Grief, Grit, and Grace-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

The Complexity of Grief

Grief, Grit, and Grace Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Grief is a normal response to loss that changes our familiar orientation to the world. We must adapt to this new and often unwanted reality. This post is part of a series exploring grief and loss with a deepened focus on the complexity of the process.

Sometimes loss brings up our unfulfilled hopes and wishes that things had been different. Sometimes we also have loving and tender memories to reflect upon. This range of complex and conflicting emotions is part of what makes grief so challenging. Having an understanding of the neuroscience of grief can illuminate ways that we can navigate that complexity. Take the time to attend to your unique experience as you move through your process of grief, grit, and grace.

“The holistic organization of who you are as a person cannot be reduced to neuroscience, nor to one set of emotional responses. Just as the music that comes from a well played violin is more than the strings, the bridge, or the bow, you too are more than the sum of your parts.”
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Healing Grief and Loss-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

The Sacred Journey of Grief

Resilience and Post Traumatic Growth Dr. Arielle Schwartz Boulder, CO

Inevitably, grief changes you. You can never go back to the world as you knew it because you are not the same. As a result you may feel as though you’ve been sent into the wilderness without a map. However, knowing models of the grief process and descriptions of the common experiences can help you find your bearings.

The process of grief is a circuitous journey. A path made of many small stones. Each step forward might feel like a micro-movement but overtime you forge new trails; loop around landmarks until, eventually, new territory becomes familiar.

“I believe grief and loss is a sacred journey. To relate to death asks us to reflect on what it means to be alive. This process is an initiation. Maybe you discover new strength, your capacity to persevere, or the necessity to surrender and let go. When death touches our lives we are reminded that it is a profound act of courage to engage in life, knowing that loss and pain can and will happen.”
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Holistic Transformation-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Sustained Change

Holistic Transformation Dr. Arielle Schwartz

The late yoga master B.K.S. Iyengar said, “Change leads to disappointment if it is not sustained. Transformation is sustained change, and it is achieved through practice.”

This quote got me thinking.

“I began to think about my daily and weekly practices. The ones that help me feel grounded, clear, and ready to face each day. I thought about the tools that re-energize me when I feel drained. It became clear that what keeps me in balance is to have consistent practices that support my whole being: physically, psychologically, and spiritually. I think of this as holistic transformation; an engagement in daily practices that organize body and mind towards wellbeing. Ultimately all of our transformational practices are about coming closer to our true nature.”
-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

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A Tribute to David Bowie-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes

David Bowie Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Never in the history of my work as a psychologist has the death of a musician entered the therapy room so powerfully. I can imagine similar collective waves of grief and anger after the assassination of John Lennon. Assertively I heard again and again throughout the week some version of “I am who I am today because of him” and “he gave me the courage to be myself.” This week’s post is in honor of you, David Bowie. You have left your mark on our world. Continue reading

Will and Surrender-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Challenge and Ease

yoga for holiday stress Dr. Arielle Schwartz

I was in a yoga practice earlier this week engaged in a relatively uncomfortable hold in a deep lunge. Had I been practicing at home I might have avoided this posture all together or only stayed in it for a few breaths. However, I went to a class that I knew would encourage me to go a little deeper. So, there I was, feeling the burn in my right thigh, listening to the voice in my head that said “out,” fighting the distracting urge to escape the moment. Suddenly, doing the dishes and folding the laundry seemed way more appealing.

As I continued to sustain my lunge another thought arose, “You chose this challenge.” My entire experience shifted. “Nobody is making me stay here. I can exit into child’s pose and that is a completely valid option. It’s up to me.” This time I chose to stay, directing my attention fully on the breath, the sensations in my right leg, and the feeling of my feet firmly grounded into my yoga mat. When we finally released out of the pose and came forward into Samasthiti (equal standing) pose I felt a deep satisfaction of a profoundly awake mind and body.

My Kripalu yoga teacher training emphasized that will and surrender are polarities that need to exist in balance; like two wings of a bird that need to function in tandem to create flight. Too much force and we risk becoming rigid and hard. Too much emphasis on surrender and we risk becoming stagnant or over-flexible. A beautiful metaphor for life.

“So how do we know when to challenge ourselves and when to emphasize ease? The truth is nobody gets to answer this question for you. There will be phases in all of our lives when we have the capacity to say “I want more; bring it on!” And there will be times when we are already weighed down by life’s challenges. Here we might say “I can barely get out of bed; life is hard enough, I cannot handle any more stress.” The balance of will and surrender is one that evolves to match the ever changing phases of our lives.”
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My Gratitude List-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Feeling Grateful

Heart and Head

As the year comes to a close it is a good time to reflect back on goals and intentions I had set back in January. Often these reflections are uplifting and joyful but I also notice how sometimes my mind starts to focus on the negative. What didn’t I do that I had hoped to accomplish. What is missing from my life?

Unfortunately, I got so caught up in the negative spin that I lost some sleep over it the other night. I started to experience angst over my insufficiencies and harped on my faults. Once I caught on that I was in the tornado of despair I knew it was time to ground myself focus by focusing on the good.

“From the silence of my bed, in the dark of the night, I began to reflect on what I had to be grateful for. Quickly this began to flip the long told (and sometimes believed) mental script of deficiency to a narrative of fullness. The anxiety that had been flooding my body ceased and a deep calm took over. I imagined myself surrounded by loving, caring people. I settled deeper into the bed. I could literally feel fear leave my body and calm fill the space that I created for myself with warmth. Here’s what worked for me…”
-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

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5 Mindfulness Myths-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Demystifying Mindfulness

mindfulness myths Dr. Arielle Schwartz Boulder, Co

What is mindfulness really? In short, it is the practice of paying attention. But, we tend to “jump ship” from the present moment when we feel uncomfortable emotionally. We avoid feeling our discomfort by distracting ourselves or pushing people away. We all do it, it’s human. However, the world needs us to show up, now.

The world is calling for authentic presence and requires that we be with emotions in healthy ways. Unsupported grief can result in feeling isolated from our community. Ignored fear and rage can turn into violence that kills. Cultivating mindfulness is about broadening our capacity to be with ourselves and others even when we feel uncomfortable.

“There are common myths and misconceptions that mindfulness is a religion, or about fixing ourselves, or about seeking enlightenment. However, mindfulness is really about showing up in the world to be with life as it is. Anything in life can be used to separate us from the world or to bring us closer to each other. At any moment you have a choice about how you want to live your life.”
-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

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Yoga for Holiday Stress-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

‘Tis the Season for Balance

Yoga for Holiday Stress Dr. Arielle Schwartz

The holiday season is quickly approaching; the time of year that is celebrated for being joyful but is frequently stressful. As we approach the darkness of the winter solstice we often feel a natural inclination to rest and take time out from our busy lives. However, this season tends to be socially packed and emotionally demanding. It can be hard to maintain a sense of inner peace when we feel over-extended or resentful.

Our yoga practice encourages us to live in the moment but this is easier said than done. Especially when we “shop ‘til we drop”, face frequent temptations to overeat or drink, and push ourselves to keep up with social demands. Maybe you face the stress of holiday travels or the stress of family demands. It can be easy to feel like we are “not enough.”

“Yoga for holiday stress helps you find balance this season. These practices, both on and off of the yoga mat, help us to stay realistic about our commitments and prevent overextending beyond our limits. It is impossible to feel thankful and overwhelmed at the same time. So, set an intention to slow down, move, and breathe. Becoming quiet and reflective, you create the space for authentic feelings and gratitude to arise naturally. Then, you can truly connect to your loved ones and give the gifts of your heart.”
-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

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Resources for Trauma Part II-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Healing Emotions

Resources for Trauma Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Some of us wear our feelings on our sleeves and some have a hard time showing our true colors. These patterns of emotional expression tend to get amplified when we have faced loss or trauma. We might struggle with emotions that feel “too big” or we attempt to avoid people and places that bring up uncomfortable or frightening feelings.

Healing trauma involves reclaiming a sense of choice about how, when, and where you feel your emotions. For example, you do not want to process traumatic memories in the grocery store or when you are parenting your children. You want to have safe and predictable places and ways to feel and process through difficult life events.

This post is Part II in a series of blogs offering resources for trauma recovery aimed to strengthen your resilience. Part I focuses on your ability to reclaim a sense of safety. This post guides you through practices aimed to help you feel grounded and contained; two key skills for managing emotional overwhelm.

“Reclaiming a healthy relationship to our emotions entails reflecting upon the earliest education we’ve had about feelings; the messages we received in childhood. When a parent soothes our anxieties or helps us grieve losses we literally surrender into the feeling of being contained and grounded. The messages we received as children shape our experiences and become our inner voices into adulthood. You can learn how to hold your emotions in a loving way, to repair the wounds of the past.”
-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

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Resources for Trauma Recovery-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Create Peace

Resources for Trauma Recovery Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Traumatic events disrupt life, leaving you feeling ungrounded, frightened, and often overwhelmed. Terrifying events strip you of your sense of safety. You might start to avoid places and people that remind you of the trauma. You might have ongoing panic, anxiety, or nightmares. When this continues over time these are signs that you have developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

You can reclaim a sense of safety. Resources for trauma recovery are practices you can use to strengthen your resilience. “Resources” are the internal and external tools that allow you to feel grounded in the present moment and safe.

“Mahatma Gandhi said that we must ‘be the change we want to see in the world.’ Creating a peaceful environment in your home and nurturing yourself through healing visualizations are predictable steps on the path to healing PTSD. When you carry yourself in the world with a peaceful, calm demeanor you inevitably contribute to the wellbeing of others.”
-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

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