I’ve enjoyed following Tim Ferris in recent years (btw, I’m grateful that we showed up twice in his new book Tribe of Mentors) and appreciate his willingness to try just about anything and then report back what he learned and how it might apply to his listeners. This month I’ll take a page from Tim’s process and tell you about what I’ve been exploring to go deeper.
Last September I set the intention to grow in consciousness by deepening my connection to my body. Our body often knows things faster and more accurately than our heads or our hearts. Body intelligence is as valuable as emotional intelligence and intellectual intelligence. My goal was to tune up my ability to listen to my body and to remove anything that was blocking me from hearing its messages. Here’s how I went about that:
I discovered through Peter Levine's work that the question was not if, but rather how much and where, I/we carry trauma. I also learned that stored trauma jams and distorts the signals of consciousness the body is sending. Finally, I learned, and have been experiencing, that trauma held in the body can be released permanently and efficiently. What’s wild is that I don’t even need to know the content of the trauma, e.g., being bitten by a dog, falling off a bike, being bullied by a brother or abused by an alcoholic parent. The brilliance of the body is that it both stores the trauma, and when we’re ready, it will release it.
Stored trauma is a speed pass to below the line defensiveness. We might think we’re reacting to the loss of a key client (minor loss) but the body is mapping this current event to the death of our dog when we were six (big loss), and this developmental trauma drives our reactivity. Wow. We say that 95% of people live below the line 95% of the time, and this appears to be accurate at a physical level.
What I love about both these modalities is that they are incredibly efficient and don’t (at least in my case) involve a lot of words and talking. Many leaders I know are averse to therapy, and one primary reason is that it can appear to take a long time and seemingly be going nowhere. That’s not the case with these techniques.
My somatic experiencing therapists address stored trauma by inviting me to be with body sensations as they occur and meet them with loving attention and conscious breathing. There’s nothing more to do. The body, when given the opportunity, heals itself. It’s a great example of less being more. The simple process yields powerful results. I want to be clear that at times the experience can be quite intense; having a skilled therapist facilitate the process is both necessary and friendly.
Brainspotting is a new hot modality for healing trauma. The process is simple: listen to bilateral music through headphones while the therapist moves a pointer in front of your face. The therapist stops the tip when they or you experience the body lighting up or reacting. Once this passageway to the mind/body connection is found through a visual point in the eye/brain relationship, the therapist holds the pointer on that spot and the client has their experience.
My experience has been that when the spot is located all kinds of things happen. At times the experience is like going into a deeply meditative, relaxed state. At other times flashes of pictures, memories, images come. It’s like watching a slideshow or a video, and often the body reacts (shaking, tears, changes in temperature, spontaneous laughter, open hearted love).
Again, like somatic experiencing therapy, the goal is to just be with what is occurring. There is no need to understand it or analyze it (in fact these are distractions to the process).
The results of Somatic Experiencing and Brainspotting for me have been greater peace, less reactivity, a quieter mind, and even more spontaneous joy.
I attended a ten-day Vipassana meditation retreat in January. Most people find the stimulation free environment to be challenging. There are no electronic devices, reading material or writing tools, and no communicating with the other participants in any way. The only things to do are to eat, sleep, walk, and meditate 11 hours a day for 10 days. I can see many of you booking your spot in the next event right now. Yet, almost everyone I’ve talked to before and after the retreat said that it was extremely positive and beneficial. Why?
You learn that on an experiential level absolutely nothing is permanent, and nothing is personal. The result of being able to be with all arising phenomena and not react (if only for a few moments) is a deepening experience of imperturbability and peace. Like the other modalities, Vipassana teaches that dealing with sensations in the body is the most direct way to freedom.
In addition to these practices, I also started a Forrest Yoga practice with a deeply present teacher. As with the other practices, being with the body and breath is transformational. Many of you know the value of a yoga practice so I won’t describe in detail my experience. For years I have believed I would one day have a yoga practice and it looks like that day is here.
for me and possibly for you
The result is that we’ll all be less reactive and more conscious, present, joyful and powerful leaders.