Movements.

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“Activism is not a journey to the corner store; it is a plunge into the unknown. The future is always dark.”
— Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark.

This election, this time. So many of us are surfing between despair and determination, navigating how to help, grieve, get out of the way, get in the way.

The ground shifts and the old tools seem small. Where writing has helped me make sense of things in the past, “making sense” now feels like the wrong frame. Instead, I’m thinking about movements. The kind we make with our bodies, and the ways we move as a collective, mobilizing towards change.

At my wedding, nearly ten years back, I watched my cousin – 20 years old, visiting from Sweden, lanky, towering and fine-boned – step onto a dance floor for the first time. She looked around at all the others, twisting and turning to the music, and… started jumping. Feet together, arms at her side, sailing above the crowd, great unstoppable pogo stick bounds. She danced like this for hours. It was like nothing I’d ever seen, both discovery and arrival. Her face beamed.

My cousin did not wait for instructions, wade into Facebook arguments, wring her hands on the side. I’m in danger of stretching this parable too far, but she was teaching something big: When the music compels you, just go.

If we are committed to movement, we need to move. And rarely are new movements graceful. They are bumbling and unfamiliar and create something we haven’t seen before. We don’t need to wait until we figure it out before we act.

img_1833If we’re stepping into the terrain of social movements, our missteps can be particularly uncomfortable. We’ll screw up in small and large ways and if we’re lucky these mistakes will be brought to our attention. And hopefully, we’ll listen. We’ll listen like children do, not holding the cloak of our egos against us for protection, but letting it in. Trying again. We have to get out on the floor.

What that floor looks like depends on who we are. I’m deeply inspired by what I see around me: healer friends offering sessions by donation, business owners offering profits to the ACLU, people organizing in kitchens and city halls, teachers standing up for the safety of their students.

I don’t know that it’s going to be okay.  But a few questions are helping guide me anyhow:

  • Where do I spend (and not spend) my money to align with what I value?
  • How and where will I gather with other bodies to organize, plot, subvert, protect, create?
  • How can I leverage my privilege in places where it matters?
  • How do I self-correct, learn, go deeper, and account for my mistakes?
  • How will I listen?
  • How will I keep myself resourced and grounded so I can keep doing this work?

There is so much good material out there on what we can do. For a start, I’ll be donating a portion of my December earnings toward the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project and our local Planned Parenthood chapter. I’ll be walking, gathering, and listening, and then I’ll try something different.

Listening Beneath the To Do Lists

thistleI hadn’t noticed it at first. The lists seemed so innocent. “Once fall gets here,” they all began, and after that came a litany: I’ll exercise more, reach out to that friend I’ve been meaning to, do that thing and make that thing and clean that thing… Fall things, productive things. I was just waiting for the right timing.

Innocent, right? Until I was on my way somewhere recently and noticed how tightly I was holding myself, how packed in I felt. All those lists, I realized, had created this quiet patina of self-scolding; there was so much to DO, after all, to get things in order. But rarely do kind statements begin with, “If only you’d…” No, their subtext is clear and sharp: Pull yourself together, girl. Fix the problem (which is you).

The truth is that for many of us, those to do lists ramp up right when the din of our actual discomfort gets too loud to bear. Instead of slowing down to notice what’s really happening – loneliness, exhaustion, overwhelm – we put window dressing on the tender spots, gloss them over with busy-ness. It’s comically bad timing: Just when we’re feeling less than together, we wag our fingers at ourselves to get it together.

But what if our discomfort isn’t wrong? What if we don’t fuel the myth that we need fixing? And what if getting low and close and comfortable with those vulnerable places is one of the greatest kindnesses we could extend to ourselves?img_1386This inner “I just need to…” is quietly habitual, a pattern we developed long ago, without thinking. It insists we only…need to… hold it…together and [fill in the blank] will be alright.

Friends, let’s just put down the lie that we’re holding anything together.

This doesn’t mean that we’re irresponsible with our loved ones, that we stop showing up for work or give up on showering. Just that we allow ourselves to be softly honest about what dwells inside.

The funny thing is, we know how to do this… when it comes to other people. If you’ve sat with a friend when she’s in distress, or a child who is twisting himself in strange contortions because something is amiss, you know: First, you listen. You just show up. When we offer permission instead of “solutions,” there’s more space for things to grow – not by coercing and cajoling, but tending and trusting. 

Brené Brown writes beautifully on this topic (and if you have 2:54, please watch this sweetest bit of animation from her, also linked at the end of this post), which she frames as the difference between feeling with someone (empathy) and trying to “help” them (sympathy). If we really want to make something better, says Brown, what we say matters so much less than the quality of our connection.

True, it’s often easier to see how to do this for someone else.  But maybe we could practice pausing at those “if only you’ds,” listening for what lies beneath them, and offering empathy to ourselves. That’s a punch list I could actually get behind.Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 4.48.35 PM

 

The Path Less Traveled

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A few months ago, I wrote here about issues I was having in my hands that necessitated a pause in my massage practice. I certainly wouldn’t have chosen this, but the hiatus gifted me the space to ask important questions: What kind of healing work really resonates? What supports meaningful change and health? How is the work sustainable?

I didn’t go looking for these questions, but my hands (ba dum bum) were forced. Turns out, the body doesn’t traffic in subtle metaphors.

The view from my sweet new office.

The view from my sweet new office.

But the body also has its own wisdom. Those questions led me to a more expansive and nourishing approach to practice, and what’s emerging feels rich and deeply exciting. While my core focus is the same, I’m calling on a wider set of tools:

  • Neuromuscular therapy to help with areas of muscular discomfort
  • Zero Balancing to open foundational joints with gentle traction
  • Craniosacral work to amplify overall health and ground the nervous system

Because I’m listening for what kind of approach will be most supportive, no session looks quite the same. What is consistent, however, is what clients take with them: more ease, movement, and new choices. It’s a bit like massage, only fully clothed and with longer-lasting effects.

I was unsure of what to expect from my first [Root Therapy] session with Jones. Ultimately, I left the session feeling deeply empowered as an active participant in my experience on the table. Jones’ presence is supportive and wise; in her hands I could feel my body opening to it’s fullest potential of wellness. I experienced great relief of two specific injuries, and continue to enjoy a lingering sense of integrated, aligned embodiment.” K.W., Portland

IMG_5724Who is this work for? Most everyone! But it may speak especially to those who:

  • experience muscular pain and seek relief
  • are flummoxed by Big Questions and want support to feel at ease
  • crave nourishment and clearer purpose
  • need resources to help manage anxiety and stress
  • want a greater sense of their own bodies

My sessions still address tissue (sometimes the shoulders do need massage!), but we lean into a larger vocabulary – wider and more subtle – for meeting the body and offering support. Because we treat both energy and physical structure, a different depth of healing becomes available.

“I came into my session with Jones in a real state of sorrow, feeling very unsettled and vulnerable. She held space for all of my feelings and my story with such non-judgement and compassion that it felt like anything was permissible in the session. We talked, and then on the table, with her gentle energy guiding me, my body let go into acceptance of the void and the rawness. I left the session feeling considerably grounded and fully witnessed. Jones is a gifted healer who creates deeply safe space just by her presence.” — C.M., Portland

I hope that I’ll be able to offer full massage again soon, and I’m excited to share these modalities as a powerful alternative.

And speaking of exciting changes! A few more updates to share:

  • I’m offering $50 discounted introductory sessions (normally $70), so you can come in and see if the work resonates for you. Please feel free to contact me to schedule.
  • I have a new cozy office that is bright and peaceful and right downtown with easy parking. I’ve also expanded my hours to accommodate more schedules.
  • I’m returning to some of my teaching roots by offering workshops in embodied writing. The first workshop is full, but I’ll be scheduling more in January!

Yours in health, joy, and the path less travelled,

Jones

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Mud Season of the Soul

“I will wax romantic about spring and its splendors in a moment, but first there is a hard truth to be told: before spring becomes beautiful, it is plug ugly, nothing but mud and muck. I have walked in the early spring through fields that will suck your boots off, a world so wet and woeful it makes you yearn for the return of ice. But in that muddy mess, the conditions for rebirth are being created.” — Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak

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Spring, that season of greeting card sweetness and abundance, starts out with some real ick. I wish I were speaking in metaphors here. When the snowbanks melt, there is sand, sticks, dirty old plastic bags. And those are the sightly bits. All of our garbage is suddenly visible.

It is the season we in New England call: Mud.

And so, when the detritus appears, we rake, clear, cut. We regard what’s been underneath the whole time. And because we know that the chaos of growth is coming, this is the season to survey the bones. To look out and ask, What do I have here? What are the shapes of the structures underneath, revealed now in their nakedness?

For me, this is a ripe time for looking at old habits and patterns.

– Where and how do I move through my days?
– What space have I created for being creative?
– What are the dry wells that need to be capped, those toxic thoughts (and connections) that send me spinning?
– How do I serve the people and places I love, up to and including myself?

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Early spring feels like the season for these stark questions. It offers a kind of invitation to burn the bracken in the early bonfire, to set out the seed trays, empty the shelves. The act of tending to what is here – even when it’s muck-covered and colorless – sends out a kind of secret faith that growth is coming. Despite the evidence, despite the pace.

I try (as much as possible, which sometimes is not at all) to honor this dank and ugly place that always precedes the season of becoming.  Because in mud season, everything we see is unformed, embryonic in its potentiality. Just, you know, not much to look at.

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Increments of Change: Trying Something Different

photo 5There are days – particularly when the thermometer in the kitchen says three degrees, as it does today – when the idea of movement and change feels like just too much. Take your yoga class, we think, your trips, your enlightenment – I’ll be here under the ugly red blanket watching The Bachelor.

It isn’t only that the effort feels demanding, but the stakes feel high. What if, we wonder, change jeopardizes all this? What if the battleship of the small manageable now gets sunk by opening, by unwinding? No, thank you. Pass the popcorn.

The thing is, there may be something between the small curled up ball on the couch and the running-through-the-field fantasy of freedom. The increments of change we invite can fan out over time – that tiny angle of difference becoming (in hindsight) a wide ray of change.photo 2

One of the reasons this work is endlessly interesting to me is that I get to witness this kind of change at the level of tissue. As muscles release I see how my clients’ shoulders open, how they breathe more deeply. It takes courage to allow movement back in, but the return is bountiful: They get more information from their own bodies.  That is, they get more of themselves and their own aliveness.

A question I often hear from clients at the end of the session is, “How do I stay open when I’m off the table? How do I stop from tightening up all over again?” And my usual answer is, try something a little different. Stretching is good. Water too. But small things that move us out of habit and into attention – that’s movement too. You can still watch bad shows and eat popcorn, but becoming aware of patterns – places where we’ve forgotten choice – is a lovely way to stay open.

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Here are 5 Ways to Step Out Of Habit – but I bet you could come up with 11 more:

1. Do you habitually cross one leg over the other? Switch it up.

2. Take a different route home.

3. Eat / make / order  a food that surprises you – one that you normally overlook

4. Introduce pauses in your day. A few minutes in your car before you head into the grocery store? Totally okay.

5. Slow your gait. Just a little. Notice how your arms swing, your feet fall, where your eyes are.

Habit can take so many forms – movement, talking (to ourselves and others), silence, belief. And it can become so much like that old crack in the ceiling: We stop seeing it. Friends, you are so brave with your selves – why not change things up a bit, just to notice how far you’ve come?