Healing the pain of separation
One of the deepest sorrows we experience in life is the pain of separation – especially the separation from our wholeness.
When we experience any vulnerability that’s too much to bear – including experiences like depression, trauma, illness, loss, loneliness, and hardship – we can blame ourselves. We can internalize the pain of these ruptures as, “Something’s wrong with me.”
In the wake of this separation, we develop coping strategies – tactics like overeating, perfectionism, and self criticism – to care for our vulnerability.
These are what Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes calls the ‘not beautiful.’ They may look ‘ugly’ on the outside, but they’re rooted in kindness, wisdom, and self protection.
The pain of self harshness
So how do we respond to ourselves when we find that we’re caught in the ‘not beautiful’ of overeating or overdoing? What arises within our inner landscape?
Most of us long for an inner refuge of nourishment, tenderness, and support. We want to be compassionate with ourselves when we’re struggling. We want a heart that softens towards our suffering.
But to our dismay, we may find ourselves responding with some sort of fight or flight response: panic, harshness, self criticism, dismissiveness, or disconnection.
I remember in my own life how shocked I felt when I discovered this critical inner part and how often this harshness arose in my habitual responses to myself. I was stunned to discover this well of criticism inside!
When shame turns to self blame
When we’re stuck in painful coping strategies like overeating it’s easy to blame ourselves, to think it’s ‘all our fault.’
We may feel anxious about needing to ‘hurry up’ and fix our ‘mess.’ Or we may think that the only way we can change is by ‘bucking up’ and being harsh with ourselves.
This often arises as an inner dialogue that tell us, “You should be doing better!”
When we find ourselves caught in blame and self aggression, our original pain is compounded by the pain of self criticism.
Rather than helping, these fight or flight patterns keep our coping strategies going – all these tender ways we’re trying to numb, soothe, or quiet our internal distress.
These crusted overlays can be painful and frustrating in and of themselves. And as they become more ingrained into our daily lives – as we find ourselves caught in more overeating, or more perfectionism, or more people pleasing – we lose sight of our wholeness and innate goodness.
It’s as if our being itself feels ‘separate,’ like the unwelcome other.
We may isolate ourselves or feel cut off from others. We may feel numb, cut off from our hearts, our loved ones, or our capacity to love. We may feel worthless, like we have nothing to offer.
In my own life, this was when I hid from the world in my basement, trying to recover from my latest binge, embarrassed about the depth of my struggles, and too anxious to connect with others.
Our attempts to reconnect
When we’re facing the ‘not beautiful’ wounds in our lives, it’s helpful to remember what therapist Bonnie Badenoch says about these coping strategies, that “all behavior is adaptive.”
My mentor, Dr. Gordon Neufeld, says it this way: adaptive behaviors like perfectionism and overeating are some of the countless, archetypal ways the human heart tries to bridge the pain of separation.
On an instinctual and bodily level, we’re trying to reconnect! Even though they might appear messy, our coping strategies are based in what we think would help, and in some desire for connection.
With this perspective, we can approach these places of stuckness within ourselves with greater respect, presence, and understanding.
Trusting your capacity to heal
These ruptured places within us – all the places that have been met with harshness – yearn for welcome: safe spaces where they can be witnessed with warmth and curiosity.
Rather than being viewed as parts of ourselves we need to cut out or fix, they long to be invited into a field of belonging and reconnection – even habits like overeating.
As these places are held in wholeness, we come home to ourselves. We can peel back painful stories, peel back the layers. Our adaptations soften and come to rest. We rest in a greater sense of who we are, something greater than the ruptures, hardships, and separations of our lives.
I call this Living Your Deeper Story. And one way we enter into this story is by nurturing the inner mother.
Your secret shame is a place of birth
Your ‘Deeper Story’ is where everything belongs and is cared for. And the inner mother is the womb that holds this broader perspective.
In truth, the place where you’re struggling is not something you have to fight against, or a sign of shame. Seen from different eyes, it’s a place of birth.
When we nurture the inner mother – the womb that holds our hardships with compassion, tenderness, warmth and understanding – we nurture this birthing, a more complete embrace of the places of separation within us.
Nurturing our inner mother reconnects us to the wisdom, strength and courage that lies within us. It’s how we nurture the new life that’s longing to be born in our lives, through this place of hardship or struggle.
I see this miracle of birth over and over when we embrace what frightens, shames, or frustrates us. When we face our painful habits, and when we turn and face our pain, offering it warmth and care, something new is born.
Do you want to join a group of devoted souls, tending the hearth fires of this work?
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it – and to embrace them.” – Rumi
Starting in November, 2020, we’re offering a small group intensive, Nurturing the Inner Mother. In this group, we’ll be coming together in a sacred container of trust, vulnerability, and safety to nurture your ‘inner mother’ into a place of warmth and welcome, compassion and courage.
Over the course of a year, we’ll rest more and more deeply in the waters of mercy and nurture spaces of inner homecoming.
Connecting more deeply to your inner mother can help you soften places of harshness, criticism, alienation, and self blame – all those tender places of separation – and embody the deeper story of connection that lives within your being.
Nurture your healing into greater depth
This group is for you if you relished the themes we explored in Emerge and When Food is Your Mother – things like acceptance, self forgiveness, self compassion, wholeness, and befriending emotions – and you’d like group support to more deeply embody these ideas in your daily life.
We’ll be creating a nourishing, intimate, and connected small group – and a nourishing inner mother – to build the base of safety that allows overeating, self criticism, and perfectionism to gently fall away.
We’ll be moving more slowly and more deeply in this group than in our other courses, taking an entire month to explore each theme, with built in periods of rest and integration. You’ll also have a group forum to explore and share your experience.
Like all our other offerings, this group is based on an approach of warmth, welcome and listening to your inner experiences.
This group may be a good fit for you if you want to practice self compassion, co-regulating, inner exploration, and inner nurturing over a longer, more leisurely stretch so your inner mother feels more embodied, integrated, and accessible.
How the group works
In the group we’ll be using RAIN meditation, art, symbols, stories, poems, and group connection to nurture your internal refuge of strength, compassion, courage, and holding.
For each theme, you’ll have audio materials that you listen to at home, on your own. Then you’ll have the option to explore and play with these materials in several different ways:
- journaling prompts
- art prompts
- healing meditations
- and practice exercises
We’ll meet weekly on zoom (at alternating times for our international audience) where you can share what you’ve explored, ask questions, and practice RAIN meditation and co-regulating together.
The exception is the last week of the month: there are no webinars during this time, as this week is a Red Tent, a time of intentional integration and rest.
In addition to the webinars you’ll have access to an online, private community where you can connect with the group, ask questions, and share your art, experiences, and creations. This is a warm, private, sacred place – not Facebook – where you can connect with others, hear your inner wisdom, and deepen your self trust. (See the preview above.)
How groups differ from self study
If you spend a lot of time reading, studying or listening to podcasts about self compassion and inner nurturing, and yet you struggle to have these ideas ‘take root’ in your daily life, you may find that joining a group of like minded souls helps you cross this divide.
In facilitating 12 years of group spaces, I’ve found that when we build a safe, warm container, practice together, and when we have sufficient time, rest and spaciousness, we can integrate these ideas into our daily life.
They become a living practice that is regularly ‘watered’ and fed, something grounded into our bodies and being.
There’s something alchemical about being in a group that often creates more nourishing and powerful effects than self study. It’s easier, and more fun! By joining forces, our labor is eased and nurtured by the group.
The monthly themes
Each month we’ll explore a topic of wholeness using art, symbols, poetry and meditations.
The last week of each month is a Sabbath, a Red Tent of intentional rest and integration.
We’ll also be resting during these times:
- December 20th to January 3rd
- March 21 through April 4th
- June 21 through July 5th
There are no webinars during these times of rest.
November – Inner Hospitality: Welcoming the Holy Child
In this opening module, we welcome all our parts, concerns, wishes, and mixed emotions into the circle of belonging, giving ourselves an unconditional invitation to exist. We’ll practice self compassion and inner nurturing for all the parts that arise to speak, especially in the tender space of beginning a new journey.
This is our cradle of welcome for the Child being birthed through and within us.
December – Beauty and Blessing
In this module we turn to beauty and blessing and how our lives are a source of connection and blessing for ourselves, and for others. Like the Littlest Angel, we each hold a treasure and medicine, the gift we bring to the circle. How do we midwife this gift into form?
January – Befriending Neediness
We all carry places of vulnerability and unmet need within. We all have places of poverty in our being, where we are an empty cup, a place in need of support, help, assistance, or care. We tend to feel ashamed of these places, or feel like we need to ‘hurry’ and ‘grow them up.’ We’ll take another look at neediness and these places of inner poverty to find the deep rest, holding, and support that is available when our neediness is seen as the sacred and holy vessel it is, and when we no longer have to ‘prove’ any sense of worth, competence, or achievement to know our belonging.
February – Blessing the Body
In this module, we’ll turn towards the body to befriend our physical selves. We’ll touch the stories we carry in our skin and bones about our physical being. We’ll bring nurturing, curiosity, and self compassion as we touch those places in our bodies that carry shame and self loathing so that we can see what lies underneath these experiences of separation.
March – Softening the Rigid Arrow
This module is for you if you struggle with perfectionism and the feeling of ‘needing to do it right’ or needing to ‘have it all figured out’ before you begin. We’ll take another look at ‘failure’ to soften how we approach mistakes, to embrace the adaptive process, and to nurture more compassionate responses when we don’t meet our own expectations.
April – Cradling Wholeness
In this module, we’ll exercise our both/and thinking – our integrative muscles – to move out of black and white, either or thinking. Together we’ll stretch our capacity to hold life’s complexity with greater flexibility, trust and curiosity. Rather than approaching ourselves, our challenges, our inner world, and difficult emotions from a stance of, “What’s wrong?” we’ll approach them from a stance of wholeness – “Hmm…what’s here?”
This then leads to collaboration – “What’s needed here?” or “What can help?” – another way we support the birthin within.
May – Celebrating Seeds of New Life
In this module we’ll practice coming alongside ourselves – how we stretch into new life and open to the yearning of our hearts. We’ll care for the dragons of fear and sadness as we also honor the treasures that lie within us – those things we long to bring to life in our inner and outer worlds.
June – Reconnecting with Joy
In this module we’ll embrace the exuberant energy of new life, of joy, gratitude, appreciation and celebration. Many times, overconsuming arises when we’re not practiced at pausing to feel the feeling of ‘enough,’ satiation, or appreciation. Healing our relationship with satiation can help us rest in those times of being ‘filled,’ a way of honoring all the ways we receive, and all the ways we embody joy.
July – The Holding that Allows us to Let Go
We all have capacities that have been strengthened over time, that are well developed. Some of these capacities and tendencies may no longer serve as us they once did. And yet these pursuits are tied to ways we feel ‘good,’ ways we feel safe, or ways we feel connected to others. In this module, we’ll gently nurture the unconditional love that helps us honor how our pursuits have served us and nurture the ways we feel moved to soften their hold.
August – Embracing the Outcast
In this module we’ll invite in the inner places of loss, those places that we’ve covered over, have outcast, or have shunned from the hearth fire. This is where we tend the fires of grief, soften self blame, and befriend the places of ‘unloved other’ within our being.
September – Welcoming the Love that is ‘No’
Limits are often felt in our bodies as something painful or negative – a constraint, hardship, punishment or deprivation. In this module, we’ll take another look at limits to change our relationship with this particular form of love and nurturing. This is the yang of self compassion, where our inner protector arises in fierce love for ourselves, and for all. As we come to know limits from a place of connection, we open to receive this form of nurturing in our lives.
October – Gathering around the Hearth: Receiving Help and Deepening Connection
To know our belonging, we embed ourselves in the soil of community, the cycles of giving and receiving. Yet for many of us, asking for help – and receiving help – is an act of vulnerable courage – and with good reason. In this module, we gently stretch into new waters of trust, softening places of overresponsibility and opening our hands to receive support, help, care and connection from others. This is a celebration of the hearth fire, where all are a part of the village of connection.
The Q&A webinars
We’ll have 3-4 Q&A webinars each month where you can ask questions, share your experience, and practice RAIN meditations with the group. Webinars are 80-90 minutes long and alternate back and forth each week between 1 and 4 pm CST. This is to make our group as accessible as possible for our international community.
To convert these times to your time zone, try the world clock converter here. I’m in Austin, Texas.
- Thursday, November 5 at 1 pm CST
- Thursday, November 12 at 4 pm CST
- Thursday, November 19 at 1 pm CST
- Thursday, December 3 at 1 pm CST
- Thursday, December 10 at 4 pm CST
- Thursday, December 17 at 1 pm CST
Rest from December 20 through January 3rd
- Thursday, January 7 at 1 pm CST
- Thursday, January 14 at 4 pm CST
- Thursday, January 21 at 1 pm CST
- Thursday, February 4 at 1 pm CST
- Thursday, February 11 at 4 pm CST
- Thursday, February 18 at 1 pm CST
- Thursday, March 4 at 1 pm CST
- Thursday, March 11 at 4 pm CST
- Thursday, March 18 at 1 pm CST
Rest from March 21 through April 4th
- Thursday, April 8 at 1 pm CDT
- Thursday, April 15 at 4 pm CDT
- Thursday, April 22 at 1 pm CDT
- Thursday, May 6 at 1 pm CDT
- Thursday, May 13 at 4 pm CDT
- Thursday, May 20 at 1 pm CDT
- Thursday, June 3 at 1 pm CDT
- Thursday, June 10 at 4 pm CDT
- Thursday, June 17 at 1 pm CDT
Rest from June 21 through July 5th
- Thursday, July 8 at 1 pm CDT
- Thursday, July 15 at 4 pm CDT
- Thursday, July 22 at 1 pm CDT
- Thursday, August 5 at 1 pm CDT
- Thursday, August 12 at 4 pm CDT
- Thursday, August 19 at 1 pm CDT
- Thursday, September 2 at 1 pm CDT
- Thursday, September 9 at 4 pm CDT
- Thursday, September 16 at 1 pm CDT
- Thursday, September 23 at 4 pm CDT
- Thursday, October 7 at 1 pm CDT
- Thursday, October 14 at 4 pm CDT
- Thursday, October 21 at 1 pm CDT
- Closing circle: Thursday, October 28 at 4 pm CDT
What you can expect
This small group intensive is designed for those who want to journey with a small, intimate group over a year’s time and rest in a nourishing container of healing.
What makes this group different from other classes we’ve offered is its longer length and slower pace.
You may wonder how much time or commitment is involved in being a part of the group.
- There are 3-4 monthly webinars, each 75-90 minutes long
- The monthly course materials are 60-90 minutes long, total (This is what you received for a week in When Food is Your Mother. The intensity is less, and the time to explore is more!)
- Then you may spend an hour or two each month playing with that month’s theme – journaling about your experience, making art, or practicing an exercise. This is intended to be joyful and nourishing, a part of your daily life, and not a burden.
- You may also choose to share in the group forum about your experience and/or connecting with others
- There are built in spaces of rest and integration: the 4th week of each month is an intentional Sabbath, a Red Tent of rest, and there are three longer, two week rest periods throughout the year (in December/January, March/April, and June/July)
For many of these things, the level of participation is up to you! But this gives you a basic understanding of what to expect.
The pacing of the group is meant to be sustainable, nourishing, and supportive, and to equally honor the other sacred domains of your life that ask for your presence and tending.
The ‘depth’ of the small group intensive is in regards to the length of time the group is staying connected – 12 months – and not because it’s more ‘work’ or more intense.
If you have any questions on whether or not this group is the right fit for you, please reach out. We want you to have all the information you need so you know whether or not this group is right – or the right timing – for you.
There’s a short application to join this group as it’s limited in number and entails a longer commitment than our other classes.
All those who join the group are asked to commit to the 12 month term, from November through October 2021. As we’re creating a group container to foster healing and there are limited spots in the group, your presence matters.
We want this group to be a place where you can be vulnerable, connect with others, and are supported, seen, and nourished.
Tuition for the small group is $1900 for 1 payment or 12 monthly payments of $175. There are also 4 scholarship spots available.
Singing the song that longs to be born
The journey of nurturing the inner mother is one of ally and companion, where we serve as the midwife to our inner being. We listen to the sweet song that longs to be born, and we help carry the tune.
As manger, we cradle what longs to be born, holding all that is new and newborn and tender, singing the ‘soul of her worth,’ and celebrating each tendril, root, and shoot of growth.
When we join and meet and greet our vulnerability we uncover our Deeper story. We bring connection to what has been severed, holding to what has been outcast, and rest to what has had to work too hard.
We come to inhabit and embody the Love that we are – what’s stronger than the separation – and what rises to meet and greet all the messy emotions, cravings, and the tender needs and vulnerability we feel around our ‘brokenness,’ holding our hurt in compassion and wisdom, a fierce embrace.
It is to this Deeper Story that lives in you – and all of us – and to this Mothering Presence that holds the All that this group bends her knee and bows her heart. If you feel moved to join us, we’d love to have you. We wait, and listen, and prepare a place for you.