Summer 2014 News
The STAR Foundation now has its own retreat facility! A benefactor bought property that is being revamped to facilitate STAR Retreats. Our plan is to transform it into a wonderful venue where STAR Retreats and other workshops will be held. Between STAR Retreat programs it will be available as a retreat facility for other organizations, a special events venue, and a motel.
There is plenty of room for STAR Retreats to comfortably expand. We will be upgrading the rooms and restaurant, and totally remodeling another building to become the group room with several breakout rooms. We are delighted that we will have plenty of accommodations, never assigning more than two people per room, and always having enough singles.
The property is located on the second largest freshwater lake in the lower US, Lake Okeechobee, Florida. To mitigate flooding a dike was built surrounding the lake. This dike is part of the National Scenic Trail. Lake Okeechobee is the home to largemouth bass, crappie, and bluegill. The birds in this area are incredible; you can sit in the restaurant area and watch them fish. Boats can tie up to the pier that extends out from the restaurant. With a lagoon toward the back and cattle grazing on either side, the property offers a lot of nature for guests.
The accompanying photo shows the restaurant area on the lagoon with the rest of the retreat in the background. We will have more views for you as we complete our renovations.
Wouldn’t you like to have a really great summer this year? Meaningful times with friends and family and a bit of fun in the sun? Or the motivation for getting to the things you didn’t have the energy for all winter? Read on! I’d like to share three secrets to make it easier for you to make this a really great summer. I want to show you a sure fire way to get going each day so you don’t find yourself at the end of the day and the end of the summer wishing you’d done something different!
So many of us live our lives stuck in the same place, doing the same things day in and day out and often feel empty, alone and/or without much joy. I went to sleep last night asking myself, “In the lives of all the people I've worked with as well as my own, what have I learned about the true secrets of having a great day, every day?”
I awoke early this morning and continued the conversation in my head. “What do I need to do to get going – to make this a great day – today?” I heard the quail scratching in the leaves outside my window and saw the sunlight filtering in. I felt the soft sheets tucked under my chin and noticed that my sweet husband lying next to me was still dreaming. I felt my lungs expand in a deep breath, and enjoyed a smile emerging as I heard some part of me say, “All this for me?” I sensed my heart expand as I filled with gratitude.
I began stretching and thought about my intentions for the day. “What will you do with this one wild and precious day?” – to paraphrase Mary Oliver, one of my favorite poets. What will I do with this one precious day? Yes, I have my list of things I need to accomplish. That’s the easy part. The harder part is my intention of late to slow down and be more present with each person I meet. Okay, guess I need to start with myself. So I slowed down and got ready to meditate for a bit before I jumped into my day.
I finished my meditation, which by the way, these days is an audio recording of bells and rain designed to promote brain synchronization. Noticing my expanded state, I asked myself, “Just now, what’s my Truth, I mean, really, my truth? If I think about the essential part of myself, the pure me, the me that was present even as a little girl, what is true? My truth is that I’m good. My truth is also that I can do whatever I need to do today.”
As I made the bed and put the kettle on for tea, I thought about how these three simple things help me get moving each day… Gratitude, Intention and Truth. Yes, I GIT Goin’, and keep moving each day with an attitude of gratitude, a clear intention and a sense of who I really am. And, this formula has helped many people I’ve worked with. Let’s look at each component of GIT Goin’:
When we adopt an attitude of Gratitude, our brain tends to shift from the areas of the limbic that look for what’s wrong, unsafe or needs protecting. We instead move to the upper part of the brain, the left prefrontal cortex that is associated with positive emotions like love and compassion. The effect of focusing on gratitude is feeling more alive, engaged, and happy, and this counteracts the physiology of the stress response. This brings positive hormones like norepinephrine; dopamine fills the brain’s pleasure pathways and the heart helps the entire nervous system to relax and come into a more coherent order. As you can see, this naturally spreads to those around us.
Try reinforcing this practice by making a note each morning upon arising of three things you’re grateful for. Regardless of any unpleasantness, what around me is beautiful? What is going well in my life? What do I feel good about? Allow your answers to these questions to bring a smile to your face and watch the good feelings flow from your heart to your belly and spread throughout your body. And, by the way, it is difficult to focus on gratitude and stay depressed at the same time. Give it a try!
The next kick-starter to the day is your Intention. An intention takes on an energy of its own, sets up a positive momentum, and keeps us on track. It becomes the beacon that lights the way, the road map by which we measure those micro, moment-to-moment decisions. We are much more likely to experience and/or accomplish our desired outcome if we have a clear, stated intention. And, if you can take a moment to make a note of it, all the better.
To accelerate to the power of your feeling of gratitude and your clear intention, add your Truth. By truth I don’t mean … it’s true that I’m in a mess, I hate my life, and nothing ever works out! Although things in your life may be unclear or even overwhelming or painful, you have an essential truth about yourself that does not change with circumstances. You came into this world as a beautiful, whole, and precious being. Things happened that took you off course and you, like all of us, created strategies to survive in your family, including believing things about yourself that weren’t true. Things like: I’m bad; I’m not lovable; and/or There’s something wrong with me. These are strategies. They are not your Truth.
Your Truth is the quality of your Essence. Ask yourself, at my core, what is really true about me? What is my best quality? Who am I at the center of my being?
If you have trouble with this try looking at a photo of yourself when you were little. Or, think of a little person you know. What is really true about that Little One? Is something wrong with her, really? Does he not deserve love, just for being here? Allow a statement to come to you, such as, “I am lovable; I am powerful; I’m okay; and/or I am good.” This is your affirmation.
So this is the secret to getting your summer on the right track. Git Goin’ each day with Gratitude, Intention and Truth and watch things shift day by day. You may notice that people around you are more cooperative, that you waste less time, that you feel better and have more energy. Use the accompanying worksheet as a starter to help you GIT Goin’ and make this the best summer ever!
Congratulations are in order for Dr. Robin Cappon on her recent graduation from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology with her PhD in Clinical Psychology with a specialty in Pre- and Perinatal and Somatic Psychology. Marti Glenn recently interviewed Robin about her work.
MG: It must feel good to have completed your research and have your degree in hand.
RC: Yes, awesome! It was a lot of work but now seems well worth it.
MG: Tell us a bit about your research.
RC: My research focused on the psychological consequences for babies born of anxious moms. We know there is a much higher potential for psychological issues later in life when one has anxious beginnings.
MG: Just to be clear, we’re not blaming moms for all our psychological woes are we?
RC: No. No. Often pregnant moms find themselves in difficult situations, without the support they need. And, for many, their moms may have been anxious and that just gets passed down. We all do the best we can in parenting, and, it is also true that anxiety and stress have detrimental effects on how our brains and nervous systems develop. Research shows that our earliest experiences in utero have a lasting impact on our neurological and physiological systems.
MG: Say some more about these effects.
RC: Well, when mom is responding to the anxiety in her environment, the adaptive response of the fetus is to assume the same physiological response. This means that the baby will tend to be more irritable and more difficult to soothe as well as have less capacity for developing self-regulation and a sense of trust.
MG: Many of us may have had anxious and/or depressed beginnings which seems to set the stage for problems later in life, such as our own anxiety or depression, difficulty in relationships or just life in general. So, what can be done about this?
RC: Fortunately, a lot of different research is coming to light, much of it just within the last few years, that brings together neuroscience, attachment theory, and trauma with therapeutic interventions that draw upon somatic and pre- and perinatal psychology, art therapy, and physical therapy, among other things.
The good news is that we now have tools and processes to actually change the brain. We can now literally rewire those earliest experiences, bringing them more in line with states of well being, giving us the capacity to feel good, regulate our emotional states and have meaningful connections with others. We can be all of who we were meant to be!
MG: These are very exciting possibilities. Where do you see all of this going for you?
RC: I feel particularly passionate about helping young people improve their capacity to be more resilient in their responses to stress, and help them find healthy relationships before they fall in love. (Smiling: They should fall in love with themselves first, right?) They need to become good parents to themselves before they become parents to a little one. This is how we change the cycle of progressively more dysfunctional families.
MG: Yes, I understand we are seeing more dysfunctional children than ever.
RC: True. Current research shows us that the percentages of securely attached children is decreasing. We know that insecure attachment is associated with anxiety, depression, mood disorders, and other mental health issues. We are seeing more and more children who need special services.
MG: It seems we need to support young families so that we can reverse this trend.
RC: Absolutely! And, we can intervene at any point in the cycle: With adults at any age, young adults, children, and pregnant families. Where ever and whenever we can help people re-wire their brains, we will all benefit.
MG: So Robin, it appears that you haven’t taken a break but are continuing your passion for research.
RC: Smiling: I’m afraid that’s true. My current research is investigating the use of neurofeedback as an adjunctive to the special kind of attachment focused relational therapy we do now. I believe that using physiological aids as well as psychological procedures will move the healing process along more quickly. We want to help the people we work with heal as quickly as possible.
We are also learning that more concentrated work, like STAR Retreats and private intensive work, seems to help speed the healing process. It is difficult to initially access the deepest underlying issues in one 50-minute session each week. That’s great for support and follow-up but not so effective for delving into our earliest traumas. So, a combination of neurofeedback and intensive work shows great promise in helping people re-wire their brains quickly and begin to live a deeply satisfying life.
Currently Robin works in private practice specializing in helping young adults heal early trauma. She brings to her practice two decades as a Registered Physical Therapist, professional sculptor, and art therapist as well as her passion for neurofeedback. She finds that the merging of these seemingly divergent fields actually complement each other and facilitate more rapid healing. She is a regular facilitator at our STAR Retreats and her clients come from all over the US to participate in private intensive therapy in Santa Barbara, CA.
Many people fear change. They want things to stay the same. Think about it. To not change is to be rigid, to atrophy, and compulsively try to be in control. In STAR we work to create change; we embrace changing. People say “I want to grow and find my essential authentic self.” Then they add, “but I don’t want any changes in my life style." Growth is change. Healing is also about change. Transformation requires it. I have heard others speak of wanting to "get their act together and take it on the road." My response is “You already have.” Remember how you created a mask and wore it so long you got stuck in it? Or you played Ophelia for so many years you believed you were Ophelia. Or you were the cutest little cutie pie 5 year old. Your body developed but within you stayed with your act of cutie pie little boy or little girl. It may have been darling when you were 4 or 5, but as a 50 year old it is ridiculous. We really do get addicted to our acts and we have taken them with us. So, don’t turn your resistant fear dial on high when change comes along. Investigate the possibilities and dare to take a few steps forward. I am reminded of a Simon and Garfunkel song from the 60’s: "I am a rock, I am an island. A rock feels no pain, and an island never cries." Deny your emotions and your pain and you have a rock for a heart. Never cry and you have no way to wash away the crust that hides your essential authentic Self. You know, the one you say you want to discover?
Rachel Garst is a lucky woman. Unlike many who have longed for meaningful work, she’s always chosen work that pursues her goals and aspirations. While she’s always had the freedom to get in touch with her higher purpose, she notes, “STAR helped me more solidly connect with my purpose of being—what really gives me joy.” And what gives her joy? Working with non-profits to achieve tangible results on environmental issues. Why? “In one of my STAR’s, we did a meditation to get in touch with our essence. I heard the song of a meadowlark carried on a prairie breeze. That’s my essence”
In her home state of Iowa, she strives to preserve native prairies, wetlands and oak savannahs, all of which are pockets of bio-diversity, and critical for migrating birds. “Iowa is a corn desert. Something like only two percent of the original prairies remain. Waterfowl literally starve to death migrating across the state.”
She has had notable success working with the White Rock Conservation, as a donor as well as a member of the Board of Directors, to preserve seven square miles—about 5,000 acres—of bio-diverse river valley. In her own non-profit, she’s also working from the local to the federal level to protect an additional separate but closely related 5,000 acres of wetland adjacent to the White Rock Land Trust.
In her work with non-profit organizations, she can identify her history of enmeshment with organizations with dysfunction. “Many non-profit organizations have a script of self-sacrificing for a common cause. The most important thing STAR has done for me is to help me identify patterns of relating to people and institutions in my life. STAR has taught me to distinguish between safe and unsafe people, and to detect childhood scripts in my own functioning and that of others. I can step back and realize the other person is coming from childhood scripts or a wounded place, and not take interactions personally. If I become more centered and calm, and am clear about my boundaries and intentions—if I’m in a wise adult space—I’m more effective. Then I’ve set up a situation where I’m more likely to be heard, and I can help them be a more effective organization.”
Rachel now knows the importance of respect, good boundaries, and using her decision making powers, which has made her more effective in her work. An organization that overuses its volunteers to succeed may face a variety of problems. “Sometimes it’s important to have boundaries for the health of the organization.” In addition, of course, to your own health.
Thank you, Rachel. As you honor your essence by caring for the land, you make your corner of the world a better place for all of its inhabitants. And you give us all inspiration to connect with our own purpose.
Hear the poem: