WHY, you might be asking, do I include so many images of stacked rocks, or ‘Cairns’ as the Scots refer to them, on my website.
Well, to start, I think there is an artistic beauty to them, a natural look, each stone being unique, as well as durable and strong.
When they’re stacked, there are no two the same! Some look fragile, susceptible to falling apart; each rock is dependent on the one beneath it for it’s stability.
With any collection of stones you will always create a different looking Ciarn, a different piece of art.
But, not only do Cairns have a beautiful look to them, they also serve a function. The stacking of stones has been around for thousands of years as a form of communication. The Vikings, early Norsemen and the Incas used them as lighthouses and navigational markers. The European explorers would conceal notes between the stones describing their discoveries in the event they didn’t make it back to report their experiences themselves. The Indians used them as spiritual markers. In the Buddhist culture, each stone is assigned a meaning or a prayer. In Scotland the stacked stones were used as a method of marking as well as for monuments.
To me, the Ciarn is a wonderful representation of the work and the growth we experience in therapy, and also each of us individually.
Like the stacking of stones, we are all unique, and we take on a multitude of roles in our life. Each day is a conscious, and sometimes unconscious, effort to balance all these roles, doing our best to maintain a sense of control, feel joy, confidence, self worth, and build strong relationships with others.
At the core of therapy is a connection between two people and a conversation, working together to gain insight, discover healthier ways to be, and a stronger, more balanced, you!
What better way to see that, express that, appreciate that, but with a Cairn!
Create your own Cairn:
From your own collection of stones, assign each one a meaningful message or word that will give you comfort, inspiration, contemplation, reflection or motivation. Write directly on the stones with sharpies or write on paper and place between the rocks. Consider the following as helpful suggestions:
While you’re taking those big, deep breaths (see Part 1), let’s add on another strategy to help manage anxiety and the stress of our current ‘new normal’. Mantras!
Those who work with me already know how much I love inspiring quotes and messages we can write on cards to remind ourselves of healthier ways to self talk. What have you been saying to yourself these days? When you pay more attention to that inner voice, you’ll realize if you are your biggest critic or your best cheerleader!
Mantras are words or phrases that we want to remember, take in, and have meaning in our life. When we say them over and over, they slowly become more comfortable, and powerful, and over time, with enough repetition, become part of the fabric of who we are.
Begin today by paying attention to what you are thinking and the messages that you give yourself. Write them down if you can. Do you sound harsh, critical, fearful? Write out some phrases that you could tell yourself instead that would be more kind, reasonable, helpful.
Next time you are taking a break to breath and reset your system, include your new mantras and repeat them often!
Try out these mantras that may prove helpful now during this pandemic …
I know it’s going to sound so simple, but trust me, it will prove helpful! Put your hands behind your head, close your eyes and take a BIG BREATH! You won’t realize how much you are shallow breathing until you take a purposeful, deep, voluminous breath that resets your whole system.
Now, count to 4 as you breath in through your nose and count to 4 again as you breath out through your mouth. Try to do this several times until you can feel your muscles in your back, shoulders, chest, arms and legs start to relax, and your face and jaw muscles unclench.
Fearful thoughts, like what are being generated from this current pandemic, tend to activate our body into a fight or flight mode, as if we’re ready to go into battle. When in fight or flight, we tend to breath more rapidly, tense our muscles and feel like we're 'on guard' for something to happen. Over time this can lead to memory issues, sleep difficulty, lack of concentration or focus, lack of motivation, headaches, stomach upset, muscle aches… exhaustion!
We’re dealing each day with lots of uncertainty, not just with virus news, but with our jobs, kids, finances and feeling disconnected from what’s ‘normal’. We will have a difficult time getting through this effectively if we aren’t thinking clearly, and to do that, we need to activate our frontal lobe of our brain, where all the good stuff we think comes from. That part of our brain doesn’t work when we are in fight or flight mode. And that’s why taking a BREATH is not only so simple but sooooo helpful!