Mother Earth’s Embrace: an mp3 Download to Support You in Times of Stress, Anxiety, or Emotional Overwhelm

Following is a reprint of Mother Earth’s Embrace: A Natural Remedy for Anxiety, to accompany an mp3 I used to share with clients in need of support between one-on-one sessions. I hope you find it helpful and look forward to sharing another with you in the months to come.


 

Mother Earth’s Embrace: A Natural Remedy for Anxiety

Wrinkled brows, a tight jaw, and eyes wide with dilated pupils. Legs cross and uncross, fingers pick cuticles then press the forehead. Breath fills lungs then exits before reaching the stomach.

MEEI observe the body language of a client seated across from me. Caught in the turbulence of her mind, she’s disconnected from the now-moment and her body.

She speaks rapidly, seeking safety in potential solutions too many to track. “What if” this and “maybe that?” Underneath what she’s saying, I hear, “If I just do that, I won’t have to feel this.”

Softly, I name what I’m sensing. Her eyes water in response. Her throat tightens, and she looks into her lap. Tears slide into the corners of her mouth. Energy flows through her body once more. She’d been holding on tightly and just needed a safe space to feel before moving into a calmer, more spacious state.

So many of us cope with our fears of feeling—and with our fears in general—by escaping into our minds and seeking solutions or distractions. It’s a behavior that helped us feel safer when we were too young, too small, or too vulnerable to deal directly with actual threats. Over time, this became habitual and we never learned that it was safe to simply feel.

But the mind is no refuge. It can create all sorts of thought forms, including worst-case scenarios to which our nervous systems respond as though the scenarios are happening right here and right now.

I invited my client, and I invite you, to soothe your frazzled nerves, ease your anxiety, and create a safe space to tolerate your emotions by engaging in an exercise I use daily, as frequently as necessary (you can’t overdose).

First, connect with your breath by simply noticing it. Then exhale, squeezing out the oxygen from your pulled-in abdomen so that when you again inhale, you fill your belly first and then your lungs. Notice the sensations in your body as you breathe. If you feel the urge to cry, to yell into a pillow, to grunt, to squeeze your pinky fingers with your ring fingers and thumbs, allow yourself the release.

Feel the heaviness of your body. Mother Earth holds you close to her through gravity. You’re safe; she won’t let you float away. Visualize this and track any emotional response.

Again notice your breath and your body’s weight, held up by Earth; she prevents you from falling through. Linger here for a while, noting the experience of being embraced and supported by Earth. See if you can take in her nourishment. What is it like?

Imagine your hearbeat in sync with the Earth’s. You are an extension of her, made of the same vitamins and minerals and nearly the same percentage of water. The stardust that comprises her is in you as well. Hang out with these truths for a a few minutes.

Extend your awareness to your five senses, noticing sounds, colors, smells, the taste of your mouth, the temperature of your skin. Remember your breath and that Earth breathes through you.

Explore the now. What is true in this moment? Not the next hour. Not even tomorrow or next year. Can you stay here a while longer? Can you carry the now-moment into the next moment, then into the next? Can you remember that this quality of presence, that this stillness, is available to you any time you need it?

Can you remember too that you don’t have to do any of this alone? You’re supported by something greater than yourself, that which is as miraculous and divine as you. Carry a photo of Earth with you as a resource, if it helps. Consider connecting with her directly when your feelings are more intense.

Nuzzle into a tree. Press your cheeks to some grass. Allow her to cool you with ocean waves or to blanket you in sunlight. She’ll never leave you. She’s here for you always.

(Download “Mother Earth’s Embrace” guided exercise on mp3 here.)

—Allison Brunner, LCSW, RM, Body Talks Therapy

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Hold Steady the Light: How Empaths Can Impact the World More Powerfully

You and I have realized either in childhood or not long ago that we’re on the planet at this time for a reason. I’ve heard many of you say you’re compelled recently to arise from your yoga mats and meditation cushions and do more than cultivate a practice of inner healing and personal transformation; you’re ready to take action.

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Meanwhile the noise of our external world seems to have reached a crescendo—enough to make this empath want to hide in a corn field most days and ring in autumn with the crickets. In this era in which the brightest and the darkest in all of us has risen to the surface, it can feel increasingly uncomfortable to engage with people—especially amidst so much suffering. If we don’t know how to stay centered, we can get lost in the drama and aren’t much help then to anyone.

What I hear many of you asking, whether rhetorically or directly in our one-on-one coaching sessions, is how can we as highly sensitive people maintain a healthy nervous system as we go out into the world and carry out our missions, whether in our careers, volunteer work, or while simply walking down a city street?

I’m relieved we’re having these conversations. Now more than ever, I sense the urgency of pausing, taking a breath, and responding in a conscious, more deliberate way versus reacting in a manner that creates more chaos and conflict. More important than what action we take these days is how we move forward.

“Stay centered, do not overstretch. Extend from your center, return to your center.”    —Buddha

From my days as a highly sensitive child, I rushed to the scenes of people in need or stepped into the fires of conflict and tried to mediate. Worse, I didn’t know what an empath was or understand that I was one; when I’d hear that someone was in pain, I’d take it on unknowingly by running their energy through my own body to try to prevent them from feeling it. Half the time, I interpreted what I felt as personal mental illness. I operated this way until burnout rendered me exhausted, sick, and chronically depressed in my late-thirties.

As many of you know, I spent much of this summer alone, engaged in a personal retreat. During this time, I learned how to manage my energy by holding steady the light so that I could impact the world more powerfully. I promised to share what I learned, with the help of Jim Self’s Mastering Alchemy courses, by summer’s end. I’ve never found tools (including the shielding and grounding strategies most empaths have been taught over the years) more helpful than these for myself and for my clients. These days, I feel stronger, more capable, and more energized.

I now practice twice daily, a couple of minutes in the morning and again in the afternoon, or as needed (e.g., when entering crowded public spaces, speaking with an unhappy customer service representative, or being exposed to TVs broadcasting bad news). After familiarizing yourself with the techniques, you can practice them just a couple of minutes on your own.

On the evening of the solar eclipse, I created “Own Your Space,” a downloadable mp3 you can access here. The thunderstorm you hear in the background is not ambient; it’s real, so enjoy!

 

Allison Brunner, LCSW, RM, Body Talks Therapy

Ditch Doom & Gloom and Birth a New World While Living It

A friend observed recently that I smile most of the time and seem “oddly at peace” in the midst of what feels to him like the Apocalypse.

“What Apocalypse?” I asked. I pointed to the lush green countryside, to squirrels chasing each other up a tree, and to orange lilies blooming near a horse pasture.

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While joking, as many people have, that my head must be in the sand, he pulled out his iPhone and tried showing me CNN’s web site.

I held up my hand, assuring him that I know well that current news reports a plethora of horrors each day. I don’t deny any of it or pretend it doesn’t exist. I know that people are suffering and that others are freaking out. Polarities (good/evil, kind/cruel, conservative/liberal, war/peace) have become more extreme.

What lay hidden in the collective, residing formerly in the world’s subconscious, has begun to shift into our conscious awareness so that it may be acknowledged, healed, and brought back into balance. This process, whether personal or large-scale, can look wild and messy, or even frightening. Meanwhile, entire systems are crumbling, creating space for those that better serve our highest good to arise. Whereas in the past we waited for others to lead us out of despair, we’ve become the leaders proposing heart-based solutions aligned with our noblest and wisest intentions.

When I utter these truths, some people insist that I must express concern over current threats to our safety, sovereignty, and basic humanity, lest I be deemed callous or privileged. “Aren’t you worried that XYZ issue will affect you directly?” Or, “You’re lucky you don’t have to care.”

In fact, I do have to care. What affects the least of us affects us all regardless of the way we categorize ourselves. I care so much that I’ve dedicated my life purpose to designing a brighter tomorrow. But I’ve chosen a new manner of engaging, and it’s one I share with you here in case it resonates. I invite you to try it to heal yourself personally, as a community, and to impact others globally without having to take on the heaviness of the planet.

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Years ago, I read or listened to hours of news each week, educating myself on the problems of the world. I immersed myself in humanity’s miseries, believing that if I felt others’ pain it meant I cared more deeply. I brooded with like-minded friends. Unified in our outrage, we insulted privately and on social media the intelligence of peers, family members, neighbors, coworkers, and strangers alike who disagreed with our views. We argued, resisted, and protested our way through conflict, believing our cause was just and our strategy true.

My friend James came to visit me one day in 2010. “You’re listening to the news,” he said when I opened the front door. When I asked how he knew, he said, “I could hear from outside [the anchors and pundits] yelling.” When I turned off the TV, my ears rang in the silence. I stood motionless for a bit, noticing how tense I was and how much anger my body held. My forehead and temples throbbed most times I tried tuning back in again thereafter, so I ditched my cable TV subscription and stopped listening to NPR during my morning commutes.

As my nervous system recalibrated over the next half-decade, there was a slow and deliberate adjustment in my attitude towards other human beings. I understood that we’re more alike than different, unified in our desire to feel safe and loved—even if our ideas of what the means or the end look like are different.

Neither humankind nor my physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual health were any better for my former us-versus-them mentality. It took me several years more though to admit that in my self-righteousness, I’d created little of service to the greater good. Rather, I’d mostly added fuel to the fire.

Fast forward to the Presidential election campaign of 2016, when people played the game of duality by aligning with Red, Blue, Green, Independent, Progressive, anti-Trump, Hillary haters, pro-Earth, anti-establishment, conspiracy theorists, Tea Party, etcetera. They vilified each other, bickering, name-calling, tweeting, blaming, and shaming on Facebook, podcasts, and other media outlets paid to shock and awe us into a perpetual stupor of conflict and battle.

I was disturbed by the division and tried pointing out how destructive it all was, thereby drawing more attention to the problem.

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“What you water grows,” a mentor told me once. I thought of her wise words when I realized that no one paid attention to or wanted to hear my Chicken Little rants about how we were all creating the very thing that we hoped to avoid.

So I considered instead the seeds I wanted to scatter, ones that would blossom into a world beyond winners and losers, filled with unity, harmony, peace, and love. Instead of talking about these qualities, I needed to embody them as best I can; it’s a daily practice of being the change, one in which I’m imperfect (and that’s okay). When the road gets bumpy or I’m feeling out of alignment with what I’m creating, I simply acknowledge what’s present, give it space to be felt without reacting from it, and then shift my attention back to my heart center.

We live in a realm of infinite possibilities; within them, in each now-moment, we have choice regarding which reality we want to create. There are some complexities to this, of course, but for the sake of this essay, allow me to demonstrate what I’m talking about.

Become cognizant for a moment of how you long for our world to look in 5, 10, or 20 years. Anchor it by visualizing and feeling it.

Peek then at a mainstream national or world news Web site, for example, or turn on the news for just one minute. Glimpse briefly at the social media pages of your like-minded friends who are the most outspoken on political matters. Notice the emotions that arise from within you and their associated physical sensations in your body. I wonder, from your current experience, do you feel inspired to create what you desire from a place of joy, happiness, or inner-peace? What would you end up creating from that space?

Alternately, I invite you now to become aware of your breath. Take a few moments to come back to center, remembering all that you love about your life and the people who are part of it. With your eyes open or closed, begin to notice everything that is already in alignment with your dreams. Mentally, emotionally, and physically note the ways in which the world is already exhibiting that which you envision. Keep a checklist as evidence, and seek out data to add to it each day.

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Imagine moving from here toward that which you wish to birth; as you do, notice your experience. How does it compare to your experiment with the former example?

Play with the latter daily. Give yourself a few weeks and reassess. You may or may not experience symptoms like those of a detox or withdrawal from the drama and noise or the ego gratification of touting how “right” you are (I sure did!). This is normal, and it’s more tolerable when we note the extra time available to play, have fun, hold doors for people, send love notes, exercise, and make people laugh.

How has your perception of the world changed? Do you feel more empowered, connected, and motivated to lead a movement toward the one you intuited lay just beyond the horizon? Does it feel as though you’re already living it now, and can this help you build momentum? What changes do you feel called to make in your life in order to sustain this state of bodymind?

Ask yourself now about whether or not you need to keep hearing the “bad” news and debating with people who have different opinions or viewpoints than yours. Do those behaviors still serve your purpose? It’s OK to be honest; your experience may be different from mine; it’s not right or wrong.

Feel free to send me a message describing your discoveries or whether you’ve begun to perceive through new lenses, seeing pots of gold where once there was gloom at the end of your rainbows.

Allison Brunner, LCSW, RM, Body Talks Therapy

Highly Sensitive People, Now More Than Ever the World Needs Our Medicine

The timing of this announcement, given what we have been facing in our communities, our nation, and internationally, feels significant.

Years of planetary chaos seemed in late-2016 to reach a crescendo. All that lay hidden in our shadows with regard to what in humankind wants to heal (greed, violence, hatred, separation or the illusion of “the other”) moved into the light of our collective awareness. The crisis, like a global-scale Herxheimer Reaction, prompted some of my friends and clients to ask how we can take responsibility for and help soothe the world’s woes and bring us back into balance.

Moved and inspired by your displays of tenderness, compassion, and commitment to serve, I’ve felt a soul yearning to support you bearers of light to ensure your missions are accomplished. In order to create a community for and attract more who are similar in characteristics and attributes, I’ve reflected on what you all have in common. I came to the conclusion that you (and I) are what clinical psychologist and researcher Dr. Elaine Aron refers to as Highly Sensitive People (or HSPs).

We process stimuli more thoroughly than the average person and feel more intensely than others. Often this means we’re more artistic, observant and conscientious, exhibit greater empathy, notice subtleties in our environments, identify imbalances as well as solutions, put others at ease, and hold a vision for what is possible in creating a better world. We’re artists, guides, coaches, healers, empaths, intuitives, inventors, philosophers, thought leaders, and sages.

Many HSPs are not aware that their sensory processing sensitivity trait, when acknowledged, understood, and honored, is a strength—nor the fact that it is the very medicine Earth and its inhabitants need now more than ever. When an ailing child cries out for comfort (as humanity seems to be doing more and more desperately these days), it is the embrace and nourishment of the wisest and most nurturing caregiver that can most effectively lull the little one’s pain.

That is the gift that you possess, HSPs. When our own nervous systems are balanced and our physical, emotional, and spiritual needs met, we’re an unstoppable force for positive transformation in our families, communities, and beyond.

And this is where I feel called to serve, beginning now, in this auspicious hour.

I’ve narrowed my niche, serving those among the 15 to 20 percent of the human population who identify as highly sensitive, by offering virtual and in-person emotional healing services, coaching, education, community, even transformational dance classes, so that you may heal yourself to heal the world, find support and power in numbers, and dare to shine your light far and wide.

Body Talks Therapy, the name of my new practice, is more than a nod to my somatic (or body-centered) approach to facilitating your self-empowerment; it acknowledges the sacredness of that which allows our spirits to live in form, where we can connect with our breath, with our five senses, and with our emotions, and experience the wonder, mystery, and miracle of being alive—even during turbulent times.

No one knows precisely what’s in store for the human race and for Earth, our beautiful home. But because of you, I am optimistic. With the unfolding of current events, I’ve witnessed your journey from shock and devastation to a willingness to peacefully rise up, embody your best selves, and to love others (regardless of their background or beliefs) with every bit of strength and resilience you have.

Since I was a child, I possessed a deep knowing that once I worked through my own pain and integrated much of my personal shadow with my light, I would play some kind of role in helping others do the same and to steer us in a direction that would serve humankind’s highest good. Often I felt isolated, unaware of those around me who were doing the same, and longed for a community of folks with a similar life purpose.

The Hopi elders have said that we, this generation, yes, we are the ones we’ve been waiting for.  From where I sit, you are the ones I’ve been waiting for. I bow to you; for the light in me recognizes the light in you.

Allison Brunner, LCSW, Body Talks Therapy

 

 

 

Love Yourself to Heal Our Nation

Following is an essay I wrote almost two years ago; following the U.S. Presidential election of 2016, its relevance remains:

Tuesday, November 25, 2014, about 18 hours after the announcement in Ferguson, Missouri, that White police officer Darren Wilson would not be indicted for fatally shooting unarmed, Black, 18-year-old Michael Brown last summer:

Helicopters hover about a quarter of a mile from my office on the ninth floor of a skyscraper in downtown Philadelphia. I’m trying to communicate something to my client but am distracted by the noise and the emotions it evokes. Thwop, thwop, thwop, thwop, thwop. The chopper blades quicken and seem to multiply, and my heartbeat hastens to match their cadence. I stop mid-sentence. “I’m sorry,” I tell my client. We exchange pained looks. We know that just a few blocks away protesters are chanting through megaphones as they prepare to march up Broad Street and demonstrate.

I can feel our nation’s collective rage, grief, indignation, and confusion gnawing at my heart and my gut in a way that briefly interferes with my ability to stay in my body—because I feel like I should be doing something. Part of me wants to cradle the nation in my arms and soothe it as I would a distraught child.

I look at the human being sitting across from me. I know that this is where I’m called to be, in this moment, supporting her on her journey so that she can heal and go into the world and touch others similarly. I breathe, bow inwardly to what’s present, and focus my attention on her.

In the moments that follow, the separation between her, me, and the hurt people all over the country dissolves. By touching into the place in myself and loving that which is human in me, I am anchoring the space and holding compassion for her humanness, for everyone’s humanness. Here there is unconditional positive regard and love for all beings.

At the close of my work day, I tend to e-mails, text messages, and missed phone calls. I’m invited to an organized rally in which its photograph on Facebook is, I’m told later, of a protester throwing a molotov cocktail back at the police who threw it into a crowd. Why would they post a photo that could mistakenly lead people to believe their aim is violent, I ask organizers. I’m attacked for my ignorance regarding the “iconic image” and sent private hate mail to my Facebook inbox. “A violent system must be overturned by a violent revolution,” a stranger wrote to me.

My body moves as if underwater, and my thoughts disappear into fog. I decide before I meditate to check my Facebook newsfeed to find out whether the protests taking place all over the country have remained peaceful. What I discover is that people are not just hurting. They’ve lost their minds. I scroll through my smart-phone and see folks lashing out via social media, using terms like, “punks, pigs, Nazis, animals, bigots, racists, animals, savages,” and on and on. One article after another emerges, pointing fingers this way and that. No one is listening to anyone else. Most have become hypnotized into an “us vs them” mentality.

Everyone has a right to their anger, I tell myself. You’re a therapist, you know this. Rage comes out sideways. It must be felt before it can heal, I repeat the mantra I tell my clients. Then my own tears begin to fall. “I have a right to my grief, too,” I whisper. Just as I counsel others to do, I allow the sadness to move through me, give it time to just be.

I sit in meditation afterwards, asking then letting go of the question: How can I serve the greater good in this turbulence? The answer feels warm in my “gut” and then translates into words, for me, for you, for all who wonder, what can we do?

Everyone’s role in healing our planet is unique. For some, it’s writing, acting, painting, or singing. For others it’s legislating, organizing, rallying, or wearing a police badge and enforcing the law. Still others must raise a new generation who will change the social climate. And others will change the world by being their best selves. Only you can access the wisdom within yourself to know exactly how to play it.

But the message is this: It starts with you. Love yourself. Because if you don’t, then you cannot fully love others in that deep and selfless way that facilitates the mending of others’ hearts. If when you witness other people’s behaviors and are quick to label them with hate or with even the slightest tinge of judgment, then you do not love yourself—for the external is a mirror to your internal world. If you accept your imperfections with full compassion, then your perception of the flaws in others will shift as well. Rather than a “punk or a pig,” you’ll see a human being who is afraid, suffering, or does not love himself.

You’ll see something else: that he is you. That they are us. That the only distinction between yourself and others is three-dimensional in space and time. You’ll know on a level beyond reason: We are ONE. There is only one human race, indivisible. Separation is an illusion.

—Allison Brunner, LCSW, RM, Body Talks Therapy

Self-Compassion Is Key to Behavior Change

Many of us become frustrated or angry at ourselves when we try unsuccessfully to change our behaviors or to act differently. Some of my clients have even expressed, early on in therapy, self-loathing for their perceived failures. But feeling negatively toward yourself will not get you any closer to your goals. It’ll do the exact opposite, in fact: it’ll keep you stuck.

First, recognize that you, as a human being, are already OK just as you are. Your behaviors may not be completely aligned with your best self. But you are not your behaviors. Do not identify with them.

Second, behavior change is difficult for a reason. If it weren’t, more of us would be perfectly healthy, for example, treat everyone with respect and tell the truth at all times, have admirable careers or substantial savings accounts, and the list goes on depending on what’s relevant to you and what you’re able to do differently. Look around you. You’ll see you’re not alone in your imperfection.

Now let me ask you a question: What would your life be like without the behavior? Can you imagine this scenario? What would happen if you let go of this unwanted behavior?

If your answer sounds something like, “I’d be happier,” or “I’d feel better about myself,” or “I’d be relieved,” then I’ll ask you another question (let the answer come from your body rather than your intellect): How does the behavior help you? What prevents you from giving it up?

Does the response surprise or enlighten you? Have you gained any insight? Or do you still perceive the behavior as a simple obstacle in your journey and you’d like some help in transforming it?

Regardless of the answer, I invite you now to have compassion for the part of yourself that has stumbled, even repeatedly. That’s where change begins: radical acceptance of your imperfection. If you can’t get past your guilt, then I urge you to reach out to a trusted friend, family member, mental health professional, or spiritual coach for help.

The truth is, the behavior, even if it is dysfunctional, unhealthy, or not in your or others’ best interests, is helping you in some way. It may have been soothing you, helping you feel safe, keeping you steady. Now that you recognize there’s a better way, it’s time to forgive yourself and  then embark on that next step: change.

Ask yourself: is this a change you can make on your own? If not, where do you get stuck, and who can help you? Do you need a doctor, a coach, a therapist, or a support group? Consider giving yourself the gift of asking for assistance. You don’t have to do this alone. Above all, hold onto self-compassion.

—Allison Brunner, LCSW, RM, Body Talks Therapy

To My Body: I’m Sorry. Please Forgive Me. Thank You. I Love You.

Shopping for clothing to accommodate the weight I’d gained from a health struggle over the past year, I entered a dressing room with several pairs of pants. I tried pulling up pastel khakis past my hips, and they wouldn’t budge. I sank into shame. They were one size larger than I’d worn last year. I pulled on a larger pair, and they too were snug.

I frowned at myself in the mirror. 

In a neighboring stall, two women brooded over their own bodies.

“My arms look like sausages. I should buy something with sleeves, shouldn’t I?”

“You’re smaller than I am. I look like a tent in this dress.”

At the sound of the ladies’ self-deprecation, my heart felt like it gained a few pounds. 

Highly Sensitive People (HSPs) are more aesthetically discerning than 80 to 85 percent of the population, according to psychologist and researcher Dr. Elaine Aron. I suspect that this aspect of our personality traits can translate to perfectionism with regard to our physical appearances. 

For a decade, I’ve worked with highly sensitive women (and a couple of men) who hated their bodies and themselves, and I’ve cheered inwardly at the slow but steady progress theyve made in feeling more tenderly toward themselves.

Well, healer, heal thyself, I thought while slipping forlornly back into my too-tight jeans.

After years of personal growth and healing work, I thought that at last I’d fallen in love with myself and vowed to help others regard themselves as tenderly.

Today was a setback. I winced at the emotional bruise inflicted by my own self-loathing and at the collective “I’m unlovable” or “I’m not enough” wound that weighs on the psyches of humans around the world.

Exiting the dressing room, I spotted the women I’d overheard. My favorite barista, among the two, lights up entire rooms with her bright-green eyes, warm smile and belly laughter. People pack the coffee shop where she serves genuine compliments and encouragement along with our espressos and herbal tea, remembers our names and details of our personal lives, and creates an environment to which patrons like I return for a little energetic sunshine when life feels heavy.

If only she knew how easy she is to love, I thought, I doubt she’d fret at her figure.

Her friend attends the more advanced ballet class still in session each week as I arrive to warm up for mine. I gaze at her in delight through glass doors as she steps and pirouettes masterfully across the hardwood floors. Her frame, soft and curvier than her peers’, expresses most precisely that which stirs within me as I hear the music.

On summer nights when I was a little girl, my Catholic grandmother would summon my sister and me to shower as we returned sweaty from playing badminton with our aunt. “Your body is a temple,” she’d instruct cheerfully, the vessel through which our Souls came to Earth so we could spread God’s love. Then she’d hand us towels and washcloths for our evening scrub.

My grandmother planted in me a seed that today has sprouted into gratitude for my physicality; over the years my body has provided a safe container to process years of emotional pain and grief and assists me to this day in tolerating strong emotions. It is among a list of reasons I cherish my profession as a somatic psychotherapist. Moreover, by grounding into and being aware of our physical experience, we can more fully access our creativity, divinity, intuition, and information that is beyond the intellect’s reach.

Every May, my legs carry me sturdily as I run like a lover to her beloved at the first sight of the Jersey Shore and plunge ecstatically into the waves. Through September, my arms pull me beneath and my knees help me jump high above crests as I splash and flirt with the restless summer sea. From fall until spring, my ankles and core prevent me from falling from boulders and steep hills on hikes while my lungs welcome fresh mountain air and exhale city pollutants and accumulated weeklong stress.

When I consider all that our bodies do for us and the miracles they perform every minute of every day, I regret the mental and verbal abuse we inflict on ourselves and cringe at its potential impact on our health and well-being.

Consider these experiments conducted by Dr. Masaru Emoto beginning in 1994: When Emoto exposed water to words in the form of printed letters, prayer, speeches, and music, the results were astonishing. Samples from rivers and lakes labeled “love and appreciation” and “gratitude,” for example, transformed when frozen into silvery mandala-like crystals. Those subjected to “I hate you, I want to kill you” and similar language turned murky and asymmetrical.

Humans contain about 60 percent water. How are the the thoughts and words we use to label ourselves and others affecting our bodies? If we could crystalize the water inside of us, what would it look like?

From infancy into adulthood, we’ve adopted beliefs about ourselves based on the way people have spoken to and treated us. Parents, teachers, peers, strangers, institutions, and even our culture and society have dubbed us dumb, lazy, losers, sinners, uncool, lacking in this or that, etc.

How long will we choose to perpetuate such cruelty with our own self-judgment?

When will we turn the tide and begin to heal our relationships with not only our bodies but ourselves?

I can tell you from experience, in what I’ve observed in myself and in clients, that the more you love yourself unconditionally, the more love you can hold for others. Assess the consciousness of our planet these days, and I’m sure you’ll agree that the world could use a whopping dose of unconditional love.

By now you’ve likely heard the increasingly popular mantra, “Heal yourself to heal the world.”

So I invite you to join me, for we have plenty of work to do.

Jot down all the ways you’re able to live your life as you intend, thanks to your body. Or, consider what you’d not be able to do if you didn’t have a body. Remember the fresh berries you’ve tasted, the hugs you’ve received, the sunsets you’ve watched, the dinners you’ve cooked, the car you’ve driven, the dances you’ve danced, or the fires you’ve started at camp sites. Include the impact you have on people day to day by just being you, holding doors, smiling at strangers, comforting a child, tipping generously, giving people the benefit of the doubt, offering expert advice, or cheering a friend.

Regard the story of your life as an omniscient observer and notice whether you can feel compassion for all that you’ve been through and for all that you dream of.

Now, if you feel so inspired, repeat several times the words of this ancient Hawaiian healing practice, called Ho’oponopono. Address your body:

I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.

Or sing it along with one of my most inspiring friends and favorite kirtan musician, Jennifer Angelino Petro, whose YouTube videos she created when known as Joseph Anthony recently facilitated deeper healing in my relationship with my body—to the extent that inflammation that caused me chronic pain has healed and, yes, I’ve even lost a little weight.

For all of that within you that longs to heal, sing these words. Sing them to political candidates (perhaps without them knowing), people with whom you experience conflict, people who are suffering, and even your cat (mine purrs when I do).

I invite you to contact me via my web site, or leave a message below, and let me know whether you experience any shifts in emotional, mental, physical, or spiritual health.

And if you love Jennifer’s video as much as I do, there are so many more in which she includes tapping on specific spots of the body, or the Emotional Freedom Technique, to help boost your body image and self-worth. You can find them on her YouTube channel.

Here is one more of Jennifer’s videos I recommend (and my grandmother would appreciate):

And to Jennifer (and all others on this planet): for the persecution you’ve endured for expressing yourself authentically, I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you. So much.

—Allison Brunner, LCSW, RM, Body Talks Therapy