Category Archives: therapy

Receive the Gift of Pain

Stay with me

Pain

And have a cup of coffee

Tell me all your stories

And do not leave until

I can remember all of the details

Let me say the words back to you

Until you feel I have understood completely

 

I beg you to forgive me for being so inhospitable

When I kept the doors locked

When I ran and didn’t stop

When I drank to dilute your power

When I sought refuge in the arms of others

 

I thought you came to destroy me

But you were here to teach me

That I couldn’t stay so small

 

Hold my hand now

And lead me to the grave

Let me be the first witness of your transformation

I will listen to your wisdom

And behold your resurrection

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CLICK HERE TO BECOME A FOUNDING MEMBER

Can I start my message out with a scream??! Or maybe a song, “The hills are alive with the sound of music, ah ah ah ah!” If you could see me, I am doing leg kicks I am so excited about TARALOMA YOGA STUDIO! This place is a culmination of many dreams all wrapped up into one amazing opportunity. Many of you know I spent the last 10 years in ministry. You know that I am passionate about creating sacred spaces for people to encounter the Divine. You know how much I love to sing and use music to touch people’s souls (following all of the Keeping God’s People Safe rules of course). You know my creativity and my desire to embody and incarnate the Spirit and share this joy with others. 

For many years I felt tugged in different directions: musician or minister? Church or yoga? I realized I want it all. No bifurcating passions. No more dualism. Then suddenly I began to see how all of me fits into this TARALOMA dream. Right now (while I am doing leg kicks) I am designing healing liturgies for our bodies– especially for those of us who have been sexually abused, who struggle with addictions, or seeing ourselves in God’s image and are just too hard on ourselves. I am writing songs and chants to enhance my yoga teaching. I am designing a sacred space for people to encounter the Divine as we become more transformed into the beautiful selves we are but have maybe forgotten. 

Fargo is booming now and yoga and alternative expressions of Christianity & spirituality are a pioneering work in this historically conservative Christian area. As a seminary graduate, a youth minister in The Episcopal Church for ten years and yoga instructor I have the skills to make bridges and be a leader in this changing landscape.  As an introvert I am prone to do things by myself.  As a person of faith I know I need the community’s support and God’s help.  I can pull off the bare bones by September or I could invite others to help me create something bigger than I could imagine or ever do on my own.Here is my vision, and maybe you are a part of it: I see a sacred room, with yoga mats, blankets, blocks, and straps, available for guests to pop in before work, over lunch or before dinner to still their minds in meditation, prayer, music, and strengthen their bodies with yoga. I imagine inspirational art on the walls, candles, a warm room on a cold winter day where people can escape to center themselves and grow spiritually. I dream of a space where people can take off their masks and explore the deep questions of life.  I envision a healthy meal (a gluten free pan o’ bars and kale juice) shared in community after a Sunday’s healing liturgy of the body.

To launch TARALOMA YOGA STUDIO I am in need of basic yoga supplies, a few pieces of art, internet, insurance, some office furniture and a computer software program.  I’m so excited to begin this work!  And I am excited to see what happens has I partner with others to manifest this dream.

Donors will receive an invitation to the exclusive Grand Opening Celebration and free yoga/meditation passes. Far away friends who cannot join us will receive a copy of the homemade work of art that will hang in our studio with your name on it as one of our founding members as well as a personal guided meditation and/or yoga routine and/or song created just for you.

This page is a work in progress and I look forward to keeping you updated!

Thank you!  And Namaste! (Leg kick!)
Jessica

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May 19, 2014 · 12:17 pm

Advent Reflections: Pain is Determined to Be Heard, by guest blogger Kate Green

This is the first reflection offered in our advent series on our experiences of incarnation.  To submit a piece for consideration please email Jessica at jessicajcreech@gmail.com and see the guidelines here.

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Back in May, when my job involved being surrounded by little ones who were not my own, I hurt my neck. I assumed I slept on it wrong and pinched a nerve, but the sports med doctor I saw two months later assured me that, no, pain like I had doesn’t come about by sleeping, but by moving. It’s in the resting for hours later that my body had time and space to register the pain. And with that comment, a journey began in which God spoke clearly and distinctly to me, through me. Or rather through my body.

I started physical therapy a little nervous. I am in no way, and have never been (even when I played softball that one year in high school just because my sister did) athletic. I was feeling guilty and ashamed and sure the therapist would blame me for the pain I was in, due to my lack of caring for myself. I waited with trepidation until she called me back and we began. And she, well, she was amazing. She spoke words of life and encouragement and I knew, I just knew, that this was something way beyond becoming pain-free. This was something sacred.

“Don’t invalidate your pain. Don’t brush it off or think it isn’t a big deal. Don’t dismiss it by comparing it to others whose pain is worse.”

Yep. First session and she had me pegged as she spoke those words to me. A month later when the pain flared up again as I did some work in my son’s classroom, she reminded me that

“With movement, comes pain, and life involves movement.”

Life. Movement. Pain. There was something there and I needed to listen. I needed to start listening to my pain. It was telling me something, telling me that I was alive and that as one alive, there was pain. Pain that I was trying hard to brush away, to fix, to get rid off as fast as I possibly could. Deep emotional pain that was forcing itself on my body, determined to be heard.

I was thinking this morning of how I feel things so intensely in my body. How emotions move through me with power and force. When I am afraid, I am gut-wrenchingly sick-to-my-stomach afraid. When I am sad, each ragged breath is almost too much to bear. When someone I love is hurting, my heart literally aches for them. When my children valiantly walk their way through hurtful situations, I feel it deep in me. Pain is a felt thing for me.

I am learning that healing needs to be a felt thing for me. Many a day I’ve sat at my piano crying out to God with every movement of my fingers, feeling the release as they move along the keys. Too few mornings, I follow my PT regiment with purpose, feeling the release as each muscle pulls and relaxes. In quiet moments before the after-school rush, I breath deep, full breaths, feeling the release as my heartbeat slows and space for God to move opens up.

Having this body that moves and feels pain and breathes life, I am speechless when I remember

“And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:44)

I close my eyes and try to fathom this Man feeling pain in His flesh. This Man walking, touching, laughing, crying, sleeping. This Man breathing life, one ragged breath after another. I think of how His Spirit moved through His body with passion, and at times with anguish, as the NIV says. I think of Him taking into Himself the pain of the world and really living that pain. Feeling that pain.

To live advent, to know Christmas, for me this year, is to let the Spirit have free reign in my body. I don’t know what God is birthing in me but I know that the same Spirit who hovered over Mary is doing something. When each step forward feels wrought with anxiety… when my soul burns within me… when my heart is stretched and pulled, I think of my therapist gently cradling my head in her arms, enfolding me with care, twisting and turning, not to inflict more pain, but to bring release, and I remember to surrender to the movement. I walked out of physical therapy pain-free but with the knowledge that staying pain-free was a precarious thing dependent in great part on listening to my body, leaning into what it is saying, and letting myself be fully alive in it.

Kate Green is a Jesus follower, mom, friend and neighbor who enjoys contemplative prayer, Coldplay, and the Detroit Tigers. She cares deeply about lgbtq inclusion and autism acceptance, and really can’t live without a constant supply of grace and coffee.  You can follow her on Twitter @cgmama.  

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Silent All These Years

Cover of my favoriteTori Amos song, July 13, 2013

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July 17, 2013 · 10:48 am

Feeding Your Demons: Practicing Radical Hospitality

“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light but by making the darkness conscious.”  –Carl Jung

In my last post I shared my journey of how I stopped fighting my demons and began to feed them.  In this post I’d like to talk about the practice of feeding your demons that I am learning from Tsultrim Allione and show how it is not so un-Christian as one might think.  This is her guide based on the teachings of Machig Labdrön, an 11th century female Buddhist teacher.  I am only summarizing her in depth practice so please refer to her work if you would like to try this.

Step One:  Find the Demon
Take a few deep breaths to calm your body.  Identify a situation or a feeling in your life that troubles you.  Look for the place in your body where you carry the burden of this problem.  Is it in your tight jaw?  In your chest?  In your lower back?  Is it in a place on your body where you self harm?  Does it have a color? A temperature? A smell?  A texture? A sound?

Step Two:  Personify the Demon and Ask What it Needs
In this step imagine what this creature would look like if it was sitting in front of you.  What is the shape? The gender? What is its emotional state?  How big is it?  How do I feel in its presence?  Once you have imagined it sitting across from you, ask it:  What do you want from me?  What do you need from me?  How will you feel if you get what you need?

Step Three:  Become the Demon
Keep your eyes closed and move to the place where you imagined the demon sitting across from you.  Take a few deep breaths as you imagine yourself as this creature and what it feels like to be in its shoes. Then answer the three questions you asked it:  What I want from you is… What I need from you is…When my need is met, I will feel… Tsultrim Allinone writes, “With a disease like cancer the demon might say, ‘I want your life force, all of it.’  And responding to ‘What do you need?’ the demon might say, ‘I need strength.’  And if to the question ‘How will you feel if you get what you need?’  –in this case, strength–the demon replies, ‘I’ll feel powerful,’ then you know to feed the demon power.  Be sure the answer to the third question is a feeling.  For example, the cancer demon might have said, ‘I will feel huge.’  But hugeness is not a feeling… the feeling behind hugeness might be power.”

Here is the paradox:  we may think that feeding a demon makes it grow, but it actually diminishes it’s strength.  By becoming conscious of our demons and the needs behind their pain, they can be soothed and transformed into a helper for us.

Step Four:  Feed the Demon and Meet the Ally
Return to your body and original seat and face the demon again.  Imagine your body melting into a nectar that you can offer the demon.  If it was love, or acceptance the demon wanted imagine what that would look like as your body melts into a bowl or a chalice or whips around the demon like a wind.  Follow your imagination as you offer the gift of your body to the wounded part of yourself.  Take note of the color or consistency   You are giving the demon the feeling it will have when it gets what it needs.  Feed the creature until it is totally satisfied.  At this point the demon may transform or leave.  Ask to meet the ally, to see how this transformed energy might be used for good.  Again use your imagination and take any notes on its appearance and your feelings.  Ask the ally:  How will you help me?  How will you protect me?  What pledge or commitment do you make to me?  How can I gain access to you?  Then change places again and answer the questions as the ally.

Step Five:  Rest in Awareness
This is an important part of integrating the experience into your body.  I like to lie down in shavasana pose.  Let yourself enjoy the lightness and freedom of this experience.

How can this practice be Christian?
Without writing a thesis on the topic, I will outline a general theology that runs throughout the biblical text and Christian tradition.

Old Testament
The Hebrew word “satan” literally means adversary.  When Jacob wrestled with God, God is called the “satan”  in the story.  The Hebrews did not see evil as an external force, but understood the “satan” to be a force within humanity that is inclined toward evil.  Even in the story of Job, the Satan seems to be a part of God’s counsel and works with God to carry out God’s will.  So the overall voice of the Hebrew scriptures lacks our notion of demons and hell.  Later in human development this force is recognized as existing outside of human will (This is introduced in Enochic literature in the 4th Century BCE.)  One of the main components of Old Testament law is the command to care for strangers on the land, windows, orphans and the poor.  Essentially to live in a just community.  This narrative continues in Jesus’ teachings.

New Testament
Jesus is constantly criticized for his extension and reinterpretation of the law as he dines with sinners welcomes outcasts and touches people who are  ritually unclean (read sick and dangerous).  The Gospel of Luke centers on the image of a feast, where all are invited to God’s table to be nourished and recreated.  At the institution of the Last Supper (the most troubled night in the life of Jesus)  Jesus made his body into a nectar, offering it to his friends (to sooth their  future agony) and to remember him.  When Jesus left his disciples he continued to tell them:  go and do likewise–heal the sick, raise the dead.  Essentially, be Christ to others too.

Reconciling the Opposites
American culture especially suffers from a debilitating polarization.  Complexities of self are easily lost in the rigid categories of right or left, republican or democrat, good or evil, conservative or liberal, and with the escaping middle class now we have rich or poor, and so on…  The task before us now is to move from flat polarization of opposites to a reconciliation of them: the paradox.  This makes me think of the tongue twisting gospel of John this week:  I in you and you in me and God in me and you in God, fox in box and sox on fox!  One exercise I do frequently to remind myself when I am projecting my shadow onto others is make a list about everything that annoys me about someone.  Then I put my name at the top and I see that I have given them the worst of myself.

The next level of our human consciousness is to gain the understanding that everything is connected.  Carl Jung taught that what is happening in the global world is also unfolding in our interior lives.  If the earth is wounded, our bodies are scarred.  If we can face our shadows and tend our pain,  we can have compassion enough to heal the world.  The answer to so many of our problems is connection.

“If you’re feeling what the river is feeling, it’s hard to pollute the river. If you are feeling what a child is feeling, it’s hard to rape the child. If you are connected to your own internal being, it is very hard to be screwing and destroying and hurting another human being, because you’ll be feeling what they’re feeling. If you’re separated, it’s not a hard thing to do at all.”
-Eve Ensler

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I gave up fighting my demons, and began to feed them

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I sat in a cold room under flickering fluorescent lights. I was shaking as two older men placed their hands on my head and commanded the demons leave me in Jesus’ name. “I just saw a hippy demon fly out of you,” said the big guy in his booming preacher voice. They told me all sorts of demons were flying around the room. The other placed a Bible in my lap, “You must read God’s word,” he said. “It’s like a sword that penetrates the darkness.”

“Where?” I flipped through the pages.

“Anywhere,” he said. And so I started reading Leviticus law.

“Try Ephesians,” the other one said after I muttered through the passages about who can have sex with who. He directed me to the verse and chapter. I read:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. -Ephesians 6:12

The Christian fiction author, Frank Peretti had a major influence on the evangelical and charismatic culture that I was a part of in the late 80s and early 90s. Some Christians even claimed his books, This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness were second only to the Bible and many used them as spiritual warfare handbooks. (Scrolling down on the reviews you can see how much this Christian world view persists today.)

I found myself in Christian communities that prayed more against demons than to God. Ever since I was little, I had been warned about these demons and the portals they use to enter our world: liberalism, new age spirituality, environmentalism, feminism, oh the worst: relativism.

I still remember that awful feeling in my stomach, when I stood in front of my fifth grade class and announced that I would not be attending school on Halloween because it was “The Devil’s Holiday” and we didn’t worship Satan in our family. Even my teacher looked at me with wide eyes and an open mouth. But I had come to expect this sort of judgement. I had been taught that Christians were set apart, fools for Christ.

I was out of grad school when this frightening dualistic world view finally unraveled for me. I listened to a kind psychologist explain (one of those I had been warmed about: the humanistic people under Satan’s spell), he said, “The demons we fear are our own wounded and abandoned parts of ourselves.”

My spiritual journey began to turn in a whole new direction. Instead of escaping my fear–and projecting it onto other people, religions, cultures and worldviews, I began to welcome it. I began to sit with it. I visualized it. I asked it what these fears and awful feelings wanted from me. At first they said: I want your life. I want to consume you. I want to put all my hatred in you. But when I asked them what they needed they said: I need your love. I need your attention. I need your compassion. I witnessed these cut off parts of myself transforming from enemies that once drained all my energy to fight, into allies that empowered me to live a more peaceful creative life.

Shortly thereafter I found myself at a conference on the Divine Feminine at the Washington National Cathedral. I stood in the back of Bethlehem Chapel– green with morning sickness– listening to the first American woman to be ordained as a Tibetan nun. I listened with more than a hundred other people to Tsultrim Allione teach the ancient Buddhist practice of Feeding Your Demons. I fed myself saltine crackers, pregnant with my daughter and my budding feminine spirituality. As I listened I could not help but see how this practice mirrored teachings in the Jewish and Christian traditions too.

Much of the Old Testament law teaches the importance of extreme hospitality towards strangers. Jesus continued this hospitality as he welcomed sinners, outcasts and women to dine with him. In the image of the Good Shepherd, Jesus is portrayed as seeking and feeding the lost. I realized the lost come in many forms: those who have been abused, those who are literally hungry, also those parts of ourselves that we fight against, deny, silence with perfectionism, alcoholism, the ones we starve out, and feed with hatred.

In the mystery of the Eucharist, Christ’s body is given to us. I asked a young girl on Sunday what this could possibly mean. She wisely replied, “It reminds us that we are one with God. That God actually lives inside our bodies.”

Tsultrim Allione taught me that to fight the demons makes them stronger–but to feed them–with the nectar of your very body, satisfies and transforms them.

In my next post I will share the meditation practice that I learned from Tsultrim Allione on how to begin to feed your own demons.

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Shining Light on Newtown, CT and Our Collective Unconsciousness

“The light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overcome it.”  

-John 1:5

The fact that we are all children of light can now be scientifically proven.  We are made of waves and particles of light, bundles of frozen light, even the light of stardust.  The very same particles that once inhabited the body of Jesus and the Buddha, also inhabit our own.  And yet this knowledge seems ethereally unearthing as we yearn to land our feet on more concrete times, when we could clearly differentiate between the good guys and the bad guys, the sons of light and the sons of darkness.

Postmodernity has certainly challenged the way we think the world works.  It is frightening to think that I cannot clearly define my enemy.  For who am I without my adversary to make me stronger?  And how do we fight the demons of the mentally ill?  I don’t understand how people can do such awful things.

“It’s a chemical imbalance,” the psychiatrist says.  And I know that drugs can help.  But stories can too.  And self knowledge.  And community.  And collective wisdom.

How does a person grow up and execute a god-like fantasy of being all powerful enough to kill anyone they please?

“They’re crazy.”

“They are the bad guys.”

“We need more guns to fight these devils.”

And yet Carl Jung’s thought runs through my mind:  what happens in the culture is reflected in the depths of the human psyche, in the collective unconscious.  ‘The collective unconscious contains the whole spiritual heritage of mankind’s evolution, born anew in the brain structure of every individual.’ (CW 8, §342)

Our brains resemble old museums that contain many of the archetypal markings of our evolutionary past. … Our brains are full of ancestral memories and processes that guide our actions and dreams but rarely emerge unadulterated by cortico-cultural influences during our everyday activities. (Panksepp, Affective Neuroscience, p. 75)

“I’m nothing like my brother,  Adam!”  Ryan Lanza pushed himself far away from the piercing collective judgement that fell upon him when police misidentified the killer.  We all pushed ourselves away.  We are nothing like him either.  Are we?

In Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ best selling book, Women Who Run with the Wolves, she describes a character deep within the human psyche that we must track in order to avoid becoming his next murder victim.  This character is told of in many myths and fairy tales, in Fitcher’s Bird, in Bluebeard, in the Bible–King Herod and Pharaoh and many other ancient rulers are also archetypes of this deadly man.  Certainly many of us thought of Rachel’s lament over the Holy Innocents when we heard of the horrors in Newtown, CT.  The frightening character that runs through all these stories is the powerful male who cannot stop slaughtering the helpless and the innocent.  (Who we all are, without our own guns to protect us.)

This is an ancient story.  This is a human story.  It is a part of our ancestral makeup.  What bit of wisdom are these old stories trying to pass on to us?  How can we defeat this enemy in our time?

Estes writes of his destructive nature: “He is filled with hatred and desires to kill the lights of the psyche.  In the malignant formation there is trapped one who once wished for surpassing light and fell from Grace because of it.  We can understand why thereafter the exiled one maintains a heartless pursuit of the light of others.  We can imagine that it hopes that if it could gather enough soul(s) to itself, it could make a blaze of light that would finally rescind its darkness and repair its loneliness.”

Her description sounds like our task is to defeat Lucifer himself. Lucifer, meaning ‘morning star’, or ‘the light of Venus’ or light bearer.  When I was a child my mother told me that Lucifer got kicked out of heaven for wanting to be like God.  He didn’t want to worship God or be God’s messenger.  He wanted all the light for himself.  He wanted to be God, not bear God.  He acted against his own nature.  He wanted to be the light, not bear the light.  This story is also our story.

Growing up is painful work.  We learn that the world does not revolve around us.  That we are not the one light of the world, but in fact there are many other beautiful and brighter lights around us that are just as precious and valuable as we are.  We learn that the god we once thought we were (even as a teenager) is actually a mere mortal, capable of dying just like everyone else.

Freud wondered how the child lets go of the omnipotent illusion–the Pleasure Principal–and adjusted to the Reality principal.  And maybe this is where these shadowy figures become stalled in human development.   How difficult is it to face our own illusions of grandeur in the most powerful country in the world?  (It’s not even an illusion!) In my own life, how do I maintain the illusion of being all powerful? (In writing a blog?)

Jung’s solution is different than Freud’s who believed the reality we awoke to was dim and filled with countless neuroses.  Augustine would have been proud that his doctrine of original sin was translated into scientific language.  But Jung discovered a light in the darkness: his delusional patients weren’t just talking crazy, but actually recounting ancient myths and stories.  The key to their healing was finding the thread in the labyrinth, the life line that led them out of the darkness into a reality that maintained a connection to the inner world of imagination, of God, of Spirit.

I think many of us are still searching for that connection.  Many of us are living unconscious myths.  The myth that might makes right is a powerful one.  And people are grasping for power in a world that is seemingly filled with more scarcity than abundance.  Reality can be harsh, but we are made to incarnate light, to create and imagine a better reality.  To remain connected to our true light filled nature.  To live in community.

Does our culture lack a sense of wonder?  Do most of us feel we’re right and everyone else is an idiot?  (Sometimes.)  Do most of us desire power over the more vulnerable challenge to love one another?  How many of us enjoy feeling vulnerable anyways? Let’s admit it, we admire our strength and we fear the delicate side of our nature which is why the NRA commands we all be armed. This way we can defend ourselves from the other half of the human psyche, from that part that is vulnerable enough to be penetrated by another person’s perspective, to having another way of life incarnate our bodies and potentially transform us.  We want nothing to do with that kind of vulnerability.

And yet we claim God is on our side.  We give names to God like Almighty Father. All Powerful.  Victorious One.  Great and Mighty One.  Christians must remember what Jesus says, if you want to become great, become like the least of these.  (Matthew 20:26-28).  Unless we become like little (vulnerable) children, we will never get into the kingdom of God (Matthew 18:3).

Let us all look at our hands for any trace of blood.  As a culture we have been denying a part of our human nature.  We secretively want to kill the weaknesses in ourselves.  We work 80+ hours a week, push ourselves to the very limits, we starve ourselves to be thin, we stay busy, busy, busy so we don’t have to face the nagging insecurities within, the ones we project on to others whom we loath and tease for not being as tough as we are.

How can we truly care for those who are weak, poor and  mentally ill if we have not learned how to have compassion on our own vulnerabilities?  If we have not yet discovered that our greatest weakness might in fact turn out to be our greatest strength?

Let us walk to the river of repentance together.  We are created to bear light, not guns.  We have a whole lot of animus energy in our culture.  And it is way out of balance.  Would Jesus carry a gun?  (Please answer no or I will call you an idiot.)

I will not send my children to a school where teachers are armed.  Because human history has taught us this:  humanity is not filled with good guys and bad guys.  People have good and bad days.  Sometimes we break down and the light is lost from our eyes.  Sometimes no one has treated us like the miracles of creation that we are.  Sometimes no one has held up a mirror so we can see the light within.  We are missing the connection to the Sacred Feminine.  It is Her bright light of compassion and wisdom that can help us care for ourselves and one another.  Her energy that can teach us how the light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot not overcome it.

So as we approach this season of Epiphany, when we recall a great star in the sky, may we remember that its brightness shines in each one of us and may we take the light we have been given to bear in this time and bathe in its beauty, carry it into the unconscious terrain so that strangers who are traveling by night a great distance away may find the humble places where love is born among us now.  If anything can help us, love can.  More love and more light.

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