11/15/17 EMOTIONAL FREEDOM TECHNIQUES

Today, Reverend Cindy Frado joined us today for a crash course in emotional freedom. Reverend Cindy works as a minister at the Universal Unitarian Church, and has learned from energy psychologists David Feinstein and Donna Eaton. Before things got started, participants went around the room and shared what comforts them in times of emotional stress, and how they react to feeling intense emotions. Cindy came to talk about emotional freedom and give us some tools to use when we feel unable to handle stress in our life. The first was called the Emotional Freedom Technique. A practice based on ancient Chinese medicine, EFT involves tapping your body and talking through stressors. Although it may seem silly or leave you skeptical, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that this technique and others like it work-- people report remissions of cancer and feeling heightened levels of restored energy. One of the participants had a phobia of spiders, so that was used as an example. . Before starting, we exercised self-love and acceptance by tapping our “third eye” and saying, “Whatever my issue is, I deeply love and appreciate myself.” Then, Cindy led us through the sequence of acupressure points to tap while talking about our hypothetical fear of spiders. The first spot to tap is the inside of the eyebrow. Then the outside of our eyes, under our eyes, under our nose, and on our chin. Then we moved down to tap our collarbones, our sternum, and our lower ribs, all while discussing the fear of spiders. Then we tapped our knees, and a few spots on our hands. After that was done, we woke up our nervous system by moving our eyes all around and humming. Then we did the sequence again, but this time we reframed our fear in terms of respect and honesty-- where at the beginning, we said that we hated spiders because they were creepy, we now say that although we don’t like them, their webs are beautiful and they keep bugs away. Cindy reminded us that this technique is not meant to change a stressful situation, but to allow us to approach our feelings rationally. It is good to keep checking in with yourself, she said, so that you know what feelings to address. If you are unsure of what you are feeling, you can “tap it out” in order to articulate your meaning. Cindy then showed us 4 ways to keep ourselves emotionally grounded and energized: The 4 Points, The Wayne-Cook Posture, the Homolateral Crossover, and the Heaven and Earth cycle. To do the 4 Points, place one hand on your forehead and the other on the back of your head. Take a deep breath, and then tap the following 4 points on your body: under your eyes, your collarbones, your sternum, and your bottom rib. In Chinese medicine, Cindy told s, these spots are said to be linked to your digestive system, your kidneys, your thalamus, and your spleen, respectively. By tapping or rubbing these spots, you stimulate the proper functioning of these organs. The next practice is the Wayne-Cook posture, in which you cross your foot over your ankle, and your hand over your wrist and rotate them up and out. You do this on each side and hold it for a couple breaths. You may also put your hands together in a pyramid shape and hold them against your heart. To perform homolateral crossover, simply lift your legs up and tap your knees with your hands. Practice this with the same hand and leg, and then the opposite hand and leg. This practice, and the Wayne-Cook posture are meant to ensure your energies are crossed properly. The “energy” refers to the meridians in Chinese Medicine, or paths of life-force that cross inside your body. The last grounding technique is called Heaven and Earth, and it is Cindy’s favorite. To practice Heaven and Earth, stand up and put your hands over your heart. Take a deep breath and raise one hand as far up as you can, and lower the other down towards the earth. Imagine you are drawing energy from down below and bring it up through your other arm while concentrating on your breathing. Do this with both your arms. When you are done, fold your body forward for a breath, then slowly come up and raise your hands above your head. Let the energy rain down on you for a few breaths. Participants all performed these exercises alongside Cindy and agreed that they made them feel very good. Many were excited to use it in their daily lives and attempt to restore their energy. Cindy does admit that these practices are a different way of dealing with and looking at the body, and understands that some people may have trouble integrating them into their lives. She says it is ok to be skeptical, but truly believes it works. In her own words, “whatever helps you get through the day, as long as it’s helpful and not harmful, is great.” Some participants stayed after the meeting to discuss their health and wellness with Cindy, who also runs a hypnotherapy and spiritual wellness center in North Amherst. Participants left feeling well-rounded and inspired. You can find more information about Cindy and her practice at http://www.hampshirehypno.com/

By: Sadie Mazur

11/1/17 Middle East Peacemaking, One Inch at a Time

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To set the stage for today's incubator meeting, the group had a short discussion about conflict resolution before handing over the mic to our presenter, Dr. Rick Martin. The question each of us responded to was "How do you resolve conflicts with another person? What strategies or frameworks of thought do you call upon?" This was a unique experience; it's not every day that we are able to get some insight into what the person we are arguing with could possibly be thinking! Our participants shared a range of perspectives--many of us saw value in walking away from a conflict when possible, being able to distinguish between a conflict that is worth engaging in versus one that is not, and taking time to calm down before confronting another person. Most of us try to take the other person's point of view although, as one of our participants wittily put it, "You can never totally be in someone's shoes. If you are, that means you are stealing their shoes."

Dr. Rick shared with us his experience of "ducking bullets for peace" in Israel-Palestine, something he has been doing for 13 years. When questioned about how he manages to take on their incredible challenge, he pointed to courage. He recalls needing courage in order to bring himself to walk into the Palestinian mayor's office and ask him if he would be interested in making peace. If it doesn't work the first time, Dr. Rick advises us to "keep knocking." "We will not have peace until the peace lovers are wiling to take chances--duck pullets, dodge knives, avoid fast moving vehicles--for peace." Dr. Rick also highlighted the importance of having a sense of humor and getting the person on the other side of the conflict to laugh--a strategy that may not cross our mind during a conflict, but one that could really have a huge influence on how the conflict goes.

We probed Dr. Rick a little further on whether peaceful conflict resolution is really always a viable possibility. He seems to think so. Human relationships don't go bad because people are bad or good, or because certain topics can't be talked about; "They go bad because they don't take the steps to talk about a difficult conflict in a peaceful way." As a group, we came to the conclusion that we should understand that others come from different perspectives, identities, and opinions, and "once we get to know each other, we can appreciate the divinity of each person." As one of our participants beautifully captured in a metaphor, we each are one individual droplet united together in one collective ocean. We hope to take today's discussion and apply it when we are able to in the conflicts in our own lives to shift the world closer to achieving wholesome peace and love!

By: Daniella Colombo

10/25/17 Songs of Our Lives

Today we had the opportunity for a group-led incubator meeting, which turned out to be incredibly lively and engaging. Our discussion opened with two questions about music that we were each supposed to answer. However, we all drifted off to talk about topics beyond the scope of what we were asked. Perhaps this is telling of the great significance music has in each of our lives, whether we realize it or not. 

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Darcy shared a beautiful story about her mother's discovery of her love for Brazilian music towards the end of her life. This serves as Darcy's inspiration for exploring music for all kinds --we may just find something that perfectly satisfies our ears when we least expect it. Hwei-Ling was able to connect with Darcy as she recently discovered an interest in Brazilian music as well. This had us all thinking that we are missing out on something and I'm certain some of us will be checking out the genre in the future.

Stoney sang a Yiddish tune for us, which was followed by Greg's performance of a gospel song that he wrote himself. With Dr. Rick on vocals and Dave on the keyboard, the duo carried out their own rendition of "Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog." Dave again played the keyboard as the group joined together to sing "Amazing Grace," with Stoney feeding us the lyrics for those who did not know them all. It was amazing to see how eager participants were to share with us a song that is near and dear to them.

We had so much fun coming together to appreciate music for and hour and a half on this Wednesday morning--so much fun, in fact, that the group decided to organize a "Raise the Roof" choral group. The group will be informally run, and hopes to just provide a place for people to collectively engage in an activity that brings great joy to many of us. It is open to anyone and everyone on Tuesdays form 6-7:30 pm--we invite you all to join us!

By: Daniella Colombo

06/21/17 A NEW START

We started off our meeting with introductions, during which each participant shared their name, a fun place to go, and when they think it is time to move on or let go. Many members of the group took “a fun place to go” less literally, and opened the discussion to how they use art to escape to their own minds. Participants stressed that writing, playing music, and making other forms of art allows us to, figuratively, take ourselves wherever we want to go. Other participants shared fun summer sports like Belchertown Lake, Ocean Beach and campgrounds. 

Our speaker, Mabella Mendez, shared with us some key ways to ensure that we are living our healthiest, happiest lives. First, she advised us to take three deep breaths, and to do so before we speak or take action. To help us remember the essentials, she gave us an acronym: NEW START. N is for nutrition, simply eating a healthy, well-balanced diet. E is for exercise, which, Mabella stressed, does not require an expensive gym membership. W is for water and drinking plenty of it. S is for sun and getting enough of it. T is for temperance, or saying no to drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes. A is for air, or better yet- fresh air. Mabella shared tricks to keep our homes well ventilated and our air fresh, like using baking soda to get smells out of fabrics and furniture. R is for rest and relaxation, making sure you set aside enough free time to maintain peace of mind. And the second T is for trust in a higher power, to believe in reciprocity and hope. Participants got to color in a print out on the acronym to display in their homes as a constant reminder.

Mabella reassured us that this fundamental principle, NEW START, can be taken in any context. This one-size-fits-all guide can be followed no matter your religious affiliation or lack thereof. 

By: Laura Flynn