connective elements healing

honoring creativity - restoring balance - embracing wholeness

By observing nature, ancient traditions explained all of existence through five elements.  

Connective Elements Healing aims to restore you to your true nature through five healing offerings -

BodyTalk, Coaching, Meditation, Reiki and Yoga. 

Filtering by Category: Breath

Feeling through the (Festive) Holiday Season

Lately, I’ve felt ungrounded, purposeless, and, at times, angry. I’ve felt beside myself with frustration, questioning my reasons for being here. I’ve spun out so easily. I’ve felt lost.

I’ve felt this way for months. Just as I was finally getting used to my former site and community, the wind was knocked out of me and I had to move. Facing a holding period of 5 weeks in South Africa’s capital, Pretoria, felt like a relief in some ways. Pretoria’s hot showers, flushing toilets, the company of fellow Peace Corps Volunteers, smoothies, hot yoga classes and physical therapy offering me daily massages bolstered me physically, emotionally and spiritually, lending to feeling the strongest I’d felt since arriving in South Africa 10 months ago due.

Then, I crashed.

All the grief of leaving the place I embraced as home came rushing over me like a tidal wave. It was compounded by the whirlwind transition to a place so different than my home of the last 6 months. I felt resistance to a new site, a new community, a new family. I felt trepidation about establishing a new home. As timelines entered the picture, I realized the holidays were quickly approaching. Spending my first holiday season alone in a decade furthered the swell. I panicked, yet I had no clue what really lied below the surface.

Today, it emerged.

One of the most painful memories of my childhood occurred during the holiday season, or festive season, as its known here in South Africa. As a single parent, my mom deemed my private, Catholic school education to be worthy of great sacrifice. I was on financial assistance and felt the struggle my mom incurred to meet the remainder of my tuition each month. Education in suburban Washington, DC-area private schools means being surrounded by some of the wealthiest kids in the country.

 "Shielded" - KwaZulu Natal Province, South Africa

"Shielded" - KwaZulu Natal Province, South Africa

One year during my adolescence, my mom faced a particularly dark period of her bipolar disorder. She holed up in her room nearly my entire holiday break. I felt so incredibly alone, so isolated, so incredibly scared.

After braving my “vacation,” I endured friends describing the gifts they received and the love from family and friends that they’d spent recent weeks surrounded by. I can’t remember how I responded to their accounts, but this morning, I came face to face with how I felt.

For months, fellow Peace Corps Volunteers have been discussing holiday plans detailing upcoming visits from friends and family or planned returns to the US to spend time with loved ones. I named my feelings upon hearing the first itinerary and scrambled to make plans, which have changed and changed and changed again.

These last couple weeks, amidst attempts to acclimate to a new site, a new community, a new host family and a new home, which have been fraught with difficulty, I have been trying to formulate holiday plans. I’ve experienced flights selling out as they are in my cart, accommodations booking and other logistics seemingly shifting abruptly. This morning, I felt at my absolute breaking point as my New Years plans dissolved. After a rush of emotions and a friend lovingly holding space for me, the truth was revealed.

I have been scrambling to keep loneliness at bay.

I have been pushing, pulling and dragging myself (and, unfortunately, others) through this emotional roller coaster of the impending holiday season.

I sit with the questions, what does it mean to spend New Years alone? What would it mean if I spent the holidays alone?

Tears streaming down my face, I sit with the hurt of that dark season of my youth in which I was so frighteningly alone. I sit with the notion that my family composition has always been different, yet feels so raw right now. I sit with the likely reality that no one will visit me here in South Africa. I sit with the fact that I miss my old host family and my former community.

I sit with the truth that my expectations continue to be dismissed, as the reality of this commitment differs so radically from its reality.

I sit with the discomfort of loneliness. I sit with grief.

I sit with all this and recognize it’s temporary. I sit with all this and recognize it’s all necessary.

I sit with the energy and weight of the holiday season because, for many of us, it is intertwined with extremes of grief, joy, obligation, loneliness, overstimulation, contentment, pain, anticipation, gratitude, expectation, disappointment and confusion.

I choose to sit with it all, filling myself so full I feel I could burst.

And, then, I exhale.

I let it all go.

 "Horizon" - KwaZulu Natal Province, South Africa

"Horizon" - KwaZulu Natal Province, South Africa

In this writing and reflection, my host nieces have knocked on my door twice to relay messages from my host Gogo. Each time, I was drawn back to the present, my Word of the Year for 2017. I’m reminded that there is hope here. There is possibility here. There is a desire for connection here.

I’ve been swept away by emotion these last few months, rudderless and homeless, living out of bags for the last 10 weeks. I was, indeed, at my breaking point this morning. I asked aloud, to myself, to the Universe, to God, “why can’t anything go right?”

Now, in this moment, here in the present, I realize that it’s all right. It is all right in this moment. It will be all right in the future.

As so much of my life right now is up in the air with the newness of site, community, family, home and to be confirmed holiday and vacation plans, I am reminded of the advice of my teacher in our last session before I came to South Africa. She invited me to refer to my inner map.

I realize that since my move, I haven’t been taking good care of myself. The chickens and roosters at my new home wake me throughout the night. My routines of nourishment and exercise are awry. I’m pushing and pulling for integration during a season notorious for inactivity here in South Africa.

Our inner maps yield the tools learned through our struggles with light and dark. We hold the wisdom within. It is our choice to speed through the holiday season in overdrive or pause and sink into the present, taking inventory of what is here.

There may be residue of the past gripping us tightly.

There may be expectations of the future clinging, too.

By anchoring in, slowing down, taking breath and taking pause, we may usher in all that is and live awake and aware here and now.

I invite you to take that moment of pause right now.

Carve out at least two minutes of quiet time. Sit comfortably and feel the stability of the ground beneath you. Close your eyes, if you are comfortable.

Take three deep breaths in through your nose, filling your diaphragm, and release the breath through pursed lips. Notice the rise and fall of your belly. Place your hands on your heart and ask yourself these three questions, giving yourself permission to sit with what is:

  •  What is present, right now, in this moment?
  • What is present for me in this holiday season?
  • What might I need to release from the past, present or future holiday seasons to make room for the fulfillment of my highest purpose?

As you are ready, take three cleansing breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth slowly.

Open your eyes and reacclimate yourself to this time and space.

You may choose to sit further with these questions or journal about them.

 

May you be at peace ♥

 

My deepest gratitude for joining me as I process the emotional and spiritual 27-month journey of Peace Corps Service here in South Africa.

 

The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the South African Government.

The Gift of the Breath

These last 27 days of the Journey of the Breath have been a wild ride! I started the month of May with the intention to explore the breath and share those learnings with you. I expected simple, straightforward facts, tips and techniques to foster improved lung capacity and deeper breathing. What I've received over the last several weeks has been nothing short of miraculous, expanding my heart and mind by the moment. 

As I explored the anatomy of the breath, I realized my own patterns. As I expanded my knowledge of the breath, I expanded my awareness of the breath, my body, my emotions, my limitations and, most importantly, my holding patterns. I've noticed, particularly over this past week, the tension that I hold in my body.

The Journey of the Breath issued an invitation for me to let go.

As I wrote this morning in my Morning Pages, I recognized the process of surrender that I've been undergoing. I've realized that I've struggled so long, that I've fought so long - with myself, the world, situations, entities, my past, the future, my decisions, other people.

"Arms Down, Arms Up" - Dalat, Vietnam

I surrender.

I finally lay down my arms.

As my arms surrender their weapons, I embrace the moment.

I surrender.

I pledge to continue to work with my breath to bring me into the present moment.

One of the most powerful learnings of the Journey of the Breath has been my recognition of the Gift of the Breath. One of Her greatest gifts is to bring us into the present moment.

The Gift of the Breath invites us into the present moment.

 

Over the last 27 days, I experienced many firsts. The breath ushered in awareness and invited me to enjoy these moments. I welcomed my first visitors to my new town. The joy we shared affirmed my decision to move to this beautiful part of the country. I visited Joshua Tree to attend ShaktiFest for breathwork and movement experiences that absolutely rocked my world, which I'm still processing and will likely share more about in the coming weeks. I recognized and released fears around one of the biggest decisions of my life - applying and accepting invitation for the Peace Corps.

Last weekend, I worked with the learnings from the Journey of the Breath to release fear and witness the importance of this long-held aspiration that has meant so much to me for so long. I awoke on Monday morning feeling an indescribable peace after dreaming of my grandmother. I then felt called to engage in a 2 hour breathwork, movement, meditation and writing session that illuminated my entire being. I set out to continue with my morning rituals, about to warm up my lemon water, and I thought to first check my email. As I scrolled down my inbox, the "Congratulations!" lept off the screen. Reflexively, I cried, sobbed, bawled, released. I don't remember feeling such strong emotion and excitement and release.

With the release of that moment and, I believe the work that I'd done over the last several days, came an invitation to serve as a Community HIV Volunteer with the Peace Corps in South Africa in January 2017. It's hard to put into words the rollercoaster I've experienced this week.

I used my breath to process the news, to share and to take a step back. I needed time to sit with my breath. I needed time to process my acceptance of the 27 month commitment and of all the life experiences that have brought me to this point.

I am elated. I am honored. I am humbled, not only by the invitation, but by the outpouring of love and support I've felt from my tribe.

As we we ease into the last 4 days of the Journey of the Breath, together, I welcome the continued expansion, awareness and connection I have to each of you. I know, in my heart, that the gifts of the Journey of the Breath will extend far beyond this month.

I'm grateful for all of you who have ventured with me on the Journey of the Breath! Please share your experiences, questions and revelations below or on Connective Elements' Facebook Page. If you've missed the Journey of the Breath, it's not too late! You've got 4 days of new Facebook posts and I encourage you to scroll up the page to discover a bevy of insights on the breath.

I am incredibly grateful for your love, support and understanding as I transition from my reflections into action, not only today as I answer the neglected texts, calls and messages from this past week, but as I prepare to serve in South Africa.

May this monthlong Journey of the Breath continue to open your heart, mind and body, allowing you to witness the beauty of the breath, explore the magic and mysteries that surround you and embody the wisdom of your inner voice

Learning to Breathe

"Held" - Dalat, Vietnam

I've held my breath.

I'm not sure how long it's been happening. My guess is that it's been years, perhaps even decades, of breath-holding.

As I rolled out my far-too-neglected yoga mat and centered myself earlier today, the personal asana practice I attempted to rekindle quickly took a back seat. As I stilled myself, this breath-holding pattern immediately unveiled itself within my being. The pattern then commanded my attention for the next two hours. 

I sat with my breath, worked with my breath, moved with my breath, gave space for my breath. 

I became absolutely illuminated - physically, emotionally and spiritually. Questions and deep knowings emerged about the connection between breath and life.  

 

Yoga teaches us that breath is life. 

Breath is the foundation of yoga, meditation, exercise, health, wellbeing and balance.

Breath connects us to our life force, our energy, our vitality.

 

 

I yearn to voyage more deeply into this transformative connection between breath and life. I am inspired to embark upon a Journey of the Breath during the month of May and I welcome you to join me!

Throughout May, we'll place intentional focus on the breath. Daily, I'll share research, tidbits, knowings, questions and tips about the breath (and breath-holding) on Connective Elements' Facebook Page to support your practice.

Together, we'll explore breath.

Together, we'll explore life.

I'm not sure where we'll end up, but I look forward to connecting with the beauty of the breath.

I look forward to the inhale.

I look forward to the exhale.

I look forward to the release.

I look forward to learning to breathe again.