Author Archives: Martina

Just Add… MUSIC!

If I were ever to make one of those lists – you know the kind I mean, the ones that are in every health, lifestyle, and inspirational magazine – to share my “top ten ideas for a better ________” (fill in the blank), it would undoubtedly include: Turn on the tunes!

Music has a transformative power. It’s like audible lubrication for your emotions.

  • Feeling sad and want to cry? Turn on a song that triggers your tears.
  • Feeling tired and unmotivated to clean or work out? Boom! Music is the best ‘pep talk’ you can find.
  • Feeling stressed and overwhelmed? Calm or soothing music can relax you within minutes.

Music is one of my favorite tools in my toolbox, because it instantly changes my mood and my energy, and I get to choose what I want or need to shift in the moment, with real-time results!

Just this morning I was feeling a little ‘meh’ about all the things on my growing to do list. I was sitting in silence staring at both my screen and my paper notepad, and I remembered: turn on the tunes! Et voila! With a little help from Sting, Adele, and Enrique Iglesias I had a sudden energy shift, and I focused more. Task completion is underway and the to do list is shrinking.

Whatever you need to support or enhance in your life, or if you’re feeling stuck or in doubt about what the next right step is, try using music deliberately as a tool. I think you’ll be glad you did. I know I am. (And so is my to do list!)

Words for a New Year

Any transition that can be marked in some tangible way is a great opportunity to invoke a shift in energy and consciousness. So, as we move from one year into another, I would like to share with you the words I spoke last night from my bed (shortly before midnight) to mark the occasion.

Thank you to the previous year for supporting me and providing for me with numerous opportunities for growth, connection and understanding. As I move from one year to the next, I leave behind any and all obstacles that would keep me from my path. I release that which no longer serves me and send it back from whence it came, or to where it belongs. I close out the year leaving behind anything that is not aligned with my highest vibration and greatest good. 

To the coming year, I invite all pieces of me, scattered throughout the universe in time and space, home. I call forth the energy of the light to work with me on my path, to manifest that which is in alignment with the greatest good, and my journey. I clear the way forward and illuminate it with grace and ease. 

Amen.

Happy New Year. xo

Self Care Simple Truths

“Self care” has been a big phrase that gets tossed around across multiple industries. We actually had a class on self-care in grad school because of the high burnout rate among social workers. (It wasn’t mandatory, but I think it should be.)

Of course, self care is easy to talk about and harder to implement, for two main reasons:

  1. Self-care inevitably takes time, and time is something a lot of people feel they don’t have or shouldn’t take for themselves, because
  2. We’ve been taught to prioritize our lives in a non- self care way, stigmatizing the act of self care as a luxury or worse, selfish.

But, self care is neither luxurious nor selfish, it’s a fundamental component to our health, just like eating, breathing, and sleeping.

So, I thought I’d compile some some simple truths about self care that can help change the way we look at this important aspect of good health:

  1. We are entitled to take time to care for ourselves. Entitled. It’s not a privilege nor a gift, it’s a basic human need, and we are allowed to claim it. Even if it’s five minutes a day (which can be hugely beneficial, by the way), we are entitled to take and make time for our health and care.
  2. Self care can be easy, simple, and free. So often I hear people say “I don’t have time/money/ability to do that.” But it doesn’t have to be a $500 spa day or even a weekly mani/pedi for it to be effective. In fact some of the most effective self care is done for free in just five minutes a day, like conscious breath, or sipping tea, or calling a friend, or reading. What matters is the consistency and frequency, not the cost or length of time.
  3. It can be difficult to make yourself a priority, and that’s ok. If you’re not used to doing it, and you’ve bought into the matrix belief that it’s wrong or shameful in some way to prioritize yourself, making the shift in your thinking can be a challenge, and it takes time. That’s ok. Changing a belief about something is harder than changing a habit; but changing the habit will help you to shift the belief. It’s about taking the first step and following it up repeatedly over time. Soon enough, it will have shifted on its own, and you’ll be well on your way to being a priority in your own life.
  • The bottom line is self care can feel like scaling Mt. Everest because we make it more complicated, time-consuming, and expensive than it has to be. In reality, good self care should feel like breathing – a natural part of your daily life, however you choose to do it. When we look at it like that, it shrinks down to the size of an ant hill.
  • * Excerpted from What now..? by Martina E. Faulkner, LMSW – scheduled for publication in 2019.
  • The Role of “Family” in Relationship

    Over the years (more often than not), I have heard story after story about how stressful family gatherings are around the holidays. In fact, there is an entire product-based industry capitalizing off this stereotype. (One of my favorites is a funny dishtowel I spied in my aunt’s house):

    Now, not every family is dysfunctional, of course, because every experience of family is highly individual. What may appear to be “bad” to someone else, is “normal” or even fun to the person experiencing it. I’ve heard stories of yelling, fights, and behavior that would lead an outsider to believe that everybody hates everybody – when the reverse is actually true. Then I’ve heard stories of happy peaceful dinners, where after the fact everyone goes home and breathes a sigh of relief to no longer be in the company of their relatives. The bottom line is: There is no “right” way to be family (despite what the Hallmark Channel wants us to believe).

    How you personally define “family” is what matters. The traditional definition of family (from Dictionary.com) uses the phrase “a social unit,” and I think this most accurately describes what family means: It’s a unit.

    In our life, we can have more than one “family” unit. There are work families, friend families, church families, fitness families, etc. In my experience, though, I’ve come to learn that we all have two specific families: family of “blood” and family of the heart.

    Every social unit in our life falls into one of these two categories, and for some, the family of blood is also the family of the heart. But whether it’s our fitness family, church family, friend family, work family (etc.), all of these “families of the heart” have one thing in common: relationship.

    Relationships are connections that we make based on something shared and require mutual investment, maintenance, and commonality. In our family of blood, we have shared DNA (in the case of adoption, it’s the bond that is shared). And yet, shared DNA (on its own) is not enough to sustain a relationship.

    This is why we see so many fights or dysfunction around traditional family gatherings: the assumption that shared DNA, alone, is a relationship. It’s not. That would be like saying a shared cubicle wall is a relationship. It’s circumstantial.

    Every healthy relationship requires nurturing, mutual respect and investment, as well as a genuine interest in each other. The circumstances upon which two people are brought together (such as shared DNA or an office wall) are not enough on their own to create a healthy relationship. They’re the cause for coming together, but it’s what happens after that makes the difference.

    What transforms shared DNA (family of blood) into relationship (family of the heart) are all the little, consistent, and thoughtful things that we would do in any other social situation in which we want to build connection with another human being… and it requires reciprocity. Without reciprocity, it’s not a relationship, and no shared biology can overcome that.

    So, as we spend the next month gathering, sharing stories, and possibly feeling less connected than we think we “should” (darn those Hallmark movies!), perhaps it’s a good time to let yourself off the hook and remember a simple truth: shared genetics is not a reason to expect relationship and connection. Unless both parties are invested, it can become an exercise in frustration (as all the stereotyped products have shown us).

    However you define “family” is up to you. For me, I think of it as people who have my back, and know that I have their’s, regardless of whether we share any biology.

    Guarding Against Sadness

    In our Western society, we have a tendency to guard against sadness. When we see someone who is down, or struggling, we don’t sit with them in their pain, but rather, we try to encourage them to not be sad. We even tell them that they shouldn’t be sad, and then list a long array of reasons why they need to be happy.

    The truth is, though, when we do that, it’s because we are uncomfortable with their sadness, because it reminds us of our own.

    Now, I’m not talking about the person who is perpetually negative or complaining (nor about the individual experiencing clinical depression). That’s a different story. I’m talking about the person who just found out that a relationship wasn’t what they thought it was, or who lost a loved one or a pet, or their job. I’m talking about sadness and grief, not negativity.

    When we see someone experiencing grief, it reminds us of our own fragility – or our human-ness. And, more often than not, we don’t like it. Nobody likes to be reminded that they have weaknesses, or fragility. But sadness isn’t weakness – it takes courage to be sad, to embrace sadness and allow yourself to truly feel it.

    I’ve written about it before, but there’s a piece of me that envies the cultures of the near east that allow (almost expect) wailing at the death of a loved one. The expression of grief through public crying (sobbing, really) is quite impressive. But we don’t do that here. Instead, we focus on a life well-lived and all the blessings and good memories, consistently shoving away the sadness we feel inside.

    In the end, though, sadness is a human emotion that is a gift. It’s a gift because it gives us information and allows us to heal something unseen. Our soul’s natural state is that of peace and joy. In order to feel sadness, we must be human. In order for our soul to grow and expand, we must experience the things that it alone cannot – that requires being human. Therefore, it’s a gift to feel sadness, because it gives us more tangible experience than our soul alone can have.

    But we guard against it. There are numerous “gurus” out there that teach about the path of bliss – which is another way of saying, “don’t be sad.” It’s dismissive of the human experience, because it focuses only on the soul. Well, if you were only a soul – you wouldn’t be here, and you wouldn’t be learning what you need to be learning for your soul to evolve and progress.

    So we use platitudes and spiritual bypassing to deny our very human experience of sadness, and it doesn’t help us. What helps us is learning how to move through our emotions with more grace. Progression is not about being devoid of an emotion (like sadness); progression is about learning how to shorten the amount of time it takes for us to restore equilibrium. Instead of feeling down for 3 days, we feel it for 2 days, then 1 day, then hours, and ultimately minutes and seconds. That’s the path of the human/soul union… the path of learning.

     

    Grateful – so much more than a word

    Grateful: One word that says so much, yet doesn’t fully convey its own depth.

    How could a word be both profound and simple? A feeling and an action? Something that can drop me to my knees with humility and fill me with grace in the same breath? And yet, also be part of daily life at the most genuine small moments?

    For me, being grateful isn’t about one day a year, it’s every day. And yet, I’m grateful that we have identified one day to focus on gratitude… to give thanks.

    The Gift of All Saints’ Day

    On November 1st, with Halloween behind us and the holiday season looming on the horizon, I think All Saints’ Day is the perfect day to pause and reflect. It’s like a reset button for your soul – if you choose to use it.

    Recently, I’ve felt a growing urgency to push that button. To reset. To step back. To breathe… To simply hit the ginormous pause button in the sky. (Is there one?)

    Pause in the Sky

    When we’re on overload – physically, mentally, and emotionally – it also affects us spiritually, whether we’re aware of it or not. And, to me, a day that’s named for all the saints that have come before us is the perfect time to raise our awareness and take a measurement of our wellbeing.

    As I was researching All Saints’ Day I came across so many different traditions and celebrations around the world, it lifted my spirit. It’s a testament to the fact that we don’t have to do things in exactly the same way in order to celebrate something universal:connection. We don’t need to believe the same things in order to embrace our faith and spirituality. All Saints’ Day is the perfect example of what it means to remember and connect – and it manifests differently throughout cultures, countries, and communities. How wonderful!

    Whether it’s leaving lit candles by the front door in the Philippines or bringing gifts to the graveside for Día de Muertos in Mexico… each tradition has a unique way of reconnecting with their ancestors and remembering those who came before them. It’s this connection, I believe, that gives us the thread we need to live lives outside bubbles of fear and isolation. It’s this thread of connection to the past that allows us to be better creators of our future.

    Personally, I found the celebration in Poland to be especially moving. This image I found online (below) truly gave me pause for its glowing beauty – and in that moment of curiosity and reflection, I found myself breathing more deeply again. I found the pause button in the sky from half a world away. Thankfully.

    All Saints Day in Gniezno, Poland by Diego Delso; flowers and candles placed to honor deceased relatives (2017)

    So, as the season of gratitude and giving is upon us, what better way to welcome it into our lives and hearts than by taking pause and remembering where we come from… who we are in the long line of thread that weaves throughout our individual and collective ancestry.

    And, no matter which tradition you embrace, I wish you all a peaceful All Saints’ Day – however you choose to spend it.

     

    Where do you belong?

    The other day I was thinking about belonging. I had worked with a client who said to me, “I don’t know where I fit in…” To which I replied:

    “The question is not where do you fit in… The question is where do you belong.”

    It’s so important to feel a sense of belonging. Ideally, we feel like we belong to our families as we are growing up – but I know that’s not true for a lot of people. Then there’s the fellowship of community: neighborhoods, religious institutions, school groups, sports, activities. All of these create opportunities for us to belong to something. To be a part of something. But even then it can be difficult to feel a sense of belonging.

    As we go through our adolescent and young adult years, the hope is that we have found a place to belong, at least temporarily, as we figure ourselves out. Unfortunately, I’ve often seen that backfire. Because we don’t figure ourselves out… we figure out where we can fit in, instead.

    We take the square peg that we are and over time (or fear) we shave off our corners to try and fit in the round hole. And we’re never whole as long as we do that.

    We do our best to “fit in” because we crave belonging. We’re hard-wired to belong to something. It’s in our nature.

    Humans are tribal by nature. We have to be – it’s how we survived. We learned to rely on each other and protect the tribe as its own entity. Different members of the tribe learned different skills in order to support the tribe. This is not new to human evolution, nor is it something we grow out of, in my opinion.

    Instead, it’s something we’ve worked to overcome, by replacing belonging with “fitting in.” And we’re worse off for it.

    So, again, the question is not (and never was): “Where do I fit in?”

    The question is (and will always be): “Where do I belong?”

    Only when we endeavor to answer that question will we start to heal our trimmed edges and begin to feel at peace within ourselves.

    Resiliency and Stability

    If you want to know how resilient you truly are… live through a major home renovation.

    Ok, I’m kidding… sort of.

    I know I’m resilient. I’ve been through a lot worse emotionally, but living at home with no kitchen and no bedroom – my mattress in the floor in another room, and my clothes scattered between a couple drawers, hangers, and bags – has been surprisingly difficult.

    Before it all began, I thought “What’s the big deal?” We moved a microwave and refrigerator into the living room and bought a hot plate. I thought it would be easy. Or at least easier. First world problems, I know.

    Turns out, it’s not easy for me to live without the stability of routine. And that’s what it all came down to: routine.

    Without my bedroom, my entire daily routine has been non-existent. Morning alarms, 3am bathroom runs from drinking too much water too late, and simply where to put my slippers all had to be reconfigured. My routine which allowed me to move through life with some sense of flow was all but obliterated, and I had to create something new – knowing it would be temporary. Yikes!

    And then there’s no kitchen. As it turns out, a hot plate is fine, if you have a working sink nearby to clean everything. Otherwise, you run the risk of clogging up the bathroom sink, which is too small and shallow to actually wash dishes. So, there have been a lot of boiled eggs.

    I’m not complaining actually, even though I’ve definitely had my moments. It’s more a fascination with just how attached I had become to a certain rhythm to my day. And, interestingly, how important that rhythm is to my life.

    I have friends who can pick up and travel at a moments notice with only a backpack. I’ve always admired them and wondered if I could do the same. But, secretly, I knew I could not. While I love to travel, I like to do it with a knowing of how I will be spending my nights, and moving through my days.

    When I took my first river cruise a few years ago, I loved it. It’s only now that I truly realize why:

    All the basic elements I need were provided for. There was stability that underscored everything. This, in turn, gave me freedom. I enjoyed wandering more, because I knew where and when I’d be returning to “home” – and more importantly, how that “home” would be when I returned.

    Perhaps not everyone is like me, but this is why I feel it’s so important to know your own barometers – those measurements in life that are unique to you. For me, it’s clear that I need stability and some bit of routine in order to fly and thrive. For you, that might feel uncomfortable and limiting.

    What’s great is that while it may seem easy to say that makes us less resilient, it’s simply not true. Knowing what makes you thrive is empowering, not weakening.

    So, in a few weeks (hopefully) I’ll be back in my bedroom with a working kitchen. Which means, in a few weeks I’ll be even more appreciative of the stability I need to soar, and will have an opportunity to be even more deliberate about how I reinforce it.

    I’d say that’s worth the sleepless nights and random discomfort. How about you?