3rd Generation Iowan Returns Home to Guide Breathwork Meditation Journey
Announcing BREATHWORK: DES MOINES with Ryan Williams
Des Moines, IA. – Former Greenwood, Callanan, and Roosevelt student Ryan Williams is bringing Breathwork to the Des Moines community with the inaugural BREATHWORK: DES MOINES on April 16 at the Oakridge Neighborhood Greenspace, at 10:00 a.m
Hosted in partnership with Des Moines’ own meditation and integration studio, Inner Space, the Breathwork students will lie on their backs while Williams plays music and guides them through an hour-long breathing practice. Students are encouraged to bring a yoga mat or blanket. Tickets are $35; Sign-up at INNER SPACE. 20% of the proceeds will go to the Oakridge Neighborhood to create pathways to success for Black and brown families by providing housing, education, and employment services.
Having worked in social media for Disney, Machinima, and global tech startups to help spread their stories, Williams has recently repurposed his skills to further a related mission: helping others heal. He’s honored to bring this practice back to his hometown of Des Moines.
“My role is to help support the loving community I grew-up in. I’ll be holding space, which means I’ll be facilitating the Breathwork class while participants do the work to help heal themselves. Whether it’s mental health, emotional fitness, physical relaxation, or calming the mind, breathwork is a medicine that can help soothe people’s bodies. Nothing makes me feel better than hearing that someone has an emotional, physical, or spiritual breakthrough after a class,” said Williams.
Williams is following his Grandparents’ Roger and Corene’s footsteps in a commitment to service and grief work. In the 1960s, they founded Williams Wilbert Burial Vault on SW 9th St., to help midwest families grieve their loved ones. Williams’ cousin Eric, Aunt Vicki, and parents John and Kathy carry on this compassionate work with memorials, cremation, and burials.
“I am honoring my family’s Des Moines legacy by teaching people how to breathe, grieve, and love themselves through a spiritual Breathwork practice,” shared Williams.
We’ll gather together in the heart of Des Moines – the unceded land of the Báxoǰe (Bah Kho-je) or Ioway, Sauk (Sac), and Meskwaki (Fox) peoples – to celebrate the healing power of breathwork. Through the breath, we’ll help heal our minds, bodies, and souls from our individual and collective grief.
“With nearly 1 million people in our land transitioning from their bodies due to Covid-19 over the past two years, it’s time that we all cooperate together to grieve, heal, and have fun. I am excited to share my work of creating mystical experiences that help others breath more deeply, and find a more loving way to treat themselves,” said Williams.
People of all ages can benefit from Breathwork; it can help with:
Trauma recovery, emotional healing, and spiritual growth
Treating depression and anxiety
Sleeping more deeply with more vivid dreams
Calming down racing thoughts and overthinking
About Ryan Williams:
Ryan Williams’ life is divided into two life spans: Before Breathwork (BB), and After Breathwork (AB). Williams is a former digital marketer who is in recovery for Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD). To heal his C-PTSD Ryan worked with therapists, sought the wisdom of sound healers, and connected with some of the best breathworkers and meditation leaders in the world. Called to use sacred psychedelic plant-based medicine on the bleeding edge of mental health, Williams attended emotional balance workshops endorsed by the Dalai Lama, and met with modern-day shamans. He conversed with the legendary Buddhist trained monk Jack Kornfield, learned Vipassana meditation with Mingyur Rinpoche, studied Pranayama breathwork meditation under David Elliott, and worked with sound healers who liberated his body with Tibetan singing bowls.
His first book, The Influencer Economy: How to Launch Your Idea, Share it With the World, and Thrive in the Digital Age, details the emerging economy of social media influencers that dominate our culture today. He has interviewed media personalities such as Larry King, Seth Godin, Jemele Hill, and Willie Geist.
Have you been feeling stressed out with work, over-exhausted from the never-ending pandemic, or seeking a way to treat your insomnia? If you are curious about the type of impact Breathwork can have on burnout, stress, and emotional exhaustion Breathwork teaches us to release stress in a natural way – through exhaling.
My life is divided into two life spans: Before Breathwork (BB), and After Breathwork (AB). I am thrilled to return back to my home city of Des Moines in order to teach a Breathwork session.
A good Breathwork class is all about breathing deeply, yelling, crying, sweating, laughing, and allowing stored-up pain to leave the body. Breathwork can be like five years of therapy in one session. Our bodies are like a reservoir for trapped emotion. Breathwork flushes our systems, clearing the reservoir.
The inaugural Breathwork: Des Moines: will be located at the Oakridge Neighborhood Greenspace. A portion of the proceeds will go to the Oakridge Neighborhood to create pathways to success for adults, children and families by providing exceptional housing combined with comprehensive education programs and employment services. Space is limited.
How to prepare for your Breathwork practice:
Please bring a yoga mat or blanket
We’ll be lying on our backs and I’ll be playing music during the session.
Breathwork helps the mind, body, and soul to heal and recover.
Breathwork helps people treat stress, deal with anxiety, while it encourages better sleep, and can help you to dream more clearly.
About Ryan Williams: Ryan’s life is now divided into two life spans: Before Breathwork (BB), and After Breathwork (AB). After growing up on Des Moines, IA., Ryan is returning home to reach his signature Vibrate Breathwork. Ryan worked in social media for Disney, Machinima, and many tech startups to help spread their stories, now he is using his skills to further his mission: helping others heal. Whether it’s recovery from PTSD, depression, anxiety, and trauma, everyone can benefit from the power of a Vibrate Breathwork class.
A few years ago Ryan was diagnosed with complex post traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD). To heal, Ryan sought the wisdom of sound healers, and connected with some of the best breathworkers and meditation leaders in the world. To build himself back up, he experimented with psychedelic, plant-based medicine on the bleeding edge of mental health, attended emotional balance workshops endorsed by the Dalai Lama, and met with modern-day shamans.
Ryan authored The Influencer Economy: How to Launch Your Idea, Share it With the World, and Thrive in the Digital Age, detailing the emerging economy of social media influencers that dominate our culture today. He hosted an Apple New and Noteworthy podcast, interviewing media personalities such as Larry King, Seth Godin, Jemele Hill, and Willie Geist.
Ryan and the class will be gathered in Des Moines, IA. on the traditional, ancestral, unceded land of the Báxoǰe (Bah Kho-je) or Ioway, Sauk (Sac), and Meskwaki (Fox) peoples. Ryan and Inner Space will donate a percentage of the Breathwork proceeds to education and housing support for Black and brown communities at Oakridge.
This is a true story that takes place around Joshua Tree, Landers, and Mojave, CA. the unsettled land of the Serrano, Chemehuevi, Mojave, and Cahuilla people.
We stand in the sand next to a fire pit and hot tub in a fenced in backyard.
There is an old RV trailer parked in the backyard of the house next door, with unreadable green graffiti tagged on the driver’s side. The moon is about 90% full and the white light shines on the open horizon, shadowy mountains, and neighboring one story houses.
Renting a desert house for a weekend, my friend and I are in Joshua Tree.
About a mile away, there is a glowing white light speeding around the night sky in the background. The object is too low to the ground to be an airplane or star. It’s zooming back and forth.
It appears to be an unidentified flying object.
Wait, is that a UFO?
I am tense, and consider the next natural question.
Are we ready to meet aliens tonight in Joshua Tree?
You may be asking why I would have aliens on my mind. Let me tell you a story.
The previous night my friend and I experienced an intense sound bath at the Integratron, twenty miles away in Landers, CA.
A sound bath is a healing meditation where people lie on their backs listening to the humming sound of crystal quartz bowls performed by a practitioner. It’s often a relaxing and therapeutic experience.
What is the Integratron?
The Integratron is a four story white dome that resembles an Italian renaissance church structure.
Except this dome is not built to be a house of worship. It originally was intended to be a time machine.
In 1953, a former high-ranking inspector at Howard Hughes’ aircraft company, George Van Tassel became inspired to build an all wood dome.
He encountered an alien from Venus named Solgonda who gave him the plan to build this structure. The goal was to help humans rejuvenate themselves in addition to traveling in time.
The Integratron is a mystical UFO temple in the middle of the high desert of Southern California.
While intended to be a time machine in the 1950’s and 60’s, the modern day Integratron hosts regular sound baths. Three white sisters from New York took it over in the early 2000’s and began to use it to host sound meditations.
The Integratron is like a shrine to Van Tassel, UFOs, and sound.
Driving up to the structure I have a few questions.
Did Van Tassel see aliens? Am I about to see aliens?
The property surrounding the land is wide open desert. The Integratron leases the land from the United States Bureau of Land Management, and the Bureau owns the miles of vacant land surrounding it.
Knowing full well about the UFO history of the land, I have high expectations for the sound bath experience.
After checking into the property, looking at crystals in the gift shop, and filling my water bottle up with well water from an aqueduct that runs down from Mount Shasta, one of the caretakers of the Integratron announces that it’s go time.
Entering the Integratron
Around forty of us enter the white dome structure through a wooden door.
I have a child-like sense of wonderment as I prepare for the unknown.
One of the caretaker sisters, who appears to be in her sixties, gives us an introductory pep talk about the history of the Integratron.
She tells us that the land has electromagnetic energy that is beyond normal. Pre-colonialism, Native Americans inhabited the land and saw the neighboring Giant Rock as sacred land.
Van Tassel first encountered the aliens at Giant Rock, who inspired him to build The Integratron.
We are standing on Native American sacred land, in a time machine, and about to walk upstairs to take a sound bath. I am tripped out.
Next, all forty of us wait one by one to walk up a steep set of wooden stairs to the top floor. It’s a cool desert night, people are wearing hats, scarves, and jackets to keep warm. COVID-19 is still a problem in the U.S., and everyone is required to wear a mask.
It feels like we are walking up towards a scary attic in my grandma’s old house.
How Does a Sound Bath Feel?
On the second floor of the Integratron, the room is nearly dark. The sun is down and the windows are bringing in the dark sky.
There is a bald man who appears to be in his thirties sitting down on one side of the room surrounded by microphones and seven singing bowls. He is the son of the caretaker, it’s a family affair. Two generations of the caretaking family run the Integratron.
We meet the son of another caretaker sister. This guy has has a black pony tail. He is in charge of the audio. He comes upstairs to check on the microphones around the singing bowls.
There is a crowd of thirty people assembled outside the Integratron. These people will be hearing the singing bowl performance projected outside the space.
Our group lays down our backs on mini sleeper soft pull out chairs. Each pull out has a clean white sheet as an extra COVID-19 precaution.
My head faces towards the singing bowls, while my feet face the cylinder wall.
Before the sound bath, the man asks us to focus on love, gratitude, and forgiveness.
He conducts a sound bath. Humming noises come through these bowls. Some make me feel like I’m hearing nails on a chalkboard. While others make me feel calm like the waves of the ocean. It feels like nature, like I am connecting to the core of myself.
I feel tension rise and fall throughout my body for the next thirty-five minutes.
A few thoughts that come up for me during the meditation. Many of these thoughts tense up my body, while others allow me to relax.
I give my two daughters lots of love during the opening of the meditation, which help calm me down
Focusing on my family, I forgive myself and I forgive my Dad for our past differences
I recall a time when I ate psychedelic mushrooms at a concert in the Everglades in college, and I’m reminded of that energy tonight
I feel a mix of physical stress and tension, and then I relax. It is a mystical experience.
I define a mystical experience as a natural, mystical, unexplainable feeling that comes over someone as in meditation, psychedelic medicine, or a spiritual moment. It is a healing experience yet may feel loving, moving, intense, scary, and even unbelievable.
I remind myself to stay on Earth. I do not want to get too wrapped up in the alien mythology, and would rather focus on my own healing journey.
As I remain grounded, a final thought comes to mind.
I am at my best when I speak truth to power. Speaking my truth is what is important. That is when I’m reclaiming my power that I have given away.
I am in a state of deep relaxation.
We lay down after the sound bath ends, listening to ten minutes of soothing music coming through the speakers. This is called integration.
The goal with integration is to try and apply what we experienced to our life. Later that night I go and journal my thoughts to help integrate them and make sense of the experience. Some of those words are in this article.
After feeling the Integratron, my friend and I go out for pizza to a local spot in Landers. It looks like a restaurant full of local artists. We listen to a woman singing over an electronic music instrument, while we sit outside in the cool desert air. We eat a pizza and a salad, as I sip a beer.
I am relaxed. I am calm. I am peaceful.
Meeting an Alien
The next night I am still feeling the effects of the sound bath, and intrigued by the possibility of seeing aliens. The flying object moves around in the night sky, begins to head towards my direction.
The object is moving to the backyard. I am more tense.
There are no street lights in Joshua Tree. The sky is clear, I see the North Star, planets, and airplanes in the clear pollution free sky.
Yet this object is due to fly over the backyard.
If this is an alien, what do I say? What do we say?
Are we ready to encounter an alien?
I ask my friend if we are having a psychedelic experience.
The object looks more like a drone the closer it gets. I break out my video camera just in case this is truly an alien aircraft. I want to show people the proof.
I am excited to consider that this could be an alien ship, even as my rational brain convinces me it’s not.
I have a wonder like I am a child again. I am in awe of this craft heading towards me.
I am not prepared to meet an alien.
My body tenses up. My friend and I stand side by side, looking at the sky together.
The object flashes its high beams in our backyard about twenty feet above me. It is a drone.
I am relieved. I tell my friend that I am not ready to encounter an alien.
Laughing out loud. We realize how funny that sounds.
A couple hours after the possible UFO encounter, my friend and I were run off the road by a car speeding down the street. Walking back from a nighttime flea market in Joshua Tree, a fast moving car laid on its horn and came barreling down the road. With no sidewalks or street lights, we dove off of the street, stumbling onto a vacant lot, and briskly walked back to our house.
A woman with pit bulls came out of her house on the scene as we continued to walk. She and a man came out after hearing the honking car. She asked:
I thought someone had hit my dogs. Are you okay?
Yes, that was scary. That person had bad energy.
Thanks for checking on us, have a nice night.
That was crazy, have a nice night.
We continued walking home, with a heightened sense of concern for our safety.
I cannot help but think the tension here is not too different from what the United States is experiencing in 2021.
I’ve been back from Joshua Tree for a few weeks, and I’m still processing what happened.
The Integratron helped me to feel tension, calm myself down, and I am now integrating what I went through.
And I’ll be ready for the aliens next time.
Places to visit in Joshua Tree:
Giant Rock – a sacred seven story boulder in the Mojave Desert known as a spiritual land to the Serrano, Chemehuevi, Mojave, and Cahuilla people.
One of my regular newsletters that I love to read is Tiny Revolutions by Sara Campbell. She is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and PR strategist who, as she puts it, “has strong opinions about pretty much everything.”
Sara is the friend you need to help you not feel ashamed or guilty for not living up to other people’s unrealistic expectations. Whether it’s not having the right job, the perfect spouse, or the ideal life, she aims to help us understand who we are.
Sara’s newsletter title comes from her ten-year relationship with the idea that every day is a small revolution.
She writes about topics like meditation, mental health, spirituality, and finding meaningful work.
In addition to writing Tiny Revolutions, Sara does brand and communications strategy. Her background not only helps her writing reach more people, but, in telling her story, she can help people find hope in their own.
Three years later I’m now turning the tables, chatting with her in my newsletter. To read about Sara in her own words, below are her quotes from a conversation that we had. You can listen to our conversation, here.
One of the main reasons I started writing [the newsletter] is because I didn’t see a lot of other writing that was candid about mental health and stuff like that.
I personally would have loved to read those types of stories because it helps me feel less alone. Part of the reason for writing the newsletter is really an act of service where it’s me doing it for myself. It’s sort of therapeutic to write this stuff out, but I do consider it as an act of service where I don’t mind talking about these things, even though they’re sensitive, because I’ve worked through a lot of them, or I am working through a lot of them.
I understand having now been through a lot of my own issues and talking to lots of other people who have issues, none of these things are rare. These things are very common, and it’s just that we don’t talk about it. I feel like that’s a service that I can provide. If I can talk about subjects that are very sensitive, if I’m in a position to be able to do that, which I am, it’s like, why not? That’s something I can offer.
I get emails from people, and they’ll say, thank you for saying it that way, or, that happened to me. It really is a way of connecting.
How a Depressive Episode Helped Inspire Tiny Revolutions
When I started the newsletter, I was in the midst of a depressive episode. One of the reasons I started it is to make sense of the episode. It was right after Anthony Bordain and Kate Spade died. They had killed themselves within a week of each other.
I thought: “Why does no one talk about suicide in an honest way? Why is it so hard to read accounts of this stuff that aren’t just sort of sad or whitewashed in some way?”
It grew out of that. Now it has become more broadly about the work of being a human being that is comfortable and self-actualizing on planet Earth.
How She Meditates Every Morning
I meditate every morning between thirty minutes and an hour.
I’m a big proponent of walks. I think walks and movement really help clear the mind. I was always a classic overthinker who would get trapped in ruminating thoughts. For me, a lot of the work has been to find ways to take myself out of that.
And so that isolation with walks and talking to others, helping other people in whatever ways you can help other people, um, just figuring out small ways that are sort of acknowledging it’s not all about you.
On Attending Therapy Over the Years
I’ve been in therapy and I think therapy is really great for helping you understand yourself better. It’s another tool to get to know yourself, to find out what works and doesn’t work, while also making sense of the experiences of your life, which is how it’s helped me. It’s helped me recognize patterns, unhealthy patterns that I inherited from family dynamics or whatever, and try and see how they were playing out in my life.
I haven’t been in therapy for a couple of years. I’m not saying I won’t go back. I’m sure I will.
I think where the personal development work comes in is a kind of unearthing. It is like digging to find what the blocks are, what the obstacles are, and what the things that are holding us back from doing, instead of living the lives that we want to live and addressing those things head on.
Things like drinking too much, compulsive shopping, sex addiction, or choose your poison are all things that we add to try and cover up the problem. I think that personal development is all about excavation and clearing away the unessential in getting to the heart of you, yourself and what you’re here to do.
On Teaching Meditation
I think meditation is interesting because there are so many misconceptions about it. People get really disheartened and discouraged because they go into it thinking it is a recipe for mental calm. They think it’s a recipe for being calm and relaxed. That actually is a long-term side effect.
Meditation is to reveal the story and the truth, the truth of your life, the stories that you are operating under the assumptions of, the things that you maybe don’t want to think about.
When you do meditation, at least the Zazen style that I do (there’s obviously lots of different styles of meditation), it’s really just about being present and dealing with witnessing all the things that are going through your brain.
Giving the things a chance to clear out, stir around, whatever, just noticing and not attaching to specifically to any one of those.
How Meditation Makes Her Feel
Zazen meditation is an open-eyed tradition and you basically sit and stare at a wall. It’s silent. It’s not guided.
When you do that day after day, you’re witnessing your mind, which is the classic monkey mind. When your mind is all over the place. It gets a little easier to do the more that you do it because you learn to tolerate that it’s uncomfortable.
But it’s about learning to sit with discomfort. You don’t really want to have feelings. You don’t want to experience it. And then over time, you just start to see that that’s okay, there are good things, there are bad things. Some days are harder than others.
Some days are euphoric. You just start to see the full spectrum of the experience. It’s part of what we are experiencing as human beings. Our minds are busy things.
Some days it’s cloudy. Some days it’s super sunny, while some days it’s misty. Some days it’s stormy with ups and downs. Over time you can start to see things softening, but only because you stopped fighting them as much. It’s the “stop feeling like you need to be happy all the time,” feeling like you need to be a certain way.
In a way it’s like the ultimate surrender. You’re just a person living a life. You’re not deciding to think about all these things, these things are just happening in your mind. So it’s like in a way you’re just kind of surrendering control, thinking “Tthis is the experience, what can I learn from it?” meditation can really do for you, which is just broadening your field of awareness.
Advice to Someone in Their Twenties
I think I’m really learning. There are so many different ways that you can use for self-development, right? There are any number of things. And if I were to go back and tell myself at that time, it’s just start doing some form of self-exploration—whether that’s therapy, whether that’s coaching, whether that’s meditation, whether it’s yoga or breathwork or something—try something to get on the path.
Once you’ve found what works for you, then you stick to it. My teacher in Zen always says, “Just find something that you like and stick to it.” Whatever it is that works for you, just do it and, and make it a practice.
It has to be something that’s relevant to your everyday life or else or you’re not going to stick to it. But it’s like going back to the gentleness thing. Find something that you like, that you appreciate, that feeds you in some way. There are so many different ways you can go about it. Do some experimentation.
My life is divided into two spans: before breathwork (BB), and after breathwork (AB). This is why breathwork is psychedelic and how a class typically goes.
Through my computer screen, I am looking at a group of breathwork students.
People lay on foam yoga mats, colorful rugs, or carpeted floors. White painted walls, windows facing the setting sun, and vinyl record collections are visible in their video backgrounds.
One person has a dog sniffing around their yoga mat, another person lays next to their teenage son who is also taking the class. Others have the lights turned off, practicing in complete darkness.
This particular group of breathworkers hail from Washington state to New York to California and a few places in between.
Pushing play on Queen and David Bowie’s song, ”Under Pressure,” I start teaching my breathwork class: The Breath is Psychedelic.
Today’s music playlist also includes songs such as Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition,” Nina Simone’s “Sinnerman,” and Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwoʻole’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” You can listen to the playlist by clicking here.
Guiding my students into the breathwork
Hey everyone, please close your eyes, relax on your back, and rest your arms by your side.
My name is Ryan, and I am coming to you from Los Angeles, unsettled Tongva land. Welcome.
Let’s take three cleansing breaths to help end your day. Your day is now over. It’s time to focus on your heart, mind, body, and lungs.
At the count of three, take a deep breath and sigh.
One. Two. Three. Sigh.
Let’s do two more deep breaths and sighs.
One. Two. Three. Sigh.
One. Two. Three. Sigh.
I love that you are here, practicing breathwork today.
To start the class, you’ll need to ground yourself with an intention.
Let’s feel connected to the ground as we create an I am statement for the session.
For today’s intention, I recommend focusing on a statement that is something like: I am loved. I am peaceful. I am whole. I am relaxed. Those usually work well.
I personally like to use the I am statement I am loved. Say the I am statement in your head three times.
I am loved. I am loved. I am loved.
Why breathwork is psychedelic
Today we will enter into non-ordinary states of consciousness. This style of breathwork was pioneered in the late 1960s by Holotropic breathwork teacher, Stan Grof, and it helps us get out of our normal way of thinking.
In the late 60s, America’s “War on Drugs” era began. Medicines such as LSD, psilocybin (magic mushrooms), DMT and other psychedelics were prohibited and criminalized by the government.
A Czech-born psychiatrist, Stan Grof started teaching a style of breathwork called holotropic breathwork, as a way to mimic the effects of psychedelics because the medicines became outlawed. Before prohibition, he guided over 4,500 psychedelic therapy sessions with psychedelics like LSD.
Breathwork helps us move beyond our regular state of mind. From Greek origins, the word “holotropic” translates to “moving toward wholeness.”
With your breath, powerful music, and your own inner wisdom – the goal today is to help you heal.
We will be practicing today in order to reach meditative, mystical, and psychedelic states.
Yet, we will use just the breath to reach these levels.
When you practice breathwork, it is a three part breath. We will breathe rhythmically like this for around twenty minutes:
Inhale through the belly.
Inhale through the chest.
Exhale it all out.
Again, we will breathe today by this three part breath:
Inhale through the belly.
Inhale through the chest.
Exhale it all out.
If your body vibrates from head to toe, that is expected. You may feel tingling in your wrists and hands, or vibrations in your tailbone – that is all totally normal.
Today the breath will be psychedelic for you.
I teach breathwork to help people open up their hearts, minds, and lives.
Holding space in breathwork
My role is to help support the students through the class. I am holding space, which means I’m facilitating the class while they are doing the work to help heal themselves.
Whether mental and emotional fitness, physical relaxation, or calming the mind, breathwork is a medicine that can help soothe the body.
At certain times I urge the students to yell or laugh. Sometimes people even cry.
If you practice breathwork, you may feel vibrations from your cheeks to your wrists to your ankles. You’ll feel tingling sensations throughout your body.
Breathwork is an emotional rollercoaster in which the one breathing is at the helm.
Towards the end of the breathwork session, we listen to Nina Simone’s “Sinnerman.” As a teacher, my adrenaline is pumping, and my heart is thumping. We continue actively breathing until the final cool-down.
As Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwoʻole’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” plays, everyone returns to a normal breathing pattern though their nose. We can all relax and soak up the experience.
Tonight, one person cried thinking about their childhood and their relationship with money.
Another person had a runner’s high and felt like they just ran a race.
The mother and her teenage son both loved the session. The son thought it was “cool,” while the Mom felt vibrations and tingling sensations in her arms and hands.
Nothing makes me feel better than hearing that someone has a breakthrough.
I rest on a beaten down brown couch in my Los Angeles garage. I sport Adidas sweatpants, an Austin City Limits blue t-shirt, colored socks, and a zipped up green hoodie. I look up at the white ceiling.
Lying on my back, my arms by my side, palms facing up,
Alone, I commit to spend the next twenty minutes lying still.
My phone is in airplane mode. With earbuds in my ears, I push play on a guided meditation track called Yoga Nidra 20 Min Practice.
I close my eyes. I breathe in. Exhale, I sigh it all out.
What is yoga nidra?
Yoga nidra is also known as yogic sleep — it’s the state between being awake and asleep.
Your body is deeply relaxed, while your mind stays awake.
Yoga nidra is an ancient meditation practice that takes you deep into your subconscious.
It helps treat anxiety, alleviate stress, reduce PTSD, and heal trauma.
It gives you profound feelings of calm, peace, and relaxation.
If you feel overwhelmed by the never-ending pandemic, over-exhausted by working too much, or need new coping methods in your life, yoga nidra may be for you.
After getting diagnosed with Complex PTSD, I realized how much of my childhood got buried. Yoga nidra helps me to recover my childhood memories. It allows me to reclaim part of my past identity, moving it into the present.
I am a different person after practicing yoga nidra meditation. I am a more authentic version of my childhood self. I feel like this is who I am supposed to be.
During yoga nidra, memories of riding my first DiamondBack dirt bike return. Memories of driving my first car, a gray Jeep Cherokee, come back.
I recall memories of a middle school ice cream date with my girlfriend.
I love these positive memories. During yoga nidra these recollections flash through my mind. I recall some of the happiest moments in my life, growing up in Des Moines, Iowa.
There is a certain innocence of doing something for the first time as a kid.
Yoga nidra is helping me heal my trauma.
The mediation feels like a dream.
I am safe.
I am a witness to my past.
Seeing my past helps me to comfort my inner child. It completes a loop on some great memories. I sometimes recall bad memories, and leave them in the past. Whereas the positive memories, I take with me. The past moments complete my past, helping me to re-write my own personal story.
In reclaiming my memories, I practice the saying from 12 step recovery programs: “Take what you want, and leave the rest.”
Getting back into the practice of yoga nidra, I lie on my back.
How to practice yoga nidra?
Setting an intention
Lying on my back, the teacher asks to create an intention. She calls it a sankalpa, which is an ancient word from the Sanskrit language, which means a heartfelt desire.
I say: I am strong.
As the session continues, I repeat my intention: I am strong three times in my head.
I am strong. I am strong. I am strong.
My teacher asks me to breathe counting backwards from 10 to zero. She suggests that after every breath count backwards with one one number.
Inhale / Exhale / 10
Inhale / Exhale / 9
Inhale / Exhale 8
Inhale / Exhale / 7
Inhale / Exhale / 6
Inhale / Exhale 5
Inhale / Exhale / 4
Inhale / Exhale / 3
Inhale / Exhale / 2
Inhale / Exhale / 1
Scanning the body
The teacher leads a body scan, which is a quick way for me to give attention on specific parts of my body.
I focus a few seconds of attention on my body from my forehead to throat to each one of my toes and everywhere in between. The idea is to quickly scan the body, with each body part getting a specific energetic focus.
I feel sensation in my jaw, mouth, ears, nose, cheeks, eyes, forehead, scalp, back of the neck, and throat.
I focus on my left shoulder, left arm, palm of the left hand, right shoulder, right arm, palm of the right hand and both arms and palms together.
I give energy to the front and back of my torso, pelvis, sacrum, left hip, left leg, left foot, left foot, right hip, right leg, and right foot.
I give energy to my entire body up and down.
My body loosens up.
Intentional dreaming in yoga nidra?
I’m off on a magic carpet ride to re-explore my past, searching for an inventory of a lost childhood. However strange it sounds to talk to yourself like this, repeating a the mantra is important to my healing.
I am strong.
I’m a ten year-old version of myself. Riding a Diamond Back BMW bike, I cruise around my Des Moines’ neighborhood. Envisioning myself as a speed demon, I head down to my friend Jay’s house to go swimming on a summer afternoon. The bike ride is mostly down hill, and I have my towel in my backpack. With closed eyes, I imagine the freedom that I felt on these streets. Riding on the sidewalk, with the wind through my hair, I arrive at Jay’s. I am away from my home. I feel happy to jump in his pool during the humid midwest summer.
I am strong.
I’m twelve years old, biking down Grand Ave. to Bauder’s, the local drug store. I’m wearing a Vuarnet, France t-shirt and OP shorts. Hoping to pick up the latest round of Topps’ baseball cards, I’m ready to be a kid. I also grab a stash of Now and Later sugary candies.
I am strong.
I am sixteen years old driving my first car – a grey stick shift Jeep Cherokee. With a built-in radio, roll down windows, and a bare bones build-out, I am reminded of the freedom I felt on those sets of wheels. I love driving a manual car. I am driving again down Grand Ave. to get a Frosty at Wendy’s. I think to myself “Oh I miss the freedom of driving when I was sixteen years old.”
I am strong.
I haven’t thought about most of these memories in twenty years. Yet these memories are some of the happiest in my life. What the f*ck? There is joy. It is remarkably beautiful to relive parts of my past, and remember these purely joyful moments.
I focus on relaxing my breath to the rhythm of natural sounds. Emotionally and mentally, my heart and mind traveled back in time to the Des Moines’ streets. I rode in a DeLorean time machine, like Marty McFly in Back to the Future.‘
By remembering the positive memories, I reclaim joy from my past life. It heals.
As my meditation teachers have said, “Your body has wisdom.” With focus and hard work, the memories flooded back. My mind remembered my childhood. By the end of some of these sessions, I cried. I grieved for the past I left behind. Yet, after the cry, I’m grateful to recall these memories. I’ve experienced two seemingly conflicted emotions in healing: grief and joy.
How yoga nidra helps trauma
In an eight-week study conducted at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, researchers assessed potential treatment for PTSD “among active-duty soldiers returning from the Middle East,” using iRest yoga nidra.
After eight weeks, researchers found that for:
“Chronic, severe combat-related PTSD symptoms, the greatest relief from tonic states of anxiety, hypervigilance, and rage may come most easily through therapies that cultivate and sustain ‘opposite’ states of mind and body. This fits with the yogic principle of pratipaksha bhavana, which reframes ‘avoidance’ of traumatic memories as the natural gravitation toward balance, integration and health. Participants most highly valued the phases of iRest that focused on sensing physical pleasure, bliss, and essential qualities of inner strength.” International Journal of Yoga Therapy, No. 21 (2011)
It is a surreal experience. I didn’t realize it, but I blocked out a lot of good, healthy, positive childhood memories. I had a hole in part of my heart. I filled it back in with love. Decades later, I processed my blocked out childhood.
To recover, I practice yoga nidra smiling, acknowledging, hugging, and grieving my past self.
A study completed by a leading teacher in Yoga nidra, Richard Miller, Ph.D., theorizes “that there’s no separation between our dream state and reality because they inform each other.” Yoga nidra is a dream-like state.
“Yogis state that 45 minutes of yoga nidra is as restorative as three hours of sleep…It is a spiritual practice that through a structured and conscious movement through sleep states, takes you to realms beyond the mind and into the fourth state of consciousness beyond waking, dream, and deep sleep,” is how Kamini Desai, author of Yoga Nidra: The Art of Transformational Sleep” describes yoga nidra.
During these meditations, I grieve, I feel joy, yet there is pain. I feel a loss of myself. That sounds weird, yet when I address the pain, I find relief. I grieve over parts of my past that remained unresolved. It is emotionally exhausting.
Crying helps me grieve.
I sometimes cry during yoga nidra. I cry for my lost past life. Feeling pain for my younger self is incredible. I move onto the present. I stop wallowing in self-pity. I choose to live in the now, accepting the sadness.
An important part of healing any childhood trauma is doing inner child work. You have to grieve for your childhood, where you were robbed.I went back in time during deep yoga nidra meditation, talking to my younger self. I’ve learned that overcoming trauma, I must grieve for my inner child. While meditating on a childhood memory from my past, I’d tell myself “I love you.” “You’re f*cking awesome.” “I love myself,” during the yoga nidra sessions. I end by reciting the words: I am strong. I am strong. I am strong.
Peeling myself off the couch, like a patient sitting up on a hospital gurney, I’m in my garage, alone, healing myself. Wiping off the tears streaming down my cheek. The entire world heals when you heal.
The Buddhist monk Mingyur Ringapoche talks about how you have to “shake hands with the negative emotions.” I not only shook hands with my past sadness, I gave myself a bear hug. I loved what I lacked as a kid. It was like going back in the past, time traveling to past events. Rather than take an airplane, I went back via my mind. Layering memories of my subconscious, I recalled nearly every major moment of my youth.
I learned that I am strong.
I went under the hood of the car, checking the engine of my mind.
I cleaned the engine, checked the oil, and restarted the car battery in my brain.
This is the welcome email for my The 15 For 15 Meditation Challenge 🧘. to help people meditate fifteen times in fifteen days. It’s a free fifteen day journey, where you’ll get 5-6 emails from me helping you to create a daily meditation practice. Sign up here to start the challenge! You can read the first email in the Challenge below.
Welcome! I’m grateful that you signed up for this challenge.
Before we jump in, I’d love to know why you joined me on this challenge. There are thousands of meditations apps, articles, and teachers who could help you on your journey.
Why are you here, in this email, in this course?
I’d love to hear from you, feel free to email me directly what you’re looking to gain from the next fifteen days.
With the ’15 for 15 Meditation’ 🧘 Challenge, I want to you to prove something to yourself: You can meditate fifteen times in fifteen days.
I discovered my own system for meditation creating a daily practice.
Whether it’s finding calm during your stressful day, sleeping more deeply at night, or relaxing your body before starting to work – starting a consistent meditation practice produces results.
Have you been feeling stressed out after the pandemic, an upcoming career change, or grieving a loss due to Covid-19? Emotional exhaustion is real, and we have to take care of our energy.
The way that we interact with the world is of great importance. We need to learn to protect our energy; meditation is a practice to teach us how to do this.
PS: If you are reading this, you probably found my writing from my newsletter, have followed my work around the Influencer Economy book or podcast. Or you may have taken a breathwork class with me. Or, if you found me somewhere else…I’d love to know how you found me!
It’s around Christmas time. I’m at a holiday party with friends, many of whom I have not seen in decades.
I am back home in Des Moines, IA. I hug old friends as I greet them, and we laugh hysterically at one of our friend’s drunken grandma, who is so wasted that she goes to bed early.
It’s great to catch up with Kelly, Murph, Shuter, and Kelly’s sister. Their smiles are big. Everyone is cordial, and we are having a hysterical time.
Except I’m not physically in Iowa. I’m having this dream while in my bed in Los Angeles.
This isn’t an ordinary dream. It’s a lucid dream—a dream where you feel like you are in control. In some cases you can actually control what is happening.
What is a lucid dream?
In a lucid dream, you are aware that you are dreaming, and the dreams feel vivid and real. Imagine if you were an active participant in your dream rather than a witness?
In lucid dreams you are controlling the dream like it is a real-life video game. You control the story. When you wake up, the dream is deep enough that it feels like it happened in real-life.
After the dream I wake up and jot down a few notes in my dream journal about what happens. I feel calm.
I get out of bed and walk down the hall to check on breakfast. I feel happy.
I last recall seeing these people drunk at high school parties or in the summers after we all went off to college.
In the dream, I made amends with people who I have not seen in twenty years, enjoying one last party together. It was like we were all younger. Their hugs make me feel loved.
My last meaningful memory with Kelly was in freshman year geometry class with Mr. Cummings. She was a cute older girl that I acted cool around, trying to keep everything low key. Our teacher, Mr. Cummings died of brain cancer that year, and I remember hiding my tears from my Dad as I walked away from his funeral towards our car.
People like her were my surrogate family, who I confided in to help me get through the ups and downs of life.
Murph and I played baseball together in little league, where I struggled to get hits and make plays on the field. Baseball was never my sport, yet guys like Murph remained optimistic and light around me. His freckled face and monotone voice helped me to feel calm.
Shuter and I played a lot of front yard tackle football together, and sometimes sat together at lunch in middle school. He was another person who I wanted to act low key around.
Getting back into my morning routine, I have positive energy from this dream, lots of it, as I recall these decades-old childhood friendships.
I carry this loving energy with me as I drink my morning smoothie, drive to run an errand, and type at my computer to start my work day.
The waking state after this lucid dream is can feel better than an orgasm.
If you can believe it, my body feels more relaxed than it does after I have sex.
Do you want to have lucid dreams?
How to trigger lucid dreams
The chances for lucid dreaming increase when you practice meditation, specifically sound bath and breathwork meditations. Since I started practicing breathwork, my dreams are more alive.
Keeping a dream journal helps me to remember these dreams.
When I wake up at 5am and have a dream, I grab my phone and type out a quick recollection of the dream. This helps me to recall my dreams in case I forget them.
My dreams are fleeting and I need to write them down.
Breathwork and a dream journal are my two devices to help me experience lucid dreams and train myself to write out these moments.
Studies show that if you wake up after 5 hours of sleep, stay awake briefly, and then go back to bed to try to enter an REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep period,” than you can possibly trigger a lucid dream.
You can also trigger a lucid dream if you use a Mnemonic induction of lucid dreams (MILD), which uses “prospective memory,” the act of remembering to do something in the future. When “you wake up after sleeping for 5 hours,” you “tell yourself several times that the next time you dream, you will remember you’re dreaming.”
In my recent dream, making amends at this party helped me to open up a part of myself.
I never officially said goodbye to these friends when we all went off to college. It’s like these childhood friends were dangling in my mind and I cleared out old cobwebs.
Lucid dreams allow me to look at my dream as if I have the full awareness of my waking state.
Lucid dreams give me energy.
One of the cooler benefits of practicing breathwork, meditation, and other reflective practices is that they give me a chance to have these dreams.
I was embedded in the fabric of Des Moines, IA for the first 18 years of my life, and then I moved away. And thus all my friends went away too.
You remember old habits, ways of life, and friends from your past. Meditation helps heal lost parts of yourself. You uncover parts of yourself that go beyond the conscious mind. My brain helped me to pick specific people from my past, and have a healthy and fun interaction together.
It is freeing, cathartic, and quite enjoyable. In this case, my dream helped to close the loop on past connections.
If I practice breathwork before crawling into bed, I’m almost certain to have a lucid dream. It calms me down, and opens my mind to the benefits of dreaming, and it’s a lot of fun to take these dreams with me the next day.
If you want to try a breathwork class with me, you can explore the possibility of having more clear and lucid dreams. I teach virtual classes every Thursday at 6:30 PST, and you can RSVP here.
I’m at the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles. The line to get into tonight’s show is down the block. Running late, my friends Luke and Liam hold a place in line for me. Eventually, the doors open up and we walk into the venue and head straight to the bar.
We are at The Wiltern to learn about meditation from conversation with Ripoche Minguyard, a Tibetan monk known for going on a “wandering retreat” for four and a half years mostly living without a home in the Himalayas and the flat land of India.
The energy of the room is full of excitement and anticipation, it’s as if we were here for a rock show. Buying the first round of beers for my friends, the bartender serves three micro-brew beers with orange slices.
The three of us do a low key cheers, and jump into a conversation about mental health, pharmaceutical drugs, and psychedelics. We have a radical conversation that opens me up for the night. This event was a big night in my meditation journey. Looking back, it helped me start a daily practice for thirty days of meditation.
At the beginning of the conversation, Ripoche leads the crowd in a brief sit-down meditation.
When a Tibetan Monk Makes it Easy
He asks us to find our “basic goodness” and to “relax.” As we drop into meditating, he suggested that we “just be” and advises that we “don’t meditate.”
He talks for a few minutes and after holding our breath for ten seconds, he says we were done. He suggests that “non-meditation” is the “best mediation.” His advice is to “just be.”
Well, that is easy.
Up until that night, I was a newcomer to meditation.
Starting a meditation practice on my own was a hard and lonely struggle.
Previously, I had practiced on my own sporadically yet didn’t develop a habit.
If you have meditated a few times to calm down before work, then you’re like me.
I also meditated on the days before public speaking, yet I never developed the meditation habit.
If you’re someone who has felt meditation benefit your life, and still haven’t prioritized it, then I can totally relate.
After the talk with Ripoche, I got the itch to practice. He made it sound simple.
But it wasn’t. It was painful.
Once I discovered certain tools that work for me, meditation became less stressful. It helped me get in touch with a part of myself that was suffering.
I accessed a deeper consciousness, and was able to heal a lot of pain inside of my body. By meditating every day for thirty days, I kickstarted my own practice, and found a path to calm and soothe my body.
None of my friends meditated. No one in my family practices. I went blindly into it and this is what I learned. If you’ve been struggling with meditating consistently, take a look and, who knows, you might find just have fun while doing it.
How to Meditate for 30 Days in a Row: The Mindset
What helped me keep going for thirty days:
I meditated first thing in the morning, I’d find a quiet spot in my garage, backyard, or bed. Getting it out of the way early started my day on the right path. Waking up early to meditate helped me to avoid getting distracted.
I was gentle on myself if I missed a morning session. It’s okay to miss a session. I was forgiving to myself. If I missed a morning practice, I’d make time for meditation during a lunch break or at night before bed. Self-compassion is a huge part of meditation. Sometimes I would meditate in my car if I arrived early to a meeting, which forced me to get over my own fears of being judged by others for meditating.
I started with guided meditations, led by a teacher. It’s hard enough finding the time to meditate, and it’s even harder to guide your own meditation. It’s easier to push play on a meditation app where someone teaches you how to practice. I recommend Waking Up, Unplug, Tara Brach’s basic meditations (free) and Jack Kornfield’s Soundcloud (free) to start your practice. Turn your phone to airplane mode, and settle into the practice.
I brought a meditation journal with me and would write afterward. After each session, I would jot down any notes, ideas, or downloads from my practice. They would range from heavy thoughts from childhood suffering to more simple thoughts like my to-do list for the day. No matter what I thought, I worked to withhold judgement. Over time if I got too busy to write by hand, I would write in the notes section of my iPhone to document my thoughts/progress. It became a writing practice. I eventually turned the notes into articles that helped me share my practice with others. Sharing my own meditation stories not only helped myself to heal, it helped other people along their own path.
I kept track of every minute of each session, writing out the total number of minutes in the meditation journal. This helped me feel like my practice grew, and made me feel accomplished. The tracking also helped me document it in a clinical sense. Some apps track your hours, which is also helpful in reaching your goals. And when you reach a milestone like 1,000 total minutes, you can feel proud for yourself, even if no one else is there to celebrate the achievement with you.
I came from a place of desperation. Around the time of the Ripoche talk, I had been diagnosed with Complex PTSD, which is a form of ongoing childhood trauma. Meditation was like medicine and I was giving myself a drip of a healthy serum. Previously, I had tried prescription drugs, psychiatry, and therapy – yet none of those treatments helped me like meditation did. Meditation physically calmed my body down.
I accepted that it was a lonely activity. I practiced in my backyard or garage at first. I had no one to share my practice with because very few (if any) of my friends practiced. Sometimes if I had a huge breakthrough like feeling something like childhood anger resurface or grieving by remembering a sad moment like a friend’s passing. I’d sometimes record a video or audio message to document that it actually happened. Talking to someone in the video helped me to acknowledge any breakthrough, as if I was speaking to a friend.
I picked ten minutes of meditation and stuck with it. Starting to practice meditation is like working an under-utilized muscle. You have to develop the skills to meditate, and it helps to pick a number and stick with it. I initially chose ten minutes a day, and over time I increased the amount. I gradually built up my practice to doing two ten-minute sessions back to back. Or I would do two fifteen-minute meditations in a row. You can build up your tolerance to the pain or whatever comes up, and over time it gets less challenging! Ten minutes is a great number. As I mentioned before, I was gentle on myself. If I missed a morning session, I’d schedule it around lunch or even do it in my car if I arrived at a meeting early.
Discovering How Meditation Works for Your Body
Remember that not all tips work for everyone. It’s important to figure out what works for you. Life gets in the way, and if you miss a day, it’s okay. It’s not like weight training, where you need to be intense about sticking to a strict plan.
I downloaded the meditations on my phone when possible. Text messages, email alerts, and social media apps need to be quiet if you’re going to get into a daily routine. Muting your notifications and stopping all your incoming dings and pings will help you to focus on the practice.
My foray into meditation began at The Wiltern and over a beer with some friends.
Over time, the growth that you will achieve can make you feel good inside. The process itself can be fun, even though it’s challenging at first.
Meditation can be a radical tool for self-discovery, self-awareness, and finding calm. It is a gateway to go deeper in your life, and enjoy yourself while doing it.
Around the time of Ripoche’s talk, I was open to new possibilities and ready to make changes in my life. I had been arguing with my psychiatrist around her urging me to start an antidepressant for what she felt like was depression. I had recently cried during a session.
I was desperate for new more natural solutions to mental health care.
The night during Ripoche’s talk opened up my thinking. My friends talked in-depth about how psychedelics can help people with depression. Specifically, Luke shared that psilocybin mushrooms and therapy help him deal with his depressed moods.
Starting to meditate can open you up to new consciousness, and be a gateway to living a more open life, and even teach you to love yourself just a little bit more.
Have you, like I did, wanted to practice meditation consistently but for one reason or another it you didn’t?
If you want to join me in a 30-day meditation journey, leave a comment below or sign-up for my email community and tell me how it’s going. Follow along for more information about the upcoming meditation 30 for 30 course.
For privacy, I changed the names of my friends, since at the time of publishing this article, psychedelics are criminalized in this country. Hopefully we can all work to decriminalize together and end the war on drugs.