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"Tuning into the physical

sensations that accompany

our thoughts can help to

clarify that feelings are generated

from within as a response

to our own thoughts and feelings,

and mobilize our ability to respond

creatively to life's challenges."
 
 

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Responding to Life's Challenges
Clearing and Centering

Darcy Lubbers, ATR, MFT
Reprinted from Whole Life Times Magazine

 

The interplay between. mind, body, and spirit in health and well-being, and in particular how our emotions affect our physical health, is gaining more attention and study in recent years here in the West. In Ayurvedic Medicine, which emanated from India over 5,000 years ago, a model for healing and preventive medicine was built on the paradigm that matter is the epiphenomenon of consciousness. We have "extended", "causal" and "subtle" bodies from which our physical bodies are created. Health is maintained by bringing harmony to each of these levels of existence, which in turn dramatically influences the others. 

In this model, the inter-connection between our thoughts and emotions, and our physical body is very important. The "subtle body" is composed of the mind, the intellect, and the ego, and is a continuum of our emotions, desires, ideas, concepts, beliefs, and self-images. It exists only in time and not in space, and has a longer "shelf life" than our physical body. The subtle body gives rise to our physical body, which is made up of matter and energy, and exists in space and time. 

So who are we? Deepak Chopra, M.D., a noted Ayurvedic expert, states that we are each "a holographic focal point through which the whole universe is expressing itself as a series of space/time events." It is the loss of the memory of our wholeness that brings disease in its wake. 

Unless a higher state of consciousness has been reached, human behavior tends to be motivated by either the avoidance of pain or the pursuit of pleasure. It is in the measures that we take to avoid pain that we interfere with the flow of nature's intelligence as it flows through the subtle body, and the result is accumulated stress. Pain as well as pleasure is an important part of the holographic continuum of human experience. And until painful experiences are fully metabolized, expressed and released, they are held both in the subtle and in the physical body, with a resulting build-up of toxicity. Remembered pain resurfaces again as anger and hostility, anticipated future pain may manifest as fear and anxiety. The energy depletion resulting from holding onto these emotions in our physiology is experienced as depression. In refusing to become intimate with our pain, we continue to build up toxicity in our system, accumulating free-radicals which interfere with the functioning of the immune system, muscle tensions that become chronic, and eventually more advanced disease processes. 

Learning how to metabolize and release our emotions can help to bring us more fully into the present moment as we live our lives. As the 12th century poet Rumi stated, "Where the past and future meet, there is only you". By interrupting the accumulation of toxicity in our physical and subtle bodies before symptoms of disease have manifested, we can practice true preventive medicine. 

What follows is a step-by-step cleansing process for the emotions. Allow yourself time for this centering process, as processing emotions occurs at a slower rate than cognitive, analytical thought. You may find that some of the more powerful emotions that arise require utilizing each step that is presented in an in-depth manner, and you may move back and forth between the steps. Other feelings may require less processing time. Let your own intuition and body-wisdom be your guide. 

1. Identification/Witnessing
An emotion is actually a physical event linked to thought. If we allow ourselves to tune inward when experiencing a strong emotion, we will feel a corresponding sensation in our bodies. Wherever a thought goes, a molecule also goes. The first and most important step is to simply acknowledge and observe that you are having a strong feeling. Observe the thought and become aware of the corresponding physical sensation at the same time. Notice if this sensation opens a pathway to memories of other times when this same feeling was experienced. If so, spend time witnessing those prior events, and the feeling connection. Begin to separate the observer from the person having the emotion. Awareness that there is a part of you that is simply observing, while another part of you is experiencing, can help you to feel less overwhelmed by the intensity of emotion. Resist impulses to automatically push feelings out of your awareness, either with substances or behaviors used addictively, such as alcohol, pharmaceuticals, nicotine, sex, TV watching, eating when not hungry, mental denial, etc. Their purpose is to perpetuate the avoidance of feeling pain through the mechanisms of escape and repression. This step is often the most difficult one because most of us have a lifetime of conditioned avoidance of pain. Noting when addictive impulses arise while in the midst of this witnessing experience is the first step toward interrupting them. Observe any underlying resistances to feeling, and then bring your awareness back to the sensations, the thought that triggered the strong emotions, and the present moment. 

2. Taking Responsibility
Tuning into the physical sensations that accompany your thoughts can help to clarify that feelings are generated from within, as a response to your own thoughts and beliefs. We can take responsibility for our feelings, and mobilize our ability to respond creatively to life's challenges. We can explore to see if we are operating unconsciously from an early belief system that has outlived its usefulness, and no longer reflects the truth of our current experience. If so, our feelings afford us the opportunity to become more current and conscious of our own powerful inner messages. When we respond in relationship to another, with strong "negative" feelings, this creates an opportunity for looking at our own discomfort with the energies expressed by the other person. Since we all have within us the entire holographic range of feelings, our discomfort results from having repressed these same energies within ourselves. People push buttons in us that are already there, providing powerful mirrors for us. Rather than blaming the other person for our discomfort, it is extremely important to acknowledge it as emanating from within, and to find ways to bring these repressed energies that have been mirrored to us into full conscious awareness. The relationship experience then can be reframed for ourselves as a bridge to freeing up energy that has been used in the service of unconscious repression, and to facilitate a return wholeness. 

3. Expression
There are many excellent pathways and tools for bringing feelings from within into conscious awareness, and concretizing and releasing them. The ones suggested here can be done alone, and they can also be done with the added support of a therapeutic setting. 

1. Writing in a journal requires only paper, a writing instrument, and your attention. After observing your thoughts and sensations, and acknowledging your responsibility for them, it can be very helpful to write in a freely-associative manner, without censoring yourself. Allow thoughts to flow easily while describing the situation and your feelings, and any memories that have emerged. 

2. "Non-dominant hand" writing provides a variation allowing for more unconscious, intuitive material to emerge. Using a large sheet of paper, to accommodate larger hand movements, either continue to free-associate, writing with your "non-dominant" hand, or else you can "interview" yourself, using your dominant hand to pose questions, and your other hand to spontaneously answer. One possible line of questioning is to "ask" the sensation in your body, which is related to the strong emotion, how long it has been there, what does it want to communicate to you, and how could you best help it to feel better? 

3. Art expression allows for the catharsis, i.e. release of feelings, present and past, in a safe way. Anger, for example, when expressed through the art, moves from inside to outside, without any of the destructiveness we associate with other modes of angry expression. Art expression forms a bridge to the part of ourselves that has remained out of our awareness, by bringing our inner images to light and allowing them to be understood. With new conscious awareness, we can then make connections between these inner images and our outdated belief systems, which we then have the opportunity to bring current. Deepak Chopra, M.D. has stated that "our physical bodies are an objective record of our life experiences, while our mind is a subjective record of our life experiences". When we can update our beliefs to what is currently true for us, our thoughts (held by our mind) will then change, influencing the way we feel, and positively affecting our mind/body physiology. 

3a. To warm-up and connect with your intuition, you may want to do a "scribble drawing". This you can begin by choosing a color that you like, then allowing yourself to scribble freely on the page. Let your hand and arm do the "thinking" for you. Have fun with your drawing, without judging it. It doesn't have to look like anything in the outside world. You can then free-associate to it, and add any details that you like. 

3b. Next you may wish to draw your feelings. This is similar to the journal writing process, but utilizes drawing instead. After observing the physical sensation and accompanying thought simultaneously, begin to draw a symbol or representation for the emotion you are having. Let your intuition guide you. The symbol may be a color and a shape, or a drawing of the situation that triggered the feeling, or a "body portrait" which includes a representation of the sensation that is occurring within the body. You may continue to draw images for other feelings that emerge as related to the first feeling. You may also draw images representing other memories connected to this emotional event. When you are finished, you may choose to add healing imagery to your drawing, or a symbol of how you would like to feel after releasing these feelings. 

4. Physical Release
Because of the physical component of feelings, they need to be released from the physical body. With journal writing and drawing, there is movement through hands, arms and upper body. It is helpful to take this physical release a step further. There are many ways to move feeling through your body including swinging your arms; note the phrase "to bear arms", signifying aggression release, or crying; which allows for the muscles of the ribcage to release tension, and for the tears to release stress hormones. You may want to try walking, yoga, one of the martial arts, dancing to music you are drawn to, breathing exercises, pounding or throwing a pillow, receiving bodywork, or one of the many forms of vigorous exercise. You may want to employ sound with your movement, for example shouting into the ocean as you swing your arms, or run on the beach. Again, stay attuned to your body, its capabilities, and the way in which it wants to experience release. 

5. Sharing
After completing the previous steps, it can be helpful to share your feelings with the co-creator of your experience, if an interaction with another person that was the trigger for your feelings, and if it feels appropriate in the relationship to discuss personal matters. Coming from a non-blaming perspective to relate your experience can help to complete your process, as this person has been an important catalyst for your growth. If this is a significant relationship and the other person is unwilling to hear about your feelings, this is then a red-flag that you are in a toxic relationship. Another option for completion is to share your feelings with a skilled therapist, especially for the more powerful emotional experiences. 

When you have finished this process, again tune into your body. Notice what your body is feeling now. Notice your thoughts as well. Congratulate yourself! You have given yourself a tremendous gift in moving through this emotional clearing process, a gift of cleansing and healing for your mind, body and spirit! 

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Darcy Lubbers, ATR, MFT
Magic of Healing West

9915 Santa Monica Blvd., Suite 108, Beverly Hills, CA 90212
tel: 310.452.7799 fax: 310.399.6111 email: Darcy@MagicofHealing.com