I began my now-annual tradition of keeping a “Joy Jar” in January of 2014 during a very dark period of grief and depression in my own life. I felt lost, exhausted, and just so gravely sad almost every day, even though my coaching practice was growing and I was in the best physical shape of my adult life. Grief is a monster, with long tentacles that invade all aspects of life. I saw a little post on Facebook about “Joy Jars” and thought, “what the hell? It can’t hurt to look for some joy, so I’ll give it a try.” You can read about my first year of this process here.
Cut to NOW – January 2017. Life has moved forward, and mine has seen a lot of improvement and positive growth as I’ve deepened my practice of documenting my own joy, as often as I possibly think to do so. As I began emptying out my jar, right after two back-to-back holiday driving tours, I noticed immediately that 2016’s jar had a LOT more joy stuffed into it! Thinking back over the roller coaster of global atrocities, polarizing politics, and the loss of so many cultural icons, I was quite pleased to see that I had kept my attention honed around seeking joy in spite of the news and the general state of affairs in the world. I felt a little giddy as I pulled the bits of folded paper out onto the kitchen table.
As I began unfolding each piece and reading my own scrawl, I noticed that I wrote more detail and more feeling words than I had in previous years. I wrote lots of tiny stories about whole days or weekends, or a particularly juicy conversation or experience, sometimes cross-referencing dates in my journal so that I could read even more, and I also noted how I felt.
I saw lots of good feeling words like excited, grateful, loved, ecstatic, surprised, relieved, woo hoo!, feeling acceptance, unconditional love, yay!, and hopeful. I saw that my joy was very active, too, with all kinds of verbs like hiking, swimming, rowing, paddling, laughing, eating, noticing, cheering, savoring, traveling, loving, and more swimming. I could see myself on location when I read my narratives that included relaxation, deep conversations, sharing experiences, boating with friends in Florida, hanging with my family during their summer vacation trip to my mountain, long walk and talks in the woods with my best friend, playing outside, sharing favorite swimming holes with my favorite kids, seeing fireworks over the lake on 4th of July, driving… Basically, the Joy Jar of 2016 was EPIC. As I read all my bits of joy, I got to soak them up and experience them all over again. I could really transport myself to those moments scattered throughout the year and connect to the warm fuzzy inside that led me to write them down for the jar.
As it turns out, joy is an infinitely renewable resource!
And now I see a whole new value in the practice of stuffing your smallest moments of triumph and most intense moments of pure joy and excitement into a jar to review at the end of a very long 365 days: doing so helps you be discerning in your future goals and plans. You can see EXACTLY what makes you happy and then you can PLAN to do more of those things. When your life becomes your own in this way, you feel a deep sense of freedom, purpose, and peace. Energy flows where attention goes, so make sure energy is flowing towards filling your life with as much joy as possible.
Having already done a good bit of my strategic planning and goal setting over the next 12-18 months, I’m now using the patterns I’ve extrapolated from my joy jars to tweak those plans and goals. When you plant seeds of joy, you reap more joy. This is such easy gardening, and you don’t even get your hands dirty. If you’ve never tried this simple practice to help you be more mindful of what makes you happy, get started right now! Your January 2018 self will be forever grateful that you took these simple steps.
- Step 1: Find an empty jar. Or a box. Or a notebook even.
- Step 2: Fill it with little notes to yourself about moments of joy throughout the year.
- Step 3: Empty it out at the end of the year/beginning of next year and have the pleasure of re-experiencing your own joys as you read through all your notes and stories.
- Step 4: Repeat.
May your 2017 bring you JOY in many forms, and may you be paying attention so that you notice when you feel it! Namaste.
Not feeling the joy? Feeling stuck and not sure how to get out of your rut? Call today for a FREE phone or Skype coaching consultation ! (864) 918-2914 or email email@example.com
Vicy is a Board Certified Transformational Life Coach, founder of Complete Life Coaching, 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, and a Certified Indoor Rowing Instructor. When she’s not coaching or rowing, Vicy is also a yogini, wild water swimming enthusiast, Reiki master (Levels I & II), hula hooper, writer, speaker, and organic gardener. Vicy’s life purpose is helping others discover the best in themselves while learning to pursue their dreams and goals with proven strategies that’ll help them move mountains.
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.
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 Compassion… Starting With YourSELF
By 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.
3 – 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!
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
I 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.) 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.
Step 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.” Early uses of the word in the English language talk of such things as “my mind’s muscles” and “feelings of… motor empathy.” 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.
 Etymology & information on “courage” abstracted from The Oxford English Dictionary (OED), second edition, Volume V. Clarendon Press, Oxford, UK. ©1933, 1989.
 OED, Clarendon Press, Oxford, UK.
 OED, Clarendon Press, Oxford, UK.
Shamanic 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.
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.
In this podcast, CLC discusses the importance of mindfulness, movement, and creating positive new experiences. These practices can be used to relieve the effects of anxiety, depression, anger issues, and trauma & PTSD. Learning to incorporate easy practices into your daily routine is one way to get started in a more grounded and solid-feeling life.
We discuss easy mindfulness practices that get your 5 senses involved and make it easier for your nervous system to calm down and focus on the present moment. We share stories about how movement helps with shifting moods and attitudes.
For more information on getting help, contact us for one on one help, resources, or join us for a retreat or workshop. You are also invited to join our online communities and get involved! Let us help you THRIVE.
Listen here now. (Available to stream or download.)
Tibetan 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?
Sonic 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.
Vicy: 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.
Vicy: 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!
“Let the flow manifest where it will, not where we will it.” – Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way
“Love is my religion.” – Ziggy Marley
By Vicy L. Wilkinson, MA, BCC
It’s a gorgeous day and I am grateful for being here with the opportunity, time, space, wherewithal, and skills to write & share something open about my experience. It is my dream to get all this tumbling experience and introspection out of my head so that my stories and studies can better serve others. My work has shown me how much our stories impact all of us and the world around us.
My experiences in this lifetime so far have yielded a full range and often paradoxical and mind-boggling series of emotions and impressions. In my mind there exists an unfolding tapestry of moments and memories that contain everything, sometimes all at once. Irreverently reverent. Dishonestly true. Fantastically real. Unbelievably realistic. Miniscule and infinite in scope. Wide open and withdrawn. Overwhelmingly scattered and targeted like a laser beam. Full of conflicted conviction. Hysterically funny sadness. Loving hatred and hateful love. Optimistic hopelessness; joyous moments full of grief and despair. Gaining wisdom through loss after loss. Grasping tightly to learn to let go…
And the more stories I hear from others, the more deeply I understand we all experience this odd dichotomy of seemingly oppositional experiences, often simultaneously. The more I stay fully present with clients, students, friends, and family, the more I understand that nothing is exclusive or unconditionally independent. There is no single singularity of experiences that stands alone, isolated, outside the totality of all-that-is in our conscious experiences as human beings. We can truly laugh and feel joy in times of dark despair. We can feel hatred towards people we love deeply.
I’ve “known” this all my life through a deeply resonant feeling I first recall feeling when I was five years old and outside running through the woods. I studied it and questioned it intellectually for years, throwing my mind, body, spirit, into combing through philosophies from cultures, times, masters, and academics around the world – 21st century and backwards to the beginning of our recorded histories of thought.
Today, though, I have returned to the deep resonance of knowing from childhood. A knowing in my body – in my consciousness itself – in my spirit of the interconnectedness of all people-places-things-ideas-philosophies-understanding…being itself.
Our feelings and experiences are all valid, all ours alone, and universal.
Our ideas are singular and expansive.
Our creations reflect all that’s come before, as a whole.
We exist as part of all else that has ever or will ever or does exist.
Being itself is a continuum – expansive as the universe itself.
Consciousness is a gift!
It is within this knowing that I perceive my own rightness in the world. And by rightness I mean proper, integral, complete-ness, not at all my “rightness” (or righteousness) as opposed to wrongness.
Right action: My right actions are actions that revolve around using my inherent gifts. Teaching, coaching, questioning, facilitating, creating, growing self and others.
Right motivation: I am motivated by the need and, indeed, the calling to serve others and facilitate conscious growth, adaptation, and change.
Right livelihood: Coaching and consulting and teaching are my right livelihood. Writing, speaking, collaborating, listening, learning, and creating are integral pieces to this livelihood whole.
Right intention: I intend to heal myself and others. I intend to generate love, kindness, and compassion as a path towards healing & health – towards wholeness. Healthy wholeness is created by resonating the frequencies of love, kindness, compassion, and gratitude.
Right speech: To the best of my ability, which is better and better as I continually practice mindfulness, I intend to speak with kindness and passion, with loving intent. I recognize I use language that is sometimes calming and beautiful, and sometimes raucous and uncouth. My speech is born of emotion and the goal is that what I speak, reverent or irreverent, comes from a heart full of love, not a soul full of hate. Sometimes, love says, “I love you.” Sometimes, love says, “F**K YOU.” When it comes from love, it is right speech.
Right view/understanding: As I am able to comprehend my vastness (consciousness) and my limited scope (physical form), I believe the right view from which to pivot is seeing the unlimited capacity for transformation and change we each hold. We can be born again and again. We create our worlds daily, hourly, by the minute, in each moment. We can change, grow, heal, learn, and develop ever-greater understanding and capacities for compassion. We are infinitely finite.
Right effort: I am here to use my mind and body and spirit regularly – daily – in support of all that is moving towards positive expansion. My efforts matter. I effect change by deciding to use what I have at any moment. Right effort is making ongoing effort towards expanding loving-kindness through practice and action.
Right concentration: I am here to consistently redirect and re-determine my focus. I am here to commit constantly to showing up and being present. Present to myself and my own needs; present to the people, places, things, other beings around me. Present to this life and this moment. With mindfulness and choice, I can control my concentration.
All of this makes up my own personal experience of living what Buddhism calls the 8-fold path. I practice. I fall short. I practice some more. I excel. I practice some more. I fall apart. No matter the outcome, I just keep practicing.
I have come to realize that part of the 8-fold path goes back to those paradoxical – nonsensical, even – points of tension and experience within myself, that conflicted conviction and optimistic hopelessness, and all the rest.
I am made not solely of good and not solely of evil, but I contain within my existence the full capacity for both and for all the gray areas in between. And I fundamentally believe that we all contain this full spectrum of possibilities. We choose – again and again – with every thought, every spoken word, every feeling we allow to flourish inside of us, every interaction with others outside in the world, we choose which piece of the spectrum defines us in that moment.
Our lives are made up of these moments, these choices. We become an amalgam of these moments. When we reflect on our own moments, and begin to feel more joy, love, gratitude, kindness, openness than we do hate, pain, sadness, guilt, I believe it is then that we truly step into being our best selves, our whole selves.
When there is so much love that no external hate can shake us, we are whole.
When there is so much compassion that we can be gentle on ourselves and others in times of crisis, mistakes, or grief, we are whole.
When there is so much kindness that angry outrage from others does not knock us down or tear us apart, we are whole.
When we are whole, we are one. Heart to heart, mind to mind, spirit to spirit.
May we all become whole.