there is a small moment

there is a small moment 
© by Kathleen Dunbar 

there is a small moment 
when the still air 
touches the bird’s breast 
and nothing else exists for her 
more important 
than being alive 
to the invisible warmth 
that is the breath 
of gardens 
long trees 
and sunwarmed stone 

all that is alive has 
risen to meet her 
in the crystal 
animal of the air 
that waits 
next to her 
on her high branch 

she—who is made 
to sing— 
allows the wind 
when it begins to stir 
to touch her soft body 
where her 
invisible voice lives 
and she begins 
to feel called 
exquisitely 
to return the vitalness 
and press 
of garden 
and tree 
and stone 
in the poured 
silver of her song 

there is nothing 
compared to 
her joy when the wind 
moves into her
and her exquisite 
allowing 
of the taking 
of her singing body 

this is the reason 
she was given a voice 

so 
of course 
she tips 
and falls 
and flies 

Dogs Don’t Care


Dogs Don’t Care
by Kathleen Dunbar

Dogs as a whole
don’t care what they look like
(except perhaps for poodles).
Let yourself find that dignity
and freedom
that creatures know
—let the sense of you being you
in the moment
just as you are
become a little fuller.
Your body will thank you
(it already knows how
and will be glad you listened).
Your heart will
relax—finally!
The miracle is You—
beauteous, unique,
sometimes with fleas,
alive and here.
Don’t let the thoughts
that compare and criticize you
be the only show in town.
They never took into account
the mystery that is you.
Be as dog, or horse,
mouse
or walrus—
trust yourself
howl wildly, run, snort
play and growl
taste and smell
sing and dance
and most of all be here.
The body that you were given
is exquisite.
Your heart is waiting for you
to love yourself.
You are amazing.

© Kathleen Dunbar 2020

Shaman’s Stone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shaman’s Stone
by Kathleen Dunbar 

At the heart of your experience is You.
And though your Essence may not be weighed,
is not palpable or seen,
that Mystery makes you all the more Sacred.
Seek for yourself, and love the seeking.
Hold what is unholdable.
Feel more than you think you can bear.
Love everything.
Work and play
and do the dishes and pray and sing.
The empty hole at the center of the shaman’s stone
tells you everything you need to know.
Everything you do
points you home.

© Kathleen Dunbar 2020 

Give Yourself A Medal and Come Home to Your True Self

We all have a True Self and when we live from this self we naturally engage in what interests us. However, if we’ve been hurt in some way as kids or young people we often end up putting away our True Selves in order to survive. The way we do this is, as I put it, by hiring a security team. The security team are “parts” of us that keep us safe by limiting our life force. Like any security team worth their salt they are highly trained to act at a moment’s notice and shut things down at the slightest whiff of danger. They give voice to the security messages they have learned to keep us safe, like “Don’t try new things,” “I could never do that,” or “I’ll fail.” It’s important to remember that the True Self never says those kinds of things! But how to get access again to your True Self? Here’s an exercise you might find surprising to make a little room for your dreams: 

  • Sit quietly and comfortably somewhere on your own. 
  • Stretch and yawn This helps shift neural states from activated to calm. 
  • Take three deep breathes in through your nose and out through your mouth with an audible sigh on the outbreath (ie, make a sound). The sound on the outbreath shifts you into your parasympathetic nervous system which relaxes and resources you and provides a more nourishing chemical bath for your brain and organs. 
  • Pick one of your security team people with a particular message and find someplace in the room for him or her to sit or stand. Is he on the left or right? Is she sitting or standing? If you allow yourself to be a bit dreamy and spontaneous and “irrational” you’ll find that these guards are usually outside you and take up duty in a particular place. If they feel like they are on the inside, where would you like to imagine them to be on the outside of you? 
  • Now, tell your guard (out loud or silently), “I know you’re just trying to protect me. Thank you.” 
  • Just that, just say thanks. No figuring out or analyzing. Just a recognition of the ways that that part has really gone to bat for you, most especially as a kid. The truth is, that part helped you survive. At first, all you need is one tenth of a percent of you to get behind the thanking. And of course, you need that part to give you more room. But have you noticed that if you fight with it, or try to ignore it, that it will speak up even more loudly. It’s just scared you’ll get hurt again. So thank it for being the brave veteran soldier trained to protect. See what happens. I guarantee you that you will be pleasantly surprised. 
  • When you are able to thank that part, not as a mental act, but as an act of gratitude, you are doing something quite helpful for your neural paths—you are accessing your heart and your right brain and their neural circuits (yes, the heart also has neurons). This produces feel-good chemicals instead of anxiety-depression-trauma chemicals. You are accessing your body in the present moment. You are practicing a new habit of being kind to yourself. You are beginning to come home to yourself. 
  • Now you may find something really cool happening here—Ask yourself who is it that is thanking the security guard part? The good news is that the you that can acknowledge how you’ve protected yourself—that is the True Self. You just stepped into your right brain and your heart, which can acknowledge both your difficulties and your truth. 
  • Breathe with this and hang out a while. You are waking up the blueprint you were born with! 
  • Don’t worry if the new experience only lasts a few seconds. That’s how we begin to come back home. Don’t worry if most of you thinks this is hogwash. If at least one hundredth of a percent of you felt this shift, that is great, that is how you begin. Let yourself mark the sensations and felt sense experience of that hundredth of a percent. Congratulations—you’ve unearthed the blueprint that is You.

Photos by Kathleen Dunbar

Daily Miracle Practice

I always love how this practice makes me feel, whether I’m doing it on an already-great day, or whether I’m down in the pits. It shifts something, brightening the dark, or making my light shine even more brightly. 

  • Declare, “Today, a miracle will happen!” 
  • If you believe it at least a tenth of a percent, that’s enough to get yourself looking around for the miracle. The one who is open to receiving a miracle is the True Self. 
  • So, let’s look at the definition of miracle for this exercise. Here’s the one I use: A miracle is anything beautiful, kind, astonishing, touching, cool, surprising. It’s the huge incredible smelling roses that my neighbors grow in their front yard—and yes, I stop and smell the roses. When I do, I make sure I look at the color and vibrancy, inhale the incredible scent, and that I feel gratefulness for having this rose garden to walk by. Then I also make sure I notice the shift into the physical and energetic experience that comes with the appreciation. It’s really important to include the sensory shifts in your body and energy, as those help anchor you in your True Self. So I’ll notice how it’s easier to breathe, that my shoulders have dropped, that my energy feels lighter and some gladness fills my heart. 
  • When we allow ourselves to be grateful, we shift out of our ever-comparing left brain
    (which can get really negative) and into our right brain and heart. Gratefulness and appreciation activate the neurons in the heart and brain, balance the brain, and help us start to produce feel-good chemicals instead of worry or anger or fear chemicals. 
  • So don’t only look for the big miracles. Winning the Lotto would be nice, of course. But which Lottos have you already won today: the joy of a healthy deep breath of forest air; seeing a hermit crab walk along the beach; the kind smile of a stranger; the joy of your pet at seeing you. The more you take in, the more you see, the more you take in, the better you feel.


Accepting Yourself—You Are A Gem!

“When you love you fall under the waves,
if you never fall you can never be saved
sometimes it’s grace, sometimes luck
when a hand reaches out and you take it up.”
—Kathleen Dunbar, from my album The Storm in Our Head 

There is a wonderful therapist who was a leader in his field many years ago named Carl Rogers. When he was a boy he grew up on a farm. All winter the potatoes lay in bins in the cold basement, and there was only a small window far up on the wall in that basement. He was fascinated that even though the potatoes were given so little nourishment, that they nevertheless sprouted and sent their long tendrils upwards towards the light. He believed that the thirst for life in people is the same, that there is an inherent wholeness that seeks to grow and express itself.  

“From the oak, the mighty acorn grows.” —Folk Saying 

They might begin small, but seeds are powerful and grow into great things, the things they were always destined to be. When a client first arrives for sessions, I let them know I hear their greatest ache, and understand their greatest longing, and through the somatic work I do I give them an experience of their longing being met so that they can walk out the door with more of a sense of who they truly are. Then we continue to build on that. 

“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” —Carl Rogers 

People want to know how they can “fix themselves” and often have a whole gallery of internal critics telling them what is wrong with them. The problem with critics is that they are so toxic that they stop any growth. Our critics and “voices” miss the main point, that just as we are, we are a gem. As we grow to realize and accept our own unique and valuable nature, and that we are precious just as we are, then we become freer to express, learn, grow and thrive. When we recognize the amazing seed of our unique nature, then we can care for ourselves, and help ourselves to grow into our full expression.  

The following are our birthrights. Which ones speak most potently to you? Likely you may find yourself believing the opposite. For example, you may have learned to believe that you have to do everything yourself, and you took on this belief because of experiences growing up where exactly that was the case. But if you sit quietly and go all the way under the belief, you will find a longing for just the opposite—that you don’t have to do it alone, that it’s okay to need. And—you made it this far! It’s your time now, your season right now—and just as you learned the limiting belief, you can learn to return to your birthright belief and experience. It may take a therapist or mentor or new community, and it will take some work on your part to let go of the old voices and the old belief, but you can learn to reach out, and you will be able to learn who are the very people who will reach back and give you a hand up. Healing and growth are possible! 

So tell your critic to take ten steps back for two minutes, and then take a look at the following from your sense of longing. That longing is key. Longing is the seed of you calling out. It is a direct line into your essential nature. Your amazing self is awaiting you. Yeah you! 

  • You matter.  
  • You are loveable. 
  • You are welcome—there is a place for you. 
  • All your feelings are natural. 
  • It is possible to be safe.  
  • It’s okay to be powerful. 
  • It’s okay to have needs, and it’s possible to find others who will meet them. 
  • It’s okay to ask for help.  
  • You’re don’t have to be alone—there are others who will help. 
  • You can learn to ask. 
  • It’s okay to be real. 
  • Being vulnerable and authentic is a strength others will appreciate.
  • You can say no and do it your way, and you’ll still be loved. 
  • There’s nothing you have to do to be loved—you are already loveable just as you are. 
  • There are people who will be willing to see you and hear you.
  • You are a gem!

Move—Pray—Create—Sing—Love

There are essential acts and states of consciousness which we can identify and use to create a foundation to help us ground, grow, connect and thrive in both good times and times of stress (like during COVID-19). 

I’ve boiled down the essential structure of safety and aliveness into the following seven areas. 

Move. Connect with your body. 

  • What: Exercise, do yoga, stretch, walk, hike, garden, dance. 
  • Why: Movement connects you to your body, flushes out stress-hormones, and replenishes you with feel-good hormones.  

Learn. Connect with your mind. 

  • What: Read, listen to inspirational or humorous podcasts, listen to a PBS history documentary, listen to interesting audio books, ask someone to teach you how to do something, exchange recipes with friends and try them out, find out how to make something on YouTube (I learned I could make a foamy latte at home by pumping heated milk up and down inside my French Press!) 
  • Why: Learning engages and balances the brain. You can’t be scared and curious at the same time, they are two different brain functions and two different parts of the brain. Learning helps you feel alive and helps you feel safer. 

Mindfulness. Connect your mind with your heart. 

  • What: Listen to meditation apps like Calm, use your sitting practice, listen to calming music, especially music with no language, or a language other than your own and let the music take you somewhere. 
  • Why: Practicing mindfulness creates and grows new neural circuits that help you return to, and live from, your Wise Self. You learn and embody resiliency, wider perspectives, compassion including self-compassion, and curiosity.  

Gratefulness. Connect with your heart.  

  • What: Sit, stretch and yawn, bring to mind something of beauty, kindness, appreciation, “take the elevator down” from your head to your heart, feel the gratefulness as a feeling, even putting your hand on your heart to really help you move from your thoughts to present sensations. 
  • Why: There are neurons in your heart as well as your brain. A lot of them! A felt, embodied sense of gratefulness helps us move from busy left brain, to more embodied, more compassionate right brain, balances all brain functions, flushes out stress hormones, turns on feel good-hormones, and calms and grounds us. 

Play. Connect with your creativity. 

  • What: Play a board game, learn how to sing a song, bake something you’ve never baked before, play a word game with your child, paint, draw, sketch, make a collage from magazine pictures and scraps, journal, do a puzzle, make a playlist and listen to music, make a silly video for Facebook! 
  • Why: You can’t be afraid and playful at the same time. If you allow yourself to play, you bring your brain back into balance. Allowing yourself to be creative actually helps you thrive and grow! 

Connect/Love. Connect yourself with your self, family, pets, friends, and the planet. 

  • What: Talk with friends and loved ones, pet the cat, walk the dog, snuggle, make a phone call, talk with someone far away on Skype, send a heartfelt or humorous email. 
  • Why: Love is the ultimate brain-balancer. A loving act given, received, or witnessed, helps us to let go of stress and bring in goodness, brings us out of busy thoughts into a more holistic way of being, and allows us to have compassion and gratitude for self and others. 

Nature. Connect with the planet. 

  • What: Watch the clouds pass by, listen to the wind in the trees, hear the birds, bring in flowers from your garden.  
  • Why: Connecting with nature is connecting with a force that is larger than oneself, and helps stimulate wonder, awe, appreciation, and fun. It helps us feel both our uniqueness and how our uniqueness is one small and beauteous expression of the larger, mysterious expression that is life itself. Awe balances the brain and inspires hope, peace and life force. 

Play with the bolded words to come up with your own words and activities to make your unique foundation.  

For example, this particular blog arose out of the following exercise. I was feeling overwhelmed with many projects, and I wanted to end each day feeling a sense of completion and refreshment. I decided to make a foundation by boiling down into the shortest words possible those acts and attitudes essential for a day to be fully satisfying for me. I came up with: Move—Pray—Create—Sing—Love and put them up on a little strip of paper on my fridge. Even if I don’t “get it all done” I can rest in the structure. It’s not about doing it all, it’s about feeling the structure. It simplifies things, because I can invite myself into what I know is helpful. 

  • For me that means Moving my body with stretching and yoga, and walks outside in Nature to expand my consciousness. 
  • Engaging my Mindfulness and Gratefulness practices. 
  • Learning and Playing through practicing singing, writing songs, and working on my novel (I’m a singer-songwriter and writer). 
  • Opening my heart to my partner, myself and others in acts of giving and receiving Love.

You Matter

 

 

You matter. You have always mattered. Let the dust settle that contains all the reasons you thought you didn’t matter. Ah!–there is your gem self! Welcome home, my love, welcome home. 

Here’s a self-friendly compassionate perspective to help you shift:

  • My clients are wonderful-hearted people who can be so very tough on themselves because they still believe the “error” messages they got ten, twenty, fifty years ago. As kids, one of the most hurtful things that can happen to us is when the important adults in our lives don’t explain to us what is going on in difficult situations. As a child we get confused and start to believe things like “I don’t matter,” “There’s something wrong with me,” “If they find out who I really am they won’t like me.”  
  • Meanwhile, what’s really going on with the adults are things that are totally out of kids’ control, like parents being mean, rageful, distant, anxious, having affairs, depression, being neglectful, losing a job, reacting to a death in the family, illness, parents having unhealthy relationship patterns, and being abusive emotionally, physically, or sexually to their kids.
  • Our internal critics–the “tapes,” the peanut gallery, the mean voices–these critics all got “hired” by you as a kid when the only way to make sense of a hurtful situation was to start believing these “error” messages. Kids can’t handle not understanding a difficult situation, and in the absence of a grounded adult offering help, support and understanding about life’s difficulties and especially taking responsibility for their actions as caregivers, kids have to make some kind of meaning in order to stay sane. If an adult isn’t there to take responsibility and explain to their child what is going on, then what all kids do is to take the blame onto themselves and begin to believe that there is something wrong with them. That’s just how the psychology of children works. Kids have to make some kind of sense of things in order to stay sane, and even if it’s the wrong message that’s better than no message at all. Because to not have anything make sense on the one hand, or on the other hand to clearly realize that a parent is out of control somehow, that would be utterly terrifying. In the bind of loving the person who is causing the hurt, kids blame themselves, not their caregivers. That’s when as a kid you began to point at yourself and started to believe you were not enough, didn’t matter, were faulted. At the time, you simply couldn’t afford to believe that parents or caregivers were being hurtful, or neglectful, or out of control, because that would be too frightening.
  • Here’s the good news. You can look at it this way–when your only option was to start believing the negative messages about yourself in order to survive, you also did something else really important: You put your Wise Self, your unique Gem, away on a shelf and you did this to keep yourself safe. Now is the time to let the dust settle and come home to who you have always been. It’s time to begin to take yourself off the shelf and be you!
  • Something that might sound odd at first but that really helps is to sit quietly and actually thank the negative voices. You might say something like, “You just don’t want me to get hurt, and that’s the only way you know how to do it. Thanks for trying to protect me.” This often brings some settling and calm. Then notice who is doing the thanking. That is your Wise Self, being generous to your kid and to the security team of negative thoughts that was the only option you had to deal with the pain. And when you are seated more in your Wise Self, and in the self-compassion and generosity to yourself, you start to come home to you and that just feels so much better!
  • Then give yourself a little hug, each hand on the opposite upper arm, squeeze, and breathe, 
  • Even if you feel the release for just two or three seconds, even if you begin to believe in yourself just one-hundreth of a percent, even if the voices come back three seconds later, that is enough! Congratulations, you have started to come home to You, to make a new neural connection which you can continue to build on as you discover yourself as an Amazing being.

Send You Love In The Morning

One of the first songs I ever wrote arrived in my heart and mind when I was on a wilderness quest in Death Valley many years ago. It’s called Send You Love. You can find the words below. I send you love this morning! Please remember you are a unique and amazing being. Let’s keep supporting one another during this challenging time.

  • Watch a short snippet of me singing Send You Love in a recent live performance here: WATCH HERE
  • Listen to the complete song on my first album Finally Home on Bandcamp
  • Explore my music website at kathleendunbar.com

 

Send You Love
By Kathleen Dunbar
Copyrighted by Kathleen Dunbar

Send you love in the morning
Send you love when you open your eyes
Send you love in the morning
Send you love when you open your eyes

Send you peace in the evening, my dear
Send you peace when you’re closing your eyes
Send you peace in the evening
Send you peace when you’re closing your eyes

Send you hope in the darkness
Send you hope when you are alone
Send you hope in the darkness
Send you hope to welcome you home

Send you joy in the spirit of love
Send you joy with arms spread out wide
Send you joy for you just as you are
Send you joy from all that’s alive

Send you love in the morning
Send you love when you open your eyes
Send you love in the morning
Send you love when you open your eyes

 

Take a Free Virtual Tour of 12 Famous Museums from your Couch!

While you are at home during COVID-19, take a tour of a famous museum! Here are 12 famous museums that offer you free virtual tours of fascinating exhibits that you can enjoy from your couch! Follow the link: Take A Virtual Museum Tour