Categories
Meditation Recovery service

Tiny Revolutions with Sara Campbell on Meditation, Therapy, and Acts of Service

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. 

Sara interviewed me in Tiny Revolutions in 2018. (Tiny Revolutions No.5: Interview with Ryan Williams, writer of The Influencer Economy). Back then we wanted to have a conversation about mental health. 

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

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Writing As An Act of Service

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.

Big thanks to my editors: David Burt, Jillian Anthony, and Joel Christiansen.

Read an article on How to Meditate From Scratch

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Sara Campbell writes the Tiny Revolutions newsletter. She also does brand and communications strategy.

Categories
Breathwork Holotropic breathwork Meditation psychedelics

Why Breathwork is Psychedelic: Body Vibrations, Intentional Breathing, and Powerful Music

Breathwork is Psychedelic

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.

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. 

Through an altered state of consciousness, breathwork helps process stress and pain. Setting an intention before the class helps to heal the spirit.

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. 

Big thanks to my editors: Adam Thomas, Jessica Kasmer-Jacobs, Tom White, Lyle McKeany, and Viv Rosenthal.

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If you’re feeling stressed out with work, over-exhausted from the pandemic, or seeking a way to treat your insomnia c breathwork is easy to learn. Sign up below and I’ll show you the way.

I have been teaching breathwork online with a breathwork studio called Frequency Mind. Join me every Wednesday at 7:30 pm ET (4:30 pm PT) for the Breath is Psychedelic class.

You can become a founding member of Frequency using the special code RW2021 for $9.99 a month for unlimited live and on-demand breathwork sessions. Redemption Link

Categories
Uncategorized

What Happens in Yoga Nidra: Dreaming, Deep Rest, and Relaxation

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. 

Focused breathing

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.

I relax. 

My body loosens up. 

I dream.

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. 

I left with a calmer mind. 

Links:

What is Yoga Nidra? Cleveland Clinic

iRest Yoga Nidra 20 Min Practice by Dr Richard Miller

Shiva Rea Yoga Nidra

Daphne Lyon Yoga Nidra

Rest as Resistance: Deep Relaxation Yoga Nidra Practice

________________________________________________________Big thanks to my Editors: Anushri Kumar, Tom White, Kyla Scanlon, Brett Friedman, Stew Fortier, Jeremiah Cohick, James McGirk, Sara Campbell, Charlene Wang, Dilan Dane, David Vargas, Ritesh, Adam Tank, Chris Angelist

 

 

 

Categories
healing Meditation

The 15 For 15 Meditation Challenge 🧘

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. 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.

To start, I share with you an article I wrote about meditating for 30 days in a row, from scratch

Both teaching and practicing meditation has changed my life. I want to help you get to where you need to be, and see how meditation can help. 

Did you start this journey because of wanting to find your own unique energy on the topic of healing? 

How the Challenge Works

This is a two week challenge. During these fifteen days, you will:

    • Choose your meditation space at your home, office, or even in your car.
    • Connect, communicate, and meditate with other mediators on a similar path as you
    • Develop a muscle to journal/write after every session and track your meditations minutes
    • Start to meditate on Day 1, continuing to meditate fifteen times in fifteen days
    • Learn more about different types of meditation from breathwork to yoga nidra (yogic sleep) and vipassana (insight) meditation 
    • Experiment with different types of meditations—different formats, varying lengths—to broaden your practice
    • Expand your practice by addressing your meditations and integrate your newfound knowledge and energy into your daily life 

In other words, you’ll get over the analysis paralysis often caused by trying to commit to practicing and become a full blown meditator.

You’ll receive short emails with step-by-step instructions for each stage of the challenge.

I hope you’re as excited about this as I am. I can’t wait to see how this goes!

Tomorrow, I’ll send you an introduction about how to start the challenge, a spreadsheet with over fifteen free, handpicked meditations, and we’ll start your first daily practice. 🙂

See you tomorrow as we kick off this journey together!

Much Love,

Ryan

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!

Big thanks to my editors: Tom White, Joel Christiansen, Amber Williams, and Jesse Germinario.

Categories
Breathwork CPTSD healing Meditation Recovery

How I recovered from my family’s botched drug intervention and became even stronger

A few years ago my family staged an intervention. The event caused a disruption to my life that forced me to double-down on my own mental wellness and inner work. The intervention shocked my body, and afterwards I found a series of helpful strategies to help me regain my strength and health. Some of these tools include meditation, breathwork, sound baths, yoga, journaling, group healing, and therapy. 

After decades of working on my own healing, I did not realize how my own healing would cause ripples in my family, which caused a giant wave to crash onto me. While I am on a life-long path to wellness, self-love, and self-acceptance, my family acted confused, controlling, and unwell. 

I am doing well now, and feel more resilient than ever. I got through the intervention, and I wrote some actions and takeaways to help you in your own quest for a healthy life. I’m far from perfect, yet I strive to make daily progress. I have a lot to be grateful for. I want to be clear that I felt great before the intervention, and after building myself back-up, I feel great now. 

The day after the intervention 

It is 5:00 am and the sun isn’t yet up. 

The sound of an Amazon delivery person slamming a package on the concrete outside the front door startles me awake. 

I am hungry, scared, and lying on a couch at my friend’s house in Venice, California. 

I have a new reality on my hands. 

I have no idea where my children are. 

For the past seven years I have known where my children have slept, until now.

My heart is shattered in a thousand pieces on the floor.

I do not know when I’ll see my children again. I miss them greatly. 

I feel acid reflux in my stomach after the stress combined with a loss of appetite come together with my feeling of deep loneliness. I had no appetite the night before—my body was still in shock. I feel hungover as if I had drunk half a bottle of tequila last night, yet I am stone cold sober.

I rest, covered in a blanket and my head on a couch pillow, wishing I were sleeping in my own bed. As I reflect on what happened the night before, I cry. 

I am scared. I know my life will never be the same. I am heartbroken. 

 Just twelve hours earlier, my family botched a drug intervention, for weed. 

After my diagnosis of C-PTSD, a form of on-going childhood trauma, I had been using a small amount of cannabis before practicing yoga or meditation. 

I have been into yoga for decades and cannabis helps me to deal with the physical pain of the practice. As a newcomer to meditation, cannabis helped me get into twenty minute sessions within a few weeks of practicing. Eventually I was going into forty minute sessions after a few months of practicing, it was helping to sooth my body.

WTF is going on. I openly shared with my wife that I have been taking cannabis, which is a plant-based medicine. We even went to a cannabis dinner a month prior to this intervention. 

Cannabis greatly helps me to process the physical pain in my joints, wrists, hips, and ankles. 

The cannabis helped to treat my pain when I experienced PTSD flashbacks during the practice. 

Don’t get me wrong, in my twenties I smoked my fair share of cannabis, and it could have been seen as excessive. Yet, at this phase of my life, I felt the medicinal benefits of the cannabis plant to help with the physical stress of healing my trauma.

I’m grateful that I live in California, there is a cannabis dispensary a mile from where I live. 

In order to helpmyself find answers, I meditate. I reflect on what happened. 

The last moments of my pre-intervention life are walking home from a church.

For an hour prior to the intervention, I attended a community-organized meeting at a neighborhood church with a few other local parents. We discussed a local ballot initiative to tax corporations who are avoiding paying their share of taxes. A teacher from the local school ran the meeting, and he is hopeful to sponsor a California ballot initiative to return the tax money to fund public education. 

Leaving the church, I check my email. I see a bizarre email from my wife, who is forwarding me an email from my brother-in-law. 

The email subject says: 

Fwd: ryan letter

The email is blank, and includes an attached letter. I don’t bother reading the letter, it feels too random for me. 

I text a friend about the bizarre email because my brother-in-law has rarely emailed in my ten years of marriage to his sister. In fact, he doesn’t have my email address, which I later learn is why my wife forwarded it. We have only ever chatted on the phone less than five times. 

My brother-in-law has a low key southern drawl and speaks with few words. He is well over six feet tall with blonde hair and speaks in a meaningful way so that each of his words count. Years ago he shouted at me to argue that the Confederate Flag was not racist, and that was the most in depth conversation that we have ever had.

Walking in the darkness of night, I am calm. My wife is out of town in North Carolina visiting her family with my two young daughters. Her sister just had a baby, and they are off visiting the new bundle of joy. 

My wife also has blonde hair, and is a few inches under six feet. When she is around her family her southern accent comes out, yet while we are living in California I rarely hear the draw. I can usually tell when she’s talking to her family on the phone based on how much of her accent comes out. 

My wife is supposed to be out of town, and seeing her alarms me.

I continue walking. I am a bachelor in spirit, excited to saunter home, take a bath, meditate and snooze. I am peaceful. I am excited for some alone time. Except I am not alone as I walk towards my house.

I have a work bag on my shoulder, and in it my car and house keys. 

I am shocked to see my wife in the driveway. She is supposed to be on the east coast, or so I thought. 

I get a pit in my stomach. I am scared to imagine what she is doing back. Her entire body language looks off. 

She carries herself more like a police officer than my wife, and I do not like it. 

It had been a few months since our marriage counselor diagnosed me with a form of insidious, ongoing childhood trauma called Complex PTSD. Now, my wife surprises me by standing in our driveway. What was she doing here? 

My wife’s presence was the first sign that something is about to go terribly wrong. 

I walk in front of my next neighbor’s house. This feels like a spooky Halloween movie where I am waiting for someone to jump out and scare me. 

My wife exclaims in a concerned tone and no southern accent: “Ryan’s here,” motioning to a group of people in the yard.

In shock, I sternly say: “Katherine, what are you doing back?” 

“Hi Ryan,” she says blankly, with no emotion. 

WTF is going on here, I say to myself again. 

I see bodies in the background that appear to be my two brothers who live in Northern California, and my brother-in-law. 

Then I spot a stranger, a long haired man lurking in the nighttime shadows in my front yard. 

They are all approaching me.

As I write this I am feeling the fear again in my body.

The random person I see looked like my brother Michael’s friend named Andrew. Andrew has long hair, and for some reason I think Andrew’s in on the intervention. I am scared.

“Andrew’s here?” I blurt.

“What the f*ck is Andrew doing here?” I demand.

My younger brother blurts out: “Ryan it’s not Andrew. I love you bro.”

He opens his arms up and is walking across the yard, motioning to give me a big hug.  

My brother used to have blonde hair, and now has more of a receding hairline style buzz cut. When my younger brother is upset, he has the energy of a pit bull. 

The last time we had a meaningful exchange about our family he texted me to “f*ck off” and that “I think we both agree that it’s in our best interest to not speak for a while.” 

I took him literally and we haven’t spoken very often since then. He can go from happy to angry without a moment’s notice, and I’ve enjoyed us taking a break from one another. I don’t need a hug from him.

His energy is off, he is trying to close in on me. I think to myself: 

Oh sh*t, are they trying an intervention?

I see the long-haired guy back-pedaling into the shadows. It isn’t a good feeling. I later find-out this person is an interventionist, focusing on drugs and addiction. I see his floppy hair waving in the wind, as he walks backwards hiding. 

He does not identify himself which is a sign that this is not a safe environment for me. If he wanted to engender trust I would expect him to raise his hand and introduce himself and the goal for the conversation. 

In my head:

This isn’t cool. It feels unsafe. Why isn’t this strange long-haired man identifying himself?

As everyone lunges towards me, as if they are about to ambush, my intuition kicks-in.

It feels like I was reliving my childhood trauma in real time, but I am not a kid. I have options. 

My survival instincts immediately fire up. 

Conveniently my car is right in front of my neighbor’s house. I grab the key in my hand, open the driver’s side door with the key fob, and jump into my Prius. 

Like Lightning McQueen around a turn, I peel out from my street, looking for somewhere safe to drive to. 

Thinking to myself:

What the hell is going on here? And where the hell are my kids?

I find a church a few miles away, and park close by with plenty of lights around me. I feel safe. I exhale.

What the hell just happened?

Since my Complex PTSD diagnosis, I have been aggressively working with both eastern and western methods of healing through therapy, journaling, psychedelic medicine, yoga, and meditation. I vociferously read books on trauma and healing, specifically Judith Herman’s Trauma and Recovery. She writes that in the 1970s, people who’d experienced various forms of trauma were labeled as “hysterical” when talking about their pain. 

Some of these patients were taken to insane asylums, clinics, and doctor’s offices to be “cured.” I got scared of thinking of myself strapped to a chair against my will, while some doctor in a lab coat experimented on me. I immediately went to the worst place when I saw these people.

After meditating in my car for a few moments, I made some phone calls. I need some grounding and reassurance that I am not crazy. I call some people who know me, and can help calm me down. 

I called my marriage counselor, but she is on another call.

I then call my two friends. They both are shocked at what is going on, and have no idea that anyone in my family wanted to stage an intervention for me. They know me reasonably well, so I am surprised to hear that they are not dialed into this intervention.

Friend number 1 is a doctor whose heritage is Hispanic. We once traveled to Istanbul, Turkey together. On the plane ride over we were both asleep when someone yelled “is there a doctor on the plane.” He instinctively woke up and went to attend to a sick person on the flight. He is surprised on the phone. 

Friend number two is a low key and mild mannered friend of Indian descent. We had recently spent a weekend together over the summer hanging out at the OC fair drinking beer, eating fried food, and watching Michael McDonald perform with Chaka Khan. He is easy going. He is a lawyer and also surprised to hear the news.

I am sweating, incredibly nervous at this point. I am breathing to stay alive. If I do not breathe, it feels like I may not live. I am anxious, scared, and very alone. 

I give my friends my wife’s phone number, and brothers’ numbers, asking them to check in with my wife and family.

Friend number 2 reports back in a few minutes, they are now at a restaurant/bar called Upper West having dinner. I exclaim:

“They just had an intervention and are at a f*cking bar eating burgers!” 

Friend number two calls back and says that they want to speak with me. I agree, and await for our marriage counselor to call me back. 

My marriage counselor, finally gets back to me after what feels like an eternity.

She is in her mid fifties, with grayish black hair, and has shows empathy for her clients. She initially diagnosed my C-PTSD and I am forever grateful for her work. She has a service dog named in her office which helps calm her child patients down. She also sounds surprised. 

“Hey, what is going on? Katherine staged an intervention, do you know anything about this?” I ask both confused and angry.

“Ryan, I have no idea what is going on,” she says, equally puzzled.

“Wait, you don’t know what is happening? How do you not know?”

“I have not spoken to your wife since our last session in which she said she was no longer going out of town.”

“Well, she changed her mind, again. And she went out of town, and came back early. She brought some out of town family and staged an intervention. WTF is going on?!”

She calms me down and says, “Why don’t we call her on a conference call.”

After trying her for a few minutes, my wife finally gets back to me.

On speaker phone, my adrenaline is pumping. 

I angrily demand that she answer a simple question: “Katherine, where the hell are our kids?”

“Ryan, they are safe.”

Terrified, I keep talking with my face in my hands: “Katherine, and whoever is on the phone right now, where are my children?”

“Ryan, we’ll tell you that when you meet with us.”

Frustrated and ready to pull my hair out, I reply: “What are you talking about? Are our kids here in L.A. or back on the east coast?”

“They are safe, and we need to meet with you.”

Why is she so adversarial? 

I have the most adrenaline going through my body, possibly ever in my life.

I am furious that they will not share my kids location.

Then in a feverish outburst, I hear a series of voices telling me such things as:

“Ryan, you’re addicted to cannabis.”

“Ryan, you’re on the verge of a psychosis breakdown.”

“Studies show that cannabis can cause psychosis breakdowns.”

After a confusing phone call with no clear agenda, we say goodbye. The people on the call demand that I meet with the interventionist, and then they will share my kids location.

My kids are now the center of a hostage negotiation for a meeting. I am appalled. 

When it’s just the two of us, the marriage counselor says to me: “Ryan, that isn’t the wife that I remember talking to during our last session.” 

I tell her thank you and we log off.

I am still terrified that they would not tell me where my kids are. I do not want to sleep in my house that night. I am scared they would come back and try another intervention. 

I think:

What the hell is wrong with legal cannabis? Are they following the outdated Nancy Reagan Just Say No to Drugs campaign? Cannabis is a plant and it is medicine. My younger brother smoked pot out of a soda can in our basement when he was in middle school. What is he thinking now? I am confused as to why no one ever mentioned this addiction before.

I received no calls from my family, in-laws, or wife prior to this intervention ever confronting me for an addiction. No one has ever asked me if I have a cannabis problem. There were twenty steps between doing nothing and taking my kids away for an intervention. WTF?

I call my friends in Venice, and they put me on their couch for the night.

Waking up the next morning helped me realize that while my heart is broken into a thousand tiny pieces, it’s up to me to put it back together. I am powerless against my family, my wife, and the drug interventionist. 

While this is a nightmare to contend with, I ultimately spend 5 weeks apart from my children, while my family attempts to shove rehab down my throat. 

I refuse to entertain any rehab, psychological evaluation, or their request to send me to a psychiatric hospital for an overnight stay. 

Over the next few weeks I created my own program to recover from my C-PTSD, that includes these elements for how I healed with over 100 sessions in a 5 week span:

  • Sound meditation baths
  • Yoga
  • Breathwork
  • Therapy sessions
  • Journaling 
  • Practicing gratitude
  • Meditation
  • Group healing in support groups
  • Ancestral healing by making amends to distant relatives

I also gave up alcohol and cannabis for the remainder of the year. 

Additionally, I celebrated Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s without my children for the first time in my life. 

I cannot control other people. I can only control my actions.

I prioritized rest, meditation, and being honest with my truths. 

I did not let anyone twist my truths into their agenda. 

In the spirit of mental wellness I share this story to help recover from my C-PTSD and the worst 14 hours of my life as an adult.

Interventions are cruel, inhumane, and punishing things. There is no due process. 

I had nothing else to do except take care of myself. I even thought about taking him to court in order to strip him of his license, except that is too much work. This man helped break up my family, and it devastated me at the time.

This felt like capital punishment as my kids were taken away without getting a hearing, or even a courtesy heads up that anyone felt like I was an addict. There was a small mob of people outside my house ready to bring me to the executioner with no just cause. Led by a man in the shadows—a stranger with long hair. 

I later found out that my parents had sponsored the intervention behind my back. It was a gut punch to get the news.

I did learn a lot after the intervention, and in some ways am grateful for it. I realized how sick my family is, and how much work I’ve done to improve my mental health over the years.

How I changed after the intervention: 

  • I am more gentle with myself. I am kinder to myself when I make mistakes.  
  • I accept that I did not cause my family to run an intervention. I cannot control them or their behavior, the intervention was their choice, not mine. 
  • I can only take care of myself and my children, otherwise I am powerless over people. 
  • I made a New Year’s intention to love myself and my children, and no longer spend time with people who are not serving me. 
  • Live and let live, I cannot change anything in the past. I accept what I cannot change.
  • I take life one day one at a time, and focus on the next step to take, focusing on the moment

The cannabis helped me go deeper into each practice, enjoy the deeper state of my mind, while soothing my pain. 

Meanwhile both my family and in-laws have generational alcoholism in the family tree. 

A few weeks before the intervention, I confronted my father-in-law about his alcoholism over the phone. He father-in-law has grayish hair, is around 6’5”, and in his mid-seventies.

He often has a Bud Light bottle in his hand anytime I see him after 6pm. When I come to visit him he usually buys me a six pack of a favorite beer, and we spend time talking about football or basketball. 

Separately around the same time, I had recently confronted my Dad about his anger and bullying ways towards me. My Dad is also in his seventies, and has a quick temper. He has two modes, calm, or enraged. here isn’t much middle ground. 

A few weeks before the intervention he yelled at me over the phone. I called him to ask a question about the time frame and urgency overbooking Christmas travel airline tickets, and he shouted at me. 

His anger upset me, and a few days later I texted our family that i would not be attending Christmas vacation with our family this year. For the first time in a long time I opted out of a family holiday trip. 

Did I shake up the family trees? Did I confront two powerful men about their own character defects? Was this intervention retaliation? 

I’ll never know. It doesn’t matter. I created my own program and now it’s up to me to keep doing the work to help myself, my children, and anyone whose love comes into my orbit.

It took me an entire year and a half to publish this piece. In my heart I knew I was right, I just had to pick the pieces and put it back together.

I have not spoken at length with my brothers or parents since that night. 

They have told me to “deal,” “get over it,” and “we don’t know how to help you.” I learned  that unsolicited feedback is criticism. So I move on.

If I had to do it again, I would not change a thing. The intervention really clarified my position towards my family. I love them. I do not think that I will ever trust them again, and that is okay too. 

I am truly happy in my life. I love myself, and that is what matters. 

I have been doing the work for decades and it is paying off. I have a solid health and wellness tool kit, and I hope that my stories can help you too. 

Big thanks to my editors:

Sara Campbell, Drew Stegmaier, Lyle McKeany, Tom White, Julie Trelstad, Zachary Zager, Maria Sweeney, Katherine Canniff, and Joel Christiansen.

Categories
Breathwork dreams healing

Lucid Dreaming: Definition, Triggers, and Controlling Your Story

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.

Thanks to my editors: Katherine Canniff, Sara Campbell, David Burt,Drew Stegmaier, and Joel Christiansen.

Categories
healing psychiatry Recovery

I Fired My Psychiatrist, Experimented with Ancient Healing Methods, and Feel Healthier Than Ever

Sitting on a brown leather chair, wallet and car keys resting on a side table. It is winter and I’m wearing a black sweater, blue jeans, my right leg rests on my left knee. 

Tears streaming down the side of my cheeks, I wipe them with a tissue, and take deep breaths to calm myself down. 

Next to my possessions lay a white notepad with Pfizer emblazoned on the top, a pen with Zoloft printed on the side, and a box of tissues. The musty room smells like an old library. 

On the wall straight ahead are numerous awards from organizations such as The American Psychiatric Association and plaques with MD, PHD, and other degrees. To my right is a bookshelf of literature, many of the books are written about medicine, art, and Greek history.

Across from me sits a seventy-year-old Greek woman, with eyes wide open, a witness to my tears. She is my psychiatrist. I see her a few times per year.

“Ryan, you aren’t well. How often are you crying?”

“I don’t know. I am not keeping track. I guess once a month.”

“You aren’t well. I’m recommending an antidepressant for you. I recommend that you go on Lexapro.”

I exclaim: “I’m supposed to cry in here. This is why I come to see you. You are prescribing me a drug for crying. What the f*ck?”

She pulls out her pen and paper.

“No, I won’t take this drug. I am not going back on antidepressants,” I push back.

Noticeably uncomfortable, the psychiatrist gets up from her chair, and walks over to her desk. She grabs a notebook that contains the details of my work with her. She grabs the files and comes to sit back in her chair, acting as if the files will somehow validate her decision. 

The tension rises, I’m not supposed to reject the prescription from a doctor. 

Smiling with calmness, I retort back, “I’m not going to fill the prescription. Feel free to write it. I am not going back on an antidepressant because I cried in front of you.” 

She is frustrated and so am I. Our session ends.

At this point, I am done with this psychiatrist. Going back on antidepressants isn’t happening. 

What a joke. 

I march down the stairs from her second story office, to the parking garage.

Opening the door to my Toyota Prius, I see the psychiatrist’s Mercedes in the spot next to mine, I think, ”What the f*ck?” 

I drive home past a Whole Foods, Starbucks, and local overpriced West Los Angeles coffee shop – I’m stressed. Looking back, I’m in one one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the city, of course my drug pushing doctor drives a Mercedes.

I am embarrassed to admit that charges $600 per session. We meet for less than an hour of work.

When I fired my psychiatrist

I call my Dad a few days later and tell him: 

“My psychiatrist is a con artist. She writes her prescriptions with a pen that says Pfizer, on a sheet of paper that says Serzone, and has stress balls in her office from Eli Lilly. She is sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry. I’m done. It’s over.”

I had to fire my psychiatrist. 

I was done with the pharmaceutical industrial complex. 

I take control of my health, ending my relationship with a white collar drug dealer, who practices corporate psychiatry.

For decades I went down the conventional pharmaceutical route for treating anxiety and depression with Big Pharma drugs, psychiatry, counseling/therapy. The treatment had some benefits, but I hit a brick wall. Does this sound familiar?

If you have been on and off antidepressants, I can relate. 

If you have seen enough therapists that you can count the number on two hands, there are millions of us.

If you have experienced the sexual side effects you hear about on antidepressant TV commercials, then I’m right there with you. 

And if you’ve wondered WTF, why are prescription mental health drugs being advertised on TV to begin with, I’m feeling you.

Going the modern mental health route made me desperate. It took me decades to figure it out.

The drugs managed some of my pain by treating symptoms, while not healing the root cause.

After firing my psychiatrist, I forged a new path, which was unconventional. Using ancient methods, a recovery program, and native/indigenous techniques for healing, I got results. 

The ancient healing methods I tried

It took me six months to familiarize myself with the different modalities, and a year to truly feel like I had a handle on my health again.

Here is what I did to improve my mental health the natural way:

  • Meditation – Practicing meditation became a daily ritual. Whether it was alone listening to an app or practicing with a teacher at an in-person studio, I worked to ease my body, mind, and soul through the practice.
  • Journaling – I journaled after every meditation session. Sometimes I would write long outlines of ideas, other days I would write anything that brought me to tears, some days I wrote my ideas for future writing projects.
  • Psychedelics – I experimented with microdosing psychedelics. For each session, I set an intention of a phrase like “I am healthy” or “I am well,” and repeat the intention for several minutes. I integrated what I learned through talking to professionals and journaling. 
  • Yoga – I practiced yoga 2-3 times per week on the mat. The poses (asanas) helped me calm my body, increase my physical stamina, and decrease my physical pain. I also practiced the breathing part of yoga, yoga nidra (yogic sleep), which helps PTSD survivors.
  • Breathwork – Breathwork helps me calm my body down, giving myself permission to relax my mind. During the first months of sessions, my left side body would get triggered. I learned to calm myself down as I unpacked a lot of trauma that resurfaced.
  • Therapy – I went through three different therapists during this recovery process. I found that my therapists did not have a tool kit to talk about integrative healing and mental health, which is why I went through three different ones.
  • Recovery program – Spiritually I was unwell, and I needed a new peer group to aid in my recovery. With weekly meetings, the program acted like an ancient healing circle, which became a “chosen family,” that helped aid my rehabilitation. 
  • Advocacy – I got very interested in uncovering racism in American culture. I looked at racism as more of a disease, exploring the root causes of my own role in it. I marched in a Black Lives Matter protest and started talking to my white friends about racism. 

I was spiritually unwell, and corporate drugs weren’t helping anymore

Looking back, I realize how unhealthy my psychiatric experience was. I trusted a doctor who wanted to prescribe drugs for pain management, rather than helping me to heal.  

When I told her that I ended our relationship, she demanded that I come see her. She acted like I was doing something wrong or ill-conceived by stopping our work together.

She wanted to see me for another session, where she would charge me another $600. It was like she couldn’t quit me or let it go. And somehow I was in the wrong, like she had some strange attachment issue.

We went back and forth over email for months with her wanting to talk to me. I had nothing to say.

I sent her a check for $600 and I did not realize that I owed her for two sessions, which was $1,200. 

Wanting to end the relationship, she discounted my final two sessions to $300 each, for $600 total, and stamped my invoice as PAID.

Mental health in the corporate system did not work for me. Healing comes from within, not from a bottle of pills you pick up from Rite Aid. Paying $600 in retrospect was a total rip-off. 

Doctors are profiting off a system that is taking advantage of depressed, anxious, or unwell people. While we are like guinea pigs, testing our moods with chemically created pills, they are beholden to these corporations.

We are not cars that need to be serviced. Mental health isn’t like checking wheel alignment, rotating our tires, or servicing our engine.

Human beings are complex creatures. We have a heart, a brain, and a soul. 

My psychiatrist lacked a true sense of spirituality with her practice. 

Meanwhile the solutions for healing laid before me the entire time. While breathwork, psychedelics, and meditation may seem fringe or new wage to some, they have been around for centuries.

In retrospect, I was spiritually unwell. My sickness contributed to unstable moods, anxiety, depression, and suffering. The natural medicines helped increase my spirituality, which subsequently improved my health. 

Through the years I tried Serzone, Zyprexa, Lamtical, Zoloft, Wellbutrin, Lexapro, and other drugs. 

I was looking for a magic drug to save me. There is no silver bullet in healing. I had to experiment to find out what worked for me. It’s not like weightlifting where you can see your muscles grow, and an increase in weight. 

I learned to be gentle on myself. Accepting that no one was going to rescue me, no corporate drug pusher was going to be my savior, and I had to do the work myself. 

I implemented some of my own ancient healing practices, and they helped. I feel good, and my health is what matters. What is important is how I feel, not a clinical definition from a psychiatrist. 

What has been your experience with psychiatric drugs? Leave a comment or subscribe to my newsletter and shoot me an email, I’d love to swap stories.

Big thanks to my editors: Chris Holinger, Ali Q, Drew Stegmaier, Lyle McKeany, and Joel Christiansen.

Categories
Meditation

Practicing Meditation from Scratch: How to Meditate for 30 Days in a Row

 

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:

  1. 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. 
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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. 
  8. 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.

Editors

Chris Angelist , Matthew VereJoel Christiansen Drew Stegmaier, Piyali (Peels) Mukherjee , Blake Reichmann , Steven Ovadia , Ali Q, Roseline Mgbodichimma, Soma Mandal, and Grant Nice.

Categories
Breathwork Meditation

Do You Want to Try Breathwork? It Makes People Laugh, Scream, and Cry

“Breathwork helps me cope with the challenges of life,” is how Sarah, a working Mom describes the practice. 

“My body vibrates from my fingers to toes,” is what Jim, a single man in his mid twenties had to say after his first class.

“I cried about money, and not feeling worthy as a child growing up,” is how Jordana, a working grandmother described her feelings after practicing breathwork.

Have you been feeling stressed out with the pandemic, not seeing loved ones, or even the aftermath of the January 6th insurrection? 

If this sounds familiar, then breathwork may help you, too. 

Breathwork teaches us to release stress in an easy way – through exhaling. In breathwork you breathe with intention, which helps to over-oxygenate your blood stream.

It can be like five years of therapy in one session, and like therapy it can be intense. 

A good breathwork class is all about breathing deeply, yelling, crying, sweating, laughing, and allowing stored-up pain to leave the body. 

Breathwork is a spiritual practice to help you lower your stress, find a deeper consciousness, and heal your mind, body, and soul. 

To practice breathwork you lay on your back, breathing in a rhythmic breathing pattern. Music is playing in the background, and your goal is to relax your body. 

You breathe in two deep inhales. First in the belly, then in the chest. Then you exhale it all out. 

It goes like this:

  • Inhale in the chest
  • Inhale in the belly
  • Exhale it all out

You repeat these three steps non-stop for twenty to twenty-five minutes. Afterwards, you remain on your back, in calm and serenity for one to two relaxing songs. 

My life is now divided into two life spans: Before Breathwork (BB), and After Breathwork (AB).

I became a breathwork teacher during the Coronavirus pandemic. 

Breathwork is universal, and can help people of all ages. One class could have a profound impact on your life.

Students often have spiritual, mystical, and memorable experiences.

From single men in their mid twenties to grandmothers in their fifties to parents in their forties, this is what some of my students have experienced during their sessions: 

Sarah finds calm after surgery

Sarah is a fashion designer, who worked from home during the pandemic. She is recovering from a surgery. At the same time she managed her young daughter’s at-home learning via Zoom.

She shared that “breathwork class makes my body tingle, usually my hands and feet within a few minutes of active breathing. The oxygen going into my brain makes me feel like I have a runner’s high afterwards.”

She practices her virtual breathwork sessions in a spare bedroom. 

As many of us would, Sarah sometimes got frustrated with the at-home learning, while also managing her own life and recovering from surgery. 

After weeks of classes, she shared that:

“Recovery from surgery had not been going as well as I had expected. I was angry at the doctor and even myself for not being in good enough health to recover. Through yelling in the class, breathwork showed me that I had been suppressing deep anger. While trying to stay positive about the surgery, the focused breathing during class opened me up.” 

The surgery was a traumatic event, and she was frustrated. She shared: “Breathwork helped me choose to be grateful for the surgery, and made her feel lucky to be alive.” 

Breathwork was more active than she expected. It brought up memories. After Breathwork (AB), Sarah felt a sense of calm and serenity.

Jim grieves his friend’s passing

Immediately after Jim’s first class, he was shocked and said “I am surprised as to how effective the breathwork class was. It took me to a similar state as to when I did LSD.” During class he cried, laughed, and yelled. 

Jim shared: 

“Within a few minutes, my body began pulsing while my hands and feet tingled. I thought about my friend Max who died when I was nineteen. I cried. Obviously, I have some unresolved grief around that.”

Jim continued to share about the dream he had the night after class:

“That night, I had a lucid dream and slept deeply. In the dream, I had a chance to talk with my friend Max, and Max’s family. It was like we were catching up and having a conversation as if Max was alive. It was like we were reliving a moment together. Max told me that he is dead but not gone and that I can interact with Max through his memories.”

During the laughing portion of the practice, he said:

“I laughed when thinking about a high school memory of laughing with my friends. I had some funny friends in high school. I realized that I had not talked to many of them recently. After the class, I made a list of different friends that I hadn’t spoken to in a while. I have dangling friendships from life, and I’d like to make amends to people from my past.”

Breathwork surprised Jim, it brought up many old memories. He grieved for the loss of his friend. After Breathwork (AB), he felt a sense of peace and serenity.

Jordana heals tension with her ex-husband

Jordana is in her fifties with grandchildren, is divorced and has an office job.

She is a regular attendee of breathwork class. She carries general anxiety and stress related to her work, family, and ex-husband. She cried during the first few breathwork sessions. 

She explained, “I cried about money, and not feeling worthy as a child growing up. I grew up around a farm in the midwest and money was hard to come by. Thinking about my childhood during breathwork brought up a lot of old feelings.”

After weekly classes, she started to sleep better at night. She had vivid dreams about her ex-husband.

She talked about a lucid dream:

“After breathwork, I had a dream about my ex-husband. We have had tension in our relationship that negatively affects myself, our children, and grandchildren. During one dream, I was in my bedroom with my ex-husband. I whispered in his ear ‘You are coming into my dreams, and I think we have some trauma to heal.’ Then we hugged.”

This was a breakthrough. She shared:

“A few weeks later, I attended my grandson’s birthday party. Last year at this party, I felt a lot of tension, and my ex walked out the back door when I arrived. This year, we hugged. I credit the breathwork experience in healing the relationship with my ex-husband. The tension is no longer there. Breathwork healed me, the relationship with my ex-husband, and alleviated the stress in our family.”

Breathwork helped Jordana grieve, revealing more pain than she anticipated. It brought up vivid dreams around her family. After Breathwork (AB), Jordana felt a sense of peace and serenity.

In these examples we have people of all kinds benefiting from the practice – from Moms to Grandmas to single men. It can change your life, even just with taking one class.

Breathwork is a coping skill to deal with the challenges of life. It is both invigorating and relaxing. It’s a way to reconsider how you breathe, something we do every moment of the day. 

Breathwork helps the mind, body, and soul to heal and recover. 

Whether it is dealing with daily stress, general anxiety or long-term grief – the practice is a natural remedy to the pains of life. 

Seeing how breathwork helps heal people, it could bring you to the same too. Sign up to take a class with me Thursdays at 6:30 PST.

Note: All the names have been changed to keep the students anonymous. 

Editors:

Big thanks to my editors: Drew Stegmaier, Piyali (Peels) Mukherjee, Lyle McKeany, Steven Ovadia, Nanya Sudhir, and Joel Christiansen.

Categories
Meditation Recovery

What is Loving-Kindness? Practicing Meditation with Jack Kornfield

 

 After decades of filling prescriptions of antidepressant, mood stabilizing, and antipsychotic drugs, I finally rejected conventional psychiatric wisdom. Using ancient methods, I went against doctors’ orders to heal. Through these methods, I treated the root cause, not merely the symptoms. I charted my journey in a series of essays. 

I write bi-monthly articles, publishpodcasts, and host workshops on healing, recovery, and the root causes of pain. Sign up for two stories per month, that’s it. I charted my journey and this first article is Complex PTSD: When Your Therapist Thinks You May Be F*cked. My second article is How Breathwork Helps Process Stress, Pain, and Trauma: Why I Practice.

I am sporting a blue hoodie that says ‘Des Moines: Hell Yeah’, unmatched striped colored socks, dark blue jeans, and a black baseball hat.

I’m in a room of over 50 strangers, my mustache, chin beard, and blue glasses starkly contrast to the crowd of mostly white, baby boomer women.

Some people rest on blankets on the wooden floor, while others sit in chairs with their feet firmly rooted to the ground. 

Legendary monk and mediation teacher Jack Kornfield sits in front of us. 

He rings a Tibetan bowl three times. 

“Good morning,” he says, his voice sweet and soothing.

If he was a Crayola crayon in a box of 64-colors, his color would be Calm. 

The room is full of unfamiliar faces, and I have never meditated in a room with this many people. My shoulders remain unmoved as I try not to make any noise above the hum of the heater purring in the background. 

Jack and his wife Trudy Goodman are hosting a Sunday Morning Sit in Santa Monica, CA. at Insight L.A. Sitting in a meditation class with Jack and Trudy is like attending a PhD-level course in meditation. 

What is loving-kindness?

Today’s meditation is loving-kindness, also called metta. 

Though the loving-kindess practice I learn to how to intentionally give and receive love.

Loving-kindness can be super-helpful if no none ever taught you to love yourself. As a child, no one showed me how to love myself. This is how it helped me.

The goal of loving-kindness meditation is to focus unconditional love for yourself, and others. You want good things to happen to other people. You are wishing well to other people and yourself, while you are in mediation. 

Metta is the ancient word for loving-kindness and is translated to mean friendliness, goodwill, fellowship, and non-violence. 

According to Jack, the loving-Kindness meditation uses words, images, and feelings to evoke loving-kindness and friendliness toward oneself and others.

In today’s thirty-five-minute meditation, we move positive energy towards people in our life, to ourselves, and the entire world. 

The practice is in four parts: 

  1. Give love to a friend whom I have an easy relationship with. 
  2. Give love to myself. 
  3. Give love to my community and the rest of the world. 
  4. Give love to a person whom I have a difficult relationship with 

Giving loving-kindness to a friend

Jack speaks at a volume just above a whisper. After a few minutes of sitting together, Jack begins the loving-kindness meditation:

Picture someone with whom you have a loving relationship. As you picture them, then begin softly inside, repeating simple phrases of well wishing and kindness.

I think of my cousin Kathy, someone whom I love. 

Jack asks us to think about this person and reflect on them, giving them loving-kindness and well wishing. 

I feel positive heat surfacing up in my body. From inside my core, the warm energy is pushing itself out to arms, legs, and then feet and hands. 

With a gentle monotone voice, Jack repeats the words again:

May you be filled with loving-kindness.

May you be safe and protected.

May you be well, healed, and strong in body and mind.

May you be filled with loving-kindness.

I sit, thinking of my cousin. As Jack says the phrases of well wishing, I send love to my cousin Kathy, whom I love. I have an easy sense of care for her. In sync with Jack, I say in my head:

Kathy, may you be filled with loving-kindness.

Kathy, may you be safe and protected.

Kathy, may you be well, healed, and strong in body and mind.

Kathy, may you be filled with loving-kindness.

Kathy lives on the other side of the country, and I am sending her love from my body. There is a rush of energy warming me.

As a kid, I would meet up with Kathy’s family, going swimming in my Aunt and Uncle’s backyard pool. 

Envisioning Kathy in my mind, I care about her. I imagine Kathy in her house, eating at her kitchen table, and then going on a brisk walk outside with her dog. It’s winter and she is wearing a cold weather jacket. She sees her breath in the wind. Her dog loves running around outside. I send well wishes to Kathy and her dog.

There is a tingly sensation coming from inside my body. 

Giving love to myself

Jack continues speaking and asks us to move onto ourselves. He wants us to give ourselves well wishing. 

 Spoonfeeding me a sorely needed healthy serum of love, my eyes are more relaxed.

Instead of looking outside for validation from others for love, I am looking inwards at my own body. It’s not easy. 

Inside my mind, with Jack’s voice as my guide, I repeat his words:

May I be filled with loving-kindness.

May I be safe and protected.

May I be well, healed, and strong in body and mind.

May I be filled with loving-kindness.

As I give love to myself, the left shoulder gets stiff, while my left hip is throbbing. My body’s left side is where I keep the majority of my physical stress. I send love to my body as I imagine loving myself. I struggle with the pain, which feels like trapped negative emotions from my childhood.  

Through the practice, I learn to take care of myself. I learn to soothe myself. I learn to love myself. 

In retrospect, I see that loving myself helped me to become aware of my body. Finding physical self-awareness comes in the form of love. 

Giving loving-kindness to my community and the rest of the world

Jack requests that we practice loving-kindness for the world. 

He asks us to think about our neighbors, the people sitting next to us, and the members of our community. He says:

May you be filled with loving-kindness.

May you be safe and protected.

May you be well, healed, and strong in body and mind.

May you be filled with loving-kindness.

Scanning my life, I’m sending love to a college friend Edward, who passed away in his twenties. He is no longer on Earth, yet I feel his spirit. 

I say to myself:

Edward may you be filled with loving-kindness.

Edward may you be safe and protected.

Edward may you be well, healed, and strong in body and mind.

Edward may you be filled with loving-kindness.

I envision Edward and I seeing a concert together when we lived in Nashville. We are dancing in a sea of people at the Exit/In bar. He’s grooving in the front row with me, shaking side to side.

We then pick up BBQ sandwiches at Hog Heaven, a local divey BBQ shack. It’s next to a dive bar where we would drink Natural Light beers, play pool on an uneven pool table, while the jukebox blares Sympathy for the Devil by The Rolling Stones.

In a dream-like state, I hear his voice in my head for the first time in decades. 

An old nickname from him, “Sugar Boy,” rings in my ear. It’s like Edward is over my shoulder talking. “Sugar Boy.” I hear it again. 

I tear-up, thinking about his spirit. I have not properly grieved for Edward since his physical passing (Later I realize this!). 

Warm energy rushes into my body. I love the memory him. 

Giving loving-kindness to a person you have a difficult relationship with

Jack asks us to give love and well wishing to someone with whom we have a difficult relationship. I think of my relatives with whom I have not always kept in close contact. 

Scanning my relatives, I bring love to my Aunt Dolly, Uncle Jerry, Uncle Seamus, and cousins who I have not seen in many years. I send love to my entire extended family during the practice. Our relationship is always delicate, and I give them love.

Alongside Jack, I say to myself:

Aunt Dolly, may you be filled with loving-kindness.

Uncle Jerry, may you be safe and protected.

Uncle Seamus, may you be well, healed, and strong in body and mind.

Mary Ellen, may you be filled with loving-kindness.

As the meditation continues, Jack’s voice goes silent. He suggests that we sit with our feelings in silence. 

Mentally, I am underwater. For a few moments, it’s like I cannot breathe. I am exhausted.

I miss my extended family, and haven’t kept in very good touch with them through the years. I am filled with deep emotion, I would like to quit the meditation. 

I love my family.

I fight to not open my eyes. 

It’s overwhelming to think about loving all these people. 

I hear a ring from Tibetan Bowl. Jack asks us to open our eyes. The meditation is over. 

I stretch my body out. My left shoulder is tight. My left hip is stressed. The love that I give helps to heal my stressed body. 

Through today’s practice, I expand my capacity to love others. I expand my capacity to love myself. As a child, I did not learn to love myself. 

The practice can shift your thinking into helping other people. The practice is a gentle way of looking at the world. 

I learn to hold onto these feelings of love. 

Self-love is a practice. 

Loving one’s self takes discipline, and it never dawned on me to practice it. 

Loving-kindness is an antidote to the trauma, stress, and suffering,  it calms the body down. 

Loving-kindness helps you find new neural pathways that connect your brain. While it opens open up new ways to live a more whole life. 

Loving-kindness can be super-helpful because no one taught you how to love yourself.

You see how much loving-kindness has helped me. You can try Jack Kornfield’s Loving-kindness meditation live from InsightLA or his Loving-kindness recording online

Big thanks to my editors: Drew Stegmaier, Piyali (Peels) Mukherjee, Elisa Doucette, Nanya Sudhir, Joel Christiansen, and Kavir Kaycee.

Links:

Jack Kornfield’s Loving-kindness meditation at InsightLA

Insight LA

Jack Kornfield

Trudy Goodman