Be Well Message

Dear Guests,

I hope you all are doing well and staying safe with the coronavirus scare. In times like this, it’s not easy to stay healthy, be positive, and find moments of laughter or joy to balance the fear, frustration, or other negative sensations that may rise.

For people who enjoy being active outside and/or interacting with others face-to-face, this is an especially challenging time. Being confined alone or with others for extended periods of time can bring out the best and the worst in relationships or highlight things we’ve all tried to ignore or deny about ourselves and each other. Tempers get roused easily. People react and act to stuff they normally wouldn’t. Maybe out of fear. Maybe out of frustration. Maybe the stressful times are their version of an excuse for behaving in such ways?

Please remember that we still have choices.

We can choose react from a position of fear-based choices.

We can to argue and fight and lose our tempers. Be angry at the world and socialize and continue with our routines like nothing is going on (denial). We can ignore government mandates and health authority warnings. We can let prejudice rule our opinions and influence our interactions with others. We can choose to feel and express anger in ways that hurt ourselves and the people around us.

Or we can choose to to react from a position of love-based choices.

We can use effective communication and compromise strategies. Use Active Listening skills to to ourselves and each other. Check in from a position of love and acceptance. Be kind to ourselves and each other no matter how scared or stressed out we feel. And most important, express our fear, anger, shame, or other negative emotions in healthy ways that support us and the others around us instead of hurting ourselves and those other people.

Sometimes we might not have choices in how we act or react. Instinct and learned behavior (i.e. survival skills) override everything else when we feel overwhelmed or pushed too far.

In situations like that, when “the damage is done” we till have choices to make. We can pretend nothing happened. We can continue to escalate the negativity and cause more damage to an existing relationship until nothing is left. We can acknowledge the situation and try to make reparation and/or amends or listen with compassion to the other party and work out a solution. We can acknowledge our part in what happened, reflect on the situation, and work out ways to prepare for future ones. Maybe preventative actions or a coping strategy?

But no matter what, we humans are a resilient species. And we can survive this. We will survive and learn to thrive in the changed and changing world.

I believe in you. Please believe in yourselves too. 

Sincerely,

AlterXpressions

Sensory Movement Challenge Day 7: Dance Like No One's Watching; Sing Like No One's Listening; Laugh Like You Mean It; Stay Safe Wherever You Are

Disclaimer: this is a place of learning, safety, and hope. Take what you want from the post and forget the rest. Maybe this will help you. Maybe it won’t.

This is the last day of the challenge. Tomorrow, I will be on Facebook live at 1PM pacific time as promised to do a sensory movement/healing meditation. You can also ask me questions if you feel like dropping in.

Dance like no one is watching

I’ve been dancing just for fun. In my chair. In the living room. Around the kitchen and hall. Unfortunately, my bedroom doesn’t have enough space for dancing; tried it and have the bruises too. But the best times are when I dance in the living room/garden area with my plants.

Yea, I’m not graceful anymore. And I’m definitely not coordinated. At home wearing leggings, a plaid shirt, and a vest, barefoot on the carpet with the blinds up – not the most interesting picture for anyone outside to want to watch. And for anyone looking in? They can always look away.

But they will not take away the fun of dancing. Not this time.

And as I danced, I listened to the music, felt the carpet move under my feet and the air swirl around me, smelled the mint and other herbs, and watched the leaves and stems perk up as the music changed. We all laughed for the sheer joy of dancing together.

Sing Like No One’s Listening

Once in a while, especially when listening to my favorite songs, I sing out loud. My voice isn’t terrible or great. It’s not loud. And I’ve gotten lots of grief over singing in public (by accident) or at home, etc. in the past. So I didn’t sing often.

But I learned to enjoy singing just because I feel like it. And not always songs. Sometimes I sing nonsense words and sounds just because I like the way they rhyme or make rhythm in my head and want to hear it out loud.

Another reason to sing out loud like no one’s listening? It annoys and confuses the crap out of people who might be watching or casing you when you are walking home alone at night. Especially if you walk confident, don’t wear headphones or earbuds, and pay attention to your surroundings when you walk.

I used to do that often when I walked home from the train station. It was one mile through down town and the police station and often quiet. Less often in the daylight because I didn’t want to risk running into someone by accident. Though most people in the neighborhood knew my route and left me alone.

When and where would you sing like no one is listening?

Laugh Like You Mean It

Laughter is not always polite or quiet or (insert word here). Sometimes it’s honest, loud, scratchy, giggly, high- or low-pitched, quiet, annoying, cheerful, sad, fake, authentic, infectious, and accompanied with tears or physical movement.

How do you laugh when no one is listening? Have you ever considered it might be different?

Mine is loud. Giggly sometimes. High-pitched other times. If my alters are laughing, low-pitched and deep. Manic when laced with anxiety. Gross when mixed with sneezes. (and for the record, I’m laughing and sneezing as I write this). I haven’t had to fake laughter in a while, so I can’t remember if it sounds different or not.

But laughter is “the best medicine” and movement. Think about it – chest, lungs, shoulders, breathing, mouth opening and closing, smiles, eyes crinkling, maybe bent forward? – and consider how your body moves, what you feel, smell, see/or not, taste (tears for me sometimes), as you laugh. When I laugh in the rain, I taste and smell rain drops. Same with snow.

So maybe that explains why laughter can be so healing when inspired by joy or peace or humor?

Stay Safe Wherever You Are

Here’s the thing. Times like this make life difficult for everyone. Fear can bring out the best or the worst in people.

Compassion, love, and hope.

Prejudice, racism, and reckless bravado.

And more that I can’t name, did not think of in the moment, or never experienced.

But the COVID-19 threat is real. And people are scared. Some people go to extremes. Others rebel believing it won’t happen to them.

I’ve experienced the prejudice of people giving me dirty looks and moving away from me because I am Asian and walking around without a face mask or gloves. This happened at pubic transit platforms, in restaurants, and walking in my building.

I experienced the same kind of fear and prejudice yesterday afternoon when I left my apartment wearing gloves because I wanted to take out trash and recycling before going down to the lobby to get mail and packages. A group of 20-somethings and a few others were walking in as I picked up my mail and saw the gloves on my hands. What happened next was awkward with the group of people in a huddle trying to avoid me and not look while talking to the two people who came in alone.

Unfortunately we all wanted to go to the same place – elevator banks (them) and package pickup lockers (me) across from the elevators. Being me, I stared them down; then walked away and stayed around the corner until they went up the elevator. The other two people were not as rude, but they were uncomfortable. So I stayed out of the way until only one person was left.

Too bad it was another young person, and he was standing in the way of the keypad. We had some awkward exchanges as he pretended to type or read on his phone while also keeping an eye on me.

What was I doing? Making a show of taking off my gloves and using the exterior to key in the passcode. Then open the door and grab my package. He scooted around trying to stay away from me, but still within sight of the elevators until I spoke to him. Told him he was fine, and I’m just being careful – not sick.

Then I grabbed my package and used the stairs to get to my apartment.

Normally, I don’t go out during busy times of the day. Between being an empath and already struggling with triggers, going during the quiet hours makes more sense and causes less trouble all around. But I decided to listen to my intuition and Spirit’s (yes I use that personally even though I try to be more politically correct here) messages from the healing circle and went during a busy time.

The purpose? To show some of these people that the threat is real, and they may want to be more cautious. Or to be blunt – try to scare some sense into them by seeing an asian person in their building wearing gloves to get mail. Bonus that the girl who walked in with a group of people knew of me from somewhere and was already scared of me. No, I don’t remember the details. Yes, she and her friends have made my life uneasy a few times since I moved in here. That’s why I did what I did. No conversations. NO interaction. They saw me. I saw them. They watched me. I ignored them.

The point being: be careful. Take this seriously. Old people and people with existing conditions are not the only ones at risk. And even if you don’t get sick, you may be a carrier and spreading the virus without even realizing it.

So, as hard as it is, please be careful. Not everyone can or will stay inside. Not everyone has to stay inside.

But if you go out, please use logic and intuition + common sense and take precautions. Maybe you are not at risk, but what about your family or loved ones?

And if you stay home, remember to be cautious there too. The virus can travel in many ways. There are constant updates that provide tips and resources to stay safe wherever you are.

I’m lucky in that my family sends me emails and texts with the latest updates. Same with my friends and loved ones.

Remember to that there are many ways to socialize and connect with people even if we can’t physically be near each other. Technology and I have a love/hate relationship, but I feel grateful it exists to help people at times like this.

Finally:

It’s okay to feel a variety of emotions at the same time. It’s okay to express these emotions and react to what’s happening now. We get to choose how to act and react, how to respond to this new world. I choose, unconditional love, resilience, acceptance, compassion, and kindness. What do you choose?

Thanks for reading.

Sensory Movement Challenge Day 5: An Energy Healing Circle and Jars

Disclaimer: this is a place of learning, safety, and hope. Take what you want from the post and forget the rest. Maybe this will help you. Maybe it won’t.

Energy Healing Circles

As an empath and a sensitive person in general, I tend to get overwhelmed with energy and emotions coming from others. It’s not something easy for me to discuss or open up about outside my circle of people who also experience and work with energy on different levels.

Yeah, I still get made fun of and harassed for being like that. But the truth is energy work is a foundational part of my life and recovery journey. So when I find mentors and healers who can teach me how to cope with the influx of energy coming towards me (and often gets stuck inside me) more effectively, I do that.

And when said instructors offer community healing circles and sessions via live stream at an affordable price, I join in and participate. It’s my way of being part of a community of people without having to physically share space or interact with people. We interact on an energetic level with the mentor/host acting as a conduit and connection for us all to share energy and healing and support as a mini community for the time we meditate together.

During the 1 hour healing session, we worked on 2 healing meditations to receive energy and messages from the Source (what our mentor calls God/Goddess, etc.). I cried during the meditation. And also felt a weight lifting off of me as I let go of energy that didn’t belong in my body.

Breathing in and out, I followed the air as it traveled down my lungs, into my sides and back, down through my abdomen and hips, finally back up and out my nose and mouth. Along the path, I felt buzzing inside my body and heard motorcycles driving by outside. It felt like the motorcycles left a trail for the energy that didn’t belong to follow as it left me.

As we moved into the next part of the meditation, I got messages from my dead baby. If you want to know more about that, you will have to search through past posts on Untangled Connections. It’s not something I can write about here and still share on Scent Reflections. But the gist of it is that one of my rapists got me pregnant when I was 15 years old. Three months later said rapist and colleagues aborted the baby. Details about that part of my life are locked away in a trauma amnesia vault.

I didn’t even remember being pregnant or having an abortion until 2014/2015 and have been through the shame and guilt of not remembering before then + flashbacks, etc. ever since. Hearing my baby talk to me was one of many messages that came during the session. Even now, as I write this, other messages are coming to my consciousness.

Is this too “out there” for you? If it is, feel free to ignore anything about energy work and move on to the next section.

Exercise 2: Opening Jars

Have you ever considered what muscle groups are required to open jars? Or how much a person can move when opening and closing jars? Especially when those jar lids don’t want to open?

Well, I mentioned yesterday or the day before about “breaking out the herbs and honey” to make tea. All my herbs and honeys are in jars with twist lids. Mason jars, glass jars reused and re-purposed after the original contents were used up. And original jars the honey came in.

The mason jars are relatively easy to open dry. But add hot water over herbs, and things get tricky. Use jars or thermoses with silicone rings to minimize spills, and suction or air-tight closures make opening the lids a challenge too. But the dried honey in a twist cap jar + air-tight seal is most difficult to open.

I am mostly left handed and use my right hand/arm to hold jars steady while the left one twists. But not always. Sometimes, the right hand grip works better, so the left side holds jars steady. You’d think I only use hand and arm, but that’s not true. Being a short person, I use all the leverage I can get to open jars. That includes shoulders and torso to twist and open the lids. Often with help from a jar opener. But even the jar opener is manual and requires me to grip and twist to open the lids.

The sensory grounding part?

  1. Sound of me cussing as I listen to the lid scraping against the jar, but not moving or opening. Sound of jar opener scraping against the lid.
  2. Sound of hot water being poured into a bowl and splashes as I put the honey jar in the water to warm it up.
  3. Texture of the metal lid, plastic/silicone jar opener, glass and paper label in my hands.
  4. Texture of the oven mitts and towels I used to get a better grip on the jar
  5. Sound and feel of my palm hitting the bottom of the jar to pop the lid’s seal
  6. Smell of ginger infused honey when I finally get the jar open

And yes, I practice hard to be and stay present while opening jars because sometimes, rarely, but often enough opening a jar triggers flashbacks.

So would you consider the process of opening, closing, and moving jars a worthy exercise for the movement challenge?

Reflection

This morning’s healing circle helped me understand the purpose of this challenge and the purpose of being vulnerable and putting myself out there for the Facebook live session on Sunday.

I am open about not being a “people” person. And that’s true to an extent. I have many difficulties physically being around people. That makes helping and supporting people difficult too. So I created my business and my volunteer work around helping people through indirect interactions like blog posts and images.

But new responsibilities at work have helped me feel more comfortable interacting with others over the phone and via video streaming. So, while I am often abrupt and honest to the point of rudeness, I am willing to make time to offer healing and support to my guests at both websites via Facebook live.

You don’t have to respond early. You can just show up if you want to do so.

I admit to being terrible at social media and how to get likes and follows, etc. I admit to not knowing how to get people to comment on posts either. In my mind, any and all of that is completely voluntary and an extremely personal and private choice. I am more of a lurker than a commenter and very rarely comment on my favorite author and website blogs either. So I will not pressure others to do something that I refuse to do on a regular basis.

Plus that’s never been my goal. The fact that you like my blog and visit here means more than you can imagine. And sure, it’s bad business to not promote my blog and try to get lots of “likes” and “follows”, etc. Same with not joining affiliate programs and letting others advertise on my sites. And also with commenting on and following other bloggers and websites, etc.

But that’s not why I joined Facebook or started any of those things. I’m just trying to figure out low cost solutions to communication issues. If people want to write to me safely, I want them to be able to do that. Then I want to be able to respond to them too. Not 1 week later. Not 1 month or more later because their comments got caught in the spam filter. But within 1-3 days.

FACEBOOK LIVE – Sensory Grounding and Healing meditation in my garden

And so I am listening to the messages from Source and trying to find ways to follow them.

One message is offer more support to my guests. Offer them healing meditations and videos.

Give them a chance to ask questions and comment.

Let them feel connected to a community and open it to more than just a blog post or website.

Self Care is more than making sure the practical parts of basic needs are met during this scary time. It’s about staying connected, feeling hope, experiencing laughter and joy, moving even when we feel stuck, and remembering that we are resilient people.

In Sunday’s Facebook live, I will be sitting in my indoor garden with a piece of chocolate, some crystals in a bowl, and other fruit as I talk you through some of the sensory grounding meditations that I’ve written about here on Untangled Connections. Maybe on Scent Reflections too. You don’t need to bring anything except yourself and a grounding object.

You are welcome to join me during the live 1 hour presentation or watch it on your own time later.

Thanks for reading.

Alter Post: School of Hard Knocks – and what it taught me about knowledge

Disclaimer: this is a place of learning, safety, and hope. Take what you want from the post and forget the rest. Maybe this will help you. Maybe it won’t.

Hey All,

All of us in the AlterXpressions system (i or we) decided to share some more about our personal story as a follow up to last week’s post.

A winding path through trees...destination unknown
Destination unknown

First because our journey to where we are now has been filled with directional changes.

Second because many guests have been asking about how we got to where we are now.

Finally, because all of us are here to emphasize that this place is about sharing knowledge and resources – not telling people what to do or how to live their lives.

Being smart doesn’t get a person anywhere unless the individual knows how to use and apply those smarts. Same with education and experience.

It takes courage, resilience, compassion, love, acceptance and an open mind to pick up the pieces of life after trauma and figure out how to live again. We mean how to have the

  • Courage to believe in, love, and accept ourselves as we are in that moment knowing we are different and will never be who we were again
  • Resilience to learn how to roll with the changes that life throws at us as we learn our new “normal”
  • Compassion for ourselves and the people around us as mistakes happen, hurt triggers all kinds of emotions and sensations, and we fall
    • Because everyone falls, makes mistakes, hurts self/others, and gets hurt
  • Open mind to ask for/accept help, learn the tools we need to be who we want to be, and thrive as our authentic selves – happy, loving, loved, safe, – in alignment with our personal values

All parts of me agree to share this with you, so please don’t be surprised by shifts in language or writing style. We tend to interrupt, talk over, or repeat each other writing like this.

College did not exactly prepare me for “real world” work. But it did give me insight into how much I didn’t know about life and people because of how I was raised. The classes and instructors provided lots of book learning, but living on campus taught me about hope and made “happy ever after” seem possible. It was a break from the reality of my other life – almost like a bubble – until my past caught up with me there too.

7 geese in a meadow. One is not like the others...pairs of 2x2x2...then one?
One of these geese is not like the others. Two by two by two…

That”s when I realized college life didn’t fit me in the same way high school didn’t fit because my life experience taught me to value different life goals/career objectives. I was in survival mode and didn’t realize it.

Graduate school taught me that I wasn’t meant to spend my life in a rigid classroom. It also gave me the opportunity to explore skills that I disregarded as useless in high school or college. It also highlighted areas where I was completely lacking in knowledge and experience. Like interpersonal communication and time management; saying “no” and setting boundaries.

University buildings, a parking lot, food trucks...typical academic setting
Typical academic setting

Still, graduate school helped me find a temporary job that turned into a 13-year long career with the same company and allowed me to start this website/blog. I learned foundational skills in architecture and design from graduate school. Combined that knowledge with my writing and organizational skills to land a job helping a project manager create deliverables for a client.

My hard work, eagerness to learn and apply knowledge, and commitment to meeting deadlines caught the attention of other managers and people in the department. They mentored me and taught me more than I can ever express. In that organization, I got to be myself. Acceptance and respect was based on my actions and reactions instead of rumors and assumptions.

My past didn’t matter to them when they learned about it. Instead of firing me or suspending me, they offered support and helped me find ways to keep working no matter how bad my symptoms got. As long as I was honest with them, they worked with me to create flexible schedules and go through the red tape so I got to keep my benefits and job.

Now, thirteen years later, I have job security and a role that allows me to continue doing what I started while also taking on new challenges that help my team and enjoy work again.

EPIPHANY

College education and graduate school classes gave me the foundation skills to understand the work I do, but the school of hard knocks provided me the important life lessons that helped me earn credibility, respect, and acceptance.

Without both parts of that equation, I would not be as valuable or useful in my day job or here on the blog.

Finally, I acknowledge that I am lucky and blessed to have found an organization that accepts me, values me, and allows me to continue on the winding path that is my career with them.

As always, thanks for reading.

Coping Strategy: 365 Days of writing affirmations or mantras

What is an affirmation?

An affirmation is a statement of positive intention.  It can be a phrase, a sentence, a group of sentences, or a quotation.

What is a mantra?

A mantra is a phrase, statement, slogan, or quotation that can be repeated frequently.  It can be used for comfort, inspiration, support, a renewal of faith, etc.

Why both instead of one or the other?

Both words have similar uses that can be hard to distinguish sometimes.  Affirmations can be used as mantras.  A mantra (whole or parts) can be used as an affirmation.  Since I can’t tell what category mine go into, I write out my intention and then decide if it’s a mantra or an affirmation later.

Inspiration comes from?

  • Other bloggers – So many bloggers are creating their own or sharing inspiring affirmations that I decided to be brave and try writing mine down too
  • Tara Brach – Understanding grief & loss, coping or healing through faith, meditation, and communication – I personally like her free “Tara’s Talks” videos
  • Pema Chodron – Lessons in spiritual resilience, faith (whether or not you are Buddhist), meditation, and compassion (loving kindness and mindfulness meditations)
  • Jon Kabat-Zinn – Mindfulness meditation to help with pain, stress, and other uncomfortable feelings through Harvard Medical School
  • Brene Brown – lessons in authentic living, shame, resilience, and vulnerability
  • Deirdre Fay’s classes – affirmations as part of meditation or breathing techniques to help cope with trauma
  • other self-help books – The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook was the second self-help book that helped me start making sense of the coping challenges and learn how to use affirmations even if I didn’t believe in them at the time.  My other favorite self-help and coping strategy books are on Pinterest if you want to look there too, but beware I also have some personal boards up there.  You might learn more than you care to about me…
  • Louise Hay – her affirmations helped me through some of my darkest moments; I’m grateful for the person who introduced me to her writing way back in the first years of my recovery journey

How does it help so far?

  • The affirmation or mantra sets my intention for the day
  • Makes my thoughts concrete and visible to anyone who reads it
  • Reminds me to feel gratitude and practice what I’ve learned to help cope no matter how I feel at the time
  • Gives me a place to visit and remember positive thoughts when my mind decides to go blank
  • Teaches me patience, consistency, perseverance, and follow-through on my goals and objectives
  • Let’s me practice self-kindness and self-compassion when I make mistakes by not writing down an affirmation or mantra every day

But 365 days?  Why?

Yes, 365 days or approximately 1 year.  It’s time for me to expand my boundaries and try to do this in spite of the triggers that stopped me in the past.  Plus this is an activity that all parts of me can participate in, remember, go back to, and enjoy together.  We are all involved and motivated to succeed.  This gives us all a better chance at accomplishing our goal.

Other thoughts

Some people will tell you that affirmations are crap or bs or (my personal favorite) hogwash.  You can’t change your life with positive affirmations.  And even if you can, how can you say them and have faith if you are in a negative mindset?  Or you have a negative self-image?  Or, like people in group once said, maybe these things can happen for other people, but not for me because I’m not worthy.

Maybe that’s true for some people.  It was sort of true for me back when I first started listening to people talk about the power of positive thinking, etc.  But then I tried looking at the concept from other perspectives. 

I started reading other affirmations to try to understand what made them positive or inspirational or meaningful. What was a mantra, and how did it relate to affirmations?  Because many people preferred using mantras instead, I wondered if it was language that made the difference.  Language as in how words are perceived by the dominant culture around us.  Later, I wondered if these affirmations and mantras were like prayers.  Instead of going directly to God, they were spoken as a gesture of faith in a higher power or to whatever religious deity the people believed in.

Questioning my spiritual path

That’s when I dropped the word “positive” and kept affirmations.  Also why I prefer “mantras” to “prayers” even though I do pray every night and every morning.  And if I time traveled back to the moment when I was choosing a religion, I’d probably be Jewish because that was the faith that brought me the most love and comfort in childhood.

Maybe some day I will be able to visit a Synagogue without crying – it’s been almost 30 years, and I still miss my Uncle Teddy.  And so I pray.  I practice compassion and gratitude through meditation and random acts of kindness.  I collect prayers, quotes, affirmations, and mantras that connect with my spirit.  Finally, I write my own affirmations and mantras.  Maybe someday I’ll share them here too.

Lessons Learned

And I learned that affirmations, mantras, and prayers all have a few things in common:

  • They share hope for a different outcome
  • They open people up to different possibilities and choices
  • They bring comfort during times of stress or overwhelming sensations
  • They are not always positive
  • They can be as simple as one word or as complicated as a poem
  • They work as long as the one speaking/writing them believes
  • They are the wishes and foundations for everyday miracles in life

Your Choice

*Like most tings in life, you get out of affirmations and mantras what you put into them.*

If you want to try one, why not pick a quote or phrase that is meaningful to you and repeat it once a day for a set time period.  At the end of that time period, reflect on how you feel and if anything has changed between then and now.  Then decide for yourself if you want to continue using them.

Thanks for reading