Rewire Your Brain for Pleasure Workshop Available for Purchase

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Couldn’t make it live to our Body Talks workshop Series in April? It’s not too late! If you’d like access to an edited recording of Rewire Your Brain for Pleasure, shoot me an e-mail at info@bodytalkstherapy.com, and I’ll send you a private link to the video on YouTube. You can send payment via Venmo to @Allison Brunner or simply look for the PayPal button and pay $15 here in advance. You can also mail a personal check or money order to Body Talks Therapy, 237 N. Prince St., Suite 303, Lancaster, PA 17603. (By next month, I’ll have created a storefront where you can find additional workshops and guided meditations. Stay tuned for that.)

Those who attended live may request free access to the recording. In fact, I’ve added a couple of segments we didn’t have time to include last week due to our limited time together.

I’ve discounted the cost for purchase significantly for a few reasons: your experience will vary greatly from those of the in-person participants. The vibe is quite different when you’re working solo. You’ll also need to acquire some items to appeal to your five senses in order to engage in the exercises as they were intended. (These include flowers or other beautiful objects, a candle, something delicious to taste, some essential oils, fresh ground coffee or tea leaves, a soft blanket or something that feels pleasurable to touch, and some of your favorite music tracks.)

If you afford yourself the time (about 90 minutes) and space (either alone or with a fried) to engage in the experiments fully, I guarantee you’ll enjoy yourself.

Allison Brunner, LCSW, RM, Body Talks Therapy

Invite Your Anxiety to Tea

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Much of this article by Allison Brunner, LCSW, is reprinted from Natural Awakenings magazine’s (Lancaster/Berks edition) November 2016 issue.

Many of us know it well: a gnawing in the pit of the stomach, an ache in the chest, shallow breathing, rapid heartbeat or a lump in the throat. Roughly 40 million Americans (or 18 percent of the population above the age of 18), according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, experience anxiety as a full-blown disorder.

Most of us encounter the symptoms from time to time. Hardwired to avoid pain, we do everything we can to self-distract or problem-solve our way out. We try to convince ourselves we’re “worrying about nothing”. In cognitive approaches to psychotherapy, too, we examine the validity of the thoughts that create suffering and attempt to assuage our fears by labeling them irrational.

But how effective has that been for you?

Running and thinking (or arguing with our thoughts) exacerbate angst. The worse we feel, the more afraid we tend to become, wondering how long the discomfort will last or whether it may worsen and turn us crazy. Our minds are adept at tricking us into believing that what’s really a mouse in the closet is a six-foot monster with fangs.

What if we tuned into our bodies when the symptoms, like little lights on an automobile dashboard, indicated distress? What if we pulled up a chair and invited our anxiety to tea, so to speak? When we take the opportunity to face it, feel it and get to know it a little better, it calms. We can drop beneath it and find that where it was trying to turn our attention is an emotion that is far more tolerable than panic or fear. There may be sadness, grief, disappointment or anger—only a mouse when compared to the anxiety monster.

Try the following next time the body-mind gets noisy.

Find a safe, quiet space where you can turn your attention inward. It’s best to sit on the floor and allow yourself to feel the support of the earth beneath you. Squeeze all of the breath out of your belly, if you can; then fill it first, before your lungs, with fresh air. Notice whether your body is holding tension and relax if you’d like.

Let go of thinking. There is no future, not even a few minutes from now. There is only this moment. Breathe.

Enhance your feeling of safety by focusing on an object in the room that gives you pleasure. Notice the quality of light where you’re seated. Feel the texture of your clothing against your skin. Notice any sounds, smells, the taste in your mouth.

Where in your body are you feeling anxious? What are the physical sensations that accompany it? Place your awareness in that area. How much space does it take up? Does it have a shape; is it solid or diffuse; does it have a temperature?

Stay out of story. Remove the labels (good, bad, awful, terrified) from what you’re feeling. Simply allow yourself to feel what you feel.

What does your body want to do? Does it want to curl into a ball while wrapped in blankets? Do you need to cry into a pillow or scream? Do you need to shake, punch or kick? Allow the release.

Emotions move like waves; they don’t last forever. Give yourself 15 to 30 minutes to ride this one, rather than being pummeled by it, and know that the nervous system will calm again. When we resist, anxiety persists and either somaticizes or intensifies.

Once the waters still, ask your body what it needs. Reconnect to your five senses and where you’re situated in time and space. Soothe yourself with a warm bath, lit candles, low lights or relaxing music. Make yourself a warm cup of tea. After you’ve braved this storm, those in the future will feel more manageable.

Body Talks Therapy owner, coach, healer, and facilitator of a community of Highly Sensitive People, Allison Brunner, LCSW, will facilitate a workshop on Thursday, May 11, 7:15pm to 8:45pm, at Mulberry Art Studios’ Mulberry on King, 253 W. King St., Lancaster (off-street parking is available against the side of the building, near the entrance. Join us for a combination of psychoeducation, hands-on learning, and experiential practice of tools for coping with and minimizing or even eliminating your symptoms of anxiety as a way of protecting yourself against the emotions that scare you.

Bring a pen and paper or journal. If you prefer to express yourself through art or music, bring the tools to do so. We’ll engage in body awareness and somatic work (grounding and resourcing), mindfulness practice and strategies, guided visualization, “parts work,” and journaling.

RSVP and pay here in advance. For questions, contact info@bodytalkstherapy.com.

Allison Brunner, LSCW, RM, Body Talks Therapy

Return to Your Body in a Celtic-Inspired Movement Medicine Class

Join me on Thursday, March 16, St. Patrick’s Eve, for a special Movement Medicine class, 7:15pm to 8:30pm. To music recalling an era in which the Celtic Nature traditions lived embodied, we’ll dance beyond thought back into our own bodies. This authentic movement practice offers a fun and safe way to realign the physical, mental, and spiritual aspects of ourselves and to reconnect our hearts with the perfection of our humanness.

For centuries, we in the Western world have hungered for an antidote to the collective wound created when Christian Romans in the 1st Century AD and the Saxons in the 5th Century AD nearly wiped out or drove into hiding a culture that understood that the higher intelligence and expression of Source energy (or God/Goddess) runs through all living things (our bodies included), that human beings and nature are interdependent, and that truth and divinity are within.

The Christians of that era labeled Celtic lifestyles primitive and their beliefs blasphemous toward the patriarchal version of God who reigned from on high. They taught us that human beings (women especially) and our bodies are inherently evil, emphasized reason over intuition, and urged us to beg for the deservingness of redemption.

The truth is, though, that we’ve never required redemption, were never less than deserving, and were perfectly imperfect all along. But such disempowering teachings (and others like them) have contributed to the suffering of most people on this planet from the distorted notion that we are bad or unlovable and that we must spend our lives proving our worthiness.

Together, we’ll heal these ancestral injuries with somatic practices that include breath awareness,  the exploration of old, familiar patterns of seeking refuge in our thoughts (and honoring the safety this provides), connection to our five senses, body scanning, emoting though movement, and allowing our bodies to express what within us longs to shift, let go, and forge a new way of being.

Please note: Because this dance community has outgrown the space on King Street, Movement Medicine classes will be held every first and third Thursday of the month at Mulberry Art Studios‘ main location, 21 N. Mulberry St., Lancaster, PA. Thus, classes are now $20; but when you bring a new class member, each of you pays half. RSVP in advance to pay by credit card or pay cash in person. Drop-ins are now welcome!

Allison Brunner, LCSW, RM, Body Talks Therapy

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Movement Medicine: A Dance Class for Non-Dancers

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This authentic movement class isn’t about looking good when we move. It’s not even about the dance. It’s about moving what has been stuck, stepping out of an old story, exploring our power, and walking a new path more in alignment with our true selves.

Last week’s class was exquisite in that all participants created a safe, judgment-free environment. One worked through sadness. Another experimented with staying in her own corner as she moved through her resistance and disdain for dancing. Yet another tended to a self-judging part of herself by staying seated on the floor through every song.

We each participate in our own way, and it’s all perfect.

Join us on Thursday, March 16, as we continue to cultivate and create this space for inner-transformation.

(Please also keep checking back here or join my mailing list at BodyTalksTherapy.com for updates. As our community grows, we are preparing to move this dance class into larger space at Mulberry Art Studios’ Mulberry Street location. This could happen as soon as mid-March!)

Allison Brunner, LCSW, RM, Body Talks Therapy

Movement Medicine: a Somatic Approach to Personal Transformation

When the music started, I lay on the hardwood floor. Heaviness spread from my abdomen to my chest. I’d come to dance class to begin mending my heart, aching from a recent loss. But I wasn’t yet ready to move.

At the corner of the room, a friend yelped. And as the beat quickened, another dancer stomped and grunted. I realized I wasn’t alone. This was a venue where all feelings—and a variety of expressions, no matter how primal or odd-looking—were welcome.

So I closed my eyes, connected to my physical sensation of grief, and played with all of the ways it wanted to move (and not move).  Noticing the tears in my eyes, peers stepped near and around me, smiled and bowed, then allowed me space to process my feelings on my own. The group provided emotional support and a container for my emotions. With each song and successive rhythm, I experimented with tightening my body to resist the pain then expanding and breathing long, full breaths to allow it more space to be felt.

“I see dance being used as communication between body and soul, to express what is too deep to find for words.”  —Ruth St. Denis

Most of us know the physical and mental health benefits of dance: it stimulates the release of endorphins, thus reducing pain, lifting our mood, burning calories, increasing metabolism, and prompting our lymph system to flush toxins. More intriguing to me as a licensed therapist and psychospiritual healer is the opportunity authentic movement affords us to reconnect with our spirit through somatic (or body) awareness. In a culture more inclined to process life challenges through the mind or to approach personal growth via intellect, dance offers a deeper, more transformative experience: aligned with our true selves, we can transmute thought-induced suffering and shift long-term our limiting beliefs about ourselves and the world.

Human beings need time for self-contemplation, meditation, or any sort of activity that helps us get in touch with our subconscious or inner process or to see how or where we get stuck. Through mindful movement, we can meet ourselves in a new (and perhaps more enjoyable) way, noticing the postures and gestures that hint at our deeper patterns. We can also decide where we’d like to break free or choose a new way of walking in the world.

A ballet teacher pointed out to a peer when we were younger dancers that she tended to move along the sidelines or fold her shoulders shyly when in the center of the room. In a 5Rhythms class years later, she explored why it was important to stay small and noticed what happened as she experimented with taking up more space by making larger, more dramatic movements. Memories buried since childhood surfaced, and she reconnected with her younger, more creative self who once believed in her greatness. In time, her style became less rigid, more expressive, and thus began years of positive transitions for her in her career and relationships.

Movement Medicine, a transformational dance class starting Thursday, February 16, in downtown Lancaster, will encourage you to connect with what within you longs to be acknowledged, healed, and transformed. We’ll center and become present to ourselves first, noticing where in our bodies we experience our emotions. We’ll then go deeper, aided by carefully chosen tunes and rhythms, and dance with the parts of ourselves that are afraid or feel unworthy and the parts that long to thrive and align with our full potential and higher selves.

No previous dance experience is required and is in fact preferred, because you won’t have to unlearn any rules. If your aim is to look professional, graceful, or even “good” at it, you may perhaps reconsider your deeper motivation for this approach to inner alchemy. For, as a professional who is trained in body-centered depth work, I invite you to come as you are, with all of your shadow, your light, and everything in between. Allow genuineness and sincerity to guide you.

We’ll meet every first and third Thursday of the month at Mulberry Art Studios21. N. Mulberry St, Lancaster, PA, 7:15pm to 8:30pm. Off-street parking is available behind the building.

Drop-ins are welcome! Bring a new participant, and you each pay half so we can grow our community. To pay by credit in advance, RSVSP here. Cost is $20.

I look forward to meeting you on the dance floor.

Allison Brunner, LCSW, Body Talks Therapy