June 2007 
 HealingHeartPower Newsletter
 Reclaiming the Power of the Heart
In This Issue

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May and June are two of my favorite months. My front yard features a beautiful pink dogwood, in perfect view to enjoy from the window of my therapy office for the 2 - 3 weeks it is in bloom each year. As I write this, I am enjoying the aliveness and tranquility of my beloved tree. I wait 11 months each year to enjoy these very special days!

The metaphor of spring and new growth seems apt as I write this next edition of the HealingHeartPower newsletter. Some wonderful new buds are growing with EKP work.

First, EKP apprentice Gretchen Stecher, has found a perfect location for the Cape Cod EKP Retreat Weekend November 16 - 18: The Briarwood Conference and Marine Science Center in Bourne, MA. Come join us for a weekend of nourishment, healing and community, all at a very affordable price.

Too, some wonderful opportunities have presented themselves to further EKP work with Parents and Kids. On Saturday, June 2, I will be presenting "Heartsmarts: Developing Emotional Intelligence and Touch Literacy for Parents and Kids", a workshop at Mt. Wachusett Community College in Gardner, MA as part of their Kids Fest.

I am also in dialogue with several UU churches about bringing this Heartsmarts work to their communities. Thanks to Kathy McGinn and Margaret Jaillet at Mt. Wachusett Community College, and to Jim Shipsky, Karen Axelrod, Larry Cotton and Davis Burbank for helping move this important work forward!

In this issue, you will find articles on Getting Grounded In An Overscheduled World, and Anxiety and Emotional Unsafety and a section entitled Community Feedback with reflections from the e-mail.

It is always wonderful hearing from you whether by e-mail, or with posts to the HeartSpaceCafe forum/blog at www.heartspacecafe.com/blog. Please continue to send me your thoughts about issues and articles presented in this newsletter, and about other topics you might want to see me address.

Heartfully, Linda

 Getting Grounded in an Overscheduled World

In her Work and Family column for the Wall St Journal on May 17, 2007, Sue Shellenberger wrote an article entitled, "Helping Overbooked Kids Cut Back." I found myself having two reactions to the title. First, horror. As if it weren't bad enough that adults today are overbusy, addicted to activity, unable to slow down, get grounded and relax, this "dis-ease"--and yes, it is a dis-ease--has been passed on to the next generation, most likely unconsciously.

When my 11-year-old son tries to schedule playdates with friends, even when dealing with the custody schedule of his divorced parents, it is usually not he who is most unavailable. Many of his friends live on virtual treadmills, running from school to music lesson to soccer practice, sometimes not eating dinner til 9 pm at night. Fitting homework in is challenge #1. And getting a good night's sleep is challenge #2. So, having "downtime" to play casually with a friend is almost as hard to squeeze in as going to the bathroom or lunch is for their hardworking parents.

Isn't something very wrong with this picture? Our society is creating a next generation of little do-aholics. Shellenberger wrote about a 6-year-old girl who resisted taking a day off to vacation with her family, because she was too anxious about missing her regularly scheduled activities. Sounds a lot like some of the adults I know, who let their vacation days acrew indefinitely, because it is never the right time to step away from their consuming jobs.

When the girl's mom realized she was overscheduled, and tried to cut back, it was hard to make the changes stick. Her daughter was "'conditioned' to being busy" and had a hard time not going "100 miles an hour every day."

Is it time for stress management classes for kids? Or perhaps families need to learn to decompress, slow down, meditate and relax together. If today's adults are running at breakneck speed 24-7, what kind of example are we giving to our kids?

I have come to realize how important it is to teach people the skills of getting grounded: learning how to slow down, find one's own natural rhythm, decompress, relax and destress, and discover what the "being" part of human being actually means. Waiting until a child or adult shows signs of overstress is really too late. We would be better served by learned how to get grounded from early on.

I am very glad that I have considered balance a top priority in my life. I work hard. I have meaningful work. I surely have no shortage of activities to engage my time each day. However, setting a pace that allows me to go to the gym every day, get fresh groceries from the Whole Foods down the street, meet a friend for lunch, to meditate,write and reflect is as important to me as being good at what I do.

My son has learned the importance of downtime, as well as the importance of time management and "working a timeline." He knows that when he comes home from school, he is most grounded if he takes 30 - 45 minutes to decompress. Whether it is playing with our kittens, playing his Nintendo DS, watching mindless tv, or kicking the soccer ball around, he realizes he is most happy and productive when there are spaces in between his daily activities.

Homework is important, but also so are playdates with his friends. And keeping up regular contact with his closest friends is just as important as doing really well on his school projects and reports. He is a first rate student, well-organized, focused and highly motivated. And he knows how to say, "this is enough for now," put down the project and relax.

Getting grounded requires time, space and presence--both with ourselves and with other people too. For a child, emotional presence is as important as physical presence. When my son is working hard on a focused project, he likes me to sit at the table with him and be available should he want to talk something over, even if in the end he doesn't need to. Just my being there, emotionally and physically, helps him hone in on what he needs to do.

I am more than happy to bring along a book or magazine, and read beside him as he does his work. As he has gotten older, his questions have become more intriguing. And there are more and more periods of time when he can sit at the kitchen table and go to work on a task on his own. He and I will still set our "timeline" together, and determine what size task will fit in a particular period of time. After years of doing this, though, he has a very good sense of how long it takes to write a paragraph, turn paragraphs into a rough draft, and turn the rough draft into a finished project.

Getting grounded requires that we listen to our bodies. We need to be able to slow down enough that we can close our eyes, take a few deep breaths, and see what is happening in our bodies and hearts. Are we breathing? Are our chests full of tension? Can we feel our bodies or are we numbing out? Are our minds full of constant chatter or can we quiet them? To mobilize and run for a short period of time can be a conscious and productive choice. It is entirely different when this pace of mobilization and running becomes a habit or a way of life.

Here are some simple things we can do each day that can help us slow down and get grounded:
  • Before getting up in the morning take even 10 -15 minutes to transition slowly into the day--it can be meditation time or just a gradual transition into wakefulness (I hate being "shot out of a canon" to start my day)
  • Think ahead about your daily food needs, and stock your house and refrigerator with healthy foods you enjoy, so when mealtime comes, the supplies you need are already there
  • At the end of your day--be it school or work--take a short period of transition time before jumping into your evening responsibilities
  • Give yourself permission to do something you enjoy for decompression--be it talking with a friend or loved one, exchanging massage, lying down, reading a book, petting your dog or cat...
  • Make sure each day has some self-care time built into it. We too easily attend to all the items on our "to do" list, without allowing space and time for self-care.
  • If you find yourself moving too quickly through your day, take a moment just to STOP and take a few deep breaths.
  • Give yourself permission to chunk tasks down into small enough pieces that you can actually accomplish them. This also helps you realistically assess how much time each one will take and when you can fit it into your schedule.

By slowing down and taking the time to discover our own more natural pace, we can both reduce our own stress, and provide a more grounded model to those around us. Because people tend to attune to one another (our heartfields interact electromagnetically, without words), as we radiate calm and inner peace, we make it just a bit easier for others to do the same.

And over time I have found that slow and grounded is actually the fastest, most efficient way to be!

For more information, check-out www.healingheartpower.com 

 Anxiety and Emotional Unsafety

Anxiety is a very common source of mental, emotional and physical distress in our culture today. So many of us face an onslaught of demands asking us to go faster and do more. It is rare to find environments that encourage us (or even allow us) to slow down, take space and listen to our deeper selves.

Living with a constant backdrop of anxiety takes a toll on our minds, bodies, hearts and spirits. It is exhausting. It is overwhelming. It can burn us out. And in some moments, it can be terrifying as we feel our lives, and even ourselves, are out of control.

Many years ago, as I became curious about anxiety, both from my own experience, and from the experiences of the clients I worked with, I observed that anxiety occurs when we feel emotionally unsafe. There are many different reasons underlying our unsafety, from ways we never got supported when we were very small, to not knowing how to ground ourselves in the face of all the pressures we encounter each day, to finding ourselves overwhelmed.

Here are some patterns I have observed when people are experiencing anxiety, and some ways we can learn to take care of ourselves to feel safer and more at peace:

  • a sense of overwhelm
  • a kind of dissociation--coming out of one's body and out of the here and now
  • a racing mind that just can't seem to stop (which is connected to coming out of our bodies and having our mind work overtime
  • a sense of frenetic energy that has no way to really express itself in a direct, satisfactory way
  • a need to pull away from others and social settings, and pull our energy inside to survive the moment
  • feeling all alone
  • physical symptoms like knots in the stomach, racing heart, body tension, and body movements to release nervous energy
  • a feeling of being trapped with no way out

  • One of the most overwhelming things about anxiety is often not being able to step out of the "spin" of the moment and recognize what is happening to us. Sometimes, we don't realize that the particular constellation of experiences that come with anxiety has a name, and that name is anxiety. Being able to recognize it and name is a first step in being able to contain the uncomfortable feelings and slow yourself down.

    Realizing when we are anxious that we feel unsafe is also helpful, because that can allow us to ask what we might need to be safe or safer. Even exploring this question can help slow us down, and feel more empowered and less overwhelmed. If we can learn what might make us feel safer, and take steps towards feeling safer, we reduce anxiety's grip.

    Naming what is happening, realizing we might feel unsafe, and looking at what makes us feel safer can help slow down a racing mind, and bring us in closer to touch with our felt experience in the moment. Often, some kind of physical contact is helpful to slow down, become more emotionally, mentally and physically present in the moment, and feel more grounded.

    Many of these pieces work as a feedback loop in a "chicken or the egg" kind of way. If we slow down, we feel more grounded. As we feel more grounded, it is easier and safer to be in the moment. If it is easier and safer to be in the moment, there is more space to become aware of body sensations, emotional feelings and deeper thoughts, and discern what it is we really need. As we become more aware of body sensations, emotional feelings and deeper thoughts, we become more grounded and in our bodies. As we feel more in our bodies, we can take in support. As we take in more support, we don't feel as overwhelmed or alone.

    As we feel safer, more present and more grounded, it is easier to find a pathway to directly express our anxiety or what is triggering the anxiety. When we are emotionally and physically embodied, we can connect with our deeper feelings, and move, push, breathe, draw, scream or make other sounds that expresses the intensity of what we are feeling.

    Having another person present to hold our hand, hold our feet where the ankles meet the feet, or put a hand on our heart can help ground and contain the fear, the pain and the aloneness that arise with feeling anxious and overwhelmed. At the root of anxiety might be an experience as a small child of being very frightened--with stronger feelings than we could understand or contain within our heart and body. At this early age, we had not developed the neural wiring of how to work with, process, release and put into context the anxiety-provoking experience. So, our experience was more intense than our inner circuitry could hold, and this resulted in anxiety and overwhelm.

    Having another person present in the here and now can provide an experience that allows this neural circuity to begin to develop. What we feel and experience is the basis of what we know is possible and true.

    For a small child facing overwhelming and scary circumstances, having a present, supportive adult is essential to learn there can be comfort in the face of overwhelm, and that there are ways to slow down, become grounded and get through these difficult moments. In addition to helping build in the neural circuitry of support and comfort in the face of overwhelm, it gives us a model of how to respond and what to do that we can internalize and call upon in the future.

    In these ways, we go from overwhelm, despair and feeling trapped, to a sense of freedom, possibility and hope. We go from feeling unsafe and hypervigilant to feeling more safe and that we can actually get what we need.

    In time, this feels empowering, because when we face circumstances that are overwhelming and scary, we have better inner resources to face whatever comes our way, and remain grounded and okay. I have found teaching people about slowing down, getting grounded, and increasing emotional safety, attending to body sensations, feelings and deeper thoughts can reduce the experience of anxiety and overwhelm over time.

    For those who want to get to the root of anxiety to help lessen its impact on their lives and for those who would rather learn to manage anxiety internally than take anti-anxiety medications, EKP provides many useful tools.

    For more articles...and a chance to add your thoughts... 

 Community Feedback:
 Reflections in the E-mail

I received two particularly meaningful e-mails this month. They were special because they were from people I first connected with many years ago. It is special when connections become meaningful in new and different ways over time.

The first was from Lori-Ann Wynter, my classmate from Yale. Lori-Ann and I collaborated in founding "Something Extra"--Yale's 3rd women's a capella singing group, now 30 years old!

In response to the May issue of the HealingHeartPower Newsletter, she wrote:

"I hope this finds you well. And kudos to you for calling attention to the works of Dobbs, Louv, and especially Iacocca. I'm still reading his book along with the new books of David Mamet and Ayaan Hirsi Ali."

"Yes, the average American needs to take leaders to task. We also need to take each other to task. Your newsletter states that lesson loud and clear. In reviewing the current issue, I recalled a number of conversations I had with various people with respect to the outcomes of the last two presidential elections. I recalled my acupuncturist, Patsy Roth, profoundly saying, 'People refuse to give up their ignorance.'"

"Just as we expect common sense, commitment, communication from our leaders, we need to expect that from each other so as voters, and as citizens, we can make informed decisions."

The second e-mail was from writer and writing teacher Elizabeth Way, who I hadn't heard from in nearly 17years!

She wrote:

"I am preparing for a program I will be doing for a group of women on Tuesday evening ('The Power of Words to Heal, to Bless and to Prosper') and happened to pull out a file I didn't even remember I had. It is titled Vision."

"YEARS ago, I heard you on an interview on PBS, purchased your book Living With Vision, wrote (enclosed a poem reflecting on miscarriage experience) and received a note back from you. For several years, I received Institute for Emotional-Kinesthetic Psychotherapy's newsletter and then...."

"Time did its usual thing--distancing, forgetting, misplacing, obscuring--until tonight!"

Elizabeth's e-mail brought to attention how my "printed on paper" newsletters of the 1990's were the ancestors of today's e-newsletter. The old ones surely could be saved for posterity, and found 17 years later. What will happen to these electronic ones?

I surely treasure going through my archives--be they my work archives or my personal archives--finding special trinkets or letters or articles--like going into a museum of personal history of one's life. The internet world saves trees, but also renders newsletters such as this one less permanent.

In 2024, could someone who was reading this newsletter, "pull it out" and then make contact? All good food for thought!

Find out more.... 

 Upcoming Groups, Workshops and Programs

The Tuesday and Thursday night EKP Bodypsychotherapy Groups both have room for new members. The Tuesday night group meets from 7:15 - 9:45 pm in Newton. The Thursday night group meets from 7:00 - 9:00 pm in Newton. Both groups are mixed gender. One interview/EKP session is required to apply for membership in either group. The groups are on-going,committed groups. A minimum 6 month commitment is required to join.

Want to make peace with money? Take part in The Money Class, a 6 week coaching class in Newton, starting this spring. The class provides an opportunity to look at your relationship with money, define your vision, work through blocks and obstacles, reinforce good habits, and take actions to realize your goals.
Class meets Thursdays from 8:45 - 10:45 am in Newton.
For more information contact LSMHEART@aol.com or call (617)965-7846.

The Cape Cod EKP Weekend Retreat, promises to be a wonderful opportunity to do heart-centered healing in a beautiful setting with nourishing food and good company! Come join us November 16 - 18 at Briarwood Conference and Marine Science Center in Bourne, MA.
  • The weekend is designed to be financially accessible.
  • $330 fee includes 2 overnights and 6 meals, as well as the weekend program.
  • We also offer a $240 fee for commuters, who participate in the program and join us for meals.
  • Contact Gretchen Stecher at gwild7@verizon.net or (508)477-7907 for more information.

    EKP opportunities in Newton include:
    • On-going Tuesday night EKP Body Psychotherapy Group
    • On-going Thursday night EKP Body Psychotherapy Group
    • On-going Sunday EKP Monthly Process Group

    To find out more.... 

 About Linda

Linda Marks, MSM, is pioneer in body psychotherapy who has developed, taught and practiced Emotional-Kinesthetic Psychotherapy (EKP) for more than two decades. Author of LIVING WITH VISION and HEALING THE WAR BETWEEN THE GENDERS, she co-founded the Massachusetts Association of Body Psychotherapists and Counseling Bodyworkers and is the founder of the Boston Area Sexuality and Spirituality Network. She holds degrees from Yale and MIT, and has a vital 11-year-old son.

To find out more about Linda... 

You may also want to visit www.sexspirit.net to see the wonderful programs the Boston Area Sexuality and Spirituality Network has put together for 2007!