Category Archives: Anxiety

Practice Forgiveness: Free Yourself from the Past


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By Vicy Wilkinson, MA, BCC

I grew up in a family that’s both gigantic and was always pretty close, often even to extended cousins and relatives to whom I’ve never really understood how we’re related. Close though we were, it was clear my family also holds grudges. Apparently, forever.

There were entire branches of the family that “we don’t talk to” because of some argument that occurred at a country church some time in the 1960s, some 15-20 years before I was even born. I was shuttled to church every week and taught a weird lesson about forgiveness: we hold grudges, the lord forgives.

I now understand the error of this thinking and this way of moving through the world. Holding on to past slights, anger, pain, arguments, blame, etc. doesn’t do anything helpful for anyone. Instead, it causes wounds to fester and ooze out into all other aspects of life and of self. It became clear to me that even if one believes forgiveness is the lord’s work, forgiveness does not occur without some active participation on our parts. Forgiveness has become incredibly human work, in my life and in my coaching practice.

In fact, practicing forgiveness is an integral part of becoming whole and healing intergenerational trauma, along with simply being able to let go of pain and disappointment that arises from sharing a world full of highly fallible humans. There are billions of us, so it makes sense to have some go-to help with the process.

That’s why I wrote a pragmatic little book that walks readers through 13 different ways to practice forgiveness in every day life and it’s now available for Kindle on Amazon. In it you will find ways to tackle forgiving others, and also ways of forgiving your SELF, which I believe is critical to long term health and happiness.

Here’s an excerpt from one of the practices that you can start today, and it’s a practice that takes a lot of courage. Forgiveness takes courage, which means it begins in the heart like the root of the word courage itself.

Confront Your Fears Head On:
 Move Past Them by Taking Action.

We all feel fear. Some schools of thought believe we really only feel two basic emotions: fear and whatever we think fear’s opposite is, most often described as love. All other emotions fall on a sort of spectrum of emotions that exist as tension between these poles. Fear serves a purpose, and is deeply rooted in our survival as a species. Fear protects and helps keep us safe. However, when fear begins to “protect” us in ways that withhold love, consideration, openness, communicative understanding, and kindness towards those we choose to depend on as trustworthy companions in our lives, its methods of protection are outdated and need to be updated based on knowledge and a deeper understanding of both ourselves and our companions in this lifetime. [By companions here, I’m using a broad stroke term to mean every person in your life who you choose to trust and care for. I mean your family of origin, your family you may have created through marriage and children or through friendship, friends, etc. Whoever it is that you choose to share this life with consciously.]

Fear becomes problematic when you let it stop your progress or isolate you from the people you love and trust, and who love and trust you. In terms of interpersonal relationships, fear commonly shows up as avoidance or flight or both. When we are making big decisions or feeling big feelings or wanting to ask for something to meet our needs or needing to share something we’re ashamed of or guilty over, it’s so easy to cave to the fear monster that tells us to run away or put up some smoke and mirrors or stick our fingers in our ears and hum lalalalalala really fast until maybe, just maybe, our inaction will work out in everyone’s favor. Pro tip: it doesn’t.

When we do not confront our fears, and instead either run away or do nothing but avoid the confrontation, we suffer. We suffer continuously, and that suffering overwhelms the banks of our river of self and will eventually flood us and those around us. Sometimes it drowns us all, and some or all of us cannot recover completely.

“Rather than letting our negativity get the better of us, we could acknowledge that right now we feel like a piece of shit and not be squeamish about taking a good look.” 
~ Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart

So, what sorts of actions do you take to boldly confront your own fears? Your own shame? Your own flaws, mistakes, and misdeeds? The stuff that really makes you feel like a piece of shit, you know?

I am not sure I’ve come up with a step by step procedure exactly, but here are a few specific steps you can practice that will at least get you moving towards conquering your fears and learning to lean into the right people for support to get you through it all, and expect them to lean right back.

Get to know what they are, especially what the overarching one(s) is or are. What do you fear most? What makes you feel most small and helpless? Some examples are abandonment, not being loveable, dying suddenly and prematurely, that if the person you love knew the truth about you they would disappear in a heartbeat, not being ______ enough, being alone, being ashamed of _____, not being loved, not having your basic needs met… the list of fears we humans experience is infinite.

Use practices like tonglen meditation to give those fears space to be felt, heard, and acknowledged, and then transformed and released. Practice. Repeat.

Discern who in your life is truly worth trusting (and therefore loving) enough to share the true feelings around what’s real and alive in you, so that you may also fully share in the other end of the spectrum with that person/those people you choose. We must disclose our pain to fully experience our joy and love without the burden of fear. This means that not everyone in your life will know you at this level, clearly. You must take your time and be careful about who you become truly emotionally and mentally intimate with so that you can rest in the sharing. Sharing your fears makes you incredibly vulnerable. So you must be able to lean into your own faith that those you share fully with will hold your trust tenderly and with loving care. Choose wisely and choose from a place of love.

Find your voice. Know that it may shake and stutter in ways you’re not used to at all and it will feel excruciatingly uncomfortable at first. Practice. Repeat. Silence and hiding the fears from those closest to you creates a toxic mess inside yourself and inside your relationships.

Be gentle with yourself and with your loved ones. Be kind. Stay calm. If emotions get too intense, just back off and rest and find peace again. Remember that it’s all practice and treat your own fear confrontation with the kind of compassion you would show a child learning a new skill. For most of us, it is a new skill. And you’ll find as you practice that it’s usually a new skill for your loved ones, too.

May each of our hearts and minds become open to actively practicing forgiveness, for the sake of our individual selves and the collective good.

13 Ways to Practice Forgiveness & Free Yourself from the Past

This book is meant to be a pragmatic guide for anyone who is interested in personal growth and healing through practicing forgiveness. It addresses the deeply human experiences of shame, blame, guilt, anger, and grief, and how our internalization of our own dark sides can keep us from fully experiencing light, joy, and love in our lives. It was written to help people feel more prepared to confront themselves with kindness and appreciation for the human-ness of the need for forgiveness in our lives. The practices can be used both for self-forgiveness and for learning to forgive others so that we can stop holding back love and joy.

About the author:
Vicy is a board certified transformational life coach, and holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Philosophy from Oglethorpe University (Atlanta, GA) and Durham University (England), respectively, with specialization in neuroscience, chemistry, and Eastern-Western philosophy of mind comparative studies. Vicy is also a Concept2/UCanRow2 Certified Indoor Rowing Instructor. In addition to rowing (indoor and sculling, mainly doubles), she’s also a yogini, wild water swimming enthusiast, hiker, Reiki master, hula hooper (making, hooping, teaching), writer, speaker, teacher, and organic gardener (medicinals and edibles). Her clients, students, and colleagues call her “the wizard.

 

Cultivate Self-Compassion

Cultivate Compassion… Starting With YourSELF

Think Before You Speak, even to yourselfBy Vicy L. Wilkinson, MA, BCC

“I am so stupid.”
“I am so frustrate that I keep doing this even though I know it’s not good for me and I know it’s wrong. What is WRONG with me?”
“Why can’t I just let it GO?”
“When will I learn to stop letting people walk all over me?”

I hear a lot of comments like the ones above from my clients during our first few sessions. One aspects of my work as a transformational life coach is to help people hear their own language, especially with regards to how they talk to and treat themselves. I spend a lot of time carefully saying things like, “May I please repeat back to you what you just said to me?” I repeat what clients say with similar inflection and body language to their own. When I do so, I see the look of shock on their faces and I watch their bodies slump or tense or shudder or whatever the general modus operandi is for that particular person. People are initially scared of their own language, verbal and non-verbal.

Why is our inner dialogue and our outer talk about ourselves important?  Because we must first hear what and how we’re talking to ourselves in order to begin developing compassion.

Once a client has heard his or her language clearly, I ask a question like, “Would you say what you just said to [or about] yourself to a five-year old you were taking care of? Would you say it to your best friend?” The answer is always a resounding NO and a rather disturbed look. Usually that “no” is followed by some commentary on how much easier it is to be kind, objective, and compassionate towards others than it is to be kind, objective, and compassionate towards one’s self. I agree. It IS easier, but this is exactly why it is so important that we all learn to develop a deep compassion towards ourselves.

How do develop kindness & compassion towards ourselves?

It all starts with noticing. Noticing how we’re feeling during moments of frustration or anger or guilt or shame. Just like I ask my clients to pause and allow themselves the opportunity to “instant replay” what they just said by my repeating it to them, we must learn to do this for ourselves. When we are able to notice the shift in our language and behavior, whether we say it out loud or just say it in our own minds, it’s equally degrading and problematic. Once we are able to consistently notice our tendencies, we can begin to consciously change them through choice. If we never notice, we can never choose to change.

Following are three suggestions on how to start noticing:

1 – Allow yourself an extra two minutes in the morning and two minutes in the evening to sit still and quiet and just create some “breathing room” within yourself. You can sit and just breathe. You can sit and say kind things to yourself or affirmations of some kind. You can sit and just be quiet and allow your thoughts to float through you like fluffy clouds on a summer afternoon. You can sit and listen to calming music. What you do doesn’t matter as much as intentionally taking just a couple of minutes for “time in” with yourself to just BE for a moment. The purpose in doing it morning and evening is to start your day centered and end your day centered because doing so helps you develop your own inner observer. Your inner observer is the part of you that recognizes you are more than the sum of your parts. You aren’t just your thoughts or your job or your kids or your mom’s fears or whatever it is that you tend to over-identify with about yourself. When you stop over-identifying with one aspect of yourself, you instantly become more open and compassionate towards yourself and others.

2 – Take a moment to “check in” with yourself throughout your day, especially on busy days when you’ve scheduled yourself back to back to back and have that feeling that I call “the white rabbit” syndrome. (Do you remember the white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland? “I’m late! I’m late! I’m late for an important date!”) It’s amazing what three long, slow, deep breaths can do, and you can do them in the car, or at your desk, or even in the middle of a meeting. It’s just breathing. I assure you everyone does it. Taking a moment to do it consciously can help clear your head, your heart, and give you a centering energy boost to help you feel more peaceful within. When you feel more peaceful within, your ability to be compassionate expands exponentially.

Kids being silly3 – Laugh. Need I really say more? LAUGH AT YOURSELF. Are you really taking it so bloody seriously that you ate two cookies instead of just one? Is it really a crisis that you’re running 3 minutes behind schedule? Will someone die if you don’t say yes to every volunteer opportunity presented to you? Laugh at your human-ness. I assure you, we are ALL in the same boat. And oftentimes, when we really look at it, that boat is very funny. Laughter helps you gain perspective and it also gives you a solid boost of feel-good hormones that will help you recognize life is hard enough without your needing to make it harder on yourself by saying unkind things. You don’t deserve that. You deserve kindness, peace, and compassion. Give yourself some.

Give and Get

What’s really interesting about the journey towards constant self-compassion is that as we begin to give ourselves daily doses of our own compassion and kindness, we begin to notice that others are giving us more of both as well. When we treat ourselves with loving-kindness and compassion, our bodies, minds, and spirits respond to our treatment and we (seriously) begin to resonate at higher frequencies. Our energy levels are higher and more sustained. We begin to sense that we can TRUST OURSELVES. We begin to sense that nothing is inherently wrong with us, and instead we are simply perfectly imperfect creatures, every single one of us. We begin to realize that others are struggling with the same sorts of things that we are struggling with, and we begin to realize that by recognizing these similarities we build bridges that help us connect to others. We can see ourselves in others, and our empathy grows. We can see ourselves in the mirror and realize we deserve goodness, from ourselves and from others. The bottom line is that when we start giving to ourselves, we can give more to others and we can actively receive more from others. We can hear compliments and just say, “Thank you,” and smile. We can hear praise and accept that we deserve it. We can feel appreciation and we can reciprocate that feeling. We can RELAX and allow others to help us see our own greatness while we help others do the same.

It’s not EASY because it takes conscious effort and conscious practice. But it is very simple. Cultivating compassion for yourself helps you and everyone around you. The only change you can ever really produce is self-change. So, stop waiting. Take a deep breath. And just do it!

3 Steps from Anxiety to Freedom & Peace

This blog series by Vicy L. Wilkinson, MA, CTLC, BCC is called “Little Changes, Big Results” and introduces common problems and simple starting points for people, including those of you who are new to transformational life coaching. Welcome to Complete Life Coaching, where we connect, collaborate, and create. 

Part 1:  Mental Chatter & Anxiety

 

Web of Anxious ThoughtsI wake up in the morning and it starts immediately… My own voice, yelling at me. “What the hell am I doing with my life? What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I just get up, feel good, and GO? What possessed me to say THAT to him? Of course no one can love me for long, I make it too hard. Just stop trying.  Or, good gawd, just stop EATING.  Look at yourself – UGH. Get off your fat ass and go to the gym.  How did I get SO FAR BEHIND?”

Maybe some of that sounds familiar to you.  I know with certainty I have said all of it and, honestly, way worse to myself, inside my own head over the years, especially the “bad ones,” before I knew I could change that self-talk.  I also know I would NEVER say such unkind, unhelpful, and let’s face it, just plain MEAN stuff to another human being.

So why do we say stuff inside our own heads to ourselves, about ourselves, that we wouldn’t dream of saying to a friend or family member? The short answer is that our minds, left to run wild, are full of fear, anxiety, loathing, and shame. And we are the constant recipient of our own projections of perceived faults and failures.

In my professional coaching practice, I am often the first person to hear someone’s “monkey mind” unleashed for an outside observer to see, and I view my position with humility and respect.  I am honored to be able to just listen to my clients, many of whom feel they’ve never been heard or understood. When a person decides to pour out what’s really going on inside her mind, it’s an act of BRAVERY and takes vast COURAGE. (Aside on courage:  from the Latin, then Old French, and finally handed down to us through Middle English, the word courage means heart. The heart as the seat of feeling, thought, etc.; spirit, mind, disposition, nature. As far back in English speaking history as 1300s, courage, when applied to a person, means “a quality of mind which shows itself in facing danger without fear or shrinking; braveness, boldness, valor” and it’s also “spirit, vital force or energy.” Speaking our minds, giving voice to the feelings and thoughts from our hearts, clearly takes a lot of this courage, this quality of mind.[1]) I appreciate that magnitude of pure heart it takes to pour out the sludge and really take a clear look at it. It is terrifying to trust enough to be so completely vulnerable, so it certainly takes courage to tell our dark sides and share our stories of shame and pain. [Trust in the ability of the other person both to listen without judgment AND keep our confidence is key… Here’ s a great video about discerning when it’s okay to be vulnerable.]

Speaking the negative self-talk, the monkey chatter of a fearful, shameful, antagonistic voice of our own dark self to another and trusting them to be open to receive – to listen intently – to remain solidly in non-judgment and compassion bolstered with empathy – takes heart.  To speak out the chatter requires a connection deep down, literally, in the nervous system to the heart and the gut, making the speaker vulnerable.  As one chooses to speak the darkness, the self opens from the core & exposes the chatter, shining light into the darkness.  And when we turn on this “heart light,” of courage to be open and vulnerable with a trusted other, we taste freedom.  It is then that we start to observe ourselves more keenly and make choices about how much freedom we will allow ourselves.

When we choose to make this one little change: to trust SOMEONE and to say out loud all the darkest chatter of the monkey mind, giving true voice vis a vis acknowledgment to the shame and rumination and spinning out of control narrative and allow another person to hear us, to understand us, we get BIG RESULTS for ourselves.

So, how can one begin to make this one change?

Step one:  Begin by becoming more conscious and aware of that inner dialogue. Just notice.  Just observe your mental chatter. If it feel and sounds more negative and painful than positive and motivational, begin to simply watch your own thoughts whenever you notice.  Back off yourself, and just watch.  This might be in a minute of silence after an argument with a parent, partner, child, co-worker.  It might be in bed at night, trying to fall asleep after a long day. It might be as the alarm goes off in the morning.  Just start with a minute.  Just watch, like your head is a spectator sport.  For a just a minute, don’t play, don’t engage, just observe.  As you practice, this minute could turn into 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 20 minutes… It becomes a silent, observing meditation practice.  You realize there’s more to “you” than all that self-talk.

Step two:  Decide you will make one change on your own behalf to begin the process of shifting your mind and asserting control over it. “In short, the mind is an embodied and relational process that regulates the flow of energy and information.” – Dr. Dan Siegel (from this article on his website) After you’ve made this decision, you can continuously reinforce your choice to change each time your mind wanders down its usual path of negative talk.  The great news, is that your mind is expert in that wandering!  So it gives a LOT of opportunities to notice, to pause, to consciously shift.  First watch, then you decide.  Repeat.  Constantly.  It’s a process, it’s ongoing, and the timeline is your lifetime.  Start slowly, but start consistently.  Notice each time that you notice.  Your ability to stop and observe without judgment will expand over time.

Share Your Darkness to Spread the LightStep three: Choose someone to talk to and be willing to trust and share openly, with the spoken expectation (and AGREEMENT FROM THE OTHER PERSON) of receiving empathy and non-judgment, just listening.  This person might be a professional like a trained life coach, or counselor, but she could be your best friend or brother or someone else that you truly trust and can feel safe with as you reveal some parts of yourself that you may have actively hidden.

Let’s think about empathy for a minute. Empathy is not sympathy, and the difference between them is very important.  Empathy creates direct connection because empathy is “the power of projecting one’s personality [personal experience] into (and so fully comprehending) the object of contemplation.[2]” Early uses of the word in the English language talk of such things as “my mind’s muscles” and “feelings of… motor empathy.”[3]  Now we know that empathy is built into our brains and nervous systems with specialized neurons called “mirror neurons” and that we truly can feel connected to other human beings vis a vis our own experiences of feelings and emotions. Researchers and practitioners such as Brene Brown & Marshall Rosenberg cite empathy as critical to healing self and others, though their research and practices are ostensibly very different.   “We’re wired to tell our stories, not keep our secrets,” says Dr. Brene Brown.  It’s true.  And it’s what creates connection in that “embodied and relational” mind of ours.

These three simple steps result over time in huge changes in your mind, your body, and your relationships. More empathic connection means more time feeling truly connected to other human beings, and therefore encouraged and “plugged in” to community.  We are hard wired to connect deeply to others, and openness and trust feed those connections.  With time and practice, the chatterbox that opened this article becomes adept and skillful at refuting, dismissing, or reframing the negative blah blah blah into something much kinder, warmer, and more realistic such as….

“I’m alive. That’s good. I’ll feel better once I’m up and moving and showered and fed some good food.  Last night’s conversation was a doozie, huh?  It’s okay.  Today, I will try hard to stay focused and remember I love me. That’ll help solve the problem that started the argument to begin with.  I’m learning not to engage when I’m exhausted. I’m okay.  Everyone has bad days and makes mistakes.  Just take a breather and keep going.   Just do your best.  Going to the gym could help, even if it’s just 20 minutes it’s good for me.  I’m doing just fine where I am, just remember to breathe.”

This kind of radical shift takes time, it doesn’t happen overnight.  However, this 3-step practice, done consistently and repeatedly, over the course of 6-months to a year, yields massive results that can help calm anxiety; decrease mental, emotional, and physical stress; strengthen relationships, both with self and others; and mend the mind so that thinking and performance improve in all areas of life experiences. You’re worth it.  May you experience this empathic magic beginning immediately. Namaste.

[1] Etymology & information on “courage” abstracted from The Oxford English Dictionary (OED), second edition, Volume V. Clarendon Press, Oxford, UK. ©1933, 1989.

[2] OED, Clarendon Press, Oxford, UK.

[3] OED, Clarendon Press, Oxford, UK.

 

Shamanic Sound Healing + Tonglen Meditation

shamanskyShamanic Sound Healing Journey with Guided Meditation + Potluck & Fireside Dancing

Please join us for a afternoon and evening of healing, sharing, and learning at our Magical Mountain Retreat Center with special guest Sonic Yogi, professional musician and sound healer.

We’ll be experiencing the deep healing offered through time in nature while Sonic Yogi shares the sounds of Tibetan singing bowls, Native American flutes, and other sacred instruments. We’ll have time for discussion and sharing, as well as guided meditation practice for increasing loving-kindness and compassion for ourselves and our world through the ancient Tibetan practice of tonglen (giving and receiving).

After the sun goes down, we will celebrate our journeys fireside with dancing and hula hooping…or just sitting and enjoying, if that is your preference.

This event is free, but donations will be accepted to cover costs and to thank Sonic Yogi for traveling from Lawrenceville, GA, to share and be with us! $10-20 per person is suggested.

Details:
We will provide garden fresh greens for salads and plenty of iced tea and deep well water. Please bring a favorite dish to share for the pot luck dinner. We will be outside most of the time, so please be prepared with yoga mats, cushions, insect spray, and sunscreen. Restroom facilities are available.

Villain vs. Hero: What’s YOUR Role in YOUR Story?

Change Your Story, Change Your Life

Rewrite Your Story

Join Integrative Transformational Life Coaches from CLC in this episode about stories, fairytales, heroes, and villains… and how we can all cast ourselves as heroes in our own lives.

Learning to take responsibility for our own behaviors, thoughts, emotions, needs, and well-being…
Standing up for what we know to be right even if it sets up a conflict because we choose not to “go along to get along”…

This episode is about being your own hero.

That’s a huge part of what we do:  We help people find their hidden (or lost or forgotten or rusty and dusty) superpowers so that they can be assertive AND kind, which goes a long way in creating healthy relationships, livelihoods, lifestyles, and communities.

You are always invited to join our online communities and get involved!  Let us help you THRIVE. Call (864) 918-2914 to set up a consultation.  We work with clients in-person (Greenville, SC and Asheville, NC areas) and over the phone or via Skype.

Upcoming Events ~ Private Retreats and Workshops to Help You (re)Discover Your SELF

Complete Life Coaching: Connect, Collaborate, Create

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This is a group for people who desire living life beyond just surviving.  We are professional coaches who work with people who are interested in THRIVING: in their lives, rela…

Check out this Meetup Group →

 

 

Reduce Stress & Anxiety with Sound Therapy

Sound TherapyTibetan singing bowls and Native American flutes in the hands of a professional musician make for the most relaxing way imaginable to spend an afternoon.  As my body relaxed, my mind and spirit followed easily.  I found that even hours after my sound therapy session with Sonic Yogi Jonathan Adams, I felt calm, at ease, and completely and totally relaxed – almost “floppy” in my body.  Sound therapy is so freeing, and it’s so easy to experience because all one needs to do, is lie back, get still, and stay open to receive.

I had to opportunity to interview Jonathan about his own experience with severe stress, anxiety, and depression, and how he discovered sound therapy as a tool… and is now using it in his own practice to help serve others.  Following is a transcript from that interview, including links to online resources that can help YOU reduce stress in your life – right now.

Vicy:  I’m here this evening with Jonathan Adams, who is a professional musician and travels all over the country playing music.  We are talking to him tonight for this health and wellness series because Jonathan’s Alter Ego, I guess we could call it, is Sonic Yogi.  I met him through his sister, who is rowing instructor at Greenville indoor Rowing, and I think that Jonathan’s story and his talent are amazing.  I got to experience some things just this past weekend that helped me understand a little more about what he does and I wanted to share that with all of you. So Jonathan can you tell us a little bit about who you are and what your background is and your personal story that led you to sound therapy?

Reduce stress & anxietySonic Yogi:  Sure well as you mentioned I’m not a musician and I do that for my living and I play guitar in the group that I play with and I’ve been doing that for fifteen years or so I guess now. And so I’ve been involved in music for a long time. But in 2011, I had an experience with really intense anxiety and I had had experiences before like this with panic attacks and mild anxieties here and there. But this experience was sort of an overwhelming sort of all-encompassing experience. And it’s sort of difficult to describe, but to get through it was actually a wonderful thing and so I feel that I learned a lot about my mind and my body and how they work together and how that even sort of influences my spirit. And how I learned to kind of basically help myself. I learned to stay balanced and I learned to relax. And through that process I also discovered sound therapy, which was cool for me as a musician, and I discovered that sound itself can actually help us relax and help us better physiologically relax and also mentally relax.  So I’ve been exploring that path for the last several years since then and using it for myself and as I’ve talked about this experience and in our concerts as I’m traveling around, I’ve also realized that, you know, this experience of anxiety and stress and depression, these kind of things are not isolated at all but it seems as I travel that I’m finding that there are a lot of people that are affected by this.  And so also I have been enjoying the opportunity to hear the music that I make and then also you know work with people one on one.

Vicy:  Absolutely!  So I would definitely concur that the experience of stress and anxiety is widespread. I’m not sure that it’s more pervasive than it’s ever been but maybe we’re just more willing to admit it. I know that among my clients, both one on one coaching clients as well as business clients, that learning how to manage stress in ways that are doable and practices that can bring you to a place of calm on a regular basis is something needed regularly.  That’s a huge aspect of transformational life coaching in general… That it’s [controlling stress & anxiety] really crucial to do more than just survive. So what do you think has helped you Jonathan?

Sonic Yogi: Well that’s a good question. I think I have learned a lot from a lot of different areas. I was already doing yoga before this experience and then I started meditating more after the experience and then doing sound therapy and I’ve really searched for the common links between all of those things.  Because I know this, like for instance, after a yoga practice or session I would kind of have this feeling of deep relaxation and almost euphoria and you know in talking to other people, I learned that they had similar experiences…  so it kind of came to down that they, you know, they’re high [feeling] after yoga or meditation… I’ve gotten to know links from meditation and sound therapy and these things and so I feel the common link between all of those things was just helping me to relax and let go of the stresses.  I’ve realized that the stresses weren’t only in my mind but they were also in my body and my body was reacting to the perceptions of my mind and so I kind of had to work on it from both angles. Both my mind and my body and so I had to learn to relax my body at the same time I had to learn to change my perception and change my behavior patterns and change my physical responses to those patterns so you know… That’s easy to say you know right here and right now!  It actually took me quite a while to learn all of these things and it was, you know, little lessons here, little lessons there that kind of helped me to come to a place of more balance and over time I have learned more about my own personal inner world and how that works with my body. If I find myself sort of burning the candle at both ends or getting stressed out mentally at something then I can feel that stress building up and at least now I have the awareness to break that cycle before it turns into full blown stress or anxiety.

Helps with depressionVicy: So I think you said a key word there that I know is the word that I use with myself a lot and I also use it with clients and that is creating an inner awareness: recognizing what your responses are to stress right now, then getting good at identifying them early so that you can kind of put up a road block to that so it doesn’t go any farther. And instead you start moving back in the other direction toward feeling relaxed and feeling at peace and feeling calm in your body and in your state of being.

Can you sort of explain to people what sound therapy is or at least what it is in how you interpret it and how you use it?

Sonic Yogi: Sure.

Well I see sound therapy has really kind of intense meditation. It’s out there for you with Tibetan bowls, which look like bowls and may sound like bells and they have a lot of overtones to them and so what I ended up doing when I’m doing this type of therapy is putting the bulls around the person and they’re all sort of tuned in a similar scale and so when I play these bowls it really just creates a wash of sound that’s very soothing.  I’ve discovered it actually interacts with our own brain waves and so our brain waves create frequency waves and these frequency waves are measured in Hertz. And so sound waves, which I use all the time as a musician, are also measured in Hertz.  So when I first learned about this, I wondered if there were some kind of interaction between the two. I later learned that sound waves can in fact have some effect on our brain waves and so on.

Yeah and so you know I play a certain sound waves or oscillations that can affect the brain waves and help a person come down into a lower state of brain waves and sort of relax our brain waves.  Also our heart and breathing are all connected and so relaxing the brain wave patterns helps us to release stress in our entire nervous system and so that’s one aspect of it. The other aspect is that you know a lot of time the thinking mind is engaged throughout the day and so that’s just what I call it is to think in the mind and that’s the part of us always going in that mental image. It’s kind of go along to get along, and I kind of think of that as being more of a left brain right and our left brain sort of focuses on these patterns and you know we’re always looking out for our own survival so it’s in our best interest to notice these patterns… You know, notice that we need to live and notice that we need to avoid hot water or whatever it is. So we noticed these patterns. There’s another side of our brain – right brain – which kind of takes in more of the whole picture and kind of disengages from that constant pattern calculation.  Calculating those patterns all the time I think can actually lead to stress especially if it’s unnecessary and it’s just out there. [Sound therapy works] Because the sounds are kind of random and flowing. There’s not really a pattern to them and so it’s relaxing to let go of the patterns in my opinion, to move a person into that right brain space much more quickly. Whereas with music in general we’re hearing the patterns and we hear the chord progressions in the scales and they can all be very beautiful and there’s nothing wrong with that but with sound therapy itself it’s kind of bypassing that whole part of the brain. So I kind of think that those two things are keys to how it works. So number one it’s just altering the brain waves and then number two it’s kind of getting outside of that thinking mind and getting it outside of those patterns to just experience the present moment.

Vicy:  Yes. So that last line [you said] might be the key. You’ve mentioned the brain wave patterns, which is something that I am very familiar with, and we use a lot of different  techniques to help people actively move from some high beta state, which is essentially a panic attack when you’re in a very high frequency beta and then start bringing that down and learning to induce alpha state and even theta state with a lot of experience and I notice that last weekend when you were doing the sound therapy that it was very obvious to me that I was very deep in alpha state because I was very aware of what was happening but at the same time had no real interaction with it. And it’s interesting for me hearing your theory on sort of bypassing most of the left brain because one of the things that that really resonated with me was my awareness of my internal state of being which neuroscience calls “interoception.”  And it was really, REALLY acute, not only during the experience but also afterwards for several hours. I was very super aware of the internal workings of my body like even once I was sort of back. Functioning in the world and driving my car and going to the grocery store and that kind of thing. And so now that you’re you’ve told me this other part of your theory, I think that that makes a lot of sense because the right brain one of its jobs is to give us sort of the gestalt view of ourselves and give us really deep access to the energy and information flow from our bodies into our minds. So you know into our brains so… Thank you for sharing that.

Sonic Yogi: That was sort of new to me in talking to you. I have to do some thinking on that.

I’ve noticed that myself. You know I think that I’m being more aware of that…I think just the way the world works and the way we were educated and you know the job we might do better and it’s, well, outside of us.  So I always look out for information outside, and that’s where our work happens, but as a result of this experience [dealing with stress and discovering sound therapy] I just echo what you said which is that I can go inwards and kind of internal sort of monitoring of my systems and kind of think about how I feel and learn to really react or not, and learn to just be aware of those things in real time.

Life Coaching for the spiritVicy:  So it helps you stay aware of what’s actually going on INSIDE of you, but it also helps you stay in the moment which is really important. Jonathan I would love to talk to you more so maybe we can do this again and have time to share some of the sounds of sound therapy at the end?   What you do is awesome and really it’s fascinating and it’s something that’s really accessible, really easy, to help people get still… and I think that’s one of the things I know I get a lot of resistance from with my clients when we kind of get to a point in coaching where they recognize they need to do something to get still and have some being time not just doing time. All of the time and the sound seemed to make it a little more approachable I think for a lot of people. So if someone was interested in what you do, how might they find you?

Sonic Yogi:  Sure. Well I started a website called sonicyogi.com and samples are there.  I created downloads for users and they are actually free. People can just go there and listen, stream the music there or download it and then I also have a list out to a blog where I’ve sort of been exploring some of these ideas that we’ve talked about for myself, and anybody interested in reading can check that out.  I live in Lawrenceville, Georgia, and I’m also doing individual sound therapy here in my home and in Decatur, Georgia at a wellness and Healing Arts Center.

Vicy: Fantastic. So again, you can learn more about Jonathan Adams and sound therapy at his website sonicyogi.com.  You can also see him in person in Lawrenceville or Decatur, Georgia.  Thank you so much for taking your time to talk with us Jonathan. I really appreciate it.

Note:  photos in this post were taken during a Sound Healing session at Greenville Indoor Rowing by Laura Caylor.  Thank you Laura!

STOP Your Runaway Thoughts & Take Control of Your Mind

Tame Your Mind, Improve Your Lifeby Vicy L. Wilkinson, MA Philosophy, BCC, Certified Transformational Coach

It’s nighttime, you’re trying to relax and go to sleep, and your brain suddenly bombards you with thoughts about what you woulda’ coulda’ shoulda’ said during that argument yesterday or great ideas that will turn your whole life around AND save the world or the twenty- seven tasks you didn’t complete because you were trying to help the kids with a school project… or a million other things that our minds can come up with when we’re lying in bed and trying to relax and fall asleep.

In the world of transformational coaching, we call all this thinking, which has a tendency to turn dark, negative, and brooding, rumination or having ruminating thoughts.  Another term for this thinking-excessively with little control is “monkey mind” or “monkey chatter.”  In the Shambhala Tibetan Buddhist tradition, this sort of mental chatter is compared to having an untamed horse for a mind.  No matter how you look at it, rumination can get out of control and cause a lot of difficulty in life such as insomnia, anxiety, short temper, forgetfulness.  If left to fester and expand, rumination can lead down a slippery slope of temporary negativity into low mood, poor resilience, chronic stress, and even depression.

Of course, rumination doesn’t just happen when you’re trying to relax and go to sleep; many of us are plagued with ruminating thoughts during our wide awake time as well.  For example, how long have you obsessed in your mind over a stressful conversation that happened hours ago?  Or what kinds of thoughts take up space in your mind when you’re getting dressed in the morning and a certain pair of pants don’t fit right?

No matter when rumination gets in your way, though, there are proven techniques to help you regain control over your mind and discover your calm, peaceful center so that you can quiet that monkey chatter and choose a better direction for your powerful thoughts!

One easy way to put the brakes on rumination is very simple:  stop “just thinking” by taking specific action.  That action can be as simple as sitting down for 5 minutes and writing down what your mind is saying.  Just dump it all right out on paper.  It’s amazing how this simple act diminishes the hold negative thoughts have over us.  If it’s at night and you’ve already gone to bed, do yourself a favor by sitting back up, turning that lamp on again, and taking up pen and paper. When we write down all the stuff our brain is screaming to us, it helps externalize our experience and in this simple act, many people find immediate peace.

Sometimes our brain is just trying to help us remember important things; when we write those things down, we can refer to them later when we CHOOSE to do so, and our brain can stop reminding us and let us focus on relaxing.  This is especially helpful when your brain gets stuck in a loop about the minutiae of daily life:  schedules, tasks, 17 things you must remember before walking out the door Monday morning…whatever it is, write it down – just “brain dump” it out there onto the paper.

Another great thing about writing it down is that for many of us, our mind likes to pour out creative ideas or solutions to problems we had a month ago at random times.  If we take a few minutes to capture some notes about those ideas and solutions on paper, our brain can relax and move on.  Writing things down gives us a logical sense of closure.   It’s essentially clearing the cache in your mind like you do in your web browser.

If you find that writing is extremely difficult for you for whatever reason, I recommend keeping a voice recorder or using an app on your phone to just talk it out: literally speak your list or rambling thoughts into the recorder.  (Sometimes this works especially well for extroverts who don’t enjoy writing, but do enjoy talking!)  The outcome is similar as with writing it down because you have externalized the thoughts.

After you’ve taken the time to empty out some of the chatter, your mind can begin to relax and you can further help slow down any future rumination by taking advantage of that moment of spaciousness in your mind.  After writing or voice recording, take 2-5 minutes to focus on your breathing and calm both your mind and your body all at once.  If you take a really deep breath in and count to four – 1, 2, 3, 4 – slowly in your mind, then hold your breath for an equal 4-count, and then slowly exhale to a count of eight – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 – you will notice instant feedback from your body.  Repeat this breath at least 5 times and you will help relax your entire nervous system, which naturally shuts down all that spinning monkey chatter.

If you find you still have some chatter after doing this breath work, you may want to take a step further in your writing or voice recording process by making notes about some potential solutions or ideas if your mind is still focused on some sort of dilemma.  Some of us need to not just write the thoughts down, but also to do some creative problem solving in order to gain that sense of closure that helps us rest.  You can alternate between breathing carefully as described above and writing to maximize your level of control.  With practice, it all gets a lot easier and you can begin to slow the rumination periods over time.   Bonus tip for problem solving in your sleep:  Ask yourself a specific question about the problem and then go to sleep.  Write for five to ten minutes first thing in the morning, before you even get out of bed, and see what kinds of answers your awesome self has come up with overnight, like magic.

Experiment with these tools and make them your own.  Once you find out what works best for you on those nights your brain tries to hijack your calm and your sleep, keep whatever you need beside the bed and keep those ruminating thoughts from robbing you of well-deserved, and much needed rest, relaxation, and precious sleep.

Take care of you.  If you need more help, give us a call.  We’re glad you’re here.  Namaste.

Let Go of Stress: Redirect Your Energy

12-14undereiffeltowerby Vicy Wilkinson, MA Philosophy, BCC

Once we hear the message stress is trying to give us and we address it, it will often go away on its own. However, that is not always the case, especially when the stress we’re feeling is being prompted by extreme emotions like anger, frustration, jealousy, or fear.  Many times, it’s necessary to give ourselves a longer break and permission to ask for help from others.  This can be the harder part of alleviating stress in our lives: recognizing that we need help to do so.

There is a deeply ingrained sense of autonomy in most of us, especially once we’re professionals in our fields or we have kids that depend on us or we feel like we “should be” able to handle whatever life brings us.  This sense of autonomy is wonderful, but it can also be our worst enemy when it keeps us from asking for help when we need it and instead keeps us struggling along with our game faces on.  I am reminded of John Donne’s famous poem that declares no man is an island.  We are hard wired in our brains and nervous systems to learn from others, empathize with others, and receive empathy from others.  Interestingly, though, when we are stressed, the circuitry that helps us connect with other people is less accessible to us and when we are extremely stressed, we are all but completely cut off from this circuitry known as “resonance circuitry.”  That is why strong negative emotions can leave us feeling “all alone” on a planet that contains over 6 billion people.

What I mean is that stress makes us feel entirely separate from others, and it is actually the stress response itself that hinders our ability to ask for help!  So, much like tense muscles may be outside indications that you need to stop and breathe and address the stress, having a sense of “I can do this all by myself,” is a good indicator that you may actually be better served by asking for help from a friend or family member or professional of some kind.

Taking good care of yourself

Other than stopping to address stress and reaching out to others during stressful times, we can all better handle stress when we’re consistently taking good care of our own physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs.  Therefore, the best stress reduction plan is having a daily self-care plan that includes eating well, exercise for your body, playtime for your mind and your spirit, connecting time with other people (family, co-workers, friends, pets), and creating some time and space to “just be” in your life and to connect to your own sense of the Divine, whatever that may be.  That “just being” time might be time for yoga or mediation, or it might be for gardening or playing music or taking a stroll somewhere you enjoy.  A lot of the things I’ve listed above are things that many of us feel are “nice to have” things, but what I want to emphasize is that they are truly “need to have” things if you really want to learn to live without a heavy burden of stress in your life.  As I often say to both my clients and students, the best time to learn to swim is not while you’re drowning. Therefore, the best time to get stress under control and to set an intention to let it go when it arises is when things are going great and you’re enjoying your life!

After all, we are human beings, not human doings.  So take time today to let something stressful go and reclaim some of your human-ness.  You’ll feel re-energized and revitalized!

STRESS: Learning to Let it Go

Vicy Wilkinson, MA Philosophy, Wellness Coachby Vicy Wilkinson,  MA Philosophy, BCC

Having spent the majority of my life until my thirties “stressed,” I feel like I have some expertise in the field beyond all the studying, training, and experience in helping the clients and students I serve.  Because of my expertise, I offer this simple advice:  let it go.  The advice is simple, but HOW to do so is elusive for most of us.

It’s easy to SAY, “I’m going to let this go,” but just because we say it, doesn’t mean our bodies and brains automatically respond and “just let go.”  Nope.  Not at all.  Instead, our bodies have a tendency to tense up tighter – I always feel it in my shoulders and in my jaws – and our brains tend to keep on going over and over whatever it is that has us all stressed out in the first place.   If we do immediately let it go, it’s often by distracting ourselves temporarily with something – a task, a cookie or twelve, a conversation, television, music, or a stiff drink.  Unfortunately, the stress remains in spite of our distractions and eventually creeps back into our immediate consciousness and there we are again:  stressed.

So, what CAN we do to let it go?

Let Stress GoTo really let stress go, we have to become consciously aware of it so that we can specifically address it in some way and then replace it with something that’s simply not compatible with stress, like relaxation, happiness, gratitude, joy, or love.  The key in real stress reduction, then, is consciousness and a willingness to stay present with the stress.  Many times, the stress we feel has a very specific message and no matter what we do to relieve the stress, it will come back (again and again!) until we hear, acknowledge, and act on the message it’s trying to give us.  Once we’ve heard, acknowledged, and acted on the message from stress, it’s a lot easier to make a choice about how to replace it with an incompatible state of being… and keep ourselves relatively stress-free.

Find out more about acknowledging stress messages here.

Listening to Stress: How Can We Hear the Message?

12-14_VicySmilesby Vicy Wilkinson, MA Philosophy, BCC
The Wizard

When we’re feeling very stressed, we tend to run in autopilot mode, moving rapidly from task to task with mindless drive towards some mysterious finish line when we can finally achieve the ability to relax.  This very behavior is a great place to begin with listening to stress.  When you find yourself in this “driven” state, it’s a really good time to just STOP for a minute.  Take some deep breaths.  You can even breathe in a special way to immediately create an internal relaxation response in your body:  inhale as you count to four and then exhale as you count to eight.  Do this 3-5 times (minimum), which will take you about a minute.  You may not suddenly feel like you’re on vacation, but you will have created a little “speed bump” in your stress pattern which will create a space for a deeper awareness about your state of being.

Rowing for joy healthAfter a few breaths, spark up some internal dialogue with the stress you’re feeling.  Literally ask yourself, “Why am I feeling so stressed right now?  What do I need that I’m not getting?”  Keep breathing until you get a response that actually addresses your needs, and is not just a repetition of the voice you’ve been hearing in your head all day while you’ve been running from task to task, which usually sounds like a cross between a talking to-do list and a drill sergeant who found a tape of every bit of conflict in conversation you’ve had over the past year.

It is when we take the time to create a bit of space – empty space – that a new pattern or idea or possibility can emerge from the gloom of stress.  In doing this stress-disruption procedure one day last week, as soon as I stopped for a few breaths and asked why I felt so stressed right then, I got immediate feedback:  I needed to eat.  I was feeling stressed because I’d gotten up just a bit late that morning, which made me just a bit late for rowing class, which made me late for…,  you get the idea.  And in all that rushing and lateness, I’d not sat down and eaten a proper meal.  My body was physically stressed.  As soon as I addressed this need, I still felt motivated to keep working, but I no longer felt the urgency and “drive” that was tensing up my body and making me feel pushed and uncomfortable.  As a bonus, I got a lot more done during the next few hours, too, without feeling stressed at all.

Learn more about conquering stress in this article Let Go of Stress:  Redirect Your Energy.