Updated: Jul 25
Intentions Therapy welcomes you to meet our favorite bird and the face of our practice: The Roseate Spoonbill.
In this article, you will meet the Roseate Spoonbill, discover its significance to the mission and vales of Intentions Therapy, and learn more about birdwatching as a meditative practice.
This awesome bird serves as a reminder of the healing that comes from embracing our sensitivities and accepting our full self.
Roseate spoonbills are wading birds in the Ibis family. They sweep obstacles out of their path as they feed, wading through freshwater and saltwater wetlands in Florida, parts of the Gulf Coast of the US, and much of South America. This unique pink bird feeds by sifting its spoon-shaped bill side to side through shallow water.
The first time I saw a Roseate Spoonbill, I had to look twice. I knew that it was not a flamingo, but I had never seen a pink bird with a spoonbill prior. This was the bird that opened my eyes to a wonder for nature that I thought was lost in childhood.
What do you love about Roseate Spoonbills?
Roseate's live in balance, honoring both community and solidarity.
These pink birds are sensitive to their environment, they can be shy, introverted, and prefer silence.
Roseate Spoonbills protect their young, this points to a need to attune to and care for the vulnerable around us and the inner child within us.
These birds hold multiple truths: they are awkward and graceful, sensitive and smart, eye-catching and reserved.
Roseate's remind us to slow down, assess our environment, and move inward. They take their time, and move with Intention.
Having a respectful relationship with these birds increase our understanding of the ecosystems that support all life on earth.
Roseate Spoonbills welcome you into respectful relationship with yourself and your surroundings. Find peace in stillness and be curious about your inner world!
Roseate Spoonbills remind us of the interconnected nature of our world, the layers of complexity and nuance in the world.
Why are Roseate Spoonbills the face of Intentions Therapy?
Roseate Spoonbills grace their world with color, presence, and aliveness. They are sensitive to the world around them. They symbolize the power of stillness, sensitivity, and self knowing.
These values inform the clinical work and healing philosophy of Intentions Therapy.
Roseate Spoonbills remind me a lot of myself, and I see them as a totem of self compassion and turning inward.
My name is Dani, I am the founder of Intentions Therapy. I am a clinical social worker and a highly sensitive human. I am also a bird watcher and have loved to spend time outside exploring and getting to know new plants and animals for as long as I remember.
I have always been someone who is incredibly sensitive to my own inner world and the experiences of the humans around me. From an early age, I felt tuned in to the complexities, nuances, and emotions of life.
I want to share my sensitivities as gifts, and support others in embracing their sensitivities and differences with compassion.
The Roseate Spoonbill has become an image of self-acceptance for me. The power of self-knowing and self-love is radical and healing.
Self-acceptance is the basis of Intentions Therapy and all the work I do.
When did you start birdwatching?
As a child and teen, I knew nothing of birds. I grew up in a family without pets; but I had a fierce desire to have relationships with animals. I loved the cats, dogs, and other pets of my neighbors and friends. Although I had no formal introduction to birdwatching, I remember being filled with excitement and awe when a red cardinal visited my backyard, or I was able to watch a local owl, woodpecker, pelican, or seagull in its habitat.
At the age of 21, I served as an AmeriCorps Service Member, working in an inner city school in Chicago as a social worker and after school educator. I was asked by my team to learn a curriculum called "Birds in Your Schoolyard" to support middle schoolers in getting outside, connecting to their local environment, and expanding their understanding of the importance of science and sustainability. I was nervous to implement these lessons before I was trained because I knew nothing of Ornithology and I had no experience "birdwatching".
I quickly learned that anyone could be a legitimate bird watcher, all you needed to do was go outside, focus on the life that was already there, and be curious about understanding it. Bird watching is easy and fun, and with simple recording tools and access to free online resources truly anyone, at any age could do it.
Learning the "Birds in Your Schoolyard" curriculum through the eyes of my students helped me to connect to a child-like curiosity that filled me with wonder and calm.
Sharing the beauty and complexity of the life that is already here with my students felt like medicine in more ways than one.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology offers a free bird identification app and online resources for anyone to start getting curious about the life in their own backyard. This toolkit helped me to learn more about the life around me with details on bird songs, flight patterns, physical appearance, and migration patterns of all the birds in my environment.
Can my mental health benefit from Birdwatching?
Yes! Anyone's mental health can benefit from birdwatching.
Birdwatching is a simple way of getting outside, moving your body, connecting to your physical environment, embracing curiosity, and building a sustainable habit of self-care and environment-care.
Birdwatching is a present-focused meditative practice that fosters a sustainable relationship with local ecosystems, plants and animals.
For me, birdwatching has become a healing and intuitive practice. It is something I know I can turn to, no matter where I am, that connects me to the world around me. This is a grounding practice, it feels like a clean slate for my senses, it centers me in stillness while sparking passion.
Learning about the birds around me and identifying the local birds whenever I move has become a routine way of sustaining my connection to the earth around me.
I am grateful for the ways this hobby deepens my understanding of the ecosystems that support all life on earth, including human life. An understanding of the interconnectedness of all life here on earth supports a sustainable lifestyle and centers me in compassion and love.
What is your experience as a highly sensitive person?
From an early age I was affected, emotionally and physically, by stress and change. Nuances in the my home, my school, my family, and the feelings, experiences, and overall wellness of those around me had an acute impact on my own stress and wellness.
This sensitivity to the experiences of those around me has felt really challenging most of my life, as I was often overwhelmed with stress, grief, or a general sense of overwhelm and overstimulation. I feels as though my nervous system, mind, body, spirit and ability to move through the world with ease and wellness, was compensated and more prone to stress.
I have come to see my sensitivities as gifts that make me into the unique, neurodivergent human being that I am. The closer I get to accepting the complex truths of myself and my needs, the more capacity I have for presence, expansion, and aliveness.
Self compassion is built by embracing the parts of your self that hold fear with acceptance and love. If you are looking to grow in self compassion and would like to embrace your own sensitivities and differences, contact Intentions Therapy here.
To learn more about Highly Sensitive People and begin appreciating your own sensitivities, start with this website: The Highly Sensitive Person.
How did your sensitivities impact your wellness and sense of self?
My acute sensitivity caused disruptions to my emotional and physical well-being from an early age. Stress impacted my body massively; I struggled with migraines from the age of 7, sleep and eating issues, chronic nausea, auto immune issues, and mental health concerns.
The impact of stress on my physical functioning and wellbeing, alongside a lack of understanding and tools to understand my sensitivities and soothe the way I was affected by stress, led to more pain that was deep and visceral.
Most of my life, I struggled with the false belief that I did not belong, that something was deeply wrong with me, that I was heavy and burdensome on those around me. Now, I can see that these beliefs are false. They were messages I received early in life (one way or another) that I internalized as truths.
I understand the impact of core beliefs like “I am a burden” and “there is something wrong with me” on any human’s thoughts, feelings, actions and experiences. But earlier in my life, I lacked language, understanding, accommodation and acceptance.
I was different, yes.
I had unique needs, yes.
I had challenges and difficulties emotionally and physically, and yes these struggles presented their own host of needs and opportunities for support, soothing, engagement and love.
If you struggle with core beliefs like "there is something wrong with me", "I do not belong", "I am not good enough, worthless, or inadequate" please read our Core Belief Cycle Article and begin to challenge your negative beliefs. Break negative cycles to start showing up fully in your life.
I awakened to the absolute truth that there was nothing wrong with me.
It has taken decades of 'self-work' to land on this perspective: That nothing is wrong with me. That I am okay, That it is okay for me to be a human and live without shame.
I have had to do so much unlearning to open my eyes to the truth that there are no bad parts of me, there is just the truth and complexity of me.
I am as I am, It is what it is.
I am capable of knowing and embracing all parts of myself with loving awareness, kindness, respect, and dignity.
So, in short, my sense of self is a life project and I am on board. My sensitivities have carved a space for themselves in my life. I used to live in shame, fear and isolation, I felt "too much" and "not enough" all the time. Now I live in a space of acceptance and truth.
I am still as sensitive as I always was, but I'm so comfortable with myself now.
I have learned that I as treat myself with this care and love, it ripples outward. It increases my capacity for joy and aliveness. It opens my arms to hold those I love a little closer. It helps me to be a clear channel, to set meaningful, heartfelt intentions, to love those around me with the same loving kindness, curious awareness, respect and dignity.
How does nature help soothe your sensitivities?
Nature has always been a source of calm and clarity for me. Simple tools like breath work, visualization, meditation and self-soothing work alongside my relationship with nature in healing my brain and body.
For me, self compassion comes in the form of a strange, pink bird.
The Roseate Spoonbill first crossed my path while on a walk in a nearby wetland. The pink bird carried stillness and grace in its unique form. I remained still and this spoonbilled bird allowed me to exist in its space for several minutes, simply standing in shallow water and resting its wings, looking my way every once in a while.
This scene, of being visited by a Roseate Spoonbill, has become a powerful visualization and meditation tool for me. When I seek presence, stillness, and time to self, I visualize a Roseate Spoonbill.
I drew this image of a Roseate standing in stillness with its arm outstretched after a particularly difficult EMDR session with my own therapist. The roseate spoonbill has been my most consistent inner guide, and has travelled to some of the deepest wounds within me to offer stillness, acceptance, and healing.
My therapist helped me explore my inner world, getting to know the younger parts of me that were still holding onto fear, and learning to soothe my inner child with love, careful attention, and consistent relationship. I hope to provide a similar space for my clients.
Working through early life traumas can be treacherous territory and it is always good to have a guide.
For me, the image of sitting in the presence of this bird, making eye contact, and connecting with its presence is a gift that brings peace to my whole being. I am able to harness the visualization of a Roseate Spoonbill to accept my sensitivities, let go of shame and tend to my needs.
Practice visualizing an animal:
What is an animal that brings you peace?
Take a moment to imagine the animal that brings calm to your mind.
What does it look like?
Can you get a sense for the way it moves?
What colors and textures do you notice?
The more you practice training your "Mind's Eye" in meditation and visualization, the more senses you can pick up.
Acceptance of Self and building a loving relationship with Self has become the cornerstone Intentions Therapy.
As a clinical social worker, I am privileged to walk alongside my clients as they learn to better know themselves, love themselves, and clarify their authentic truths.
I welcome you to reach out to Intentions Therapy if you would like to deepen and heal your most important relationship - the one with your self.
I hope the Roseate Spoonbill graces you with acceptance when you need it the most.
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Intentions Therapy is a queer-affirming and client centered virtual private practice run by Dani Sullivan, LCSW.Specializing in serving LGBTQIA+ individuals and couples, neurodivergent individuals, folks healing from complex or developmental trauma, and anyone struggling to cultivate self-love. Learn more about our services.
If you are a member of the LGBTQIA+ community and seeking healing with an emotionally nurturing small group of peers, apply for our virtual Neuroqueer Group to explore your identity and heal in connection.
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Featuring stickers, totes, hats and accessories with our Roseate Spoonbill: