As a life coach and energy healer, my job is to hold space. At core, my job is not really to give advice or to say wise words. In reality, the deepest, most healing aspect of what I do is to hold space for other people.
But what does it mean to hold space?
To hold space is to create an environment that is supportive for healing and spiritual awakening. (In reality, healing and spiritual awakening are one and the same.) To hold space is to act as a clear mirror for the other person: to nurture the process of the other person courageously looking within.
When one looks within, one discovers the intuition and wisdom that is already there.
Indeed, to hold space is to trust that the other person knows best—knows how to heal herself, knows how to change, knows how to grow, knows what to do. Holding space is a radical act of faith in the harmony of the Universe. Holding space is a radical act of generosity and of love.
When I first heard about the importance of holding space for another human being, I assumed it was easier than it really was. Yet, over the years, I’ve discovered that holding space can be quite challenging
Why is it challenging?
It is challenging because it requires a loosening of the ego. It requires cultivating an aura of non-judgment, non-reactivity. It requires compassion and unconditional love.
Holding this kind of sacred space, this kind of loving awareness is the ultimate gift. It is the ultimate healing force.
With this in mind, here are four tips for how to hold space for another person. You can use these strategies both in your professional healing practice or in your personal life with friends and family.
Make peace with silence
There will be moments in your meeting when silence naturally arises. This is ok.
Don’t feel like you have to fill up every moment with speaking. There may be moments when the other person wants to stare out the window and gather their thoughts. Or maybe there are moments when you are both at a loss for words, overcome by tears and strong emotions. p
Don’t rush to fill the silence. Simply allow the silence to be another participant in the unfolding scene. Welcome the silence as a friend.
Your whole world is that person
In our fast-paced, hectic society, when you give the gift of total attention, you are giving a priceless gift.
When you hold space for someone, you dedicate yourself fully.
For the time being, your whole worldis that person. Your whole entire universe. Nothing else matters; nothing else exists.
When a person comes to you seeking solace or guidance (regardless of whether that person is a friend, family member, neighbor, client, or coworker), what they really want is to feel is that they matter. What the other person ultimately wants—whether they are consciously aware of it or not—is to feel your total attention on them. They want to feel that you are truly there with them.
When you hold sacred space, it’s not the time to think about yourself or your own issues. Be “all in” with that other person. Be utterly devoted, like a lover.
Be like a child
Holding space is sacred and precious because it requires a (temporary) dropping of egoic boundaries.
When we hold space for someone, we find the courage to temporarily set aside our own separate, individual self—our own wants, desires, opinions, storyline, and beliefs. In order to hold space, we must be like a newborn baby: fresh into the world, without preconceived notions about what is right or wrong, possible or impossible. We must be simple, innocent, curious, open-hearted, sweet, and gentle.
For most of us in society, we have been trained to use our intellect as the dominant tool for processing our reality. The intellect (the ego), unfortunately, does not know how hold space. Rather, what holds space is the heart—and the quality of the heart is childlike innocence.
Recognize that holding space for someone else is facilitating your own awakening process
When we commit ourselves to the practice of holding space for another human being, what we actually also do is facilitate our own awakening.
Holding space is like meditation. When we hold space, we become clear. We become pure.
When we intentionally step out of the constrictions of our ego, the more that the flavor of enlightenment permeates every cell of our body. The more we act as a clear, open mirror for someone, the less gunk we have in the way of our own awakening.
Holding space is a gift you give … and it is also a gift you receive.
Dear friends, I’d love to hear your stories.
When was the last time you held space for someone? What did it feel like to hold space? What was scary about it? Exciting about it? Please comment below, so we can all learn together.
For years, I’ve craved solitude. I’ve wanted to live alone.
This wanting has taken a few years to manifest from heart’s desire into physical reality. First, I’ve had a lot of financial blockages I’ve had to clear. Second, dealing with the psychological after-effects of a devastating illness (that almost killed me) has been a rather slow and complicated process. My task has been to heal layers and layers of trauma.
It hasn’t been easy. The self-healing work I’ve undergone has been, at times, quite rough and tumultuous. There were months when I felt stuck and frustrated, feeling like I’d never reach my goal.
But … now … I’ve finally reached my goal! I live alone!
About a month ago, I moved into a charming, cozy little apartment, on the banks of my favorite river on the planet, the mighty Maumee, the largest river to feed into the Great Lakes.
As I sip my tea and type to you this morning, I take a look around me. No roommate. No partner for support. Just me.
This milestone is a deeply spiritual one. I’ve known, deep inside, the importance of this step to the “story of Anya.”
Living alone gives me the space and time I need for inner reflection. It gives me more silence. Less distractions. More time to meditate. More time to chant and pray. More space to discover the subtle truths of my nature.
This is a glorious time for learning.
Dissatisfaction with Success
A few nights ago, as I was washing the dishes, I found myself asking the question: “What’s next?” My mind was visualizing a chain of thoughts: selling all my belongings, hitting the road, getting on a plane, visiting ashrams, or maybe going to visit a loved one in England. My heart started pounding with excitement and anticipation.
But … wait a minute!! All the boxes haven’t even been unpacked yet—and my mind is already planning the next thing!!??
I’ve finally reached my long-awaited goal—and already I’m dissatisfied??!!
Instead of savoring and celebrating this milestone in my life, my mind is already a chaotic jumble of “what ifs” and “what next” questions. My mind wants to know what is ahead of this step.
This, my friends, is a prime example of the endless suffering of the monkey mind. Once one desire is attained, another one pops up in its place. Once one wish is granted, twelve more begin formulating.
In addition to over-planning, the mind loves to second-guess and doubt.
In the past few days, I’ve observed my monkey mind doubting whether living alone is “emotionally healthy” and wondering if perhaps I’ve wanted to live alone as a form of spiritual bypassing.
As I’m walking, a thought comes: “I wonder if I’ll ever get married again?” As I’m eating, a thought comes: “What if you get old and sick and no one is there to take care of you?” As I’m doing yoga, a thought comes: “You are selfish because you haven’t had children.” As I’m bathing, a thought comes: “You’re living a greedy life; you should really be living a life of service in an ashram or monastery.”
These questions and doubts are mind-made ghosts. They are fear-based.
When I sit in the clear light of peace and presence, after a meditation or during a Reiki session, I am one hundred percent sure that I have made the right choice to live alone—that this step is, in fact, a crucial part of my destiny.
From Planning to Patience
My spiritual awakening began while I was in graduate school. At the time, I was a classic Type A personality: a total overachiever, planner, competitive control-freak. My mind and my logical reasoning abilities were the crown jewel of my existence. I prided myself on my ability to strategize and get what I wanted from other people.
Indeed, back then I had every step of my life mapped out, with an array of contingency plans and alternate routes for “just in case.” I was the queen of planning, the queen of analysis … and, also, the queen of constant stress.
Now, fast forward ten years. What is my life like today?
Living life now is much more from the heart than from the head. I feel into the moments of life rather than analyze them rationally. I use my intuition as my guide to discover what’s right for me.
The experience of watching my mind rush ahead into the future during these past few days has been a humbling experience. The overly-intellectual tendency to plan and always be looking ahead is obviously still very much alive within me.
And, yet, it’s been so important not to judge myself. I’ve been giving myself compassion for having these thoughts. I’ve been having patience with myself for wanting to plan.
Returning to Gratitude
I do not want to be angry at my mind—for my mind is simply doing what it’s been designed to do! Indeed, the mind is a brilliant machine whose purpose is to calculate risk and weigh options.
What I want for my life is to forgive my mind and enjoy the journey. To truly be here now. I want to commune with God here in this apartment, savoring each lesson that this chapter in my life offers. I want to dive deeply into the stillness and peace of this space—my own private little meditation cave—and discover the quiet truths herein.
Whatever step I take next is simply not important. Maybe I’ll get married again; maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll join an ashram; maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll have children; maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ve live alone for the rest of my life; maybe I won’t.
The next step doesn’t matter. In fact, on a certain level, the steps after this one do not even exist! Past, present, and future are limited concepts of the limited human brain. On an ultimate level, on the spiritual level, all that is real is the timelessness that I sense now as I type these words to you. I am in the flow. I have no worries, no questions about my future. All that exists are the click of these keys, and the chirp of robins outside my window.
I am peaceful; I am happy; I am alone and loving it.
Indeed, gratitude fills my being. I have this new wonderful space, this new beautiful home.
A high frequency is a state of being where life feels fun, happy, carefree, creative, peaceful, and joyful. Life just seems to flow.
Striving to attain a high frequency state is not selfish. It is, in fact, good for the whole planet. When we are enjoying a high frequency state, we are feeling a sense of unity, a sense of oneness—thus, we are not only feeling loving towards ourselves, but we are also filled with love and compassion for everyone else, too.
Ever notice how happy people tend to be generous with others? That’s because people with overflowing, happy hearts have so much to share. When even one person is able to reach a high frequency, everyone around them benefits.
My friends, here is a list of 11 ways you can quickly raise yourself into a higher frequency in your day-to-day life.
I can personally attest to the amazing power of all these practices, as they have radically helped me shift my own consciousness from that of a depressed, nervous, traumatized person to someone who radiates peace and joy, and who now coaches others how to do the same.
Eat high vibrational foods.
This is so important—and delicious! High vibe foods include raw fruits/veggies, nuts, seeds, healthy fats such as avocados and coconut oil, and gluten-free whole grains such as brown rice and quinoa. Whenever possible, eat organic and eat local.
These types of foods I just mentioned have a higher ratio of life force energy. These foods help us to feel physically good, and also to spiritually awaken.
“Just for today, do not worry.”
This is one of the core Reiki principles. Every day when we wake up, we can remind ourselves that, just for today, we will not waste any of our precious life force energy in the act of worrying. There’s no sense in stressing about tomorrow, because tomorrow doesn’t exist right now! Rather, what exists right now is our chance to enjoy the adventure of life. So why waste it stressing?
Enjoy the signs and synchronicities of life.
When we notice a repeating pattern of numbers or when we cross paths with a certain animal over and over, we can stop and ask ourselves: What is the deeper meaning here? What is the Universe trying to tell me? What is the special message?
Meditate every day.
Meditation is just as important to our wellbeing as brushing our teeth or exercising. When we meditate, we tap into our infinite nature of being. We begin to touch that mystical I AM presence. We slowly lose our (false) sense of separateness, and, as our mind calms, we develop an unshakable inner peace.
Be intentional about the media you consume and the messages to which you are exposed.
As children, we are exposed to dense networks of conditioning. This conditioning keeps us (temporarily) trapped in old-paradigm patterns of fear and control. Schools, governments, television, mainstream music…all of these are tools for lower frequency beliefs to confuse us and cause us to forget who we truly are.
The lower frequency beliefs would have us believe that we are not worthy unless we have a fancy car or have “achieved” certain things, such as a having a “successful” career, a huge house, marriage, and children. Question these beliefs.
You are infinite consciousness! You are immortal Spirit! You are a soul, temporarily residing in human form!
Instead of consuming the old-paradigm media, instead seek out nourishing media such as books written by meditation teachers or music composed by mystics and yogis. As you decide which books to read, what music to listen to, and what films to watch… ask yourself: What seems to be the intention of this author or artist? Does this media intend to uplift my Spirit? Does this media help me to feel my intrinsic worth as a human being? Does this media make me feel happy or peaceful? Does this media help me remember who I truly am—or does this media simply serve to numb or distract me?
Intend to surround yourself with only positive messages of love that will uplift your frequency.
Periodically unplug from screens.
When we are constantly attached to social media, our phones, and email…we are attuning ourselves to a ridiculously fast-paced rhythm of life that is not conducive to a high frequency.
When my clients come and see me complaining of stress, I recommend a very powerful (and sometimes seemingly quite scary!) plan of action … I recommend that they take one day per week for a “screen-free day.”
A screen-free day is where you chill out, slow down the pace, and detox from screens. Why? By doing so, your nervous system relaxes and your frequency rises.
On these special screen-free days, I recommend you spend a lot of time out in nature and doing things that are nourishing for your body and soul, such as exercising, cleaning your home, cooking delicious healthy foods, or spending time with loved ones.
“Just for today, do not anger.”
This is another one of the core Reiki principles. This principle reminds us to avoid taking out our anger on other people. Of course, as human beings, anger will sometimes naturally arise within ourselves. That is OK—but the question is: Can we not let it overcome us and cause us to lash out?
When you feel yourself getting triggered into anger, take a few moments and simply focus your attention on your breath. Step away from the person or situation that is triggering you, and take a walk outside or simply go into another room. Focus your attention on the physical sensations of breathing, and allow yourself to calm down. Simply observe the feeling of anger rising and then falling away.
Spend time communing with plants and animals.
The natural world is a veritable feast of high vibrational enjoyment! Being around plants and animals raises our frequency because these lovely creatures give us permission to let go of all of our stressful human mind-worries. Nature allows us to be peaceful, playful, and totally in-the-moment.
Whenever possible, surround yourself with the beauty of the natural world. Being in nature is such a simple yet potent medicine. I always tell my clients: “A barefoot walk in the park is the best antidepressant you will ever take!”
Move your body!
The most important thing is to choose physical activity that feels fun for you. Too many people drag themselves to the gym in a kind of grim “I should” attitude.
I personally love to dance. I do it as often as I can. Dancing allows my inner child to come out and play—and my waistline is slimming down as a nice side effect! When we move our bodies, we allow stagnant energies to be released, thus resulting in a higher vibrational state.
Interact in public spaces with a sense of service.
If you are a highly sensitive person, you probably sometimes dread going to energetically dense/chaotic public spaces such as grocery stores, doctors’ offices, banks, bars, malls, or crowded sports events. Indeed, places where lots of people congregate tend to feel overwhelming or upsetting for those of us who are sensitive.
You do not, however, need to be at the mercy of these unpleasant sensations! You can rise above. It’s all about shifting your mindset.
When you are required to enter a public space, view it with a sense of service. If you know how to do energy work, send waves of healing energy into the room and send silent blessings to each person you see. Or you can visualize a soothing bubble of golden light around yourself—a bubble that expands outwards to protect you, and also radiates outward to uplift those who are present around you.
When you visit public spaces, instead of feeling fear, you can use this opportunity to serve your fellow humans. You can understand that your very presence is a gift. No one else may consciously appreciate it—but that’s OK. You don’t need praise. Being able to rise above the negativity and feel a high frequency amidst the chaos is reward enough!
Look into the mirror every day and say to yourself: “I love you.”
When you talk to yourself the way you would talk to your best friend, you are raising your frequency. You are finding the Beloved within. p PP P P P
Today we will dismantle the second major myth about work. (Please see Part 1 to learn about the first myth.)
Myth #2: Resources are scarce, so it is necessary to compete.
The myth of competition has been so embedded into our consciousness that we might not even notice it. It’s been drilled into us since we were little kids. Remember in your school textbooks, the stories about Darwin and evolution? Ideas about how “nature” is a harsh and brutal survival of the fittest?
Did you ever think about who wrote those textbooks?
The people who wrote those textbooks, the people who promote the myth of competition is propagated by those who are not yet spiritually awake. These are ignorant people, clouded by deep misperceptions about how life really works.
The myth of competition and survival of the fittest serves the wealthy elite—but it certainly doesn’t serve you or me.
Simply put, the myth of competition serves to excuse bad behavior by those who would like to mentally justify their actions of greed.
If we believe that the Earth has scarce resources, then we will, naturally, feel justified in fighting over them and not playing together as a team. We will allow hierarchy. We will not cooperate. We will turn against our brothers and sisters, mistakenly seeing our fellow humans as enemies rather than as family.
The myth of scarcity creates fear, which leads us to work at jobs we don’t like.
Here are some of the common fear-based ideas we have, that stem from this outdated myth, that keep us trapped in passionless jobs:
It’s better to have a job I don’t like than it is to be homeless
It’s better to have a job I don’t like than it is to or to be a burden to my family or to “the system”
It’s OK that I don’t like my job because I’m lucky to have a job at all—so many other people are unemployed…so I shouldn’t complain
My boss is a real jerk, but hey, I’m grateful that he hasn’t laid me off yet
I’m not happy here, but at least I have health insurance and a retirement package
I’m not happy here with this salaried job, but at least I get a vacation every year
I have to stay in this job because I have to make my mortgage payment and car payment
If I quit this job, someone else will take it
If I start my own business, I won’t have any security and what if things don’t work out? At least with this job, I have a safe, steady paycheck
There’s too much competition out there to start my own business. Where will my clients come from? Who would really want what I have to offer? It’s all just too risky.
I have invested so many years into this career. To walk away now would mean failure.
I want to get to the top, even if it means I sacrifice some happiness every day. The stress is worth it in order to achieve my dreams.
As awakening coach Isabella A. Greene says, we humans are waking up to “a new paradigm of purpose and sharing our gifts.”
Indeed, humanity is evolving to understand that we are in this together. Truly, there is no such thing as competition—there are only our brothers and sisters. We can take each other’s hands, and walk this exciting path of work—together.
As we wake up, as we find our true selves on our spiritual path, we realize that we are stronger than the 1% elite, because our powers are the powers of love and sharing. We have the power of the entire Universe behind us!
As we share, we infinitely multiply the resources that exist. We see that resources are not scarce when they are shared sustainably and equally. For example, programs like regenerative agriculture show us that the concept of abundance is not just a silly new-age pipe dream, but an actual concrete reality that can be manifested.
Currently, the world economy produces enough food to feed every single person on the planet. If this is so, then why the heck are people still starving? Why are women, children, indigenous peoples and minorities struggling to make ends meet? The answer to this vexing question is simple: Humanity as a whole is still running the old programs of scarcity and competition. These programs keep us enslaved: sad, desperate, and in poverty.
In this New Earth paradigm we are co-creating, we share light (knowledge) with others, and then they share it with others … and then they share it with others … and so on and so on …
We are so powerful! The process of awakening has begun, and it cannot be stopped!
If we consciously change our ideas about work, the consequences will have a ripple effect that will, quite literally, change everything in humanity.
As the old systems fall apart, we can, finally, begin to free ourselves from the mentality of competition and see our brothers and sisters as allies. We are in this together. Each of us has a unique contribution to share: a contribution that will leap us out of bed every morning—excited to share, learn, grow, and discover, together.
If you’ve found this blog, chances are, you’ve been asking yourself this question a lot lately.
Well, you’re in good company! Welcome to the deep question zone. These days, so many of us are asking deep, profound questions about what it means to live with purpose and passion.
As we wake up to the joy of living, as we awaken to our true identity in this time that many of us call “The New Earth,” we realize there are some old ideas about work that we no longer wish to support. We realize that it would be in our benefit to release these old ideas and adopt new, more empowering beliefs in their place.
It is indeed time for a radical restructuring of belief about work!
In this post, I’ll debunk one of the major myths about work from the old paradigm. (In my next post, I’ll debunk the second major myth. Stay tuned!)
These myths are fear-driven and energetically keep us stuck in patterns that do not allow for us to live our lives to the most beautiful fullest.
Once these myths are cleared from our minds, we can begin to truly plan for our beautiful future—for what truly excites us!
Myth #1: Work is hard.
Did your parents ever tell you that work is hard? I bet they did. For most of us, our parents, grandparents, teachers (and pretty much everybody else!) told us, over and over and over again, that work is hard, that work sucks.
The idea that work sucks is so prevalent in our global human society. However, we are beginning to question it. We are beginning to break free.
As we question it, we ask ourselves: Whom does this myth really serve?
Well … this myth serves certain people, but it certainly doesn’t serve you or me!
To put it simply, the myth that work is hard serves a wealthy elite: the tiny sliver of population (“the 1%”) who control the financial systems and wish to keep you enslaved in subsistence/survival living.
If we believe the myth that work is hard, then we will sheepishly slave away, plugging away at work we dislike, for crappy pay—while their pockets grow ever-fuller.
This myth keeps us trapped.
If we believe that work is hard, then our standards for how employers treat us is going to be low.
If we believe that work is hard, then we won’t ask ourselves if we truly enjoy the work. We will just do it, like a robot, because … well, we gotta earn a paycheck, right?
In truth, work is meant to be a beautiful, life-giving, nourishing experience! Work is meant to be serve others in their awakening and healing process, as well as serve ourselves, serve our own curiosities and passions and learning goals.
In the New Earth paradigm, the giving and the receiving are One. There is equal joy in both.
I remember the first time I ever got paid for giving a Reiki healing session. I remember the woman handing me the cash. I stared at it for a long time, in nervousness and disbelief. I thought: “Wow, I’m actually getting paid to do this???”
At that time, I actually felt quite a bit of guilt for accepting money for doing something that was easy and that I actually enjoyed. Back then (this was about 7 years ago), there was that old programming deep within me that said, “Hey, work is supposed to suck. You are only supposed to get money for doing things that you dislike.”
It’s taken me a few years of intentional self-work and deprogramming to unravel the myth that work is hard. I’m currently in the final stages of learning this lesson.
I realize that not only do I wish to receive money for doing what I love—but that doing so is a requirement for the kind of life I want to create! I want my life to be a testament to others for how life can be in the New Earth paradigm. I want my life to be an inspiration.
In this new age, we are coming to see work as an expression of one’s unique soul signature. We each have particular inclinations, passions, and areas of interest that we incarnated to Earth to explore. Work is a major aspect of a human lifetime.
As we wake up out of the fear-driven old paradigm, we gather the courage within ourselves to take leaps of faith. We start our own business. Or we join an intentional community. Or we buy a cabin out in the woods and go off-the-grid.
Whatever we choose, we do it courageously, knowing that life is meant to be joyful and that the work we do is meant to feed not just our belly but our soul.
Indeed, rather than being overly difficult, work is meant to be a fun, flowing, uplifting experience. A way to invest our life force for the betterment of all.
When we are exploring our own unique passions through work, everyone benefits—because the quality of service, then, is naturally going to be higher when it is performed by those who love doing it.
Yes, of course, there’s still going to be routine, “mundane” tasks that need to get done. We’ve got to wash the dishes, chop the firewood, and clean the toilets. Fine. We can certainly work out fair, sustainable ways to share that labor. Of course! But the key is that, in the New Earth paradigm, a majority of what we’re doing on a daily basis is suited to our own unique soul. We are living out our dreams.
In the old paradigm, work is shit, and we are all expected to cram ourselves into uncomfortable little boxes in exchange for some dollars so that we can pay some bills. We drag ourselves from Monday through Friday and then fall into an exhausted heap on Saturday. Why? Is this really living? Is this really what we really came here to do?
In the new paradigm you and I are currently building, more and more of us are rising up and saying NO to the myths of the old system. We understand that what we offer to the world in exchange for monetary (and other types) of abundance are, truly, works of art.
Through our awareness and joy, we become a channel for the Divine, and birth our own unique manifestations into the world. In this way, work is never drudgery, but always an ecstatic adventure into the sacred unknown.
A few minutes into the dance, and my eyes begin to burn with tears. My breath comes faster and faster.
This is the moment of the dance. Here it is: the moment of the unveiling. Today, the act of dancing is like looking into a mirror after rolling around in the mud. It’s a bit scary.
This is the moment of the dance; the time when the fear is released. There is a gorgeous song playing, haunting female vocals. I am allowing every note of it to invade the universe of my cells. I am one with the song.
Sometimes, as I dance tonight, I am a soft and subtle priestess: swirling, delicate, my wrists articulating the swoosh and grace of my subtle gossamer being—and, at other times, I am a forceful, angry, ferocious masculine beast: my feet kick and stomp, my fists pump and punch the air. I am hungry; I want blood.
The tears come faster now. Wet and thick like sludge. Some of these tears fall onto the carpet underneath my feet, and some of them fall into my open mouth and I digest them. These tears are primal and necessary. I must release them.
These tears let me know that I have accidentally taken on too much weight, lately, from the world. I have absorbed too much from the (seeming) brokenness around me: the poverty, the violence, the hatred, the fears. The bruised woman, tattooed from head to toe, who came to me for counsel, her traumatized child at her hip, who barely made eye contact. The friend who I watch killing himself with every cigarette. The glaring president on the television screen who says “build the walls”…
… somehow, somehow, in these past few days, since my last dance, that woman with the tattoos, that friend with the cigarettes, and that president have somehow broken my heart. I have allowed them to. I have forgotten who I am.
HOW TO DANCE
The dance doesn’t have to be pretty today. The dance doesn’t have to be perfect.
These are the words I tell myself on the days when it’s tough to get off my couch. These are the words I say when I feel lazy.
The dance can be whatever it is, Anya. It can be slow or it can be fast. I can spit or I can smile. I can be wild and mean or a delicate beauty. Whatever. Just dance. Just do it! Just do whatever comes …
For no matter how awfully, no matter how awkwardly a dance might begin, it will always always end in joy—if you give it enough time.
Yes, the secret of dance is to give it enough time. Give it as much as it takes. Stand up, turn on the music, turn off the clocks, and dance. Allow the dance to feel weird or laborious until the precious moment comes when the dance is a true dance. When all the fears are gone, and the music possess you.
For the past few years, I have made the commitment to myself to dance two or three times a week. And, recently, I have just completed a 30-day dance challenge—where I danced every single day, no matter how tired, no matter whether I was in the mood.
It was incredible.
So, what have I learned about dance?
I have learned that dancing is one of the most freeing things a human being can do.
And I have learned that I, personally, love to dance alone. It has become a sacred ritual for me. I do also love going to my weekly dance class when I can, but my home dance practice is deeply fulfilling.
When I begin my dance, in my humble living room, on freezing winter nights or on sumptuous summer afternoons, I begin with a prayer and I end with a prayer. At the beginning I say, “Please make me a vessel for the divine light to dance through me.” At the end I say, “Thank you; I am so grateful for this dance.”
Yes, friends, I dance with intention; I dance as a healing art. I dance for my own sanity and for my own self-compassion. I dance to fall in love with myself.
I dance freeform. No memorized steps. Just feel what emerges.
Some days the dancing is short: ten or twenty minutes is all I need: it’s a full busy day, and I’m already feeling good.
On other days, however, the dancing is a long and twisting journey: I turn off the phones and the clocks and everything else that beeps and I promise to dance until that blessed moment comes when I begin to feel good. I wait for the serotonin; I wait for the sigh of relief and the smile. On those rather rough days, I know that nothing else is as important as my empowered decision to dance.
Dance is a commitment I have made to myself.
It is a commitment to my own evolution and healing.
On the tough days, indeed, the dance is absolutely imperative to my wellbeing. I know that until this fear departs, I am utterly useless. I cannot serve myself, let alone serve others. Until this fear subsides, what can I possibly do?
So, I dance. I dance the fear away.
I choose to dance and I come alive within the dance. I lose myself, my typical notions of what “me” is.
I blur. I become a goddess and a god when I dance: I reach both, the place where gender has no meaning. I put on my comfiest sweatpants or my sexiest skirt, and I dance until the time comes when sweat slides down my neck and I am intoxicated by the smell of my own armpits as my head thrashes from side to side. I find I actually like this smell.
And now comes the moment when I strip. I peel off all my sweaty clothes, throwing them triumphantly onto the carpet in a beautiful, crazy heap. My roommate is not home. At this moment, I am naked and dancing. At this point, I have reached ecstasy. No drugs needed, except the delicious batch of chemicals my brain has made, especially for me.
HEAL YOUR BRAIN AND YOUR BODY WITH DANCE
Where does anxiety come from?
From whence does fear originate?
Why are some people able to cure their depression while others commit suicide?
Where does the darkness come from, and how can we bring in the light?
These profound questions about what it means to be a human being are no longer simply relegated to the province of priests—now, in our modern age, scientists, sociologists, and psychotherapists are joining the dialogue.
In the holistic community, dance is being used as a treatment for depression, PTSD, autism, eating disorders, and many other conditions. There is much research out there now, showing how dance is an extremely effective healing tool.
For example, Christina Devereaux, spokesperson for the American Dance Therapy Association, describes dance as a way of shedding light upon what’s hidden within the psyche, as a way to explore, purge, and clear painful emotions. “We really believe in the body/mind connection,” she says. “Dance is a way for people to use what’s happening inside them and express it in an external, expansive way.”
In a 2015 peer-reviewed study, neuroscience researchers found that dancing boosts self-esteem, lowers anxiety, and increases psychological wellbeing.
And at the Stanford Neuroscience Health Center, for elders with Parkinson’s meet weekly to dance to live music and spoken word poetry. This “Dance for PD” class is a truly holistic therapy: it heals on the physical as well as the emotional and mental levels as well. Incredibly, the program was launched 15 years ago in Brooklyn, New York, and is now offered in 16 countries around the world!
MY OWN DANCE JOURNEY
For over three decades, I struggled to live. The combination of undiagnosed PTSD (derived from physical, emotional, and sexual abuse as a child) plus being gifted with a number of intuitive gifts and sensitivities (gifts not recognized as valid by my culture) left me disabled and suicidal. I simply couldn’t figure out how to function in the world.
In my early thirties, I had no choice but to leave behind a promising academic career, shortly after earning my PhD, due to my rapidly-disintegrating immune system and an advanced case of adrenal fatigue syndrome. (These are, unfortunately, quite common issues for those with unhealed trauma.) For a while, my friends and intentional family had to take care of me. I intuitively knew that if something didn’t shift soon, I would die.
Today, my life looks so radically different that sometimes I shake my head in grateful disbelief. I am healthier now in mind, body, and spirit than I ever have been in my entire life.
In my healing journey, I have been blessed to receive help in many beautiful forms: a highly-intuitive counselor, trusted spiritual teachers, a community of loving friends, and daily holistic practices such as reiki, raw juicing, yoga, and meditation. All of these tools greatly aided my recovery.
And it was that the final, powerful piece of my healing puzzle clicked into place a few years ago, the moment I discovered dance. It felt like nothing short of a miracle. A way to radically rewire my brain and detoxify old, clogged-up emotions.
A way to experience pure joy!
DEFINITIONS OF DANCE
Dance is moving faster than the speed of thought.
Dance is immersion in sound.
Dance is instinctive. It connects us with our ancestors, the ancient tribes who danced for rain and to celebrate the hunt.
Dance is primal and sacred. It’s an opening of the heart. It’s a healing space where we feel the music so intensely, so fully, that our bodies cannot help but move.
Dance is being possessed by the dance. The dancer becoming the dance. The body becoming a channel. A vessel of light.
Indigenous cultures throughout history have practiced dance as not only a celebration, but also as a divine healing art. During the height of my healing crisis, about six years ago, my friend Pattie, a Native American medicine woman, began to teach me how to dance. Her lessons were not formal nor were they complicated. They simply arose, organically and simply, because I was ill and she loved me.
We sat by the fire in the open air. Barefoot. Summer evening, fireflies. She began to drum. And she asks me, before the dance, “Are you finally ready to let go of your fear?”
I remember her watching me. I remember melting into the realization that she knew things that I did not. She possessed a knowledge deeper and truer than could be expressed in logical language. As I began to dance around the leaping fire, my feet stomping and grinding with Mother Earth, I wept. I moaned and sighed: anger that had been bottled since my childhood was finally leaving me.
In those beautiful moments with Pattie, I felt all the benevolent spirits who guided her nod their silent, loving assent. (Maybe those spirits were my friends, too?)
On those blessed summer evenings, I danced. I finally felt connected: to her, to her Ojibwa tribe, and to all the people of the Earth who understand the simple ways of healing.
We humans in modern cities lose a bit of life energy every day. Pollution, noise, stress, crappy jobs, poisoned food, living in squared-shaped boxes made of toxic materials. Our feet rarely touch the Earth.
Indeed, we lose our balance in one thousand ways and we become ill. We forget our connection to Source. Through sacred dance, however, we bring our awareness back into our bodies, back into our holy temples. We get our blood flowing again. We turn off our gadgets and our thinking minds, and we return to a simpler, more loving way of being.
What is dance, you ask?
Dance is a mode of reconnection. A testament to the truth that: every body, no matter how seemingly damaged, wants to heal.
Dance is a mode of evolution.
When we are dancing, we forget our stories. We forget our successes, our failures, our labels, our concepts, our To Do Lists…these all vanish, in the glory of the dance. The story of “me” dies.
And what remains? The true self. The healed self.
THE UNEXPECTED MIRACLE OF DANCE
Dance is a miracle. And we don’t even need music to do it.
Next time you’re in line at the grocery store, try and see what it feels like to gently sway your hips back and forth. Or, when you’re talking to the teller at the bank, what does flexing that smile on your face feel like? When you’re at home washing dishes, what does the soap and hot water feel like as you move your hands in rhythmical patterns across the glistening porcelain?
Can you feel the movement and graceful shapes of your body as you go through your daily life?
Can you make a game of it?
Can each moment of physical expression in this incarnation be an art form unto itself? Can life itself be a joy?
It’s time to turn up the music, my dear friends. Transport yourself to a miraculous place, beyond time and logic. No need to plan, no need to think. Just be. Just be you.
Feel the grace and splendor of your limbs, and breathe in this beautiful thing called life!
What would our world be like if we could all just sit with our sadness?
What would our world be like if world leaders frequently took time off to sit by the river and meditate? What would our world be like if CEOs felt it was okay to cry and show vulnerability?
What would our world be like if we all felt the freedom to express our authentic selves, in each moment?
Dear friends, let’s imagine such a world.
SHIFTING TO A SELF-CARE PARADIGM
How do we create this new world?
The journey begins with each one of us.
If you’re sad, simply sit with your sadness. No need to smile. No need to run to addictive behaviors. No need to lash out and point the finger of blame at someone else.
Just sit and breathe.
Just be sad. Don’t worry about doing anything in that moment. No need to pretend you are available to be nurturing to others when you cannot.
You must fill your own glass before you can share with others.
Let’s all just sit in our sadness from time to time. Let’s give ourselves permission to do that.
Let’s sit with our tears. Our heartbreak. Our grief and confusion.
And during those periods, if it feels right, we can phone a loved one and ask for support. We can seek a professional healer. A massage therapist. We can call in sick to work. Take an epsom salt bath. Dance naked in the living room and sweat out the pain. Play some healing music. Do whatever it takes to feel and be present.
Through your commitment to your own healing journey, you give permission to the rest of the world to adopt a new paradigm of self-care and compassion. You help humanity shift.
And … here’s the ironic thing. Once we are reminded that it’s okay not to smile, that it’s okay to drop our masks and be our genuine authentic selves … we often find that what is most genuine and most authentic is a clear space of love.
Even when we find ourselves in the throes of anxiety and depression, what we find, underneath, if we let ourselves surrender to that space of pure feeling for just a little while, is that a vast space of love that opens up.
In other words, once we give ourselves permission not to smile, we may find that, rather quickly, we are ready to smile again.
TELLING THE TRUTH OF THE DARK WITHIN THE LIGHT
Chances are, if you are reading this article, you identify as a helper, healer, caregiver, lightworker, or wayshower. You understand, intuitively, that your presence on this planet is a source of inspiration for others. You have deep compassion in your heart and want to relieve suffering.
People like us, we are born to feel. Born to help. However, we must temper that natural inclination with giving ourselves permission to be authentic to ourselves and to always look after ourselves first.
This is not wrong or selfish! By loving ourselves, we build and strengthen ourselves so that we may then go out into the world and use our own life as a testimony to others.
As we love ourselves and set the example, it is important that we remember to tell the truth of the dark within the light.
If we hold ourselves to overly strict, rigid standards about “always being positive” or “always bringing the light”, then we may inadvertently carve a mask on top of our natural face.
The darkness (sadness, grief, etc.) has much to teach us about acceptance and unconditional love, too. The darkness is a wonderful teacher.
In Thich Nhat Hanh’s essay “The Dandelion Has My Smile”, he asserts that forcing ourselves to smile when we feel sad is a good practice, because eventually that forcing will become genuine. While I do agree that there are certain situations in life where it’s good to stretch ourselves out of our stale comfort zones and cultivate gratitude even in the worst of situations, I also think that his advice misses the point for some of us who hold the martyr archetype or those of us who tend to over-carry for others.
Indeed, I believe that we can go overboard on always feeling the need to smile. We can get hooked on “always being the shiny happy one.” We can become addicted to it, in an egoistic way, creating a split between the sad self we feel in private and the happy shiny self we display in public. This can only lead to disjointed, schizophrenic feelings of isolation and despair.
As a highly sensitive person and empath, I have felt for many years that is my duty to smile and make eye contact with every person I see on the street and in public spaces. And now … I realize the fallacy of that belief.
On the one hand, my intention has been good: I have wanted to use my life, every waking moment, to be a shining light, helping wake others to their own power and divinity. Such an intention has indeed brought great joy into my life.
On the other hand, that day in the park was terrible. (Please see Part 1 of this article.) My obligation to be smiley felt more like a burden than a blessing. I felt like a fake, a sham. More than anything, I wanted to just hold my own hand and not speak to anybody. I wanted to just walk by everybody without a word or even a glance.
This realization—about wanting to be real in public—is something that many of my friends and clients are realizing, too. There seems to be something in the air, at this time on our planet, about wanting to make peace with our emotions.
Indeed, we as human beings have an aching desire to show all the parts of ourselves. Not just the shiny parts.
I desperately want to show the Anya without the makeup. To show her tatters and scars. I don’t want or need to show this side to everyone, of course (especially not the narcissists or those misguided souls who delight in harming others), but I do want to show this side of me more and more to a growing number of loved ones, clients, colleagues, and intimates.
I don’t want to create a false image of myself on this blog or in my life in general.
I want to show the real me to you: the good, the bad, and the ugly. I want to give you the chance to embrace me for all my facets: my dark, as well as my light.
I want to be real.
SHARING OUR DEEPEST QUESTIONS TOGETHER
As we awaken further and further, we dive into the deepest of questions.
Who am I? What is life? What am I doing here? What is the point of all of this?
As I write this article now, I am asking: Who the heck is Anya Light?
As I pause to sip my tea, I smile, knowing that, ultimately, Anya Light is a label. A concept. A reference point in a sea of mysterious energy.
Paradoxically, when I think of life in this way, my body relaxes. I take myself down off the hook of needing to be perfect, and I can just enjoy my life—just as it is, just as I am.
Is Anya Light always blissful and bursting with light? No. Is she always compassionate? No. A fully enlightened yogini? Certainly not.
Here are some truths about the realities of living as “Anya Light.”
I am the archetypal “wounded healer.” I have come to know healing only through intensely plunging into the depths of suffering.
I have pulled myself out of some very dark holes, and I teach others how to do the same.
These holes that I dealt with can be described as chronic illness, suicidal depression, and PTSD. Even though I am healthier now than I have ever been in my entire life, and even though I facilitate safe spaces for others to heal themselves, I sometimes still have relapses.
Sometimes when I’m lacking food or sleep or when stress hits, certain old PTSD symptoms flare up. On these days, I am sad and frightened, like a little child. (Part of healing from trauma is the undeniable fact that even after the worst has passed, and even after the time has come to let go of the label PTSD, sometimes symptoms still come back.)
The truth is: Anya Light is not always light.
Sometimes I’m so fearful of this world that I hide myself in my apartment.
As an empath, I get super overwhelmed sometimes. I feel too much: the terror, horror, and injustice that is unfortunately commonplace in our modern world. Sometimes I cannot comprehend or cope with it!
Why would people pay good money to sit in a theater and watch violence on the screen and consider that “entertainment”? Why would people start rumors and gossip about their coworkers? Why would a parent fail to hug their child? Why would politicians steal money out of pension funds? Why would there ever be such a thing as homelessness? These are the questions I ask that I do not have answers for—and they sometimes send my head into a worried, tired spin.
Sometimes … the truth is … living on this planet just seems like too much. And I lose my sense of who I am and why I’m here.
But, dear friends, I don’t want to hide any longer! I don’t want to be overwhelmed by the world’s madness. I want to come out of hiding.
I want to say to the world “Hey, I’m sensitive and that’s okay!” I want to show others my tears and fears. I want to hold so many hands. I want to surrender to the light that resides within, no matter how dark that light might sometimes appear to be.
I want to be the change I want to see in the world.
I want to reveal my vulnerability.
I want to let others truly see me.
I want to be the change.
As you ponder all that I’ve shared with you, I encourage you to read, re-read, and journal about the following questions. Bring them up with your friends and loved ones. Seek answers, throw out the answers, laugh, and start again.
What is it you desire to experience in this lifetime?
What is your purpose?
Are you willing to show your true self?
Who is your true self?
What are the emotions you’ve quarantined or dismissed as “not evolved”?
Are you ready to come out of hiding?
Are you ready to show the light and dark within you?
Recently, I was walking in the park near my home. It was a beautiful day outside: sunny, warm, blue sky.
But … inside … I felt rotten.
I had slept poorly the night before. I was going through some difficulties at work. My brain was tied into a million worried knots.
My reason for going to the park was to relax. I wanted to reconnect with the simplicity of nature. I needed to breathe and reboot. My plan was to be alone, without words, without other people, and just be with the trees and allow my emotions to flow.
However, when I began to walk the myriad paths through the sycamore and oak, I began to pass by many people from my small town. It was strangely crowded at the park that day. Apparently, my idea to take advantage of the gorgeous afternoon in the sunshine was not my idea alone!
As I passed person after person, I realized, suddenly, that I been forcing myself to smile at all of them. I had been putting an artificial tone of cheer in my voice and had been saying “hello!” and “good afternoon!”…when all I really wanted to do was cry.
I wanted to feel and really allow the sadness. I didn’t want to be fake. I didn’t want to smile.
But I was fake that day. The smiles and the hellos were forced.
Why did I feel an obligation to be cheerful? Why had this happened?
THE BEAUTIFUL DESIRE TO HELP
If you are a naturally giving or naturally upbeat person, you may wish you could smile all the time. Of course! It’s lovely to want to smile.
If you are a caregiver, parent, healer, therapist, minister, motivational speaker, teacher, coach, or helper of any kind, it is your natural tendency to want to uplift others. You want to make this world a better place. You want to bring the light. That is so awesome!
And … yet … we can get ourselves into tricky situations when we fail to honor our authenticity. When we force ourselves to smile or try to help too much—at the expense of our own needs.
I’ve seen it all too often. The genuine desire to be a beacon of light becomes, unfortunately, the mask we feel obliged to wear 24/7. It becomes a heavy burden, a façade. Slowly, over time, we begin to live solely for others, instead of acknowledging that we ourselves sometimes need help too.
Sometimes we are sad, too.
GIVING YOURSELF PERMISSION TO BE REAL
My dear friends, you don’t always have to smile.
Sometimes you have a bad day. Sometimes you feel like shit. Sometimes you don’t get enough sleep or you catch a cold. Sometimes you are triggered by this crazy world: politics, taxes, paying your bills, the cruel treatment of children or animals.
You don’t always have to smile.
You don’t always have to shine.
For example, if you’re feeling lousy today and you’ve got to go to the grocery store, cut yourself some slack. Visualize a protective bubble of light around yourself and just breathe. Love yourself. Go to the store and don’t worry that you don’t have the energy to do what you normally do, such as make abundant eye contact with the cashier or cheerfully chat with your neighbor.
If you’re feeling low, it’s okay to turn off your “empathy button” for a while. Be in your own world. Give yourself permission to be exactly who you are in this moment: empty, flat, tired, and sad.
You don’t always have to smile. You don’t always have to be shiny. You don’t always have to be the perfect embodiment of joy, confidence, peace, and happiness. You don’t always have to bring the light. You don’t always have to help.
THE WONDERFUL TEACHINGS OF JIM CAREY
The comedian Jim Carey is a wonderful example of someone who has realized the value of being genuine.
In recent interviews and speeches, Carey talks a lot about letting our masks drop. Having the courage to set them down and be real.
He reminds us the value of being raw and authentic, genuine and vulnerable. In order to fully step into our beautiful humanity, it is essential to intentionally show our weakness to others. By allowing ourselves to be seen as “imperfect,” then we give others permission to relax and do the same. In this way, more compassion comes into the world. And more realness.
Carey’s message is the same as countless sages throughout history. He realized that only through daring to be vulnerable can our true light shine through.
The true light of God, Divinity, the Universe (whatever you want to call it) is within us—but if we pretend to be feeling that light when we are not, we are only hurting ourselves.
Sometimes, what we need to do is cry.
Sometimes, what we need to do is reach out to a trusted friend and say, “I need help—can we get some tea and talk?”
Sometimes we need to go to our Mum and say “Hey Mum, I’m scared. Can I have a hug?”
Sometimes we need to call in sick to work.
Sometimes we need to say “no” or let someone down in order to take care of ourselves.
Carey tells us about how, early in his career, while he was striving to become famous, he not only played the roles in the scripts, but he also played a role in his larger life: that role was called “Jim Carey”! But, he didn’t realize that he was doing this until he began to spiritually awaken.
In his awakening (the unraveling of his ego), he realized that in order to continue his evolution as a soul, he must drop even the role of Jim Carey! He must dare to let others see him, truly seehim, moment to moment.
Who is underneath the mask, the persona?
When we make the choice to step outside the boundaries of the tense, anxious, ego-self (even if only for a few minutes, even if only for a little bit), we will find a free-flowing relaxation. A loosening. A delicious unravelling. A peace. And we will realize, incredibly, that we are not limited to form.
We are boundless.
What is underneath the mask is what the mystics have always spoken of. The collision of this moment and the infinite. The conflagration of spirit and emptiness. The person and the being. The Tao. The way. The everything.
Jim Carey dares us to be authentic.
And so do I.
What I learned in the park that day was a turning point in my life.
I realized that I needed to take care of myself first. And what that sometimes means is having the courage not to smile. To just feel and honor my own sadness. To just be human.
Even the inspiration of seeing yourself as a healer or a helper can become a false idol, a mental image. If we believe we “are” that thing that we do—even if it’s positive such as being a teacher or a nurse or a minister or whatever—then we will ultimately drown in that form. We will ultimately sink, into the darkness of confusion and untruth.
If we can relax our human role identity, it is then, paradoxically, that we can allow the full range of humanness—all our sometimes seemingly crazy, chaotic emotions—to emerge and be truly felt.
THE BEAUTIFUL TEACHINGS OF BRENÉ BROWN
Another person who has helped bring these lessons of authenticity to the light of our collective consciousness is Brené Brown.
In her infamous TED talk “The Power of Vulnerability” (with over seven million views on Youtube), she teaches how being vulnerable is a radical act of courage that can change the world. She shows how vulnerability is ultimately an empowering act: one we can intentionally choose in order to liberate ourselves from fear and step more fully into our joy.
Instead of reaching for that banana nut muffin and a beer, as she reminds us, do we have the courage to really feel what we are feeling? Do we have the courage to just breathe and be, instead of rushing to numb ourselves with food, drugs, or other addictive behaviors?
Can we find the courage within ourselves to reach out for help and be honest with those we love about our challenges?
Can we be honest about our sadness and our fears?
Brown’s questions are potent and transformative. In a world that’s waking up, it’s exactly what we need to hear.
She helps me remember that I don’t always have to smile. Sometimes I can be sad, and that’s okay.
THE CONTINUING CONVERSATION
This post has two parts, my friends. Please tune in next week, as I explore this conversation further.
In the meantime, I’ll leave you with two simple questions:
Let’s talk about the foods we put into our mouths and how that relates to healing trauma. p
In my own journey of healing PTSD and adrenal fatigue, as well as in my work with traumatized individuals across a variety of therapeutic settings, I have discovered that diet plays an incredibly huge role in how quickly we can recover. Quite simply, diet is one of the key, core elements of healing. p
Many of us are familiar with a standard group of recovery modes for healing trauma: talk therapy, energy work, meditation, exercise, hypnotherapy, and somatic practice. Many people do not yet recognize, however, just how powerful diet can be. p
In this article, I’ll discuss 3 keys to a trauma recovery diet that promotes swift healing. p
Before I proceed, however, here is a quick caveat. I am not a medical doctor. I am not a medical professional. In no way does this article constitute a prescription or official medical advice. Rather, what I am gently suggesting here is simply personal opinion, based upon my own personal experience and research.
Nourish your body with plenty of antioxidant-rich foods.
Antioxidants are natural substances that promote healthy circulation of energy through increased blood flow. Healthy circulation helps the body cleanse itself of toxins as well as reduce out-of-control inflammation. p
As you can imagine, getting enough antioxidants is important for every human being… but for PTSD and trauma survivors, antioxidants are especially crucial! Antioxidants help uncoil tension and stuck energy within the body, promoting the peace and relaxation that is so necessary to regaining a sense of safety in the world. p
Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and beans are rich in antioxidants. Some specific ones that have the highest levels are: blueberries, blackberries, goji berries, pecans, artichokes, elderberries, kidney beans, cranberries, cilantro, basil, and ginger.
Increase your protein intake.
A common symptom of unresolved trauma is a reoccurring sensation of feeling floaty, shaky, dizzy, unbalanced, or ungrounded. Protein helps resolve these symptoms.
The intense experience of trauma forces us to adapt. In response to the trauma, we learn coping mechanisms that allow us to numb or even energetically flee our bodies altogether. In soul healing methods, such as those discussed in the peer-reviewed article “Trauma and Dissociation“, lasting healing happens when there is a reunion between body and spirit.
Increasing your intake of protein will vastly aid in such a reunion. Protein calms the nervous and endocrine systems. On a spiritual/energetic level, protein helps us to connect more solidly with our Mother Earth. Protein helps us come back into our bodies and to feel strong and safe there.
Some foods that are incredibly high in protein are: nuts, seeds, beans, peas, lentils, brown rice, tempe, kefir, mushrooms, and spinach.
The question of whether to eat meat as a protein source is entirely up to your best judgment. Eating meat is your choice and no single rule works for everyone. At certain phases of a person’s healing journey, meat can be beneficial. At other phases, though, it can be destructive. Listen to your body. Eat a bite or two of meat and then observe your body afterwards. Do you feel renewed? Grounded? Calm? Solid? Queasy? Sluggish? Irritated? Angry? Be open to the messages your body is telling you, whether positive or negative.
If you feel that eating meat is a good thing for you at this time in your life, I encourage you to think about what’s easiest for you to digest. Allowing your digestive system the lightest possible amount of “work” frees up more energy that then is available to your body for healing. Typically, red meat and pork are the most difficult for people to digest. Fish is often the easiest type to digest.
Also, if you are going to eat meat, I suggest limiting yourself to eating only “happy meat” is a wonderful choice—meat that comes from grass-fed, free range, organic, humanely-treated animals. As trauma survivors are quite often energetically sensitive souls, it is not advised to consume meat from an animal that has suffered greatly. An animal that has been tortured (what happens in factory farms) will certainly have vibrations of fear, pain, anguish, and terror imprinted into each cell. When a human being then eats the meat from such an animal, they are—quite literally—ingesting those difficult emotions as well.
As we eat increased amounts of protein, in whatever form our bodies are asking for, we connect energetically to the Earth and we re-enter our bodies in a more balanced, grounded way. We have the energy to complete our daily tasks without overwhelm, and we build the functionality of our muscles. We become strong in the world again.
Avoid Toxic, Stressful Foods
It tends to be easier for people to add elements to their diet rather than take them away. The human ego does not like change, and certain foods and drinks are often habitually consumed for reasons other than health—they are consumed as a kind of drug, to bring relief, comfort, and numbing. Thus, please be aware that what I am about to share with you may be triggering to the ego.
When we are healing trauma, it is an absolute necessity that we do everything we can to calm our physical body. To put our body in certain conditions that will promote peace and tranquility. When we are traumatized, our fight-or-flight mechanisms have gone haywire, and our bodies are typically poised at the edge of fear on a consistent basis. Unhealed trauma means an overly-adrenalized endocrine system and an overly-stimulated nervous system.
In trauma recovery, there is a core group of substances that need to be gradually released for a full healing process to occur. In general, the core group of foods to avoid are: processed sugars, processed flours, foods laden with artificial chemicals, foods with pesticides, GMOs, alcohol, and caffeine.
The last two on this list—alcohol and caffeine—are the most toxic, stressful substances of all.
The damaging effects of alcohol
Why is alcohol important to avoid? The ethanol content found within alcohol causes blood pressure and heart rate to increase. This puts the body into a kind of heightened state that negatively impacts the ability to get a good night’s sleep. For traumatized individuals, getting plenty of deep, rejuvenating sleep is utterly crucial to the healing process. Sleep is the time when the body is most able to clear and cleanse the negative effects of trauma.
Let’s not beat around the bush. Alcohol is a poison. True, it may help us temporarily relax, but only through sending toxins to the brain that dull our senses. Even a single alcoholic drink can do considerable damage because it puts strain on our liver and immune system. For traumatized individuals, our systems are already severely strained. Adding alcohol into the mix is only going to delay our full healing.
The damaging effects of caffeine
When I finally gave up caffeine a few years ago (and this included chocolate), my body made a rapid shift. In the short space of a few months, my panic attacks were greatly reduced and my sleep was vastly improved. I found that I was able to have greater concentration, focus, and balance during the day, because now I was free of the roller-coaster of caffeine highs and crashes.
Caffeine triggers a release of adrenaline and cortisol. For those in trauma recovery, this is the last thing we want to do! Instead, soothing caffeine-free herbal teas are what will heal us: chamomile, lavender, bergamot, dandelion, and ginger are some of my favorites.
Contrary to popular belief, caffeine is not a harmless substance. Just like alcohol, caffeine is a poison. It is a toxin. It hurts not only trauma survivors, but everyone. It’s a substance that puts undue stress on the endocrine and nervous systems. It is incredibly difficult for the body to digest. And it also is quite physically and emotionally addictive.
I often talk to my friends, family, and clients about the devastating effects of caffeine. In fact, I often discuss the parallels in mindset between our over-worked, stressed out, highly-caffeinated culture (with a Starbucks on every corner) to our big pharma culture, where we so often turn to quick fixes like pills to “fix” us. Simply put, a cup of coffee, caffeinated tea, or a bar of chocolate appears like a quick, easy fix for feeling sleepy. And yet, the long-term effects on the body are horrendous.
In truth, caffeine does not heal or fix or aid us at all! In fact, when we ingest caffeine, what is truly happening is that the body is being triggered into an artificial fight-or-flight mode. Thus, we are over-stressing our bodies and addicting ourselves to ever-present feelings of unease and anxiety.
I know from personal experience how difficult it is to release caffeine. I remember when I was sitting nervously in the office of my new holistic doctor, back in 2011. I was sipping a latté. After scanning my test results, she announced that I had an endocrine system that was functioning at levels normal for a 70-year old person (I was 30 at the time). She looked at me in the eye, concerned and grave. She said, “If you really want to heal, the first thing you must do is give up caffeine.”
I remember wanting to burst into tears right in her office. Give up caffeine? How in the world would I get through grad school? For the past three years, I had been surviving each day only by drinking two or three lattés from Starbucks. How would I make it through each day? As my mind raced with these questions, the full impact of my addiction became clear. I had, somehow, begun to equate caffeine with having the energy to live. p
It was at that moment that a quiet voice came into my mind. The voice said, “Don’t worry. You can do this.”
And I did. Giving up caffeine was one of the best things I ever did for my health.
Dear friends, as you walk this beautiful path to wellness and to a vibrant, peaceful life, please know that you are not alone. There are countless others who walk this path, too. I have walked this path, and now I’m here to tell you that you can do this. You can heal.
As you make choices about what’s most nourishing for your body, remember that the comfortable or easy choice might not always be the best choice. Sometimes making changes can require a certain amount of discipline. However, making changes is a day-by-day, often step-by-tiny-step process. Healing from trauma, PTSD, stress, or chronic fatigue doesn’t just happen overnight. Healing takes time.
Ultimately, when we set the intention to heal our body, mind, and soul from trauma, we choose a life where the most important thing is self-compassion. Through listening for what is the most compassionate choice, then we naturally and organically begin to make better choices that promote our long-term health and vitality.
Through compassion, we listen for the voice that says, “Yes, yes, dear one. You can do this.”
It is easy to heal panic attacks once you understand what a panic attack truly is. p
A panic attack is simply a message from the universe. It is a wake-up call. p
The next time you feel panic coming on, if you can remember the words I’m writing to you here, I assure you that the feeling of panic will begin to dissipate. p
I am here to tell you that you can heal your panic attacks, permanently and completely! p
Before I share the details of how to heal, please know that I deeply empathize with what you’ve been going through. I struggled with panic attacks for over a decade, stemming from a long battle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I have now reached the point in my life where I no longer have panic attacks. p
So, my friends, what is a panic attack? p
Well, on a surface level, a panic attack appears to us as a seeming loss of bodily and mental control: rapid heart rate, sweating, weakness, dizziness, nausea, shaking, unexplainable feelings of paranoia and impending doom, racing thoughts, and a wish to retreat from others and hide in a cave. p
Panic attacks feel awful and scary. They make us feel like we are our own worst enemy—like we can’t even trust our own bodies or our own minds. p
It’s a feeling of total distrust. It is fear and horror. p
But what is a panic attack, really? What is a panic attack at the deepest level? p
Dear friends, a panic attack is a message. It is an invitation from the universe to go deeper into ourselves.
Quite simply, a panic attack is the universe’s way of saying: p
Dear one, it is time for you to come back into your body. Dear one, it is time for you to come back into your body. p p
Yes, my friend, it is indeed time for you to come back into your body. That is why you have been drawn to this article. You have reached the point where you are ready to heal. p p
Panic attacks happen when our spirit (some people also call this “soul” or “life spark”) has been living primarily outside of our body for a period of time, and the pressure has built up. When the pressure builds to a certain extent, the universe brings us a panic attack, so that we are forced to retreat from the company of others and go be alone. It is through this aloneness that we begin to feel ourselves, from the inside, for the first time in a long while—or perhaps for the first time in our lives. p
A panic attack signals we have lost our mind-body connection. p
A panic attack reminds us to bring mindfulness into our lives. p
Through the seemingly “negative” experience of a panic attack, we are forced to bring our attention inward to the body.
Even though it seems negative, a panic attack is actually a good thing, because it forces a moment of mindfulness. Even though it feels scary, we are suddenly paying a lot of attention to our body’s physical sensations. We are noticing our rapid heartbeat. We are noticing our fast and shaky breath. We are noticing our dry mouth and queasy stomach. We are noticing the weakness in our limbs. We are noticing all these different sensations. p
It is the sheer act of noticing that begins to heal the disconnection from our bodies. p
Perhaps, at first, it may seem nonsensical to hear that your spirit has not been fully living inside your body. How is that possible, you ask? If I have been alive and walking around, how have I not been in it? p
Well, if you have experienced any form of abuse, trauma, chronic illness, or severe pain in your life, there is a good chance that your spirit (the indwelling spark that is uniquely you) has felt very unsafe and has tried to protect itself by not fully occupying your physical vessel. You have been, instead, hovering near and around your body. You have been near your body, but not often fully in it. p
Another scenario that can provoke the spirit fleeing the body is our genetic or karmic histories. If you have suffered in an extreme way in a past lifetime—or if your genetic heritage includes extreme trauma such as war or violence, and those core wounds have not yet been healed—then those past energetic wounds have led you to not feel safe enough to fully occupy your body. Genetic and karmic histories explain why some people who’ve had easy, pleasant, or even wonderfully pampered life experiences still have unexplainable anxiety and panic attacks. p
Another reason why you may not have felt safe inside your body is that you are an empath or a naturally gifted intuitive, but you were raised in an environment where your gifts were suppressed rather than nurtured. Thus, when you were a child, you unconsciously shut down certain chakras and partially fled your body. p
There are many, many reasons why we don’t feel safe in our bodies. Your reason(s) may be one of the ones I just listed, or it may be totally unique to you. p
Regardless of the reason, however, the point to understand is this: if you’ve been experiencing panic attacks, then, most assuredly, for some reason or another, your spirit has not been fully dwelling inside your body. In other words, your mind-body connection has been severed. p
So, how do we move forward? p
What does it mean to fully occupy the body? p
To be firmly rooted in the body is to have attention focused into the body consistently and at various intervals throughout the day. This is what mindfulness is all about: feeling the sensations of our bodies without mental judgments or mental labeling. p
To be firmly rooted in the body is to feel you are truly safe there, to feel that it is your home.
When a panic attack strikes—or if you feel anxiety building—you can prevent a panic attack, and you can heal your anxiety. Simply take a few deep, slow breaths and say the following mantra yourself: p
I am safe to come back into my body. I am safe, here, inside my body. p
And, then, simply look down at your body. Notice your hands and feet, your legs. Notice your arms and torso. Gaze at your body while breathing slowly. Bring your attention to all the various sensations within your body: the aches, the pains, the shivers, the tingles, everything. Imagine in your mind’s eye that your soul is entering your body and fully occupying it. Imagine that you are taking up residence there, inside your body, and that it is fully safe to do so. p
Our culture teaches us to neglect our body. It teaches us to poison ourselves with unhealthy foods and unhealthy lifestyles. Our culture teaches us that what others say or think about us is more valuable than what we feel within. p
Our mainstream culture is a fear-based culture. It wants to enslave us with thoughts of lack, competition, scarcity, and violence. No wonder we have panic attacks! It can feel pretty scary living on this planet right now. Even if we did not experience any major abuse in our childhood, all of us were raised on a planet where there are some people who starve to death while some people live in mansions. That is emotional abuse, plain and simple. And this emotional harshness affects us deeply and creates lasting (often subconscious) feelings that it is not safe to be here in our bodies here on planet Earth. p
All of us, to some extent, leave our bodies from time to time. We get carried away in daydreams. We sit in front of the computer for hours at a time and lose all connection with our breath and the sensations in our limbs. We stay indoors watching television and forget to go out into the rivers and forests for exercise and deep replenishment. p
We all get disconnected from time to time; we all get disembodied from time to time. p
So, when a person has a panic attack, it is a very clear and loud wake up call from the universe. p
Yes, panic feels frightening; it feels awful, yes—but that’s only the universe doing its best to grab our attention. p
My friend, you are being protected and cared for by the universe.
Because of your panic attacks, you are reading this article and pondering deeply about what it means to be a human being and what it means to be alive in a body. These are deep issues. These are issues that not everyone has the courage to explore.
And while this may seem odd to hear, I want to congratulate you for reaching this stage of your evolutionary journey. You have now thoroughly explored the land of anxiety and panic, learned all its corners and routes and territories, and now you are ready to emerge from it: deeper, wiser. p
Eventually, you will grow so confident in the fact that panic attacks are a past issue that you will feel an urge to share your wisdom with others. You will teach. You will help humanity heal. p
Thank you for being you, and blessings on your journey back into the body. p
Many thanks to the awesome folks at elephant journal, who also published this article.