Join Sheryl Paul, a counselor informed by the Jungian depth psychological tradition, and her co-host Victoria Russell, as they dive into the realms of our inner worlds and explore actions we can take to grow more self-trust and self-love. These bi-weekly podcast episodes will provide guidance for diminishing fear and shame, embracing sensitivity and creativity, and approaching life with curiosity and compassion.

If you would like to support the podcast and connect more deeply with Sheryl, Victoria, and the Gathering Gold community, please consider joining our Patreon.

 

Today’s episode features a very special guest: Daev Finn, Sheryl’s beloved husband (and Victoria’s uncle!)

Daev is an artist/psychotherapist and former visual effects artist, and recent graduate of Depth psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute.

In today’s episode, Daev talks about the father wound, relationships between fathers and sons, and his experience fathering two highly sensitive sons. He explores myths and stories that illuminate this topic, and discusses how fathers and “fairy godfathers” can help guide boys towards more vulnerability, connection to emotions, and connection to self. 

You can find out more about Daev and read his articles on Medium, and learn about his psychotherapy practice at Integrating Insights

In today’s episode, we’re talking about responding to the pain in our hearts and around the world when we turn on the news and see yet another horrific tragedy, like the recent shootings in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas. How do we keep our hearts open? How do we allow ourselves to lament, and meet our grief and rage, all while continuing to tend to the mundane tasks of our daily lives? How do we know whether we are doing enough to show up for the world in all its pain?

We bring the words and lessons of many teachers into today’s episode to help guide us as we wrestle with these questions alongside you: teachers in the form of rabbis and civil rights activists, Buddhists and climate justice writers, mindful skaters and hospital chaplains. We are grateful for their guidance and contributions, and we are grateful for you.

References:

 
 

Separation anxiety can feel like a scream from the soul, like love choking on its own breath. It springs from a variety of sources, both genetic and environmental, and often thrives in a mixture of deep love, profound fear of loss, an exaggerated sense of threat, and an underestimation of our own competence. Separation anxiety calls for individuation, for leaning upon an inner parent, as well as social and even spiritual connection. 

In today’s episode, Sheryl and Victoria explore their own stories of separation anxiety from their earliest memories, and Sheryl shares her son’s recent triumph in this realm.  

“Your children are not your children
They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself
They come through you but not from you
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you…”

— from “On Children” by Khalil Gibran

 

In today’s episode, we explore the mother wound in its tender, painful, personal, and collective layers. Sheryl shares her gentle approach to exploring this wound, which includes compassion for the generations of mothers wounded by the patriarchy and embrace of “good enough” mothering. She offers a definition and some signs and symptoms of the mother wound, as well as poetry that speaks to her own mother-longings. Victoria and Sheryl reflect on lessons learned from the book Wise Child, by Monica Furlong, and its beautiful depictions of Great Mother love that can help us reclaim our power and free ourselves and each other.

 

We are so happy to celebrate one year of Gathering Gold with a special “Ask Us Anything” episode. Thank you to all of the listeners who sent in so many fantastic questions — we wish we could have answered each and every one! In today’s episode, you’ll hear some reflections on grief, relationship anxiety/anxiety about becoming a parent, explaining (or not explaining) high sensitivity, and of course…our favorite Taylor Swift songs.

We’ll be answering more listener questions in upcoming Patreon bonus episodes. Visit patreon.com/gatheringgold to sign up. 

We begin this episode with a little story about the podcast episode we had planned to share today, and why we just couldn’t make it work. And, we share the solution that arrived when we took a step back and allowed ourselves to try again.  

Today’s shorter-than-originally-planned episode also features a few important podcast announcements and invitations as we come upon the one year anniversary of the start of Gathering Gold.

Thank you for listening! 

 

References:

As we move out of winter and into spring, we are taking time to reflect on this seasonal transition in all of its bittersweetness. Sheryl begins by sharing a reflection on the feelings she is noticing inside of her as spring beckons: not only joy and aliveness, but only sadness and longing. 

In today’s episode, we reflect on the ways in which spring’s fleeting, fragile, and abundantly beautiful nature can usher in heady feelings of in-love-ness, fears around intertwined endings and beginnings, anxiety about unfulfilled potential, and fear of missing out on life’s seasonal blossoms. Spring, in its paradoxical nature, reminds us to pay attention, to tread with compassion, and to live deeply. 

References:

In today’s episode, we’re taking a dip into the shadow lands, and exploring what we mean when we talk about “our shadow” in the realm of human psychology. Sheryl and Victoria share a few traits that they’ve become aware of in their own shadows, and discuss the interplay of shadow and persona and how both benefit from attention and curiosity. Sheryl explains how we can channel shadow characters in healthy ways and learn to see the golden or bright shadow in ourselves, rather than only projecting it onto others.

References:

The passage of time: we all feel it, but highly sensitive people seem to feel it that much more acutely, and often from a very young age. In today’s episode, Sheryl shares how she has been feeling the passage of time more strongly as her youngest son nears the age of 18 and begins preparing for college, and how she meets “sweet grief” when it arises. Victoria shares how she often tried to stop or stall the process of growing up throughout her younger years because of this early and sharp awareness of time passing. 

We discuss the speed of technological change and our current moment of cultural nostalgia, and our human tendency to romanticize the past and fear the future. Finally, we reflect on some of the gifts and the gold embedded in the passage of time. 

References:

We all indulge in fantasizing from time to time. Maybe you find yourself scrolling through Zillow looking at houses for sale, even though most of the time you love where you live. Perhaps you have romantic dreams about your ex and wake wondering if it means you should run off into the sunset with them—even though you know you don’t really want that in reality.

Our imaginations and dreams are beautiful things, and yet sometimes, we find ourselves fixating on a certain escape hatch that we wish could magically deliver us to a version of life without pain, boredom, or anxiety. Certain fantasies might get sticky, causing us distress or interfering with our real lives. So what do we do with persistent escape hatch fantasies that we can’t or don’t really want to act out?

That’s the topic of today’s episode. We’ll be unpacking two fantasies in particular (living alone in the woods and moving to a faraway city) to ask what longings might lie underneath them, and how we can attend to those longings while respecting our values and choices we’ve made for our lives.

References:

  • Devotion, Patti Smith
  • Carl Jung
  • The Power of Ritual, Casper ter Kuile
  • Ecstasy, Robert Johnson
  • Inner Work, Robert Johnson

You’ve probably heard the phrase “drop into your body” many times before–including from Sheryl. If this phrase brings up an automatic reaction of fear, frustration, or drawing a blank, you are not alone. In today’s episode, we are discussing some of the reasons that we might have blocked off awareness of our body or connection to our emotions early on, and why we might now be afraid or frustrated when we try to reconnect.

Sheryl and Victoria discuss some of the fearful thoughts that arise around “What might my body tell me about my truth?” Sheryl expands upon the multiplicity that the body holds, and how we can slowly and gently tap into that multiplicity with a sense of curiosity and creativity.

Victoria shares about her years of struggle with dropping into her body, and some of the small, gentle moments that have helped her to get back into relationship with less fear, more compassion and even some joy.

References:

  • Marion Woodman
  • Robert Johnson
  • Massage therapy
  • Reiki
  • Body work
  • Cranial sacral therapy
  • Hakomi
  • Somatic experiencing
  • Peter Levine 

If you’re sick of hearing about COVID, we understand. This episode is about just a few themes that are being highlighted for many highly sensitive people in their internal landscapes during the pandemic: anguish over an inflated sense of responsibility; health anxiety; and struggles in relationship.

For many HSPs, it can be difficult to walk the line between doing the necessary diligent work to protect our loved ones and the greater collective, and finding the limit of what we can actually control. Sheryl unpacks some of the layers underneath a sense of being overly-responsible (not just in relation to covid) from fear of loss, to family of origin patterns, to fear of taking responsibility for one’s own emotional experience.

Sheryl also shares what helps her get through the toughest moments of health anxiety, including finding comfort from maternal figures in the imaginal realm.

And, we discuss the struggles that are arising in relationships right now, especially between HSP and non-HSP partners who have different levels of risk comfort and tolerance, and between people who have been spending a lot of time at home alone together over the past two years.

Finally, Sheryl shares some grounding techniques for HSPs to practice and hold onto during this time of continued challenge.

Winter is a season of contrasts. In the long dark nights, candles burn more brightly. Amidst the cold, we find ways to generate heat. And in the spaciousness and emptiness, we make room for new birth. 

In today’s episode, Sheryl and Victoria discuss winter as a time of paradox: a season of the elder and of the child, of quiet reflection and raucous play, turning inward and pushing ourselves out. A feminine season, ripe for mythology and rich with ferocity, warmth, destruction and creation. 

We delve into a season that is not easy, but offers its share of gold when we prepare ourselves and gather our courage, accept the invitation to slow down, and open our eyes to its dazzling darkness and light. 

If this is a difficult season for you, remember: here in the Northern hemisphere, the days are already getting longer now, second by second, minute by minute. Spring will come. It always does. 

In today’s episode, we’re talking about spiritual longing: longing for connection to God, to mystery, to something greater than our individual selves. We explore some of the obstacles and questions that arise around spirituality: Do I need belief to be spiritual? Is my partner wrong for me if I’m on a spiritual path and they’re not? How do I pray when I’m afraid of what God might ask me to do?

Victoria shares some of her history with spirituality and religion, including the legacy of her almost-monk grandfather, and a journey that includes Veggie Tales and CCD, desire and despair, writing poetry and e-mailing her ex-boyfriend from a silent retreat at an abbey.

Sheryl shares a poem that expresses her conception of the divine: not an external being that judges and punishes, but a warm and intimate relationship based in reciprocity, realness, and presence.

References:

 
 

Here in the Northern Hemisphere, we are entering into what can feel like a particularly lonely season for many people: the leaves have fallen from the trees, daylight disappears early, and the holiday season is upon us.

Sheryl shares a passage from The Wisdom of Anxiety about loneliness, and we talk about how we can shift from discussing it as a statistic (1 in 5 adults in the U.S. reports feeling “serious loneliness”), and start to add color, texture and feeling to the conversation. What color is loneliness for you? What shape does it take? What stories does it bring up in each of us?

Sheryl describes three types of loneliness: loneliness of the self, relational loneliness, and spiritual loneliness. Victoria shares a poem about feeling lonely, and discusses her experience of isolation during covid lockdowns. We talk about our need for others, and how to approach feeling lonely even in the midst of gatherings or intimate relationships. 

To close, Sheryl leads us through a tonglen practice to help us connect not only to our own hearts, but to the hearts of all those around the world who are suffering.

References:

 
 

In today’s very special episode, Sheryl reflects on aging as she crosses the threshold into the next decade of life: her fifties.

We talk about what it means to “age backwards,” and we consider the question: how can we become more curious, more open, softer and lighter as the years go, rather than more rigid and calcified? Is it possible that aging is, in some ways, not as linear as we think?

We unpack some of the stories and perceptions about aging that can make it difficult for us to accept and embrace the changes that come with the passage of time. Sheryl shares her thoughts on common messages about aging bodies and appearances, and how to let go of the “shoulds” we encounter in different stages of life.

Sheryl also shares how she has been spending her time lately, moving from a Shmita year into a Jubilee year: slowing down, singing, learning Hebrew, and listening closely to her body. She shares some of her intentions and hopes for the future, including a special note about reclaiming her voice and her name.

References:

Laughter is powerful. It can be a sign of deep comfort and intimacy, or a weapon used to reject and humiliate.  Some of us grew up in homes where jokes were plentiful but tears weren’t allowed; others may have felt that silliness or goofiness was frowned upon. For some, relationship anxiety attaches itself to questions like What if my partner isn’t funny enough? Or, Is my partner too silly? 

In today’s episode, we’re talking about the importance of keeping a sense of humor when doing inner work, while also meeting our pain around unkind joking, teasing or sarcasm. Sheryl shares her own insecurities around humor, and addresses how family history and projection can play into humor-related relationship anxiety. 

Stay tuned to the *very* end of the episode to hear a blooper and some belly laughs from your hosts! 

References:

After a short break, Gathering Gold is back with an episode about burnout and rest. We name just some of the many reasons why humans are tired right now, from navigating an ongoing global pandemic, to managing expectations around productivity and achievement. We land on a conversation about the unrelenting demands of technology that lead us to constant checking, producing, and multitasking, and exiting the present moment.

We discuss some of the fears underneath resistance to rest, and Sheryl shares her recent experience of taking a break from Instagram. We talk about learning to pay attention to our own rhythms, and saying no to some things so we can say yes to others. 

Sheryl shares ideas for how we can replenish and recapture some energy as we move forward through ongoing uncertainty and transition.

References and Resources:

What does it mean to live up to our potential, to fully experience life and to feel our lives are enough? Are we stuck choosing between constant striving for bigger and better or settling for boredom and apathy? In today’s episode, Sheryl shares memories of her grandparents that continue to inspire and inform her view of what it means to live a beautiful, simple, good life. Victoria unpacks some of her fear and shame around what it means to do and be “enough,” and asks Sheryl what has helped her to let go of the restlessness and fantasy that often color our younger years. Ultimately, we explore how approaching our daily lives with reverence and presence can lead us to find the extraordinary in the ordinary, and help us to experience greater contentment, connection and aliveness right here, right now. 

References:

In Part 2 of our episode about school anxiety, we dive more deeply into how school can impact our identity and sense of self, for better and for worse. Sheryl shares some perspective on different types of schooling, having homeschooled her children in the past and now sending them into their second year of school outside the home. We discuss the parts of our school years that we are most grateful for, and how school can help us build resilience. Sheryl shares rituals that parents and kids can do together to greet the new school year and move through any feelings, including grief, that may be present.

References:

In today’s episode, we’re talking about school anxiety, and how feelings of dread or grief may arise as summer ends and the beginning of the school year lies right around the corner. We discuss why many highly sensitive people don’t like change, and the trick that Victoria used to get through the first few uncomfortable weeks of adjusting to a new school year. We also talk about some of the painful and even traumatic experiences that can color our school years or linger long after they’ve ended, from tragic world events to bullying and loneliness. And, Victoria shares a story about an amazing teacher who helped her feel safer in school again after a difficult year. 

References:

In Episode 8, we’re talking about travel anxiety. Sheryl breaks down some of the reasons that travel can be so activating for highly sensitive people and reminds us of the importance of naming and honoring our temperament and needs, even when they don’t conform with the “extrovert ideal.” We discuss discerning how much we want to push ourselves out of our comfort zone without getting too overwhelmed, and share some of the spiritual practices that help us stay grounded as we stretch ourselves. And, we explore how travel, when met with consciousness and kindness, can offer opportunities for healing, growth and connection with ourselves, with people we love, and with the wider world.

References:

  • The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

  • “Fear is excitement without the breath.” – Fritz Perls
  • Tallit (prayer shawl)

In today’s episode, we’re talking about the green-eyed monster: jealousy. Where does this monster come from, and what does it feed on? What do we do when we feel it’s taken over us?

Sheryl and Victoria pull this emotion out of the shadows and talk about their own jealous streaks. Sheryl shares experiences with jealousy in friendship, and painful betrayals in her earliest romantic relationships. Victoria shares a poem about her own imagined “monsters” under the bed, and the ways that jealousy feeds on comparison and our imaginations. 

We discuss letting ourselves feel the feeling, pulling our pre-frontal cortex back online when we’re activated, aligning our actions with our values, and surrendering into trust. 

And, Sheryl shares alternative ways of looking at and working with that most dreaded dream that sometimes sneaks up on us in the night: the dream about our partner cheating. 

References:

In today’s episode, we’re talking about birthdays and all that comes along with them: fear of loss and aging, questions about purpose and timelines, and recognition of gold gathered and wisdom gained through another year of living. We talk about our bodies changing, and what it means to age in a culture that worships youth. And we discuss taking time to reflect and ritualize, to make space for whatever we are feeling so we can welcome in joy as we mark time, grieve, celebrate, and set intentions. Sheryl shares a letter to Victoria to mark her 30th birthday this week, and we talk about giving and receiving gifts that speak to our love language. 

References:

You can view a transcript of Episode 6 here.

SHERYL PAUL
Welcome to Gathering Gold. This is Sheryl Paul.

VICTORIA RUSSELL
And I’m Victoria Russell. In our last episode, we talked about summer. And we touched briefly on how summer is a time of a lot of celebrations and parties. And I know in my family, we have several birthdays right in a row in this week coming up, including mine. So I’ll be turning 30 two days from the time of this recording. And I have a little story to share about birthdays because in this episode, we will be talking about birthdays. Okay, so the summer before entering middle school, I had a small birthday party with some friends. It was at Michael’s craft store. In the back of the store, they had a room where they would have parties, where you’d make some sort of craft, like painted frames or something like that. And at the end of the party, we ate cake, and I opened the presents from my friends. And it turned out that every single friend, or almost every friend, but I’m pretty sure it was everyone, gave me a gift card to Barnes and Noble bookstore. And I remember…I, you know, I kept this smile plastered on my face. But inside I had this like sinking feeling in my stomach, and this hot feeling in my chest, because the truth was that yes, I loved books. I was a total bookworm and voracious reader. But I liked other things too. And I was turning, I think it was my 11th birthday. And I kind of wanted like makeup or trendy clothes or a cool new gadget or something more tweeny, I guess. But I also was so identified as this like quiet, mature, reflective, little bookworm girl. And so I, I didn’t even, I couldn’t blame anyone really, because they didn’t know that I wanted other things, because I never said that I did, because inside I didn’t even really feel like I could want other things, more shallow things. And so I thought about this story in this moment, because, you know, it was a, it was a great party, and I never would have wanted to seem ungrateful. But I think there’s something about birthdays that can just bring up these questions for us. And these small things can become so symbolic to us, when the question really is like, am I seen? Am I known? Am I accepted and celebrated for who I truly am? Are you really happy that I’m here? And am I loved? So, so yeah, Sheryl, I would just love to hear any, anything that comes up for you from that story.

SHERYL
That’s such a great story. And I think it elucidates some of the themes and the emotions that arise around birthdays. And I love those questions that you listed at the end. Can you say those again?

VICTORIA
Yeah. So the questions I asked were, am I seen? Am I known? Am I accepted and celebrated for who I truly am? Are you happy that I’m here? And am I loved?

SHERYL
Yes.

Because like so many things in our culture, we focus on the party, and the party favors, and the cake, and the balloons and thinking, like, for little kids, but even for adults, it’s it’s very much focused on the party aspect. Just like when we have a wedding. We’re very much focused on the party, the reception, much more than we are on the ceremony, on what’s actually happening on this day. And so here we have this archetypal day. Everybody has a birthday. And those questions speak to the emotional layer of this is the day of my birth. This is the honoring, the celebration, the acknowledgement that this particular day was the day I was born, however many years ago, and yes, we’re going to celebrate it and yes, we want to know am I accepted and celebrated, of course. But the way that we ritualize, or the lack of ritual and the culture overlooks those deeper questions, am I seen? Am I known? And so I think the gift giving, and we could do a whole episode on gift giving, I’m sure, and gift receiving, exemplifies, highlights some of those questions. And it sounds like that’s what was stirred up for you. On that very moment, this birthday going into middle school, those transitional awful years. And it was such a pain in those years for so many people. And so you were on that threshold, 11 years old, going into middle school. And you wanted to be seen in the totality of who you are. Not just Yes, I’m a bookworm. Yes, I love books, thank you so much. And you of course, being the good girl, had the smile on your face and graciously received, as we are taught to do when receiving gifts, as I think is a lovely thing to do when receiving a gift. Thank you, even if you hate it. But then there were, there was this whole underworld of emotion that was speaking to those questions: but I’m not just this mature, poetic, bookworm girl, I’m also all of these other things, and maybe I want to wear makeup, and maybe I want to wear the latest, you know, brand brand name jeans, and maybe I want whatever, whatever the other trinkets and things are that that would have represented other aspects of you. And so I think my mind went to the wedding because it’s, it’s these momentous days, these transitional days where we only focus on the party. And we lose sight of what the emotional layers are. And as highly sensitive people, we’re always going to feel into those emotional areas, whether it’s the grief of turning a new age, which I’m sure we’ll get to, in this episode, letting go of the age that you just were, the grief of getting one year older, which I think is so important to talk about. Because I hear that so often with the people that I work with, in terms of if I’m getting older, it means that my loved ones and my parents are getting older, that with each birthday, we are moving up the totem pole of life. So all of these subterranean under layers that are stirred up, that we don’t acknowledge, that we don’t have containment for, that we don’t, that we don’t even name for young people or any people of any age around birthdays.

VICTORIA
Yes, I was thinking about how, in each episode of this podcast, so far, we’ve really talked about kind of expectations like, this is how I think I should feel or how this day, this occasion, this time should go. And yet, the reality is not meeting the expectation. And oh, that must mean there’s something wrong with me. As opposed to just because it’s your birthday, it doesn’t mean that, you know, you’re only going to feel joyful, and like you’re having fun and you feel loved and, and I was just thinking as you were talking about how I mean, this is not, this is not a, you know, earth shattering hot take, but because we have so much comparison now with like Instagram, it’s just that much easier to focus on, Oh, what does this like birthday gathering, if you have one, what does it look like? You know, as opposed to, how do I feel? And what’s really happening here?

SHERYL
Yes, yes. Yes. The focus. It’s so easy for the focus to be on the external, on the image, on how many people are there and what are we wearing? Where did we go and how much fun does it look like we’re having and no focus on, but what were you actually feeling?The days leading up to that birthday, the night before the birthday, the day of the birthday, the evening after the birthday? The next day? There’s so many stages around a birthday. It’s not just the day itself. That I think is important to also name because, again, we’re so hyperfocused on these momentous days, and we forget that in transitions, and a birthday is obviously a transition from one age to the next, sometimes from one decade to the next, as you are about to experience, and I will experience in November, that when we are transitioning, it’s not just the day itself. It’s the days and weeks and months leading up to that where we are in that stage of reckoning, and doing life review, and reflecting and hopefully making room for grief that will be there. And remembering that the more we do that on the on the front end, or on the on the pre end, that the more present we will be able to be for the actual day, which is just one day. And we will be able to transition more fluidly, more gracefully and more joyfully, that that expectation of joy. And I’m so glad that you are highlighting that, that we do bring this up in every episode, the clash between expectations and shoulds, and the reality of of the emotional richness and juiciness of the highly sensitive person, and I think of all people, that when there is an acknowledgment and some preparation and some ritual leading up to the day, that the great paradox is that we do then act, open the doorways and pave the way to step into that more joyful place, that we are expecting ourselves to be. But it’s really hard to just jump into that when we haven’t acknowledged everything that led up to that moment that day. So it’s like, the more, the more I make room for, and I probably say this in some form every episode, the more I make room for the grief, and honor it and ritualize it and talk about it and cry through it and write through it, the more genuine and true joy I feel on the actual day, whether it’s my birthday, or my kids’ birthdays, or whatever transition I’m talking about. But it’s almost impossible to get to the happy. And again, it’s like there’s the expectation embedded into our birthday song, Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to you. How many times can we say happy birthday? Because you will be happy on this day. Whether you actually are or not, the expectation is you will be happy on this day. And I understand it from a less cynical layer. Yes, we want to be joyful and celebratory for somebody else’s birthday. But again, when we sideline all of the other emotions and experiences, it’s really hard to get to happy. I was really interested, though, Victoria, what, what you sent to me about this episode, because, and I mentioned that already in terms of getting older, and knowing that with each age that you get older, it means your parents and the people around you are also getting older. I’m wondering if you can speak to that.

VICTORIA
Yeah, I mean, I feel like I definitely connect with this. This feeling of loss, or fear of loss around my birthday of, well, I’m getting older. So you know, I’m experiencing some form of loss. But also, as you said earlier, definitely that feeling of if I’m getting older, if I’m 30 then, you know, everyone around me is getting older, my grandmother, you know, is getting older, my parents are getting older, my siblings are getting older, my friends are getting older. And I definitely connect with that sense of just fear of loss and that sensitivity to it. And I think especially with this 30 thing, like obviously there there’s a lot around that. But I think if you crack all the way down, there’s like the fear of death, the feeling, the fear of losing people. Yeah. But there’s also just the fear of getting older and loss of health and vitality and you know, everything that that can bring.

SHERYL
Yeah, yeah.

Yeah, I just want to pause there for a moment because just to even name the fear of death, which is at the core of so much fear for people, especially highly sensitive people. And letting ourselves name that and breathe into that, that, that we call it a birthday, but that embedded in the birthday is an awareness of death. Because we have a finite number of birthdays, and the people that we love, have a finite number of birthdays, and just what it feels like to even let ourselves for a moment…it’s such scary territory to go into, the death conversation, and death territory, but to, to just name it, breathe into it for however long we can, to know that it’s that it’s in there. And so there’s that ultimate loss, the final loss. And then what you’re also speaking to is the the aging process, losing this stage of life, getting further away from childhood, what does it mean to be in a body that ages? So I would love to hear from you, Victoria, what 30 has brought up for you?

VICTORIA
Yeah, I mean, there’s definitely the fear of everything we just named, like losing people that I love. And not just in, not just in, in the sense of, of death. But even in turning 30, you know, more and more of my friends are married, are getting married, buying houses having children. So there’s a sadness and a fear of losing friendships as I’ve known them, as well, because I know that once people are in a stage of life where especially they have children, it just really changes, you know? And it brings up those questions for me of like, that sense of urgency of, oh, do I want to get married? Do I want to be a mother one day? Do I want to buy a house? Will I ever be able to buy a house? What does that mean about me? Am I behind? Yeah, so definitely also just that, that fear of being stuck or being behind as well.

SHERYL
That’s such a big one. And I think such a big one for 30. And going back to the conversation around expectations, and timelines, and where we think we should be by certain ages. And so by 30, looking around and seeing so many of your friends, getting married, having children, your sister, of course, already in that stage for so many years, and then the whole house buying and so it it does bring into question, what, what do I think I’m supposed to be doing at 30? What is the culture telling me I’m supposed to be doing at 30? And so I’m curious where you’ve how you’ve, what your process has been like, around those questions.

VICTORIA
I do feel myself having more patience than I did when I was younger, which is kind of funny, like, I would have thought when I was 22 and just graduated from college, I would have thought, oh, there’s like, there’s no way I’ll have more patience when I’m 30 because I’ll have less time. But I actually do feel a little bit more patience. And I do, even if I can’t always totally sink into it, or feel it in my bones, like I do have more of an understanding that those outward things or those boxes that people check off don’t actually necessarily mean anything about whether they are happy or fulfilled or find life meaningful, or you know, or, you know, it’s it’s none of those things in and of themselves and there there are genuinely so many ways to live and and yeah, while trying to balance also the reality of like, I still will probably have some regrets, like no matter what I choose, or don’t choose.

SHERYL
Mm hmm.

I think it’s also interesting to highlight that, that part of you that thought when you graduated from college, how would I have more patience as I get older, and then stepping into this next age and next decade and realizing that you do not only have more patience, but more self trust and self knowledge and wisdom. And I think it’s the piece that we miss, similar to what we talked about in the last episode around summer, that if we only focus on the grief, we’re going to go into a swamp land of despair. But to know that the grief and the joy are always intimately linked, that when we’re talking about birthdays, and getting older and aging, that we Yes, we’ve, we can focus on the grief and the loss. And it’s essential to do so. Because that’s what’s real. And that’s what’s happening, while also holding the other side of that, which is that as we age, it’s not only our process of loss, that we gain so much, if we are on a journey of discovery, self reflection, healing, growth, that with each year, with each couple of years, decade, we gather so much gold, that can only happen through the passage of time, it kind of reminds me of when I was 23, and I started graduate school. And I knew I wanted to work with people in this way. But I was so young. And I graduated when I was 25. And I was in my internship, and I was working with people, as a therapist, getting my hours, doing the whole thing. And then I stopped because I didn’t feel like I had lived enough to be able to offer something of real value, I had too much self doubt at the time in my 20s. I probably was offering more than I thought I was. But I also knew that I needed to live my life, and through life experience that I would then gather the nuggets of…the gems, the gold, that I would be able to, to put all of that lead into the alchemical vessel and, and offer it back in some way. And so I think it’s the piece about birthdays that can so easily get lost. When we we, we feel the grief, but we don’t necessarily name it and move through it. It just kind of is sitting there. It’s it turns into lead, because it doesn’t get ritualized and alchemized. And, and then we lose sight of of what is also happening on the other side of our birthday, of the goodness and the richness of aging, which of course speaks right directly to how ageist our culture is, our terror of aging, how much we worship youth, that we are considered…and I hate this term, but if you get pregnant after age 35 it’s called a geriatric pregnancy.

Like what the heck. So

we, people start to feel old, in their 30s. And that’s just insane to me. And, and as if old is a bad thing, as if getting older is, is the worst thing that can happen. And so I think all of that is is kind of bound up in, in birthdays, as, especially as you know, we’re not little kids anymore. Although we all know, being a highly sensitive child, you’re going to feel into that layer as well, not so much the fear of aging, but the recognition that the age that you just were will never be again.

VICTORIA
You know, when you said that about the geriatric pregnancy, you know, there’s, there’s another layer for me, I think of just and this, this entered my mind, I mean, even in my mid 20s, which is so sad, but I think also as a woman, just being afraid of my body changing and being older and, and I I like almost hesitate to even say this because I don’t…not that I’m putting the thought into other women’s heads. I think our entire culture and society puts this into other women’s heads. But I hate the idea of a woman younger than me or even my age or older than me like hearing me say this, but I know so many people feel it and it’s just that fear of like, well, am I still lovable and valuable and worthwhile as I get older, or am I going to become invisible as I get older? And how much of my worth I’ve put specifically in like being attractive to men. You know?

SHERYL
Yes.

VICTORIA
And not even feeling that great about my body all the way through, but like, well, at least I have this or this or

SHERYL
it’s so it’s so important, the topic of invisibility and aging. It’s why I’ve loved shows like… I’m forgetting the name the…Jane Fonda.

VICTORIA
Yeah, Grace and Frankie.

SHERYL
Yeah. Yeah, Grace and Frankie.

Because they, they, they put that all out on the table of what it is to be an older person, especially an older woman, and how, and they had some great episodes specifically on that, about being invisible. And of course, in the show, they’re like in their 70s. So it’s a whole different stage of life that neither of us are in yet, but we can sense into that. And we can feel into that. What is it to age in this culture that does not respect aging at all? Then there are other cultures that do, that bring out their, their elderly, their, their, their wise ones, and they are considered wise elders, and they revere them for their wisdom, that can only happen when you’ve lived decades and decades, that kind of rich, gold, that kind of wisdom, you know, but we are the polar opposite of that, in our culture. And so I think that so much of the grief that happens around birthdays is the fear of aging. The fear of death. Yes, that’s, like you said, when you crack down into the center of it, and knowing that our parents, and if you still have grandparents alive and grandparents are being moved up the totem pole, but but it’s not just that, it’s the whole process of aging. And so it brings to mind a question for me in this moment that I’ve never thought of which is, would there still be weather, still be grief, around a birthday, in a culture that wasn’t agephobic? And even death phobic? If our culture was not age and death phobic? Would there still be grief? Around a birthday, is it intrinsically…is there intrinsically a sense of loss like there is when you get married, or have a child, there’s an intrinsic loss that happens, a whole stage of life, a whole identity. But is that true for birthdays, archetypally? I wonder. Do you have any thoughts on that?

VICTORIA
I guess my mind is going to the flip of that, like, in terms of my sense of worth, kind of harkens back to that story that I told in the very beginning. But I feel like I’ve always been praised for being young, and young and blank. So like, when you talk about the wise elders…it’s like I was always praised for being like, Oh, you’re so mature for your age, you’re so wise for your age. And I always had this sense of like, oh, so my good-ness is very wrapped up in that “for your age” part. You know, so I guess it’s just kind of the flip of what you’re saying is like, that. I think that phobia kind of, of aging makes us put so much value on youth and then almost praise, praise people for being young and put this pressure of like, there are just so many people who, especially with 30, for whatever reason, I guess, because we think of 30 as…it’s not old, but like, it just has this thing around it of, you know, like, I have to do X before I’m 30. There’s that like pressure that young, younger people have, I think in their heads, and I think that dissolves a little bit as you get older and you realize how arbitrary it is. But certainly when you’re younger, I think it looms, like, well, it’s not gonna matter anymore after I’m 30 If I…whatever it is, if I put out that album or I get my PhD, because I gotta do that before I’m 30, really, to be valuable.

SHERYL
Mm, special.

Yeah. Yeah. Huh. Like you’ve really achieved something if you’ve done it before you’re 30. Right, right, because then you’re just old who cares, right? Yes. And I want to highlight and underscore and bold the statement. 30 is not old, people, anybody listening. And for you, Victoria, yes, 30 is not old. And maybe you only really know that, like…maybe, as I’m about to turn 50, there are 70 year olds looking at me going 50 is not old, right? Because maybe it’s only as you are, you know, X amount of years older that you look back and you say, Oh, my goodness, 30 is not old.

VICTORIA
right. Right. Don’t worry about it. Right?

SHERYL
Yeah, really,

don’t worry about it. You still have, God-willing, decades and decades and decades and decades and decades ahead of you. But yes, the culture will tell you something else. And I think you are speaking to that layer of what is it to be valued, to be worthy to be special? What accomplishments have I was I suppose to achieve by this certain birthday, which is also silly. Really, when you when you look at it all.

VICTORIA
I think one of the pieces that you named earlier that felt important to me was like, it is one day in a transition that actually is ongoing. That there are days, weeks, you know, months before and after. And it feels like what you said about kind of slowing down and taking the time to really to do some of that reflecting, like, I was on a hike with my boyfriend, Martin. And I was like, I just have this imposter syndrome about turning 30. Like, you know, like, 30 is an adult, 30 is a woman, I am still a kid, like, you know. And he asked me this question that I had actually asked myself a few days before that, which is like, well, what does it mean to you to be a woman or to be an adult? And actually sitting with that question, and journaling on that question was really helpful. And also reminding myself how many people have imposter syndrome about, you know, so many things, including so many people feel like, oh, I still feel X age on the inside, even though I’m, you know, this many years,

SHERYL
yes. Which again, speak to that piece of how silly, the things that we place value on, that really don’t matter at all. And also, what comes to mind for me is a couple of things as you were talking, one is, it’s, we live in this culture in a way where you can never win. So if you are trying to get that, chase after the carrot, it’s always going to move. So you were praised for, look how mature you are for your age, and look how many books you…look at what you’ve read at your age, and, and the “at your age” was so important. And I remember being much younger, and always looking so much younger. So when I was 12, I looked like I was nine. And, and, and, and I hated that. And so as a young person, that was not a good thing. To not look like the rest of your peers, and to always be sort of the little kid in the group. I was always really tiny. And then all those years into my teenage years, 20s still always looking younger, and then feeling like I’m an imposter as a therapist, because not only am I 25, but I look like I’m 17. And that was not a good thing. And then at some point, going, Oh, now, I look more my age, I think. But now I want to look younger. So and then again in my head just kind of exploding it all going, No, I reject all of that. And I have to work to reject it. Because the automatic, that default place, to accept the expectations, and all of those ridiculous constraints of the cultures where you can never win, right? It’s an ever moving target. And to step into the experience of being me, not what I look like, not what age I am, not a chronological age or biological age or any of that BS because that’s what it is. It’s stepping into the experience of being me from the inside out. When you shift the focus from the outside to the inside, then everything changes. And I talk about this so much in my work, especially the self-trust aspect of my work, and expression, and creativity in our work in the world. Because then it really becomes a question more of, how can I best serve? How can I best show up for other people around me? It becomes much less of a self centered question, even though all of that’s important as well. But we walk through the self centered piece, and then we arrive at, but this is where I am at this stage in my life, it doesn’t really matter what age or what I’ve accomplished, or any of these externals are, what I look like, what I care most about is being in line with who I am as best to my ability as I can. And from that place, being of service. And that’s what matters.

VICTORIA
I think what has really helped me is having more patience to go, It’s okay, if I like don’t always know, exactly, it’s okay, if it takes time. Particularly I just think with my personality and temperament and experience, and as I kind of shared in that opening story, like, I definitely have been a people pleaser, and like you said, a very good girl. So, you know, so to really identify what does it mean to me to be an adult, to be a 30 year old woman to me, for me. And just to know, myself, and what I want and need, and those different parts of me, to accept the different parts of me, not just the part that other people see. And just having patience to go, Well, if I spent like 28 years or something, 20 something years, doing a lot, a lot of that like smiling and nodding people pleasing, it’s probably going to take some time for me to get to know myself and like, that’s okay.

SHERYL
Yes, yes. I love that. That’s okay. And I love the self compassion. I love the patience, that allowing of the process of getting to know ourselves and stepping into ourselves and being in alignment with who we are. Because I think it’s an ongoing, lifelong process. The other thing that came to mind around the birthday just being one day, and how do we prepare? How do we spend time, meaningful time, leading up to that day? And, you know, I’ve mentioned ritual several times, because I think it’s so important to ritualize these transitions in a meaningful way, in a personal way, not, not in the rote way that maybe we’ve been handed…you know, having a birthday cake and blowing out candles, that’s a ritual. And it’s sweet. And, you know, we expect it as children, and maybe we want to as adults, and that’s great. But there are so many other ways and so many other rituals that speak to the process of getting older. And what came to mind was something that my friend Lisa Rappaport shared with me on my 49th birthday in anticipation of my 50th, which was recognizing that 50…Well 49 is seven times seven. And then that final year going into 50. And so taking some time in this 49th year into 50, reflecting on those seven stages of sevens in my life. So zero to seven, seven to 14, 14 to 21, 21 to 28. And, you know, what, what aspect what stands out when I reflect on zero to seven? What stands out when I reflect on seven to 14? What aspect of myself, do I still see in myself? What are the core elements of me that I take with me? So it’s quite an extensive exercise. I haven’t, I haven’t done it in depth, but I’ve dipped into it. And it’s been such an interesting way to reflect on what has brought me to this moment in my life. So that’s a really sort of big assignment that’s specific to this age that I’m at, but I think it would apply to really any age, right? 30 could be three groups of 10. What was zero to 10? What was 10 to 20? What was 20 to 30? And even if it’s just a drawing or a couple of words, that there’s an acknowledgement, that there’s a slowing down. That there’s there’s a will to take that time to review, and reflect, but the birthday ritual that I have done every year for I don’t even know for how long, many, many years for my own life, and then I started to do a version of it with my kids, was I would write the day before my birthday, I would spend time with myself, doing something special and reflective, maybe going for a hike, maybe sitting at the creek, and writing from the place of review of the past year, and also welcoming in any grief that might be present, people that are no longer in my life that won’t be celebrating me in physical form, any grief about turning the next age, and also setting intentions. So then there’s the other side of the birthday of what, what am I hoping to grow or shine light on in a gentle way, not in I’m broken, and I have to be fixed kind of way, but in a gentle way, moving into the next year. So on that note, and I will say just a little prelude to this, I have something that I would like to read to you, Victoria. At every year before my kids turn the next age, I write them a letter and I read it to them the night before their birthday. And it’s become a ritual, a way to honor the passage of time, reflect on the past year, articulate how I see them growing and changing. And for them to have this physical document from me, Who knows what they’ll do with it in their life. But, but, but they have these documents for me that that mark time in a meaningful way. And I think it’s important for humans, I think we have a need, a very deep need, to mark time. And that’s one thing that birthdays can do, and we can harness that need and create meaning from it.

And so you’re not my daughter, but you are my niece and I felt compelled this year, a few days before you turn 30, to write a letter to you. And to read it here. Because I want you to know how I see you and I want you to know how I’ve seen you grow this past decade. And I want whoever is listening to know as well. So settle in. Are you ready?

VICTORIA
Yes.

SHERYL
Okay. Dear Victoria.

I’ll never forget the first time I heard your voice. Your Uncle Daev and I had just started dating, and you and your sister Amanda had sent him a tape. Yes, a cassette tape, of the two of you singing. He was so proud of both of you and was excited to share it with me. You were a young child, but I could already hear the sweetness of your soul expressed through your voice. We met many times over the next many years, us traveling to New Jersey. But it wasn’t until the summer after you graduated from college that our soul relationship began by some incredible instinct and wisdom you knew after you graduated from college that you needed to connect with relatives, and you made the bold decision to ask if you could come visit us for a week. It was May 2013. We barely knew each other when you arrived. And the first couple of days were a bit awkward but very sweet. You connected immediately with Everest and Asher and you were game to try anything we suggested. We hiked in the Rocky Mountain National Park. You helped plant my garden. You came to synagogue with me. We cooked together. We took walks, we went grocery shopping. By the end of the week, the love between us was palpable and the connection as alive as a Colorado spring. I remember sitting in my car together talking deeply in the driveway before going back into the house and thinking she’s a kindred soul. And that feeling has grown exponentially over these last eight years. From you and Martin visiting, to my family coming out to New Jersey, to you coming to Everest’s bar mitzvah, to countless phone conversations on dozens of walks. We’ve grown a connection that is indeed pure gold. What I want to share with you in this birthday letter as you stand on the threshold of 30 is what an honor it has been to watch you grow up through your 20s. Like all of us, you began the decade feeling a bit lost, unsure of yourself, full of self doubt. By your mid 20s, anxiety had crescendoed and had attached onto a variety of themes we’ve talked about on your podcast and a bit here as well. But what I witnessed through all of your struggles was a tenacious quest for healing and understanding. When you turned 22 a few weeks after that first visit to Colorado, I sent a package full of my favorite touchstone books. You read all of them. As a lifelong reader, you continue to read and listen to every self help and spiritual book you could get your hands on throughout your 20s. From Pema Chodron to Richard Rohr, to the rich and varied podcasts that accompany you on your commute all those years. At some point, about halfway through the decade, you started making books and podcasts recommendations to me, and I received them graciously. You also continually pushed yourself outside your comfort zone, even in the midst of anxiety. There was something inside of you through the tumble of 20s that knew you needed to say yes to life. Encouraged by Martin, you learned how to rock climb, you went camping and drove on freeways and applied to jobs and moved away from your parents and established your own home and learned about finances and paid off most of your student loans. In short, you have accomplished every task of this decade of 20s. From financial awareness to individuating from parents, to growing friendships, to learning about the four realms of self. And when you found your beloved therapist a few years ago, I saw things really starting to shift for you. Through her unconditional love and steady guidance, you’ve stepped more fully into yourself and found those threads of self trust that were embedded in the self doubt all along. You said something in our last episode on summer that struck me as it encapsulates how I’ve seen you and witnessed you these past eight years. You said the haze clears if we are growing up with our age.

Victoria you have transformed from a misty, hazy 22 year old to a clear eyed, soft hearted wise 30 year old. You’ve walked through your 20s with so much grace, yes, stumbling plenty of times along the way as we always will stumble in our lives, but dusting yourself off each time, reaching for support, taking the risk again and again to be vulnerable, both out in the world and in your heart. Showing up for your loved ones and building that most precious well of self knowledge and self trust. You started the decade as a student. And while you will always be a student of life, because you have a voracious appetite for learning, you’ve also become a teacher. And I’m so happy to say you’ve become one of my teachers. In these past couple of years and especially this past year, I’ve turned to you several times for support, especially around parenting challenges and the unique ways that anxiety has shown up for my kids. You’ve held my worries, questions and tears with so much love and wisdom. And as I poured myself into you, I could feel them transforming in the alchemical vessel that appears when we are deeply heard. You’re one of the people who is helping me navigate this most challenging territory I’ve encountered as a parent whose steady gaze and open heart and wise mind is helping Daev and I transform the lead of this stage into gold. My dear Victoria, I’m so lucky that you came into my life as niece by marriage. But you’re not only my niece, you are my heart family, my colleague and one of my closest friends. As I sit here writing these words to you, I’m filled with the deepest gratitude that is showing up now as tears. I’m looking out at the creek, remembering when you and Martin sat out there playing with my boys. I’m remembering how you sat next to me at Everest’s bar mitzvah, praying and singing and crying and holding my hand as we danced and watched him step across that momentous threshold. Then holing up in my studio with my circle of soul sisters, again, holding hands and meeting in that luscious place that only women can meet together. And so I end with this prayer and blessing. Dear God, thank you for Victoria’s birth. Thank you, Gemma and John for bringing her into the world and for Daev for bringing her into my life. Thank you for her most beautifully sensitive heart, for her endlessly curious mind, for her brave soul. Thank you for her courage and for her unrelenting commitment to healing. Thank you for her goodness and light, which is radiant and unwavering. May you continue to shine your light in the world. May you be safe, protected and healthy so that you can bring goodness to all who are lucky to know you. May you know that you are worthy and loved, as you continue to sing loudly when your voice wants to be heard, to dance with abandon, to love with all the fullness of your heart. I love you.

VICTORIA
I love you. Thank you. That…I knew I wouldn’t make it through the whole thing without crying.

SHERYL
I had to hold back too, so I could read it.

VICTORIA
That is such a gift. So grateful. So lucky. And so grateful.

SHERYL
You are a gift, Victoria, you are a gift. And I hope you know that as you walk these last couple of days of this decade of 20s and dance and sing across that threshold and cry if you need to. And to 30. Part of the reason I wanted to write this and share it is first and foremost, to express how I feel about you and for you, to have these words as you cross over the threshold. But also just to share and offer an example of what ritual can look like that. I think ritual is a confusing word, because it’s not part of our lexicon and part of our lived experience as a culture anymore. But that, for me, writing the yearly birthday rituals, the birthday letters to my kids is a meaningful ritual. And I sort of see the letter as like a talisman, an amulet, as something that they can hold on to, even if not literally, to to be able to step on the words that the words are our stepping stones, foot holds. And that people that are a few years ahead of you, whether it’s a parent or an aunt or a friend can

can put down those stepping stones

and can help these crossings be a little easier, make a little bit more sense, you know, these these tenuous thresholds of a transition where it can feel like you are falling through an abyss if you don’t have container language, ritual for it. And so something as simple as, as a birthday letter, you know, can be a container for ourselves and also for others.

VICTORIA
And, you know, what I think I’ll add is just that what I just received from you is so special and not something that I think…I think there are a lot of people who don’t necessarily just receive something like that. And I know in the past I’ve had, I remember having a little birthday dinner, and I went around the table and I told each friend, my favorite memory with them from that past year. So I also think that we can ask people, like maybe not, hey, can you write me the most beautiful letter I’ve ever heard? But, but we can we can offer it and you know, open open heartedly not necessarily not necessarily expecting something in particular in return. But we can also ask people Hey, do you mind just reminding me of something from a particular age or one of your favorite memories of us? You know, I’m gonna, I’m writing some reflections. Can you help me remember? Yeah, I think we can ask for it too.

SHERYL
Yeah, that is so important to say Victoria. And it reminds me of something that I asked for, for one of my birthdays in my 20s, maybe 26, maybe 27, where I asked most, the most meaningful people in my life…that was not a huge number, because I’ve always had a small circle, but it was maybe five or six people, if they would record some thoughts about how they saw me or how they saw, what their thoughts about 26 or 27 was, or favorite memory. And again, it was in the time of cassette, so it was a lot more cumbersome of a request because they actually had to record on a cassette and then physically mail it to me. But I love that idea of reaching out to a few close people, even just one and saying, Hey, can you record a voice memo and just send it over text? It’s so easy to do those things these days. And so I think when we when we talk about meaningful celebrations, and this hunger for meaning that we have, it goes, it’s so beyond it goes right back to your original story of how you started the podcast, you want it to be seen, you need it to be seen. And the gifts are a reflection of how we see people. They can be, anyway, doesn’t mean they always are. But we can also ask for these non physical gifts, we can ask for words, we can ask for a drawing. And it’s a hard request. It’s very vulnerable, very vulnerable. Not easy to do at all. But that is the true gift to be able to receive that on a birthday. This is how I see you. This is how I celebrate you.

VICTORIA
It is so vulnerable. And I think that, like you said, even if it’s just one person, and maybe you test it out with a a small ask, but it Yeah, it can be so meaningful. Yes. And I think that it also connects to that first story in terms of being willing to ask for something that you want, as opposed to being upset that somebody didn’t infer it, right? I was a child. But yes, as you grow up, being willing to, to accept even within yourself something that’s important to you. And then and also to practice ways that you can, like you said, in your own reflections as well, looking, look at those qualities you’ve brought with you the whole way and spend some time recognizing those.

SHERYL
Yes. I think being able

to ask for the gifts that you want, it speaks to that the whole conversation around love languages, and knowing your own love language, it’s such an important thing to know about oneself. And then also being willing to communicate what your love language is, if somebody if people in your life don’t know what your love language is, because for some people, their love language is gifts, right? actual physical gifts, and that’s super meaningful to them. To me, that’s not my love language. So I am very clear, with my husband on every single birthday. What will be meaningful for me is I want a letter where he tells me how he sees me or what he appreciates about me. And, and, you know, I will also put a caveat there that even though I make that request, it doesn’t necessarily happen in the exact way that I would like it to happen. It’s a lot of room for, you know, some disappointment, potential conflict. But we’ve, we’ve gotten a lot better over the years. But I think it’s so important to make those requests around birthdays, this is how I feel seen. This is how I feel celebrated. And so for me, it’s it’s a letter, and it’s and it’s a thoughtful, you know, usually a meal, I love being cooked for, some something to do with food. But the gift that like the actual tangible gift in a box, I could take it or leave it, it doesn’t land for me as a way that I feel seen and loved. So I think it’s an important piece to leave people with in terms of how do I honor and celebrate a birthday in a meaningful way? And what is a gift and what is better than a gift? What is a gift to me? And if a gift is an expression of of celebration and appreciation, and it’s how do I feel appreciated and celebrated and loved, that great list of questions that you started with. Yeah.

VICTORIA
And that grace that you named, for other people as well. The expectation thing, right, like, yeah, appreciating people trying and, you know, I think that’s always good to hold in our hearts as well, when we have very specific expectations, still hold some grace around it as well.

SHERYL
I’m still working on that. Yeah, maybe I have like 40 more birthdays.

VICTORIA
Yeah, we’re just practicing. We’re just practicing,

Well, thank you Sheryl. Thank you for your beautiful words and for this time.

SHERYL
Thank you, Victoria.

VICTORIA
If those listening want to find you and your work online, where should they go?

SHERYL
My website is conscious dash transitions.com And I’m on Instagram at wisdom of anxiety.

VICTORIA
And you can find me at my other podcast, Perennials, or on Instagram at perennials podcast. And if you are enjoying Gathering Gold, please subscribe wherever you get your podcasts and read it, leave a review, share with a friend. It helps other people to find this show. We appreciate it so much. Thank you for listening.

In today’s episode, we’re talking about summer, the season of “nothing lasts forever.” Sheryl and Victoria talk about the gifts and opportunities that lie waiting in this season, which is both teeming with abundance and hinting at the colder, darker months to come. We discuss nostalgia  and grief around childhood summers (longing for what was and what wasn’t), the adolescent nature of summer in all its blooming, creative and wild glory, and how to attend to expectations and overwhelm that often accompany this season for highly sensitive people.

References:

You can view a transcript of Episode 5 here.

SHERYL PAUL
Welcome to Gathering Gold.

This is Sheryl Paul.

VICTORIA RUSSELL
And I’m Victoria Russell. In today’s episode, we are talking about the season of summer. So in the last two episodes, we talked about these micro transitions of nighttime and morning, these daily transitions that we have. And today we’re talking about being in the transition of entering into summer, and what we experience in the season of summer, some core feelings that arise and things that we might want to pay attention to, in this season. So we are recording this episode on June 21, which is the summer solstice. So a very appropriate day to be recording.

SHERYL
Yes, and when I was outside, sitting in the grass, gathering my notes and my thoughts and grounding before coming in to record this, and it’s been sort of an unusually hectic day. So I was very happy to have some time to sit and feel into the day, that it is June 21. It is summer solstice in this hemisphere. And as soon as I named that and sort of stepped into it, this is June 21, and I remembered, not that I forget, but I remembered consciously that starting on this night, we start to lose minutes of light going into December 21, the winter solstice. And so it’s this incredible paradox that I think we will be unpacking and diving into more for the course of this episode of stepping into the first official day of a season of summer or winter, if you are in the southern hemisphere, while recognizing that whatever the season holds, that we think of summer as this time of fun and light and sunshine and water and sprinklers and pools and beaches and vacations, that there is also this element of loss. And it really encapsulates and speaks to the heart of what the highly sensitive person always feels, is always holding that paradox of love and loss, life and death. And so when I was sitting in the grass and I, it’s like it almost took my breath away. And I could feel this wave of sadness, of grief coming into my chest, into my throat. As I stepped into this awareness of we’ve been moving towards this day, since December 21. And we started to gain minutes of light back. And I love that moment in the dark of winter, knowing at least we are gaining minutes of light. And then for the six months, arcing our planet, tilting, whatever it’s doing, scientifically, into June 21. And then we arrive at this apex, this beginning, both an apex and a beginning of a season. And then we begin our descent, once again. And so for me, and I think for so many highly sensitive people, to let that grief in, to notice it, to breathe into it. It’s so rich, it’s it’s a type of ritual to be sitting here with you, Victoria, doing this recording on this day, that it’s a real honoring, because I think so much of this podcast is about honoring those micro moments, honoring those moments of grief that are embedded and sometimes hidden and pushed away, but are there within the joy.

VICTORIA
Yes,

it makes me feel so grateful just to be noticing it today. Because there have been times where I have not slowed down enough or paused enough…I think I talked about this in the last episode about morning, when I was just on such autopilot, I wouldn’t have necessarily noticed that it was the summer solstice. And I feel really grateful to have to have slowed down and to have this time even just to notice and name it.

SHERYL
Yes. And that’s so important. And what I want to say to that is you may not notice consciously, and there have been plenty of important days in my life, anniversary days or a day like this that I didn’t notice consciously. But my body memory, my unconscious…we feel it. And so when we don’t slow down enough to name it, and there’s nothing in the culture that would encourage us to slow down and and honor and ritualize and name, well, let’s just go with just name it, let alone ritualize it, that when we don’t do that, but we are registering it, because we are such deeply feeling and sensitive beings that we register the shift in light and we register the tilt of the earth, that when it’s not consciously named is so often when it comes out sideways and morphs into something like anxiety, or depression or picking a fight with your partner.

I’ve never done that.

No. (Both laugh.) Me neither. (Laughter)

VICTORIA
When I was a kid, I would be counting down the days until summer vacation started, until you know, the official start of summer. And as soon as school let out, and it was officially summer, I was counting down the days with dread until summer ended. And I remember just always doing these like mathematic gymnastics in my head of like trying, trying to convince myself that, oh, there’s still a lot of time, there’s still a lot of time, you know, like, well, summer doesn’t officially end until this date, there’s still plenty of summer. And I just had this anxiety, not just about the dread of going back to school, but just about always wanting to make the most of the time that I had, always wanting to have a summer that lived up to the picture I had in my head from movies or books or what I heard other kids talking about, that was the right kind of summer and just a joyful, live to the fullest summer and, and also the when fall came and the new school year started, it was such a marker of the passage of time and getting older. So yeah, yeah,

SHERYL
yes. Which is exactly what I think gets called up in this season. And so as a young person, it might be centered around school and the countdown, but it’s not really about that. You named so many important archetypal pieces, it’s about making the most of summer and what I think it’s supposed to be and it’s supposed to be all fun and parties or romance or whatever we think it’s supposed to be in whatever stage of life we’re in. And, and, and then the passage of time, and the markers of that. And I think there is something in the passage from summer into autumn, starting a new school year as a child, but then, as an adult, also the recognition that one more summer has passed. And so there’s something about summer that, archetypally, it’s a heightened awareness of the goodness in life and wanting to capture the goodness of life, of childhood, of sweetness, but also wanting to live up to some kind of expectation of how we think the stages, the seasons are supposed to be. When I was thinking about this episode, and I was out walking, one evening last week, and so lovely to be able to walk in the evenings and it’s so warm and light, and I was thinking about summer. And what immediately came to mind was very vivid memories, and I think my most vivid memories I have of childhood, and I think my happiest memories as a child, happened in summer. And this one memory flooded up to the surface of being at my oldest brother’s birthday party, probably several of his birthday parties, which his birthday is at the end of May, very end of May. And it was one of the few times of year that we were allowed to eat bon bons, which maybe not everybody knows because I’ve never really seen a bon bon since, but they’re these little clumps of ice cream covered in chocolate. And we would be out in the backyard, all of my brother’s friends, I must have been two or three or four. We had a swimming pool, and it was probably one of the first times we were in the pool of the season. And I think about family vacations, primarily going down to a beach, south of Los Angeles in the summers. And for sure, some of our happiest times were at that beach, close to San Diego, a different place, we used to go up to family camp near Santa Barbara. And I think about the Fourth of July and being, again, very little, maybe three, sitting on my mother’s lap, on a picnic blanket, the rest of the family on the blanket, watching the fireworks in the park. And even as I share these memories, now I feel a wave of grief rising up because my family started to splinter apart as an adolescent, and then it completely shattered before I left for college, so for me, and I think for many people, happy memories of childhood are bittersweet because they carry both the longing for that time, that finite stage of life called childhood, and it’s a very short stage, in comparison to you know, if we live a full life to age 90, childhood is this tiny little time. And so and so the memories carry the longing for that time, and also the grief that it’s over. And I think also some grief that the fantasy that I had about my childhood is over, meaning that as a child, I thought that we had the perfect family. And it was only later that the cracks started to be revealed. And they were quite significant, those cracks. But as a child, you don’t necessarily always see that, like a fish doesn’t know it’s swimming in water, unless it’s very obvious. But if the dysfunction is more subtle, it’s common not to see it at the time. And so the longing for the perfection of childhood that I had in my mind, even if that perfection wasn’t real, right, and it can never be real. So

there’s again, that holding of the tension of opposites, and that’s a very Jungian term to hold the tension of opposites, to hold the happiness, which was absolutely real, those were very happy memories. And then hold the grief that is both current and also probably probably some grief that I was sensing into as the lightning rod in the family, as the highly sensitive, although I think my brothers are also very sensitive. The grief that I probably wasn’t able to…well I know I wasn’t able to feel into at the time. So it’s like, if you could see me, I’m holding out my hands to my sides, like cups, holding in one hand the joy, the happiness of the memories, and then also the grief. And even thinking about my brothers thinking about the closeness that we had as children, thinking about summer was the time that our grandparents took us camping every summer. And it was so special. It was so magical, sleeping in a tent with my middle brother. And then again, like I could cry, the sadness that I’m not close to them anymore. We talk, we’re in each other’s lives, but it’s not that same closeness that we had as kids, and so in almost one breath…and there’s missing my grandparents so much, but the the gratitude, the joy, those memories of those camping trips, so special and then…and now it’s gone, and now they’re gone. My grandparents are gone. And and that type of relationship I had with my brothers, that innocence, that purity, the fun, the games, the imaginary places that we went together, especially my middle brother…gone

VVICTORIA
Yes. I’m having so many flashes as well, when you are speaking, of moments in my childhood, of summers, you know, and and being so aware of it even at the time that it was fleeting. It was always so hard for me as a kid that I was so aware of it. I was reading through the section of your book, The Wisdom of Anxiety, about the seasons, and about summer, specifically, and about how we can we can use the rhythms of the natural world to kind of attune to these core feelings that that come up. And in the book, you write about that, that happy, childlike nature of summer. But at the same time, there’s always that other side of the coin, that where there is the happy child, there’s also either the grief of that happy childhood being over or the grief that it never was. I think that can be so difficult for people, the sadness over something that you didn’t have, or that you had for a period of time, and then it was gone.

SHERYL
Yes, that’s so important to name, that a lot of people would not describe their childhood as happy, as you know, as…to use one word to describe an entire stage of life. You know, when clients come to me, and they say, I had a really happy childhood, I say, Huh, hmm…that’s what you think. That is one layer. But nobody has just a happy childhood. We are just far too complicated and complex as humans and as families to have only a happy childhood. So when we harness, when we tap into the energetic, the invitation of a season, particularly, right, this season of summer, I think it very much is around the inner child, our being willing to, to move toward that place inside, that place of innocence, that place of that place of innocence, but also that place of of grief. For however our childhood was and however our inner child is expressed today that both will be present for everyone. It’s the highly sensitive that are going to feel into those more subtle layers. And, you know, you saying that you were aware of the fleeting nature of childhood, even as a child, I think speaks to the degree of your high sensitivity, which, which is like, like my boys. I’m not I was aware of it as a child. I don’t have that same degree. I think I have softened into that actually, as I’ve gotten older. But I wasn’t aware of it. As a child and I, I love that you were because almost everybody who finds their way to my work was aware, always aware of the passage of time, of the fact that nothing lasts forever. And so another moment that happened in the past couple of weeks, as I went out to my garden, and the rosebush that was planted in the corner of my garden before we bought this house 13 years ago has just bloomed in the most glorious way. And it’s gotten huge over the years. And so when it blooms, it’s just hundreds of pink roses. And of course, they start out as these perfect little buds. And they’re so beautiful. And then they open and they’re, like almost more beautiful if that’s possible. And then they reach their height of glory, and then they fade and drop to the ground. And there it is. There’s the arc of our lives. There’s almost the arc of the four seasons, the four stages of life, childhood, adolescence, adulthood and old age. Right of how we how we start out, and then we blossom. And then we step into like the fullness of our glory and then and then physically we start to wilt, but hopefully, right, and this is the piece of gathering gold is that we, we harness the wisdom. And we, in a sense, recognize that all of those stages still live within us. Again, it’s the paradox, it’s a leaving behind, a willing to grieve, but also a recognition that the child, the adolescent, the 20s, and 30s it, it all lives within us. And so now I’m about to turn 50, you are about to turn 30. All of those stages, in a sense, not only live within me, but live within me with more clarity, more beauty than I’ve ever been aware of before.

And so I think that’s very comforting and very important for the highly sensitive person, because if we’re only dwelling in that place of nothing lasts forever, and all we can do is grieve, and then it’s over and gone, that’s a pretty hard place to hang out. We’re just gonna kind of wilt, like, like the flowers sitting in the vase, a few feet away from me, like, they’re all sad, and wilted now. They were so gorgeous five days ago, but, but it’s also recognizing the beauty in the wilting and the beauty. And it’s getting away from this idea that the grief is bad. And that we have to move through the grief to get to the joy that there’s gold in the grief. And that there’s a recognition that as we go through stages of life, we both grieve and gather them in. They become part of us, and they become part of the richness of, of our souls, of our humanity.

VICTORIA
I’m so glad you said all of that. It so perfectly encapsulates the kind of nonlinear and cyclical nature that, you know, I when I was writing notes for this episode, the image that came to me was, you know, an apple on a tree that eventually, you know, falls off. But there’s seeds inside the apple, right? So there’s all of it in there. There’s the beginning, right? There’s this full cycle within it, the seed is in it.

SHERYL
Yes. Yes. That’s, that’s a beautiful summary of what I was trying to express is yes, the cyclical nature, that all the parts are contained within the whole. It makes me think of a couple of pieces, which is that same pink glorious rose bush in the corner of the garden, always reminds me of my grandmother. She loved roses. And when I sit in front of it, I imagine that she’s inside of that rosebush, and it makes her memory, her presence feel very alive to me. And so there’s this sense, and I think it speaks to a very non western way of seeing life and death, which is that they’re both happening at the same time, when I move toward the grief, of the fact that my grandmother is no longer here in physical form, and I allow that grief to be there, it also opens me to, to her, to being in connection with her, that the grief is the connector. Right? It’s the umbilical cord that connects me to somebody who is no longer here in physical form. And, and then I feel her. She’s so alive to me, so that the grief is one of those doorways into our aliveness and into a more cyclical and nonlinear and non western way of viewing, life and death and joy and grief and the stages of loss that lead to rebirth. Nature. Nature teaches us that. So here we are in this in this season of summer, we know the autumn’s coming, that there will be a letting go, and a death. And we know that Winter’s coming where there will be this emptiness and liminal and then we know that there will be a rebirth. That it will all keep happening, that spring always comes. But the other place that flashed for me when you were reflecting, was going out into the garden every afternoon when Everest was five. And Asher was a baby and Asher would be taking his nap. And it was my time to have some one on one quality time with Everest. And we would go into the garden and pick peas, the peas that we had planted together in the spring. And often a thunderstorm would come and we would gather up the peas and run back into into the screened in porch and, and eat the peas while listening to the thunder and watching the thunder and so beautiful. And as I was remembering that, immediately the grief that Everest is no longer five. Everest is no longer six. I could see his sweet, glowing golden face, the innocence of his five, six year old self. And then knowing that he’s at this very moment, you know, driving himself into Longmont, 20 minutes away, going to a meeting on his own. But what flashed when you were reflecting was another layer of that, which is there are many moments, and Daev and I comment on this, he comments on this a lot, where Everest will have an expression, and he will look exactly like he looked when he was five, that the five year old is still in him, it’s still Everest, and our five year old is still in us too, right, it doesn’t, it doesn’t leave really. And so again, it’s holding both the grief that that stage of parenting is over. My kid’s, not a baby and a five year old, they’re 12 and almost 17. But also the recognition that they are still my baby and five year old. And that I that we literally still see an expression, the light, some some golden, some golden child, that that comes out. Not always, by any means. But it’s there.

VICTORIA
I said to you earlier that I see that childlike nature of summer. And I also often really associate summer with adolescence and young adulthood. Maybe partially because we see a lot in, in pop culture like in movies and songs like all these like coming of age and you know, this summer that she became a woman, or the summer that he became a man, the first love, the first kiss, like the summer camp stories are very kind of, you know, a motif in the culture. But there’s also just something about that that meeting of like blooming and loss. So like the loss of childhood, or loss of some sort of innocence alongside really blooming, and I’m always really fascinated by integrating that adolescent or that teenager that is creative. You know, like when we look around, we look around the world in summer and things are so colorful, like nature looks so creative. There’s a wildness, there’s a, it’s such a sensual season just in terms of a feast for our senses of beautiful flowers, juicy fruit, fragrance…like you walk by the ocean and you smell the salty air or you walk through the woods and you smell the honeysuckle and it’s like intoxicating, you know. And I really love A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Shakespeare play, and so I often think about that, just like this lush forest and these… Yeah, these people falling in love and misbehaving and, and all of these things. Yeah, I’m just thinking. I’m wondering if you have thoughts about kind of that, like, the juicy nature of something that’s maybe creative, wild, you know, that desire…You know, and how and kind of tapping into that without getting…There’s also an element I think of getting swept away or carried away by that, that I think of, you know,

SHERYL
Mm hmm. Yeah. I love that you’re bringing in that piece. I think when something shows up that strongly in the culture, those motifs of first love, becoming a woman, and becoming a man, it’s it’s often because they are tapping into an archetypal layer. And certainly Shakespeare is the king of archetypal psychology, poetry and he, he names it always. So A Midsummer Night’s Dream, this sort of mixed up and lushness and adolescence and love and wildness and abandon and, and I think this sort of anticipatory feeling of I’m at the beginning of something, I’m at the beginning of, you know, like, like this chest opening and sort of running into the, into the meadow feeling of fullness and aliveness and what might happen this summer. I love that. And I love what you’ve shared. I’d love for you to read it.

VICTORIA
Okay, so this is called Midsummer Dream. And it’s based on a real summer but also really inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream. “It was summer, and we were staying at our school in the forest. And one day, we shuffled into a dark lecture hall to watch A Midsummer Night’s Dream. And mostly everyone else was not watching. The seats were lit like fireflies by soft cell phone glow. They were all whispering and giggling but I was watching. I was watching so closely, all those lovers loving the wrong people, all magic juiced up, all love in idleness. And the flower was purple with loves wound, Oh, but it felt so good. And that fairy nesting with the donkey man, and those nymphs naked in the water, and everything was lust and chaos. And when they woke up, no one remembered a thing. And that morning, when he and I were talking in the wood paneled room with the portraits and books, he got distracted, said he couldn’t hear me because I looked so pretty. And I thought of my boyfriend in Boston and blushed. And in the forest, we all brushed elbows and locked eyes and at night, when they took shots upstairs, I lay in bed and thought about him, and my boyfriend, and the naked nymphs, and I dreamt about removing my clothes, and donning a crown of flowers, and stepping, slowly, into the water.”

SHERYL
I just want to sit for a moment and luxuriate in those exquisite words Victoria. I have chills all over. I’ll tell you what’s coming up for me. And you’re you’re usually the one who plays the role of the choir in our episodes. It’s like but what about…

VICTORIA
Yeah.

SHERYL
There’s, I’m imagining people listening, feeling maybe inadequate, or “what’s wrong with me that I don’t I’m not in touch with my sensuality?” or “I don’t feel that way about summer.” And so I just want to, to name that and just bring some curiosity to to that piece, if that’s what’s coming up for you. And also the reminder that however a season is for you, it’s okay. It’s really okay. Because I know that, let’s say there is a lot of expectation of how a season should unfold. And or there’s pain maybe even trauma connected to a certain time of life or a certain season or you know, maybe for you that summers did not include family vacations at all, that there was not closeness with siblings, that there was not a feeling of wild abandon, and anticipation and romance, that there could be a lot of pain being stirred up even right now. And I think that that speaks to the heart really of what we’re talking about, that this is sort of the season of of the child, the inner child, however that is for you. Whatever your relationship is, to childhood, teen life, sexuality, so much pain around sexuality for everybody, so much confusion for most people. And so I want to make some room for that. And, you know, sort of it reminds me of, of the post that I reference, “Season of the Fallen Flower,” that when there’s this unilateral expectation of anything, of joy of celebration of romance…and not that we’re doing this in the episode, not that we’re sidelining grief, because we’re not doing that at all. But that grief can so easily become sidelined or longing or nostalgia. But I think again, that grief for what was and the grief for what wasn’t.

VICTORIA
Yes, I can totally hear the relationship anxiety, like, like you said, kind of the sexuality spike or spikes about crushes or cheating or, you know, not controlling yourself, your urges or something, you know, and that, to me, it’s like, that’s why I wanted to bring up like, the creativity and the wildness but gathering the gold of creativity and wildness. And it doesn’t have to be something that rules you. It can be something that you don’t have to be afraid of. If that makes sense. Like, for me, I like to put those things into poetry, because they, they confound me, there’s so much pain, there’s so much longing, there’s anxiety, there’s confusion, there’s, you know, trauma, there’s just all sorts of stuff. And yes, I don’t, you know, a part of me can get really stuck in that in that phase of life, like, oh, I should have done this, or I shouldn’t have done that in my, like coming of age time. And now, like you said, I’m going to turn 30 in, like, two, two ish weeks. I don’t want to be…I want to be able, like we were talking about earlier, I don’t want to banish the part of me that can feel desire and tap into my senses and be creative, like in the same way that I don’t want to banish joy because I banish grief. You know what I mean?

SHERYL
Yes, it’s such an important piece to highlight and underscore in terms of gathering the gold. It’s, it’s, it’s what do you do with the question of, okay, so I feel it, I name it. What do I do with it, I don’t want to get stuck there. I don’t want to drown in my grief. I don’t want that to be the end point. I don’t want to drown in my longing. And so it very much is tapping into the energy of the season is one of creativity, aliveness, the blooming, the harvest, the abundance, the senses, like you were talking about. That’s what we can tap into, as we allow ourselves to feel the fullness of our beings, the full range of emotions, whatever gets ignited, activated, during this season, always, but especially we’re talking about this season of summer. So feeling into the grief, the joy, because there’s also fear in feeling joy, excitement, anticipation, longing, and being able to gather all that up. And like you’re saying for you put it into poetry, which is also a vessel for me. But for anybody else, put it into anything creative, put it into a recipe that you invented, put it into a gesture, some way that you move in your body, start to move, put on music, gather it up, be with it, and then move with it into some kind of expression. Sometimes the expression is you just sit down and weep. And sometimes the expression is creativity and sometimes the expression is some kind of spiritual practice or breath practice movement. So I think there are layers, there are veils that are lifted during summer, there’s this sort of bright eye, this brightness of the sun. On this summer solstice where there’s, there’s less shadow, there’s more clearer seeing, we can see. And that’s not always a fun thing. But it’s a rich, alive experience, to, to see, to see through the brightness of the day, of the sun, of the light, the hours of light and to see our child self. Just see those memories, to let those percolate up, to step into the adolescent self. Whatever pain and joy and longing and nostalgia and regret and guilt and excitement may be living there. That there is a heightened opportunity, always at these transitional times. And we are in one right now. A heightened opportunity to see more clearly, to gather it up. And then to, to move with it, to express it, to place it in some way.

VICTORIA
Yeah, you know, it’s so interesting, because when we talk about like integrating those different parts of ourselves as we go, I think that when I was younger, summer was, like, the opposite of clear seeing. It was like, all hazy. Just like the air was humid, or smoky with the the fire, you know, the campfire. And it’s smoky and humid. And it’s just like, it felt like all of the wanting, all of the aliveness, without wanting to acknowledge any of the grief of Oh, childhood is ending, oh, this thing is ending, oh I’m getting older, and not seeing the beauty necessarily ahead. So now that I’m a little bit older, I can, I can see more clearly and not get swept away by everything that’s going on in summer and all the expectations and the things I want to avoid and all of that. And, you know, I think summer is also this time when there’s such a disruption of our routines, oftentimes, not always, but oftentimes there’s disruption of our routines because there’s parties and so much celebration, and maybe even vacation, and so you can really try to run away a lot and escape, or you can also be totally overwhelmed and like burnt out. And so I really liked that you named kind of that clear seeing. Because we can still find it right? Like we can still make space for the stillness and being in solitude, we can carve out that time, we might need it even more amidst all of the disruptions and parties and celebrating and escaping and running away and vacating.

SHERYL
Yes. And speaking of the disruption piece, like this is the first year that our kids have been in school, meaning it’s the first year that I’ve had the contrast between a school schedule, and a summer schedule. And we’re like scratching our heads, Daev and I, going, What, wait, what what do we what are we supposed to do with you?

VICTORIA
Yeah.

SHERYL
So, you know, we had our routine, we had our rhythm, we had our schedules, and I really liked it. You know, they were off. They were gone from eight to three, and it was all very clear and structured. And now it’s like mayhem and chaos. Like, I don’t even know what day it is. They don’t even know what day it is. Yes, I still have my work schedule. But all of those other windows of time that I had in between when they were gone and I wasn’t working, those have been pretty much obliterated. So I think there is this very much topsy turvy, disoriented, overwhelmed feeling very much for parents, I know it’s a common experience of oh my goodness, summer’s here. What are we going to do? And yes, how much more important it is to find those even small windows of stillness, where we can come back into ourselves, our separateness, our clear seeing and, therefore, hopefully also be more present not only with ourselves, but with our kids. You know, now in this countdown, speaking of countdowns of, Oh, my goodness, we only have three more summers before Everest goes to college. And another wave of grief. You know, the moment is going to be here that I that I grieved about when he was 10 days old, and I was sitting on our bed in Los Angeles, nursing him. And it occurred to me that in 18 years, he would be gone. I mean, not permanently gone, but off into the world. And that here we are, it’s it’s not that he won’t come back for summers, but I’m sure there will be many summers that he won’t come back, he’ll be doing something with his friends, he’ll be in an internship, it’s, it’s like the end of his childhood is so near. And it it reminds me of another piece that I wanted to mention about, you know, this, this piece of nothing lasts forever. And yet, you know, we’re also naming the piece of that, but the paradox embedded in than that of, but also it all lasts forever. It’s like holding both of those right then that summer symbolizes like the beauty of now and the sweetness of of the past that there’s this intersection of opposites, the heat rising, and the light diminishing, the intersection of darkness and light, we’re sending into the height of summer as we’re descending into the darkness of winter, the intersection of joy and sorrow, heat and cold, that we are we are feeling all of it. And the more we can name it, the more we can express it, move with it instead of it getting stagnated inside and morphing into anxiety. But this, this piece of nothing lasts forever, the fleeting nature of childhood, of our children’s childhood. And this, see, I think I have become more highly sensitive since I had kids. And since I…not that I wasn’t feeling into these underlayers always, I was, but there’s something about having kids and recognizing how short childhood is, how precious each stage is, and also how hard each stage is. It’s like always holding both like, oh my gosh, my baby is the most precious angelic being on the planet. And yet, when am I going to sleep? When is the stage going to be over? But no, I don’t want it to be over. But But yes, I really want to sleep and and so there’s this feeling not only for parents, I think for all highly sensitive people of wanting to stop time. Wanting to preserve this moment, especially the sweet ones. How do we how do we stop time? Well, of course we can’t. How do we stop them from growing up? We can’t.

And I think part of our obsession with scrapbooking, photographing is an attempt to stop time, that if we record it and document it well enough we’ll somehow preserve this moment, we’ll freeze it in time. And then the irony being that we can spend so much time photographing and videoing our kids that we miss the moment. You know how many times Asher’s said to me, mom put down your phone, you can’t…you’re missing Tashi. I’m like no, I have to get it for Instagram. He’s so annoyed at me and like bless his heart, he should be annoyed at me. But how often we miss the moment because we’re sitting there behind our cameras. And so really, like the way to preserve it, is to inhabit it fully, to be as present as we can. And that means making room for the sorrow, means making room for whatever emotion is present in that moment. Trusting that we won’t get stuck there. If we feel it fully, you know, there are these…there’s this arc of emotions that we learn about, that if we feel it fully, it lasts 90 seconds. I don’t know that that’s entirely true. But that’s what I’ve heard. And that when we’re willing to acknowledge what is true and present in the moment…Every time I feel that wave of grief rise up into my chest, whether talking about, you know, Everest being five and now 16, or my childhood being over and my family splintering apart, my grandparents being gone, that when I feel that way, even just pausing for a moment, to name it, to breathe into it, that I am paving the way for the joy. And for you know, in a sense, the preservation of this moment. Not that I will necessarily remember every single moment in time, we’re not supposed to do that. But that by inhabiting our moments more fully, that by becoming more present, and of course, that’s a lifelong task to become present, to, to be in the moment. That’s, that’s not something that we can easily do. But when we can… and I think the emotions are one very powerful doorway, as are the senses, like you were talking about. That’s why poetry and having having the headlight mindset of a poet is so powerful, the smell of the ocean, the breeze, right, the roses that are just budding, the fireflies, that our senses, our sensual experience, our emotions are these gateways, these doorways into being more present. And that perhaps summer, it’s one of the gifts that’s one of the ways that we can harness, tap into the energy, the invitation of summer, that summer offers us, because of its clear seeing, because of the intensity of the colors, that abundance, the peach juices dribbling down our cheeks, that it offers us this opportunity to come into our senses. And our hearts.

VICTORIA
Yes. I love that. I love that. It’s in the slowing down that we can. Yeah, really experience it. Yes, yes. Yes.

SHERYL
Even slowing down one moment. Right. It’s not easy to do.

VICTORIA
And it makes me think also about how, you know, for some people, some people can’t take vacation during summer, or maybe they feel really lonely and they’re not going to parties or celebrations or, or they’re feeling like they’re not experiencing those things the way they should or the way other people do. And I think especially you know, when you talked about Instagram? It’s such a time that’s just, I mean, always, but just rife for comparison. And, and like you said, it’s that…you’ve said this before, how that is the moment when anxiety can come up, when you start to think “I should be feeling this” or “I should be experiencing this.” And I was just thinking about how Instagram doesn’t show mosquito bites and sunburn and poison ivy and hey, know,

SHERYL
your children beating each other up? Yes. Screaming?

VICTORIA
Yes. And so like, right, it’s just all you know, the juiciness of life contains, includes…you’re walking through the woods with those magical fireflies, and you’re swatting away the mosquitoes. And we’re just you know, when you’re present for it, you’re present for it all.

SHERYL
Yes.

And it’s sort of, it’s like this unmasking, or this demystifying of a story, of fantasy, of perfection. And it’s painful to do that. And it doesn’t mean that the goodness…that you’re tearing down all the goodness. That’s true, too. And so I think that that that’s another opportunity, invitation of summer in on the topic of childhood, that we have sort of the golden child experience. And then we have all of those layers that we either could see at the time, but didn’t maybe have words for it, or support system for it, or we just couldn’t even see at the time.

VICTORIA
Yes, yes, I think that’s where it’s so interesting. To see the the haze clear a little bit as we, as we get older, if we are growing up with our age, that some of that haze of summer and that not that not clear seeing can lift and then we can really…And then it gets really juicy, I think.

SHERYL
Yes, yeah. Yes, that’s right. That is where it gets juicy, where it gets interesting. That top layer of the perfect story or the fantasy of the perfect family, it’s really not that interesting. And it’s just not true. It’s not true for anybody. And so as painful as it is to, to crack it open, there is so much juice and aliveness there as well. And that is the gold. That is the gold.

VICTORIA
Sheryl, you you mentioned a blog post about summer. And it would be great to hear you share a little bit from that post.

SHERYL
Yes. So I wrote this July 9 2017. And I will read about midway down. “We find ourselves here in the height of summer, a few days after the holiday of the Fourth of July, where the expectation of parties and barbecues, those ultimate experiences of the extrovert ideal that dominate our culture, is at an all time high. And in the sanctuary of my sessions, I hear about the sadness and loneliness that my clients struggle with when their holiday doesn’t match the culture’s expectation. If only we could widen our culture’s conversation to make room for the introvert who resists big gatherings, or the sensitive who upon waking up on the Fourth of July, is tinged by a shadow memory that leaves a thumbprint of sadness on her soul. She tries to push it away, because today is supposed to be fun, fun, fun, but it doesn’t work. And finally, she remembered that it’s okay to feel sad on holidays. And if she can make room on her picnic blanket for the sadness, and open to the memories, she’ll make room for the joy as well. She remembers then, like Yin Yang symbol, there’s a dot of death in summer, and a dot of life in winter. And if she can open herself to these paradoxes and polarities, she might find more ease inside herself on this day, and in this life. And if she could stop in the middle of the heat, in the middle of a summer day, especially in the middle of a holiday, when expectations for joy run high, and turn inward long enough to touch that dot of death, she might connect to a memory from childhood, to a day when she sat by the pool or at the lake’s edge and felt happy and safe, or sad and alone. And no matter how she felt, she would breathe into the bittersweet nostalgic sadness that arises now from knowing that that moment is gone, that her childhood is over. That her original family, no matter how healthy or dysfunctional, and every family has shades of both, has dispersed and reconfigured. And if she could breathe into that pang of longing on a hot summer’s day, she would have practiced a moment of accepting that people are prisms and life is paradox. And a moment that she wanted to push away was instead metabolized into spaciousness and transformed into rain. And her heart opened because she let herself feel exactly what she was feeling. The grief is the medicine. The self compassion is what opens our hearts to love.”

VICTORIA
Drops the mic. Sheryl drops the mic. So beautiful.

SHERYL
Thank you, Victoria.

VICTORIA
If people want to find that blog post or your blog in general, they want to find more of you in your work. Where can they go?

SHERYL
Yes, I am at conscious dash transitions.com That’s my website, and at wisdom of anxiety on Instagram.

VICTORIA
And you can find me over at my other podcast, Perennials, or on Instagram at perennials podcast. And if you are enjoying Gathering Gold, please subscribe wherever you get your podcasts and rate it, leave a review, share with a friend. It helps other people to find the show. We appreciate it so much. Thank you for listening.

In Episode 4, we’re talking about another liminal time that serves as a potent opportunity for meeting our inner worlds: morning. We discuss feelings that can arise when we first open our eyes, from dread to joy, and Sheryl shares ways to turn inward without getting stuck or engulfed by big feelings at the start of the day. We talk about “co-sleeping” with our phones and share gentle strategies for working with the habit of checking them first thing in the morning. We also discuss morning rituals and routines, and why throwing out judgment and labels of “good” and “bad” can make all the difference in helping us welcome the day with more gratitude and connection. Sheryl closes with a suggested practice for the first five minutes of our morning.

References:

You can view a transcript of Episode 4 here.
Sheryl Paul
Welcome to Gathering Gold. This is Sheryl Paul.

Victoria Russell
And I’m Victoria Russell. So, in the last episode, we talked about nighttime. And now we’re talking about morning, and what can come up for the highly sensitive person. So Sheryl, would you like to share a little story about mornings?

Sheryl
Yes. So a few days ago, I woke up and I stepped outside onto our balcony, where, it’s one place where I like to do my morning practices, when the weather turns gorgeous. And I was moving through my practices, feeling, not a whole lot, just moving through them. And then I dropped down into child’s pose. And I really slowed down, came into my body. And it was when I went into child’s pose that I noticed something in my heart, an emotion, like sadness, maybe emptiness, maybe nameless dread. And I breathed into it, slowing down even more, watching my mind’s desire to name exactly what I was feeling, but dropping back down into the place of just feeling it, noticing it, accompanying the feeling without trying to change it or fix it. And as I was staying with this feeling in my heart, I noticed that the mama robin who has been sitting on a nest outside our bedroom window, she looked flustered, and I saw that a bluebird was attacking the nest. And the bluebird was going back and forth, circling around the nest outside our window and then going back into the apple tree. And I didn’t know what was happening, I was worried that the blue bird had stolen an egg. Had the babies hatched, had the bluebirds stolen a baby? I didn’t know, I just saw the mama bird looking flustered and feeling her urgency to protect her nest and feeling into her fear of loss. And everything inside of me broke open, feeling into the vulnerability of all life, the frailty, the risks that we take every single day, when we love, when we care so deeply. And Pema Chodron’s phrase, the genuine heart of sadness came to mind as it often does. I love that phrase, which is the inherent sadness of being human, not necessarily because something sad has happened to you, or is happening. But because there’s a sadness, there’s a heart tinged with sadness, that’s just part of our human experience. And so when I opened to that genuine heart of sadness, my heart, my whole heart flew open. Opening to the sadness opened my whole heart, and I opened to what felt like, in that moment, like a flock of joy that was living in my heart as well, embedded in the sadness, next to the sadness, and just this immense gratitude for the miracle of this, robin, this bird who had built a nest outside our window. It’s a miracle to me, every single day, when I see that nest there, especially having grown up in a city. That’s not something that I grew up with. So it is a miracle, the miracle of that nest, the miracle of those blue eggs that sit in the nest, the babies that will be born, the miracle of love, that cares for life. This is what I can experience sometimes if I take that time in the morning to slow down. Taking the risk to feel what’s living in my heart instead of rushing past it. Listening to the world around me, but starting with that world inside.

Victoria
It’s really beautiful. And I can really relate to tapping into kind of a nameless or amorphous sense of sadness, or like you said maybe emptiness. I have definitely had periods when I was having a lot of panic attacks when I would wake up and just panic was the first thing I felt. But I also was thinking about how sometimes there’s a very specific reason why morning is difficult or waking up is really difficult. And I was thinking about when my college boyfriend and I were breaking up, in a kind of long, drawn-out process of breaking up. And every morning when I woke up was so painful and difficult. We didn’t live together, but I would have dreams about him, or I would, you know, immediately want to reach out, maybe sometimes I would reach out. And so the morning, it was just like, everything would come flooding in instantly upon opening my eyes. There was such a specific reason why waking up and facing reality and facing the day was really difficult at that time. And so I also just find myself thinking about anyone who’s listening, who might be going through something very specifically difficult, and how waking up can just be very painful when the reality of what you’re waking up into is is painful.

Sheryl
Yes. Yes. So compassionate, to bring that in first thing and to connect to anybody who is listening, who is going through something specifically painful, perhaps a loss of some kind. And that when you wake up, it’s that feeling of, oh, gosh, another day that I have to face, that I have to sit with this loss, with this pain. And so it, you know, brings us into this topic of the liminal. The liminal time, that morning is another liminal time like night, where we’re poised between two worlds, the world of the unconscious, dream, sleep, and our conscious reality. And like all liminal zones, all in between times, it’s highly vulnerable. And it’s often when anxiety and intrusive thoughts and anything that we’ve managed to distract from during the day, and even the night and sleep, and anything we’ve managed to shove down, comes rushing in. And I was thinking when I was thinking about this episode that like nighttime, morning is also a silt time. And so what I mean is that whatever has been ignored, shoved down, distracted against, will rise up to the top of the jar of soul and ask for attention. So if you imagine that our soul is like a jar filled with water, and all day long, we’re shaking it up. We’re busy, we’re loud, we’re noisy, we’re distracting. And then we go to sleep, everything settles down, we have to stop moving. And then throughout the night, that the mud, the sludge, it all kind of rises to the top. So we can feel this at night because that’s also another time that we stop, and it’s a liminal time, but I think it can be more pronounced in morning because we’ve been still all night long in sleep. And so the stuff that actually wants our attention, what needs our attention, what’s left, rises to the top. And I was thinking how, going back to our second episode and talking about the name Gathering Gold, and the gold that comes from approaching our inner world, what feels like the heaviness, what is the heaviness? The sludge, the mud, the lead, the depression, the anxiety, the grief, when we approach it with a great deal of compassion and tenderness and gentleness and curiosity, we realize that there’s also gold in that silt. Through the lens of gathering gold, we we see the gold. And I was thinking how when you go down to the beach and you collect wet sand, you can see flecks of gold in it. As a child I think that always, it looks like gold. I know my kids, when we even go down to the creek here, and they’ll say “Look, gold in the mud.” So it’s remembering that it can feel so awful in the morning, that heavy layer, but that when we approach the sorrow or the anxiety or the dread or whatever sits in that morning silt layer with even just a bit of kindness, we can find the gold there.

Victoria
And thinking about how I also had a more recent experience of relationship anxiety with my current partner, who I’m with and who I love very much, and how painful that experience was, having difficult dreams, and just carrying a lot of anxiety and even depression and and how, waking up from that, in that state, was always really difficult, and how it can be so hard to believe that there’s any gold there, and and to know what to do when you wake up with that feeling. I’m actually wondering if it’s possible to like really break down what turning inward looks like, without getting really either just like dragged down or stuck in what feels more like self-absorption or something that is like engulfing, as opposed to oh, I’m attending and moving on. Moving forward. How do you turn inward without getting just dragged and bogged down?

Sheryl
Yeah, no, it’s a fantastic question. And it’s such an important one. And it it speaks to another place that I talk about a lot, which is that inner parent, that if you are turning inward, and there isn’t an inner parent at the head of the table, if there isn’t that part of you that that is grounded, that is anchored, that that compassionate friend, that you would be for any one of your friends who maybe happened to call you at 7am and needed you to show up for them. Because we all have that part of us. And the reason I use that example is because some people say, Well, I don’t have an inner parent. Well, you do. It’s the part that shows up for everybody else, except for your own self. Right? It’s the part that if your little sister calls, or you’re taking care of an animal, or your best friend needs you, you show up. And so if you’re turning inward, and you are just the feeling part, you are just the grief, without some other solid part of you that is standing on the shore, it will feel like you are drowning. And it won’t actually be productive. It will feel like you are just getting bogged down in this in this swamp land of a of stickiness and emotion and messiness. And you won’t necessarily have that sense of things moving. Right? The energy moving and opening you to even just a glimmer of insight. A glimmer of “I’m okay, I moved through something and I’m okay.” This is why morning practices, in my opinion, are so important, because it’s this very raw time where yes, the inner parent can easily jump ship and just go offline, so easy to do that. But because it’s such potent time, because the impact is greater, the inner parent may be able to show up with more more fortitude, show up in a stronger way. And so it’s the bigger picture here is that it’s not all going to happen in those first five minutes, right? If you’re not growing that inner parent at other points in your day, if you’re not tapping into practices like journaling or dialoguing or mindfulness that help you grow that witness self and help you grow that part of you that is self reflective, it’s going to be a lot harder in that morning time. But there’s also this incredible potent opportunity, this window of time where you can practice stepping in, showing up. Another phrase that I often use in my work is “move toward.” There are going to be difficult feelings always, and so we’re in this morning time of heightened, difficult feelings, often. Sometimes you might wake up in joy. And that’s fantastic. And also something to move towards, and also an experience that some people actually have a hard time moving towards joy, and embracing joy. And that’s worth mentioning as well, and needs us to move toward as much as our difficult feelings. So the choice point is to recognize that you can get up and distract, reach for your phone, which is the go-to place for most people these days, I think, immediately externalize whatever is going on, open to this whole gigantic universe of the internet, and the whole outside world comes rushing in instantly.

And sometimes that may be exactly what is needed, and that’s okay. But eventually, those difficult feelings that you are trying to distract from are going to find you one way or another. So the choice point is you wake up, however you’re feeling, whatever you’re experiencing. And you realize in that fraction of a second before you reach for your phone, I know is really, really hard. But you realize, I have a choice, I can get up and try to distract from the anxiety. And again, sometimes that may may be exactly what’s needed. You can jump on the anxious train of thought, whatever the spike is, relationship anxiety, or health anxiety, or worrying about your kids, all of the spinning and tumbling that happens in our anxious brains. And if you jump on that train of thought, you will almost invariably, inevitably, guaranteed add fuel to that fire. And usually that happens by ruminating. But it can also happen by googling or scrolling, trying to find something that’s going to magically dissolve the anxiety. Or you can try to avoid what’s happening internally altogether by reaching for your phone or something else that will numb you. Or you can become curious. You can put all of those externals aside, and it’s really hard to do. So simple to say, so hard to do. Become curious, turn inward, turn toward the anxiety or the loneliness or the grief or the joy, whatever it is you’re feeling, and bring some softness to it. Some holding, like you would a child, if you had a child in your bed, who woke up crying, who woke up scared, who woke up joyful. And you were deeply bonded to this child. How sad would it be if you miss that moment of connection and turned to your phone instead?

Victoria
I was saying to you before we started recording that my phone and I are often co-sleeping. So…not all the time. Sometimes it is literally in the bed. Sometimes it’s right next to it. Sometimes it’s on the dresser across the room. It’s something that…I feel like, if I don’t check it right away, and I am really trying to, like, do the right thing, quote unquote, I’m just like waiting till I can check it. And I feel like I’m like, a little fixated on it.

Sheryl
If my phone is in eye shot, if I can see it, I don’t stand a chance. There is no way that I can resist the urge to check. I mean, not no way obviously, you know, I could do it if I had to, but it’s not going to happen. And so that’s why even literally just putting it outside the door. So that I can’t see it.

Victoria
Yeah,

my anxious brain is like “I need my phone in case someone breaks into my house.”

Sheryl
Mm hmm.

Victoria
Not to plant any ideas into any anxious heads, but especially if I’m completely alone in the house, I’m like “I need my phone in the room.” Because what if someone breaks in?

Sheryl
I understand that completely. And if I was alone, I would feel the same way. 100% I would totally feel the same way. And so you know, then it’s kind of working with what you have. And so let’s say you are going to keep your phone in your room. You are going to check it first thing in the morning. Okay, that’s okay. We make room for that, that’s the reality for most people. So let’s not fight that current too hard. Yes, the recognition that once you open up that portal, the whole world rushes in. And so it’s a little bit harder to get back into that space of soul, that space of heart and body. But it doesn’t mean it’s not possible and it’s not beneficial. And so let’s say you, again, inner parent says, Okay, I’ll check for five minutes, or I’ll keep my phone in my room because I feel safer. But then after I check for the five minutes, then I put it away, then I put it outside the door.

Victoria
That actually was really helpful to me, because I do tend to get so black and white and so hard on myself, like, it’s all or nothing, like if I even pick it up, oh, I failed. I’m a bad person. And the whole day is ruined and like, having that weight and that guilt is so unhelpful. And so sometimes it’s a lot easier just to say, yeah, so I, I picked it up, and I checked, and now I just put it down and I do the next thing. And this is not an advertisement. But I did shift to opening up the headspace app and watching their wakeup video. My favorite ones are like, a couple of minutes of just very focused, a beautiful video of like something in nature. My favorite was about the 72 Micro seasons of the Japanese calendar. And it might be like four minutes, and it’s beautiful, and it’s quiet. And for me, I think when I was just in such a place of like, rumination and obsessing and getting really dragged under, if I watched a little video like that, it inspired me to just get out of bed. And I would first check the weather app, but I would look at okay, what’s the sunrise and sunset time? And what phase of the moon are we in? And what are the high and low temperatures today? And I would write it all down on a whiteboard on my refrigerator in the kitchen, almost like I was in like kindergarten or something. And it was like, Okay, kids, what day is it? I would write down the date to, you know, like, center myself in like, when and where am I? And that really changed my perspective, because kind of starting the day with looking at nature, like other places inspired me to go like, Well, where am I? What’s going on where I am right now, like, so many days, I would get to work and be like, pre-COVID, when I was in the office, like, I don’t even know what day it is, you know, I’m spending hours commuting, and in a freezing cold office no matter what season of the year it is. So I don’t even know what the temperature is outside, how long the sunlight lasts, you know, like, I’m in this vacuum, almost, practically. So just grounding myself in like when and where am I, and then noticing the days getting longer or getting shorter. And it inspired me to like go, Oh, I really need to take a walk today. Because it’s actually going to be really nice. And the day is going to be long. And it really helped me just to take an action like that, that just brought me into the present.

Sheryl
I love that so much. And what it brings to mind are a couple of things. One is this is why I love that it’s you and I doing this podcast because I think you’re speaking for your generation. And I’m speaking from a different generation that you are saying, well, this is the reality, we are sleeping with our phones, basically, we are co sleeping with our phones, attachment style, attachment parenting. And let’s not fight it, let’s use it in the best possible way. And so using technology to bring you into the present moment to ground you in time and space. Where am I? What day is it? What’s the date? What’s happening, seasonally what’s happening in in the phases of the moon, what’s happening in the weather. And that for you? That was the entry point that was the portal that led you to a really beautiful grounding morning practice that did set the tone and even affect your actions for the day in terms of Oh, it’s this is the length of day this is when it might be the best time to take a walk. Right. So that’s beautiful. That’s the best use of technology, and I think that’s a very different way of using it than “I’m going to open up my phone and sit there and get lost in scrolling land for the first 20 minutes of my day.” And so I think the most important piece here is, how does it make you feel? Does it move you in a direction of more, of coming into the present moment and being more grounded? Or after this 20 minutes of scrolling or getting lost in the black hole of YouTube, or whatever it is, then what do you notice inside? And again, sometimes, sitting there scrolling might land you in a more elevated place, it might point you in the direction of exactly what you needed to read, when you woke up in the morning that helped diffuse or dissolve some intrusive thoughts that were starting to take hold or had already taken hold. And so it’s not black and white, and we absolutely don’t want to get stuck, absolutely, in the in that mindset of, oh, if I pick up my phone, I’m bad, I failed. It’s, it’s really much more, it’s less about the action itself, and so much more about what happens next, what is your intention. But the other thing that brought to mind from what you shared is a very beautiful way to ground and connect in time and space, which is one that I use, which for me is connecting to the Jewish calendar. And this has only happened for me in the past couple of years. Because as I think I shared in that initial episode, I didn’t grow up in any kind of religious way. So Judaism for me has been this slow, very slow piecing together as an adult of what resonates for me. And in the past year or so I’ve started to write down, when I go to journal, or write down a dream in the morning, alright, the Gregorian calendar date, June 7, and then I’ll write what date is in the Jewish calendar. And it connects me in so many levels that connects me to the lunar calendar, because Judaism is a lunar calendar. And our calendar is a solar calendar. So Judaism follows the phases of the moon, I immediately know how how near we are to the next new moon based on the date or the full moon or the quarter moon. I’m connected to my ancestors and connected to this whole lineage that I come from. So I think the most important piece, the most important word, and I think we’ve touched on this in every episode, and probably will moving forward in every episode is connection. What makes you feel connected, grounded in the present moment? And what makes you feel disconnected? And again, with no judgment. Right? So for me, going to my phone disconnects me, for somebody else, and what you’re sharing,

it’s an avenue for deeper connection, for deeper grounding. And so again, it’s not the thing itself. It’s how we use it that matters.

Victoria
Yeah, it’s, to me, it’s like, what’s also helpful is what can I…what choice can I make that will just remove the charge a little bit? So if if forbidding myself from touching the phone makes it that much more charged, then that might not be the best way right now. Like, I’m also hopeful that maybe sometime in the future, I won’t, I won’t immediately reach for it. Who knows, you know, and there have been times where I’ve had, you know, different practices in the morning. And I didn’t immediately reach for my phone, but I think, yeah, really like removing the charge so that you feel more neutral as opposed to, oh, this this thing is really, really good. And this thing’s really, really bad. And I have to choose the right one or I’m, you know, um…and, like you said, kind of looking for the points of connection.

Sheryl
And does it connect me? And it’s so paradoxical. It’s so ironic, because we reach for the phone because we’re looking for connection. We are so hungry for connection. And we do need that connection. We need that comfort from others. And so we reach for the phone and we think something or someone is going to fill in this empty, bored, lonely feeling inside. Maybe there will be a text or an email that will fill in my loneliness, maybe an Instagram post will make me feel alive, will make something make sense. And it’s not that these ways of connecting can’t help, can’t point us in the direction of tools, or insights that can help us in some way. But they can’t do it for us. It’s just about asking, Is this a loving choice? Is this a choice that serves me? It’s not right or wrong. Right? Definitely removing the charge of morality, of “I’m a bad person,” or “This is the spiritual thing to do, and this is the not spiritual thing to do.” Right, we definitely want to shift away from that kind of morality or judgmental thinking. Because of course, that doesn’t serve anything. But it’s again, it’s bringing that mindset of curiosity and being deeply curious. What actions feel connecting? Does this connect? And it’s okay to choose the ones that are disconnecting, it’s, again, it’s all okay. It’s all okay. It doesn’t make you a bad person. It doesn’t make you less spiritual. Right? It’s shifting away from all of that thinking, and coming back into you and just asking, “How do I feel when I make this choice? How do I feel when I make that choice? What do I notice inside?”

Victoria
And even just pausing long enough to notice that you are making a choice, as opposed to the autopilot. When I think about things being charged…mornings are interesting, because I think there’s a lot of pressure on mornings, definitely, like the oh, I should really wake up in a spiritual way with you know, if you if you tend towards that. And then there’s this fascination with what do successful people do in the morning? What are the morning habits of people who are super successful in their field? And so, there’s this like, pressure first thing when you wake up, like, what kind of person am I am I? Am I a spiritual person? Am I successful person? Or am I a failure? There are some people who are just like, yeah, um, I wake up, I make my cup of coffee, and I read the newspaper, like, what’s the big deal? And just would never even understand why we would agonize over this. But then there are those of us, myself included, who are waking up every morning like, I should really be meditating for 20 minutes right now, but I’m scrolling through Instagram.

Sheryl
Yes.

Victoria
And so, yeah, I just, I’m so fascinated by that, by like, the weight we put on it. And what I really love though, is seeing how everybody is so different. I looked up, in preparation for this episode, I was like, What did Jane Austen do in the morning? Like, what do they know about what Jane Austen did? Well, apparently, she played the piano when she first woke up. And I was like, Oh, I love to like, practice the guitar a little bit when I first wake up. You know? And when I was a little kid, I loved on weekends…I mean, I’ve always had a really hard time getting out of bed. I’ve always just wanted to stay asleep. But on the weekends, I would wake up early…My mom was like, why? When you have to go to school, you don’t want to get out of bed. But on the weekends, I’d wake up before everybody else. And I would go downstairs to read because I just loved reading so much. And I loved that it was quiet. And I would just start my day with a book. So I also just found myself thinking about like, what are the things that I used to…what would I have done as a kid, like, what was my first impulse as a kid? And it was to pick up a book with a lot of joy, and to find that quiet spot, while everyone else was asleep, to enjoy my book.

Sheryl
I love that. And it it tracks back to one of the metaphors that that I was talking about earlier in terms of regarding those first few minutes, first half hour, like a child as if you are a child, how do I want to open the day? How do I want to greet myself? How do I want to start the day and so thinking back to what you actually did as a child is really beautiful. That for you, waking up early and grabbing a book and curling up in the corner and everybody was asleep, that was so joyful for you. And for Jane Austen, getting up and playing the piano, and for you, reaching for the guitar, like those are such beautiful ways to start the day, such, I would think very fulfilling, soul-honoring ways to start the day. And again, that’s not to say that if you start the day by scrolling or reading the news, that it’s bad or wrong, it’s not about bad or wrong. It’s just about noticing. How does it make you feel? What’s happening inside? And for the people who get up and make a cup of coffee and read the newspaper, and they’re like, why are you agonizing, all you have to do is…well number one, they’re probably not listening to this podcast. They’re listening to like NPR, or news or something. And that’s great. And we bless their hearts, we need all

Victoria
we really need them in our lives, too. We really

Sheryl
need them like amen, thank you, I wish I was you sometimes. But but we are not. We are the 20% highly sensitive people. And so there are different requirements, there are different things that are asked of us. There are different needs or different sensitivities. Right. And it is really about what building your own morning practice, even if it’s five minutes, that feels nourishing for you. That fills you in some way, that tends to yourself in some way. It doesn’t necessarily mean sitting there with all of your grief, it might not be that that might not be the time when you need to sit there with all your grief, that’s okay. Your grief will find you at some other time. But if you are even aware enough of the grief, that you can name it, and then say, maybe I’m going to play the piano with my grief. Maybe I’m not just going to sit there and journal about it and cry. Or maybe I’m just going to step outside and tilt my head to the sun. And say good morning day, and feel the sun. That’s one of my most favorite things to do in the morning is, especially this time of year, is to just get outside or open a window. Look outside. But if I can actually step outside and feel the day and greet the day, and connect to something bigger than me. And when I do that, and even talking about it now it reminds me of Braiding Sweetgrass, which I will be mentioning, I’m sure, a ton in this podcast, Robin Wall Kimmerer. And the indigenous practice of blessing the day, greeting the day, really being in gratitude, first thing in the morning, that we acknowledge that without that sun in that exact position, and the earth in the exact spot that it is in relationship to that sun, we have no life. And so just that simple act for me of stepping outside, feeling the sun, feeling that warmth, feeling that goodness, and saying thank you, sun. It makes a difference.

Victoria
I love talking about how, how, how much we need that diversity of different types of people. And then also even for ourselves. I know you mentioned to me Sheryl, that there have been periods of your life, like when your children were very young, when this was really hard, and so your mornings looked really different, and that was okay. And just allowing ourselves, even, to be dynamic with it, not trying to like enforce something on ourselves that’s just really not right for where we are at in a particular season, and instead turning to something really gentle, like you just talked about, like, I really enjoy sometimes just watering the plants when I first wake up. I’m just like, Listen, I don’t have enough in me right now to like, turn towards this big, big feeling right now. I need the container of my therapy session. Like I’m just not going to do it right now on my own. But can I connect to that sense of care by caring for my plants? And and slowing down and feeling the sun and feeling the water and just being really grateful for the flowers, you know?

Sheryl
Yes, yes. That’s so beautiful. I also love emphasizing the the beauty of all temperaments and it makes me think about my husband, your Uncle Daev, who is who is highly sensitive, but in a different way than I am. And when I come down in the mornings, if he’s awake before I am, he always has his iPad on the kitchen counter, and the Twitter feed and his cup of coffee, and it’s the equivalent of the morning newspaper, right? And, you know, he is a very spiritual, creative, artistic, beautiful human being. And this is how he starts his day. For the life of me, I cannot understand it. I wish I could, I wish I could just get into that. But it, like I said, it for me, it feels like an assault. I’m not even on Twitter, because the whole Twitter world terrifies me, I’m way too sensitive for Twitter, but he loves it. That’s his ritual. He gets his, his his meditation time, which is you know, very rarely, I think just sitting and meditating. For him, it’s doing art or it’s getting to the mountains when he can when, when he could get going for a hike when he can. So it’s it is very much widening, I think, these very narrow definitions we have of something like when you hear morning practice or spiritual practice, it can literally be watering the plants. It’s just noticing what is needed. Bringing some sense of kindness to wherever you’re at, making a choice, recognizing that there is a choice point. And even just that alone, slowing down enough to recognize that you have a choice point. Instead of reaching for the habitual things, devices, substances, whatever it is that you reach for slowing down enough to ask, is this serving me? Is this nourishing me? If I were to make a different choice right now, what might that be?

Victoria
And I really love connecting to a person whose voice I can hear in my head. So it might be my therapist, or it might be our beloved Pema Chodron, who just has such a comforting voice, or like a friend. For someone it might be you, you know? If something like morning is something you struggle with, like I just really like connecting to a person who makes me feel both comforted and inspired right? In that moment to think about something they might say, or encourage or just something that they’ve said, that brings me some sense of, oh, yeah, like if I’m struggling right now that that is part of the human experience. And it’s okay. And it often just has to do like you said, with that, pausing and noticing, first and foremost, with kindness, if I can muster it, borrowing that kindness from someone else sometimes.

Sheryl
It reminds me actually of something that I do recommend to people who are struggling with panic attacks or even in the midst of an anxious moment is to put into your notes section, What do I do in a panic attack? What do I do in the middle of an intrusive thoughts storm? Because we have amnesia, we forget, that different part of our brain has taken over. And we have to literally remember, first of all, that we have that little reminder in the phone, but the same can be true for morning. But you mentioned again, through the lens of compassion and being kind to ourselves, those times in life when we have no morning practice to speak up. And for me as a new mother for many years, I didn’t have really any morning rituals. It was my kids in the bed, my babies in the bed. And then toddlers in the bed and older kids and…but kids in the bed for a very long time. And not waking up according to my own clock at all, waking up from their clock and waking up to their needs, their needs being first and foremost. It’s part of the reason why, Victoria and all of you listening, why my morning practices are so delicious and sacred to me now. And I think that’s an important piece to throw in that me at 49 versus you at 29, me having an almost 17 year old and a 12 year old, having all those years when my mornings, were not my own. My nights were not my own for years and years and years, that for me now to wake up and not have a child needing me is nothing short of extraordinary. And at 49, things become a lot more non negotiable. I don’t have a luxury, actually of just jumping out of bed, my body needs a different kind of attention than it needed at 29 or even at 39. And my soul does too, the stakes are higher in this portal that I’m in. And so for those years, when the morning ritual was breastfeeding my baby, that was it, and that’s beautiful. That’s beautiful, but it wasn’t my own. It was all output, everything was output. And then when they got a little older, I would find a way to do my rituals, some of them with them in the room. Now I have a I have a visual in my mind of putting on music when Asher’s little, and I was sleeping in his room at that point, and doing yoga. And I love that he has that somewhere in his memory bank. That that’s how his mommy started her day, was just doing five or 10 minutes of yoga, stretching, very informal, just moving my body connecting to the music, always invite them to join me. Usually they wouldn’t. That’s okay. And so again, it’s really emphasizing I think what we are both wanting to emphasize that for highly sensitive people, it’s so easy to come down on ourselves, for not doing this or that. There are stages in life, there are times in life, when you simply can’t for whatever reason, you just can’t create a morning practice at all. And that is completely okay.

Victoria
And I know that you have a suggestion.

Sheryl
Yes.

Victoria
For how we might try greeting the first five minutes of our day when we wake?

Sheryl
Yes.

So when you wake up, and you open your eyes in many traditions, the first words that we are advised to say, encouraged to say out loud, is some form of Thank you. Thank you for this day. Thank you for another day. In Judaism, the prayer is Modeh Ani for women, and it’s a very beautiful, simple 13 word prayer that basically thanks the spirit of the universe, the breath of life, whatever, however we conceive of that for returning my soul to me, for having faith in me, being fully me for another day. And so in that prayer, there’s this very simple exchange of Thank you. And, in some sense, may I be of service, may I be the fullness of me in service in some way for this day. So that can be first. And this is like when I talk to people about creating a spiritual practice. It’s like creating, it’s like creating a recipe. So take a little bit of this from the gratitude pantry section. And then shift into your body. Taking one deep breath, inhale, exhale. Maybe bringing your knees to your chest if that’s accessible to you, but the sense again of coming into your body, waking up your body, tapping into that life force, the breath of life that we all have, if you are alive, you have a breath of life. And then the third action might be something like opening a window and greeting the day, maybe watering some plants, saying thank you being in some sense of gratitude. Thank you, sun, thank you tree. Thank you plant. Thank you sky. And this helps us to connect to something bigger than ourselves and reminds us that we are in reciprocal relationship again from from Braiding Sweetgrass, she talks a lot about being in reciprocal relationship, giving and receiving. in breath, out breath, that we are in connection, that it’s all about connection, and that when we connect, when we can tap in, when we can link in to that greater field, it can give us a sense of I am being held, I am not alone, I’m okay, I can be held in whatever experience I’m having right now. And it’s one of the antidotes to anxiety. So this morning, when I was doing some stretching on the balcony, and I was looking out at my beloved apple tree, who is in such glorious, full leaf bloom at the moment. And it doesn’t happen every morning. So delicious. When it does, I try not to get attached to it. But I was breathing and moving and looking at the tree. Being in union with the tree, sort of trying to match the the limbs, the direction of the limbs with my own limbs. And I could feel that energy, I could feel the life force, I could feel that chi, waking up, and it felt like my own sap moving, the way the trees start to wake up in early spring. That this is my waking up from the winter of sleep into that early spring that sort of cold place of morning even if it’s warm outside but just getting my joints, my limbs, my soul, my heart moving again. And so when I can tap in and I feel and I’m linking into, connecting with the trees lifeforce,

resonating it into my own tree trunk, torso, the limbs, my arms and legs, there’s a real grounding, there’s a real joy that I can draw from for the rest of my day. That doesn’t mean I will stay in joy the whole day, that hardly ever happens. The day will be whatever the day is, my kids will fight with each other, my husband and I will get irritated, there’ll be work stress, the day will be the day, but there’ll be in some sense, some undercurrent, some underlayer that I can tap into, not even consciously, it’s not that I’m going back to that moment in the morning, but I trust that I am drawing from that well, that I took that time to fill the well in the morning that’s felt like it’s sometimes just starts out empty in those first moments of awakening. Filling it up. Maybe not all the way, maybe I fill it halfway. That’s okay. And then I draw from it. So much output in my days, so many people that I’m tending to, gratefully tending to. It’s a lot of output. My well needs to be as full as possible. And so I’m drawing from it, and then back to night. Back to episode three. And again, filling the well. Closing out in some way.

Victoria
I love that image of the apple tree and the sap. I am totally going to use that tomorrow morning.

Sheryl
Yes. Yes, trees are amazing places to tap into. And no matter where you live, almost, I’m always amazed when I go to New York City and there’s trees and there’s birds, even in New York City. The trees and the birds are everywhere. And such gifts that they still grow in concrete. And we can we can have relationships with them that deeply serve us. And I like to think may even serve them.

Victoria
It’s so beautiful. Thank you so much.

Sheryl
Thank you, Victoria.

Victoria
If people want to find you and more of your work online, where should they go?

Sheryl
Yes, you

can find me on my website, conscious dash transitions.com and on Instagram, at wisdom of anxiety.

Victoria
And you can find me over at my other podcast perennials or on Instagram at perennials podcast. Thank you so much for listening.

In Episode 3, we shine some light on what’s happening in the highly sensitive heart during the dark, quiet (and sometimes scary) hours of the night. Beginning with the sense of emptiness, dread or loneliness that may arise when the light starts to shift and we dip into sunset, then twilight, Sheryl and Victoria describe feelings that have accompanied them in these liminal times, particularly during childhood. Then, we talk about fear of the dark, Victoria’s first panic attack that occurred in the middle of the night, and Sheryl’s first experience with insomnia during her transition into junior high school. Sheryl describes her practice of taking time at night to reflect on the day, with compassion and curiosity, and the importance of finding bedtime rituals that feel nourishing, comforting and enjoyable to you. We close with a guided nighttime practice from Sheryl and a bit of poetry that reflects the gold we can uncover when we turn and face the night.

References:

You can view a transcript of Episode 3 here.
Sheryl Paul
Welcome to Gathering Gold. This is Sheryl Paul.

Victoria Russell
And I’m Victoria Russell. Today we are talking about nighttime. So before we go more deeply into the subject, of nighttime and nighttime anxiety and things that come up for us as the day is winding down, I’m just going to tell a little story that relates to the themes we’ll be unpacking. So one night, within the last two years, I was lying in bed, and my boyfriend Martin was already asleep next to me, and I was struggling to fall asleep. And I was lying there in the dark, and I suddenly had this memory of being three or four years old, and I was in my bedroom that I shared with my older sister, lying in bed, and my dad was in the room. And I think he was holding my baby brother, and kind of rocking him to sleep and walking around the room. And he was singing a lullaby, which was “La La Lu,” from the Disney movie, The Lady and the Tramp. And I remember as a little three or four year old, that my heart would just ache when I heard him singing this lullaby. And I would be lying there in the dark, and just feeling this tenderness and this sadness and this aching feeling, with some sort of sense that this was all temporary, that one day I wouldn’t be with my parents, and I wouldn’t be with my siblings, and just feeling like the tenderness of a parent’s love or family love–however I conceived of that as a three or four year old. And as I was lying there with Martin, you know, 25 years later, or something like that, I just had that memory. And I felt that ache in my body, you know, now I was with someone who I felt very safe and loved by as well, in a different way. And I felt that same ache and I could hear that lullaby. And there’s just something about lying there in the dark at night that can feel so tender, and so vulnerable, and I feel like can just open us up to this…I don’t know, different space of feeling something really deeply, and even how time can feel kind of different. So I wanted to share that story, because I think it relates to the themes that we’re going to talk about today around what can come up for us at night, and as we are approaching nighttime.

Sheryl
And not only what can come up for us at night, but particularly what can come up for the highly sensitive people among us, the highly sensitive child, that you were three or four Victoria is quite extraordinary that you were tapped into the finite nature of childhood, of family life, of the sweetness and tenderness of night time and of your dad’s voice and of being in the same space, the same physical space as your siblings and your dad. You were, like you wrote to me in the email when we were corresponding about this episode. Your tiny little highly sensitive heart, beautiful, exquisitely beautiful, highly sensitive soul already, at such a young age, feeling into the pain around time passing. Which is such a core pain that highly sensitive people are aware of quite often from a very early age, and that it came back to you at night, all those years later, in that space of silence with another safe attachment person really lays the groundwork for where we’re going to go today especially–so many places, which I’m sure we’ll come back to, but…we’ve been talking about, you and I, the micro moments–those small transitional times that tend to get overlooked in our culture. Because people don’t even know how to name them, we don’t even know how to discuss them. Except highly sensitive people feel them. They feel that sense of dread or sadness or emptiness or longing that happens at twilight, or in the morning. And today we’re going to talk about that feeling and that liminal space and that incredibly vulnerable time

of night,

that

tends to sort of touch people often in the evening, when the light starts to fade, highly sensitive people being highly attuned to shifts in light. And if we don’t name it, we don’t name what’s happening, oh, the light is shifting, darkness is coming. There’s a feeling here, I’m not even sure what it is, I don’t even have to name it exactly, maybe some kind of emptiness, maybe some kind of longing, maybe some kind of ache. But all I need to know is that there’s a feeling being activated by the shift in light. And if we don’t name it, it so easily morphs into anxiety. Because it’s the naming…what goes nameless, often latches on to anxiety simply to have something to latch on to. And so the naming gives us a bit of ground in this vast sea of groundlessness of a life. And the groundlessness being highlighted, amplified during these micro moments during these smaller transitions. Every night, we’re going into a transitional space, meaning that there is likely some element of loss because that’s part of the definition of transitions, there is a loss, there is a liminal space, and there is a rebirth, a new beginning, right? We see it in nature, we see it in all of our bigger transitions. And where there is loss…we are losing a day, that’s what we’re losing. We’re shifting out of that day, that will never happen again.

And the highly sensitive person feels that. And that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. There

can be so much goodness in the recognition, and a lightness, in the recognition of that feeling of loss or longing or groundlessness. And so we start by naming it, I’m in the vulnerable liminal space of evening into night, what emotions might be here that need my attention? Can I pause? Can I slow down enough to feel into the layers of loss to feel what lives there?

Victoria
As you were talking, I was remembering so vividly being a kid, being in elementary school and middle school, especially, like those ages from five to 13. And the feeling of dread or anxiety that I would start to feel as the sun started to set, that very particular feeling as the light started to change. And I wonder if some of it is also that for highly sensitive people, things like school and work can just be overwhelming. And that as the sun starts to go down, you’re like, ah, I have to do it all over again.

Sheryl
And, yes, I wonder if that feeling was different for you in the summer months? Do you have any memory of that?

Victoria
I think it was, I think it was very much during the school year. Yes.

Sheryl
I think that that evening, into night time means the next day is coming again. And if the next day is fraught with its own overwhelm, and anxiety, then we’re going to feel it the day before. I wonder too, if there’s something in the highly sensitive person that is, um, well, as I said, tapped into that sense of loss, that something shifting and leaving but also, for me, when I think back in those early years, I remember the light of that time of day and I remember feeling very lonely. And I remember being physically alone. My parents working, my brothers somewhere. But I think even if others were around…I felt a loneliness that, you know…I track so many things back to one of the ways I think we’re supposed to be living, which is in more more of a sense of community, but meaningful community, not just having people around, but entering into that evening into nighttime space. You know, in my fantasy anyway of more communal living or more indigenous living that it would be entered into with the cousins, and the aunties and uncles cooking, getting ready, perhaps a fire, perhaps there’s some sense of some being around the fire telling stories that there’s, there’s a communal acknowledgement of the vulnerability of night.

And that one way that we traverse and tolerate that vulnerability is in the togetherness

that maybe we’re not supposed to be alone. I mean, we’re not, we’re not supposed to be alone. We’re not solitary beings. We are social beings. But maybe there’s some archetypal primal sense in the highly sensitive person that senses into that specifically. And that late afternoon into evening time.

Victoria
Yeah, it’s really interesting, because I remember that I wouldn’t always feel as anxious when it was actually night time as I did during that…that in between time, right. There’s also something about kind of the uncertainty or the in between that’s like, so uncomfortable. Especially for people who experience a lot of anxiety and just always want it to be like, it’s this or that. It’s daytime or nighttime, you know?

Sheryl
Yes. Yes. It’s a liminal time. It is an in-between time, that late afternoon into evening. Maybe…yeah, evening itself, even, because it’s not quite night. So it’s that twilight, the twilight hour. Reminds me of when my kids were young, having babies. And babies often cry non stop through that twilight hour, sometimes for an hour straight. And it’s like they’re tapping into that very uncomfortable sort of distressful time

of,

I’m not taking my afternoon nap. It’s not that time yet. Maybe I’m hungry. Maybe I’m not. What am I doing, as a human? Like when babies realize, Oh, no. I’ve signed on to this incredibly uncomfortable, uncertain life. And nothing feels quite right right now. And we have an innate fear of the dark. I hear what you’re saying Victoria, it’s not even the night itself that was scary, it was that pre time that’s scary. I think, for kids, especially the dark is scary. And that makes sense, right? It’s probably why one of our first inventions was fire, we had to find a way to light up the darkness. And we understood that our safety was in being together and until recently, and still, in many cultures and parts of the world families have slept in the same room, often in the same bed. And I know from raising my two highly sensitive sons and working with highly sensitive people all over the world, that nighttime is often when the shadows are unleashed. Not only our fears, but also our vulnerabilities and our need for close connection. All of that is highlighted. So when I hear of a child, you know, a client’s child or somebody’s child who doesn’t want to sleep alone, I think, of course she doesn’t. Or the child needs a parent in the room as they were falling asleep as my kids did for many, many, many, many years. And I think of course, it’s so vulnerable,

so vulnerable.

So we as adults still carry those remnants. We still carry that into that nighttime space, especially if we weren’t ushered across those thresholds accompanied across those tenuous times, which most of us weren’t. If we were left alone, which most of us were, that we carry that sort of breathless place, those aches and longings and fears and vulnerabilities into the current transition of night. And we avoid it and we distract, and we delay going to bed and we have, a lot of people have almost a nameless dread that overcomes them at nighttime. I’m familiar with that as well. And I think it’s because we sense that this is a liminal time, we sense the vulnerability of not only the time before sleep, but also of sleep itself. That sleep, itself requires complete surrender to the unconscious. Some people say it’s a taste of death. So there was hardly anything more groundless than sleep. No wonder it scares us. And so we’re bringing our history to that moment, or bringing just the experience of being human and being a highly sensitive human to that moment. There’s so much embedded in those pre sleep and sleep hours, that we really don’t spend a lot of time talking about.

Victoria
Yes, oh my gosh, there was so much in that. So good. It’s funny, because while there was a certain dread in that, that sunset time, that early evening, at the same time, there were also periods of my life where I was very fearful at night, as well. And again, as you were talking, I was remembering Oh, yeah, my first panic attack was at night. I was transitioning into high school. And there were a couple of things that happened. But that day at school, my teacher was talking about the bird flu and how there was going to be a terrible pandemic, and we were all going to be quarantined. And that night, I was lying in bed. And that’s when I had my first panic attack. And then the panic attacks started happening at night, when I was trying to go to bed. I did feel scared, very scared, and I had to fall asleep with the 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice playing on a little mini DVD player for months.

Sheryl
Yes, yes. And it’s interesting, you bring up the TV, because I’ve had so many clients for whom falling asleep with the TV is the only way they can fall asleep, that it’s a huge source of comfort. And I completely understand that, that that level of comfort of not being alone in the room, right, of the TV, the TV being the proxy for the village really, or for maybe, maybe more secure attachment, or maybe people with whom you can share your inner world even though of course, it’s one directional, you are privy to their inner world. But it makes you feel connected in some way to to the greater humanity night. But as you were sharing that I thought back to my first sleep, well, I had a lot of trouble sleeping as a very young child, actually. I would often drag my sleeping bag to my parents’, there was a hallway outside their bedroom, and I would drag my…I had this cotton, green cotton sleeping bag with big pink flowers that I loved very much. And I would drag it to the hallway that just was the size of the sleeping bag. And we had a German shepherd and she would come and sleep with me, her name was Duchess and she was just a huge source of comfort. And I think animals often are, well, I know they are a deep source of comfort for kids and for grownups. And especially around sleep, around these places where we feel alone. But the other place that came to mind was my first experience of insomnia when I transitioned from elementary school, to junior high, and back then it was seventh grade when Junior High started. And it was a different school, and I loved my elementary school so much. Very, very secure, and comfortable there. And I was very insecure to start this new school. I was very insecure socially. There was a group of girls that intimidated the heck out of me. They were cool, they were popular, they had all the right clothes, and they were in a dance company. And I was not that, I was not popular and I was not cool. And, and I couldn’t fall asleep at night. It was the first time in my life when I had trouble falling asleep. And I often think about that, and I think about how we tend to overlook the link between insomnia and anxiety, and

how insomnia

like anxiety is a messenger, and that when we have trouble sleeping, it’s not always because of something that we’re not looking at emotionally or psychologically something that wants our attention. But sometimes it is. But in any case, it’s a messenger, that there’s something off physically, like when I don’t walk, when I don’t walk enough, when I don’t move my body, I have a much harder time sleeping. I just get that restless leg feeling in my body. But it also makes me think about that liminal time, at the end of the day, which is kind of like all transitions. It offers an opportunity for review. And I think in many traditions and many religious traditions, there is an invitation and encouragement to review one’s day.

Victoria
You know,

Sheryl
through the lens of compassion, not through the lens of let me beat myself up for all the ways that I messed up today. Not through that lens. But through the lens of let me be curious about where was I at today? And what did I do well, and where did I show up? And what is kind of niggling at me, perhaps there’s a place in one of my friendships that I’m trying to push underground that needs my attention, or with a family member, or with my partner, or with one of my kids, maybe there’s something in my work life,

maybe there’s

something that needs to be shaken up in some way. And so taking time to self reflect, and review the day, because if we don’t, the thing about night is that there’s no escape. It’s one of those confronting times, where there’s nowhere to run. And we’re asked to face the places that we can avoid when we’re busy. And life is noisy, during the day.

So

these liminal times,

bring into high relief, the places that we can distract from and shove down during typical life. And it’s very confronting, when you are left with yourself, nowhere to run. And here we are, here you are in the dark of night, nowhere to go. Yes, you can turn on the TV. And then maybe you’ll fall asleep and then maybe you’ll wake up in that two to 4 am. witching hour, because still, psyche has something to tell you, and is knocking on your door. And so wakes you up

with the hope that you’ll listen.

So this is one reason why I journal every night. It’s one of my rituals. I review my day, I scan my inner world and I put onto paper, what needs attention, places where I might be struggling and places where I might be carrying worry. And I don’t journal to necessarily arrive at answers or to get rid of the worry, although sometimes some clarity might arrive. But I journal to bring some closure to the day. I empty out contents of my mind and heart during this time of more quiet, less distraction. So that I can go into sleep more cleared out, and I don’t think we’re ever totally cleared out, but more cleared out in mind and heart.

Victoria
I have so many thoughts, I’m going to try to gather. So I’ll just…I’ll name first that I think for many anxious minds, the idea of psyche trying to tell you something is like very scary.

And

it’s interesting because there’s a spiritual practice called the Examen. Have you heard of this? Yeah. Okay. Yeah. So, in Ignatian spirituality, there’s this practice called the Examen that is often done at the end of the day, where you sit in the presence of God, or how you would conceive of God, and practice gratitude and review your day. And I used to practice that a bit. And what stops me is like perfectionism, like, Oh, I don’t want to see…like you said that that compassion piece is so important. So like, I don’t, I don’t want to beat up on myself for the ways that I didn’t live up to the person that I want to be. Or, you know, that anxious fear of oh my gosh, like, what is psyche trying to tell me? Or journaling as a way of over analyzing or ruminating or obsessing, you know, and getting into this heightened state of anxiety at night. So it’s just really interesting, because you and I were talking before recording about bedtime procrastination, and how there are so many reasons why we might procrastinate going to bed from maybe you, during the day, are so consumed by other people’s needs, whether at work or with children, that you just cherish that quiet time. Maybe you’re naturally a night owl, and you just feel more alive and creative at night. But then there’s also, like I was saying, I know that there’s a certain avoidance for me, where I’m scrolling, I’m scrolling, all of a sudden, I’m reading a People magazine article about a celebrity that I don’t even mildly care about, and like, their latest breakup, and I’m like, why am I reading this? At 12:30? On a Tuesday? And that’s where I think there’s some avoidance of Oh, no, like, what’s going to come to me in the stillness?

Sheryl
So the anxious mind, very scared of stillness, of silence, of slowing down and turning inward, particularly if there’s a specific anxiety theme like relationship anxiety, being terrified that what you’re going to hear is you have to leave your relationship. And that is typically not the case. And if you are in a loving, well matched relationship, it is really not the case. So it’s an act of courage to turn around and face the night. To slow down, and be willing to be in that space of silence and stillness. It takes a lot of courage, and it takes naming that anxious mind that is so afraid of what you’re going to discover. And bringing in that other mind, that inner parent, that voice of wisdom, that compassionate friend, that can respond to that fear with something like, of course you’re scared, and I’m right here with you. And whatever we discover, is going to bring me closer to myself, it’s not going to bring me further away. That’s not…psyche is not in the business of disconnecting us from ourselves. It’s the opposite, that when I turn inward, what I discover is me. And yes, there will be emotions there that might be difficult to feel. There might be thoughts that are uncomfortable, but those are, those are spinning anyway. It’s just about recognizing that they’re there and then realizing that you have a choice point for how you want to respond to them. But often, when I’m up in that two to four time and I resist the impulse to just look at my phone, and instead look out into the night and be with the night. What often comes is a poem. So anxious mind is so scared, what am I going to find? But then there’s the reframe and the flip: what might you find, what gold might you find, in the middle of the night? What lost song or poem or, you know, voice of psyche? What forgotten dream might bubble up in the middle of the night? Anxiety is always anticipating worst case scenario. But it’s one of our tasks is to learn to reframe. What if it’s something positive?

Victoria
Yeah.

Sheryl
And what if it even is like that beautiful, painful memory that bubbled up for you, Victoria that you shared at the beginning. That’s, that’s such precious gold. To have that kind of early memory, that felt experience in your body, to hear your dad’s voice, to remember the exact song, in that time when it was two other siblings, before the last two came around. That’s such a beautiful, precious nugget of gold that rose up for you, in that space of stillness, and the safety of the secure attachment next to Martin. It wouldn’t have come if you were scrolling and reading something on People. There’s no way. And so yes, you might discover a memory. Yes, you might discover a place of grief, those layers and layers of grief that we tend to push down in our grief phobic culture. But to me, that’s the gold, and I know I’m not in the majority to, to name those experiences as gold, but they really are. And I think we know that, that when we breathe into those spaces,

the gold is

yes, the space itself, but also what it opens up inside of us. That grief is the gateway into a lightness and joy. You know, and our memories, our stories, our connection to our family members, which of course are not always positive. But they’re still ours, they’re still our stories, and they deserve and they need to be heard, even if only by our own selves as adults.

Victoria
And so often it’s like, that tenderness of…I love these people so much. Or there can be pain, too, but there can be the ache of just…even if it’s complicated love. Like so much of being a highly sensitive person is like…there are so many people and so many things that I love about the world.

Sheryl
Yes. Yes. And so I think it brings us to this place, conversation about ritual and healthy ritual, and our need, our deep soul, human need for healthy rituals that can guide us across these tenuous thresholds that have always guided us. But we are now a ritual bereft culture. Bedtime rituals are essential. And there’s some part of us that knows this. That’s why we sing babies to sleep, and we rock them and we tell them bedtime stories, right? We surround them in story and song. And we pray and we say thank you. So there are these rituals, these places that we can learn to rely on, that can bring comfort, because they connect us to something bigger than ourselves. And the trick here is to find bedtime rituals that are meaningful for you. Because if you’re part of a religious tradition, you will have those rituals, but many people are not connected to religious traditions, traditional religion, but we still need the rituals. We still need those practices that offer a sense of okayness of comfort. The sense that you’re being held in safe arms, that you’re connected, that you’re not alone. And so for me, it’s it’s about being in practices that helped me to be in reciprocal relationship in that sense of giving and receiving with something invisible.

So

when I stand at the doorway, the sliding glass door in our bedroom and I look out at the night, I bless the night, I bless the moon, and the trees and the stars. And by blessing the night what I mean is I say thank you. To me blessings are expressions of gratitude. Thank you night. Thank you, apple tree. Thank you stars. Thank you moon. And what comes back to me is a sense of safety and connection. And so this is such a deeply ingrained practice for me that I can almost hear the stars and the trees and the moon in the night, receiving my gratitude, which to me, if I didn’t do it, it would be like not saying goodnight and I love you to my children. It’s so much a part of me now. So I hear them receiving me and I hear them saying goodnight back to me, I don’t literally hear the words, but I,

I feel it.

And so when I do this, then I’m now held in this web, I’m held like a baby wrapped in a very warm and safe blanket. And again, everybody, everyone needs to find their own their own practices. Whether it’s gratitude…and I say needs to find, nobody needs to do anything. But if you feel drawn to creating a bedtime ritual for yourself, I think a reciprocal practice, something that taps you into reciprocal relationship that gives you that sense of being held, can be transformative, it can transform a time of dread or resistance into quite a beautiful time

of gold.

Victoria
I think it’s so important what you’re saying about finding a ritual that is meaningful to you. Because I think that sometimes it’s…I can certainly speak for myself that now here I am at 29…for most of my 20s I was always trying to do a ritual that I’m like, oh, Sheryl would do this, or whoever, you know, someone I admire, they would do this. And, and and I I should do what they would do. And I should feel this way. And I’m trying to have this experience. And I’m trying to be in this state or be this person. And it’s kind of like knowing that vegetables are good for you. They’re nutritious, they make you feel good. But thinking well, it has to be broccoli. And maybe you don’t actually really like broccoli at all. And so there’s nothing pleasurable about it. You don’t enjoy it. You try to force it down your throat, you end up throwing it out, letting it rot in your fridge and eating potato chips every day. And then one day you discover like, Oh, I really like zucchini. Yes, or artichokes. Yeah, whatever it is, like there are so many vegetables, and it doesn’t have to be a punishment to eat them. Because then it just becomes another should, another way that you’re failing, another way that you’re not living up. I think it really is so important to find something that you genuinely enjoy and and take some pleasure in as well. Even if sometimes you feel resistance around it. But generally like when you do it, you’re like, Oh.

Sheryl
Absolutely, yes. And the bit about even if you feel some resistance around it is also very important because any ritual like exercise, moving our bodies, eating well, is a lot harder, it requires more effort, then scrolling. Pretty much anything requires more effort than scrolling. So if we’re going to shift out of the habit of phones being the last thing that we see before entering sleep, and anyone who knows my work knows that in every course I’ve ever offered in practically every webinar I’ve ever done, repeatedly on Instagram, I give the very strong advisement, encouragement to leave your phone in a different room, get an alarm clock, if that’s the way that you wake up. It’s very hard to enter into soul time and transition more gracefully and with more nourishment into sleep, if the phone is the last thing that you look at. And again, being kind to ourselves. There are certainly nights when the phone is the last thing I look at, and it’s right next to my bed. But for me, 95% of the time, it doesn’t live in my bedroom, it lives downstairs, and that makes it a lot easier to not have it be my last contact before bed. So yes, something pleasurable, and and it can be so small, it can be just one minute. Because I know we can get tend to get overwhelmed by oh my gosh, what what do you mean a ritual, I have to create a whole ritual and this and that and light a candle and say a prayer and do all these things. No. It can be one mindful, nourishing minute that brings you into connection to yourself and to something bigger than yourself. And there’s going to be resistance because it requires effort. And anything that requires effort often is met with resistance. We like to take the path of least resistance, we all have a place of fundamental laziness inside of us. And I say that with great compassion and love for our lazy parts. But if we don’t find that other place inside that says, I know you don’t feel like brushing your teeth, but we’re going to brush our teeth anyway, because we don’t want to get cavities. And for many people, teeth brushing is now an ingrained habit. It’s hard to imagine going to sleep without brushing teeth most nights, not everybody, but for a lot of people. So it’s kind of like imagining if this was just built into our lives, and I think that bedtime rituals are actually one of the rituals, like I mentioned earlier that are more built in, you know, like your dad, rocking your brother and singing him to sleep. That’s a bedtime ritual. He was doing it to try to get your brother to go to sleep. Because that’s how we help babies go to sleep. But there’s a reason why those are the things we do that help babies go to sleep. We still need those things. We still have that baby inside of us. And so maybe you sing a song. Maybe you just sit and rock in a rocking chair, and look out at the sky or at a tree that you can see from your window. Maybe you listen to music again. It’s tricky because so much is on our phones these days. I actually have an actual CD player with an actual alarm in it next to my bed. I’m sure some people are like what?

Victoria
A compact disc machine?

Sheryl
Yes, I might as well say I have like albums. A record player. And I love it.

I love that I

have a place, a way to listen to music that is not dependent on my phone.

But

you know, we also have voices. We can sing ourselves. We don’t need any electronic device. So yes, it’s finding you’re, finding your vegetable, finding your ritual that gives you some joy, some sense and hopefully a deep joy. Hopefully it connects you right into that place of goodness and that place of soul and that place of remembering that you’re not alone. Yeah,

Victoria
This is actually something that I do really struggle with. So I just want to name for people listening, like, it’s very hard for me to not bring my phone into the room at night. It’s hard for me to get myself to brush my teeth sometimes. It’s hard for me to stop working and say, “it’s okay to leave things unfinished” and “it’s okay and necessary and good to rest,” because we also live in a very like production obsessed culture, right? You have to put it down at a certain point and you need to rest and I think sometimes for me, it’s as simple as just getting myself into bed and then just breathing and reminding myself there is nothing to do right now. And oh, there’s the restlessness. That’s okay.

Oh,

there’s the resistance. That’s okay. Oh, my mind is really busy. That’s okay. I’m just gonna lie here and breathe. And I think that whole piece about possibly doing a ritual where you are like, reviewing your day a little bit?

Sheryl
Mm hmm.

Victoria
I think sometimes, like, what happens at night is, is sometimes a result of what’s happening during the day in terms of like, how lonely are you?

How,

what does your work life look like? Are you, are you really depressed? You know, like, all sorts of things, I feel like, sometimes can come to a head. And so, so there is that value, like you said, of taking stock of the day not to beat yourself up, but to go maybe I need to call a friend tomorrow.

Sheryl
Yes,

it brings to mind what you’re saying this idea of needs, and how, as infants, toddlers, children, whatever those may have been throughout the day, and then perhaps even coalescing, and being amplified at night, when the distractions and the school and the friends and the homework and everything falls away. And so I love what you’re saying about perhaps getting in touch with, with a need with with, with the feeling, which is the loneliness, and then the need, which is maybe I need to call a friend. Maybe I need to find a therapist, maybe what’s coming up is this depression that I haven’t known how to even name that I haven’t I’ve been scared to name. There is that fear of what am I going to discover? In that liminal space, in that witching hour, middle of the night space. There is the recognition that resistance is quite often the fear of what am I going to learn? But also remembering that seeing through a certain lens, seeing through the lens of gathering gold, the lens of learning, and growth and compassion, and curiosity, that whatever you discover, is important and has been trying to get your attention anyway and will continue to try to get your attention, sometimes in louder ways. And so the resistance is trying to protect you from something that eventually eventually we are all asked to turn around and face. And yes, you may not be ready to do that. And that’s okay. There is also wisdom in resistance. And it’s hard to discern Which one is it? So it’s it’s okay to distract. It’s all okay, wherever you’re at is okay. Have trouble brushing your teeth. That’s okay. You have trouble committing to a regular practice, you are not alone. Most people have a lot of trouble committing to a regular practice, whether it’s a journaling practice or a meditation practice, or just a sitting at the window looking up at the night, inviting in a poem or song practice. Most people really struggle with that. So that’s always the starting point. And I love you so much Victoria for you bringing that in and naming that piece. Because in the naming, we can also remember that we’re not alone. So there’s the normalizing which reduces the shame, which opens the doorway to compassion, and that’s a much more effective starting place to start with. It’s okay. If I don’t do any of this. It’s all okay. But maybe, maybe from that place of total self acceptance. Maybe I could just keep trying. Try again. Leave my phone in another room. Just for tonight. Doesn’t have to be a lifetime commitment Just for tonight. And be curious about what arises. It’s like laying everything down, laying down the work, laying down the thoughts, laying down the busy, laying down the doing, and letting ourselves rest. And it’s such a feminine principle that we all have and we all need and is sorely lacking, that space of being, space of non doing, non achieving, non striving. The truth of the matter is, the more we honor that space, the more productive we can actually be.

Victoria
Yeah. And, you know, I love you for saying, it’s all okay. And distraction is okay. You know, like, I needed, I needed Pride and Prejudice when I was 15, in that period of such intense panic, that I just needed to regulate my nervous system and that soundtrack and that opening scene of dawn breaking over the English countryside, regulated my nervous system, and sometimes you, if you are in such dysregulation, you need to do what you need to do to soothe yourself and get through it. Right.

Sheryl
Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. And that’s when we bow down to technology and television. And what a beautiful image that still stays with you. Right, that Opening Music, dawn breaking, that that was actually quite soulful. Well, and of course, you Victoria, choosing Pride and Prejudice. It’s not like you were watching like Ghostbusters.

Victoria
And I was out within the first two minutes. It was powerful.

Sheryl
Instant sleep elixir. Uh huh. Uh huh. And what a beautiful one that you knew you needed, and absolutely served a very, very positive function for you, at that time in your life. And I know again, many of my clients growing up on television, having it on falling asleep, and still to this day, having it on falling asleep. I have no judgment. None at all. It’s only to ask, Is this serving me? And many times? The answer is yes, this is absolutely serving me, this is helping me fall asleep. And many people will say the same thing. I’m asleep in like 10 minutes. So

yes.

But my suggestion is, is to simply, as a suggestion, what might happen if before you get into bed that all screens off, that you take some time to turn inward, and to connect outward, in that space of silence and stillness. Not instead of, but in addition to.

Victoria
This reminds me that I saw something on Instagram and I can’t remember who posted it. So I’m sorry that I don’t have the attribution, but it was so helpful to me and my anxious mind and heart. It was like, What if you thought of things as just trying to add good things to your life? As opposed to I gotta remove this and I gotta remove this and I gotta remove this. What if it was about what can I add that makes me feel good and at home and connected to myself and connected to other people and all of that, what what good things can I add instead of Oh, I really, I gotta rip all this stuff away.

Sheryl
I love that so much. It’s such a compassionate and also very life affirming approach. I think of it and I’ve read it also in terms of food that if you take a very stringent approach, “I’m getting rid of this and this and this and this and this and this,” before you know it there’s like barely anything left to eat and it’s very sad. And the opposite is what you’re saying. It’s like well, maybe I’ll just start adding in more of my yummy vegetables, my zucchini and my corn or my artichokes instead of eliminating. And it’s the same here I’m I’m I am have no interest in telling people to get rid of their places of comfort. I it’s it’s it is in addition to as an experiment. Always as an experiment to be curious. What is this like? What shifts for me, what may open if I enter night or evening or right before bed, doing something a little bit different. So maybe it’s a good place to, to share a simple nighttime practice.

Victoria
That would be wonderful.

Sheryl
Okay, listen to it all the way through, and then just try to remember it as best you can, so that you can place the recording outside the room. The first step is to put all of your screens away. Preferably, again, outside the room. And then go to a window or door, where you can see outdoors, where you can see maybe a tree, or a plant or the sky. And if weather permits, and you have access, open the door, or window, get as close to the night as you can. And for about a minute, or as long as you want, but it can be just a minute, can be very short and very simple. Be with the night, open all of your senses, to the night to the sounds, to the smells, to the sights. Notice, notice what you’re hearing. Notice what you feel. And you might be hearing cars, you might be hearing sirens, see if you can focus on one element of nature. Even if there are city sights and sounds all around you, one tree, one star, just the night sky itself, the moon, if you can see it in the sky, and then consciously shift to gratitude, into the reciprocal relationship, saying thank you out loud, directly to what you see, to that one tree or one star, to the moon, to that one element of nature, just saying thank you. And then ask, what would you like me to know right now? What words of comfort can you send to me as I enter into sleep? And your only task in that moment is to listen and trust. Maybe a word or an image arrives, maybe a phrase or some lyrics from a song, maybe a melody. Trust it completely. And as we’re falling asleep, replay whatever arrived, the phrase or the lyrics of the song or the word or the image, replay it in your mind, imagining that they are forming a warm blanket that is gently holding you, cradling you as you drift off to sleep.

Victoria
So beautiful. Thank you for that.

And we both have a little bit of poetry to share as examples of some of the gold that can come to us at night. So Sheryl, would you like to share your poem first?

Sheryl
Okay, so this is a poem I wrote last August called Mother Night.

“Like a child who runs into her mother’s arms after an absence, whether the end of a school day, or a week at summer camp, to be gathered in the safe, warm folds of skin and clothes that carry the sense of safety and their perfume of love. The rush into arms that enfold you so that you feel safe enough to travel far into the world, knowing that there will always be a place at her table when you return. And not only a place, but an adornment of your favorite foods and a house celebrating your arrival. These are the arms I run into at the day’s end, when my children are asleep and husband is at work. I anticipate this reunion, listening for the crickets call from grass to balcony like serenading Juliet. Watching as the moon in her dark robes and scarves, nowhere to be seen in this sky, still sends down trails of song. So I can take hold and find her. With a sleeping bag wrapped around me, just as it was as a child, when I slept outside their door, I snuggle into the pillows of night and close my eyes until there is only me and her. Insects of summer lulling me on the wings of their lullabies, nightlight stars raining down comfort. Blankets of Dark Moon tucking me in. The warm breeze, a light kiss on my cheek, not too much, not too little. The kiss of a mother, who knows how to love her daughter well.

Victoria
Speaks so beautifully to that idea of adding good things.

Sheryl
Yes, the nourishment. And what you were saying that if it’s not something pleasurable, we’re not likely to do it. That for me, there is so much joy, especially in the summer months, of opening that door, stepping onto the balcony and listening to the crickets and feeling that warm air. It’s a lot harder in winter, I must say. But that summer joy, you know, it is to me like running into her arms at the end of the day and receiving that deepest, deepest comfort, non human comfort. It’s a different kind of comfort.

Victoria
So helpful to hear you paint that image.

I have a short poem that is speaking more to that restless, anxious feeling at night. This is called Bedtime. “The sleeping man is a raft. I’m the last one left. Sky is black. Stars cloud-hidden. I shiver against him, trace distress with my finger, on his arm, in his hair. He dreams. I ache and sink, think about splinters and freezing to death, things I shouldn’t have said tonight, should say tomorrow. Stay my hand from throwing sparks. Let him go gentle. Let it be night.”

Sheryl
So beautiful Victoria.

Victoria
That might be what I tell myself tonight. Just let it be night.

Sheryl
Just let it be night. Yes. Without trying to change it or shape it or resist it or fight it.

Let it be night. And letting yourself be however you are in the night.

Victoria
Yes.

Okay. As we come to a close now Sheryl, where can people find you and your work?

Sheryl
You can find me at my website, conscious dash transitions.com and on Instagram at wisdom of anxiety.

Victoria
You can find me at my other podcast, Perennials, or on Instagram at perennials podcast. And if you are enjoying Gathering Gold, please subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. Read it and leave a review and share it with a friend if you think they might enjoy. Thank you for listening.

In Episode 2, we’ve got news: we changed the podcast name! In the spirit of this shift, we’re talking about course-correcting, finding opportunity within challenge, and the Jungian approach of turning lead into gold. We talk about uncovering buried treasure in our gardens–learning to see our own inherent gifts and goodness rather than projecting it externally. And, we discuss gathering gold from all seasons of life, finding compassion in our struggles, and bringing that compassion to others.

References

You can view a transcript of Episode 2 here.

Sheryl Paul
Welcome to Gathering Gold. This is Sheryl Paul.

Victoria Russell
And I’m Victoria Russell. So you might have noticed that there’s been a change, we’ve changed the name of the podcast. It’s a little funny because the first episode of the podcast was all about the name at the time. But here we are, we’ve made a change. And we’re going to tell you a little bit about the new name of the podcast.

Sheryl
Yes, and we were just having a good laugh about it before we started recording, so that that laughter is in our voice. But it wasn’t, it wasn’t so funny, when it first hit us that we needed to change the name. We both dove headlong into this project, which is pretty uncharacteristic of both of us. We are both planners and quite meticulous and thorough researchers. And then two days after we announced and released the podcast, we hit an unexpected roadblock that had to do with the name. And it threw us off, it threw us off track, which felt unsettling. In the moment, we both took a deep breath. But fairly quickly, we both realized that there were many silver linings embedded in this block, and that it was actually an opportunity to course correct. And we talked about how there was probably some part of us, and some subconscious layer that knew that if we thought too much about it, that we wouldn’t do it. And it it’s like, it’s what I tell people when they have a baby, and they realize how hard it is. And I say if you thought too much about it ahead of time, you would never do it. So this really defines one of the core characteristics of the anxious mind–we overthink. We overanalyze. This can definitely be a gift at times, to think things through thoroughly. But it can also stop us in our tracks, when it leads to analysis paralysis, that if we if we think things through so much, and we anticipate every scenario that might go wrong, which is the anxious brain, that is its job, that we will be too scared to act, we’ll be too scared of making a mistake, we’ll be too scared of something going wrong. So we took that opportunity to reflect, to rethink, it could have hijacked the entire podcast. But we recognize that it really was an opportunity and that it speaks to one of the core aspects that I talked about, one of the core mindsets, which is that nothing is set in stone, there’s there’s no such thing as perfection. And there’s always room to course correct. And I think in fact, we are often course correcting, if not always course correcting. Because it’s it’s a way of moving through life that recognizes that there is no perfection, there is no perfect end goal. So we we took those steps back, we had some really important essential conversations between the two of us that we were both reluctant to have.And we both feel I think at this point that it’s going to lead to a much better podcast in the long run. So I’m curious, I’m curious about your take on all of that Victoria.

Victoria
Yeah, I mean, when we first realized, oh, we’re going to change the name, my immediate reaction was what I often go to is like, I didn’t do a good enough job. Like I should have…dot dot dot. And oh, no, Sheryl is gonna think I’m a terrible podcast producer and co-host. Oh, no, people are gonna be so confused. But I actually do think it’s kind of a great…I don’t know, it’s it’s good modeling for some of, of your work and approach to life, of course-correcting, and it made me think about another podcast I like, it’s called The Robcast. And it’s with Rob Bell. He has an episode from a couple of years ago about the Hebrew word t’shuva, meaning “to return.” A word that has often been translated as “repent.” But he was saying that another translation is “to return,” and that it’s a moment for celebration when you realize, oh, when you realize you’ve been going down a path and you have to switch, you have to change course. It’s a moment of celebration when that you realized that and now you get to go back onto the path you want to be on. So it’s not a bad thing. It’s something to celebrate. And I think about that all the time. Ever since I heard that episode of his podcast and I also was thinking to myself, you know, my mind, my anxious part of my brain tends to go immediately to urgency and catastrophe. And oh, this is a problem and, and I’m getting a little bit better at slowing down and going, is this even a problem? You know, like, maybe it’s not even really a problem, like there are problems. And then there are things that are just, oh, we’re going to make an adjustment.

Sheryl
Yes. And I loved what you texted to me in one of our conversations around this, that this particular format of podcasts are actually very flexible, and bendable. There’s room to change the name, there’s room to change the logo, there’s room to change the timeframe. And I think even that is a great metaphor for life that we think it’s, we think so much is catastrophe. And, and most things aren’t, at least in our privileged lives. It doesn’t mean that that the suffering isn’t real. And we’ll be talking more about suffering. But I love that you were able to zoom out from that, is this really a problem? And not only is it not really a problem, but that it ended up being a gift and ended up there ended up being a huge silver lining.

Victoria
A gold lining, you could say

Sheryl
A gold lining, one could say. Yes, and that I think we were able to pivot really quickly with it. And it very quickly became this opportunity to redefine and re envision and slow things down a little bit. Take all of that wonderful energy that we had of diving into this project, and bringing some other part of our brain to it. And and I think it’s, you know, these these two pivotal figures in the psychology world, Carol Dweck, whose book Mindset is so extraordinary, where she talks about the growth mindset or the fixed mindset. And having this growth mindset allows us to, like you’re saying with the Rob Bell analogy of t’shuva, which I love so much, that we are, we’re always in a sense in t’shuva, we’re always from a day to day, on a day to day basis, we have this opportunity to reset, to return, to come home, especially if we are viewing ourselves through this lens of growth, through this lens of learning. And then Daniel Siegel’s book Mindsight, where he talks about our minds capacity to reflect and really growing that that witness allows us to approach life and healing and our inner world and our decisions through a lens that allows us to make mistakes, that allows us to go oops, we messed up. What can we learn? How can we grow and this is part of how we turn the lead of our lives into gold. So talking a bit about the name. One of the primary metaphors of Jungian psychology is this alchemical idea of turning lead into gold, that the lead of our lives, the heaviness, the suffering, the shadow, when approached through these lenses of learning, of the growth mindset, of witness, reflection, mindsight allows us to transform the lead into gold. And there’s so much to flesh out in that. But when I think of gathering gold, I think about the gold that I’ve gathered in my life has come mostly from the lead, from the suffering, from the pain. And it’s this somewhat frustrating, at times, frustrating reality of being human, that we do, we do grow most during times of pain, and that’s why we have growing pains. So when I imagine gathering gold, it’s it’s imagining where I am at the stage of life at age 49, in the middle of this portal of midlife, gathering, gathering these runes, gathering these pieces of wisdom, knowing that we are infinitely always on a journey of learning and growing. But what do I have to share at 49? What do I have to share as I’m crossing over this threshold into the second half of life? What do I share from what I’ve learned working with people over these past 25 years, helping them in some way transform their lead, their suffering, their heaviness, their shame, their burdens, especially the shame of being a highly sensitive person that I think is almost impossible not to absorb growing up in this culture where sensitivity is not seen as a gift, that those shame layers sit on top of the core pain of life, that the pain that is going to happen just by being human.

And so being able to gather those runes, gather those nuggets, gather those strands of wisdom. From what I’ve, what I’ve seen, what I’ve learned, what I’ve been able to witness of the people that I’ve worked with, that I’ve been so, so blessed, to work with, at such deep levels, really traveling beside them into their world of anxiety, intrusive thoughts, so many places of suffering that when viewed through a certain lens, mostly through a lens of compassion, and curiosity, transforms, and that almost unspeakable gift, I hardly even have words for the gift of being able to watch people, witness people, guide people, accompany people, midwife people, soul, psyches, through those passage ways of suffering into into soaring, into being able to live out their gifts.

Victoria
What I think is so helpful for people about the way that you talk about sensitivity is that I think the way you talk about it is like it’s not even that, that that’s lead turning into gold. It’s that it’s like buried treasure. Like it never was lead, you know, but that your sensitivity is this buried treasure. Yeah, that people have, and society, you know, whatever, has forced underground. And that you’re kind of helping people dig in and open up the treasure chest and go, No, this is what makes you, you, it’s all part of you. And it’s that imagination and deep feeling and deep love and attunement to loss and attunement to danger, attention to detail, you know, that is not bad. And never was, it was just buried.

Sheryl
Well, Victoria, funny you should mention buried treasure. Because when I was sitting with what the new name might be, and I wrote down all kinds of names and ideas and words that were coming to me, and one of them was something about a treasure and

I flashed on one of the most pivotal dreams of my life that I call and I just pulled it up. And I’m going to read it, it’s called Treasure in the Garden.

And I had it on June 8, 2020, so almost exactly one year ago, 11 months ago, and I have sat with this dream and written about the dream and brought it to my spiritual teacher and guide, Rabbi, therapist, and shared it with my soul sisters, friends. And it’s, to me, it’s one of the dreams that will guide me into the second half of life. So I will read it. It also speaks to another nod in our new name gathering gold, which connects to the book Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer, and she has another book called Gathering Moss. And in her book, Braiding Sweetgrass, she has a chapter called The Three Sisters, where she talks about one of the indigenous planting methods of planting beans, corn and squash all together. Because they each support the other, the bean climbs up the corn

and the corn is the support, and the squash creates the shade and the ground covering. And so they each add different nutrients, the beans add the nitrogen. And she she explains because she’s a botanist, what each one adds. And it’s this incredibly beautiful metaphor for

our interconnectivity, how much we need each other, how much that everything hinges on connection, our connection to ourselves to, and we touched on this in the first episode, and connection to others, connection to the invisible.

And so,

in the dream, I’m digging in the garden so I can try to plant pole beans, and maybe the three sisters, where the pole beans are now and all along the west fence. But everywhere I dig, I hit what I think is rock.

I keep digging deeper and deeper. And then I realize it’s not rock, but steps. All along that west side.

There are concrete ancient steps about three to four feet down, like something you would see in ancient baths, like a mikvah, wide and long, more like a bench.

I start shoveling more and more soil out of the way knowing this is very special.

Maybe this will be a patio entrance to my garden, a sacred place down low, where I can sit and nobody can see me.

The more I reveal, the more I see that it’s more than steps. There are beautiful wooden chairs here. Maybe a table

that has been left by my grandparents.

Then Rabbi Mark comes in to help me, the two of us shoveling away the soil. I’m working faster and faster. I’m completely energized by this. We’re shoveling in the way we would shovel snow.

We’re seeing more and more. Then Rabbi Mark says, “This is more than a patio with table and chairs. There’s an opening here. If you open the hatch, you’ll find letters that your grandparents have left for you.”

They hid them in the garden.

They’ve been here all these years, and I never knew.

Victoria
Oh my gosh, that’s so beautiful.

Sheryl
Makes me cry. Yeah.

So it’s to me this. There’s so much here, the ancestral line connecting to our lineage.

But also this piece that we all have the treasure hidden in our garden. Yes, it’s the sensitivity. I think there’s also the ancestral piece, the treasures that have been lost, but that it’s right here in our own garden. It’s not somewhere out there. And I think we’re living in this culture in a way that presents…maybe it’s always been this way, that the answers are somewhere out there. Somebody else has that roadmap, somebody else has your treasures. And central to the way I work, to the whole Jungian psychology mindset, is that when we dig down deep, we’re digging into the unconscious. If we dig deep enough, we dig into the collective unconscious.

We have our own treasures. It’s just about learning the tools and the mindsets, the practices that allow us to find those treasures. That that’s our gold. That gathering gold really means gathering your own treasures in your own garden, sifting through, digging through those layers of dirt, of shame, darkness, shadow, being willing to dig, being willing to go down into the pain and trusting that we will find gold there.

Victoria
You know, it’s coming to me as well. I was actually just reading parts of your book again over the weekend–shameless plug for The Wisdom of Anxiety.

And I was just struck by

even these very human things that we think we need to squash or eradicate or stamp out, like longing.

You know, it’s not even, it’s not even shame or pain. It’s just longing, which is so human, and yet for some reason, we think oh, if I’m feeling

longing, that must mean something’s wrong. And something has to change

about me or about my life, or I’ve done something wrong, or maybe I am bad in some way, because why am I longing when I have…maybe you have everything you think, you know, you should need, um, and

I was just thinking about how I don’t think creation is possible without longing.

Like every good, every poem I’ve ever written that I like, that feels special to me,

came out of longing, maybe even directly speaks about it.

Sheryl
Yes, yes.

That it’s all gold, that the longing is our goal, not something to get rid of, that our grief is our gold. Our sensitivity is our gold.

Right? And sometimes it is the strength embedded in what we see as challenge and sometimes, like what you’re saying, it’s the thing itself.

It’s the sensitivity itself. There’s nothing to transform or change about it, that the sensitivity itself is what allows us to be empathic, attuned, connected.

Moral, conscientious, all of these incredibly positive

strengths, qualities, gifts, treasures.

And yes, it’s it’s, it’s those micro moments that I love to name and write about so much. The longing. You know, that chapter on longing, it wasn’t even going to be its own chapter. But it was my editor who said, I think longing needs to be its own chapter. It’s so important. And under discussed and not named.

Victoria
Yeah. I think that sometimes, for someone experiencing anxiety, with so much fear of loss, maybe even someone who experienced enmeshment, it’s actually profoundly terrifying to imagine that all of the gold is inside.

Sheryl
Hmm.

Victoria
Because I think it can make us feel that there is a sense of aloneness to being a human.

Sheryl
If we look back to the dream, you can see that I’m not alone.

Victoria
Yeah.

Sheryl
I don’t believe we can gather our gold alone. I really don’t. We need others on the journey. We need guides, we need mentors. We need what the role of Rabbi and priests has played, and for many people that’s falling away. But it was a rabbi in the dream, and I don’t, it’s not a literal figure, necessarily. And there’s so much to that dream, again, my own inner masculine shows up, but also the spiritual leader, one of the spiritual leaders in our community here in Boulder. There was also my grandparents in the dream, there’s that ancestral place where when we really connect into that we know we are never, ever alone. We are so disconnected from that framework, that way of living, that way of viewing reality in the West. That it’s part of what creates that sense of profound aloneness, that so many of us feel that profound sense of disconnect. If we had active relationships with our ancestors, even in the imaginal realm, even if you don’t really believe that your grandmother’s still here somewhere. Although it brings to mind that Taylor Swift song,

Victoria
yeah, yes, Marjorie. Yeah.

Sheryl
She’s so beautifully expresses the sense that you’re never, she’s never dead. How does she say it, do you remember the line?

Victoria
She says, “What died didn’t stay dead. You’re alive, so alive.” And she says, “If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were listening to me now.” And later, “I’d think you were singing to me now.” And then there’s actually a little bit of recording of her grandmother’s singing.

Sheryl
It gives me chills just hearing you read those lyrics. That song made me cry so much when you told me it was about her grandmother. Yeah, we know. We know. We are not alone. Some part of us knows but even if that sounds ridiculous to you, if you have more of a scientist brain, I get it. My son is that way. But there’s still some part that in the imaginal realm can have those conversations with our departed loved ones. And so when I say the gold is inside of you, I don’t mean that it’s your task to find it by yourself. What I mean is that it’s not outside of you that it’s not, no one else is going to fix you, rescue you, make you feel alive, not any therapist, not any partner, not any friend. They can’t do it for you, but they can accompany you on those exploratory journeys into self. And I think they must, because I think it’s part of our attachment wounds are around feeling alone, whether it’s enmeshment, or abandonment, that that deep sense of feeling so alone in those early years, not feeling seen, not feeling felt, is a critical part of our healing. That can only happen in relationship to safe other. That’s why therapy can be utterly transformative with with the right match. With a safe, skilled, loving, compassionate therapist. So I’m so glad that you name that piece of how terrifying that can sound. But I hope that, I hope it makes sense what I’m saying in response.

Victoria
It does. It’s, it’s also part of cultivating that non dual mind that can say, yes, there is something. There’s an aspect to the human experience where there’s loneliness and aloneness. That’s an experience we can have sometimes but that there is a deeper connection. And finding your gold doesn’t mean you’re going to go run off and live alone on a mountain now, because oh, you know, you found your gold and you’re everything you need, right?

Sheryl
In fact, part of finding your gold means finding your people. Finding the people who get you, who love you unconditionally, that therapist, that mentor, that’s part of finding your gold. It’s not that they are carrying it for you. It’s that it is pure gold to find any human on this planet who gets you.

That’s part of finding your gold is in the friendship, in the relationships. It’s not just an internal experience at all. That’s an element of it. A big piece is that central column, that trunk that we talked about in the first episode, knowing ourselves, knowing our mind, having a loving relationship with our emotional lives, tending to our bodies, being in that soul realm, what fills the soul. But that’s just one layer. Right, going back to the tree analogy, that’s just that’s the trunk. And then we have all the branches coming off that are essential places of tethering and connectivity. That’s our gold too.

Victoria
It’s so beautiful, it’s like then when you uncover your gold, you can bring it to each of those relationships. It’s not just like, Oh, it’s in that one relationship. That one special one. You’re bringing it to each of your treasured relationships.

Sheryl
Exactly. It’s all about relationships.

Victoria
You know, you mentioned the second half of life, that phrase, kind of entering the second half of life. And I don’t know if this phrase shows up elsewhere. But I know that I first encountered it and you and I have talked about it in the context of Richard Rohr’s book Falling Upward: A Spiriuality for the Two Halves of Life, which came out about 10 years ago now. He’s a Franciscan priest. And he wrote this book about how the first half of life is kind of about trying to build a container for your life with, you know, school, job, maybe a partner, maybe a house, maybe a certain career,

maybe having children, but these external things. And the second half of life is about what’s inside your container. I was watching a talk that Richard Rohr gave when he was, when that book had first come out. And I can, I can link to it in our show notes. But there’s this great quote from him in that talk. He says, “You’re never 100% certain you’re right when you’re walking in faith. That’s why it’s called faith. You’d think that we’d get that. But we haven’t trained people how to hold ambiguity, how to live with knowing and not knowing at the same time, how to know that God’s love is so foundational, so certain, so absolute, so constant and so eternal, that I can even risk making a mistake.” Like maybe with a podcast name. That’s my Interjection. “And it’s not the end of the world. That’s what a second half of life person knows.”

Sheryl
So good. Can you read that last part, again, about making a mistake?

Victoria
Yes. “God’s love is so foundational, so certain, so absolute, so constant and so eternal, that I can even risk making a mistake, and it’s not the end of the world.”

Sheryl
It just speaks so directly to what we started with in terms of our mistake, but also to that part of the anxious brain that is so afraid to take risk. And so many realms of life, it can show up in relationships, at work, in friendship, it can show up anywhere, that the fear of making a mistake, is heightened for the sensitive, anxious, creative, spiritual personality type, and I think is what fuels a lot of anxiety, a lot of holding back, a lot of sitting on one’s gifts, because the fear is so great of making a mistake, but sitting in that quote, dwelling and bathing in that quote, if if, if one could fully believe that, it would be freedom, to make mistakes. If you could trust that you would still be loved, you would still be good enough, you would still be held, you would still belong, it would free us up so much to risk.

I and I don’t think that it just has to be a second half of life, I think from a more, from a less linear, a more circular spiral mindset, that we can gather that piece of gold earlier in life, as you are, Victoria, as so many people that I work with are gathering these pieces of gold, I think it’s one of the most extraordinary elements of being in this technological age where we have access to so many great thinkers, so many great teachers, mystics, poets, you know, the Richard Rohrs and the Pema Chodrons that you could only before access by books, and we can access in so many different ways now, that allows us to accelerate some of that learning that I think used to only happen, if it happened at all, in the second half of life. But it’s like, this is part of the reason why I love that it’s, that it’s you and I, it’s you and I, 20 years apart almost to the day, but to the year, 20 years apart, living life, exchanging these ideas from our different vantage points, in full recognition that we both have so much wisdom to share. We both have our vulnerabilities to share. It’s not different. It’s not so different in the span of humanity, 20 years is nothing in the span of a human life. It seems like so much, but it’s it’s it’s different and it’s not. I am in a different stage of life of course then you are, you are in a different stage than I am. But in this in this spirit of interconnectivity and gathering sweet grass, gathering moss, and braiding sweetgrass, and these…one of the pieces that I think is so lost in our current culture is the is the mentor mentee apprenticeship relationships, where it’s not just mentor teaching mentee that that there’s a symbiotic relationship that is important. For both people. And I think we’re modeling that as well. The two of us sitting here together.

Victoria
Yeah, it’s such an interesting thing, because I think what we talked about earlier, that whole idea of like, if you think too much, you can get paralyzed and never act. I know there are other people like me who in their 20s are like, “but I want to be a second half of life person, so I guess building a container is bad. So I should just, I don’t know, float.” Like, you know, and Richard Rohr talks about in the book, he’s like, the first half is not bad. Containers are good and necessary, like your ego is good. It’s necessary, right? And he even says that it’s not necessarily a chronological thing, like your first or second half. It’s, it’s that mindset. And it’s actually the non duality of being able to hold both and like, okay, I just, maybe I just graduated from school. I need to, I need to get a job. For now, you know, this job for now. I need to, I need to, when I’m able to pay my own rent, you know, where am I going to live? Those things are necessary, but it’s, it’s both. And and it’s sometimes the paralysis like for, for the anxious, super sensitive, anxious brain that wants to never make the first half mistakes and just skip right over all of it.

Sheryl
Yes, you can get you stuck. Yes. And that there’s gold in getting a job, that there’s gold in paying your bills, that there’s gold in finding your way individuating, from family, from parents, family of origin, learning about your own values, that’s all gold, it’s not linear. And yes, those are essential containers. And it’s one of the things that alchemists talked about a lot was the vase, was having this solid container, which is how we now talk about the therapeutic relationship of being in the room and having these containers, the 50 minutes, that sort of separate-from-life relationship, that there’s these containers that are essential, inside which the transformation happens and the learning and the growth happens. So all of those practical aspects of life are gold.

Because it’s all how we learn. It’s all how we grow, it’s not any less shiny, then the wisdom that might arise later.

Victoria
Yeah, I have such a distinct memory of making a mistake at 22. That was so painful. And that really hurt me the most out of anyone. And my heart just like cracking open. And I felt compassion in a way that I hadn’t felt compassion before.

Sheryl
Compassion for yourself?

Victoria
More for…it was a moment where I felt like I wanted to wrap my arms around every other girl in the world who had been in the situation that I was in.

Sheryl
Yes. And that might be the truest gold of all that comes from suffering is is exactly that, Victoria, that we can’t have true empathy. Until we have walked that path of suffering, whatever it is, and that compassion, that empathy is maybe our most precious gold that connects us to each other, and that we can only really speak to and feel in our hearts when we’ve lived it or we’ve been touched by somebody who has lived it whether it’s depression, or you know, obsessions and compulsions or painful experiences in relationships, or sexuality that it’s, we just don’t know. We can’t have that lived experience until we have lived it ourselves. So when I talk about that initial initiation for me when I was 21, with the panic attacks, that’s how I know in my bones, what panic attacks are. How can I truly possibly walk somebody through that if I didn’t know it in my own cells, in my own lungs, in my own throat, in my own heart, anxiety, all the different strands of anxiety, that it is what connects us through that thread, that golden thread of compassion.

Victoria
This feels like it could be a good moment to talk about something we were talking about earlier before we started recording. But we were talking about kind of the mystery of suffering, and how the approach that you’re talking about isn’t about glorifying suffering. And I think that’s something like I have such admiration for people who are able to thread that needle. Sometimes awful things happen, like inexplicable and unfathomable things that we can’t explain. Or the last thing you would want to say to someone is like, oh, everything happens for a reason. Like, I’m really compelled by people who are able to just say, No, I don’t know about that, for everything, you know. There’s a great podcast, actually, with Kate Bowler, who wrote a book called, Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved.

Sheryl
I love that.

Victoria
Yeah, she just had a great episode of her podcast with the artist and writer Mari Andrew. And they both had really, really serious illnesses that they’ve dealt with at very young ages. And they just talked about, like, being very wary of imposing a lesson or meaning, you know, on people in suffering. So it’s a big sticky question, the whole like…it’s like the, the human question about suffering, but I just thought it would be good to take a moment on that.

Sheryl
So important to underscore that this isn’t about glorifying suffering, blaming ourselves for suffering, going to that platitude of everything happens for a reason. A lot of the times, most times we don’t know why. But I think it’s a mindset of like people who have had tremendous suffering and are able to spin it into gold in the sense that it becomes an offering in some way.

or becomes some through line, some way in which they’re able to, to give to others. So I think it’s less about meaning making in the sense of this happened because of this reason, and more about what’s my response to it now. It’s like the way we talk about intrusive thoughts, for example, that we don’t, we don’t choose those thoughts, but we choose how we respond. We don’t choose our feelings, but we choose how we respond. And so it’s, it’s a way of approaching our inner world, our suffering, the lot that we’ve been handed, our wiring, our temperament, through the lens of compassion, learning, curiosity, reflection. I love so much the way Daniel Siegel talks about mind sight. And if anybody hasn’t read that book, I highly, highly, highly recommend it as this sort of essential piece of being able to look at your inner world, from that place of witness, that place of hub, that place of center, and reflect, and it’s from there that we have choice. That’s how we grow that choice point. So that we don’t have to be taken down. Sometimes we are taken down. And that’s part of the journey as well, being taken down, being on our knees in suffering, that’s not separate from what we’re talking about. But that, you know, over the arc of a life that we can say, oh, that happened. That was really painful. And this is this is where I went with it. And this is where it led me, and this is how it has helped me to grow and to heal, and ultimately, one hopes to be of service to others. And that’s the gold. That’s the goal. That’s the runes of that the mythological hero’s journey, going into the descent, into the underworld, gathering the runes, gathering the gold, and bringing them back to the community, as an offering, as the ways that we serve. And that might be the way that you serve, you know, that you’re able to show up for your child in a different way, that you were able to show, I think we have to get away from this grand idea, again, of being of service and this big calling, and all of that. It’s like we show up and we serve, and we share our gifts in a myriad of ways.

Victoria
At 22, after I had that experience, a couple of months later, it was going to be my niece’s first birthday. And I wrote her a letter and gave it to my sister and said you could give this to her when she’s 13 or 14. But my letter to her was like, You are so precious. And you make us so happy. But just so you know, as you grow up, even when you are not nice, and you mess up, and you’re not not acting precious, I’m still gonna love you. Um, you don’t always have to be,

you don’t always have to be a certain way for me to love you. And you can talk to me, and I’ll always be here for you.

Sheryl
Yes. That is so beautiful. What a lucky niece, huh?

You don’t have to be any certain way.

And I will still love you. And if we could approach ourselves with that same mindset. So much healing happens, so much freedom happens, so much spaciousness happens, the whole thing sort of flips around, because it becomes much less about, if at all, really, the whole, the whole idea of perfection falls away. Which is how we started, the whole idea of perfection falls away, there’s nothing set in stone, there’s no such thing as perfection. There is only being human, messing up, and knowing that you still have a place of belonging, of being loved.

Victoria
You also shared a quote with me, and it’s striking me that there’s the real gold and then there’s kind of the fool’s gold, that we get lured by, that sparkles. And you shared this, this quote from I think, Robert Johnson’s book about the value that we put on certain things like romantic love and celebrity and how we go looking for the gold outside.

Sheryl
Yes.

Yes. So it’s this idea of projection that I talk a lot about, that Jungians talk a lot about projection, as the way by which we know what’s happening in our inner world. And it can be negative projection, or it can be a positive projection. I don’t know that I would say that it’s fool’s gold, I think we attach…that might be how we see it, at the base level, at a literal level, it’s actually our own gold. It’s the true gold that we assign to these other people, and think that they have something that we don’t have when actually what we’re seeing as our own gold projected onto the screen, of

their being. So this is the quote and I shared it in a post I wrote in 2017 called Take Back Your Gold. “Probably the next important evolution of Western humankind is to find a proper container for religious life so that we do not unrealistically expect another mortal human being to carry this high value. In short: don’t ask a human to be God for you.” And then I wrote in the blog post, “What Johnson is saying (and is the essence of his book We: The Psychology of Romantic Love) is that the aliveness we seek must be found in our own religious experience, whatever that means for you. For some people, that might mean a traditional religious devotional practice of following the prayers, rituals, readings, and customs of their lineage. For many others these days for whom religion has lost its luster, a religious or spiritual experience may come through creativity, connection to nature, working with dreams, meditation, or through their own innovative prayer practice. What matters is that we stop projecting our gold onto other humans – real or imagined – and instead reel in the projection and claim what is rightfully ours. The gold is our aliveness. The gold is our magic. The gold is our purpose. The gold is the voice that says YES and WOW and HALLELUJAH. The gold is our compass: how we know ourselves and trust ourselves. The gold is our passion. The gold is what makes every day worth living.” So this is what we’re gathering here, Victoria. This is our new name, our re-envisioned framework, vessel, container, vase. We had to spend some time in that first half of life mindset, that I think applies to every new endeavor, requires some groundwork. We are here in this vessel, in this container, in this podcast, to gather gold with each other, to bring that gold to our listeners, to hopefully help them reel back in those projections, to claim what is rightfully theirs, to recognize that the treasure is in your own garden. It is not out there. It is in your own beauttiful garden, right before you.

Thank you, Victoria. Thank you everybody for listening.

Victoria
Thank you. And if people want to find you and your work online, where should they go?

Sheryl
Yes, you can find me on my website, which is conscious dash transitions.com and on Instagram, at wisdom of anxiety.

Victoria
You can also check out my other podcast Perennials, conversations about growing up, getting wise, and trying to live a good life. And you can find me on Instagram at perennials podcast. And if you’re enjoying Gathering Gold, please subscribe on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts, rate the show, leave a review and share it with a friend if you know someone that you think might enjoy. Thanks so much for listening.

In Episode 1, we’re talking about names: the names of our hosts and the name of the podcast. You’ll hear the story behind Sheryl’s name, involving ancestry, immigration and Jewish tradition, and about the literary origins of Victoria’s name. Then we’ll dig into the concept of Roots & Crown, and how it symbolizes Sheryl’s approach to tending to our inner worlds and moving towards greater wholeness: going gently into the earth of our being, peering inside the dark places with curiosity and compassion, grounding ourselves in nourishing practices and relationships, and reaching towards the invisible realm of creativity and spirituality.
 

**EDIT: Since this episode aired, we changed the name of the podcast to Gathering Gold! Find out about the new name (and the concept of course-correcting) in Episode 2.

 

We look forward to reading your comments/reviews on Apple Podcasts or Spotify!

You can view a transcript of Episode 1 here.

Sheryl Paul  

Welcome to Roots and Crown. I’m Sheryl Paul.

Victoria Russell  

And I’m Victoria Russell. And this is our very first episode of this podcast. So we’re so excited to start and so grateful to you for listening. And today, we’re going to start by talking a bit about the name, Roots and Crown, what it means and how it’s connected to Sheryl’s approach and her work. But first, we’ll start by telling you just a little bit about our own names, which hopefully will help us to introduce ourselves. So Sheryl, would you like to tell us a bit about your name?

Sheryl 

Yes. And I love this idea that you have Victoria to start with our own names, I think names are so potent and interesting, and almost always tell a story. So I am Sheryl with an S. And in the Jewish tradition, one of the traditions is to be named after a departed ancestor, but not their entire name, just the first letter. So I am Sheryl with an S because of my great grandmother, Sarah. And I always loved that growing up, I never knew Sarah, she died a few years before I was born. She was Sarah Goldstein. And it linked me to really her extraordinary story of coming over to America from Russia, when she was 12 years old, she came to live with two half brothers who should never met. And I was obviously born here because she had the courage, or she was forced, or whatever the story was, to get on that boat and travel across oceans to this foreign country, in this foreign culture without even speaking the language. So I think about my ancestry, my lineage, my connection to Russia, to immigrants. And I think about my younger son who’s about to turn 12 in two days, and I can’t even imagine him getting on a boat, traveling halfway across the world without us. And it fills me with so many emotions, when I really start to think about that story and who my name is connected to. So her story lives inside of me, it always has. And my story, my name, I imagine, lives inside of her as well in some way.

Victoria 

That’s so beautiful. And so, so beautifully connected to what we’re talking about today, and talking about origins. My name Victoria, was chosen by my mom, because she loves Victorian literature, like books by Charlotte Bronte, and Charles Dickens. And she loves Victorian architecture, like the style of Victorian homes. And I think about how I’ve always felt similar to my mom and drawn to similar things. So I think about how when I was, I think like seven, we were asked in school to draw a picture of a place where we would like to spend our Saturday and I drew an antique shop. So I was always drawn to like older, older things, and also old books, I ended up going to the same college that my mom went to, and studying English literature like she did and studying 19th century literature like she did. And so I think about how, at a certain point, maybe in our teens, maybe in our 20s, often there’s a moment where we wonder, oh, how much of me is really me and how much was kind of passed down to me or pre determined. Not that my mom ever said you have to like these things or go to this school. She didn’t at all. But I think it’s natural to be handed things and then at some point to go like, oh, like, where am I in all of this? And when we’re handed things from our ancestors, like you said, or from our family, that can give us identity and belonging and tradition. And then sometimes we might feel some sort of constriction or have these questions. Richard Rohr, he always says to “transcend and include.” And he’s talking about, you don’t have to throw out everything that was given to you. You get to look at what was given to you, and keep the good, and then make choices about where you want to go. So when I think about origins and names, that’s where my mind went to. 

Sheryl 

Yes. I love that to transcend, and include. That’s such a beautiful, succinct phrase for so much of what we’re doing in this healing and growing and individuation process of figuring out who we are and what we want to take with us. And not throwing everything away, I think there’s that danger in the self help healing world of cutting out too much, and starting anew because we label everything that we’ve come from as too wounded or too toxic, or too narcissistic, or whatever it is. And I think there’s a great danger in that, which really does lead us into the name of this podcast, of Roots and Crown and so many, so many directions to go with Roots and Crown. And I’m almost reluctant to say too much, because I really invite the listener to, to ponder and reflect on what comes to mind when you think about Roots and Crown. But for me, roots is very connected to a sense of lineage, a sense of ancestry, where we come from, and again, I think we’re very quick these days to dismiss and to try to erase where we come from. And yet, we can’t, we can’t really do that, as much as we might like to think that we can, it’s, it’s in our blood, you know, our roots, our blood, our ancestry are our lineage. So there’s that aspect of roots. And then there’s roots and crown, which to me evokes the tree, which is a very central symbol of the work that I do. And it’s a very personal symbol for me, for years, I wore a tree of life around my neck that my husband, Daev made for me, it was a beautiful silver pendant, that I only stopped wearing, because the chain broke, and I never got a new chain. But trees are so deeply embedded into my, my personal story, my personal mythology, my personal spirituality. And also to my work in the sense that the work that I do around anxiety and transitions and just life is really about addressing and exploring root cause. It’s about healing at the root, instead of only looking at symptoms. The majority of the more mainstream healing modalities today are very much focused on symptom reduction, which is very important and very helpful. And sometimes that’s exactly what we need at certain times in our lives is to reduce the intensity of symptoms so that eventually when we are more regulated, we have more of a solid trunk, if we’re envisioning that we ourselves are like trees, that we can then do the deeper work of healing, instead of only managing. So there are those elements of roots, root cause, healing at the root. And also roots as, as the connective network, what lives underground what nourishes. I was looking outside earlier today sitting in my studio, and we are so blessed to have so many trees where we live in great contrast to where I grew up in Los Angeles, where there was just one very skinny, sad little tree in the corner of our yard. And I would in my imagination, pretend that that one tree was an entire redwood forest, but it was really just this one very, very lonely little tree. So it’s a daily source of immense gratitude. I never take it for granted how many trees live here with us and that we get to live with. And I was looking outside today at this one particular tree and just seeing the way that the tree is obviously so rooted, but the way that trunk just plunges down into the earth. And there’s this entire world underneath this trunk of this tree that we don’t see, sometimes we see a tree’s roots erupting up through a sidewalk or through the grass which I always think is so amazing.

But in general, we don’t see that, all we see is the trunk and we see the branches, the limbs, the leaves the twigs, which is all the crown, everything above ground. But underneath is this whole world of of root systems of connectivity. And what we are learning now about trees, what we, as you know, Western modern people are learning, which I think other people’s have always known is that the trees communicate with each other, they can communicate across distances with each other, through their root systems. And so to me, that sense of rootedness is also a reminder of the ways that we are all connected to each other. And that’s also a central theme in my work that whatever you are struggling with, no matter how alone you feel with it, no matter how convinced you are, that you are the only one to have ever had that particular intrusive thought, that particular somatic symptom, that particular form of anxiety, you are not alone, that we we are connected in ways that we can’t even imagine that our stories are our stories, they are our personal stories, but they’re also the archetypal realm. So when we go deep enough, and it was Carl Jung, who really all of my work is based on, is Jungian psychology, who said that when you dig deep enough into the personal, you tap into the archetypal. So going deep into those root layers, deep into the personal, we land in the collective, in that place, where it is one shared story, one lived human experience. And I think that’s very, very comforting, especially for the sensitive, anxious, creative spiritual mind that can travel often to all kinds of places in the mind that say, I am the only one, and that feel unique, not in a good way, but in a way of shame. So when we tap in, it’s a shame reducer, we tap into that collective archetypal root system. We learn and we feel and we ingest through our bodies. The knowing that we are all connected, that we are not alone with our suffering. So then we move into the place of crown. Which, initially, when I thought roots and crown, I was thinking more of roots and canopy like the very top of the trees. But when I looked up crown, the definition of a crown in terms of trees is actually everything above ground, the branches, leaves, stems. But that actually makes a lot more sense for this podcast, because when I think of ourselves as human trees, and I think of our root system going down through the soles of our feet, and then I think of the trunk as this central column, which I talk about, a lot of my work is our mind, our heart, our body, or soul, on a personal level. So getting into relationship with those four realms of self. And then the branches coming out and the branches on one side, being our connection, our relationship to others, to family, to animals, to friendship, to our sense of purpose, our place in the world, our sense of bringing our gifts to our community. And then on the other side, the other limbs and branches. Being in relationship to the invisible realm, to creativity and spirituality, to rituals. So much of what we have lost is in this invisible realm because we are such a scientific, as dream worker, Jeremy Taylor would often say, rational materialistic culture. So we are so in the rationalist materialist realm that we have lost touch with that side of our tree-ness, of those branches and the invisible realm. But that is all, that’s all crown. And then of course, I don’t think we can overlook the aspect of the crown at the top of the head and, and sort of that regal nature, of when we look upwards, what connects us to the sky, to the upwardness, to our highest self.

Victoria 

It’s such a perfect metaphor and such a perfect name, I think for this podcast, as an image of your work. And I would love to go back to something you said at the beginning, about roots, when you talked about how there’s some loss of lineage and ancestry and some erasure that happens there. And it just strikes me how when we do that we can almost become just a reaction against things as opposed to like, really, mindfully being aware of like, Oh, this seems to serve me. This feels good. Maybe not so much this?

Sheryl 

Yes.

Victoria 

I’m curious about your thoughts of kind of what gets lost when we become just a reaction against, and not just to what we’ve been given, but maybe also to parts of ourselves that, as you talk about, we might see as an enemy, like, maybe we even feel we’ve inherited anxiety, like it runs in our family or, you know, yeah…

Sheryl 

you know, when I talk about the whole invisible side, that whole invisible realm of, of the tree metaphor, all of those branches that live in that realm of creativity, and spirituality and our ancestors and nature, it’s with the invitation of each person finding their own their own spirituality, their own way back. And I think it’s an enormous need for our culture today. Because we’ve swung so far in the other direction of the pendulum, we’ve swung so far, for many people from organized religion, of course, not for everybody, that we’ve rejected the whole thing. And what what happens then is we’re just sort of walking around as these isolated units without being held in the tether of something bigger because that tether is, was fraught with pain. So it’s a very tricky path back to what works for me, the gems, the goodness, the rituals, the traditions that feel good. And can I parse those out? Can I separate those out from what was so painful? And what is fraught with perhaps a sense of control or fear, or even one of my causes of, of anxiety? So it’s, it’s tricky over there. And then there’s the piece around anxiety itself. And what happens when we push away anything with that level of vehemence of “I will not look there, go away, I just want to get rid of it, I want to extinguish all uncomfortable symptoms,” is that they come back around in some other form. It’s the nature of the psyche to invite us toward healing and wholeness. I think it’s one of the greatest gifts of Carl Jung and Jungian therapy is the premise that all of our symptoms are messengers from the unconscious. They are arriving from the unconscious letting us know that there is pain inside, letting us know that there is something off kilter, letting us know that there are places that need our attention. And so when we get rid of them, when we try to extinguish, when we push away, they just come back around, they come back with another anxiety theme, they come back with another, perhaps as depression or as insomnia or as a different intrusive thought or as addiction, or as eating disorder, or as all of the ways that we suffer. And from a holistic perspective, from this mindset of roots and crown, of going into the root, gently, not with a sharp spade, but with our hands, of going into the earth of our being, and peering inside those dark places, and reaching out to connection with others, with the invisible, in ways that feel nourishing, then we’re inviting in, in some way, we are turning that mindset of turning away and pushing away on its head and we are moving toward. I think this is very much in the mainstream now of Pema Chodron and Brene Brown, of this, you know, the way they talk about leaning in, the way I talk about moving toward, it’s all the same thing. It’s all the same premise of learning to welcome in and befriend these uncomfortable places inside of us and really looking at them with that lens, with that headlight of curiosity. And I think that shifts everything. And again, I think it shifts everything because when we realize that we’re not broken, that our symptoms are not evidence of brokenness, but are instead coming as emissaries as messengers from our very wise inner realm, from what lives underneath, from that root system, from the unconscious, everything changes, then the worlds open up, then we start to realize, Oh, I’m not broken, therefore, I don’t have to fix myself. Therefore, this is really just about learning how to accompany myself, how to be with myself, how to explore these different root systems and branch systems and relationship to self and other, community, invisible, nature. Now, it’s it becomes then a spherical and cyclical process of exploration instead of a linear finish line.

Victoria 

You know, what I think is so important about that, is that I think sometimes particularly people who experience a lot of anxiety who perhaps are perfectionist, sometimes I think people hear the phrase, heal at the root, or get to the root cause. And it sounds like, Oh, I just have to figure out the one thing, and I need to fix it in the one way that it needs to be fixed. And then I will be fixed and I will be perfectly healed. And I won’t have to deal with any of this anymore. And when you say heal at the root, getting to the root cause or healing at the root. That’s not what you mean, is it?

Sheryl 

No, but I’m so glad you brought that up. Because it’s a question I get quite often and I can hear and the question comes fraught with so much anxiety of, I don’t know what my root cause is and, and if I could only figure out my root cause and I’ve been digging, and again, and again, I can’t figure out my root cause. And for one thing, we have to open that up and say it’s, it’s never one root cause. There are many roots, and they are, in some sense, changing every day. So it’s not something that you’re going to land on and say, Oh, that’s the reason for all of my pain and suffering. Yes, we can go back into our stories into our personal stories and understand the beliefs that we were raised with about feeling our feelings and understand the faulty messages that we absorbed around relationships and self and learning in our minds and, and that’s all critically important work to do to make those connections, And then when I talk about root cause, it can be even on a daily basis it can be, it can be something that we might not even be able to put words to. It’s not a ding, ding, ding, you got the right answer. And you are healed kind of experience. It’s much more nuanced and mysterious than that. Because the fact is, we are mysterious as human beings, and there are infinite reasons, and not-reasons for why we suffer and why we have joy. And we can get very caught up in “why,” and I think that’s what you’re pointing to is the mind’s need to know why, why, why do I have so much anxiety? Why am I suffering with relationship anxiety, or health anxiety? or career anxiety? Or whatever it is? Why and? And I get that. I love Why. And most times, the answer is, I don’t know. And I may never know. And yet, I don’t stop seeking, but I don’t seek really any more with the idea that I’m going to land on the one answer, and it’s going to then solve all of the problems, or the suffering, or whatever the current thing is, that’s on deck. It’s more of a gentle exploratory process of, of learning. And that’s why the key of curiosity is so critically important. It’s being curious. It’s looking at our dreams, it’s looking at the worlds beneath the surface in the unconscious realm. It’s, and yeah, not with the intention of, then I’ll figure it out. it’s so multi layered. It’s so nuanced. You know, it’s one of the things I’ve loved about my relationship with you, Victoria, is that when we’re, when we’re texting about something, something that, you know, may be a source of suffering for me. And I, and I think you have some wisdom about it, and we’re going back and forth. And, and I never have the sense of like, Oh, yeah, that’s it. That’s the one reason Sheryl, and that’s going to solve everything. You very much come with, “Yeah, that’s, I think, a piece of it. And oh, yeah, that’s, that could be a piece of it.” And it’s just, it’s sort of this, this puzzle that we, that we’re piecing together this puzzle of life, this puzzle of, of pain, or anxiety, or suffering, or, you know, compulsions, or whatever the thing is that that we’re talking through, but it’s, it’s not this sense of, Oh, we’ve landed on it. And here it is. And it’s a three step formula. If only right, if only that would be so great in some way. But that’s not how it is.

Victoria 

No, and, and I’m someone who has completely benefited from, from your blog, and your work in the world as much as from having you as my aunt and my friend, I absolutely am someone who experiences all sorts of anxiety and, and I love the tree metaphor, because we all know that a tree needs soil and minerals and water and sunlight. But different types of trees need different different amounts of water, different amounts of sunlight, there’s diversity, and trees, you know, they’re affected by this soil that they’re in and where they were planted, and whether or not the land is protected, and someone can come and chop it down or not. And you don’t judge a tree for all the multitude of reasons as to why it’s really flourishing or not, or what’s going on, you know, you don’t judge the tree, you know, there’s so many factors. And I just think that we’re like that, too. Like, there are certain things in our control, there are a lot of things that are not in our control. There’s a lot of complexity. And I love that you talked about the mystery, because I think a certain amount of being able to accept the mystery, alongside having kindness and, and not so much judgment, is so helpful.

Sheryl  

I love that That tree metaphor of that environment and the nutrients and the minerals and, and the particular climate. And that’s why inner work is so individual, we can’t formulize it, we just can’t. It can’t be done and finished up and wrapped up in 12 weeks. It can’t. We’re so complex, and we’re so individual and while yes, there are archetypal, communal layers of our being. There are also ways that we are unique, absolutely unique that Victoria has never existed, and Sheryl has never existed. And that’s wild and extraordinary. And if we don’t have that lens of mystery, we’re missing a huge piece of I think of reverence and of respect and, and of kindness that we can have around the healing process around just the human process. even forget about the healing process, right, just what it is to be human. 

Victoria  

I know that you have a visualization. Would you like to share that?

Sheryl 

Yeah, a really brief visualization, going with the tree metaphor in this first very first exciting podcast. So I invite you to stand up if you can, if you’re walking if you can stop for a minute or two. Or you can do this later when you can stand up. And if you can take your shoes off and feel your feet on the ground. If you can stand outside even better, but if not imagining that underneath whatever surface you are on concrete or wood or pavement that underneath that is the earth is our Mother Earth. And imagining that there are roots that extend down through the soles of your feet into the dirt into the layers into the earth itself. really seeing those roots going down these grounding cords that are always connecting you to the earth. Just like a tree that you are now this tree and you have your own root system and as the roots go down and ground you so the nutrients, the minerals, the water, those invisible waterways, those invisible sources of nourishment are entering these roots, traveling up through them into the soles of your feet and rising up through your ankles, into your calves imagining the most nourishing, delicious substance. Perhaps even braided with light rising up into your knees, your legs, filling you with goodness into your hips up into your torso, the branches of your arms, perhaps lifting your arms up into that place of crown and receiving the light there as well. Sunlight or moonlight coming down through the palms of your hands through the crown of your head. Meeting with the nourishment from the earth. Seeing these two energy channels moving up and down the trunk and the limbs of your body filling you with goodness, reminding you of your goodness of your aliveness of your wholeness, of your place of belonging and bringing you a sense of peace. 

Victoria 

So good. Well, thank you. 

Sheryl  

Thank you, Victoria. And thank you listeners for joining us. If you would like to learn more, you can find me on my website conscious dash transitions.com and on Instagram at wisdom of anxiety. Thank you. We’ll see you next time.

 

 

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