Check out my NEW website!

Hey there everyone!

So at long last, after years of procrastination, dreaming, overwork, dreaming and more procrastination, I have FINALLY started my own website. Officially. With a blog this time.

Check it out at: labringle.com . Follow me there!

While I’ve had several blogs throughout the years – the one about my travels in Paris about a million years ago, the one about healing after a lifetime of abuse, and one about searching for what comes next – I’ve decided to combine all my various interests under one header. The only thing that describes how it all comes together…

Me.

Moi.

Myself.

I.

Narcissistic? Really hoping not. Just simplest I believe.

The other blogs provided me with opportunities to hide myself behind my writing. To take shelter behind my words. To not really admit that it was me saying those things. Me writing those things.

They provided me with beautiful opportunities to spread my wings. To test things out. To push myself further. To open up my voice without all the fear of rejection and recrimination that comes sometimes when you really attach your own self to something.

They were my blogs for crawling. But now I’m ready to walk.

Don’t worry, you’ll still get to read my stuff – I haven’t changed and yet I’m completely different all at the same time.

I’ll still try to post the struggles, the inspiration, the yoga and the triumphs of life. I haven’t forgotten you.

It’s just time to start spreading my wings. Time to start trying to turn this whole writing thing into more than a side hobby I sometimes can’t seem to make time for and into something that actually supplies…dare I say it?…an income? 

Ooo that word gives me chills.

The truth is, we writers need to eat too y’all!

So join me on my search for food – through words.

See you there.

Lauren

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Be Kind to Yourself

Recently in the blog, I’ve been exploring the idea of forgiveness.  Of forgiving yourself, and of forgiving the people who’ve hurt you.  Here’s something to keep in mind as you struggle with the issue of self-judgment:

“My beloved child

Break your heart no longer.

Each time you judge yourself you break your own heart.

You stop feeding on the love which is the wellspring of your vitality…

Let go.

And breathe – into the the goodness that you are.”

Post that above your bathroom mirror, so that every time you see yourself, you’ll view yourself with kindness.

How animals can help

In my last blog, I wrote about the issue of touch.  About how uncomfortable it used to make me feel and how I mostly needed to find the right people to hug.  This blog, I want to share with you some more techniques that have helped me find touching and being touched easier.

First of all, establishing boundaries is very important.  Decide where you are and art NOT comfortable being touched, and stick to those limits.  It all goes back to establishing your boundaries, that I wrote about in an earlier blog.

Establishing and sticking to boundaries is one way to become more comfortable with the issue of touch.  But there’s also another way; a cuddly, fluffy, bundle of fun way.

That’s right, I’m talking about animals.  There are times when I don’t know what I would do without my parents’ black lab/german shepherd mix.  His name is Blue.  He is an enormous dog, weighing almost 100 lbs, but is the sweetest, biggest baby who is even scared of thunderstorms!  When I had my knee surgery, Blue never left my side.  When I felt lonely, Blue was always willing to cuddle.

And did you know that petting an animal can lower stress?  And help manage cholesterol?  And help Autistic people get in touch with their senses?  Owning a pet can be a wonderful, life-altering thing.  Check out Web MD’s slideshow called “27 ways Pets can Improve Your Health”  for more details.

For me, I’ve found that petting a dog, and having to play with a dog and care for one, has helped open up my heart.  It has made me more vulnerable and more open.  And simply through the act of petting, I have become more comfortable with the act of touch.

So if you are feeling lonely, feeling repressed, depressed, unhealthy, or unable to open up…get a pet!  Rescue one from the local animal shelter, and save two lives! (yours AND the pet’s I mean).

Or, if you can’t have/aren’t ready to own a pet, there are also wonderful Equine Therapy Programs available.  If you are tired of traditional talk therapy, or feel that nothing else is working, or even just want to try something new, Equine Therapy can be a wonderful outlet for healing.  My sister, who has experienced abuse and trauma as well, has worked with horses for years now, and admits that it is the only way she has been able to open up, connect with people, and find peace with herself.

Animals are willing and able to help.  All it takes is a little love, a little exercise, and a little food, and they will give us lots of love in return.

One with Nature; fight depression with sunshine

Maybe you’ve heard of this idea.  Pocahontas and Fern Gully and recently, the over-rated combination of the two, Avatar, have lauded the qualities of a simplistic, outdoorsy lifestyle.  While movies may be dramatizations, and animated movies are most certainly fictional accounts, there is some truth to the idea that when humans spend more time in nature, they are happier.  For those of you who don’t believe me, check out this page on the National Wildlife Federation Website, that underlines some of the benefits of outdoor play.  Specifically, the article speaks towards the benefits for children, but is there really that much of a difference fundamentally between a child’s needs and an adult’s?

Now, I’m not talking about going out into the deep wilderness by yourself with only a pocket knife type of nature experience.  But just spending a little time outside each day can help improve mood, fitness, and Vitamin D.  Take a walk in the park nearby, go for a bike ride, lay in the sun to check your email or read a book.  There’s science behind the idea that sunshine really does make you happier!

While obviously, a significant amount of dedication and work is required to heal from traumatic experiences, this is a simple way to give yourself an extra little mood boost.  If you are anything like me, when I experienced depression, all I wanted to do was curl up in a dark, cool space and hide beneath my covers.  But that just makes things worse!

So here’s a simple solution; go outside.  That’s it.  Exercising outside would be ideal, but even just sitting out there can help.  Here’s the challenge, for those of you who wish to accept it; start spending 10 minutes every day outside for the next 2 weeks, and see if your mood improves any.  If you have any experiences that you’d like to share about this topic, please post them in the comments section below this article.  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Healing exercise: Drawing Journal

When I was still attending weekly counseling sessions, my therapist learned of my love of art and encouraged me to use this interest to further my healing process. With her prompting, I started a journal, in which I drew my feelings and stages of the healing process, rather than writing about them.

This proved to be an interesting challenge, as it worked both with overcoming my extreme perfectionism, and with helping me to actually SEE things differently. I found this exercise to be very helpful. As with the poetry exercise earlier, it does not matter if you aren’t a master artist. Just grab a bic pen and a sheet of computer paper. This exercise is not about the resulting masterpiece; but rather, it is about the exercise itself.

This exercise is a way of taking the images that are in your head, that are associated with different ideas, different feelings, etc., and transferring them onto paper. This is also a good way of retraining a brain that has been damaged by trauma.

For example, one day, I was in my apartment, and I was feeling very scared about ever trying to date someone new, after what’s happened in the past. Then I heard the song “Jump In” (see healing playlist), and this image popped into my head of a toe being put in the water. Just a toe testing the water, timid of jumping all the way in. This was how I felt about relationships.

So I sat down, and I drew this toe, dipping into water, with a line from “Jump In” written across the top: “If you never take the first step, you cannot go too far.”

Then I sat with the drawing for a minute. Looking at what was in front of me. And just sitting there, staring at that image brought me a little more peace, a little more courage that healing doesn’t have to be taken in great leaps and bounds. But rather, it can be taken in tiny, minuscule steps. Just like, when you learn to swim, you never dive right in at first. You start by dipping your toe in the water, to test the temperature, to get the feeling. Then you might put both feet in at the top step of the pool, then slowly you slide down further to where you’re in up to your waist. Eventually, you swim out to the deep end.

Just like learning to swim, healing takes time. And this one, poorly sketched drawing of mine, brought me all of these thoughts in a matter of a minute.

I strongly encourage you, if you have any interest in this, to try it out for yourself. Grab a drawing utensil and a piece of paper, and sit in a quiet place by yourself. Find a place in which you are the most comfortable. Perhaps light a scented candle, listen to some soothing music, etc. Then think about the different images that pop into your head when you think of healing, relationships, abuse, phobias, etc. Next, try drawing one of the images that pop into your head. Again, it doesn’t have to be a masterpiece, just a simple sketch will do.

Lastly, after you have finished your drawing, be sure to take the time to sit with it and really look at it. Ask yourself the following questions: Why did I choose this image? What feelings do I get just by looking at it? Does it make me feel sad, angry, hurt, trapped, panicked, scared, confused, etc? Next, think about WHY you feel that way? Then, most importantly, if the image is a negative one, or brings up negative feelings, think about how you could change that image so that you feel safer, more comfortable, happier, soothed, etc. Then draw the image again, this time with the soothing elements added. Look it over once more, and feel the peace that can wash over you now that you’ve adjusted the image in your brain. See how you can take a negative image, and turn it into something less frightening, something more positive.

Just like with finding the calm in your happy place, drawing images and then redrawing them into more positive scenarios helps you retrain a brain damaged by trauma. It helps you problem-solve what could make things better, and demonstrate in a tangible way the differences in your body between when you feel hurt/angry, and when you feel happy.

That’s the importance of the drawing journal. It’s a helpful tool to clarify specific physical and emotional reactions to different situations. Then to sit with those emotions, and figure out how to make the situation better; how to change the image to a more peaceful and soothing scenario. With practice, this ability can become more ingrained, and taken out into everyday life.

It’s an exercise in retraining the brain so that it can return to normal and healthy responses to different situations. So even if you only have 5 minutes, grab a pen and try it out. It doesn’t have to be perfect. After all, it’s just a step.

Lessons from Nature

Did you know that if you cut a branch off a Cottonwood tree, the insides of the broken pieces reveal a perfect star? That’s right, cutting this tree, breaking this tree, “ruining” this tree, just reveals a different kind of beauty, hidden, that lies underneath the obvious. A beauty that is only revealed if the tree is first scarred.

This example makes me think that perhaps my scars are just making room for a different type of beauty. Perhaps they will, like the Cottonwood, quite literally reveal the star beneath. That inner strength and marvel that leads to new life.

For the tree, with each layer peeled away, new beauty is revealed. Each stripping of the bark feeds an animal. Each burning away by fire gives room to the ground for new nutrients. Each fallen tree gives life to new growth.

Each scar leaves behind a star. To remind us of all the beauty still remaining. A reminder that all is not lost. We have only to peel away our outward layers of hurt, to reveal the star underneath.

Building your own version of healing

Healing. It means something different to everyone. There are different versions, avatars of the same sentiment if you will. I think we can get lost in the abstract ideal of what it means to be “healed.” The truth is, however, that there is no one way of being healed, or experiencing healing, just as there is no one path to achieve this goal.

The looming goal of healing can seem rather daunting. The key is to bring it down to earth, to bring it to something you understand and can accept for yourself. At this stage, you’ve probably gotten very good at recognizing what you don’t want from life (no abuse, thanks!) and what you don’t want from relationships, etc. And you’ve hopefully removed yourself from these situations. The question now becomes what DO you want?

What you want is something very important to determine in the healing process. It’s okay to set a goal for your healing journey. Think about what being healed means to you. How do you want to feel when you’re healed? How will this affect your personal life? Your relationships? And what do you want your personal life and relationships to look like once you’ve achieved the goal of healing?

Defining what “healed” means to you is very important in working towards it. After all, if you don’t know what you are working towards, how will you ever get there? How will a therapist be able to help you reach that goal?

So take a few moments to think about what it means for you to be healed. Talk to your therapist about your goals, desires in this department, etc. Then go get it! In my opinion, perfection does not exist, because everyone’s version of what it means to be perfect is different. It is the same with healing. But defining what you want gives you a goal, a purpose, and can help immensely on your personal journey towards inner fulfillment and peace.