publisher will accept it by the New Year. Anyone know a publisher?
Namasté,
Amy

Challenging Your Bad Body Image


……Think way back, why did you start your very first diet? For most of you, feeling ‘Fat’ and being uncomfortable in your own skin was something you’ve felt since you were a kid. In the majority of cases, feeling bad about our bodies was the first symptom of our eating disorder. And unfortunately it is usually the last symptom to go…….
So part of recovery is going to be learning to not trust the negative feelings you have about your body and learning to feed your body as if you did not have these negative feelings, which you will know to be untrue – even though you will still have these feelings for a while. Huh? Clear as mud – right? Don’t worry I’ll try to make this as clear as I can.

We have to admit to ourselves, “Hating my body doesn’t work!” It just makes all the other symptoms worse, much worse! If hating your body actually worked, if it actually motivated you to stop bingeing, then everyone would have ideal bodies.

Body hatred is based on a distorted Body Image. Body Image is the picture you have in your mind of what you think you look like, combined all the judgments and criticisms you have about what you think you look like. It is not based on what you actually look like in reality to all the people in your life. The majority of women (and increasingly men) have a distorted view of their bodies – we do not see ourselves as others see us. I compare this to being color-blind. If a person were color-blind, they would not be able to see some colors the way all other people see them. And they would know this as a fact and would accept that their perception of color was distorted. Let’s say the color-blind person wanted to buy an outfit for a wedding, they would need to rely on someone else’s perception, “Do these colors go together?”

I’m sure you get it so far. Because if you were wearing a lavender dress and one hundred people said to you, “Your dress is lavender,” you would agree with them. But if 100 people said to you, “You’re thin,” you would think, “No, I’m not. They’re just saying that. They don’t know the real me…” One or more Parts of you would not let that information in; these Parts would not trust others’ perceptions (even if they are based in reality).
Why would you not believe others when they tell you how you actually look? Because our Body Image is not only based on what we think we look like, it’s also based on sensations we have inside our bodies. This is the body’s version of Emotional Reasoning: “If I feel it, then it must be true.”

I’m sure you have all had an experience similar to Gabriela who feels good as she talks, laughs and jokes with her co-workers at the office. If you stopped her at this point to ask what she feels about her body, she would actually have to think about it – her body is unimportant and irrelevant at this moment. But then she receives a phone call from her extremely critical boyfriend. After she hangs up she suddenly ‘feels fat’ and decides to skip lunch. If you were with Gabriela, you know she would look no different than she did before the phone call. But Gabriela ‘feels’ different inside her body. Why? Gabriela feels unpleasant body sensations caused by the emotions and thoughts stirred up by the phone conversation – and Gabriela misinterprets these sensations as ‘feeling fat’. Gabriela is not aware that she is actually feeling angry, trapped, helpless, resentful, and sad.

‘Feeling fat’ gives Gabriela a feeling of control, she can do something: she can skip meals, restrict food, eat salads, exercise – she can purge. But if Gabriela acknowledged the emotions and thoughts stirred up when she talked with her boyfriend – it wouldn’t be so easy to control or do. No, she would have to use all the tools in the last two chapters to handle her emotions, change the relationship or accept him as he is.
You have become very skilled at turning emotions and thoughts about other things, people or situations into ‘feeling fat’. In fact you can make yourself feel fat right now. I do this with my clients in my office – I recommend you do this with your therapist or a friend you trust.
Look at the person you are with and have them look at you so you know what they look like. Now, pick a body part – don’t tell each other what part. In your mind, make that body part feel fatter – you know exactly what I mean. Make it feel even fatter. Come on you can do this. Feel it growing and growing. It feels really big now. Look at your friend. Ask your friend if she feels fatter. Does she look different to you? I guarantee she does not. Do you feel fatter? Ask your friend if you look different. I guarantee you look the same to her as well.
Did you feel fat? Yes, you did. You had sensations of that body part getting bigger. But was it real – did your body actually grow or change? No. You experienced real sensations, even though your body did not change at all. The body sensations felt like it, but nothing actually happened. So even though you felt fatter, the feeling is not reflected in reality. I coach my clients to repeat several mantras to themselves every time they feel fat, “I am color-blind. I cannot see myself accurately. I do not look like I feel. I do not look like I think I look.”

I would love to hear your comments or reactions to this excerpt. And I hope you look forward to reading the whole book soon - hopefully very soon!
Peacefully,
Amy Grabowski, MA, LCPC

*The International Association for World Peace, also known as The Peace School, located at 3121 N Lincoln, Chicago, IL 60657, teaches Peace Breathing, Meditation, Massage, Self-Defense and Yoga. They sponsor Peace Day at the Daley Plaza in downtown Chicago in September of each year. Check out their website: www.peaceschool.org or call them at (773) 248-7959.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Living Life Rather Than Getting Through It


I had the privilege of getting away for a long weekend and finally enjoying the sun, sand, and water that I so look forward to as summer rolls in. Before the trip I had a feeling of restless anticipation, a sense of really needing to get away from the day to day craziness of Chicago. I felt like a little kid sitting by the door saying “Can we go yet?”


I wondered why I was so anxious to get away. As I settled into the first day of the vacation I began to slow down and enjoy all the benefits of vacation. Having no set schedule, nowhere to be, and no one expecting anything from me, I quickly settled into the leisurely pace of the small beach community. I soaked up the sun, read a great book, and enjoyed the peaceful flow of the waves. I began to realize how relaxed I felt and how good it was to just slow down. I noticed things that often get overlooked. The gorgeous blue sky, the pure joy on my dog’s face as he chased a Frisbee around the beach, the gestures of love and connection from my friends.


I had the sense of being reminded of what it is like to really be in the moment. So often I encourage clients and challenge myself to take time, give ourselves what we need, notice what we are feeling and needing, and appreciate all the many gifts of the day. Well these few days away from my routine were a great reminder of that. I felt like a bit of a different person, more connected and more at peace. You can argue it was because I was on vacation but this same sense of being doesn’t always settle into every vacation.

As I returned home I began to think of ways that I could emulate this vacation experience. I realized how many choices in my day that keep me from having this sense of peace and connection with myself. I too often don’t give myself enough time and end up feeling rushed, always a few minutes behind schedule or screeching in right on time. I make lists that I feel like have to be done today, right now as if the world will end if everything isn’t taken care of. I choose mindless distractions rather than things that will really enrich my day. I let the tasks of the day or frustrations of the day interfere with really connecting and just being with others.


The time away was not just a few days to get refreshed, enjoy a place I love and people I love. It was a reminder to slow down in every day of life and start to incorporate these little things throughout my days so I can have that same sense of peace and connection. Creating the time and space for ourselves is so crucial and yet so often gets pushed to the side. I wonder what things you may want to incorporate into your days and also consider what aspects of the day interfere with this time needed for ourselves. I hope a few moments of a peaceful lazy summer day can be incorporated to both my days and yours.


Jennifer Schurman, MA, LPC

Jen sees individuals, couples and families for therapy as well as leads the Monday evening Eating Disorder Therapy Group. She can be reached at (773) 929-6262 x 20 if you would like more information.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

"Stillness"

Friday, while driving back from visiting my parents in Wisconsin I hit a blinding thunderstorm! Traffic came to an almost standstill while the rain came down in buckets! Leaves and branches were blowing across the streets! It took much longer than usual, but finally we made it home. The neighbors tree was down in their yard – but we were safe and unharmed.
The next morning when I went out to walk the dog the sky was clear and blue. It was a pleasant temperature and there was little wind. How serene! How tranquil! What a difference from the night before!
Erin Diedling has written a blog article about Inner Stillness. I hope it helps you find the serenity and tranquility within you!
Namasté,
Amy
PS to all dads out there – “Happy Father’s Day”


It’s more than just a Travel Channel ad: "Stillness"


A friend asked me recently what I’d be doing on a recent vacation. I responded with great joy and a big smile, a resounding, “nothing”.

Our culture values doing and productivity. It’s our right as Americans to do and be productive. We take pride in and give value to being a productive nation – and rightly so. As a culture, we’re wonderfully productive. And in order to keep up with the value of doing and productivity, we have these remarkable vending outlets for caffeine to help us keep doing all day…Starbux, 5 Hour Energy, Red Bull, sodas, etc.

And then, there is the less often valued concept of stillness. Stillness is just as immediate as a caffeine fix, (perhaps even more so if you wait for the caffeine to take effect) but it is so elusive. What is this stillness? What is the calm, tranquility, the peace of it? How do you get to it?
Often we fear the stillness because it seems that there is something in between oneself and the availability of the still experience. This is often true of much of the eating disorder behaviors we treat at The Awakening Center. The behaviors are often well-intentioned but misguided attempts to get to a point of stillness.

When I teach meditation, this is the messy thing. Everything that stands in the way of the person being still will come up. Some traditions call it the “monkey mind”. One way to get past the messiness of moving toward stillness is to think of stillness as an anchored boat (your presence of mind) and think of the anxious thoughts as nothing more than waves passing by.
Stillness is all about non-doing. Stillness is a way of being (vs. the oft applauded doing). Getting to stillness seems such a nice concept in theory, but how do we get to stillness? There are those rare people, you know who you are, who seem to have a grace or a peace about their very nature. For the rest of us, stillness, non-movement, non-doing may begin with a decision – a simple intention to be still.

Stillness often involves being grounded in the present moment. Some ways I’ve seen that work for people to get into the present moment and find stillness:
***Taking a deep breath or even letting out a sigh has physiological impact that allows for stillness.
***Noticing beauty, in the color of the sky, a type of intrigue in architecture, or a flower growing next to the sidewalk, seeing a meaningful exchange between two people, stopping for a pedestrian at a crosswalk and simply noticing. In the city, design is a form of beauty and allows us an opportunity to be present.
***In a Tich Nhat Han book, the buddhist monk describes the tail lights on a car at a stop light as the eyes of the Buddha smiling.
***Being present with the smell, taste and texture of food.
***Doodling gets a mixed review, but actually allows the higher part of the mind to be present and free.
***Journaling can be a gateway to stillness by allowing one to be in the moment with emotions and thoughts.
***Bathing – water is a gateway to stillness that speaks at profound levels.
***Sitting with our breath and noticing our breath.
***Something as simple as feeling wrapped in a blanket or resting on a pillow and the noticing the texture, warmth, feel of it. Allowing oneself to be comforted by the feel of it.

What are the ways that bring you to stillness? When have you felt still? How can you bring more of that into your life. What do you get to have if you allow more stillness into your life? Maybe you can give yourself permission to bring in the still. You’re worth it!

Namasté.
Erin Diedling, MEd, LPC
(773) 929-6262 x19