Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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No Better Time To Share Your Complicated Colorful Self With The World

Every day when I wake up and turn on NPR, I hear another disturbing story. I do not need to tell you. You hear it, too. You feel it. You grieve for the people. The animals. The plants. For the planet. Some days you try denial for a while. I know I do. Many days you compartmentalize. Me, too. Some weeks you wear your emotional support sweater. Every day. You sleep in it. Well, OK, I don’t sleep in my emotional support sweater. But, I’m leaving the option open, just in case.

You may be wondering what you can do. How does a highly sensitive, empathetic, emotional, persnickety, somewhat indecisive, seemingly overthinking book lover manage in this world? Where does a rainforest-minded human who is driven to make a difference even start?

Well. I have some ideas.

I’ll begin with the obvious ones. The ones you are probably already doing.

Voting. Financially supporting important causes. Running for office. Supporting BIPOC businesses, writers, and artists. Getting therapy. Paying it forward. Examining your own biases. Following Van Jones on Instagram. Raising compassionate children. Volunteering your time. Setting healthy boundaries with toxic family members. Living more sustainably. Writing influential articles and books. Being kind. Becoming an activist. Starting a silent book club. Housing a refugee family. Starting a nonprofit. Having conversations with people you disagree with. Educating yourself about the climate crisis and what can be done. Following Glennon Doyle on Instagram. Fighting the urge to feel powerless or hopeless. Stopping the legacy of abuse in your family of origin. Maintaining your capacity for optimism and idealism. Developing your intuition and letting your creativity out of the box. Deepening your spiritual practice. Reviving your sense of humor.

That would be a great start.

And here is what I really want to say. This is what I am going to nag you about for the rest of my days.

Step up NOW to who you truly are. Yes, now. No time to waste. It is no longer appropriate to dilly dally. Procrastination is not an option. These times require all of us who are capable to step up and do the work we are here to do.

Open the doors to your destiny and charge on in!

How do you determine your destiny, you may ask. How do you find your purpose? There are ideas in this post and this one. Some great resources for this are here. It is a project for sure. But what could be more important? Honey, you have a rainforest mind. You were born for this. Your sensitivity, creativity, compassionate heart, intelligence. Your passion for justice and love for planet earth. Now is your time.

And if you are still not convinced, there is this:

“…You have worlds inside you — swirling, colorful, mournful, generous, soaring, hopeful, searing, heartbreaking worlds. You cannot offer just a tiny slice of you. You cannot hold back the flood. You want to share those worlds. You are way too big, too complicated, too glorious and infinitely sad and unspeakably divine. You have to share all of it...” Heather Havrilesky

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To my bloggEEs: I know I am obsessed with this topic. (I hope I don’t sound too preachy.) What are you doing to find your purpose and live more of your authentic life? What questions do you have? What resources do you use that help you? These are such challenging times. Sending you so much love and appreciation for your courage.


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16 Ways to Manage Anxiety in a High Stress World

Could this be a description of you?

~ Feeling more, sensing more, thinking more, knowing more

~ Extreme sensitivity to sounds, smells, tastes, colors, touch, emotions, weather, food, chemicals, energy, bad news, criticism, the invisible world, and beauty

~ A mind that moves at warp speed, seeks meaning, analyzes the hell out of everything, wonders, generates millions of ideas, and watches itself watching itself

~ A heart that weeps at the cruelty humans inflict on one another and on the planet

~ A soul that yearns for knowledge, understanding, and love

And you wonder why you are anxious?

(photo by le minh phuong, unsplash)

Anxiety is such a real phenomenon for people with finely tuned nervous systems, which you know you have. Not to mention, your capacity to feel the suffering of neighbors, trees, children everywhere, and your lonely Aunt Lucille. And, these days, not to mention pandemics, climate crises, racism, civil wars, psychopathic dictators, and more.

And, if you had to start worrying when you were two years old because your mother was screaming obscenities at you and your father was unreliable and self-absorbed, for example, well then, you likely have developed a remarkable ability to become anxious at a moment’s notice. Or to remain anxious all of the time on all occasions. Just in case. You never know. You need to be prepared for the worst.

And so, your anxiety may manifest in many ways:

You want to strangle your neighbor who uses her leaf blower to clear the dust off of her driveway every morning. The chaos at birthday parties leaves you and your child shrieking. Your very active, creative mind imagines unending catastrophes. You can’t stop ruminating about the horrific story you just heard on NPR. You have migraines, allergies, and insomnia.

What, then, are some ways you can help yourself?

  • Make a list of self-soothing techniques that work for you. Try the different apps that exist such as Calm, Insight Timer, and Headspace. It often helps to create a daily meditation practice or exercise plan. Some people have found morning pages from The Artist’s Way to be useful. Notice if food sensitivities or hormones are a factor.
  • Make a list of calming reminders. Here are some items on one teen client’s list: I’m a fallible human. I make mistakes, like everyone. I’m learning. I’m experimenting. Making a mistake does not make me a bad person. Am I catastrophizing? Do I need to be this upset? My body tends to be anxious, but I’m actually safe. It’s going to be OK. I’m older now and I have more control over my experiences. It makes sense that there are many things that I don’t know. 
  • Procrastination by Burka and Yuen is a good resource for perfectionism and procrastination.
  • You have great compassion for others. Let yourself receive some of that sweetness, too. Forgive yourself for not being perfect.
  • Understand that your perfectionism and anxiety might exist not because of something you have done wrong but because of the nature of growing up gifted. The complications begin at an early age. You have a right to take the time to focus on your self-understanding and growth.
  • You know how fear tends to make you want to freeze or shrink or hide or push it away? Instead, notice it and be with it. Where do you feel it in your body? Hello, anxiety. Then, remember that it is just a part of you. And you are bigger than it. Imagine yourself expanding. Breathe and expand. As odd as it sounds, welcome the anxiety. Bring it on, baby! And keep expanding. You will begin to feel your higher Self and the Love that is in you and around you. Breathe. You might start to notice that you feel lighter and more peaceful. The fear may still be there but you’ve become so large that it becomes insignificant. Imagine that! The more you practice this, the easier it will be to get into this more peaceful state. And if you want to take it one step further, turn it into a tonglen practice (from Pema Chodron) where you breathe in all of the anxiety all over the world (Seriously!), and you breathe out Love to everyone, including yourself.
  • Move your body. When worried, we tend to freeze. That only increases the anxiety. Try moving. Walk, dance, shake, exercise, sing.
  • If you grew up in a seriously dysfunctional family, get psychotherapy. Events in your present life can trigger PTSD symptoms where you are unconsciously re-experiencing trauma; feeling anxiety that makes no sense. Therapy can help you identify the triggers and learn ways to cope and to heal.
  • Keep a journal and write dialogues with your anxiety. Visualize the anxiety as a person and be curious. Ask why it continues to hang around. You may be surprised by the answers
  • Find your sense of humor. If you are alone in your car, scream obscenities at passing drivers. Avoid eye contact.
  • Try one of the research-based guided imagery CDs produced by psychologist Belleruth Naparstek. She has CDs on anxiety, stress reduction and many more topics. Experiment with emotional freedom techniques (EFT) also called tapping.
  • Read the research from the Heartmath Institute and see if you might want to try one of their devices to improve what they call your “heart rate variability” and reduce your stress.
  • Get hugged by someone you love, including your animals. Breathe and feel the connection deeply in your body.
  •  If you are a parent, share these ideas with your children. Listen to them as they share their frustrations and fears. Careful listening and reflection often works better than advice giving or rescuing. If they are very young, give them the specific words for their emotions. Let them know you will keep them safe. Don’t take their meltdowns personally. Take time away.
  • Consider working with a team of sensitive, capable practitioners (naturopaths, physical therapists, psychotherapists, doctors, acupuncturists, healers, shamans, teachers, artists, etc.) who will help you find the best tools for your particular needs. You are complicated so there is no one practitioner or one technique that will be the perfect answer. You do not have to be alone with your anxiety. Even though you tend to solve problems for others and you may be the smartest person in the room at any particular time, do not give up on finding help for yourself.

You may be naturally inclined to worry. Because you think a lot, it is easy to slip into an anxious state. You have a mind that needs to be active, questioning, and dancing. Imagine that if you get more intellectual stimulation, you will worry less. And, yet, during times like these, anxiety will likely be a frequent visitor.

So, if all else fails, go for beauty. See the gorgeousness of the flower, the rainstorm, the laughing children. And the beauty of you. Worries and all.

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To my bloggEEs: I am sure we are all anxious about the horrific situation in Ukraine. Here is a place you can go to help. For the climate crisis, Jon Stewart is one resource. For racism, look for the work of Resmaa Menakem. I am sending you so much love. Let us know what calms your anxiety. Speaking of love, I am still looking for your thoughts on love and all types of relationships for my new book. And remember to tell me about the many forms of love you experience outside of partnership. Thank you!


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Awareness, Awe, and Your Wild Rainforest Mind

(This post was inspired by the writer, visionary, and extraordinarily rainforest-minded Geneen Marie Haugen*)

…I grieve and wonder why so many of our human kin don’t seem to recognize the astonishing miracle of our mutual existence on this precious, exquisite, watery planet that we share not only with fantastically diverse cultures, but also with our companion communities of humpback whales, hummingbirds, giraffes. Is such experiential awareness and awe not available to all of us?…” Geneen Marie Haugen

(photo courtesy of Dev Asangbam, Unsplash)

Maybe not. Awareness and awe seem to exist at different levels and intensities for each of us. Our capacity for awareness and awe might be related to how curious, sensitive, intuitive, empathetic, and perceptive we are.

When you have a rainforest mind, though, you are guaranteed to be living with high levels of both.

Let me explain.

~ Awareness ~

There are many things you see, feel, know, and intuit that others don’t. You may not even realize this. You are normal to you. But when you run into a conflict with someone, it might be because something is obvious to you but not apparent to them. You may think they are lazy or just not paying attention. But it could be they are not seeing what you see. My example from the RFM quiz applies here: Do you see ecru, beige, sand, and eggshell when others see only white? You experience multiple layers and several subtleties. Complexities. Maybe you hear the buzzing florescent lights no one else hears. Or the chewing person in the theatre drives you crazy. Perhaps you grok the solution to the architectural design flaw before anyone else realizes there is a flaw. Or maybe you can tell by the way someone smells that they need a root canal.

These types of awarenesses may seem odd to the non-rainforest-minded among us. They may seem odd to you, too. But they actually come naturally with your larger capacity for being. For knowing.

~ Awe ~

Because of your deeper perceptions and your capacity to appreciate beauty and wonder, chances are you do not take life’s opportunities for granted. Of course, you get irritable, frustrated, despairing, fearful, and angry. You are not always grateful or spiritually in tune. But there may be a sense of awe that always lives in your heart. Geneen Marie Haugen‘s connection with Nature is such a prime example. Here she is describing water.

“…am still in a mad love trance with water, still dripping, still sensing the body of that muscular river: clear, deep, sinuous, insisting on a mutual embrace. A wild adoration of water…” GMH

See what I mean?

This is the intense experience of the rainforest-minded life.

Can you relate?

And yet. You may be exhausted by all of the intensity. You may feel terribly lonely if you are the only one you know who is in a “mad love trance with water.”

But your awareness, your capacity for awe, can also bring you visions of possibilities:

“…I can see a possible world where human ventures are created in accordance with living systems, where (bio)diversity is cherished, where all voices and pretenses are honored, where individual human beings are nourished and encouraged by their communities and by elders to bring forth their unique expressions and offerings. This world is so near that I can even smell and taste it. Millions–maybe even billions–of others have seen and felt the shimmers of a possible world, too…” GMH

Not only that:

“…The circumstances or places in which we find ourselves most radiantly alive almost certainly nourish the wild soul who inhabits the depths far below the surface of our ordinary, everyday consciousness. Tending and cultivating the emergences of the wild soul may be a primary way toward revitalizing human existence on this great planet.” GMH

So, dear rainforesters, keep noticing those shimmers.

And do not forget to carefully tend and cultivate your deeply radiant rainforest-y wild soul.

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To my bloggEEs: Can you relate to being aware and in awe? Let us know how this fits or does not fit in your life. What are the shimmers you are noticing? What are your thoughts? Feelings? Experiences? Questions? And, thank you so much to Geneen for sharing your wild soul with us!

*Geneen Marie Haugen, PhD, grew up as a free-range wildish kid with a run amok imagination.  She is a guide to the experiential, intertwined mysteries of nature and psyche with the Animas Valley Institute (www.animas.org) and has been on the faculty of the Esalen Institute, Schumacher College, and the Fox Institute for Creation Spirituality.  Her writing has appeared many publications including Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth; Thomas Berry: Dreamer of the Earth; Parabola; Kosmos Journal; Ecopsychology; The Artist’s Field Guide to Yellowstone, and others.  


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“Beam Me Up, Scotty.” Social Responsibility and Your Super Smart, Sensitive Soul

photo courtesy of Dino Reichmuth, Unsplash

Remember this from Star Trek? “Beam me up, Scotty.” Sometimes don’t you just want to be beamed up?

Me, too.

Why?

Super Sensitivity. Extreme Empathy. Pressure. Expectations. Overthinking. Perfectionism. Intuition. Loneliness. Social responsibility. Bad Hair Days.

Not to mention childhood trauma. Anxiety. Depression. Despair. Climate change. Ignorance. Racism. anti-Semitism. Sexism. Poverty. Narcissistic politicians. And more.

It can be overwhelming. You can feel powerless.

What can one person do? Even one super smart, sensitive, empathetic person?

Here’s an idea. Something you can do.

Get in touch with the activities and skills that bring you joy, meaning, and fulfillment. Then, use your creativity to turn one or more of them into a community building or global-oriented service project that will change minds and hearts. Design a project that will spread more love. That will soften the divide and reduce the fear. It doesn’t have to grow into a global phenomenon. But it can. You may hesitate because you feel that whatever you do won’t be grand enough. Won’t be perfect enough. Don’t let that stop you. 

Here are some examples. Places to start:

~ Have you heard of the Craftivist Collective? They describe themselves this way: “Our gentle protest approach to craftivism aims to change the world with deliberate, thoughtful actions that provoke reflection and respectful conversation instead of aggression and division.” A similar group is called Badass Herstory. Check them out. I had no idea that craftivism was a thing until a client told me about it. Join them or start a different collective. Maybe a Solar Power Collective or a Gleaners Group. (You just might meet other RFMs there!)

~ I’m guessing that you know about Maria Popova and Brain Pickings. Imagine making a living researching and writing about everything you are curious about with no limits on depth and complexity. She has almost 5 million followers on Facebook. Who says there aren’t any super smart people out there?? Is she influential? You betcha.

~ Start a Silent Book Club in your town. Here’s their description. “We started Silent Book Club because reading with friends is awesome. We love hearing about what people are reading (often in their other book clubs) and we think it’s important to put down our phones and be social. Real, live, breathing-the-same-air social, not hearting-you-on-Instagram social.” Maybe this doesn’t sound like a service project but you never know who you might be saving from despair or desperation. Spreading the love of reading has got to be a good thing.

~ Start a mentorship program in your local middle school. Then let it spread throughout your school district.

~ Get involved with an organization helping refugees around the world.

~ Use art as a way to influence others. Explore organizations that promote the power of art such as this one: … persuade by creating moving experiences that prompt people to question the world as it is, imagine a world as it could be, and join together to make that new world real…”

~ Join with climate activists in your state to find out how to take action that will influence policy and promote real change. Read DeMocker’s book for many suggestions on how to begin.

~ Choose to do some deep psychotherapy around family of origin behaviors, patterns, and beliefs. Stop the cycle of abuse in your family line. Find your strength and your voice so that you can relate to others from your own self-compassionate place.

~ Start a blog and write a book. Become a psychotherapist and work with rainforest-minded souls.

And, remember.

You’ll need nourishment and nurturing so that you can build your social responsibility plan. Here is some good advice from Maria Popova.

Seek out what magnifies your spirit. Patti Smith, in discussing William Blake and her creative influences, talks about writers and artists who magnified her spirit — it’s a beautiful phrase and a beautiful notion. Who are the people, ideas, and books that magnify your spirit? Find them, hold on to them, and visit them often. Use them not only as a remedy once spiritual malaise has already infected your vitality but as a vaccine administered while you are healthy to protect your radiance.”   Maria Popova

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To my dearest bloggEEs: What people, ideas, and books “magnify your spirit?” Let us know your feelings around social responsibility and if you have project ideas that you want to explore. (Note: I will be deleting any comments that are rants, even though there is a lot to rant about, or that call out specific individuals or political parties. Thank you for understanding.) Sending you all much love and spirit magnification.

 


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Resources for Building a Better World and Finding Your Purpose(s)

“…It was so humbling to acknowledge that as humans, we all seem to share the wound of not having felt loved just as we are! …Our deepest wounds call out to be faced, felt, made peace with, tenderly held and integrated so that we can allow our essence to fully penetrate our lives. We are invited into a spirituality that does not seek to transcend our pain but to fully feel, meet, and embrace all of our beautiful, raw, messy humanity…”                                      Science and Nonduality

There’s a whole lot of messy humanity out there these days. A whole lot. I must admit that it has me kinda discouraged, if you must know. It doesn’t help that I’m recovering from a bout with the flu. And when I’m sick, I can leap from anxiety into catastrophizing. It goes like this: Even though I know my body has bounced back from various illnesses, this time will be different. I’ll never recover from this and it’ll only get worse. In fact, I’ll become so disabled, I won’t be able to work. My income will dry up. My friends and family will abandon me and I’ll become a crochety homeless old bag lady with really bad hair. Then, the summer fire season will be upon us and my town will go up in flames and I will not have access to clean water or the internet and I will have to stop blogging. Life will lose all meaning…

It goes like that.

These days, sadly, I don’t have to be sick to feel anxious. I just listen to NPR. You know what I’m talking about. And if you are a highly sensitive, empathetic, smart person, which you know you are, then, you, too, are anxious. Maybe even catastrophizing. And you don’t even have the flu.

I get it.

I’m here to help.

First of all, as you may have noticed, the above quote is referring to each of us looking at our own “beautiful, raw, messy humanity.” And, I agree. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ve heard it many times. It’s an act of courage and a gift to the planet for you to face your fear, shame, and despair, and walk through your dark night of the soul. You can use psychotherapy, spiritual practices, personal growth groups, energy healing, scientific analysis, bodywork, vision quests, shamanism, art-music-writing-dance, 12 Steps, political activism, prayer, tonglen, or, better yet, some combination of these things.

Of course, you’ll also need to recognize that you do, in fact, have a rainforest mind. You are going to need it. So accept it. Love it.

You heard me.

Then, look for people, organizations, books, and resources who are taking action to create a better world. This will remind you that you are not alone and will provide support for your own actions. There are lovely people out there who are making a difference. You can start with Mary DeMocker‘s excellent book The Parent’s Guide to Climate Revolution. And Rebecca Solnit‘s Hope in the Dark. You can also follow Solnit on Facebook. There are organizations that have a larger view of what’s possible like The Institute of Noetic Sciences. There are books helping you find your purpose(s) such as my book (with the new cover coming in a few days!!) and others.

Finally, if you find your purpose(s) and live that larger life, you are doing what you are here on the planet to do. In my humble opinion, I don’t think you can do much more than that.

Unless, of course, I become a crochety old bag lady with really bad hair. Then you can also make sure I have access to a laptop and the internet.

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To my bloggEEs: Let’s generate a long list of resources for creating a better world and for finding your purpose(s). What people, books, music, films, therapies, artists, and organizations are out there that you recommend? Please avoid specific political rants. Thank you, as always, for being here. You are not alone.

And here’s link to a kickstarter campaign for a documentary on giftedness that’s in the works for 2020. (I’m on the advisory board.) This documentary surely belongs on our list of resources for creating a better world.