Tag Archives: Experience

Necessary Conditions for Transformational Healing

When it comes transformational healing, it can be helpful to let go of trying to “make it happen” and instead turn our attention toward creating the conditions in which healing is most likely to occur. This idea is similar to what is expressed in the following quote from Suzuki Roshi:

“Gaining enlightenment is an accident. Spiritual practice simply makes us accident prone.”

The idea here is that we cannot make enlightenment happen through willpower. However, we can create the conditions, through spiritual practice, in which it is more likely to occur. And, we can think of transformational healing in a similar way. True healing does not happen through willpower, but it can happen quite naturally when the right conditions are present.

So what are the right conditions for transformational healing? I recently watched a webinar with Cassandra Vieten from the Institute of Noetic Sciences in which she discussed several key conditions necessary for worldview change. (You can watch the webinar here, which I would highly recommend.) I believe that everything she names in the webinar is not only key to changing our worldview, but also key to true healing. This is because healing involves transforming our whole being, worldview and all.

If you are looking to create an environment in which transformational healing can more easily occur, providing these “conditions” may be a good place to start:

  1. A community of support: This is perhaps the most important condition necessary for transformational healing. The community doesn’t have to be huge; in fact, it can be only two people. The key point here is that trauma occurs in relationship and so does healing. One important aspect of a community of support is that it must allow for vulnerability and truth-telling — the expression of doubts, fears, uncertainties, realizations, challenges — without anyone in the community trying to change, suppress, make wrong, or “fix” the person expressing his/her truth.
  2. Practices that help grow the personal capacity for acceptance of what is. Acceptance does not mean we necessarily like what is. It doesn’t mean we won’t take any action to change our circumstances. It simply means that we are able to be fully present with the truth of what is actually happening now rather than going into resistance, denial, or distraction.
  3. Practices that reliably lead to a direct experience of healing… even small experiences. Watching other people transform or reading scientific evidence assuring us that we can heal will not convince us that our own healing is possible. We must have repeated direct experiences to build trust in the healing process.
  4. Encouragement and ways in which to engage creatively in a scientific process of forming hypotheses, creating experiments, and exploring our findings. It’s also important to provide scientific explanations and data related to your particular approach to health and healing to help open and settle the mind.
  5. Tools, training, and education in practices and ways in which people can participate in their own transformation and healing. Truly transformational healing is an inside-out job, and the miracle is that we can be empowered to participate in and catalyze our own healing!
  6. Space and opportunity to identify and name intentions, dreams, wants, desires, and motivations around healing.
  7. Frequent reminders that:  a) Healing is a process, not an event, and b) things may feel overwhelming, but everyone absolutely has the capacity to rise to the occasion and be present with all arises in the process.

Of course, how to provide these conditions is the real art… and the endless joy! I have been fortunate enough to be a part of communities like this which provide all the conditions necessary for my own transformation and healing. And now, this is what I am working to provide both in my personal practice with clients, and also at the School of Inner Health where I assist with biodynamic craniosacral therapy trainings. At the school we work to provide the kind of environment described above in all our classes, with a focus on the body as the main “way in” for catalyzing healing and transformation. The result is an experience of healing in ourselves while simultaneously learning how to help others on their healing journeys.

Interested in learning about the trainings offered at the School of Inner Health? Check it out here.

The Choice of Self Acceptance

graveyardI’m in Colorado now, having made the trip in early October to Boulder for what I thought was a short stay. Well, things didn’t go quite as planned, and I ended up in the ER in Boise, Idaho, on my way out here. Turns out I had a partially collapsed lung and ended up being grounded for a bit. My dad was kind enough to come and rescue me from Boise and drive me back to Boulder, where I have been ever since.

During the experience in Boise, I thought I might die. I began to reflect. This wasn’t always a pretty process, at times filled with morbid thoughts, confusion, and terror. But some meaningful questions surfaced during that time of deep inner reflection: Why do I want to live? Do I want to live? Who do I want to be if I live? What’s important to me? Eventually, my heart answered with this simple statement: I want to accept and love myself just the way I am. This was clearly the next step on my evolutionary journey.

This theme didn’t go away. It stuck with me, even now that I’m settling in Boulder and feeling (somewhat) more removed from impending death. And so I set the intention to accept myself on all levels. This falls under the category of, “Be careful what you wish for because you will get it.” What I quickly came to experience is that in order for me to accept myself in this way, all those parts of myself that I had been ashamed of and condemned, and then finally denied through elaborate efforts to prove that I am not that, started to rise to the surface. After all, I cannot accept something I am unconscious of due to denial, and so these things had to bubble up so I would have the opportunity to fulfill my intention to accept myself fully. Being surrounded by family and friends greatly accelerated this process, as you can imagine.Bubbles

After setting this intention, I have gone through several layers of what it means to accept myself, and I have no doubt there is more to come. But for now, what it has come down to is this: Full self acceptance is a simple (but not easy) choice. It is a choice stemming from a commitment to live in love. This choice is not based on logical arguments which explain why these aspects of myself exist, therefore somehow exempting me from shame or blame. It is not based on logical reasons which prove my beliefs are untrue and therefore prove I have no reason to be ashamed. It is not based on spiritual bypasses which tell me these aspects of myself are “ego-based” and are therefore not who I really am. No, this choice presented itself to me when there were no more excuses, no more logical arguments, and no more spiritual bypasses. The choice came when I could no longer talk myself out of feeling the full, terrible force of the shame, when all pretense was gone and I was facing head on those aspects of myself that I had been denying and hiding all these years. It was at that moment when I realized I had a choice: I could choose to accept and love Tearmyself for no reason other than I am committed to living in love, or I could choose to continue to hate myself. It really was that simple. And, choosing love in that moment was quite possibly the hardest choice I have ever made.

And so what I’ve learned so far about acceptance is threefold:  1) I had to set the intention (make the commitment) to accept myself fully. 2) The choice to fully accept myself (and by extension, others) only becomes available when I allow those aspects of myself which I have been condemning and denying to bubble up, to come into my conscious awareness. And, those aspects only arise when I am willing to feel fully the shame that goes along with all I have been denying. I found that this is what it actually means to look at myself honestly. It is not a mind game. It is all about being fully available to feel the pain. 3) Once the stage has been set and the choice arises, I now have the incredible opportunity to choose love — to accept myself exactly as I am — for no reason other than I am committed to living in love. This is a choice I must make over and over, day in and day out. It’s that simple. It’s not easy, but it’s simple.

The implications of this choice are vast. I know now that the level at which I am able to accept and love myself is exactly equivalent to the level at which I am able to accept and love bird flying2others. I also know that my true heart’s desire is simply to give and receive love more and more fully, When I can face head on what I am most ashamed of in myself and still choose love, I can face anything in anyone else and choose love with them as well. For when I am totally honest, I notice that I carry all those qualities that I have condemned in others within myself. This, I believe, is one of the most important keys to healing ourselves and our planet.

In gratitude & love,
Signature-with-transparent-background

The Dreaded Question: What’s Your Passion?

Flaming heartFor as long as I can remember, I have been searching for my true passion. It seems all the self-help gurus start off by asking, “What is your passion? What turns you on and lights you up?” This is the point where my eyes glaze over, I slink down in my chair, and I have had to admit: “I don’t know.” There are certainly things I like doing. There are causes I care about. I am fascinated by certain topics and areas of research and contemplation. But is being involved in these things my true purpose and passion? Is this what I am here to do in this life? This is where I have gotten lost.

In these last few weeks, something around this search for my passion has begun to clarify for me. My perspective on what passion actually is has begun to morph. I had been thinking about my passion as something I would do. After all, when people speak about their passions, they are usually talking about something they do. For instance, they say things like, “Music is my passion,” or “Art is my passion,” or “Science is my passion.” When the self-help gurus attempt to draw out our passions, they ask things like, “What brings you joy? What are you doing when you feel joyful and alive? What makes you feel happy and passionate?” So, naturally, I’ve been thinking all this time that my passion and purpose would be wrapped up in something that I’d be doing.

Lately, though, I’ve been wondering if my passion might have less to do with what I’m doing and more to do with what I’m feeling, being, and then ultimately expressing into the world. And so I started to ask myself this:

What feeling or state of being do I most want to experience and wish with all my heart that others could also experience? If I could somehow gift myself and others any kind of experience/feeling/state of being, what would it be?

Would it be to feel loved? Safe? Valued? Inspired? Empowered? Connected? Cherished? Alive? Vibrant? Clear? At Ease? Awed? Joyful? Compassionate? Light? Open? Restful? Grateful? Follow your heartThis is a whole different kind of question, and I’ve had to really get quiet and listen to my heart. Amazingly, what has come to the surface is something I cannot exactly put into words, yet it feels uniquely me. It is a specific feeling state that I have felt come forward inside of me… in fact, it feels like it is simply the real me coming forward. And what I’ve come to see is that THIS IS MY PASSIONI have been looking for my passion in the wrong place! All along, I had been thinking that there was something out there for me to do — some grand purpose — and that when I found it, I would know it and finally proclaim, “This is my passion! This is my purpose!” Instead, I have found my passion is an experience/feeling and not something inherent in something I will be doing. Rather, whatever I choose to do will simply be a vehicle for me to express my passion into the world. Of course, then I immediately understood something else all those gurus have been saying: It doesn’t really matter what you do. It only matters how you are being (and feeling) when you do it.

Have you ever noticed how inspired you can feel in the presence of someone who is passionate? I’ve had the experience of getting totally jazzed about some product a person is selling merely because that person seems so incredibly passionate about it. I admit I have bought some very strange items only to wonder later why in the world I bought them! What I am seeing now is that I was resonating with that person’s passion, not with what they were selling. We are vibrational beings, after all! I started to feel inspired, or joyful, or hopeful, or whatever qualities that person was being and expressing, because I was resonating, in my own way, with those qualities that they were embodying. Then, because of my confusion about the nature of passion, I mistakenly thought it was the product they were selling that was causing them to feel good (and so I bought the item as well, thinking it would cause me to feel something I desired). But it was not the product that was inspiring me. It was that person BEING their passion.

Sun rays in blue sky

So for me, the question then became… okay, then how do I choose what to do? I still need a vehicle through which I can express my passion. If it doesn’t matter what I do, then how do I choose what to do? Here are some questions I came up with to help guide me in this process:

What might I choose to do where, when I do it, it feels easy for me to connect with, embody, and experience the quality of my passion? What could I imagine doing where it seems like it would be easy for me to feel and express that quality?

Do I have skills, talents, or gifts through which I could easily imagine conveying or expressing this quality (my passion) to others and to the world?

How can I, in ALL that I do, both embody (“be”) my passion and convey or express it to others?

This process is helping me form a vision and choose the vehicles through which I want to express my passion. Instead of trying to find things to do that would (supposedly) ignite my passion, I am instead practicing on a daily basis remembering and embodying the qualities — the feeling states flower 8— of my passion. I keep asking myself again and again, “What feeling do I most want to experience and wish with all my heart others could experience?” This is my passion! I let it fill me to the brim! Clearly, my passion isn’t just about me feeling good. I want to share it. I have found that the desire to share it — to express it — is inherent in the passion itself. And, what I’ve come to see now is that the way to share it is to BE it. When my whole being vibrates with my passion, others will begin to resonate (in their own unique way) with those qualities. This is how I can share my passion with others. Perhaps that’s at least partly why Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” And so now it seems my life (and my challenge) is about bringing that passion into all that I do — for myself, and for all those whose lives I touch.

What’s your passion?

In love & in gratitude,
Penny

Live Like It’s Your Last Day: Permission to Eat Pizza & Ice Cream?

A few years ago, I decided to take the plunge into the world of personal growth seminars.  During my very first seminar and after several emotion-filled days of mind-blowing transformation and realizations, they figured it was time to hit us with the real whopper.  Our facilitator told us to imagine these were the last few minutes of our lives.  We could write a letter to whomever we wanted in those few minutes.  The facilitator gave us a specific time limit (not very long, if I recall correctly).  I began furiously writing to my loved ones, attempting to express all my love and gratitude in those few, brief moments.  Then, before our time limit was up, somebody suddenly shut off all the lights.  We were plunged into darkness.  Gasps filled the air.  I’m pretty sure my mouth hung open in dismay and righteous anger.  I hadn’t finished writing!  It wasn’t fair!  After a dramatic pause, the facilitator whispered into the darkness:  “You never know when your last minute will be up.”  He then suggested to all of us that perhaps it’s time to start living like this could be our last day.

The experience was actually rather dramatic given the state I was in at the time, being raw with emotion and feeling quite vulnerable.  It was a powerful way to drive home the point.  Still, once I took a step back and pondered this age-old advice, I started to wonder exactly how to live every day as if it’s my last.  The catch with this whole concept is, of course, that we generally don’t know for certain this will be the day we meet the Grim Reaper.  But when we start to think about what we might do (or not do) if this were our last day, we have already inserted the assumption that we know today will be our “expiration date” (as my dad would put it).  For me, I inevitably start to fantasize about eating pizza and ice cream all day long while being surrounded by close friends and family, all of whom also know I will die when the day is done.  Because of this awareness, it is easy for all of us to express our undying love and gratitude for one another freely and without restraint.  It’s a beautiful fantasy.  Unfortunately, it also has no bearing on reality.  This is because, in reality, I don’t know ahead of time that this will be my last day.  So, of course, I generally choose to refrain from stuffing myself with pizza and ice cream all day long in an attempt to maintain my health, and I don’t call all my close friends and family daily to express my love for them, as it would become fairly meaningless to both me and them after only a few days.

Of course, whoever came up with this sage advice probably wasn’t implying that I eat pizza and profess my undying love for everybody on a daily basis.  So I figured I probably needed to dig a little deeper.  But some of the so-called deeper meanings that are often given also left me unsatisfied.  One example is that by pondering the thought that we might die today, we can begin to sort out what is most important to us.  For instance, since most of us would choose to spend our last minutes with friends and family instead of cleaning our house or doing laundry, that must mean friends and family are more important than cleaning and laundry.  But for me, and I suspect a lot of people, that isn’t exactly a big revelation.  Plus, I still feel like I need to clean the house and do laundry, regardless of how important my friends and family are to me.

So what I’ve finally come to realize is that I needed to look at this advice as just another pointer.  What do I mean by that?  I mean that this advice helps to point me toward a way of being — an experience — of what it means to live like it’s my last day.  There are many other pointers out there that guide us to a similar experience or state of being, such as “live in the present moment” or “appreciate the preciousness of every second of your life.”  When I started to inquire what it really means to live like it’s my last day, I simply couldn’t figure out with my logical mind how to practically implement this concept into my life.  But when I eventually had an experience of what it’s like to live this way, I finally understood what it means.  My point is that I don’t think this advice is meant as a some sort of directive to suddenly go out right now and live life as if this could be the day you meet your maker.  Most of us would have no clue how to do that.  I think, instead, it is meant as a launching pad of self-inquiry, which eventually leads us to an experience of what it really means to live every day with appreciation, knowing it could indeed be your last.

Aloha,

Penny