Tag Archive: connecting with nature

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.

Dreams and Gestalt Therapy.

Frederick (Fritz) Perls is considered the “father” of Gestalt Therapy. The basic concept of Gestalt Perls believed that unresolved conflicts from the past had a great deal of influence upon present behavior, and that these conflicts needed to be “worked through” (Perls, 1969). Dreams were a cornerstone of this type of therapy because of the dreamsenergy and reference work it provides to help people better understand the present.

When working with myself, my patients often discover just how powerful dreams can be when seeking insight into our day-to-day lives and possible hidden issues that we can’t see within the present.  You see, Fritz Perls felt that dreams were highly symbolic and made extensive use of interpretation and I couldn’t agree more.  I believe dreams are a subjective presentation of the person and that there is a sense of wholeness in every image.  By using dreams as a part of therapy, we can better connect to the meaning of what may be parts of ourselves that are veiled or living within a fantasy during waking life.  The meanings have to be carefully talked about, sometimes even talked through using an empty chair as a “third” party.  And we can always evaluate the idea of the intrapsychic dream landscape.  For example, was that angry dog really someone angry at you or yourself angry at a situation.

Dreams are powerful and there are many ways to decipher what they do and do not mean. I tend to believe our unconscious mind is always trying to help our conscious lives by providing clues to not only unraveling what is nagging us, but by presenting options for us to address, work through and then discover how to apply solutions in everyday life.

If you’re just as fascinated by dreams as I, let’s talk. I have plenty more information to provide to you and consultations are always welcomed. Don’t forget to follow me on Facebook for daily updates on this and other subjects related to Gestalt therapy.

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.

Summer Tips

July and August are the times that our gardens look their best.  Gardening, as a wise man put it, is the one thing that will always bring us happiness.  Here are three tips for reducing anxiety this summer season.

1. Plant something, then watch it grow as you tend it. It’s not too late!  It might be a flower in a pot, a pot of lettuce or tomatoes, or

Planting

Planting

an entire garden.  See how this contributes to your sense of wellbeing, and how you grow as your garden grows and as you care for it.

2. Get outside for half an hour every day – enjoy your neighbour’s gardens and local parks.  Go for a walk, a bike ride; sit in a park and let the sun penetrate and warm you.  This time of year is filled with the heady smells of growth.  Research shows that only half an hour of outdoors activity every day increases our sense of happiness.

3. Connect with a tree.  Trees are responsible for shading us and cleaning most of our air.  Trees have deep roots and some in our neighbourhood have been around for hundreds of years.  They are one of the first forms of life on our planet Earth.  Did you know that the Ginkgo has been around for over 200 million years?  Leaning on a tree can give us stability and calm us; it can connect us to what is wise within us.

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.

Healing Nature: I gave up a Pleasure Cruise for this!

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”.

 Sitting, wet, freezing. Near Bancroft, in a tent, during the coldest spring week in at least 20 years. Here to spend time with myself and face some important truths. Chose this over a weekend of pleasure in hot and sunny climes. Wondering, “What was I thinking?” That night, I froze in my arctic weather sleeping bag, grateful only that I’d had the sense to pack a cot. During the week, I kept running into weather and dashed expectations. I wasn’t able to do what I’d planned so I read a lot the first 2 days. Then went in search of medicine items that I hadn’t planned on needing… all in the company of someone as unlike myself as night sky in northern ontariopossible. Together, once we decided to make the most of our situation, we accomplished more than either of us could have done singly. The moon and stars appeared my last night. Stayed up well into the morning, watching earthly magic happen. Nature touches our heart and soul.  I’ll go on that pleasure cruise next year and appreciate it all the more for my week in Bancroft.

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.

Gardening your way to happiness (Or) The secret to happiness isn’t money…Really?

If I wrote you a check for $ 1 million, would it make you happy? How long do you think the ‘happiness’ would last? A week? A Tulips in vausemonth? A year or two? You could probably purchase expensive gifts, vacations, or pay off debts, but will the ‘happiness’ end when the money does? Unfortunately, I can’t write you a check, but I can share something with you that can help add happiness to your life.

Here’s what a dear friend of mine advises:  “Want to be happy for 10 minutes?  A whole day?  A week?  The rest of your life?  Simple!  Garden.”  I thought about it for a while and realized he was right. Gardening is therapeutic, relaxing, and allows us to connect with nature. The same techniques and principles that are required to nurture the gardens in our homes can also be applied to the gardens of our inner selves. When you are looking at the following tips, think about how they can be utilized in your personal life:

1.       Clear out old debris (leaves, twigs, weeds . . . bad relationships)  By getting rid of old things that hinder growth, you can create a clean slate fresh ground for positivity (insert a few ways people can de-clutter their lives).

child gardening 2.       Turn over some sod, plant new seeds in fertile soil  With a fresh start you can begin to plant new seeds in a healthy environment that promotes growth and life. Don’t forget to protect your garden by utilizing organic fertilizer to keep weeds (negative energy) at bay.

 3.       Nurture your new garden with water, light, and love  Watch and enjoy the new beautiful garden, but DON’T forget to water it.

Then sit back and admire your healthy new garden. While reflecting on your garden, think about the personal progress you have made in your life.

Start working on your garden today. You’ll be surprised at how these steps will help to bring you every day happiness and a sense of balance and purpose. What have you gardened lately?

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.

 

Connecting Naturally

Connecting naturally to what’s around you is more than a state of mind. The other day was a treat – sunny and spring-like.  The city streets were jam-packed with people of all ages, out for a stroll, soaking in the sun and breathing in the freshness of the day.  I think it’s universal, this welcoming of spring; it’s as if our own vital juices begin to flow just as the tree sap does this time of year.

I spent a good part of the day walking along the street and through the local park, connecting naturally to the trees and to my community. I was at ease, and with no worries.

This was the topic of a workshop I recently held in the heart of the Appalachians, in a country setting, surrounded by the emergence of spring. It was about feeling and connecting with our world intimately; feeling the spirit, the unique qualities and resonance of each element within this world.

Back in the park, I notice a purplish rock that appeals to me.  I pick it up and feel its coolness.  It sparkles if I hold it a certain way towards the sun.  This is what the rock gives me right at that moment – it changes me and adds to my presence with its own.  My hand warms it; I leave some of my body warmth on it as I place it once more on the ground.  I change the rock and add to its presence.  Connecting naturally, we are both more than what we were a few minutes before by our brief connection on a sunny spring day.

I think of how shamanic teachings give me a simple way of connecting naturally:  a rock holds and transforms energy; when I touch the rock – hold it – I can feel its solidity.  I am made of the stuff of Earth – of these rocks – and this is the part of me that is solid, and that gives me a physical grounding.  Without it I would have no foundation, I wouldn’t exist as a person, walking in this park, on this sunny day.

I think of the teachers and philosophers who I’ve studied – especially of Martin Buber who wrote about this connection and called it “I-Thou”, telling a moving story of his tender connection with his horse.

I think of the poetry of Basho, a 17th-century Japanese poet, who wrote so beautifully of his connection with nature: frog_in_the_pond

An old silent pond…
A frog jumps into the pond,
Splash!  Silence again…..

Do you enjoy connecting naturally? How do you connect with nature?  What does it change in you when you do connect?  And how do you change it?

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.