Feeling With Ease: a Guided Meditation for Releasing Uncomfortable Emotions

I can't say I dowithout you!

Transcript of Feeling With Ease intro: You are listening to Feeling With Ease, a guided meditation to assist you in experiencing and releasing emotions. I offer this recording to benefit you in two ways. First, by allowing ourselves to feel our emotions without thinking about them we can eliminate struggle and reduce suffering. Second by allowing ourselves to feel what needs or wants to be felt, we can allow our emotions to keep moving and releasing in a healthy way instead of getting stuck or manifesting in physical problems. And we can trust that whatever arises is not a sign that something is wrong with us. Rather, it is an indication that we are healing.

We use this time now as an opportunity to offer healing space and awareness to our feelings without identifying with them or pushing them aside. It may be helpful for you to know that stronger emotions typically move through through us in waves. When we choose to ride a wave instead of fighting it we come out on the other side into stiller waters. See if you can allow yourself about 15 to 20 minutes to allow your stronger waves of emotions to move through you. Then shift your focus to something else entirely or rest if you need to.

If at any point during this meditation you feel anxious or increasingly uncomfortable please stop the recording and do not hesitate to reach out to a mental health care practitioner if you feel that you need the support. In most cases, listeners will notice that whatever we experience in life is more tolerable when we practice the following exercise.

However, if this is not the case your situation please know that everyone is unique. Gift yourself with the help or the support you need and come back to this meditation only when you feel it is appropriate for you. I encourage you to trust your individual process. If during this exercise you feel the urge to emote by crying, grunting, or making any sort of noise, please do so. If your body wants to move, I encourage you to listen to it and allow yourself the release.

Listen to the introduction and meditation here. Or listen to it without the introduction here.

Allison Brunner, LCSW, Body Talks Therapy

 

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How to Heal Your Inner Child: Parent Yourself Better Than Anyone Else Ever Has

(Editor’s note: I’ve used feminine pronouns (e.g., she) in this post for the sake of writing flow. They can be replaced with masculine or gender non-specific pronouns where appropriate.)

Place one hand on your belly and the other on your heart. Tune into yourself. Address yourself by name, then utter slowly, gently, pausing between sentences, “I’m here…I’m listening…I’m right here…I’m listening…I’m with you…I’m listening….”

Then wait. Notice your body’s response. Notice too the emotions that arise.

Who within hears the invitation to reconnect with you? See her in your mind’s eye. Is she making eye contact with you? What does she look like? Notice her posture. What is she doing?

There is a you inside of you that has been waiting for this moment for years (maybe decades), even if at first she seems distant, disinterested, suspicious, or even angry for being forgotten or avoided for so long. And she has much to show and tell you, much that she has longed to reveal to you and have you acknowledge compassionately and without judgment.

Be to yourself now whom you needed when you were a child.She is a part of you, split off during a time in your life that when it was too painful or traumatic to remain whole. She wants to be remembered and reintegrated. The reclamation of all fragmented aspects of Self is an ancient practice shamans refer to as soul retrieval. Carl Jung adopted the technique, calling it shadow work, when engaging with his clients. Later, practitioners in the field of mental health renamed it inner child work or healing the child within.

My personal journey included years of this practice in which I’ve healed and welcomed back aspects of myself split off throughout childhood. Some inner children, so to speak, required weeks of my attention and nurturing; others years. The majority of my own clients who read this will recognize the practice from our work together. They’ve recognized that with time, their younger selves began to trust their adult selves as emotional needs, unfulfilled by initial caretakers many years ago, are at last met by themselves.

How is this possible, you wonder?

Time is nonlinear. Our minds, perceiving only three dimensions, have constructed the concepts of past and future. In reality, all time exists simultaneously. Through the portal of the now-moment (which is the only “time” that exists), we can access parts of ourselves that are frozen in childhood, stuck in loops, or patterned, limiting behaviors or beliefs. We can go to our younger selves and validate, hold, comfort, and love them the way they have always needed, wanted, and deserved.

Each time you feel anxious, depressed, ashamed, insecure, unworthy, not enough, or unlovable, place a hand on your heart and one on your belly. Or grab and hold a pillow assigned to be your surrogate inner child. Close your eyes and see her in your mind’s eye, just as I’ve stated above, and connect with her. Be patient if at first she seems apprehensive.

Let her know that you love her, that you see her and feel what she’s feeling. Empathize with her, just as you would with a child for whom you care deeply. Say that it’s OK to feel what she feels, and don’t try to convince her to feel differently as so many of our parents used to do. Avoid the attempt to cheer her up, use logic to explain why she should feel differently, or snap her out of it.

Be with whatever she’s showing you and tell her you’re sorry she has been suffering. Speak soothingly, letting her know that she’s no longer alone. Depending on what she has experienced, she may want to hear you say you’re sorry, that you forgive her, that she didn’t deserve the hurts she endured, that you’re grateful for her, or that she did her best.

Tell her that she’s safe, if that’s what she needs. “I’m here now, and I’ll never leave. I promise to take care of you. I’ve got you now.” Explain to her  that she survived whatever tragedies or hurts occurred in the past, emphasizing her strength and resilience. Invite her to take a look around your world to see for herself. Describe to her the wonderful things in your life now that she would appreciate.

Most important, ask her what she needs from you today. Ask every day. Check in with her frequently.

If at first you aren’t sure how to help her or struggle to feel compassion for her, promise her you’ll learn and seek help from a psychotherapist or someone else who is familiar with inner child work.

Feel silly holding a pillow and talking to it? Don’t worry: no one is looking. Slowly, I assure you, you, the adult, will benefit from the nurturing you offer those younger versions of you.

Allison Brunner, LCSW, Body Talks Therapy

 

 

 

Bring the “Love and Light” Into Your Darkness

In my teens through mid-thirties, I was diagnosed with severe and recurrent Major Depressive Disorder as well as Generalized Anxiety Disorder. A well-meaning friend who witnessed me struggle to get through my days recommended a then-popular book by Dr. Wayne Dyer, though I can’t recall its title. Its premise was that if you simply change your thoughts, you can change your reality.

I devoured chapter after chapter while riding the bus to and from work one day, hopeful that something so simple might be the solution to lifelong anguish.

Aspiring to be among Dr. Dyer’s best students, I thought about happiness, well-being, and churning out articles that that would knock my boss’s and editor-in-chief’s socks off at the magazine publisher that employed me. I also envisioned a few rainbows and unicorns for good measure.

But the dark clouds remained fixed in my world, and where I expected beautiful, white legendary creatures, I met horned inner demons who seemed to get louder and more intimidating the more I tried to ignore them. My boss too remained unimpressed with my moodiness and its impact on my ability to meet work deadlines.

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I tossed Dr. Dyer’s book and opted instead for more psychotherapy with someone who warned me against the pitfalls of esoteric teachings that promote spiritual bypassing, a term coined by Buddhist teacher and psychotherapist John Welwood in the 1980s. It refers to, in Welwood’s words, a “tendency to use spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep or avoid facing unresolved emotional issues, psychological wounds, and unfinished developmental tasks.” [i]

What happens when you repeat affirmations or chant mantras in the mirror about how lovable, powerful, or abundant you are, for instance, while squashing beliefs that you’re loathsome, weak, and lacking? Or worse, what occurs when you ignore the chest pains, jaw clenching, gut pangs, or other ways your body tries to communicate to you that something within is out of alignment?

Remember American Beauty character Carolyn, the ambitious real estate broker and disdaining wife who drove around listening to motivational speeches on tape. She did what so many of us have been taught to do: think positive and visualize success while never acknowledging thoughts and emotions that indicate otherwise. Some of us were taught by our parents and other authority figures to buck up, get over it, snap out of it, move on, look on the bright side, find the silver lining, make lemonade out of lemons, and so on.

If you understand human nature, you picked up on the fact that Carolyn believed deep-down that she was unworthy or unlovable. She had minimal awareness of her true self, which lay hidden beneath the layers of “I’m not enough” buried in her subconscious.

She drove underground and disowned the aspects of herself she feared would keep her from the “worthier” tribes of society. But you can’t hide from your own shadow indefinitely. When you try, it either comes out sideways or in emotional breakdowns like this one:

 

or this one:

 

What lies buried within our shadow can contort and fester if ignored long enough. It can manifest later as chronic mental- and physical-health problems or in judgments and behaviors towards others that are cruel, passive aggressive, dishonest, or manipulative.

Carolyn needed help. Either from herself or with the guidance of a nonjudgmental witness or professional guide (a psychotherapist, shaman, or other depth worker) who has done her own shadow work and knows his or her way around the dark. Carolyn needed to turn off the positive thinking tapes and spend some time bringing the light of awareness and compassion to the hurt aspects of herself that she’d disowned.

Such leaders in the positive thinking communities as the late Louise Hay, Dr. Dyer, and Jerry Hicks, as well as Hicks’ living wife, Esther, were not wrong when they professed that our thoughts create our reality. But this truth is a little more complex than most of us who study the Law of Attraction have interpreted it.

You can think with your conscious mind all you want to about success, as Carolyn did. But that which remains buried in the subconscious can be an equally if not more powerful point of attraction—because what we deny and resist pushes back with equal force and is mirrored back to us by our external life circumstances.

Success, healthy relationships, fulfilling work and careers, financial wellness, and the like come to those who know that their personal value is not dependent on them but that they deserve to live full and happy lives.

And yet even this is an oversimplified explanation of the more complex Law of Attraction. For the purposes of this article, however, I’ll leave you with this.

What does happen when you speak or hear the positive statements many people use as affirmations or to override the shadow that lurks beyond the light? Take a deep breath, tune into yourself, and simply notice what emotions arise when you read a few statements below. Work with each individually and take notes.

There is nothing wrong with you.

You are enough.

It’s OK to be imperfect.

Notice where in your body you experience any emotional responses and the physical sensations that accompany them. Place your awareness, if it’s tolerable, right into the emotions or physical sensations. What else comes up for you? Images? Memories? More emotion? Non-logical thoughts that are the breadcrumbs to a deeper layer?

These are aspects of you that have wanted your acknowledgement and healing for either many years or for most of your life. Can you witness what you’ve discovered with a balance of detachment and deep compassion, as though you were listening to a dear friend or loved one?

Imagine sitting around a fire next to them for no more than 20 minutes, holding space for what arises. Let these aspects tell you their story. Allow them to feel what they feel and you to feel what you feel as well. All the while, breathe long, slow breaths of self-love and compassion right into the center of what may feel uncomfortable.

If the intensity of the emotions or the stories these aspects of you have to share are too intense, stop the exercise and seek the assistance of a counselor, mental health practitioner, somatic therapist, shaman, or other depth worker. (Please note that this exercise is contraindicated for people with deeper trauma or a diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or complex PTSD, psychotic disorders, or dissociative disorders).

If you have questions about how the exercise works, send me an e-mail.

Allison Brunner, LCSW, RM, Body Talks Therapy

[i] Fossella, Tina. “Human Nature, Buddha Nature: On Spiritual Bypassing, Relationship, and the Dharma (An Interview with John Welwood). 

 

From Dark Night to Rebirth: Psychotherapy and Counseling for Spiritual Awakening and for the Spiritually Awakened

“When I get through this, I will help others do the same,” I vowed on a chilly December afternoon as the winter-white light barely shone between thick raindrops pouring against my bedroom window. Huddled beneath blankets and feeling lost in mental darkness, I focused on my breath and tried to create space for the emotions that were arising. The future reality I’d just created with my heart and mind—that one day I’d offer others the comfort I longed for in that moment—brought me peace.

For this was my Dark Night of the Soul (also known as a spiritual depression), on the heels of the most profound spiritual experience (or kundalini awakening) of my life.

About a half-year prior, I’d awakened from the dream in which I’d played the role (as we all have) of someone who was unlovable or not enough, that I was a victim, and that I was unsafe. It was more than life-altering; it was lifetimes-altering. For weeks after, I wandered around as though I was watching a movie in which I’d once been an actor who didn’t know I was acting and mistook each scene for reality.

Upon realizing the truth of who I was (perfect, holy, divine, powerful, and so much more), I experienced a shift in my sense of Self. I’d broken through Abraham Maslow‘s apex ceiling of self-actualization and reached self-transcendence.

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Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

 

Everything beautiful outside of me I perceived as a reflection to my own beauty and an expansion of my Self. Peering into the eyes of a cottontail rabbit, hearing a coyote call at dawn, watching the moon rise at dusk, or gazing at bright-white clouds against sunlit-blue skies, I could easily cry or laugh with the kind of bliss we feel when in love!

I was in love with myself. Madly. Passionately. For the next several months, I was on a honeymoon with the All-That-Is.

Because I had allowed in so much light, literally and figuratively, by summer’s end I sensed my inner shadow elongating. What had remained unacknowledged or lay dormant in my subconscious, cells, energy field, and ancestry was illuminated, calling out to be healed.

My experience was more intense than it needed to be; I learned later that this had much to do with some deep-down beliefs I held regarding personal transformation and growth having to be painful (more on that a few paragraphs later). If you can relate, though, to some of what I describe following, please know that it is temporary. Seek the support of a spiritual healer, shaman, or a transpersonal psychotherapist trained in kundalini syndrome if your symptoms are similar. (They can be easily misdiagnosed.) [i]

I began to doubt my recent peak experience, wondered if I’d made it up or was tricked. I grew increasingly uncomfortable. I was ultra-sensitive to sounds, tastes, light, color, smells, texture, and other people’s emotions. I seemed to have sprouted antennae that sensed the subtle differences in the vibrations of people, places, and things. The grit, grime, and angst I once found endearing in the city where I lived for 16 years aggravated my nervous system. It mirrored what within me was releasing as I shed layers of who I was not.

Spoken words and even thoughts projected colors and images in my mind; those that were negative affected me physically and emotionally. I lost interest in my friends and in the activities that once inspired me.

Fortunately I’d read books, letters, and personal accounts by Thomas Moore, Adyashanti, St. Theresa of Calcutta, Pamela Kribbe, Eckhart Tolle, St. John of the Cross, and others during years prior, which described experiences similar to mine—so I understood that I was not crazy.

Yet I had expected miracles, a diploma for acing Earth School, a portal to exit the matrix of human existence (not yet understanding that my role was to anchor “heaven” on earth).

“The miracles you seek are in the mundane,” said a shaman who became my guide. She too had once traversed the Underworld and, like Persephone, emerged intact. “You want to see heaven? Look in a blade of grass.”

Her laughter and her calm certainty that I was going to be OK were the soothing balm for my soul and medicine for my heart. As the months wore on, she not only reminded me of sacred mysteries I felt I’d once known, she sat shiva by phone as I grieved my former self.

On Good Friday, the day collective awareness was on death and resurrection, she told me gently, “The belief that this has to be hard is just a belief.” No one expected me to carry a cross and be crucified, she pointed out. Light pierced through the darkness. I laughed. She laughed with me. And when we hung up the phone, I laughed myself to tears.

The spell was broken.

I’ve kept my promise to extend a welcoming hand to you too as you cross the bridge between harsher duality-based living and the world that together we are birthing. I understand that it can feel disorienting at times, but I also know that our intentions are powerful enough to navigate this transformation with grace and ease.

I write this now for two reasons:

1. To encourage you to put up lights in your Dark Night, to rename it Bright Night or whatever name you choose, and celebrate. We’re not Jesus. We’re not Persephone. We’re the co-creators of a new reality filled with peace, joy, unity, and unconditional love. And we can make this fun.

2.  You don’t have to “wake up” alone. Yogi, spiritual director, Registered Nurse, and awakened supermom, wife, and friend Erin Miller Shrader of Sacred Grove Wellness has begun offering counseling and energy healing part time at Body Talks Therapy‘s Lancaster office.

I too will continue to offer somatic, psychospiritual depth work and energy healing to assist you (whether awakened or awakening) in bringing compassion into your own shadows and fully embodying your Higher Self. I’ve found that the more healing work we do in preparation for our awakening, the easier it is to navigate the purification process when it occurs.

Meanwhile, know this: What you feel now is an indication of what’s leaving you because it no longer resonates with how bright you’ve become; the discomfort is not who you are. Breathe. Try not to think of how long it will last, for the mind can create more suffering. Stay in the present moment; it is a portal to healing past and future.

Sing. Cry. Take salt baths. Cook gourmet meals. Dance.

You are not alone. And you are so loved.

Allison Brunner, LCSW, RM, Body Talks Therapy

[i] Spiritual transformation impacts us physically, emotionally, and mentally, so trust your instincts, heed your inner wisdom, be kind to yourself, and use caution. Take good, physical care of yourself, because being human is divine. Safe and slow can be the most powerful way to accessing the ultimate love within.

 

One Way to Heal Emotional Pain: Do Nothing

As a client, I fell in love with experiential psychotherapy with each shift from emotional or existential anguish to insight, clarity, and release. Like any human being, I long for relief, and my clients do the same.

Often, though, we circle back to a clearing, and there is no place else to explore. We’ve done all we can “do.” We’ve examined every angle, we’ve scoured the unconscious, perhaps we’ve even reintegrated fragmented parts. But the present moment now calls us to sit with what is, even if what’s present is uncomfortable.

Often, that’s what life asks of us: to sit with discomfort instead of trying to fix it.

A therapist friend and I joke that we are addicted to self-growth. Like an artist who cannot not paint, she and I cannot stop reflecting, stretching, and navigating the depths of our underworlds. I wonder too, if like me, she prefers this “doing” to “being.”

Other non-clients look to me for answers: Should I break up with so-and-so; should I take an antidepressant; how do I forgive this-or-that person? What should I do?

Even if I had the answers, they’re not mine to give. So I sit with people in the questions and be a loving presence as they dip into their angst. That is where much of the healing lies, in the murky waters where we can’t see where we’re going or do much while we’re in it. Sometimes the most healing thing we can “do” is nothing.

The trick is to be mindful when doing nothing. Alternate between feeling your feelings and observing them with some distance. (Do not get mired in or over-identified with how you’re feeling.)

First, see if you can rest in your emotion, whether it’s sadness, anger, depression, fear, etc. Identify where it lives in your body. Say hello to it. Notice its size and the boundaries or edges of it. If you’re able to tolerate it, then I ask you this: Can you purposely feel it even more? (You may think me harsh, but to resist your feelings strengthens them.) Notice what happens as you do this. Take your time.

Next, add a special ingredient—one that can transmute your suffering over time: awareness. Observe the emotion that is present. Notice that it is part of and not all of you. Now re-label it energy.

You’ll note that, as Quantum Psychologist Stephen H. Wolinsky, PhD, explains, you, your emotions, and everything around you is basically energy. The matter you can perceive with your eyes (e.g., furniture, the walls of the room) is denser energy.  Your emotions and the space around you are lighter, less condensed, so they seem invisible. They are energy too.

See if you can rest your awareness in the space around you, then to the space beyond (perhaps outside the room and into nature). Imagine now that some of the molecules of that space enter your body and float between the molecules of energy we formally referred to as emotion. Spend some time here. Notice the way it feels.

Finally, allow even more space to enter into the formally denser energy of what we called your emotions, your body. Re-label all of it energy. There is no longer a difference between any of it. It’s all just energy.

You can use this exercise as often as you’d like, but its purpose is not to get rid of your pain. If your intention is to surrender to what’s present, over time you’ll likely see a shift and find relief. For everything is temporary and this, too, shall pass.

Disclaimer: The exercises, tools, and insights I offer on this blog will not work for everyone. Each of us is unique, and I am not the expert of you, your mind, your body, or your experience. Listen to your own body-mind wisdom. None of my writing should take the place of a licensed mental health professional if you are experiencing unyielding or overwhelming distress. If you are having thoughts of harming yourself or others, I urge you to call (800) 273-8255 or go to your nearest emergency room. 

Acknowledgments: This exercise combines techniques originated by Quantum Psychologist Stephen H. Wolinsky, PhD, and author of The Open Focus Brain, Les Fehmi, PhD. But I credit my own therapist foremost for introducing me to this work, for guiding and supporting me through my dark nights of the soul and in inspiring me to become a therapist and to integrate her knowledge and methods into my own skill set. She’d likely have written this differently, but I confess unabashedly that I’ve modeled most of my own therapeutic approach after hers. From the bottom of my heart, Martha, thank you. 

—Allison Brunner, LCSW, RM, Body Talks Therapy