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The Freedom of Movement

The Freedom of Movement

I fancy myself an amateur athlete. I love to move, to challenge myself, to constantly find facility over a physical skill. But there are modes of movement that I’ve shied away from because of a self-defeating belief that I cannot (or I am not made to) move that way.

‘You’re in over your head. You could leave right now. Nobody would know,’ I heard my inner critic say.

These beliefs have influenced specific movement patterns in my body – they are often linear and (sometimes) rigid. I run, lift weights, and move through yoga classes where poses are performed within the confines of a 2x6 foot mat. Over time I have noticed that my propensity towards these kinds movements parallels how I tend to orient within the world: I can be rigid in my thinking; I often follow rules with little question; if not attentive, I can slide into being dogmatic– focusing on the expectation or goal, forgoing my intuition, and lead myself into danger, injury, or overload.

Knowing that I have a tendency toward being overly controlled (in mind and body), I began to wonder about ways I could still enjoy the endorphins released by exercise while moving outside my proverbial fitness box. This wondering led me back to my self-effacing beliefs, to all the ways I’ve thought I was not made move: flowing, fluid, emotionally evocative, somatically dynamic.

I have always envied dancers. These artists (using their bodies as an instrument) tell stories in ways that are nothing short of miraculous. The control and skill needed to move so freely is a paradox that intrigues me. And my awe of them has always kept me an observer. My inner critic has scared me from engaging with such freedom in my own movement.

As I mused on this month’s theme of freedom here at MHT, I thought about how my inner-critic keeps me a prisoner of my own false beliefs. I know my critic functions (albeit misguidedly) to keep me safe. By assuming I am terrible at something, I don’t try. And if I don’t try, there’s no chance of failure. The critic helps me stay “good” and safe within my pre-conceived/contrived limits. 

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But what if being good isn’t the point? I know that many of my athletic pursuits are motivated by wanting to gain speed, power, strength – some measurable unit of improvement. But there I go again thinking linearly. What if mastering movement isn’t the point? What if simply being movement is the point?

This reframe in intention brought me to The Sweat Spot - an unassuming dance studio tucked between a hip vintage clothing store and vinyl record shop (it’s in Silver Lake… so go figure). My heart was pounding. I hadn’t been in a dance studio since the screeching failure that was pre-k ballet lessons. I didn’t feel like I belonged here.

I’d paid and pre-registered for a class called Gaga People. If it was a Lady Gaga themed drag queen party, I actually might have been more comfortable.

Gaga People, developed by renowned dancer and choreographer Ohad Naharin, is described as a ‘movement language’. The class facilitates space for people to tune into a deep awareness with their present physical sensations and invites exploration and interpretation of those sensations with expressive movement (i.e.- movement language). The point of the class is to be the movement, to embody the sensations that are experienced.

I had no idea what to expect. I filled out a waiver and proceeded to a small staging area with benches, cubbies, and an in-wall window into the studio space. The preceding class was finishing up. I watched in awe as dozens of dancers performed some kind of primal modern choreography. The staging area began to fill with other Gaga attendees; they seemed un-phased by the talent on display. 

“You’re in over your head. You could leave right now. Nobody would know”, I heard my inner critic say.

But what if being good isn’t the point?

Before I knew it, flushed and exuberant faces began cascading from the studio into the staging area. I pressed myself up against the closest wall and waited for my turn to walk into the studio – feeling like a cow being corralled toward the slaughterhouse.

There were more than two dozen of us - various ages, genders, ethnicities, & bodies all taking up a small portion of dance floor real estate. The instructor came to the center of the room and invited us to look at our hands and begin to move our fingers. 

“Imagine that each of your knuckles could move in all directions…” she said, “…like a ball & socket joint. Imagine and try to find as much movement in the joints of your fingers as you can find in your hips or shoulders.”

I knew (thanks to high school biology) that it was physically impossible but I was intrigued by what it felt like to try anyway. My mind was fully present in the sensations and efforts of my fingers, palms, and forearms. I had a fleeting feeling of expansiveness. I was trying to move in a way that I logically knew was impossible… and yet I acted into it anyway and felt more alive due to my effort. In that moment, I understood and embodied freedom.

Faulkner once wrote:  “We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it.” That Gaga class let me practice freedom. It helped me experience how I imprison myself, restrict my own freedoms, and how I can decide to let them go whenever I choose. 

For anyone interested in finding some embodied freedom, The Sweat Spot offers their Gaga People class Thursdays at 1pm. They’re located at 3327 Sunset Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90026.


Lauren Ziel, MSW is a Registered Associate Clinical Social Worker, ASW #76483, working under the supervision of Saralyn Masselink, LCSW . Through the use of movement and mindfulness, Lauren develops specialized treatment for anxiety, depression, eating disorders, challenges in life-stage transitions, relational difficulties, and identity/intrapersonal development.

Failure: An Expected Guest

Failure: An Expected Guest

...losing taught me freedom.

When I was in college, I was a sprinter (for you track fans out there, the 400m dash was my main event). Many, many training sessions, pairs of shoes, taped feet, and ice baths later, one of the most valuable things I gained was getting used to failure.

I’m actually pretty competitive, so don’t be misled into thinking I don’t care about winning. (Ha!) But while the drive to win taught me discipline, confidence, and focus, losing taught me freedom.

Regular public failure required me to develop a sense of security beyond success, and once I had it, I was able to freely find the edge of my capacity and risk stepping beyond it.

In my post college years, I have looked back on my experience with failure in athletics as a season of “training wheels.” The risks and failures I ventured into in that season had few real world consequences.

...I was able to freely find the edge of my capacity and risk stepping beyond it.

These days, I find that my failures often carry a much bigger ripple effect, affecting the lives of those I care about. It’s challenged me to again develop a sense of security beyond perfection. Really, no system that depends on me to be perfect is very secure, though I think it can have that illusion. “If I could just perform perfectly, things will be alright in my own life and the lives of those I care for.”

But really, things became much more secure when I got honest with myself and others about the reality of failure as part of my existence and my best efforts to help. That honesty allowed me to think of responding to my own failures as part of “normal life.” Not something to be rigidly prevented or defended against, but allowed in as an expected guest.


Allison (Allie) Ramsey is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Therapist. Allie works with individuals on a broad range of issues, including anxiety, depression, relational challenges, faith integration, divorce, and aging. 

Women are Weird

Women are Weird

We’re a little too alive to be contained by some static definition!

What does it mean to be a woman? That question will never be fully answered, and I like that. Of course, women share certain experiences, and on the whole, some common traits that we've come to label as "feminine." But unique or unusual experiences and traits spring out of us as well. We're a little too alive to be contained by some static definition!

I love that about being a woman. If there is a definition to what it means to be a woman, it's constantly being further defined or even redefined. And I think it's pretty cool to be part of that defining process. I am grateful for the legacy of women who've gone before me and were willing to be weird enough that they challenged our definition of womanhood. They stretched out the definition to give us a bit more room to roam about and find our potential. When they were willing to be weird ladies, they made it a little easier for us to be weird too. Thanks weird women. What a delightful bunch of marbles we all are!


HERE'S HOW YOU CAN PARTICIPATE IN DRESSEMBER WITH US:

Give! Visit our Dressember page and make a donation. It's that simple and no sum is too small. Truly.

Follow! Be sure to follow us on Instagram and our blog throughout the month of December. We will be documenting our fierce fashion choices but our deepest intention is to empower and educate.

Share!  Help us spread the word. You can do this by sharing our social media posts or links to our Dressember fundraising campaign page.


Allison (Allie) Ramsey is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Therapist. Allie works with individuals on a broad range of issues, including anxiety, depression, relational challenges, faith integration, divorce, and aging. 

Women are Witness

Women are Witness

Witnessing is a powerful act to bring into the world. Whether it is vocal and public or even, as I see it, private and silent, witnessing to the experience of others is a way of shining a light on what has been unseen and calling to account those responsible.

Witnessing is a powerful act to bring into the world. Whether it is vocal and public or even, as I see it, private and silent, witnessing to the experience of others is a way of shining a light on what has been unseen and calling to account those responsible. When we as women witness each other’s experiences, we stand up to the violence and aggression that women and girls experience the world over. We honor the suffering that we see by holding it in mind with compassion and demanding justice for those who have been wronged.

I see witnessing as a role of sorts, one that we can step into whenever there is cause and one in which we can be certain that our individual mind, heart, and voice has meaning and significance. If we were to look down on the earth from above, imagine that everyone who witnesses to the abuses and misuses of power here was one tiny speck of light in a sea of dark. Tiny or not, you would see them. And even if each speck were unaware of the others around it, still, the more people witnessing to the wrongs of the world, the more light there would be.

For victims of trafficking, there is mostly no justice, mostly no recourse, mostly no rescue. The cruel economics of this particular chain of supply and demand make the problem seem intractable. Even so, I take refuge in the thought that no one can take away our witness. I am encouraged by all the voices around me this December raising awareness of this issue and calling for action. Will you join us? This month, wear a dress or a tie every day to bear witness.


HERE'S HOW YOU CAN PARTICIPATE IN DRESSEMBER WITH US:

Give! Visit our Dressember page and make a donation. It's that simple and no sum is too small. Truly.

Follow! Be sure to follow us on Instagram and our blog throughout the month of December. We will be documenting our fierce fashion choices but our deepest intention is to empower and educate.

Share!  Help us spread the word. You can do this by sharing our social media posts or links to our Dressember fundraising campaign page.


Monica Green, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist, PSY 27391, specializing in depression, anxiety, trauma, relationship issues and psychological aspects of chronic health conditions.

When *FOE leads to FOMO: A Millennial’s *Fear Of Engaging in Real Life

When *FOE leads to FOMO: A Millennial’s *Fear Of Engaging in Real Life

I am part of a generation that has grown up in-tandem with the emergence of social technology — the dial-up modem tone (along with No Doubt’s ‘Tragic Kingdom’) was the soundtrack to my pre-teen years, my Motorola razor flip phone was a kind of social status symbol in middle school, and my freshman year of college was punctuated by deciding between cementing my online identity on either MySpace or Facebook.

But putting my farcical tone aside, it is sobering to look at my developmental timeline paralleling the proliferation of technology. How has this impacted my trajectory and that of my peers’? In what ways has it helped and/or hindered our humanness? 

On a positive note, technology has given me a way to grow my knowledge and expose me to things I may otherwise remain naïve to. But with all that real (and valuable) information to absorb, I admit a moderate pre-occupation with the curated perfection friends/followers/influencers present regarding their latest exotic adventure or gastronomical endeavor.

While this in and of itself does not dismay me outright (except perhaps the amount of time I spend scrolling aimlessly), it is more that I often times find myself preferring to consume the stories and public content of my online friends to having actual in-person interactions with them. With an internal gasp, my anxious self-criticizing voice pipes in: “Are you some kind of voyeuristic sociopath”?

Turkle further cautions that not only are ‘… we not making the time because we feel we don’t have the time, [as a result] we’re losing the skills that we get from talking to each other face-to-face: skills of negotiation, reading each other’s emotion, having to face the complexity of confrontation, dealing with complex emotion, and [navigating] confrontation.’

Thankfully, author and researcher Sherry Turkle, who has been studying the effects of digital culture on young people for over 15 years, can provide some sobering information to quash my paranoia. She reports social media is contributing to people choosing simplified communication over unpredictable yet meaningful conversation.

In her work, she asks my fellow millennials why real conversation is something to avoid. A common response is: “You can't control what you're going to say, and you don't know how long it's going to take or where it could go.” She goes on to identify that “…this is the kind of thing that people feel they don't have time for in their incredibly busy [and stressed] lives…and it's what people are getting used to - not wanting to make space for [conversation] emotionally.”

Turkle further cautions that not only are “… we not making the time because we feel we don't have the time, [as a result] we’re losing the skills that we get from talking to each other face-to-face: skills of negotiation, reading each other's emotion, having to face the complexity of confrontation, dealing with complex emotion, and [navigating] confrontation.”

Her words ring so true for me. It’s as though my time interfacing with well… anything except a real face…has left me little chance to develop the competency to negotiate the rich complexity of interpersonal interaction. Rather, my mind is too busy playing catch-up to the tsunami of content available at my fingertips. In this regard, I am the modern every (wo)man; as convenient access to content increases, consumption of it increases; and in turn, the less time/energy is available to do things that are less convenient (say have a face-to-face conversation) and, therefore, we do it less.

My glowing screen has become the proverbial Great Wall of content – it is hard to escape its reach and it provides an illusion of safety from the uncertainty of unscripted dialogue with others. But it’s lonely behind the wall - a space paradoxically full yet empty. Perhaps I have to face my fears of engaging in an unpredictable world full of unpredictable humans. I guess my Fear of Engaging (FOE) is what is giving me real FOMO.


Lauren Ziel, MSW is a Registered Associate Clinical Social Worker, ASW #76483, working under the supervision of Gabrielle Taylor, PhD. Through the use of movement and mindfulness, Lauren develops specialized treatment for anxiety, depression, eating disorders, challenges in life-stage transitions, relational difficulties, and identity/intrapersonal development.

Slowness

Slowness

Slowness to me is the quality of pausing from deep within.

This poetic piece is about the author's experience at a yoga and reiki sound bath. Its structure and tone is intended to parallel the sense of slowness that she is describing.

Slowness to me is the quality of pausing from deep within.

The slowness in my life comes from deep breathing, grounding and connecting to my senses through smell, sound, touch and feeling my thoughts float away as I move through postures and become enveloped in the reverberation from the singing bowls.

As my instructor leads us through a meditative practice, I find a kind voice within myself that honors the stillness in my busy day, and I begin to feel a sense of belonging and connectedness to the universe.

As sage fills the air and my feet hit the mat, I take a deep breath. I let go of the day's struggles and release the tightness in my body. I notice the heat in the air and the smells in the room as more and more tension is released. I have a sense of slowing down and oneness. When my instructor guides us through a chant of gratitude, my heart swells and my feet feel firmly planted once again.

Yoga,

sound,

and meditation

bring slowness to my being. 


Maria Elena Marquez, MA, is a bilingual Spanish-English Marriage and Family Therapist Intern, IMF #103470, working under the supervision of Michelle Harwell, PsyD, LMFT.  As an art therapist, Maria is passionate about helping clients unravel complex cultural beliefs and family pressures through the use of expressive art.

Granny Joy

Granny Joy

When thinking about what I would write on the topic of joy, my mind immediately landed on my paternal grandmother. Her name is Simcha, which means Joy in Hebrew. I used to call her “Granny Joy.” She would have been 100 years old this past year if she were still here in physical form.

[Joy] seems like an internal state that comes from our being, and it seems tied to being able to feel present in the moment.

What strikes me as significant about my grandmother and JOY, is that she experienced tragedy and struggle in her life, yet, by the time I got to meet her, her joy seemed to be so available regardless. Granted, she had seven children, 16 grandchildren, and twenty-something great grandchildren to feel joyful about, (well, and to worry about), but there was and is something very meaningful and significant to me about my grandmother and joy.

If my grandmother were alive and I asked her what gave her the most joy, outside of her family, she hands down would have said gardening. And why gardening? Because it took her mind off of everything and brought her into the present moment with beauty, with the earth, with the roses, with the poppies, the squash, the green beans, the peach tree, the avocado tree, plum tree, and the fig tree. It brought her hands into the earth – into the soil with the seeds.

My grandmother could laugh, and she did – a lot. She laughed in conversation with others - this joyful laughter that seemed to come when she was in the company of others.

As I mentioned, she experienced loss and heartache and pain, just like the rest of us, yet this didn’t seem to interfere with her ability to feel joy. Yes, during those times of great suffering, I imagine it absolutely interfered. But in her life, in general, there was this ability to find the joy again and again by doing things that spoke to her soul, to her being. Gardening and family were those things for her. She didn’t seem to need to chase the joy, she seemed to connect to what she loved and the joy would start coming through her.

In thinking about my grandmother, how I experience joy, and how my friends have described their experiences with it to me, it seems like an internal state that comes from our being, and it seems tied to being able to feel present in the moment.

The safety, security and feeling of love I feel when I think of my Granny Joy, of Simcha, feels deeply rooted in her love for her family, her ability to nurture us and her own ability to connect to the JOY that she could bring through her. There is something safe and nurturing about joy - something that feels organic, authentic, deeply alive, and available to everyone.


Michelle Levy, PhD, is a Registered Psychological Assistant #PSB94024010 working under the supervision of Gabrielle Taylor, PhD. Dr. Levy’s clinical interests focus on parenting practices, attachment, child mental health and developmental concerns, as well as the effects of trauma on youth, families and communities. 

Inherited Joy

Inherited Joy

For as long as I can remember, I have heard how special it is that I share a middle name with my mother. While I have always felt it to be true, it was only recently that I have embraced the particular significance of sharing our name “Joy." I have realized that in the passing along of the name, my mother also imparted the tools in which to access joy, and that is through play. One of my earliest joys was playing with my mom - running, jumping, laughing, dancing, exploring nature - she never held back with me when it came to having fun and playing hard.

Joy is the feeling of freedom I experience when I reconnect with my more child-like self.

Now, in the juggling of adult responsibilities and everyday stressors, along with overwhelming media stories of the pain and suffering of others in this world, it has become increasingly important to feel connected to that deep, inner child-like joy.  While it’s tempting to chase the most exhilarating, joyous heights, I recognize that finding joy in the mundane is what brings me buoyancy; shielding me against all the things that can mar my fullest perspective on life.

Joy is the feeling of freedom I experience when I reconnect with my more child-like self, often times through play, but sometimes even just in the reminder of things that I loved as a child. These moments are available to me as long as I create the space in my day for them. A great example, and a peek into my silly world, is how I stop to say hello to the squirrels on my daily, on-foot commute around town. I’m well aware this may sound a bit kooky, but I find great joy in connecting with one of my favorite animals and reminding myself of the fun I had chasing and playing with the squirrels in the trees that surrounded my childhood home.  

What’s in a name? So much more than I had recognized before.


Lauren Joy Furutani, MA, LMFT, helps individuals and families of all ethnic and faith backgrounds maneuver through the unexpected turns in life.

In Love and In Good Humor

In Love and In Good Humor

It wasn’t until the 1680s that the word humor began to refer to something amusing or comic. I learned of this by venturing down an Internet rabbit hole

When we say that we’re looking for a love interest with a sense of humor, I think we’re wondering: Can this person roll with the punches of life? Can they respect their own eccentricities and will they accept and love my eccentricities?

When I realized that humor was the theme marking the conclusion of our Humans of MHT interview series, I was delighted by the linguistic serendipity - humor and humanness. I assumed that the two words were etymologically linked. However, when I did a cursory Google search, I found evidence to the contrary. Humor comes from the Latin words “humere” (to be moist) and “humor” (liquid, moistness). Human, on the other hand, is borrowed from the Latin words “homo” (man, human) and “humanus” (of or belonging to man, human, humane). 

No close historical relation after all. 

But it didn’t matter. I was newly delighted by dangling carrots — and it was all about humor as a word for state of mind or mood, not as a reference to something funny. I had stumbled upon an article about humorism - a system of medicine, adopted by ancient Greek and Roman physicians and philosophers, that attributes particular mental states to an excess or deficiency of four distinct bodily fluids in a person, known as humors. In this system, both mental and physical health are dependent on a balance of four primary humors: bile, black bile, phlegm, and blood, and therefore, a person could have a melancholic, bilious, phlegmatic or sanguine temperament. My initial thought was: Huh — there’s something very apropos about this connection because any comedian worth their salt has a zinger about our most embarrassing human secretions.

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As I dug deeper, I read that language evolved from speaking of temperament (He’s in ill-humor/She’s in good humor) to “humoring” someone’s mood or whim, and then finally referring to something that could alter someone’s mood by making them laugh. In the 17th century, humor then became synonymous with “imbalance" and "eccentricity of character.” I had an aha moment -- that was the key between humor and humanness! No need for these threads to be linked by the same root word. They were already inextricably tied together in my understanding of a lasting partnership, but I didn't have the turn of phrase to more fully articulate it until my eyes landed on eccentricity of character. What clicked was....When I think about someone’s humanness, I reflect on their particularities, foibles, oddities, or difference. The prickly bits and the rough edges are the most human. In relationship, it is the ability to negotiate eccentricities rather than strive for sameness or perfect complementarity that I believe provides sturdiness to weather the storms of life together.

According to eHarmony, “Almost every person has ‘sense of humor’ high on the list of things they want in a partner.” That rings emotionally true — that’s certainly what my people in my personal life value in their significant others. And it’s something that I cherish in my partner. This conviction was also declared in Lauren Ziel's interview with comedy producer Andi Porter, in which Porter stated “I would have a sack of potatoes as a partner as long as they had a great sense of humor.”  When we say that we’re looking for a love interest with a sense of humor, I think we’re wondering: Can this person roll with the punches of life? Can they respect their own eccentricities and will they accept and love my eccentricities? And for me, specifically, can they humor my searching for things equally inane and profound online? 


Taz MorganMA, is an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist, IMF #99714, working under the supervision of Gabrielle Taylor, PhD. She has trained in Depth-oriented psychotherapy and works with adolescents, adults, and couples.