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.
In today’s episode, we’re wrestling and dancing with Mary Oliver’s beloved poem “Wild Geese,” starting with its bold opening line: “You do not have to be good.”
We consider questions like: What if being “good” has been a key part of our identity for years? What does it mean to not be good? Is it an excuse to be selfish?
And what does it mean to “let the soft animal of your body love what it loves”? What might that have to do with self-trust and finding our own voice?
…And what if we are the wild geese?
All this, and much more, in today’s episode.
“Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver
On Being episode with Mary Oliver: “I got saved by the beauty of the world”
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” –from “The Summer Day,” by Mary Oliver
How to be Perfect: The Correct Answer to Every Moral Question, by Michael Schur, creator of the TV show The Good Place
We start today’s episode with a story from Sheryl about how getting covid brought up the voices of purity and perfectionism in her—cold, scolding, cruel voices. Sheryl shares how she worked through these voices with the help of a compassionate friend and dialoguing in her journal.
Victoria reflects on her fear of contamination, reckons with trying to play God, feels the pressure of perfectionism in her body, and sheds tears.
Sheryl describes her spiritual perspective on facing our fallibility and offers a ritual for release. And, she shares a meditation on what it feels like to know in your bones: you are loved.
In today’s episode, we welcome a special guest, J.S. Park, to talk with us about that most primal human fear, the fear of death. And, we talk about the “lost language” of grief, and some of the historical roots of how and why we lost it.
As a hospital chaplain, J.S. Park offers grief counseling and end-of-life care among his many duties. We spoke with him about how this role has shaped the way that he views life and death. He shares a story of vulnerability, presence, and wonder, of living deeply into the fullness and complexity of his humanity.
We know this is a very tender topic, especially for highly sensitive people who struggle with anxiety, panic attacks, and certain types of OCD. Please take good care of yourself and listen only if you want to, and only if you are feeling well-resourced and well-supported right now.
You can find J.S. Park on Instagram @jspark3000
In today’s episode, we are talking about a simple, yet powerful tool we all can use as we seek to live from more wisdom and less reactivity: the ability to pause. Whether we are arguing with our partner, greeting a loved one as they enter the house, or moving from one task to the next, incorporating a pause can help us to shift our energy, practice gratitude, and remember who we really are and how we want to be.
Sheryl and Victoria take a one-minute pause in the middle of the episode (and invite you to as well), then discuss what came up for them—from self doubt, to last night’s dreams.
And, they reflect on how the pause is humanizing and friendly—a comma in the long run-on sentence of the day, a semi-colon wink of awareness, and even a reminder not to take it all so seriously.
In today’s episode, you’ll hear us speaking more slowly, pausing longer, listening more closely. That’s because we wanted to approach the subject of slowing down, and we didn’t want to just talk bout it. We wanted to do it.
We invite you to join us as we float down the slow-moving river of conversation today. Notice as you listen what arises in your mind and heart, what happens to your nervous system, your body, your thoughts. Do you catch a deeper breath than you’ve gotten all day? Do you find a quiet spot in your mind where before there was only noise? We certainly did while recording.
We hope you feel embraced by the slowness. We hope you feel the shame or fear or resistance loosen, and kindness, warmth and compassion enter, as we ponder how to invite slowness in—and what awaits us when we do.
Have you ever wished that you could join the conversations that you hear in podcasts? Do you find yourself longing for deeper conversations with people you meet in your daily life?
In today’s episode, we’re responding to a question from Monique, a member of our Patreon community: “How do you go about having deeper conversations when not everyone wants or is in the head space to have them, or they find deep conversations uncomfortable?”
Sheryl and Victoria explore what we really mean when we say “deep conversations,” conditions that help us reach more depth, and some of the barriers that keep us at the surface. And, we consider the importance of meeting people where they are and building trust to invite deeper connection.
Dreams: they comfort us and terrify us, send us into flights of fantasy and doubt, connect us to our aliveness and ancestors. They are potent portals, bridges into another realm. And yet, we often forget dreams, dismiss them, or even try to avoid them. We fear the unknown: what will they reveal to us? What might we discover? What might we have to face in them?
In today’s episode, we talk about meeting dreams with curiosity, openness and even playfulness, so that we can tap into their gold. Sheryl shares her view of dreams as metaphor, and her gentle, joyful approach to honoring and getting into relationship with these deep reservoirs of wisdom and creativity.
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.
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.
- Words from Martin Luther King Jr: “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice.” “I must confess, I am tired.”; Letter from a Birmingham Jail
- Jewish wisdom: “You are not obligated to finish the work of perfecting the world, but neither are you free to desist from it.”
- On Being episode: “The Opposite of Good is Indifference,” featuring Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel quote: “We must learn how to be surprised, not to adjust ourselves. I am the most maladjusted person in society.”
- Season 4, Episode 2 of the No Place Like Home podcast, featuring Mary Anne Hitt, Anna Jane Joyner, and Mary Annaïse Heglar
- The 50th Gate: Tracking Our Growth through the Counting of the Omer, by Rabbi Gavriel Goldfelder
- Shelly Tygielski, @mindfulskatergirl
- Emergent Strategy by adrienne maree brown
- Lama Rod Owens and his recent talk with Action for Happiness
- JS Park
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!
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.
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.
- A Little Book on the Human Shadow by Robert Bly
- “Projecting Your Personal Shadow” TEDx talk by Dr. Steve Mortenson
- America’s Got Talent
- Center for Action and Contemplation “Shadow Work” series
- Owning Your Own Shadow: Understanding the Dark Side of the Psyche, by Robert Johnson
- William Shakespeare
- Jeremy Taylor and the concept of the “bright shadow”
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.
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.
- 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.
- Marion Woodman
- Robert Johnson
- Massage therapy
- Body work
- Cranial sacral therapy
- 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.