When being trained as a counselor I was offered the following advice many times by many different people, often with slightly different wording: The relationship is built in the repair. A somewhat novel concept to someone who, like many of us, wanted to be liked by everyone and struggled with the idea of conflict with a client, this concept is larger than just the work that I do in the office or outdoors with clients. It’s about every relationship. My friends, my co-workers, my family, most definitely my marriage. The relationship is not defined by whether or not we have conflict, arguments, hurt feelings, loss, anger, tears…. It’s defined by how we respond to these challenges. In therapy even, I have had opportunity to work through a misunderstanding, a momentary hurt, and rather than it being someone’s fault, the opportunity lies in being vulnerable about the impact, owning my own part in it, seeing the other person’s experience and naming, with empathy, my understanding of how they feel.
It is in these moments that we become closer, that trust is deepened, that we feel more seen and understood than ever before.
And all of this may not be new to you as a reader, or maybe it is (and if it is, and you want more, go check out people like Brené Brown)… but many events have happened this year that have led me to consider the repair that our country faces after senseless tragedy, lives lost, hate smeared in multiple directions. How can we bear it? Some are finding strength by grasping onto one issue and proclaiming the importance of it through social media, some will go further and vote with that issue in mind, offer support, financial or other, to groups working to change the laws, sign petitions, go to a rally. Others will try to comfort themselves by saying: “see, those people ARE in the wrong” and will make oversimplifications of entire nations, religions, gender identities… and this may occur on multiple sides of a tragedy. Maybe we do this so we don’t feel so lost, so that we can believe we are in the right, that we are on a path that is clearly defined by it's walls on either side.
Tragedy continues, and along with grief comes an inevitable reaction, an action birthed in response to the event. We do this in relationships too, we react to what someone else has said or done. We get hurt. We have our hearts smashed into millions of tiny pieces and then swept out with the trash. We feel small.
How do we react? How do we respond?
The greatest comfort to me comes with the greatest responsibility: we get to choose. We, more than any other creature on Earth, have the ability to slow down and think deliberately about our response. To choose love. This ability, however, needs to be honed. This is where a practice of mindfulness yet again becomes relevant. To become more and more able to choose love, we have to strengthen the muscle that is able to resist re-acting in fear, shame, and hate. We need to slow down the pace of the response and be aware in the moment what it is we are feeling, thinking, and doing. This is counter to our biological nature at times, our amygdala may have learned from quite a young age how to protect us from some perceived threat, but our quickest response may no longer be serving us.
These are core concepts to much of the individual counseling offered at Aspen Roots Collective. We will be offering a day of training and personal experience for healers in the Asheville area on November 4 on how to incorporate the natural world into both your own mindfulness practice as well as the work you do with clients. Learn more at Mindfulness for Practitioners
ps The image attached to this newsletter is jewelweed, an antidote of sorts to poison ivy, and often found growing nearby... hmmm... a metaphor in nature? Imagine that.
Purpose in Patagonia has spots remaining. Join us in December for an intentional beginning to the New Year in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. A women's therapeutic international travel retreat... eight days of outdoor, cultural, and growth oriented adventure.
The ARC Hiking Club will now be meeting once per month. Join us on the first Thursday morning of the month for ecotherapy hikes in the Asheville area.