First things first . . . an introduction to Wali, the gentle, sweet Boston Terrier who recently entered my life and my private practice. Wali is an Arabic word that invokes the divine quality of friendship, and Wali is truly a lovely friend. Animals lend an extraordinary presence to the therapy process, and while their unique gifts vary, animals are wonderful teachers.
What I have noticed most is the opening that Wali creates in the areas of boundaries and needs. Wali is a friendly dog who likes to greet clients when they arrive, allowing them to either meet his greeting or to set a boundary and let him know they would like to have space. Likewise, Wali sometimes gets overstimulated and will retreat to his bed to give himself some space. Animals invite us to get curious . . . how do we let others know when we want them to come close, and how do we let them know when we’d like to be left alone? . . . how do we feel about setting boundaries? . . . how do we feel when our boundaries are crossed?
Wali is also very good at asking for what he needs / wants (usually to be pet and snuggled). He models a form of shameless request, making his desire known and either gracefully receiving pets and snuggles, or moving onto other things (if petting / snuggling are not being offered).
And while I love these opportunities for exploring boundaries and needs, what I most appreciate about Wali is his unconditional loving presence. At the heart of all good therapy is kindness and presence, and Wali embodies these qualities. For clients who love dogs, Wali is a warm blanket across their laps, welcoming the totality of their experience. For others, he offers moments of comic relief and sweetness. I am honored to be folding him into the world of Joyful Balance, and am relishing all of the joyful balance that he naturally brings.
A dear client recently lamented how tired she was of hating her body. This is a common experience, certainly among women but increasingly among men as well ~ the rejection of one’s own earthly vessel, followed by the exhaustion that comes from both rejecting the body and rejecting the rejection. Can you feel the endless loop of this? In order to overcome something we don’t like, we all too often shift into disliking ourselves for the disliking. It is like a snake eating its own tail. Popular culture tells us that the best way to support positive body image (or positive self-image of any kind) is to replace our negative self-talk with positive self-talk. Unfortunately, for most of us this maintains an atmosphere of rejection. One voice yells, “I hate myself!” Another retorts, “I love myself!” Each voice grows louder and louder until we find ourselves engaged in an all-out civil war, our bodies&hearts the battlefield, our souls the collateral damage.
In order to truly heal negative self-image, we must instead learn to cultivate an attitude of total acceptance ~ an internal stance that allows each experience to arise and pass through us, a loving witness to All That Is. From this place, nothing is rejected ~ including the part of us that rejects, including the part of us that rejects the rejection. All resistance dissolves. This is self-acceptance. This is unconditional love. This is healing.