Sunday, April 29, 2012


As a graduate student I have the tendency to run myself ragged.  There seems to be this little voice in the back of my head saying “you don’t have time to sit around!”  I come home from school or work and feel that I have to do more, clean my apartment or finish a paper.  This voice criticizes me for taking a break to watch TV or take a nap, telling me “you need to be more productive!”  Usually I can keep this up for a couple of months until the end of the semester when my body finally surrenders and I get sick.  I think this is my body’s way of forcing me to slow down. 
Lately however, I have been starting to challenge myself in this area.  Maybe it’s the fact that graduation is so near or that I’m simply tired of my scheduled colds, but I have started to practice truly listening to my body.  When I’m tired I take a nap, when I’m hungry I take a break to eat, when my body asks me to sit on the couch and watch reruns of the Brady Bunch I do it.  I have found that the more in tune I am with my body, the more I respect what it needs, and the more I respect it’s needs, the more my body is able to give back to me.  By giving my body the breaks that it needs on a regular basis, it is able to give me the energy and concentration I need to really be present at work and school. 
For me this not only applies to giving my body physical breaks, but mental ones too.  I don’t feel like it’s really a break when I go for a walk and spend the whole time stressing out about work I need to get done.  When I get back from the walk I feel no more rejuvenated or motivated than when I left.  My mind needs just as much breaks as my body, to go on Facebook or read a good book (not in the form of a textbook).  So I challenge you to take the time to listen to your own body.  You might be surprised at how much it has to say!

By: Kaitlyn Gitter

Monday, April 23, 2012

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

 Remember childhood? Do you remember camping in the dark or making forts and turning off the lights.  Reading under the covers by flashlight? Did you have a secret cubby or hiding place that was safe for you? Ever notice how the pirates bury treasure, sometimes in a cave – sometimes a dark cave. As adults, we sometimes lose touch with those hidden places which have such treasures of self knowledge.  We learn to bury the treasure and leave it buried.
Whether it is commitment to a deeper relationship to yourself, to your spirit, or just plain and simple curiosity, when we explore those dark cubbies of the psyche we find treasures.  Most of our daily activities are lived in unconsciousness.  For me, one of the most wonderful things about having a life is about engaging in the present moment. I don’t stay in the present moment all the time.  This is mostly healthy and allows us to get through the day – unless we have the job of say, the Dalai Lama.  But there are times, even seasons built into our lives to allow us an opportunity to get in touch with the dark or unconscious. When we deny the shadow, it often persists in the form of jealousy or judgement. If I deny myself those sassy red heels and then I see the girl who bought a pair of equally sassy red heals, I may feel a little judgemental, dumbfounded, competitive or even judgemental. Why does she give herself permission that I don’t? Well, that could be a looooooong story. Our shadows, dark places and forbidden parts hold all sorts of information. In our society, we try so hard to keep it together, to keep the dark from seeping out.  But the seeping out…is pure genius, especially if it is done consciously. (Especially if done in sassy red heels!)
When I’m working with my clients, I invite them (and myself) to listen to what the dark is trying to say. What is that message just below the surface? If you crawl under that blanket, crawl into the cubby and sit with the surroundings and flash just a little bit of a flashlight beam on the storybook , what do you learn? Does it whisper to you? I often ask, what are you NOT supposed to see, know, hear, etc.? Maybe you prefer to go into meditation to let the below-the-surface information come up for you. I like to journal about it and let the resistance melt away with each written line. Some people stretch to release the unconscious messages told by the body. Others will draw or doodle to let the unconscious thoughts seep through. At the Awakening Center, we treat eating disorders and more. I often ask my clients to go below the surface of the craving, of the binge, of the restricting – to sit with those dark moments. In that space, there is a treasure trove of information.
A long time ago I read a quote from Bono of U2. He said for so long they ran away from the big rock star image. They thought it would make them into sell-outs. Finally, the popularity surrounded them and they simply had to embrace their greatest fear, the over-the-top rock star persona. And they were genius at it. And the quote went something like, “so we gave the rock star image a big smooch”.
I recently had an experience where my greatest fear became reality. That dark place showed up. I went into it like a cubby. In a way, I had no choice. Everything I’d done to keep it below the surface, all those lovingly proactive steps blew up. There is something raw and truthful about being with the dark. It allows us to be in present time. The opposite is true when we avoid the dark.  For me, I found gratitude. For me, I found places in which I could bring in more self love.
So, as Spring and Summer bring light to our days, consider bringing light to those hidden messages. Exploration opens up new and broader ranges of possibilities. Don’t be afraid of the dark. 

By: Erin Diedling

Seeking Truth: Erin Diedling

By: Diana Hinojosa

“What makes you happy?” According to Erin Diedling, this is one of the most difficult, yet rewarding questions that her clients have faced in their path to recovery. Erin believes that the best way to handle difficult times with her clients is to provide them with gentleness and to identify their true moments of happiness.

She says, “I will always try to acknowledge when they’re happy, but you have to take the time for it, and I want happiness for all of my clients.”

Erin realized she wanted to become a part of this helping profession ever since she was fourteen. After borrowing books from her own therapist and having a friend advise her to become a part of a field that would allow her to think for herself, Erin knew she was on the right path. 

Her interest in the mystical parts of psychology have encouraged her to ask herself questions as to why people act the way they do, and it has encouraged her to explore the different paths of people in their journey to recovery. 

She says, “I think somatic experiences bring it all together,” Somatic experiences in therapy allows the clients to really feel and channel their thoughts and emotions. This could be very powerful, but the client needs to be comfortable enough to allow him or herself to have those feelings. 

After volunteering for some time at Chicago’s Women Health Center, Erin was able to use her trauma training experience to assist clients with eating disorders at The Awakening Center.
She says, “I realize how lucky I am to be here. It is such a supportive group, ethically, legally, and educationally, it’s like a think tank and a family at the same time. It is quiet, and no one asks for credit, but the unifying theme with my colleagues and the honor of being of being part of this team is the high caliber of talent.”

More than anything, Erin appreciates that at The Awakening Center, the goal is to treat the person with the mission to heal and she feels lucky to be a part of a team that approaches their work with sacredness.

“There is a commitment to positive change,” she says, “Everyone here is on their path, their inquiry, driven by curiosity. We have people that want to seek truth, and that makes this a special place. Everyone on the team is on a path to greater peace, self-awareness.”

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Use it or Lose it! Your Brain, that is!

Barbara Bednarz, a licensed Brain Gym® instructor will be leading a workshop at The Awakening Center on Sunday April 22, from 1-4pm. I asked Barbara to write about Brain Gym® - to explain what is so special about it. Here's what she shared with us:

Use it or Lose it! Your Brain, that is!

Tears came to my eyes and a flood of memories washed over me recently as I finished reading an article: “A Test You Need To Fail: A Teacher’s Open Letter To Her 8th Grade Students” by Ruth Ann Dandrea, Rethinking Schools (03.26.12 on ). The article is Dandrea’s apology to her students for administering (or, as she says, “inflicting”), by mandate of course, a standardized exam. She apologized for the stupidity of the test. Student answers which were thoughtful, thought-provoking, insightful and which did not fit the mold of the test had to be marked wrong. This pained her and drove her to write the letter. She encouraged her students to continue their critical thinking and to be proud of their zeroes because of what they signify.

I reminisced on my thirty years as a high-school teacher where in the late 1990's I was forced to stop teaching one day a week in order to teach test-taking skills for multiple-choice standardized exams. I, too, was pained at this and at the awful exams which had multiplied in numbers over the years.

I also thought of the beautiful tool which I shared with my students: Brain Gym®. Brain Gym® movements and processes ensure good communication between and among the various parts of the brain, and between the brain and body and vice versa. My students used Brain Gym® before and during tests and standardized exams. They eagerly used movements which helped them with memory, focusing, vision and comprehension. They also relieved test-stress with Brain Gym®. Students who in past years could never finish a standardized exam within the allotted time-frame, were now able to do so. I shared in their great excitement over this!

My students used Brain Gym® for stress relief off campus as well. I just loved how they became self-empowered with this tool! One of my favorite memories is of a little freshman who had a police record. One morning, she avoided a fight on a public bus by using one of the Brain Gym® movements - she knew she couldn’t afford another police encounter. She was very thrilled with the result, as was I when she shared her story with the class.

I started every class with a few minutes of Brain Gym® and also plugged it in when needed during class. Over time I witnessed many profound, positive changes in my students: behavior, self-management, communication, organization, and last, but not least, cognitive function. This is good stuff, I thought! And teaching became easier and more fun for me!

I continued to take Brain Gym® classes until I became a licensed instructor/consultant. I left teaching in 2001 have been teaching Brain Gym® full-time ever since. I’ve trained people from all walks of life, all age levels and in all situations. One of my favorite clients was an eighty-year-old woman with dementia. While Brain Gym® didn’t “cure” her dementia, the woman improved her day-to-day functioning tremendously. She changed from being cranky and ill-tempered, living in pajamas, to having a pleasant demeanor., enjoying good grooming and willingly going for walks, to movies and to restaurants. The more she transformed, the more her family enjoyed her.

As I reflect back on the past decade, I’m so very grateful for this tool called Brain Gym®.

Barbara Bednarz, Licensed Brain Gym® Instructor/Consultant

Move Smart Center, Grayslake, IL

For more information about the Brain Gym® workshop please contact Barbara at:


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