Tag Archive: beauty and grandeur

Here and Now….

As a therapist who uses Gestalt therapy techniques, focusing on the here and now is important when helping clients understand how to overcome current challenges. Many people want to focus on the past in order to move forward. While this does work and is a great tool to use, I believe that understanding the past means dealing with the here and now.

by-take-the-future-exhale-the-past-tattoo

Through therapy, people learn to discover feelings that may have been suppressed or masked by other feelings and to accept and trust their emotions. Needs and emotions that were previously suppressed or unacknowledged are likely to surface as well. Through this process, my clients gain a new sense of self as overall awareness increases.

Again, this doesn’t devalue what working on the past has in a person’s everyday life. But thinking in terms of the present can help dissect the past and really address how to cope with different and even similar situations going forward.  Think about people , maybe even yourself, who suffer with anxiety. Usually, anxiety is rooted in an incident from the past. When the feelings or circumstances of today relate or refer to yesterday, the anxiety is usually ignited.  While we work with the past to think about how and when the anxiety started, it isn’t enough to move forward.  Dealing, however, with the triggers of today will help to harness the feelings associated with anxiety and the past.  It is important to have a conversation with yourself about today as much as you need to have it with yourself about your past.

I can help you navigate these often difficult conversations with yourself to address current and past behaviors and even others who may have caused you harm.  If you’re a bit curious about my technique, of Gestalt therapy in general, please do not hesitate to contact me. All my sessions are confidential and I work by phone or Skype. Yes, I’m HIPAA compliant.

Two Tips for Dissecting Your Dreams At Home.

I had such a great response to my prior blog post on dreams that I thought I would offer everyone some tips to do dream work at home. Now, you have to be careful. When you do dream work from home, without professional guidance, you can unravel some uncomfortable truths about your past, about your present, and about yourself.  If you know there are some painful truths buried, please seek out my services or the services of someone else who youdreams3 feel comfortable with.  Gestalt therapy is about the journey of living, successfully, in the present. Sometimes, however, the journey is a rocky path and there is no shame in seeking support to complete any part of it so you can move forward.

Ok, now to our two exercises. The first one I have dubbed as “The Rewrite Process.” This is where you take a dream and re-write it or tell it to yourself as if it is happening right now. After you do this, turn the paper over so you can’t reference it. Now, write the dream in the past tense- as you can recall it from when you woke up.  Remember, you’re covering the same dream but from two different positions. First, as if it is happening in the moment. Next, as it happened in the past tense and you viewed it from afar.

You want to compare the papers next and see where the differences exist, and there will be differences. Ask yourself how alive you felt in each experience and what emotions you felt in each experience. The results will help you work through what your unconscious mind is trying to tell you about a present situation.

Another exercise that you want to try is considered a “part of me” process. What you want to do is list all the objects you saw in the dream. For example, if you’ve dreamed about Robert Downey Jr. (yes, the actor) making milkshakes and your grandma’s house- you’d write down 1) Robert Downey Jr. 1) Milkshakes 3.) Grandma’s house.  Your next step is to write the phrase “part of me” next to each item.

Next, write down a one to two sentence that puzzled your about the dream. Follow this by writing down why it puzzled you.  Now go back and write down how all the objects in the dream made you feel. Your sentence structure should look something like this, 1. Robert Downey Jr.  Party of me.  Handsome.  2. Milkshakes. Part of me. I don’t like them. 3. Grandma’s House. Part of me. Comforting.  I was puzzled by the dream because I don’t know Robert Downey, Jr. and I don’t like his movies. I felt upset that he was at my grandma’s house.

Once you have the basics down, you should take the time to reflect upon the dream and what you wrote down out loud. If you have to talk to an empty chair or a wall, do so. Spend a good twenty minutes talking through your dreams and your notes.  Identify emotions and how each part of you noted on paper can related to your present day life.

Want to do more intense dream work with my guidance? Let’s talk.

What Sun Dance Means to Me

For those that are just joining my journey now, the last couple of posts have been taking my readers with me through the sun dance.  It was an incredible experience that I am still processing. And I feel it is important to share this experience with anyone who wants it. To catch up to this post you can read “The Sun Dance” and “A Brief History of The Sun Dance”.

“The tree represents the centre of the world, connecting the heavens to the earth…. The fork of the [tree] represents the eagle’s

Tree of Life

Tree of Life

nest… the eagle is the facilitator of communication between man and spirit….the eagle also represents many human traits…[he] is seen as courageous, swift and strong.  He has great foresight and knows everything.”  The main theme of the sun dance is the Buffalo which symbolizes life.  Plains Indians relied on the Buffalo for everything – food, shelter, clothing.  The sun dance symbolizes the reconciliation of humans to the Buffalo. ( http://www.slideshare.net/westlivaudias/the-sun-dance-presentation)

eagleAs I dance back and forth, connecting to the tree, to its waters, and to life, something happens within me that makes this trip worth the time and sacrifice I made to be here.  My perspective is altered and I begin to appreciate my connection to the earth I dance on, to the life-giving properties of the herbs and shrubs, and to my connection to everything alive.  “The tree is the symbol of the Source, the eternal light from which all consciousness, life and movement emerge.  The medicine wheel [the arbor itself] is the zero surrounding the Source.  “The Zero is Holy….From the Eternal, which is Time, and from all Energies, which are Space, all of everything was born from the Zero….The womb of creation is the Sacred Zero.”” Hyemeyohsts Storm, Lightening Bolt.  (http://www.thewildrose.net/eagle_dance.html).

It takes me a month to process what I experienced within those brief 4 days.  I know my

White Buffalo Calf Woman

White Buffalo Calf Woman

perspective has altered and that I feel more in alignment with Nature, that I am better able to handle what life gives me, and enjoy whatever there is with gratitude.  I know that more will be revealed as the year unfolds, until

White Buffalo Calf Woman

the next sun dance.

Maryanne Nicholls is a Toronto based, certified Psychotherapist offering a balanced approach to mental health. Please visit www.thejoyofliving.co for information on her services, or contact her directly to find out how she can help you reclaim the joy of living.

A Brief History of The Sun Dance

For those that are just joining my journey now, the last post has been taking my readers with me through the sun dance.  It was an incredible experience that I am still processing. And I feel it is important to share this experience with anyone who wants it. To catch up to this post you can read “The Sun Dance”.

I first read of the sun dance in “Black Elk Speaks” narrated by John G. Neihardt, and then in “Two Ravens: The Life and

 Teachings of a Spiritual Warrior” by Louis Two Ravens Irwin and Robert Liebert. Black Elk was a Sioux elder and medicine man,

 

Howard Terpning - Prepare for Sun Dance

Howard Terpning – Prepare for Sun Dance

who lived through some of the horrendous years of white aggression (not that it’s over!) and believed the sun dance was for people of all races and colour.  Two Ravens was a leader in the radical American Native Movement group (AIM) earlier in his life; he later changed his views (see “Building Bridges Beneath the Sacred Tree”), and was a major influence in bringing the sun dance to all people.

Sun Dance was forbidden by the white authorities, and was finally allowed and not interfered with, thanks to leaders like Black Elk.  Some tribes – notably the Lakota Nation – allow only native dancers.  I participate in a sun dance open to all peoples.

It takes a year to prepare for the sun dance.  A dance chief is selected and begins the process of planning space, requirements, meals, preparation of the ceremonial lands and of the dance arbor.  Closer to the time, the grounds are cleared and made ready, then the many supporters who make the sun dance possible spend weeks putting all the structures in place to feed and protect and support ceremonially the participants.  The tree is decorated, room is made for the ancestors.  The bodies of the dancers are purified by way of a sweatlodge.  Finally, the arbor is blessed and sealed and the dance begins.

Next week I will talk about how I personally am impacted by participating in the sun dance.

Maryanne Nicholls is a Toronto based, certified Psychotherapist offering a balanced approach to mental health. Please visit www.thejoyofliving.co for information on her services, or contact her directly to find out how she can help you reclaim the joy of living.

The Sun Dance

The sun dance is a 3-day Native American high ceremony that, to my knowledge, encompasses all other ceremonies throughout the year.  It is a ceremony performed for ourselves and our community.

Sun Dancer

Sun Dancer

It requires sacrifice: people food-fast for almost four days, some dry-fast (no food or water, no moisture of any kind except for the rain that naturally falls on us), and some have body piercing.

We dance to drum and song, back and forth to the Tree of Life, free of distractions.  By connecting to the Tree, to the ground water that feeds it, and to the water within us, we are able to fully appreciate this gift of life that we have been given, however brief, and rejoice in it.

Not everyone who wants to can participate as a dancer – there is limited room in the dance arbor.  And so the dancers dance not only for themselves and their community, they also dance for the healing of Mother Earth and thanksgiving.

“The Dance shows a continuity between life and death – and a regeneration of spiritual oneness with the Great Spirit.  It shows that there is no true end to life, but a cycle of symbolic true deaths and rebirths.  All of nature is intertwined and dependent on one another.” ( from Dancing to Eagles Spirit Society)

In next week’s blog, we will be talking about the history of the sun dance.

Maryanne Nicholls is a Toronto based, certified Psychotherapist offering a balanced approach to mental health. Please visit www.thejoyofliving.co for information on her services, or contact her directly to find out how she can help you reclaim the joy of living.

Every Day Unique: Never to be Repeated

For those that are just joining my journey now, this series of posts are about the beauty of ceremony and ritual.  It is something that nourishes my spirit every day, and I want to share this with you. To catch up to this post you can read “The Beauty of Ceremony and Ritual”, “Healing Nature:  I gave up a pleasure cruise for this!”, “Morning ritual with coffee:  soul hungers”, “Bracketing support”, “How to live fully” and “Greeting my partner”.

I began this series in nature and am ending it also in nature. Sitting in front of a fire in a cabin in Algonquin Park, a Canadian nature preserve north of Toronto on the Canadian Shield. It’s cool and filled with life. Yesterday we hiked to a white pine that is over 400 years old. That means it was here before this country was disturbed too much by any changing culture. This tree was young when thewhite pine air was clean and animals and humans made space for one another, respected one another. I spent time in ceremony and connected with this ancient white pine, appreciating its ancient tree wisdom and deep roots. Then left a gift offering in thanks. The day was beautiful and unique, as every day is; never to be repeated.

Maryanne Nicholls is a Toronto-based, certified Psychotherapist offering a balanced approach to mental health. Please visit www.thejoyofliving.co for information on her services, or contact her directly to find out how she can help you reclaim the joy of living.

Summing it all up – Flower Soldiers: inspiration, meaning and purpose

For those that are just joining my journey now, the last couple of posts have been taking my readers with me through my medicine journey in Mexico.  It was an incredible journey that I am still benefitting from. And I feel it is important to share those benefits with anyone who wants them. To catch up to this post you can read “Digging for Sacredness” , “Powerful Influence” , “Honouring the Ancients” and “Ceremonial Imagery“.

After Teotihuacan we travelled south to Tula, and then to Xochicalco (pronounced So-shi-kal’-ko).  Tula is believed to be Tollán, the legendary Toltec capital, which flourished between 850AD and 1150AD.  It was surmounted by a temple dedicated to the Toltec hero-god Quetzalcoatl. Surrounding the temple are sculptured columns in the form of warriors – flower soldiers – that were sculpted from the likeness of actual warriors.  They have flowers on their sandals, and as far as I know, it represents their reverence for all life, and in their dedication to serving life.

Their statues are at least 20 feet tall, and each has distinct features – one looks ruthless and passionate at the same time, another looks learned, another stoic, and the last one pitiless.  It’s a hot and sunny day, and they are hot to the touch where the sun

Flower Soldiers at Tula

Flower Soldiers at Tula

touches them; cold otherwise.  All four wear the flower sandals, the ritual ceremonial dress and headdress, and each carries a mirror on their back representing their connection to a higher realm.

Flower Soldiers were skilled warriors, and skilled healers (including self-healing). They had to be willing to do battle in their daily life, and to live life daily to it’s fullest.  The highest level of heaven was to die as a flower soldier (the lowest – hell – was to have successive lives of lots of noise and nothingness). It was critical in their training to learn how delicate life was and that life must be respected.  Their motto, if they had one, might have been akin to:  Today is a good day to die!

They were leaders, and yet the war for a flower soldier was an internal rather than an external war; their quest in life was to walk their talk in beauty, with honesty and integrity; emotionally balanced, physically capable, a voice for their community, and connected to spirit.  I look at their faces and wonder what each of these soldiers were like when they lived. I imagine what one
of them might say to me, and I sit for an hour leaning against one of the columns and feel the energy of the columns at my back.  I want to make him my ally, and I want to remember the feeling of him when I need physical and emotional mastery and power; when I feel the need of a strong presence in times of doubt.

The next day we traveled further to the ancient city of Xochicalco ( pronounced So-shi-kal’-ko).  This city flourished between

The Mayan Calendar on the Temple of Quetzelcoatl at Xochicalco

The Mayan Calendar on the Temple of Quetzelcoatl at Xochicalco

200AD and 900AD.  It means “House of Flowers” and was the city of the flower soldiers.   It was here that the Mayan calendar was codified, and is depicted on the walls of the temple of QuetzelCoatl on the grounds.

It is the culmination of my medicine journey that began in Mexico City.  Throughout my journey, I wanted to feel the sacredness of these spaces and connect with them. I wanted to feel that life must be respected. I wanted to find allies from the past and present to help me on my own path.; allies that would strengthen my vision and clarify my intent as I wrestle with the everyday challenges I meet along my way.  What I discovered is that I met myself along the way. And I really felt a connection with the generations of men and women who have lived, struggled and triumphed before me.

Have you ever taken a journey that has deeply impacted you? How would a flower soldier lend meaning and purpose to your life? If you were able to spend an hour with a flower soldier, how would you spend your time?

Maryanne Nicholls is a Toronto based, certified Psychotherapist offering a balanced approach to mental health. Please visit www.thejoyofliving.co for information on her services, or contact her directly to find out how she can help you reclaim the joy of living.

Honouring the Ancients

 

For those that are just joining my journey now, the last couple of posts have been taking my readers with me through my medicine journey in Mexico.  It was an incredible journey that I am still benefitting from. And I feel it is important to share those benefits with anyone who wants them. To catch up to this post you can read “Digging for Sacredness” and “Powerful Influence”.

 I’m still in New Mexico, reveling in my life-changing medicine journey. I have been trekking through the ruins of Teotihuacan in Mexico for the past 6 days and each day I feel more connected than the day before.

Those who built Teotihuacan honored the Olmecs.  The Mayans honoured those who went before them; and the Aztecs, in turn, honoured the Mayans in their own way. Each emerging civilization was honouring the ancients that came before them.

The ancient city of Teotihuacan represents a place of emergence into the world as we know it.  It is a place of light.  Each temple here reflects light in it’s own way, different from the way every other temple here reflects light.  I imagine what it must have looked like in its prime:  temples covered in mica, reflecting the sun, fire, light of all kinds; water ways and fountains, serving as reflection mirrors; avenues filled with plants, flowers, fruits, birds and butterflies; buildings painted in the deep rich colours of red, navy, gold, reflecting patterns and deities.

As I walk through each temple and building, I take the time to feel that difference in light, the qualities that this difference brings.  At the Temple of the Sun, the feeling is one of intensity and clarity; at the site of the Earth Goddess (in front of the temple of the Moon) the light is diffused and refracted in every direction, absorbing back into the earth.  At Tetitla, a small

Jaguar Mural - Teotihuacan

Jaguar Mural – Teotihuacan

temple outside of the main complex, that some say honours Spider Woman, I feel a softness and warmth that makes me want to stay a while. Each temple is honouring the ancients by setting up an experience of reflection and connection.

How are you honouring the ancients? How are you connecting to what has come before you? Developing connections to things that are larger than yourself can bring a sense of peace to your life – try it.

Maryanne Nicholls is a Toronto based, certified Psychotherapist offering a balanced approach to mental health. Please visit www.joyofliving.co for information on her services, or contact her directly to find out how she can help you reclaim the joy of living.

Powerful Influence

On our way, on a bus heading north out of Mexico City.  I know in my mind that I will be surrounded by people living and working – we aren’t that far from Mexico City.  But I can’t shake the feeling that I’m stepping into the past.  The air is light – we’re 7,000 feet above sea level – it’s dry.  Everything seems to be coloured in different hues of beige and pink and grey-green.

Power of Influence

Temple of the Moon – Teotihuacan

In no time we are here.  It is indeed in the middle of civilization, and the biggest ancient city I’ve seen.  I get out of the bus, and step into the ancient past.

Teotihuacan is believed by some to have been influenced by the culture and teachings of the Olmec people, who predate this site. They were a powerful influence in so many ways:  in the beauty of their creation myth, the grandeur of their cities, in their close connection to the life surrounding them, and in their reverence for that life.  They thrived up to about 3000 BC.

The Olmecs didn’t leave much behind – giant heads in basalt that have magnetic ore at their third eye – a spot on the forehead between the eyes believed to be sacred.  They also left carvings depicting dolphins teaching humans.

In a similar way, I see stone carvings and mural paintings of seashells and fish on and in the temples.  I feel a connection in our mutual myths of how life began and evolved.  I love how they honour their beginnings in their building and in their art, and want

Powerful Influence

Seashels and Feathered Serpents – Temple of QuetzelCoatl – Teotihuacan

to take that away with me… place this inside me to ground with in times of worry or upset.  To gain perspective and know I am part of something much bigger.

Teotihuacan is special. There is a story that Teotihuacan had been a very sacred place for 10,000 years – the place of emergence. The legend is that it was originally a place of reeds, and that the fish people emerged onto the land and came into this world by way of a cave, the sipapu.  There is a cave at the base of the Temple of the Sun at Teotihuacan that represents this place of emergence.

I spend my first day walking from one end to the other of the exposed area, visiting every temple, from QuetzelCoatl in the south to The Temple of the Moon in the north.  It’s hot, very sunny.  I pass many vendors selling trinkets, obsidian, beautifully painted pottery, and silver of all kinds.  It takes me the better part of the day to make my way to the Sun Temple and then the Moon Temple.  The Sun Temple is a giant and dwarfs

Powerful Influence

Temple of the Sun – Teotihuacan

everything in the site.  As I gaze up to its summit, I feel its power, the power of the priests who spoke from its heights and performed their rituals and sacrifices to the sun.  I can imagine it covered in mica – blinding and brilliant , humbling and powerful, filled with the intense masculine energy of our solar engine.

Next to it, almost as its consort, is the Temple of the Moon – the second-biggest temple on the site, reflecting the natural mountain behind it.  13 human people are buried in its depths, some bound and at least one free. I sit down, take a breather, and gaze at her.  She reminds me of a giant turtle, rounded, lower to the ground than her mate.  13 is the symbol for life, death and rebirth.

Being here, whatever was worrying me way back there, at home, fades.  I take in the grandeur and integrity of Teotihuacan, and wonder at my sense of being and purpose mirrored here, among these monuments, among the people who live here now, and  how it’s changed me.

What is a powerful influence in your life? Do you tap into something deeper and stronger than yourself that moves you and changes you?

Maryanne Nicholls is a Toronto based, certified Psychotherapist offering a balanced approach to mental health. Please visit www.joyofliving.co for information on her services, or contact her directly to find out how she can help you reclaim the joy of living.