Monday, December 13, 2010

Holiday Greetings ...

I am, like many of the rest of you, up to my ears in holiday preparations. The tree is up, likewise the Dickens Christmas Village. My favourite carols fill the air. I have thought about doing some baking, but that's about as far as that's gone!

Next week, I will make my annual trip to Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island, with my car filled with gifts for family and friends and my heart filled with the anticipation of happy hours spent in the warm love and laughter of dear ones. I will be away until December 28th so won't be posting again until the New Year.

In the meantime, I wish you the blessings of peace, joy, healing and comfort this holiday season and leave you with these words from Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, found in this year's Callanish Society Christmas card:

We give thanks for places of simplicity and peace.

May we find such places in ourselves.

We give thanks for places of freedom and beauty.

May we find such places in ourselves.

We give thanks for places of refuge and love.

May we find such places in ourselves.

May we begin to mend the outer world

According to the truth of our inner life.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Self Care Books for the Holidays ...

Yesterday morning, I spent a few hours looking through books at a friend's bookshop in Vancouver. I was looking for Christmas presents and for some new books that I could recommend to you in today's blog post - and I have to say, I struck it rich. Here are three of the books that topped my list:

1. A Life of Being, Having, and Doing Enough by Wayne Muller (2010)

In this sequel to Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal & Delight in Our Daily Lives, Wayne Muller, founder of Bread for the Journey, a nonprofit organization that supports community organizing, explores the notion of sufficiency - not "the cramping fear of scarcity, the bloated saturation of over-abundance, but the gentle, effortless release of easy sufficiency".

He addresses the difficulty we have taking a Sabbath, slowing down, or stopping for replenishment and renewal - the difficulty of allowing our work to feel sufficient for the day. He challenges us to listen to our inner thermostats for signs that we have done enough, signs that it is time to take a break or stop altogether.

Wayne, a heart attack survivor who must now live within the limits of his energy, identifies obstacles to living a life of enough - our to-do lists, the fantasy of getting caught up, our inability to slow down or to handle silence and stillness, our harsh self-judgement and our addiction to endless self-improvement and progress.

He also describes the blessings on the road to a life of enough - the ability to see the value in small things, to have mercy upon ourselves, to see the growth that can emerge from loss, to enjoy the benefits of good company, to recognize the sufficiency of presence, and to see the value of bearing witness.

2. In An Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness by Peter Levine (2010)

In this book, American medical biophysicist and psychologist, Peter Levine, shares the essence and underpinnings of his life's work - Somatic Experiencing - a type of body psychotherapy used for healing psychological trauma.

In a style that reads like a mystery novel, Peter clearly and descriptively explains that trauma resides in the "unspoken voices" of our bodies. Using animal ethology (the study of animals in their natural environments), brain research, native healing practices and his lengthy clinical experience, he shows how traumatic experiences result in psychological injuries that can be transformed by paying attention to the natural healing processes deep within our bodies.

In chapters entitled, The Power of an Unspoken Voice, The Changing Face of Trauma, Immobilized by Fear: Lessons Learned from Animals, From Paralysis to Transformation, A Map for Therapy, The Body as Storyteller, and Body, Emotion & Spirituality: Restoring Goodness, Peter leads us through a body-based healing process that acknowledges our frozen trauma responses and safely paces our developing awareness and mastery of our physical sensations and feelings. He teaches us to self regulate and to allow for the completion of survival responses that were inadvertently cut short at the time of the trauma.

The integration of body psychotherapy and "talk therapy" is the new frontier in trauma work and, in my opinion, there couldn't be a better introduction to it than this visionary book.

3. Haiku Mind: 108 Poems to Create Awareness & Open Your Heart by Patricia Donegan (2008)

Patricia Donegan, poet, translator, and promoter of haiku as an awareness practice, has written this lovely commentary on the haiku of many poets, including herself.

She begins the introduction with a haiku by Shiki Masaoka, -

Cutting a pear
sweet drops drip
from the knife

and says-

I wanted to write this book to share the idea of "haiku mind" -
a simple yet profound way of seeing our everyday world and living our lives
with the awareness of the moment expressed in haiku -
and to therefore hopefully inspire others to live with more
clarity, compassion and peace.

A fine haiku presents a crystalline moment of heightened awareness
in simple imagery ... However, this moment is more than
a reflection of our day-to-day life - it is a deep reminder
for us to pause and to be present to the details of the everyday.

Patricia goes on to share 108 haiku, each with a brief commentary and a short biographical note about the poet who had written it. A lovely read with which to begin or end the day or with which to enjoy a restful cup of tea.

I hope you will enjoy some of these books over the holidays and that you will feel free to add to the list any others you think your fellow caregivers/carepartners might like to read.