Bless Your Own Waters: Get Comfortable Being Human
Bless Your Own Waters: Get Comfortable Being Human
In this episode, I’ll talk about how setting limits is essential to being a loving person, the specific yogic and Buddhist principle that helps us balance compassion for others with respect for ourselves, and I’ll fill you in on how hard creating healthy boundaries can be when you grow up with a parent who is severely mentally ill. You can use the player below (please keep this browser window open and on top to keep it playing smoothly) or you can also listen on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or Stitcher.
Just a heads up before you listen - I believe stories are medicine, but medicine has to be dispensed at the right time, in the right amount, to the right person. My work frankly addresses childhood trauma, abuse, neglect, scenarios involving people living with severe mental illness, and other themes that might not be healing for you right now. I also talk about joy, liberation, and redemption, - but if the other stuff leaves you too charged up, these stories will be here if and when it feels like a good time to listen
I’d appreciate you taking some time if this is a good time to bear witness to these stories to subscribe, rate, and review my work on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your listen on.
A woman with severe mental illness gave birth to me, and a different woman with severe mental illness raised me.
“Of course, we had to tell the children’s home all about your mama’s nerve problems, ” my dad told me.
That’s what my family, and a lot of other black families, called mental illness. A white doctor once demeaned and shamed Marlene Faye for saying she took “nerve pills” when he asked her if she was on any medications.
There were times she was well and stable, sure, and despite how raggedy and sad things got, we did laugh a lot.
Enmeshment is the opposite of having a healthy boundary with someone.
It’s a concept in psychology and psychotherapy introduced by Salvador Minuchin to describe families where a lack of healthy personal boundaries and over-concern for others leads to a loss of autonomy and healthy development. An emotional fusion happens, psyches get entangled, and patterns for later relationships develop.
I was tying to work all this out in therapy - again - in my late 30s, and had just done that awful thing you have to do when you go to a new therapist and have to tell your whole story over - again, and when I told him about my past and truthfully reported some of my self-destructive behaviors, he cut me off mid-sentence and indicated I should stop talking by holding his finger to his lips. “Boundaries. BOUND-O-REES - it’s clear you really don’t have any, for you - It’s all about the boundaries, baby.” He sat back in his chair all satisfied. Our time was up.
I found another therapist - even though it meant doing that awful thing all over again. Boundaries. I was learning. And I still am. This is a life-long practice. Listen to the rest of this story on Spotify.
Read more about my yoga teacher training, yoga foundations training for mental health professionals, yoga therapist training & get notified when registration for my upcoming retreat for women of color goes live.
In this podcast, I’ll tell you all about Buddhist near enemies and apparent friends, a most unexpected death-bed confession about the first time I was on TV, and tell a story about compassion in action. You can use the player below or search for my podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and most other places people get their podcast listen on.
Outside my Dad's Hospice Room at the VA, Dayton Ohio
In Buddhism, there are these wholesome emotions we cultivate as our practice grows, akin to the fruits of the spirit in Christianity. There are four, called the Brahmaviharas: loving-kindness, compassion, empathetic joy, and equanimity. Compassion is a resolve to be present with suffering - both our own and that of others, in a skillful and engaged way. It is empathy in action - a vow to maintain contact with another being’s humanity, even when they act from their own wounds and ignorance. Self-Compassion is believing in our own light, even when fear obscures our best self and we act from damaged places ourselves. It is a commitment to work toward extinguishing that suffering, planting seed to transform it into wisdom.
Compassion, or Karuna, is what motivates some flavors of Buddhists to make a promise to work toward the liberation of all sentient beings, called Bodhisattva vows. Spiritually speaking, we go big. Until every last one of us is free, none of us are.
Now, I’m an agnostic Buddhist with a pretty complex relationship with Jesus, so I’m not going to make any definitive statements about whether reincarnation and rebirth are literal or not, but in theory, Bodhisattvas work our asses off to get freedom from the endless cycle of suffering, death, and rebirth only to turn around, come back into a human body and start over - again and again and again - until every last one of us is on the Nirvana bus. I took Bodhisattva vows in 2009, and candidly there are times I’m not sure what I was thinking.
Because compassion is hard.
It takes a lot of work to arrive at a point where you really and sincerely want people who hurt you, who disagree with you, and who move through the world in ways that upset you to be free from suffering.
I learned a lot about this from my father, who was not an easy man to love - you can listen to the podcast to hear the story.
You can use the player below or search for my podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and most other places people get their podcast listen on.
When I think about all the conversations I've had in therapeutic contexts, both as a client and as a clinician, I realize that the majority of the work has been about getting comfortable being human. We are both deeply flawed and brilliantly fabulous beings, and we don't come with instruction manuals.
What we do have is a tradition of connecting with sources of wisdom via teachers, elders, philosophers, and others who've committed to making their own journey from wounded to liberated — taking notes and creating field guides for those who follow. The variables and wisdom containers (e.g., yoga, religion, psychology, evolutionary biology, etc.) may change, but the basic axioms and truths stay the same.
To be human is to make mistakes, to be at the mercy of our hormones, social structures, egos, and our deep longing to move though life with ease and abundance. Our lives have periods of learning, growing, loving, maturing, and sharing what we've observed with others. Sooner or later, we leave our physical bodies — none of us gets out of this alive. Getting comfortable being human and cultivating an awareness of the arc of our whole journey is critical to having a more enjoyable ride through life.
There are a lot of tools and approaches we can use to get comfortable being human, and I've launched a podcast to explore them. You can find the first episode here on the Anchor.FM platform and wherever else you get your podcast listen on. I'll post new episodes every other Friday starting January 3, 2020.
If you have questions or reflections, I'd love to hear them. You can send me an email or leave me a voice message at Anchor.FM. I look forward to all of us getting more comfortable being human together.
The heart's job is to beat, the lungs to breathe, and the brain to think. All are necessary for you to function, and they do so with no effort on your part.
As the brain does it's job, you can sift through the thoughts it offers, being careful to notice when those thoughts form chains, and when those chains of thoughts start to create stories about yourself and the world around you.
You can choose to be curious about the validity of those narratives, being especially cautious if they are bitter, hostile, mean, or toxically critical.
Be especially skeptical if you are weaving narratives of hate, blame, and disdain toward yourself.
Stories, by their nature, change as they are told and re-told. As you move through your wholeness journey, part of the work is to observe the stories you've constructed about yourself and others as they shift.
As you recognize your wholeness, those stories begin to move from critical to compassionate while maintaining healthy boundaries and balance. They become more authentic and emerge from a state of emotional stability and presence. Perhaps they are informed by fear, sure - but they are not controlled by it.
Cultivating abiding authentic presence with ourselves, connecting to consciousness & taking a break from mind, and making space for curiosity and compassion to replace the constant critical voice is essential to finding emotional freedom.
Those brain-beats we call thoughts - especially when strung together to conclude that you are something other than capable and lovable - can be noticed and then allowed to move along. Again and again and again - until you are able to just notice them without being consumed or creating a story..
Imagine a weaver, carefully selecting threads to go into fabric for a fine garment - be just as patient and vigilant as you sift through your thoughts to create your beliefs.
We live in a demanding and complex world that conspires to keep us moving too fast and doing too much. The impact of the pace and demands we face is evident in the numbers of people who live with chronic stress, emotional overwhelm, and persistent low moods.
Heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, and obesity greatly decrease our quality of life and are slowly killing us. Stress makes each of these conditions worse, and in addition to these physical illnesses, our lifestyles put large numbers of us at risk for developing mental illness, too.
Depression is the number one source of disability world-wide. Many more people live with sub-clinical despair or anxiety, and there are not many organized options for preventative and whole-person complementary care.
This is where the emerging field of yoga therapy comes in - both as a source of support for addressing concerns before they blossom into diagnosable conditions, and for rounding out care that is focused on only one aspect of a person's health concern.
Yoga therapy is whole-person care, using an array of evidence-based tools to address the physical, mental & emotional, social, and transpersonal needs of a people seeking optimal health, balance, and well-being.
Finding a qualified yoga therapist can make the difference between surviving and thriving, and one of the first places to check about the credentials of a yoga therapist is the International Association of Yoga Therapists - they maintain a searchable database of yoga therapists who have gone through the stringent certification requirements to become a C-IAYT.
There is a big difference between a yoga teacher, who typically can become eligible to register with Yoga Alliance after anywhere from 14-21 days of training, and a yoga therapist. The training to become certified in yoga therapy takes at least two years.
It's equally important to look for what other qualifications and training the certified yoga therapist has, including advanced degrees in a health-related field and clinical training in a discipline related to their specialty.
Content for sessions are tailored to each client's needs. A yoga therapist may include physical postures, breath practices, lifestyle changes, encouragement of social connection via involvement with a yoga community, guided self-inquiry, meditation, and a clarification of a client's values and life intentions as part of an overall personalized yoga practice plan they develop for you. Each yoga therapist works differently, so it's important to ask questions and be clear about expectations and limitations of the work they do.
Yoga therapy provides a pathway to hope for people who sense that they need to engage the whole-person to achieve balance and optimal health, and certified yoga therapists are working hard to bring awareness to our field and to the resources we provide.
My yoga therapy practice is currently full, but you can contact me to be put on my waiting list. My practice is housed primarily at Ease Mountain Yoga & Nourishing Arts in Ben Lomond, California, but I also work with people at a distance via video conferencing and can help connect you with local teachers, classes and other yoga therapists as needed.
Dr. Juko Holiday is the owner and director of Ease Mountain Yoga & Nourishing Arts, a yoga studio & wellness center in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. She is a certified yoga therapist (C-IAYT), has a doctorate in Transpersonal Psychology, an MA in Clinical Psychology, and is the founder of The Care Forest Project, an initiative to foster environmental conservation + human connection. She has lived with depression for over 40 years, and uses her personal, academic, and professional experience to support others who are ready to take a stand against stress, trauma, low moods, and emotional overwhelm.
Ease Mountain Yoga & Nourishing Arts
9573 Highway 9
Ben Lomond, CA 95005