For most of my life, I've been guided by a fierce protector: Perfectionism. "If I just get it right, anything and everything, then I am ok... safe from harm". It worked pretty well at school. It worked pretty well at home too. It even seemed to work well with my childhood friends. As long as I got it all right, then everything was fine. No boat was rocked. No color went outside the lines. No one's feathers were ruffled.
Protectors start as a clever response to a tight situation. When they help us out a couple times, they develop into automated patterns that later often limit us. Since perfectionism served me so well as a kid, it stuck around well into adulthood.
I caught glimpses of how it held me back over the years, like when I would be introduced to a new and exciting activity. Anything new meant potentially getting something wrong, so I was inclined to walk away, find a creative exit, add it to my to do list and never ever do it. There was no room for mistakes. No room for failure. No room for not getting it right away. That spelled disaster... danger... not safe.
Somewhere in there was a hurt little girl who kept trying to put order, a sense of rightness, into her chaotic, frightening, and overwhelming world.
When we become aware of our protectors, we are also able to dialog with them. They can tell us why they show up, what role they play, and what they need. In all my years of working with my own and others' protectors, I have yet to encounter one who did not eventually confess to being utterly exhausted and in desperate need of a new way of coping.
Perfectionist-Me, my most revered Protector, was far beyond tired.
Protectors form armoring that hardens our muscles, tightens our connective tissue, congests our lungs and sinuses, and rigidifies our thinking. Metal, the material of which armors are made and the element associated with the autumn season in Chinese medicine, has taught me a great deal about working with protective patterns.
In autumn we get to witness the death of the growing season, the end of a cycle. We also get to witness the subtle beginning of a new cycle, which often starts with observing the spacious absence of what once was. As witnesses to the ebb and flow of life, we find authentic safety, one that is truly aligned with who we are now and what we need now. Not yesterday. Not when we were two or three. But right now.
Whenever "I gotta be right" arises in me, I consciously shift my attention to "I gotta be right now."
I tell Perfectionist-Me that I see her, that I see how hard she's working to protect me, and that I also see the scared little girl behind the shield. With the little girl's hand in mind, we take time to breathe, time to study the present moment, time to see what is truly needed right now and how to go about receiving it. Usually, within a few minutes, I can feel my own Presence again, and experience myself as the okayness in which ok and not-ok arise and dissolve.
If you are working to manage limiting protective patterns like perfectionism, I encourage you to schedule an acupressure session with me. Together we can find the way to understand and honor the protector, release the physical holding, and make room for your authentic self to shine bright like the gem that you are. New to acupressure? Enjoy 10% off your first session (expires Dec 1; discount applied at in-person check out).
Want to learn more about the metal element? Check out these workshops:
YOGA NIDRA & ACUPRESSURE FOR AUTUMN EASE
SUNDAY, NOV 17, 2:00-3:30PM
BLUE HERON WELLNESS
10723-B COLUMBIA PIKE, SILVER SPRING, MD
Sign up now @ shiraozsinai.com/autumn-ease.
AUTUMN WORKSHOP: YOGA NIDRA FOR CONNECTING WITH ANIMAL WIT
SATURDAY, NOV 23, 2:00 - 4:00PM
SPECTRUM CENTER FOR NATURAL MEDICINE
8555 16TH STREET, SUITE #402, SILVER SPRING, MD
Sign up now @ shiraozsinai.com/autumn-vision-quest.
Plus, enjoy the FREE YOGA NIDRA MEDITATION in the post below!
May we all honor our Protectors and, with their help, reach the shielded parts of ourselves that desperately long for our Presence,
-- Shira Oz-Sinai
This Sunday marks the autumn equinox, a moment in which the length of day is equal to the length of night. This is an auspicious time to meditate on balance in our lives, and particularly the balance between our Infinite Spirit and Finite Body.
How do we nourish our spirit while also taking good care of our bodies, homes, and families? How do we find time to meditate, journal, and stretch while also tending to the laundry, groceries, and cleaning? How do we make choices based on our gut wisdom while also receiving the support of the clear-thinking mind?
In Chinese medicine, the autumn season relates to those precious gems hidden right below the surface of our waking consciousness. Intuitive instincts, inner knowing, and animal wit--these are the tools we all have that guide us in flowing with life's currents while also staying anchored into our inner peace.
If you've got a few minutes on your own this Sunday (or some time in the next few days), light a candle, connect with your body, connect with your spirit, and set an intention as to how you wish to experience autumn.
And if you're free Sunday evening, join me for a group meditation on autumn, a setting of intentions, and a practical yet magical and playful game of oracle cards to draw on the wisdom within!
MEDITATIVE CARD NIGHT: A PLAYFUL AUTUMN WORKSHOP
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 22 (AUTUMN EQUINOX!)
5:00PM - 7:00PM
@ THE SPECTRUM CENTER FOR NATURAL MEDICINE
8555 16TH ST., SUTE #402, SILVER SPRING, MD 20910
Register @ shiraozsinai.com/autumn-meditative-card-night.
May you always know that which is in balance always--your Presence,
-- Shira Oz-Sinai
P.S. For a reflection on the coming autumn and a couple tips for transitioning with greater ease, check out my last email/blog post, Autumn at the Door.
Fall is not about letting go, rather it's about witnessing what is already passing. Perhaps it’s a question of semantics, but I find the nuanced difference absolutely crucial in supporting us to move through autumn with greater ease.
The ancient Chinese scholars who studied the fall element must have seen much of what we’re seeing now: trees shedding leaves, migratory birds departing, flowers dying. Underneath the surface is an energetic impulse to draw in, to conserve, to release what no longer serves in preparation for the cold months ahead. No wonder it’s been characterized as the season of letting go!
While the mind might think that we can let go at will, we never actually make a decision to let go, do we? We don’t wake up one morning next to a partner whom we love and get along with perfectly and decide, “I want a divorce!” We don’t wake up to a fulfilling and truly rewarding job and decide, “I’m gonna quit!” No, we wake up to the realization that the relationship or job is no longer serving. There’s no decision making, there’s witnessing.
Witnessing means an honest look at the way things are, the natural cycle of life, how all things begin and all things end. When we witness rather than attempt to let go, a space opens up for us to tend to ourselves with great care. It’s an opportunity to see what’s departing and how it has acted in our lives, thank it for what it has given us, mourn its departure, and bid it farewell.
Painful? Very likely. But as recent news or events in life push our grievances up to the surface, the focus on witnessing keeps us in the seat of the observer. When we sit, as a friend, with the discomfort, agony, nostalgia, deep sorrow, and any other emotion that arises, deep healing takes place because we are meeting our experience from the warmth of our never-born, never-dying infinite presence. And that is key to finding greater ease in autumn, and in life.
Need support this season? Experiencing an ending? Want to sit together and tend to the emotions, sensations, and thoughts that are arising? I'm here. Email, call, or book a session @ schedulicity.com/scheduling/SORJJM/services. The next couple of days are fully booked, but there are a bunch of openings next week. See link to schedule.
May witnessing what's being released reveal to you the precious gem that you are,
-- Shira Oz-Sinai
P.S. Please leave a comment and tell me how autumn is showing up for you!
At the recent Befriending Yourself: Spring Meditation Retreat (pictures here), I shared with participants that to me the characteristic sensation of the spring element in Chinese medicine is discomfort.
It’s not the discomfort of hurt exactly. Nor that of an ache per se. It’s more the discomfort of having outgrown where you’ve been without quite being ready for what’s next. Not yet.
Many of us are experiencing such discomfort right now. The temperature goes up, then down. The winter coat comes on, then off. When is spring coming? Have we outgrown winter yet? When can I go out and play? This is so uncomfortable!!!
Perhaps when the decision has to do with whether or not to grab that winter coat, the stakes are fairly low. But when you’re pondering leaving your job, going back to school, having another child, taking on some new role, starting a relationship, moving to a new home, making a career leap… well, the gains and losses feel quite significant then.
How do we know when is the right time to make a move? To grow in a new direction? To leave what we have come to know and spring into the next… unknown… uncharted… big big step?
When discomfort arises, I like to remind myself that it's natural. It's natural to feel agitated, restless, and uncomfortable. This is a feeling tone that pulsates with a desire for change, for growth, to blossom!
So next time you notice discomfort, sit with it for a moment if you can. Tell the feeling you wish to know what it’s about. Ask it, “What vision would you like to share with me? What decision do you wish for me to make? What action are you pointing me to?” Listen intently and together you may find exactly when and how you grow.
May discomfort reveal to you the unfolding of your greatness,
-- Shira Oz-Sinai
Our human bodies are brilliant mechanisms. When faced with imminent danger, they immediately react with a series of internal shifts and changes that prepare us to flee or fight for our survival. The "on" switch for this is, of course, the experience of fear.
Let's say you're walking outside and all of the sudden you see a poisonous snake, or you're pulling the door open to a coffee shop just as someone carrying an open mug of hot tea is pushing the door out. The fear of an injury or harm (or worse) will pump your body with enough force to take off at the sight of the snake (i.e. flee) or shove the arm that holds the mug to the side without any hot liquid burning you (i.e. fight).
I'll leave the detailed biological explanation of what exactly happens in the sympathetic nervous system and the adrenal-cortical system to the experts, but I would like to call our attention to the role fear plays in igniting these intricate and involuntary processes that keep us alive when we come up against a threat. If fear is what starts these survival processes, then fear is like a key that unlocks wise old instincts, impulses, and abilities that naturally remain unconscious, or dormant, until they're needed.
Perhaps it's easier to acknowledge the wisdom that fear unlocks when it allows us to run from a hazardous reptile or fend off a 3rd degree burn. But it's likely a lot harder to perceive the wisdom fear is pointing us to when it arises at the memory of a long-ago elementary school incident or an upcoming presidency.
In Chinese Medicine, the emotion of fear is related to the season of winter (more on this at THIS Sunday's workshop). Acupuncturist Debra Kaatz writes, "The Chinese say that fear is governed by our sense of ourself. When we trust, then this trust dissolves all fear" (Characters of Wisdom, 443).
In non-immediately-life-threatening situations, instead of attempting to defeat fear, push through it, or get rid of it somehow, you may want to turn your attention to fear and ask it what wisdom it can reveal to you today. If you take time to notice fear, see it as the wisdom-pointer that it is, and make it your ally, you may find yourself in agreement with the ancient Taoist text that suggests, "Whoever can see through all fear will always be safe" (Tao Te Ching, Ch. 46, Stephen Mitchell's Translation).
May you always see fear for the friend it is and feel safe in its midst,
P.S. Not sure what I mean? Want to inquire into this some more? Join me in an upcoming meditation or private session.
Could fear be a pointer to your own wisdom?
Shira Oz-Sinai is a spiritual teacher trained in iRest® Yoga Nidra meditation and Soul Lightening Acupressure®, two modalities that share the common principle of noticing what arises in awareness as the foundation to living life with ease and in deep and loving friendship with yourself. These are her musings.