Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Advice for an Idealist

[I read this and I know how ‘ideal’ it is… but suddenly I also see how ‘impossible’ it might be, how this has at times set me up for confusion, collision or let down.]

This is a hard lesson for an idealist like myself, but it’s come up enough times for me to have to acknowledge, and perhaps even (gasp) embrace:

No matter how often you try to do “the right thing” or act from your highest self, be prepared or “ahead of the game”, model perfect speech or behavior, sometimes it’s going to backfire in a way that makes you question life’s whole design.

It’s almost comical to me now how many times I’ve struggled or scrambled to be prepared for something only to discover that I wasted my time because no one else was as prepared – Or they just decided to stop mid-way or change directions without communicating this to me. Hmm. A strange lesson for someone always taught to be on time. With assignment completed. Foresight into unseen things greatly appreciated (probably even expected).

So this is who I have tried to be, learning to contemplate others’ needs, feelings and expectations, finding the way of greatest integrity simultaneously.

Ug. I read this and I know how ‘ideal’ it is… but suddenly I also see how ‘impossible’ it might be, how this has at times set me up for confusion, collision or let down.

Just a month or more ago, there were two back to back situations in which I struggled to do the “best possible thing”. And I did. I did what I thought was the highest thing I could do. But then why was there any ‘struggle’, you might ask.

Because – as I later discovered – I did not actually feel good about what I perceived to be the most righteous action. It rubbed my soul or spirit or personal belief system the wrong way. I acted against myself in favor of something “out there”… Something that I have possibly given too much power…

To clarify, in neither of these situations would someone have been negatively impacted if I just did what my gut was telling me. I, on the other hand, was adversely affected by ignoring it, feeling an inner discord and disconnect from my own sense of decency.

Have I been leaving myself out of the equation, not seeing me, myself or I as an equal benefactor of all things fair, wild and all in between?

This is a curious lesson after four plus decades of life on this planet, a potent message of personal power over perceived “right”-eousness.

And it’s one I’m going to have to walk with for a while.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Communal Healing

[Good health comes from regularly balancing aspects of our lives such as our emotions, thoughts and habits.]

Healing should be a way of life – if we really want to do it right - to grow, evolve and flourish. Because there are always going to be new stressors, ills or hurts popping up here and there, and we need ways in which to handle them throughout our lives.

This is something we have learned at Middle Way Heath - that true health and wellness is not a one-time fix. Good health comes from regularly balancing aspects of our lives such as our emotions, thoughts and habits. It’s a process that requires our participation – at least periodically – in checking to see how we’re handling it all and if we could use some assistance or guidance.

Each of us does this throughout our lives in similar ways. We way talk with a friend, family member, church leader, colleague, or professional to help us see things more clearly, assess priorities, and perhaps strategize a game plan. If we keep our struggles and fears to ourselves, however, we become trapped within our own unresolved problems, our life becomes stagnant – or riddled with strife - and there seems no way out.

Healing in and of itself is very simple, really. All it requires is that we step in the direction of our wellbeing a little each day. Often the first step is simply talking with someone about our concerns and wishes. Opening ourselves up to outside help is what unlocks the door because we cannot thrive as closed systems, always keeping to ourselves and denying our ongoing issues. We are communal, social beings who need each other to exist optimally. We should be helping each other accept our vulnerabilities and build upon our strengths, which we can then invest back into the community in order to assist the greater good.

It’s time to come out of our shells, uncover our authenticity, and share it with those around us. We are role models for one another in the most simplistic of ways sometimes. Being true to yourself, fostering forgiveness, finding the gems in our weakness… these are gifts we should be honing and sharing with the world.

In person, preferably.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Designing Dreamy Space

{By turning space into a sacred personal place, you are conspiring with the universe...}

Creating magical, sacred, serene, inspiring, functional, or just plain pleasing space requires one thing mostly: A willingness to experiment. Because any plan – no matter how well thought out or organized – doesn’t always translate seamlessly into real life.

Often, what we think will look grand or work well simply doesn’t once in place. As well, what we might assume to be a bad design choice in theory often ends up surprising us in reality, delivering a boldly adventurous flair or titillating end results.

So any creative or dynamic endeavor is bound to wreak some temporary havoc on - or between those -immersed, whether it be husband and wife, business partners or roommates. While change is sometimes necessary, whether from a practical or soulful standpoint, that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Learn to go with the sometimes chaotic and sometimes harmonious process of moving your sh*t around.

To aid the design (and sanity-maintaining process), it helps to keep some things in mind:

• First decide how the room needs to function, and just as important, how you want the room to feel.

• Understand that moving or changing one thing can set off a chain reaction resulting in the whole room being re-designed.

• Know that heads will butt, but it’s important to always be open to others’ ideas.

• Also be open to Plan B, Plan C, and Plan D if Plan A doesn’t go as planned.

• Before you shop, investigate all your spaces to see if you already have something that will work.

• Don’t be afraid to strip a room bare and start completely from scratch.

• Neutral furniture can be timeless and re-invigorated whenever desired with colorful pillows, throws and other decorative items.

• However, a bold statement piece can really leave an impression and doesn’t require extra decorative knick knacks. (Just be sure it’s something you love, love, love).

• Consider paint, wallpaper, molding, decorative beams, or all of the above. (Yes, even in the same space).

• White - if you love classic, clean lines - can be a great design choice (not just a generic default). And there are more shades of it than you can probably imagine.

• While there may be ‘better’ and ‘best’ in design concepts, there are no exception-less rules... except fir the One Golden Rule: You must love it because it’s your space within which to reside, rest, create and soar.

Decorating can feel like a serious endeavor. You’re transforming an existing pocket of space into something that makes you feel good and supports your desired life. That’s pretty big stuff, indeed. But keep in mind there ought to be an element of play as well. By turning space into a sacred personal place, you are conspiring with the universe to make it more magical… So the sky should be the limit when it comes to crazy, what-if ideas and far-out possibilities. That’s how genius emerges.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Mixing Business with Pleasure: The Power of Moderation

{It’s better to bring some of your personal life into work so people know what’s going on... When done properly it balances the whole rather than depletes it.}

Team Work. We all know it’s important – being team players, complementing each other’s skill sets, the whole being greater than the sum of its parts… But there’s more to team work than just working well together professionally. It’s not just the vision/mission we create, hone and implement together, not just the professional practices we each bring to the group. There’s always another dynamic to any team – one that’s hardly ever fully acknowledged.

It’s the personal side of the professional world, the personal aspect of the team member.

Within each of us are two things going much of the time. One is our own dream world where we have utopian images of what we’re doing in our careers. Sometimes we are able to communicate this to the rest of the team; Other times it might not translate accurately or may remain locked within us.

The second thing perpetually going on within each of us – what we bring to the table each day whether we realize it or not – is our outside relationships. They affect us, which in turn affects our relationship to our job and teammates. And conversely, our relationships are affected by our jobs. The people close to us can at times be so affected by our work life that we can’t say they’re not part of the group as well.

Recognizing this as a natural part of life (work and personal time co-mingling) is what we call work-life balance. “It’s better to bring some of your personal life into work so people know what’s going on,” Stephen says. “When done properly it balances the whole rather than depletes it.”

Of course, this requires a willingness to show our vulnerability at times, to be honest and share a bit of our personal lives. Giving those we work with a glimpse into the other aspects of our life is actually a gift we bequeath to the team. Trust and understanding are strengthened in this way, helping us all learn how to be real in a reasonable way.

But what if not all team members are open to this work-life balance? It’s a good thing to have in mind before building or reinforcing any team: Be honest about what you ideally want in a team and communicate that openly to potential or existing members. At Middle Way Health Stephen likes to say, “We wouldn’t want anyone in the group that we wouldn’t want to hang out with socially.” Because we need a certain comfort level in order to not only put our best foot forward, but occasionally explain why that foot may be stuck in the mud behind us).

It seems rather old school – or perhaps just too conservative – to expect that our professional selves have nothing to do with our personal selves. They are not totally separate. In fact, the more we can base our professional persona on our personal values and desires, the better. It ends up creating a more authentic experience for all.

At Middle Way Health we are involved with the community and with each other - not just our work – because we believe this is a healthier, more highly functioning way to balance the whole of our lives. We thrive from honest, positive feedback from others, and this give-and-take loop supports us all in turn.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Middle Way Health Welcomes New Therapy Intern, Jesus Sanchez

Having been cooped up in the house much of the day, the cool, breezy evening air feels refreshing on my skin. It is not long, however, before I notice some dark clouds inching closer and the wind whipping harder around the curve of the building. A hope arises in me that it contains itself long enough for Jesus and I to get acquainted.

I ask him to share whatever he’d like to about himself, which he does with poise, as if he’s told his life story a hundred times. He seems comfortable in his own skin and comfortable in his environment, which at the moment happens to be a metal patio set on a concrete slab at Starbucks. Self-assured, well spoken and forthcoming are descriptions that come to mind as Jesus begins telling me about himself and his journey up to this point in his life.

Jesus Sanchez grew up in the tough barrio of East Salinas, but was immersed in methods of traditional medicine, inner-tribal revitalization movements, tribal cultures, and Aztec Dance - by both his family and community. This really enriched his life at the time and later contributed to how he lives it as an adult. And he now brings these things to his practice. Not just as a therapist but a Spiritual Practitioner, with an emphasis on the word “practice”, he says. “We have to make it part of our daily lives. What speaks to your mind/body/spirit and brings you vitality? This is your medicine. We need to commit to it and practice it.”

Tell more about your background, I ask.

“I graduated in May 2013 from Sac State for MFCC, although my first Master’s degree was in History. There I became disappointed that LGBT/queer youth were largely ignored, so I started conducting research regarding the disparities they were facing. My research revealed that the number one disparity was mental health. I heard over and over again, ‘There’s so much trauma; we need somebody to talk to.’ Having a shared experienced with the community, I decided to focus my efforts toward becoming part of the healing process, which led me to the field. I feel really blessed to be at Middle Way Health.”

How about your work experience?

“My first internship was doing clinical work at The Lighthouse Family Resource and Counseling Center. I was then at Yolo Family Resource Center in Woodland as a counselor. I have worked with young children all the way up to retirees, and like to focus on coming up with strategies not just for healing, but ongoing health.”

Yes, that is what Middle Way Health is all about. Self Care.

“We have to contribute to all essence of life - build our relationships, share our strengths… regardless of our trauma. We need to reconnect to being healthy. Health is social too! Have you abandoned culture and art? Abandoned mindfulness of what you’re taking into your body?”

“I think here’s been a return to psyche, which is connected to spirit. And I have a spiritual background blended with traditional psychotherapy training. I think there’s finesse in how these two meet. Mindfulness has a spiritual aspect, acting like a medium that helps us to cross boundaries.”

“How do you live your life in ceremony, with intent, thinking of it as ritual? For instance, altar-making: A sanctuary with elements that remind you of things that ground you, your definition of a higher power, and what it does for you. I think we’re all looking for that medicine, and people connect to these types of traditions, even if they may come from very different backgrounds. We have a connection to the sacred elements that call to us, reminding us of our intent, our faith, and hope.”

You’re also a community organizer and activist?

“I have been an activist since I was a teenager. However, recently my efforts have concentrated on creating strategies for change with disenfranchised youth communities, from LGBT youth to those who have been recently incarcerated.”

“I’m very transparent; these are my practices and these are the tools I can give you, the ways I can help you. How can we build on it based on your needs?”

To contact Jesus, email him at Jesus@MiddleWayHealth.com or call Middle Way Health at 916.492.9007

{We've also recently brought on board two more interns - Colleen Wong and Junko Quest. You can read more about them in our upcoming July issue of La Dolce Vita Online Magazine}

Thursday, May 29, 2014

An Artful Life

Art isn’t always frame-able or something that can be attached to a wall. We create art by how we live out our days. The whole environment around us is artistic – presented to us and appreciated by us. It’s always speaking to us and we in turn respond.

The significance of ART to our spirits and contributions to our societies can hardly be fully defined or grasped. Art is both an instrument and reward, both cause and effect. But art is also a symbol of things unseen by the naked eye and a metaphor for how we perceive things. Art initiates conversation, opens minds, moves spirits, and yet leaves an air of mystery that lingers. In this regard, art isn’t just ‘art’ but something that stirs the soul and awakens the psyche.

Also exemplifies the importance of our visual world, which is perhaps the biggest mural of all – with details, expressions and stories that are constantly in flux; a performance art of how we live and appreciate our lives. The whole environment is an artistic expression in a way.

We may pay more attention to art we’re consciously creating, but how we exist from day to day is also an art form – not only in the doing, but in what is then created around us. This kind of art isn’t something we make alone; it’s not a private affair but something we co-create with our environment. We’re in a public work of art. When we consciously create it, we get a better sense of who we are.

Observing this world, our lives and our place in both, we are showing that we are cognizant of what’s blooming, morphing and withering before us. This awareness in an art form in itself that again proves art is everywhere and in everything. And we can harness this process of appreciation and creation in all aspects of life. But there is a simple elegance in the initial observation of what’s around us.

When we are aware of even the mundane-seeming things we become more centered, calm and awake. By seeing how everything exists in and of itself and then takes its place – such as animals or rocks or clouds, for instance – we are relating to things visually and getting a sense of space from them. We are ingesting the whole picture – how it is arranged and how it feels to us – rather than simply one artful or questionable detail at a time.

When it comes to art, appreciation doesn’t mean you have to love each piece you see. You just have to consider it. Appreciating life should be like this as well. You don’t have to judge everything you observe or feel; just consider it for what it is and how it might fit in the scheme of things. See how you are not bound to it, and yet how you might affect each other conversely nonetheless.

With Dream Life Designing, for instance, we are tapping into the psychological realm of dealing with the thoughts and emotions behind things. We are putting form to our thoughts and emotions so we can better observe them. “Everything has some kind of form and some kind of landscape, a sense of placement, foundation and order,” Stephen says. “And there’s always a mandala of enlightenment in every landscape.”

“Emotions,” he adds, “are embedded in the environment, not just our brains. The heart and brain are transmitting and receiving what’s around them, but they are not generators; they are co-conspirators with the environment, such as elemental energies like water, wind and fire. We do not control the process, but nor should we become passive receivers only. We are in relationship when we’re interacting with what’s around us.” We might want to occasionally ask ourselves if those relationships are harmonious.

To know who you are, what you’re thinking and feeling – while profound insights can be gleaned from psychological exercises – full awareness cannot merely be found in the head. We have to go out into the world to discover who we are in relation to other forms of existence. Because we do not thrive being contained creatures, nor are we totally separate from what’s “out there”. There is a balance to achieving harmony in our days, and this is the fine “Art” of Living.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Middle Way Gallery Opening Art Show

Middle Way Health opened the Middle Way Gallery on April 12, 2014!

Dream Life Designing's Melanie Noel Light exhibited her photographic and mixed media art at the 2nd Saturday Art Walk. The show - The Art of Expression - runs through May.