Seeking Balance: The door to self-exploration

by Allie Klun

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Balance. A small word with big meaning. It's a word that we often use to describe a state of mind and being that many of us would like to be in. With popular references to "work / life balance", "balanced diets", "balancing our schedules", it's clear that balance is a desire that we seek in almost all areas of our life.

So how do we achieve it? How do we balance our workloads, our responsibilities, our health, our life? These are the questions many of us seek answers to with hope in our hearts for things to be better, for circumstances to improve. It is also when these questions are asked that the door of exploration appears. 

Now, I wish there was a simple prescription or routine that when enacted brought all people back into balance. But unfortunately,  this is not the case.

Balance is an individual and personal exploration. It is a series of continuous shifts and changes over time, in all areas of our life. The recipe for restoring balance is as unique as each and every one of us is. When we start to explore balance it becomes the beginning of a blueprint, a map of who we are and who we are meant to become. When we recognize this uniqueness, this individualized approach to balance, the door begins to open and we are invited to embark on a wonderful adventure.

When we dedicate the time, space and effort to direct our attention to the areas of our lives that feel "out of balance", we are able to see possibilities and potential we might never have known we had. If we simply complain about the lack of balance in our careers, schedules, and lives we will continue to feel "off", often resulting in physical ailments and unresolved issues in our mind and our life.

Here I could list click-worthy, catch all tips like "eat healthier!", "exercise more!", "meditate!" to get you started (well, I actually do recommend all of those!) But I also know the importance of a dedicated and individualized approach to this pursuit of balance. It is not always as simple as it is made out to be, and it's often helpful to have someone to consult with as you move through the world of wellness.

Starting the journey of exploring what it means to come back into balance is a practice. And it is often a journey that calls for teachers, nourishment and support along the way. As a Wellness Consultant, I would be honored to help support you on your journey. 

If you are ready to begin your exploration of what it means to be balanced, we invite you to take the first step by scheduling a complimentary Wellness Consultation at Zazen.

Book your free consultation now.

I look forward to meeting you and assisting you on your journey!

Allie

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Do Real Men Cry?

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by Frank Ehrenfried

The problem really starts with defining what is considered a "real man". That definition is as varied as there are humans on this planet. Yet something powerful happens when the question is asked. A little gap is created to look at all the conditioning that encodes itself into our brains and bodies through images, symbols, myths, stories and beliefs. As childhood fades and teenagehood hits us in the face, the power of socialization can lock many men into an invisible prison. A prison they cannont see, nor touch, nor smell. A prison for their emotional lives.

So what on earth does this prison look like and how do we become aware of its impact on our lives? Thankfully a group of film makers asked this question in a documentary called "The Mask You Live In". Chronicling the story of American men and their struggles with stress, overwhelm, isolation and relationships, the movie reveals how destructive elements of masculinity can turn vibrant young boys into frustrated and lonely adults.

Reading a recent interview with the director, it was startling to discover the statistics that motivated them to create the film. Jennifer Newson (lead director) found that in the United States boys, compared to girls, were more likely to be diagnosed with a behavior disorder, more likely to be prescribed medication, more likely to binge drink, more likely to stay out of school, more likely to commit a violent crime, and more likely to take their own life...But why?

In the course of the film a powerful picture is painted showing how boys are systematically taught to reject aspects of their own humanity. What is left outside the realm of acceptable in their conditioning often includes empathy, emotional regulation, connection, community and expression of their inner world (aka feelings). Many by the age of adulthood no longer have access to these parts of themselves, much less are aware of how it negatively impacts their current relationships and state of wellbeing.

Reflecting on my own life, I felt a deep connection to the message of the movie. While I still am terrified to confront the contents my own mind, I realize that only by seeing what lies in there am I able to become aware of what drives my habits. So many of the inner programs and belief systems I am controlled by were inputed without my consent. Many of the role models I looked up to expressed the most extreme versions of masculinity, hyper-sexuality and an adoration of intellect, money and power. There had to be more to being a man than just this...

In an attempt to embrace a fuller range of experience and expression I stepped into the unknown. This required a new map for the territory and I took to constructing a cartography of masculinity that went beyond the invisible prison.

Map making isn`t easy, especially when the territory can be full of painful pitfalls. Taking time away from the busy "doing" of life, I found myself drawn to some of the most creative tools available for becoming more aware. While I love taking the lone wolf approach, this new path required a leap of faith. It asked that I reach out for help in ways that often made me feel ashamed.

While asking for help at first felt awkward, I eventually got over it. Through a powerful slew of tools such as flotation tanks, acupuncture, therapy, breath-work, mindfulness and nature, I plotted a new course. I intentionally joined communities that shared my new values and were open to walking a similar path of self-knowledge and exploration. These communities and practices helped me find parts of myself that I had split off or abandoned growing up. While the process will always be a work in progress, my new map is no longer based on all the most extreme elements of masculinity. I now have room to fully be myself and find connection in ways that I choose, helping me feel more alive than ever. As former NFL Coach and Player Joe Ehrmann remarks in the documentary...it`s time to end this hyper-masculine narrative right here! Its end with me and it can end with you too.

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Check out the trailer for "The Mask You Live In" below.

Swallow you smile

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 I was traveling in Bali a few years ago, and through some… serendipity, synchronicity, divine play of the universe… however you want to look at it… I came to visit a Balinese healer. I was seeking relief for my chronic sinus infections and seemingly low immune system. 

This healer was gentle and had a radiant warmth. I'd seen an acupuncturist before, but something about this felt extra special. Similar to a reflex point, he pressed at points on my feet and toes. I didn't feel much, and then at one point, it felt like he had taken a knife to my toe and stabbed up my leg. I yelped, and he said, “Ah, Heart.” 

My body was shocked from the pain that had just electrified my body, but my heart didn’t hurt. Heart? What does he mean? 

He brought over to a mirror. “Look at yourself in the mirror and Smile.” 

Smiling feels natural for me…. so I did this. 

Then he followed up with. “Grab your smile in the mirror, open your mouth, and swallow it. Swallow your smile while you wrap your arms around you and hug yourself.” 

I remember laughing a bit… definitely feeling confused. 

He continued:

“Swallow your smile, deep into your solar plexus. The smile will heal your organs, the smile will heal your heart, then the smile will open your mind. If your mind is worried, it cannot take care of your body. Open mind will heal the organs. You have hurt and scars on your heart. Smiling will heal your heart. It will Open your heart.” 

I thought I’d hear that I needed to eat more quinoa, get more sleep, maybe drink more green juice. I felt like he’d hit something deep, something deeply unexpected.

Simply put, Bali cracked my heart wide open. It is a place of remembering to tend to my pain, to be vulnerable enough to open my heart wider, and to be courageous enough to protect it consciously (versus on around the clock lockdown). Conscious boundaries are a gateway to true intimacy, and heart centered living began when I chose to say yes to healing this pain and unlocking my own heart from within.

This Balinese healer gave me a wake up call that my heart was hurting, and my body and mind were responding. My heart was asking for love, and I was invited to start tending to my own well being. To admit first that this was terrifying: I was actually aching to heal and to cradle the holy ache in my heart. Yes, some scars may last an entire lifetime, but what amazes me is the beautiful resilience of my own heart.

I began the journey standing in front of my mirror, day after day, literally: smiling, picking up my smile, and swallowing it.  It felt fairly awkward at first. Now, I swallow that smile like a wholesome, nutrient-filled vitamin. The same smile I was so capable of sharing OUT, now holds the gift that fills me up with an unparalleled, inner love. 

What if you remembered that you are not alone if you are feeling some kind pain? What’s holding you back from trusting more deeply in the power if your own heart’s growth? The heart is incredibly resilient and innately intertwined to our greater well being. 

What are the whispers of your own heart?

What is aching to be tended to in your own life? 

Where are you holding yourself back from greater love in your life?

What is your heart's untapped potential, it's unbridled love? 

I hear it so often, that people are craving love, aching to feel that deeper connection. To truly feel, I realized I must first be willing to feel it all, not just what I could pick and choose. 

Every single one of us has experienced pain, possibly even some kind of wrenching, heart break. And What if we could also unlock the heart to also feel exuberant joy, boundless freedom, immense love. Be courageous enough to let yourself explore your inner smile. Radiate from the inside out.   Wherever you are on your journey — what if it began with just one moment in front of your mirror, one smile, one huge, one breath of joy, one little reminder reminder, of “hey YOU, I’ve got you!” 

Swallow your smile :)

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