My New “Calm the -Bleep!- Down Club”

Since earlier this year, when significant challenges flooded in, I realized what I really needed to do was to calm down. So, I started telling myself to calm down. And it helped–magically and immensely. Then, as dear girlfriends and I discussed that phenomenon of “those moments” of feeling so overwhelmed, so angry, so sad, so frustrated, so _____, I started proclaiming that I was starting a new club called the “Calm the <bleep!> Down Club.” One of my dear friends immediately wanted to be vice president.

Here’s what I realized: In those moments when we feel intense emotions and anxiety, we really can get our bearings, return to clarity, return to breath… when we calm down.

But can you hear those words when someone else says them? That trigger when someone tells you to calm down? I usually don’t like it, either.

So, train yourself to tell yourself to calm down and follow up with peace-creating, grounding actions and thoughts. When we need new patterns, and, as I found through extensive research last summer about trauma and habits, we don’t “break” a “bad” or unhealthy habit–we replace it. What different approaches and responses to stay calmer, especially in the face of those intense times, are you willing to “try on”?

try these steps to ground, be in the moment and feel safer_may2016

What the heck is Erika talking about? I really like the grounding approach in the image above–one great example.Lately I’ve been talking more to my clients about a “spiritual tool kit,” otherwise known as the sweet, personal collection of practices that keep you grounded, calm and authentic, no matter what may be happening around you, and I encourage people to also have a portable version. For example, no matter where I am–at home, my office or traveling far from home, when I’m feeling overwhelmed or even to get ahead of and prevent difficult and stressful moments, I have my go-to spiritual practices. And my travel grounding and self-care kit contains my yoga practice, my journal, certain mantras and small rituals… and my breath.

BREATH needs to be in all of our calming kits. So portable, too! In seconds, just by putting your hand over your heart, which essentially says “I am here–in this moment,” and slowing down the breath, adding intention to the breath (ex. “I breathe in calm; I breathe out and release fear”), and taking three deliberate and slow breaths, you can feel the calm within you and surrounding you. Start there. Start here. Make calm accessible and access it.

I want to support more calm, peace and joy in your life–and sincerely enjoy doing so through my sessions and services. With or without me, give some thought to that spiritual, grounding, calm-inducing toolkit–before the next time life throws another zinger, or you find yourself in some intense anxiety. Planning ahead can make all the difference. Even if you write the words featured above in “For help during an anxiety attack, try this technique….” for some lovely guidance and keep it somewhere accessible. Or, take a picture of the image on your phone! Keep it close.

Do something, however small, to promote more calm in your life. Then, you’ll invite ease and clarity with navigating your life, moment to moment.

© 2016 Erika M. Schreck. All rights reserved.

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Loss Can Feel Like This… But You Need to Be in This

Sudden loss can feel like this.

It’s like a car accident that includes a plunge into water: You’re driving along, maintaining and staying aware, and suddenly there’s the crash, the impact, and you’re free-falling off a bridge and find yourself thrown into the water below. At first, panic. Then, realization that you’re going to be here awhile.

And even though breath can sometimes be a struggle, you realize you can breathe.

Others may swim by, offer a life preserver, effort to pull you out… but you need to be in this. Feel it all. Know you won’t drown even if you feel you will—at first, every day. And even if you feel you’d like to drown and slip into the promised peace of letting go and surrendering.

But we can still surrender and LIVE. That’s one of the secrets. But we need to be okay with allowing the float, the awareness, and that hollow, odd sound and solitude we uniquely know when we are submerged under water.

Grief is like this.

© 2016 Erika M. Schreck. All rights reserved


2016-02-23 13.23.40 (450x338)

I lost my beloved dog Harley last month and have been in the thick of processing grief and integrating the hole and new routine that show up each day. Read my public tribute to my boy at this link here. I’ve had several significant losses in my life, which you can read more about here.

 

 

Grief Healing Resources: Please click here to see a started list of some of my favorite resources lately, as I grieve; I’ve started a list of books, on-line video and audio, and on-line articles. These resources have been game-changers for me.

What Is Your Biggest Ache?

2014-10-06 09.20.21I have a few people in my life who noticeably ask their clients and friends, “What is your biggest ache?” It’s often a good place to start when one commits to healing, moving forward, and discovering any emotional blocks that need attention and release. I’ve also given thought to this question and encourage others to ponder what longing and heartache has shown up for them.

Some people may first think of physical ache–maybe there’s that pesky knee pain that doesn’t seem to go away. What I’ve found consistently in my reiki and coaching work is that physical pain is often linked to emotional and spiritual challenges, even with a physical basis (ex. event of injury). Often our biggest pain and longing is an emotional journey of grappling with what cannot be or what never was.

“Our biggest ache” can pervade our lives and affect us in both conscious and subconscious ways, holding us back and limiting our joy and peace. One of my own biggest aches that again recently brought me to tears is my inability to have children. Endometriosis, age, single-hood and finances are all primary reasons for “no,” and I’ve needed to reach a place of trust and acceptance with this issue.

Ignoring our aches will not help us heal.

What do we do to stop or at least ease the ache?

Whatever our ache, we need to honor the necessary grieving and healing stages. And you will know best what you need to grieve and heal–after you allow time to get quiet and listen and slow down to hear and feel what you need to grieve and heal. That is, if you’re ready to not be stuck in the ache. Just as with grieving a loved one who died–and maybe your big ache is having lost a dearly beloved through death, we need space and time to process and be able to make room for this grieving and releasing.

Perhaps another part of this aching, grieving and healing is acknowledging that in most cases, we can admit that part of the ache is that our lives did not turn out as we expected. We can’t always quickly accept this element of the ache, but I’ve found it’s important to recognize the gifts in how life has unfolded for us and how we can still be joyful.

In what ways can we healthily soothe the pain?

As part of managing and healing my biggest ache, I’ve always made kids a priority in my life, whether it’s being Aunt Erika to my friends’ kids, nannying, babysitting, or daily being extra-sensitive and kind to kids I meet. The fact that I can always choose to enjoy kids in my life brings me sincere joy and soothes the ache.

And what if our “biggest ache” is also our “biggest ache right now“? Like chronic pain in any sense–physical, emotional or spiritual, we may choose to not live in it and trust in our ability to shift even the deepest pain.

What is one next step you can take for greater peace and healing?

© Erika M. Schreck, 2015. All rights reserved for photos and words.

The Light Is Always There

2015-04-17 16.21.26“This little light of mine,
I’m gonna let it shine….”
Avis Burgeson Christiansen

I talk a lot about light. We hear a lot about light. 

“Shine your light.”
“Be the light.”
“Go into the Light, Carol Anne.”
“Your eyes light up when you talk about ___.”

Light is “good.” We contrast it often with what’s “bad” or dark. We use flashlights or candles in the dark, so we can see better. We have headlights on our vehicles. And what’s the first thing you do after unlocking your door when arrive home at night? We’re using and turning on lights all the time.

Just like energy that fuels our sources for seeing better in the night or dark rooms or dark campsites, our own energy—our light—within can be appreciated for fueling us, especially when challenges surround us. Our light seems to be the expression of our good, our gifts, our love and our kindness and compassion. We can help others’ light brighten when we share these things within us–the things that make us feel all glow-y inside, and we know when our own source or someone’s light seems to be dimming.

That light is hope. It is love. It’s what keeps us going when we may think we no longer really want to here on the planet. It propels us to take that one more step forward, even when we may feel we’re not moving much or as quickly as we want or think we should.

The light is always there. It doesn’t get squelched, but perhaps it dims from time to time. We can avoid this dimming and instead brighten when we believe in ourselves, we’re being as powerful as we can be, we’re engaging with people and activities that support our values and authentic self, we’re taking care of ourselves and we’re expressing ourselves in our most authentic way.

Shine on—you will encourage others to do the same.

© Erika M. Schreck, 2015. All rights reserved.

The Dead Parent Club and Four Big Things I’ve Learned in 15 Years Since My Father Died

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My dad raced stock cars sometimes

I believe we join an interesting club when we lose a parent through death. Until you join this club, it’s a tough journey to understand–and no one else’s journey will be exactly like yours. Today is the 15-year anniversary of my father’s passing; he died suddenly and unexpectedly at age 48 of a heart-attack… that’s an age that is eight years away for me and tough to imagine.

I’ve learned so many valuable things through my father’s passing and through several other losses, I keep returning to my experiences on this journey, what I usually share with people willing to discuss and listen, and what I’ve been finding important to my grief coaching clients. There are multiple learnings, but I continue returning to the following four.

1. Be at peace with where you’re at with your parents.

This is probably the biggest one. If your parents still on the planet, have you said and done what you need to feel at peace? If they’re on the Other Side, have you said and done what you need to feel at peace? I can’t tell you what this may look like exactly for you. And it may not even involve actually talking to or seeing them. But how can you choose peace?

For me, it took telling my dad that he was a “shitty father sometimes”–on the, unknown to me, last Father’s Day I would share with him. It might sound awful, but in the last several months we had together after that Father’s Day, not knowing those were our last, something shifted. We actually talked more, and I was invited over more. Throughout my childhood and teens, I wrote him letters and expressed in phone calls what I needed to. I definitely wasn’t perfect in all I did, but somehow I feel I had a larger feeling of “no regrets.” Sure, I still have regrets. Overall, I sincerely tried to do and say all I needed with him to feel at peace. And I know how much he loved and supported me—he was my biggest fan with my writing, my calligraphy pens, my drawing, my crafting, star-gazing, camping and appreciating Nature.

2. Talk about your burial and funeral wishes, as well as organ donation and end-of-life wishes (ex. Do-Not-Resuscitate order), with loved ones. And get it on official documentation. Now.

My father’s loss is so significant for me, not only because my father left the planet, but also because at age 24-turning-25, I was suddenly solely responsible for all of his effects. I quickly needed to plan a funeral, approve which body parts could be donated, drain my already-little savings to pay for the initial things, prepare and sell his condo, sell his Harley Davidson, sell his car, save his ponytail from his mother who wanted to cut it off for the wake and funeral viewing, refuse his former girlfriend wanting his prized and bad-ass Harley Davidson leather jacket, and so forth. And I was in grad school with three jobs.

He didn’t have a will, and I hadn’t talked with him about what kind of burial he wanted; dealing with probate was challenging. I found a card in his wallet for a lawyer after he died; when I called her and mentioned this card find, she responded, “Oh, yes, your father was going to contact me about doing a will.”

3. Remember that while people can relate and have great intentions,
no one else knows “exactly” what you’re going through.

One of the most comforting things anyone said to me came from the mouth of the funeral director. After several days of managing things, organizing and planning, I arrived at the funeral home for the evening “wake”—an opportunity to allow friends, family and coworkers to view the body in the casket and pay respects to the deceased and the family. My face and body were showing my fatigue, overwhelm and I-will-cry-any-moment-please-watch-what-you-say.

I was still unloading items from a heavy box I’d just carried into the funeral home. My uncle beckoned me with impatience, “Come on, Erika, you and your brother and sister need to view the body now, before everyone else arrives.” That’s what did it. I had held it together all week and supported everyone else. False start as I proceeded to follow said uncle and enter the room where my father lay, when tears arrived like a slap, and I turned to hide the fountain coming from my face. I took a moment. And a breath.

After seeing my dad in the casket, with his ponytail and his dark jeans and a nice shirt with a vest (I also fought for my-father-will-not-wear-a-suit-because-that’s-not-him), the funeral director pulled me aside. “Erika,” he started, now putting his hand on my shoulder, “a lot of people are going to say they know exactly what you’re going through. They have good intentions. But no one knows exactly what you’re going through. Remember that. Take care of yourself.” He was so right, and I’ve loved those words and have shared those words ever since.

Honor your journey with grief. Remember that grief is cumulative.

4. Our parents indeed live on, even in death.

Even if you don’t believe in an afterlife as I do, our parents live on in us, in memories that helped create and shape us. At times we may even mistake people walking by for our deceased loved one. Reminders—maybe you call them “signs”—show up, almost as if to say, “I’m here” or “You have my support,” from your deceased one.

And, like it or not, we have some of our parents’ traits and mannerisms. We know others who exhibit some of these elements, and we’re triggered in painful ways or joyful ones. Spirit is sometimes a tough concept to grasp, but whether it’s God, the Universe, Allah, Aai, Great Mystery or something else, there is something about the essence left by someone who dies. And I believe we can communicate with our deceased ones. And all of us can do so, if we wish, believe… and ask—and know our deceased may not always communicate in ways we expect. Just have the conversation, perhaps whether you believe or not. Why not? Some of my own experiences are noted in the related blog posts listed below.

Honestly, I don’t know what kind of relationship I’d have now with my dad, had he lived. But I do have a relationship with him in Spirit, and it’s powerful. He shows up all the time, and I hear a lot of things from him. Pretty darn amazing and beautiful. I love my dad very much, and I miss not being able to call him about car things and repairs. His death is one of my biggest wounds and one of my biggest opportunities. I attribute his death and my experience largely to why I moved to Colorado (nearly 13 years ago now) and why I am a certified grief coach.

One of the safest places I have ever known was my father’s chest; leaning on and falling asleep on his chest as a young girl, about ages one to three, and hearing his heartbeat comforted me unbelievably then and still resonates safety for me now.

© Erika M. Schreck, 2015. All rights reserved.


Other Closely Related Blog Posts You May Enjoy,
written in earlier days by Erika M. Schreck

+ “Beautiful and Necessary Grief Healing: Death, Reinvention and Support”

+ “Live for No Regrets… with Loved Ones”

+ “If I Die Young”

+ “Father’s Day is What We Make It”

+ “Sensing Our Dearly Departed Loved Ones”

+ “My Take-Aways from the Movie Hereafter

+ “How Do You Commemorate Your Deceased Loved Ones?”
      one of my most popular posts of all time!

+ “Our Four-Legged Stars”

+ “Taking the ‘Me’ out of Mediumship”

+ “Scary for Some: Connecting to Our Deceased”

+ “Life is a Gift–Not a Given”

What’s Your Thing? You Know, That Thing That Brings You Back to YOU and Calm

Guthrie (corgi) and Harley (golden retriever)

Guthrie (corgi) and Harley (golden)

Most weeks on Sunday mornings, I’m off to an amazing spiritual, emotional and physical practice… yoga with most excellent teacher Jon Kolaska. And during the week, I’m on my yoga mat at home, surrounded by and loved on by the golden retriever and corgi in my home, who bask in the something that’s happening when I’m on Mat Time.

Next month is the 15-year anniversary of my father’s death. It’s a big anniversary, and my body is already remembering in its own way. And it gets me thinking about my yoga practice because I started it shortly after my father passed. To stay sane. To feel—really feel—the ground I was standing on and supposedly supporting me. To stretch my body, so it could better bend and breathe and manage the overwhelming pressures of grad school, three jobs, a failing relationship and my father’s estate… then at 25 years old.

I will be forever grateful to the colleague at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where I was finishing my graduate degree and teaching college-level writing. This colleague, who one day asked me how I was doing and knowing the overwhelm I was feeling, gifted me a VHS tape with a collection of Rodney Yee yoga instruction segments and assured me that yoga would help me manage my stress and emotional strain. I gave it a try, not even having a yoga mat, yet, and used a bath towel. Years later I’d take my first yoga class, but I started with doing yoga regularly at home.

My home practice has always felt so accessible, so willing. I know I’ve had few weeks without it in these last 15 years because it’s one of my things. Yoga for me is a go-to grounding, calming, stabilizing, nurturing practice that increases mindfulness and flexibility that extend beyond my Mat Time. Yoga reminds me of who I am, how things really are, what I need to prioritize (that moment, for example), and the ever-necessary Quiet Self.

When I traveled to Europe in 2009—my first time out of the country!—I brought my travel yoga mat. I knew I needed to keep doing my thing. I also brought my journal and even yarn and crochet hooks, which are essentials for my other things.

What practices sustain you? What are your things, and how can you prioritize them, no matter where you go?

Life can get wild at times. I know most of you know what I mean. Our essential practices help us remember that we can not only survive (oh, I’m a master at Survival Mode!) but also thrive. Whether I have five minutes or a bit more than an hour to do yoga, write or crochet, I continue to realize that I need my things in my life.

And maybe we also try new things. In recent years, for example, I’ve also found that meditation is also one of my things.

What brings you comfort, joy, calm, peace, balance and connection to self, especially when you’ve gotten further away from yourself and what you need? What healthy practice has saved you? What feels like a healthy, comforting security blanket in your life? I hope you make time for your thing(s) today.

© Erika M. Schreck, 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Centering in the Quiet Self

Some of you kindly read my recent blog post, “Resurfacing: Digging Out of the Dark Night.” I continue to dig, as life continues to shift in surprising ways that demand recalibrating, but I have brought more calm and quiet into my life and practices through more often prioritizing my Quiet Self.

Earlier this month, after a conversation with someone really down on the world, I followed said conversation with a snowy walk with the dogs. I kept thinking about the following.

No matter what hardships we experience, no matter how gloomy certain outlooks may seem… let us not be bitter. Feeling sad sometimes happens. Other tough emotions also make appearances. Bitterness and resentment assume lack of control, hold us prisoner and create dis-ease within our bodies. Developing and practicing helpful, healthy tools and responses to fermenting negative emotions will deter bitterness and resentment.

© Erika M. Schreck. Harley,

© Erika M. Schreck. Harley,

When we’re confused and need to sort difficult and mixed emotions, we often really need to move more deeply inward to our Quiet Self. While talking with select people can be helpful, we will often only realize our most authentic feelings, answers and needs when we’re not distracted—by others’ opinions and judgments, media sources, and, well, noise and whatever else distracts us.

My hope for all of us is that we consider ways we can increase self-love and honor our Quiet Self—an authentic state of resting and being in a meditative, open space.

And in truly honoring our Quiet Self, we not only insist on time to be in this state, but we also integrate our feelings, answers and needs found in the Quiet Self into aligned actions and forward steps.

© Erika M. Schreck, 2015. All Rights Reserved.