Change Your Brain To Live a More Contented Life

If you are presently unhappy in many aspects of your life, it can feel like a dark place. A mindset that is clouded by daily thoughts of dread and negativity can really wear on a person’s self-esteem, self-worth and physical health.

When there is discontentment, there’s a tendency to get trapped in the never-ending cycle of waiting for the day when “it” will all change – “When I have a new job…a new relationship…a bigger home…”

Contentedness does not come out of an external place, like the striving for more possessions or making more money or living a more exciting life, for instance. If that has been your focus in life, then it will not hold up over time. Your thoughts will always be running a tape that ultimately say, “You are not enough.” This is because once you get the bigger house, the job promotion and the new relationship, you immediately start planning your next bigger, better this and that.

Being authentically content starts with the realization that you are the creator of your reality.

Our thoughts dictate how we view the world and ultimately, how we feel. If you tend to see life through these kinds of ideas and messages…

·      You’re looking for that next better thing

·      You must work hard to get everything you need

·      You look toward others and society for approval

·      You’re worried about what others think of you

·      You’re jealous and envious of other people’s successes

·      You’re focused on your image and the way you look

·      You blame others from keeping you from having the life you want

·      You feel that you never have enough money, sex, time, stuff, friends, etc.

…then you have become lost along the way and this is why you feel so empty.

As William Shakespeare wrote, “Nothing is either good or bad but thinking makes it so.” Thoughts are powerful. They are the precursor to our feeling states.

Even when it looks as though your emotional state is being dictated by your circumstances, that is never true. Just get quiet and curious for a moment, and ask yourself, “If I weren’t thinking this way, how might I feel differently?”

The happiness you have been seeking outside of yourself can be yours when you learn to stop chasing the illusion, and instead, begin to have more kindness, compassion and love toward yourself.

The more we are willing to genuinely love from within, even when it feels hard, the less we go searching for contentedness in the wrong places. When we are comforted by our own self-love, we no longer need to find comfort through external fixes.

Contentedness is a state of being fulfilled with what you already have within you. And at the same time, striving to improve, to become a better human being, regardless of how happy and content you are.

So you’re wondering, “How do I break the cycle of discontent and emptiness and learn to really love myself?”

We can harness the brain’s plasticity by training our brain to make positive thought patterns more automatic.

Neural pathways are like superhighways of nerve calls that transmit messages. After many years and decades of negative belief patterns traveling over the superhighway, the pathway becomes more and more solidified. And because the brain is always changing, with practice you can forge newer, healthier and more positive pathways, by creating new thought/feeling habits. That’s called neuroplasticity.

Mindfulness skills integrated into ones daily life can interrupt the negative and habitual feedback loops that can rewire the brain to think more positively. The regular practice of mindfulness meditation increases gray matter in the hippocampus, an area of the brain important for learning, memory, and emotion, and reducing gray matter in the amygdala, an area of the brain associated with stress and anxiety.

Spending 5 to 10 minutes daily sitting still while focusing on your in-breath and out-breath, trains the brain to quiet down, disengage the stress response, and move into a relaxation response that is more open to letting go of the more habitual neural pathways. Mindfully tracking your thoughts consistently throughout your day by redirecting habitual negative thoughts to new positive thoughts will carve out new and more accessible neural pathways.

Visualization is almost as powerful as the real thing given your brain cannot tell the difference between something real or imagined. Research shows that anytime you are thinking you are engaging and thus conditioning neural pathways, so why not create positive, calming images to change the brain? The most important part of using visualization to strengthen healthy habits is to engage your emotion. Positive emotion provides the fuel to enlist more neural power for creating new healthier neural networks. Find time throughout your day imagining yourself feeling and being more content in your life.

Gratitude is one of the best ways to move more readily towards positive thoughts and feelings of contentment. Whenever you are not content with something, take a moment and count all the blessings in your life. If you honestly do that, then you are creating the opportunity for more blessed moments in your life! Let your focus be on what you have rather than on what you don’t have. Think about all the pleasant moments in your life regularly. Be grateful for every little thing, for every person in your life, and thank him or her silently.

And finally, enjoy the simple things in life whether it’s conversations with strangers, taking slow gentle walks, or spending quality time with friends. Whatever you do, no matter how small, how inexpensive, and how trivial or simple, enjoy it and recognize that each moment of these positive thoughts lead more and more to authentic happy and contented living.

-Tanya Vallianos


Tanya Vallianos, MA, LPC, ATR, NCC, EMDR III, EAP II is a psychotherapist in private practice in Fort Collins, CO. She can be reached at www.innersunhealingarts.com or 970-420-9504.

April’s Pink Moon – Creating Meaning With the Help of Nature

April's Pink Moon

April's Pink Moon

After the long winter it’s time to throw your head back and howl at the Full Pink Moon April 11, 2017.  This is a wonderful time of year because it expresses rebirth and growth.

From the beginning of humankind, ancient peoples named full moons throughout the year as a way to keep time and give significance and meaning to each season. Derived from Native American mythology and old European folk tales, the April full moon is known as the Pink Moon after the early spring appearance of the bright pink ground wildflower, phlox (pink moss). It’s most likely a Native American tradition because phlox is common in North America and Siberia, as opposed to Europe. And while it’s named the Pink Moon, disappointingly, its hue is not pink.

The importance of April full moons is honored with spiritual festivals and ceremony in many parts of the world. In India, Hindus celebrate the birth of Hanuman in a festival called Hanuman Jayanti. The April full moon also marks the beginning of Passover for the Jewish people. For early Christians in England, April was known by the Old English name ēastre-monaþ, or "Easter month”, after the pagan goddess Eostre. And was then adopted as Easter, in celebration of the resurrection of Christ.

The Pink Moon is the first full moon after the Spring Equinox, so its appearance in our sky is an invitation to celebrate the rebirth and renewal of the changing season. In the pagan tradition, Eostre or Ostara, maiden goddess of fertility and new beginnings is celebrated.

Eostre (meaning Eastern Star) and is often referred to as the Goddess of Dawn, since she brings the dawn from the East. Eostre’s responsibility is to banish winter by bringing spring to the earth each year.  Easter has borrowed her symbols of the egg and the hare for its traditions.

Pagans celebrate Eostre by leaving something sweet, like honey or candy, on their altars, to symbolize the sweetness of the nectar offered by the spring flowers she brings. Undoubtedly, the modern tradition of the sweets-filled Easter basket comes from this ritual.

She embodies fertility, potential, and new life. Her arrival invites us to plant seeds in all areas of our lives, preparing for the promise of growth and opportunity after the hibernation of winter.

Full moon evenings are energetic peaks, therefore, they are the perfect time to perform rituals by focusing our energy on whatever we would like to cleanse or adopt in our lives.

We can change our perception at any moment, however, a full moon ritual affirms our inner transformation and significantly marks the moment of our dedication to a life of balance, peace, and harmony.

Fill a bowl with water, if possible from an ocean, river or lake, otherwise water with pink Himalayan salt or natural sea salt is a suitable option.

Place the bowl on the ground in front of you and light a floating candle in the bowl. Then drop in rose essential oil, and/or pink petal leaves. If you have pink crystals, like rose quartz, these can also be placed in the water to enhance the effects of the ritual.

Write on a piece of paper anything you wish to release. It can be a word, a sentence, or entire paragraphs full of detail—whatever feels necessary to release at the time.

Read out loud what has been written and then immerse the piece of paper in the water so that the painful energy radiating from the memories can be cleansed and transformed.

The flame from the floating candle is a purifier and will neutralize any negativity emanating from the note and will also symbolize your firm intention to let go of any difficult feelings attached to it.

Burning sage or cedar or diffusing lemon essential oil at the end of this ritual will assist with cleansing any negative energy lingering and will charge the atmosphere with a positive vibration.

In Pink Moon’s bright presence, we can then ground and center ourselves by drinking a glass of water with a few sprinkles of pink Himalayan salt in it. And with that, voicing a clear and intentional declaration of what you wish to bring forth in your life here on out.

May Pink Moon be the beginning of bringing you renewed energy and fertile blessings this spring!

-Tanya Vallianos


Tanya Vallianos, MA, LPC, ATR, NCC, EMDR III, EAP II is a psychotherapist in private practice in Fort Collins, CO. She can be reached at www.innersunhealingarts.com or 970-420-9504.

Seeing With New Eyes and Raising Consciousness

InnerSunHealingArts-SeeingWithNewEyes

A big part of being a more conscious citizen of the world is being able to challenge our preconceived biases and expectations of how we think things “should” be. This can be quite difficult for most people, because our brains are wired towards knowing what we know; being more comfortable with familiarity, consistency, and a sense of control.

Being in the flow and having flexibility to try new things, be around different cultures, challenge how we think and act to move outside of our comfort zone, is often met with resistance and fear.

We can blame part of this on our brain’s propensity towards habitual firing. Once a neural pathway is set up, it’s more challenging to change the firing pattern, or our way of thinking towards new concepts. In fact, we must try even harder to change the old patterning through consistent awareness and a commitment towards seeing things in a new way.

Even negative thinking will always trump positive thoughts! This is a remnant of our caveman days, a pure mechanism of survival, looking for that which is unfamiliar, incongruous and ultimately threatening.

Luckily, we have the higher brain that is able to more logically question and be more curious about our old and perhaps antiquated views. This is where things get juicy!

When we choose to see parts of ourselves, others and the world with new eyes, we have an opportunity to grow and transform to be the best humans we can be. Otherwise, we are living in a box where there is no room for possibility or potential. True wisdom is stifled. And we are not truly living.

It begins with just a little shift in our perceptions. When we make the effort to be more of an observer rather than a criticizer; curious rather than stilted; open rather than blocked. Then our worlds expand and there’s room for so much more. And mostly, we are evolving as a species in a world that needs that more than ever now.

-Tanya Vallianos


Tanya Vallianos, MA, LPC, ATR, NCC, EMDR III, EAP II is a psychotherapist in private practice in Fort Collins, CO. She can be reached at www.innersunhealingarts.com or 970-420-9504.

Spring: A Time for Tending Ones Inner Garden

It's Time to blossom!

It's Time to blossom!

As we move out of the depths of winter’s hibernating chill into spring’s sweet awakening, our arms are outstretched and ready to face a new beginning once again. Our buds are posed to grow, open and blossom with each day of expanding light and warmth. The birds sing their guiding, supportive song, as if to say, “grow, grow, grow.”

It is a time of shaking off the blankets and inner focus of the darkened days of winter. Springtime returns us to capturing the potential energy of forward moving intention that primes us for the creation of new experiences and in fulfilling dreams.

When we align with our inner landscape, we become the gardener of our own lives. We become aware of the authentic, wise part of ourselves that listens to our intuition, symbols and messages in our environment, and within our dreamtime.

It’s important to have patience in this process as we would in cultivating tender seeds and bulbs. In tending to the tasks of our inner gardens, we may have obstacles to contend with. Spring is known for it’s variable weather, moving from sun and warmth to high winds and sudden storms and back again. It is in this unpredictability that we dig-in our roots more deeply within the soil, becoming stronger and more grounded with each passing day. Here we realize that we can face any kind of irritation or disturbance that presents itself and still grow larger.

We learn that we may need to acquire more tools in which to create the inner garden of our dreams. Maybe we take classes or read more books or adopt a mindfulness practice that supports us on creating our path, so that when the weeds and slugs show up we know how to readily work with them. Starting with a good, healthy soil and foundation to begin with sets us up for fertile successes down the road.

Imagery and metaphor are powerful tools for personal transformation and growth, so allow yourself some time to imagine what tree, flower or plant you would be in order to connect with characteristics you’d like to adopt within yourself. Spend time learning more about your plant through books, making art or poetry about it, and by growing it.

Spring offers hope for creating anew, for sloughing off the layers that no longer serve us and for setting into action our own inner aspirations. Listening to nature and spending time amongst plants and trees will guide us towards tending to our own inner gardens in a renewed, harmonious and brilliant way.

-Tanya Vallianos


Tanya Vallianos, MA, LPC, ATR, NCC, EMDR III, EAP II is a psychotherapist in private practice in Fort Collins, CO. She can be reached at www.innersunhealingarts.com or 970-420-9504.

Bypassing Uncertainty for a Calmer Outlook

Let’s face it. We humans don’t do very well with uncertainty. It’s a very old, edgy part of us that has endured from our caveman past. And it’s all about brain wiring.

The emotional brain is the oldest, most primitive part of our brain, which was beautifully designed to ensure physical survival. It’s quick, hyper-vigilant and is always trying to anticipate the future to keep us safe.

While in modern life, we don’t tend to have as many physical threats to our well-being, we do have our daily threats which involve our social and psychological survival.

The unrealistic demands in society create a great deal of internal angst and anxiety. In order to feel that we have a handle on life we want predictability and a certain amount of control in our lives in order to feel that we can manage things.

The reason that being with uncertainty can feel so challenging is because it’s directly connected to anxiety and worry. In 1994, researchers, Dugas and Grupe developed the Intolerance of Uncertainty Scale (IUS). In their studies, they linked high IU to several anxiety disorders, particularly generalized anxiety disorder, as well as to eating disorders and depression. But they also found that uncertainty was connected to anxiety of any kind and at any level, small or large.

Dugas and Grupe found that this intolerance for uncertainty is most likely part of a network of several different brain processes, including, emotional regulation, threat detection, and safety detection. Threat and safety detection has been linked to the amygdala (primitive brain, unconscious triggers), and emotional regulation to the prefrontal cortex (modern, rational brain).

Hence, this idea of “not knowing” what’s going to happen next can easily tap into anxious feelings. Even when we think we’re in a bubble of predictability, we instinctively know that anything can change in a heartbeat.

Thankfully, The prefrontal cortex is the part of the higher brain, the wise brain, that assesses the situation, interprets it rationally and follows it up with a reasonable action, thereby overriding the amygdala's emergency alarm. Once overridden, anxiety dissipates and the body returns to balance. 

How do we embrace the flow in life when we're feeling imbalanced? How can we release the limiting constrictions that allow us to be comfortable with uncertainty? Mindfulness practice is a perfect method for working with uncertainty and the feelings of anxiety that co-occur with it. This ancient practice has repeatedly been found in research to change the structure and function of the brain, particularly an anxious one.

How does mindfulness practice do this?

It increases the density of the prefrontal cortex, responsible for calming our instinctual emotional responses. And it decreases the size of the amygdala, and thus tampering the flight or fight response that is hard-wired into us. The pathway between the reactive amygdala and the relaxed, rational prefrontal cortex becomes stronger and stronger with each moment of awareness, making the relaxation response easier to activate when needed.

Mindfulness stops the fight. It allows the mind to observe thoughts and feelings without fighting them or changing them. With a regular practice of mindfulness, the brain learns that it’s okay to let thoughts and feelings come and go. Yes, there will be times when our minds will have difficulty letting go. Nonetheless, mindfulness practiced regularly strengthens the mind to be more deliberate about which thoughts/feelings stay and which ones go.

One of the easiest and quickest ways to calm our thoughts/feelings of uncertainty and anxiety is by “grounding.” Here, we can direct our attention into the lower half of our bodies, by focusing on our feet and noticing how they feel inside our socks and shoes. Touching into the feeling of the ground beneath our feet we can then feel more stable and centered. Now expanding our attention to include the sensations in you lower legs and then into our upper legs – noticing how they feel. Are they heavy or light? Warm or cool? Tingly or numb? This then allows us to move further up into our bodies noticing the belly and chest as they move upward and downward with our breath. Being present with the sensations of breathing we can then allow for the release of any tension that we may be holding in our bodies. It is a simple practice that can be done at anytime, eyes open or closed, while sitting, standing, or walking.

While making peace with uncertainty requires courage, faith, and trust, it is also possible to bypass a hard-wired nervous system with a consistent mindfulness practice. As the brain changes, so does our ability to see the world differently through a calmer and more objective lens. And we’ll begin to notice that we're happier for it.

 -Tanya Vallianos


Tanya Vallianos, MA, LPC, ATR, NCC, EMDR III, EAP II is a psychotherapist in private practice in Fort Collins, CO. She can be reached at www.innersunhealingarts.com or 970-420-9504.

Being Your Own Person: The True Path to Self-Empowerment

Being your own person enables you to have your own independent thoughts, feelings, and values. It is an important part of self-development. When there is not a good sense of self, one struggles with being self-reliant. And there’s a tendency to live vicariously through others, co-opting ones own belief system for that of others.

The accomplishments of someone else are often substituted as though they were their own. While it is positive to admire and be happy for another ones endeavors, it’s impossible to derive your sense of self through another person. Living through others is no substitute for living for oneself. One cannot promote and sustain happiness in this way.

Being your own person means knowing what you believe in and standing by your beliefs, even if everyone else in the room is urging you to do otherwise. It means being authentic. If you’re not living authentically, it becomes second nature to adopt certain roles that you act out, pretending that this is how you really think and feel. Carl Jung referred to this part of self as the persona (or mask) and argued that shedding it was the first step on the road to individuation.

When you value your true self you become confident, generous, positive, and more energetically alive. Your sense of well-being becomes a prominent force in your life. You feel empowered to make your way through life with direction, self-confidence, and from a place of thriving, not surviving.

Start by seeing what qualities and emotions you honestly want in your life. See what’s working well and also find what’s missing and start to add it in, one small change at a time. If you generously honor and nourish your genuine nature, gradually it will be renewed, grow and bloom.

Like most things, being your true self takes practice and commitment. It also takes courage. Many people fear that they will only be accepted if they try to be what others want them to be. But human beings are not so easily fooled and can quickly sense when someone is acting. The truth is, no matter what you are really like, people will respect you for having the courage and strength to be your own person. And if they don’t, then they weren’t the kind of people you’d want in your life anyway.

-Tanya Vallianos


Tanya Vallianos, MA, LPC, ATR, NCC, EMDR III, EAP II is a psychotherapist in private practice in Fort Collins, CO. She can be reached at www.innersunhealingarts.com or 970-420-9504.

Nature – A Soft Place to Land

Connecting to Nature is the journey back home to self, finding inner peace, and soul-deepening connection. When you slow down at Nature’s pace, your heart rate and breathing slow down. You relax and walk more leisurely and quietly. You become more hyper-aware of all that is around you.

Nature, in itself becomes a mindfulness practice, where you can notice more of the details - the cracks and crevices in the bark of trees, the way the leaves fall in a particular way and direction with the breeze, or the sounds of your feet softly engaging with the earth.

It is here that you are more available to tap into the spirit of the land, the plants, the animal and insect world. You notice what you are drawn to, what speaks to you. You take a moment to be near the tree or flower or insect that has your interest.

Now you turn your awareness toward your heart, focusing on the gentle pattern of breath flowing in and out. From this loving place of connection, spend time basking in Nature’s radiant beauty. Give appreciation for the time spent with it as well as allowing for the receiving of any guidance, support or healing within its presence.

It is from these Nature experiences that you are able to access your beautiful memories at anytime for they are always within you. They are able to support you through daily stresses. They are a reminder of your connection to something bigger. And they show you a deeper part of whom you are. Indeed it is an inner place to rejoice in.

-Tanya Vallianos


Tanya Vallianos, MA, LPC, ATR, NCC, EMDR III, EAP II is a psychotherapist in private practice in Fort Collins, CO. She can be reached at www.innersunhealingarts.com or 970-420-9504.

Love Self and Everything Else Follows

I meet many people who spend much of their lives seeking validation and happiness from the world around them. They are looking for someone or something that fill the emptiness that they feel in their lives and that can reflect back to them, “I’m a worthy, lovable and a special person”. While there is nothing intrinsically wrong with seeking the approval of others, as long as we understand that self-worth that has real, lasting merit, can only come from within.

We are often conditioned in this culture to seek happiness in things or in the people that surround us, after all, much of the modern economy revolves around the cycle of generating and satisfying needs outside of ourselves. But this is an unreliable source of happiness. There will always be some new fashion trend and people will come and go.

So instead of looking for happiness from someone else or something, we can come to realize that it’s not out there. It’s within us. Happiness isn’t an obscure concept that we’re waiting for to arrive sometime in the future. It’s available right inside us, right now, all the time. Once we can graciously accept and love who and what we are, then and only then will we have achieved true happiness.

Self-worth is simply a recognition that we are complete and whole people, and that we are okay as we are. We recognize that we do not need anything or anyone outside of ourselves to declare that we are okay as a people, and that we have the power to do it ourselves.

So take a moment and reflect on the things in your life that you allow to have power over your value as a person and remind yourself that you are worthy just as you are. You don’t need to seek approval externally or try to fill an empty void. You are beautiful as you are. When you can appreciate what you have and who you are, but not allow it to define your sense of worth, then you are well on your way to creating your own source of built-in forever happiness.

-Tanya Vallianos


Tanya Vallianos, MA, LPC, ATR, NCC, EMDR III, EAP II is a psychotherapist in private practice in Fort Collins, CO. She can be reached at www.innersunhealingarts.com or 970-420-9504.

Living Highly Sensitive

If you are Highly Sensitive, you are wired to experience the world first and foremost through your emotions. This can create strong inner responses to life events.

Highly Sensitive People (HSP) are especially susceptible to all kinds of stimuli – whether physically, emotionally or mentally. HSPs nervous systems seem to be wired to feel at a more intense level than others. Hence, strong emotional responses are natural and need to be regularly processed in order to release them.

This ability to feel deeply is truly both a gift and a challenge. To be empathic, intuitive and attuned can make HSPs exceptional friends, partners and parents, because they are keenly aware of what others are experiencing and perhaps needing at any moment. And they are able to feel deep compassion for others. However, feeling deeply can also be a source of overwhelm. Being constantly and intensely tuned into your own and others’ emotions can be overloading. Thus it’s important that HSPs are consistently doing self-care to stay healthy.

When a big emotion hits, it’s OK to ask for alone time to process before discussing it with someone else. You might need time to identify what you’re feeling. Knowing your exact emotion helps you bring clarity to the conversation.

Also when you’re experiencing a painful emotion, ask yourself: “What’s the story that I’m creating right now?” At first you might identify all sorts of stories. But typically one or two will emerge as the most persistent.

For instance, your storyline might be: “I’m not important to others,” “Everything is out of my control,” “No matter how hard I try, I always fail,” “People leave; no one will stay,” or “I’m not good enough.”

Just naming your storyline can help you gain some distance from it. Identifying it also reminds you that your interpretation is not the objective truth. Understanding the root of your storyline minimizes its power, as well.

Once your nervous system has settled, you can begin to explore alternative storylines that will enable you to transform your perspective. You can also learn to have more feelings of loving-kindness toward yourself and your nervous system. You can know that these thoughts and feelings are momentary – a blip in time that will change with the wind. They do not define who you are or the world around you.

-Tanya Vallianos


Tanya Vallianos, MA, LPC, ATR, NCC, EMDR III, EAP II is a psychotherapist in private practice in Fort Collins, CO. She can be reached at www.innersunhealingarts.com or 970-420-9504.

True Blessings

Yes, it’s true. Our beautiful, sentient equine friends know how to connect with the Universe at Soul level much more readily than us humans. Why? They know how to be in the moment and appreciate and surrender to whatever is occurring right then and there, The world “just IS” to them. For us – it’s not so easy.

We have these large frontal lobes that think a lot. And we tend not to be very connected to our bodies, which tell us what is going on at the sensory/emotional/intuitive/nervous system level. This is where horses mostly hang out. And they’re really good at it. They can show us how to be more deeply connected by being more mindful, by being more in the present moment and surrendering to what “Is.”

If you want to experience more connection at a Soul level, incorporating gratitude into your everyday life will help you open your heart and have relationship with your true essence – that of Love. In each moment when you are present with the idea of being blessed that you have food to eat, a home to live in, that your family loves you, express thanks to the Universe for all that you have, however big or small.

After all, you are the Universe experiencing itself, so any experience can help you reach higher levels of consciousness. Even if you experience something negative, still you can try to remain thankful. Valuable lessons are often disguised as tough teachers. These too are gifts to be treasured despite the challenges.

-Tanya Vallianos


Tanya Vallianos, MA, LPC, ATR, NCC, EMDR III, EAP II is a psychotherapist in private practice in Fort Collins, CO. She can be reached at www.innersunhealingarts.com or 970-420-9504.

Simply Being

It can be challenging to allow ourselves to slow down and find quiet time. If you haven’t noticed, there tends to be a cultural acceptance of “busyness” here in the States. It is a paradigm based on doing rather than being. And if we are not accomplishing or acquiring, then something must be wrong. We often feel guilty when we’re not making something happen and can easily be drawn into feelings of unworthiness in comparison to our peers’ accomplishments.

When we are not in the company of others, we often find ourselves distracted by technology in one form or another – phones, computers, TVs. Subconsciously, we are aware that we are afraid of what we may find beneath the myriad of layers of busyness, external stimulation and achievement. Yet, without solitude and quiet time, we miss the opportunity for inner growth and renewal.

It is in the quiet moments that we can see things more clearly. We can leave behind the demands of work, people, family, media, and life. In the West, there is nothing that teaches and fosters us to go inward, thus we must claim that part of ourselves on our own. It is within those moments that we devout to our soul, our spirit through meditation, prayer, and time in nature, where stillness is noticed and appreciated.

At anytime still, we can capture moments in between meetings and phone calls to just “be.” Close the door to your office or go for a neighborhood walk around the block and breath in that alone time. Daily we can practice doing nothing. Let it come organically, in the moment with little forethought or striving. Allow it to come from a deeper place from within. And mostly just enjoy.

-Tanya Vallianos


Tanya Vallianos, MA, LPC, ATR, NCC, EMDR III, EAP II is a psychotherapist in private practice in Fort Collins, CO. She can be reached at www.innersunhealingarts.com or 970-420-9504.

A Valentine’s Message: Eagle and The Reminder of The Awakened Heart

Eagles, a symbol of enduring strength, freedom and love. Photo: Anne Whitehurst

Eagles, a symbol of enduring strength, freedom and love. Photo: Anne Whitehurst

Here, in the Northern Colorado Front Range region, we are blessed every year with the appearance of Bald Eagle couples nesting. They can be found commonly amongst the many lakes and reservoirs that dot the high plains. There are volunteers that spend time tracking and counting individuals; there are photography clubs that gather to capture their beauty at rest and in flight; and there is an Eagle Festival to honor Bald Eagles’ magnificence in the nature of all creatures.

Yet, there was a time, not so long ago, that seeing a Bald Eagle in Colorado may have been a rare occurrence. In the early 1970’s there were fewer than 450 nesting pairs of Bald Eagles in the lower 48 United States, and fewer than 10 in the entire state of Colorado. But with conservation efforts, the banning of harmful pesticides such as DDT and an Endangered Species designation, the Bald Eagle has made a brilliant recovery at around 143,000 nationwide today. It’s odd that our country’s honored mascot has had such a struggle to survive. Hence, Eagle as guide, can be seen as a reflection of our own struggles and our ability to survive through the cycles of life.

What a gift to be able to connect yearly with this beautiful being who has so much to teach us. When looking for Bald Eagle, it can be found in the environs of old growth cottonwoods, along creeks, lakes and stream ways, and along borders or buffers around those zones. Eagle lays its eggs in February, after a courting session that usually revolves, synchronistically enough, around the week of Valentines’ Day. Both male and female eagles incubate the eggs and share the duties of raising their young.

Bald Eagle traits can be viewed symbolically to assist humans toward being more successful and wise within their own lives. For instance, in Native American lore, Eagle (Thunderbird) Totem is viewed as the chief over all the winged creatures. Eagle conveys the powers and messages of the Spirit; it is human's connection to Spirit as it has the power and strength to fly higher than any other bird. Eagle is also grounded to Earth, connecting to the land, building nests, hunting, and forming and raising families year after year. Eagle shows us how to live in balance between the realms of Spirit and Earth. Bald Eagle brings the message of life renewed since it is associated with the east winds - the direction of spring, dawn and rebirth.

If you have been going through some challenges, Eagle medicine not only signals a new beginning, it also creates the stamina and resilience to endure any difficulties along the way. If Eagle has appeared, it bestows freedom and courage to look ahead, to give up a limited perspective, to release self from comfortable, familiar thought patterns, and fly into a larger world of unknown realms, and to do all of this with love. Summon Eagle when you are about to embark on a challenge, a life change or transition, or a creative endeavor. Ask Eagle to give you the gift of clear vision and the strength with which you can see the truth, and to be patient with yourself and the outcome.

Eagle shows you how to look above so you are able to touch Grandfather Sun with your heart, to accept the Shadow as much as the Light, and to be grounded and in harmony with Grandmother Earth. Eagle Wise Guide gives you the permission to be free to reach the heights of joy that your heart sings for.
Eagle shows you that you not only can survive – you can thrive. And you can rise above, to love.

And so with Valentine’s Day upon us, I give you Eagle’s message and it’s connection to one's loving nature, the rebirthing of Self, taking flight to higher consciousness and the magic of the Divine Awakened Heart.

-Tanya Vallianos


Tanya Vallianos, MA, LPC, ATR, NCC, EMDR III, EAP II is a psychotherapist in private practice in Fort Collins, CO. She can be reached at www.innersunhealingarts.com or 970-420-9504.

 

Redefining Valentine’s Day for A Global Perspective

Here we are again, another February has arrived, a month that has come to be associated with Valentine’s Day, romance and its commercial legacy. And while retailers revel in the potential for boosted revenue, for the average human, it is a day that can bring up strong and varying emotions. Whether excitement, annoyance, disappointment, insecurity, confusion, anxiety, disconnect, sadness or disdain in our responses, V-Day has certainly weaved it’s way into the fabric of this culture as a yearly ritual. How can one small remembrance day, bring up so much internal turmoil or disconnect, especially when it’s supposed to be about honoring all-wondrous “Love?”

What’s interesting is that these are similar feelings that are brought up for people around Christmas and Hanukah, they too being holidays that engage loved ones and ritual, involve certain expectations by the wider culture and are holidays that are highly commercialized. According to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year, making Valentine’s Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year, Christmas being the first at 2.6 billion cards.

Most of us have considered the ins and outs of the affairs of the heart and our place within it, asking ourselves, “Am I where I want to be in love?” Most of us have considered our roles in our families and in friendships, asking ourselves, “How much am I loved?” Yet, maybe this is what hangs us up? Perhaps we really sense what is missing in these holidays and at the core of our Western world lives.

What I’m proposing here is that perhaps we can move towards a more profound perspective - less self-focused and external based. Maybe it’s time to let go of the idea of “buying love” or needing an excuse in a holiday to show love. Instead, opening up to the higher awareness of personal sacrifice, personal time, deepening conversations and a much more global perspective. How do we learn to love and give beyond our own families or tribe, beyond our own self-centered needs, beyond a cultural ideology of love?

And as US citizens, we are faced with many issues from a new administration that challenge the acceptance of others that are different, who are discriminated against or marginalized. More than ever, this needs to be a time to widen our circles of love. From refugees and immigrants trying to find a safe and welcoming home-base; to the poor, sick, homeless, and hungry around the world; to our own neighbors having a difficult time making a living wage and supporting themselves and their families - there are endless opportunities to show love this Valentine's Day and all days throughout the year. And if we are so open and gracious to changing our perspective, most likely, these opportunities will allow us to ultimately love differently, much more boldly, and universally. When we come from this limitless love we naturally and easily embrace our fellow humanity and ourselves. Opening our heart, we allow unconditional love (rather than a grasping, egoic kind of love) to be our guide and compassion to be our gift to life.

 -Tanya Vallianos


Tanya Vallianos, MA, LPC, ATR, NCC, EMDR III, EAP II is a psychotherapist in private practice in Fort Collins, CO. She can be reached at www.innersunhealingarts.com or 970-420-9504.

Imagination and Creativity Is Not Just For The Few

Indulge me and join in for a minute. Imagine that you are sitting on a beach chair soaking up the Caribbean sunshine. You notice how your hair gently moves with the warm tropical breezes. You take a full deep breath; the sweet aromas of pineapple drinks and suntan lotion permeates your olfactory system and you realize how much you love the combination of these fragrances. You barely hear seagulls in the distance as the sound of crashing waves drowns out their caw. You become lulled into a Zen-like presence and with a satisfied smile on your face you have the thought, “this is a most perfect moment.”

What we just experienced here was an imaginative process. We were able to use our imagination to create images, formulate ideas, and be connected to our sensations in our minds without having any direct input from the senses. In his book Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative, Sir Ken Robinson writes: “Imagination is the primary gift of human consciousness. In imagination, we can step out of the here and now. We can revisit and review the past. We can take a different view of the present by putting ourselves in the minds of others: we can try to see with their eyes and feel with their hearts. And in imagination we can anticipate many possible futures.”

Imagination is the source of our creativity, but imagination and creativity are not the same. Imagination is the ability to bring to mind things that are not present to our senses. We can imagine things that exist or things that do not exist at all. Creativity is a process of having original ideas that have value. It's a process, and not an event, and it can be taught.

Robinson continues, “To call someone creative suggests they are actively producing something in a deliberate way. People are not creative in the abstract; they are creative in something: in mathematics, in engineering, in writing, in music or art, in business, in whatever.”

Creativity involves putting your imagination to work. In a sense, creativity is applied imagination.

Creativity is a powerful shaping force in human life. It is an intangible human capacity of a transcendent nature – it moves us beyond ourselves in a similar way to spirituality. The psychologist, Rollo May, in The Courage to Create, describes creativity as “the process of bringing something new into being. It brings to our awareness what was previously hidden and points to new life. The experience is one of heightened consciousness: ecstasy.”

Anthropologist, Ellen Dissanayake, suggests that the act of creating is actually a biological need that is basic to human nature. Writer, Julia Cameron believes that, “Creativity is the natural order of life.” And the historian Paul Johnson writes: “Creativity, I believe, is inherent in all of us.”

In my career as an Art Therapist, I’ve come to understand that most people do not believe that they are very imaginative, let alone creative. The fact is, we are all imaginative and creative all the time. It is innate. Whether it’s arranging flowers for a table or cooking a meal or rearranging a closet, these are all creative acts. Not everyone can sing like Adele, but everyone can enjoy singing. Most people aren’t skillful at carpentry, but most people can use a hammer and drill to put up curtains or pictures in their homes. As small as they are, these are creative acts.

Western culture and our limited educational system are largely to blame for this discrepancy, where left-brained skills that involve verbal and analytical processing, are more valued. Creativity has been systematically dismantled from daily experiences. Creativity and creative thinking is not encouraged for the masses, and we have come to believe that creativity is a special gift that is only available to the very few.

Yet how can that be, when you look around at a world and nature that is constantly transforming and re-creating itself? It shows us every day that we are connected to something bigger. It’s a beautifully complex universe that reflects the unfathomable imagination of an omniscient Creator who brought it all into being. Who brought us into being. We are just a reflection of that loving and powerful force. Therefore, we all have the ability to create and be creative. To create our lives in just the way that we choose to through imagination and action. It is within that potential that we are able to do the most minor of tasks, like hanging an art piece, to the greatest of achievements, like writing a symphony.

It’s time to take back your innate given gift. Claim it as your own. You may be surprised what you can do when you acknowledge this forgotten part of you.

-Tanya Vallianos


Tanya Vallianos, MA, LPC, ATR, NCC, EMDR III, EAP II is a psychotherapist in private practice in Fort Collins, CO. She can be reached at www.innersunhealingarts.com or 970-420-9504.

 

 

 

 

When Life Keeps Throwing Curve Balls

Surrendering to Impermanence

Surrendering to Impermanence

All of us have been here at some point in our lives (maybe more than we'd like to admit) – a stretch of time when it feels like the universe is out to get you. It feels like a dark cloud looms over you and you alone. There’s a series of unfortunate events that make life very challenging and nothing that you do seems to line-up with the good stuff. You constantly feel like you’re waiting for the next shoe to drop. And, worse off, everyone else seems to be doing just fine.

I’m often reminded of this phenomenon when I’m listening to clients’ stories. They express feelings of being overwhelmed, distressed and depressed. “Why does this keep happening to me?” “When will it all end?” are often the questions asked behind a stream of tears.

Usually our emotional reactions are accompanied with thoughts of, “How can I make it stop?” This would be a natural reaction since humans tend to want and need a sense of control in their lives to feel safe, secure and comfortable. Abraham Maslow presented this idea as a basic human need. It is at this second level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the needs for security and safety become primary. It is no wonder when life feels over-the-top that we resort back to these primal, instinctual levels of thinking/feeling.

Surrendering to the process of life

Suffering is an integral part of being human. The Buddha recognized this over 2000 years ago. He explained this through the principal teachings of “dukkha,” which refer to the physical and psychological experience of suffering, change, discontentedness, and emptiness. This is the idea that we tend to hold onto and have expectations as to how our lives need to be.

We suffer because we project the myth of permanence upon a situation that is actually innately and constantly changing – ungraspable and mysterious.  This is the true nature of life, yet we consistently believe that we can control our reality. We think that we can know and possess our lives, our loves, our identities, and even our possessions. Samsara, “the cycle of suffering,” is a direct result of our desire for permanence. It is the tight grip of our grasping of self or ego.

Buddha taught that we can find a way to accept those things that we are unable to control and at the same time change our thoughts, beliefs and emotions about the things that we are able to have an affect on. It is this ability to understand life as a dream, a fleeting moment in time, that can lead to more experiences of happiness and well-being. And even happiness is seen to be temporaryIt is this dance of being in the present moment that frees us from the need to control our very existence. It is the realization that we are interconnected to the whole of life within the universe, shifting, morphing, transforming with it. And that it’s all okay.

Just as you pick a flower, you are aware that the flower will wilt and die in time. And still you are able to appreciate its beauty and smell it’s sweet aroma in the moment. This is a metaphor for how you can live life - savoring every moment – whether good, bad or neutral. Surrendering to what is. Staying in the flow. It is this knowing that everything ultimately changes that leads to less suffering.

An aware mind

This is not about denying the pain or sweeping it under the rug. We can look at it truthfully, feeling our feelings, knowing that we are connected to all beings that suffer. We can touch into our hearts and feel loving-kindness towards ourselves, and all that is. And because we are able to see it from a point of clarity, we are more able to know what needs to be done to ease the suffering.

A consistent mindfulness practice allows us to observe ourselves silently and with eyes wide open – present and aware and watchful of what unfolds and arises from within. This can take time and can be challenging, but the process itself is very rewarding.

To look deeply at these things in our everyday lives, especially within us, is to realize not only the interconnected nature of all things but also the impermanence of it all. It is because of these realizations that we can begin to be less ruled by our distorted and distressing thoughts - leading to less attachment to outcomes and finding ways to be grateful for “what is”. Ultimately, this gives us a way to experience more feelings of calm, peace of mind and true compassion.

-Tanya Vallianos


Tanya Vallianos, MA, LPC, ATR, NCC, EMDR III, EAP II is a psychotherapist in private practice in Fort Collins, CO. She can be reached at www.innersunhealingarts.com or 970-420-9504.

 

Getting Out of Your Own Way on The Path to Self-Love

Shine the light on you. you're worth it!

Shine the light on you. you're worth it!

Yesterday, I was working with a fairly new client that struggles with low self-esteem and self-worth. We spent the session “tapping-in” resources of her team of nurturing, protective and wise helpers. She was able to do this with ease, but what became obvious in the end, was that she was quite aware of how much she felt that she was unworthy of anyone’s love, care and support. She found this thought to be distressing.

Often we need that reality check in the face of a caring, unconditional witness to know that we need real change. It’s the declaration that something is out of balance and has been a destructive force in one’s life. It’s the ability to say out loud, “I’ve been getting in my own way,” so that a new path can be carved out. How does one get past a long history of self-deprecation and feelings of emptiness, negativity and fear?

You discover that you can press pause in any moment and step back from the momentum of old, habitual thought patterns. From this vantage point, you’re able to consistently see where you get hung up and how the thought/feeling complex creates the distress that you say that you don’t want in your life.

With conscious awareness, you are more committed to living in ways that are wise, affirming, and aligned with your deepest desires and your highest good. With committed thought checking, a reframing of the old story, clarity and truth finally arrives. In those moments, asking Self: Do I believe I’m inadequate? Do I believe that I’m a victim? Do I believe I’m unlovable?

It is in those moments of suffering that you can befriend yourself, taking notice of the feelings present and ever so gently, kindly holding them, like you would a baby. Knowing that these feelings are just fueled by thoughts - they are not YOU. They are not in control of you.

There is no need to rid you of anything. Just be aware of your inner experience.

Now you can experience the spaciousness when you’re not hooked-in to the old story, even if it’s for a millisecond in time. Notice what is like to choose something different, to be more curious, than critical, to learn new ways of experiencing you - to get out of your own way.

This is a process. It won’t change overnight. It takes diligence, patience and self-determination. But that is what is involved in choosing to live a life more consciously – a life of authenticity, self-love and more joy.

-Tanya Vallianos


Tanya Vallianos, MA, LPC, ATR, NCC, EMDR III, EAP II is a psychotherapist in private practice in Fort Collins, CO. She can be reached at www.innersunhealingarts.com or 970-420-9504.