Practicing Maitri [Unconditional Friendship with Oneself]

“Spring is about growth and easing into the light. When we practice maitri [unconditional friendship with oneself], we feel unconditional love and kindness toward ourselves. Extend this practice to others.”


~ Monika Carless, Elephant Journal,

“Spring Equinox: The Astrological New Year Begins”

Unconditional love and kindness towards ourselves. What if we grew more of that? What does that look and feel like to you?

It’s lovely to receive compliments and kindness from others. It’s amazing to feel compassion from those around us, especially at our most vulnerable and self-critical times. And. Partnered or un-partnered, living with or surrounded by others or living alone, we are “in”–privy to–our own heads and hearts more than anyone else. Our thoughts and feelings about ourselves–expressed in self-talk, acts and thoughts toward self, our priorities–create a structure that can support us or break us. Relying on others for friendship, love and kindness will only go so far; we need to have a wonderful friendship with ourselves.

Depression, grief, loss and other life experiences, as well as unhealthy mindsets created and shaped long ago or even more recently, can offer challenges to our relationship with ourselves. And understandably so. I’ve also realized even more so with more of the grief support I’m offering that when we depend so much–too much–on others to keep us lifted, we can be even more devastated when that person is no longer physically with us. What, then, is the source of our self-esteem and worth, if not within? So, what do we do about it?

Small steps. Important steps. Commitment. Any steps towards kinder self-talk, thoughts and priorities for ourselves. A couple of months ago, I (again) ventured into the on-line dating world. I’ve felt ready for partnership after lots of healing this last year-plus of time. And in six weeks with seven dates, I didn’t hear compliments, I didn’t receive any financial generosity even when I gave, and I was reminded of the ever-importance of my own self-view and self-treatment. (Note: I know this is not everyone’s experience.) What a gift! I felt relieved to pull my profile and realize that there are other ways to meet people and that I’m still intact. My self-care and self-talk are even lovelier. Mr. Partner will merely offer icing on the cake.

In this time of new, this time of excitement, this time of unfolding… how can you strengthen the friendship with yourself? How can you be an outstanding, unwavering, loyal supporter of yourself? Do one new thing this next week. Try it on. Feel free to let me know how it’s going and feeling.

 

© 2017 Erika M. Schreck. All rights reserved.

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.

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.

When Life Is Not What We Imagined

Erika_Wonder Woman1_27Oct2012

Erika M. Schreck, Halloween 2012.

Is your life what you imagined it would be?

Are you enjoying your life?

Through acknowledging my own experiences and hearing countless client stories, I’m learning that the answers to these questions do not need to be the same, and these answers are best if not dependent on each other.

In the 1970s, I was convinced (and prayed that) I would be Wonder Woman. I would jump from our living room couch, throw off my robe and reveal my Wonder Woman Underoos to “save” my sister who was in the lava pit (designated area of the floor), going to be eaten by alligators or… well, you know.

Growing up in the Midwest, I learned the importance of family, kids, marriage and working-hard. One of my grandmothers requested that I select my silverware pattern at around age 13, so this elaborate set could be a wedding gift. She died before the gifting could happen and was a bit upset a few years before she died that my sister and I “still” weren’t married. My aunt told my first boyfriends with a strong wink that she made wedding cakes–when she met them for the first time. And in my later teens, I imagined that I’d be married by 24 and proceed to have four kids, of course with the partner I’d be with the rest of my life. This vision was a significant part of the future I dreamed in my late teens and early 20s.

Ummmm….

So, here I am, quite far off of that imagining from long ago.

And.

Life is really okay. Most of the time. I’ve needed to make peace with what isn’t and settle into and realize the gifts of what is. The comparing that can happen among friends and family, such as when we see what others present about their lives via social media channels like Facebook, can be heartbreaking if we get stuck on what other people have–wait, “everyone else” has–and we don’t. Right?

The gem I’ve learned with all of these possibilities, though, is no matter what we thought we might have, we can still be happy in our lives and enjoy where we are. We need to respect this concept for ourselves and for others–especially when we might not understand others’ life choices. It’s not that we can’t hope for more or have what we want. We need to be flexible, though, with how we get there because the how is revealed along the way, in ways we really can’t always imagine.

And.

Sometimes the unique path we take and life we create may not look like everyone else’s. I’m learning to be okay with that myself. With several clients, I’m reminding them, as well. Choosing joy and supporting our priorities with our life choices seems to be the bottom line… the how may just not be what we imagined.

And it still can be all good.

And.

There are adult Underoos. And I may be Wonder Woman again. <wink>

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

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.

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.