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  • Writer's pictureJacqueline Stilling

I'm Breaking out of the Box and Creating Circles

I've changed.

Change can be difficult.

As much work as I've done: meditation, retreats, therapy, the programming can still be loud. I have a part of me that gets super duper activated when I see a headline that spouts:

"Meditation can Cure Depression"


"Get Rid of Imposter Syndrome for Good"


"Try the 12-Week Program to stop Anxiety."

I call bullshit!

Change happens slowly even when it feels sudden. What do I mean? When you are in therapy or a soul circle or some other beautiful healing container the information goes in and it goes in and it goes in and then one day we get this "Ah-Ha moment" of insight. It feels like it happens like that, but usually it is all that sitting and allowing it to go in that finally builds up into that profound change.

At least that is what I have experienced as both a teacher and a participant.

Recently I could not sleep. It was a combination of forgetting the meds for my PLMD (a cousin to restless leg syndrome) and watching a crazy intense show right up to bedtime. It was one of those nights that I was up until 4 and the night brain noise was loud. There is a part of me that hopes you can't relate, but I think you can. It's the noise that says the everything you are doing is wrong and that soon everybody is going to find out and everything will be taken from you.

And then the light of day comes and I get up and get on with the day; albeit tired. So weird.

This particular night I was having thoughts about my boundaries as a practitioner. Notice I didn't say therapist.

Why didn't I?

Several years ago when I began The Both/And Way it was partially to become a retreat leader, mentor, teacher, and coach. Being a therapist wasn't allowing me to use myself in an expansive way. I spent over 10 years in a beautiful relationship with an analyst and I will forever be grateful for those sessions. Because she had such and impact on me, I thought I had to be her.

She tried a myriad of ways to help me out of the box, but at the time whenever she would suggest that i may be happier doing something other than intense 1:1 pyschodynamic therapy or point out how difficult it must be for someone like me (an extrovert who loved connecting with people on a deep level) to do this work, I got super defensive. I had this idea that if I wasn't exactly like her, the work wasn't worthy.

When things come easy to me, leading healing circles or helping people I coach reframe a difficulty by sharing something I have experienced, I don't' think it is valuable. Even when they do.

This change has been difficult for me and from what I hear--incredibly beneficial for those with whom I work, mentor, coach, and teach. They like the new me, the one creating connections by sharing more about my humanness. The one formin gcircles and breaking out of boxes.

But still . . .the brian noise.

I often feel like my job is to simply deliver the bad news from a smiling, serene Jacqui.

Here it is: I have intense feelings that don't make sense: anxiety, fear, judgement, resentments, etc. Sometimes all directed at me. I too have to continue unlearning the difficult dogma and programming that keeps me boxed in.

What if the teacher is just a mere mortal, how does it work?

Well, I think it works by admitting to being a human, admitting to all the thoughts and feelings and difficulties. However, when we admit it to someone else who isn't afraid to admit it too - well, that is really something now - isn't it!

The teacher doesn't help us get away from or not have the feelings, the teacher helps us accept them and sit with them, and if you are are really lucky, laugh your way through them.

BUT - and this is a big BUT - you don't have to do it alone. You belong. As Mary Oliver says in Wild Geese: You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees repenting . . . You have already earned your place in the family of things. (I am paraphrasing here)

Welcome to the family. You belong in the healing circle. Please don't try to find a teacher who isn't human; find one that is with you in all the muck; one who isn't afraid of all it is to be human.


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