Psychotherapy of the Heart

You can feel the relaxation … and the possibilities.  Great read by Susan Talia deLone, Ph.d.

A small stream meanders in front of our property. It is the beginning of a much larger stream that flows into Neshaminy Creek and, from there, into the Delaware River.

2015-08-18_10-28-48Our little stream is a treasure. Children find crawfish and tadpoles. Dogs romp through its waters. It is a safe haven for kingfisher, herons, and baby ducks. It is also very fragile.

Invasive grasses have taken hold in this creek, and, while my husband and I keep digging them out and replacing them with “good” native grasses, the invasives cross property lines and keep on going. As a result, our stream is getting choked, upstream and downstream, in ways I can barely see from the road.

Many people walk this country lane. Families, bikers, and runners enjoy this road and the sound of the rushing waters. The stream cools all of us; it gives us a fleeting sense of contentment.

The lane and creek are shaded by tall locusts, conifers, and hardwoods. We walk, catching the red crest of the woodpeckers, the yellow flash of finches. The stream does its work, unnoticed, unprotected, without complaint or fanfare.

Occasionally, it floods, the pond floods, and our little bridge over the stream goes underwater for a time. The road gets about a foot of water. Cars have to drive slowly. People come in rubber boots and slickers, with umbrellas, and the flooding waters bring us all sorts of surprises—some welcome, some junk to be discarded.

I am working on this problem of the choking canary grass, calling on my neighbors, writing to neighborhood associations and conservation groups. It will take more than just my family’s efforts to get the stream healthy again.

I use the stream as a way of describing all of us. We, too, live our lives moving along, getting swept up, occasionally, in storms and flooding. Sometimes our flow is hindered by obstacles and barriers. Sometimes we can, just by sheer will and the power of our own being, push through and emerge on the other side.

And sometimes we need help to keep flowing. We all seek a life that is unfettered and self-directed. We, probably, want to have that healthy mobility, feeling light moving through our limbs. Many of us seek that place within, where sunlight and dappled sky bring us wholeness and grace.

2015-08-18_10-25-47Our lives, like the creek, are bound by currents, banks, and relationship. The creek doesn’t exist in isolation. It needs the fish and the critters. The trout need the shade trees that keep the water cool. There is a balance here: shade and sun; water, earth, and rhythm.

People come to me as a psychologist because the rhythm of their lives got disrupted. We used to speak of the “stream of consciousness”—the movement of our thoughts, yearnings, desires, and fears. The freedom of just letting our minds wander.

Now we speak of “mindfulness”—a way of being present to life. A way to be in the moment. To breathe and feel ourselves, whole, intact. We want to say, as one of my teachers, Thich Nhat Hanh, said, “I am here. I have arrived.”

Such a simple phrase. Such a difficult state to achieve. It acknowledges movement and stability, the rock and the stream. It gives us a stone to step on if the current gets too strong. It gives us a way to calm down, to take a rest, so we can go again. It is a way of being, moment to moment.

In my practice, I see many people who feel they’ve hit a wall. Obstacles on every side. Nothing is flowing. Grief, long denied or too-long held, can choke the flow. Depression stops us. Panic can freeze us. Hopelessness can keep us in bed. Trauma severely disrupts the movement of our lives.

Each of us has our own story, our own watercourse. No story is alike, and nothing is totally written. The future is, as best we know, still unknown. The real job is to come to this present moment, conscious of the flow of our lives, determined to make our lives fruitful, successful, thriving.

Psychotherapy offers a way to release blockages. It gives us tools to dig up those invasive weeds and replace them with nourishing thoughts, feelings, and actions. It provides the shovel, rake, and hoe to open the waters and start moving again.

Psychotherapy is a process of relationship. It is a journey of shared storytelling. In telling your story, something new can come in. Old wounds can be healed.

I once had a client undergoing chemotherapy whose mother died. Although her mother left her a substantial inheritance, another sister took much of the money.

Betrayal, pain, and recriminations followed. Bitter, hurtful emails. Six years passed, and my client needed to reclaim some of the money. Her sister reached out to her, and my client, instead of reacting with rage, found a way to calm herself and meet her sister.

This is a story of obstacles and digging out bad grasses. Anger and sibling jealousy predated the mother’s death. The sisters were aging. They knew time was short. They made tentative contact. New possibilities entered their relationship. Their lives entered healthier waters.

It is the same with my stream. My neighbors and I are planning a “dig.” Together we are going to put on our boots, climb into the water, and pull out the choking weeds. I look forward to all of it.

My office is surrounded by native plant gardens that are a host to a turtle pond, a fishing creek, and a variety of woodland animals.

Inquire to see if psychotherapy is right for you.

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Robin Coppinger
Bucks County Women’s Journal
The only educational newspaper serving the women of Bucks County
www.BucksCountyWomensJournal.com
215-721-0645

 

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