Categories
healing Meditation sound healng

The Integratron: UFOs, Sound Baths, and the High Desert (Including Joshua Tree Links)

This is a true story that takes place around Joshua Tree, Landers, and Mojave, CA. the unsettled land of the Serrano, Chemehuevi, Mojave, and Cahuilla people.

We stand in the sand next to a fire pit and hot tub in a fenced in backyard. 

There is an old RV trailer parked in the backyard of the house next door, with unreadable green graffiti tagged on the driver’s side. The moon is about 90% full and the white light shines on the open horizon, shadowy mountains, and neighboring one story houses.  

Renting a desert house for a weekend, my friend and I are in Joshua Tree. 

About a mile away, there is a glowing white light speeding around the night sky in the background. The object is too low to the ground to be an airplane or star. It’s zooming back and forth.

It appears to be an unidentified flying object.

Wait, is that a UFO? 

I am tense, and consider the next natural question. 

Are we ready to meet aliens tonight in Joshua Tree? 

You may be asking why I would have aliens on my mind. Let me tell you a story.

The previous night my friend and I experienced an intense sound bath at the Integratron, twenty miles away in Landers, CA. 

A sound bath is a healing meditation where people lie on their backs listening to the humming sound of crystal quartz bowls performed by a practitioner. It’s often a relaxing and therapeutic experience. 

What is the Integratron? 

Ryan Williams in The Integratron
The Integratron at sundown

The Integratron is a four story white dome that resembles an Italian renaissance church structure.

Except this dome is not built to be a house of worship. It originally was intended to be a time machine. 

In 1953, a former high-ranking inspector at Howard Hughes’ aircraft company, George Van Tassel became inspired to build an all wood dome. 

He encountered an alien from Venus named Solgonda who gave him the plan to build this structure. The goal was to help humans rejuvenate themselves in addition to traveling in time. 

The Integratron is a mystical UFO temple in the middle of the high desert of Southern California. 

While intended to be a time machine in the 1950’s and 60’s, the modern day Integratron hosts regular sound baths. Three white sisters from New York took it over in the early 2000’s and began to use it to host sound meditations. 

The Integratron is like a shrine to Van Tassel, UFOs, and sound. 

Driving up to the structure I have a few questions. 

Did Van Tassel see aliens? Am I about to see aliens?

George Van Tassell The Integratron
George Van Tassell and The Integratron’s Timeline


The property surrounding the land is wide open desert. The Integratron leases the land from the United States Bureau of Land Management, and the Bureau owns the miles of vacant land surrounding it.

Knowing full well about the UFO history of the land, I have high expectations for the sound bath experience. 

After checking into the property, looking at crystals in the gift shop, and filling my water bottle up with well water from an aqueduct that runs down from Mount Shasta, one of the caretakers of the Integratron announces that it’s go time. 

Entering the Integratron

Around forty of us enter the white dome structure through a wooden door. 

I have a child-like sense of wonderment as I prepare for the unknown. 

One of the caretaker sisters, who appears to be in her sixties, gives us an introductory pep talk about the history of the Integratron. 

She tells us that the land has electromagnetic energy that is beyond normal. Pre-colonialism, Native Americans inhabited the land and saw the neighboring Giant Rock as sacred land. 

Van Tassel first encountered the aliens at Giant Rock, who inspired him to build The Integratron.

We are standing on Native American sacred land, in a time machine, and about to walk upstairs to take a sound bath. I am tripped out. 

Next, all forty of us wait one by one to walk up a steep set of wooden stairs to the top floor. It’s a cool desert night, people are wearing hats, scarves, and jackets to keep warm. COVID-19 is still a problem in the U.S., and everyone is required to wear a mask.

It feels like we are walking up towards a scary attic in my grandma’s old house. 

How Does a Sound Bath Feel?

On the second floor of the Integratron, the room is nearly dark. The sun is down and the windows are bringing in the dark sky.

There is a bald man who appears to be in his thirties sitting down on one side of the room surrounded by microphones and seven singing bowls. He is the son of the caretaker, it’s a family affair. Two generations of the caretaking family run the Integratron.

We meet the son of another caretaker sister. This guy has has a black pony tail. He is in charge of the audio. He comes upstairs to check on the microphones around the singing bowls. 

Integratron Sound Baths
Integratron Sound Baths with Singing Bowls

There is a crowd of thirty people assembled outside the Integratron. These people will be hearing the singing bowl performance projected outside the space. 

Our group lays down our backs on mini sleeper soft pull out chairs. Each pull out has a clean white sheet as an extra COVID-19 precaution.

My head faces towards the singing bowls, while my feet face the cylinder wall. 

Before the sound bath, the man asks us to focus on love, gratitude, and forgiveness. 

He conducts a sound bath. Humming noises come through these bowls. Some make me feel like I’m hearing nails on a chalkboard. While others make me feel calm like the waves of the ocean. It feels like nature, like I am connecting to the core of myself.

I feel tension rise and fall throughout my body for the next thirty-five minutes. 

A few thoughts that come up for me during the meditation. Many of these thoughts tense up my body, while others allow me to relax. 

  • I give my two daughters lots of love during the opening of the meditation, which help calm me down
  • Focusing on my family, I forgive myself and I forgive my Dad for our past differences
  • I recall a time when I ate psychedelic mushrooms at a concert in the Everglades in college, and I’m reminded of that energy tonight 

I feel a mix of physical stress and tension, and then I relax. It is a mystical experience. 

I define a mystical experience as a natural, mystical, unexplainable feeling that comes over someone as in meditation, psychedelic medicine, or a spiritual moment. It is a healing experience yet may feel loving, moving, intense, scary, and even unbelievable. 

I remind myself to stay on Earth. I do not want to get too wrapped up in the alien mythology, and would rather focus on my own healing journey.

As I remain grounded, a final thought comes to mind. 

I am at my best when I speak truth to power. Speaking my truth is what is important. That is when I’m reclaiming my power that I have given away.

I am in a state of deep relaxation. 

We lay down after the sound bath ends, listening to ten minutes of soothing music coming through the speakers. This is called integration. 

The goal with integration is to try and apply what we experienced to our life. Later that night I go and journal my thoughts to help integrate them and make sense of the experience. Some of those words are in this article. 

After feeling the Integratron, my friend and I go out for pizza to a local spot in Landers. It looks like a restaurant full of local artists. We listen to a woman singing over an electronic music instrument, while we sit outside in the cool desert air. We eat a pizza and a salad, as I sip a beer.

I am relaxed. I am calm. I am peaceful. 

Meeting an Alien

The next night I am still feeling the effects of the sound bath, and intrigued by the possibility of seeing aliens. The flying object moves around in the night sky, begins to head towards my direction. 

The object is moving to the backyard. I am more tense. 

There are no street lights in Joshua Tree. The sky is clear, I see the North Star, planets, and airplanes in the clear pollution free sky. 

Yet this object is due to fly over the backyard.  

If this is an alien, what do I say? What do we say?

Are we ready to encounter an alien?

I ask my friend if we are having a psychedelic experience.

The object looks more like a drone the closer it gets. I break out my video camera just in case this is truly an alien aircraft. I want to show people the proof.

I am excited to consider that this could be an alien ship, even as my rational brain convinces me it’s not. 

I have a wonder like I am a child again. I am in awe of this craft heading towards me. 

I am not prepared to meet an alien.

My body tenses up. My friend and I stand side by side, looking at the sky together.   

The object flashes its high beams in our backyard about twenty feet above me. It is a drone. 

I am relieved. I tell my friend that I am not ready to encounter an alien.

Laughing out loud. We realize how funny that sounds. 

A couple hours after the possible UFO encounter, my friend and I were run off the road by a car speeding down the street. Walking back from a nighttime flea market in Joshua Tree, a fast moving car laid on its horn and came barreling down the road. With no sidewalks or street lights, we dove off of the street, stumbling onto a vacant lot, and briskly walked back to our house. 

A woman with pit bulls came out of her house on the scene as we continued to walk. She and a man came out after hearing the honking car. She asked:

I thought someone had hit my dogs. Are you okay?

Yes, that was scary. That person had bad energy. 

Thanks for checking on us, have a nice night. 

That was crazy, have a nice night.

We continued walking home, with a heightened sense of concern for our safety.

I cannot help but think the tension here is not too different from what the United States is experiencing in 2021. 

I’ve been back from Joshua Tree for a few weeks, and I’m still processing what happened. 

The Integratron helped me to feel tension, calm myself down, and I am now integrating what I went through. 

And I’ll be ready for the aliens next time. 

Places to visit in Joshua Tree:

Giant Rock – a sacred seven story boulder in the Mojave Desert known as a spiritual land to the Serrano, Chemehuevi, Mojave, and Cahuilla people. 

Giant Rock Meeting Room – a pizza place, bar, and music venue located in Flamingo, CA. 

The Integratron – a spiritual site in Landers, CA. that hosts sound bath meditations.

Joshua Tree National Park -800,000 acres of desert plants, wildlife, and habitation. Originally inhabited by the Serrano, the Cahuilla, and the Chemehuevi peoples. 

La Copine – Chef Nikki Hill and her wife Claire Wadsworth run a restaurant with delicious deviled egg salads to potatoes to fried chicken. 

Big thanks to my editors: Beccy Lee, Cameron Zargar, Kym Ellis, and Joel Christiansen.

Do you know that breathwork is psychedelic, read more here!

 

 

 

 

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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Sara Campbell of Tiny Revolutions
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 Entheogenic: Body Vibrations, Intentional Breathing, and Powerful Feelings

Breathwork is Psychedelic

My life is divided into two spans: before breathwork (BB), and after breathwork (AB). This is why breathwork is entheogenic 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 Entheogenic.

Today’s music playlist also includes songs such as Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition,” Nina Simone’s “Sinnerman,” and Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwoʻole’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” You can listen to the playlist by clicking here.

Guiding my students into the breathwork

Hey everyone, please close your eyes, relax on your back, and rest your arms by your side.

My name is Ryan, and I am coming to you from Los Angeles, unsettled Tongva land. Welcome.  

Let’s take three cleansing breaths to help end your day. Your day is now over. It’s time to focus on your heart, mind, body, and lungs.

At the count of three, take a deep breath and sigh. 

One. Two. Three. Sigh.

Let’s do two more deep breaths and sighs.

One. Two. Three. Sigh.

One. Two. Three. Sigh.

I love that you are here, practicing breathwork today. 

To start the class, you’ll need to ground yourself with an intention.

Let’s feel connected to the ground as we create an I am statement for the session.  

For today’s intention, I recommend focusing on a statement that is something like: I am loved. I am peaceful. I am whole. I am relaxed. Those usually work well. 

I personally like to use the I am statement I am loved. Say the I am statement in your head three times. 

I am loved. I am loved. I am loved.

Why breathwork is entheogenic 

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 entheogens 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 entheogens because the medicines became outlawed. Before prohibition, he guided over 4,500 psychedelic therapy sessions with artificial entheogens 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. While the word entheogen means “creating the divine within,” and is derived from the Greek roots en (within) theo (divine) and gen (creates).

We will be practicing today in order to reach meditative, mystical, and spiritual 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 divine 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 insomniac, breathwork is easy to learn. Sign up below and I’ll show you the way.

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
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

 

I write bi-monthly articles, publish podcasts, 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 primarily 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

Categories
CPTSD Meditation Recovery

Meditation is a Practice of Self-Care – How Backyard Meditation Brings Me Healing

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, publish , and host workshops on healing, recovery, and the root causes of pain. for two stories per month, that’s it. I charted my journey and this first article is . My second article is .

In my backyard, I sit upright on a gray deck chair. My bare feet are squarely grounded on the Earth. I feel small blades of dry grass in between my toes. I am settled, wearing blue jeans, a black ball cap, and a t-shirt that says Des Moines: Hell Yeah. I remove my blue glasses and place them on the circular glass side table. I faintly hear speeding cars racing to work on the freeway in the background. The early morning sun sprinkles its rays while I relax under the shade of a purple flowered jacaranda tree. My hair, mustache and goatee are un-showered and unkempt. I prepare to close my eyes. My backyard is a sanctuary for my practice. Wearing ear buds, I push play on my iPhone to begin my morning meditation. I am ready for my daily ritual of thirty minutes of meditation. Today’s choice is Waking Up by Sam Harris.

The next thing I know, I drop into a memory during the practice. I sob uncontrollably. A moment from my life comes to mind: I am on stage giving a business talk to a packed audience. This is a familiar space, a place where I led marketing workshops throughout the past five years. I am due to host an event there in a few weeks. Tears stream down my cheeks while I am on stage. I hope someone from the crowd comes up to hug me. I am sad. No one helps me. From the stage, I see an old friend Lisa in the crowd. I have been through so much with this friend. I feel a deep connection with her. I want someone to comfort me, and no one helps. I continue to cry, while my body is frightened. I think “We’ve all been through so much together, and I need a hug.” 

After my Complex PTSD diagnosis, meditation became a regular ritual. During the first five months of my recovery, I meditated over 2,500 minutes, which is over two whole days of my life. Meditation became a mini-hibernation to rejuvenate my body. The meditation slows down my breathing and heart-rate. I stopped taking a mood-stabilizing drug called Lamictal. I now feel intense and painful triggers throughout my body that the drug suppressed. On the surface, the drug comforted the symptoms of depression and anxiety. It helped me to manage my pain. I spent years in denial and ignored the root causes of my problems. Like the crew members moving deck chairs on the Titanic as the iceberg approached the ship, I discovered that I too was in denial about my reality. In my backyard, I learned that mindful meditation is a gateway to a new reality. Meditation opens the depths of my mind and it changes my life for the better. I learn to take care of my pain and suffering. Meditation becomes a spiritual healing practice. 

Meditation is a practice of self-care

Back in the meditation session, I lose control of my emotions. I am panicking. My body is sore. The left side of my body is tight. My left shoulder is triggered, while my left hip feels stressed. Even my left toes, ankle, and knee are tense. Taking deep breaths, I gain control. I feel badness and goodness in my body. I am scared of the past that I have not dealt with. Meanwhile, the future feels unpredictable. I am exhausted. I learn to love myself. I soothe my tight shoulder. I repeat to myself in my head, “It’s okay. I am safe.” Awakening from meditation, I struggle to breath. Tears run down my cheeks. My nose is congested from the sobbing. However, my left side body is more relaxed. I recognize that my left hip, shoulder, elbow, and knee need to be loved. I look after my sore body. 

I am healing. 

During the backyard meditation, my 6:00am sessions bring up many flashbacks. The grassy lawn becomes a sacred place for me to be alone. The decades of suppressed triggers resurface throughout my body, from my shoulder to cheek to hip to foot. I need to heal emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. During my initial recovery period, my backyard is a sanctuary. The early morning routine sets my day on a path to recovery. I treat meditation like a job. I meditate on the bus to work. Wearing my sunglasses to cover my closed eyes, I hope that no one looks at me strangely. During my lunch break, I practice in my coworking space’s dark meditation room. Before bed, I practice to ease into a deeper sleep. It is a lonely journey, yet I am determined to heal. Additionally, I attend two therapy appointments per week. Therapy helps to ease some of the burden. 

Meditation creates space to heal

I often get flashbacks to past life events and flashforwards to future events. These feelings are common with people healing from C-PTSD. I am scared and paralyzed by past events, and anxious about future potentialities. The meditation provides a safe environment for my fight or flight tendencies. I learn to focus on the present. I process the flashbacks in the moment. “I think to myself, “Wow, I can heal pain from decades ago.” Meditation is a practice of self-love. Many of these memories come from deep within the practice, sometimes twenty or thirty minutes into a session. 

The memories are visual snapshots into the deeper recesses of my mind. From different backyard meditation sessions, I conjure up vivid childhood memories like this one: 

My family has a ritual of picking up fast food at the drive-throughs of Wendy’s, Burger King, Taco John’s, and McDonald’s in Des Moines, IA. My Dad and I are in the McDonald’s drive-through to pick-up our dinner. I love Chicken McNuggets and I can’t wait to eat them. We return home and I dip a McNugget in my favorite barbecue sauce, and take a bite. I spit out the McNugget, it tastes gross. Looking at the McNugget, it is red and raw inside. The food is disgusting. My Dad, trying to save my dinner, puts the McNuggets in the toaster oven to continue cooking them. He gets frustrated with me and pressures me to eat the McNuggets. I spit them out again. He yells. We then drive back to McDonald’s to return them. I still do not want to eat the McNuggets. I stopped eating McNuggets that day and still haven’t had one since. 

Meditation brings radical change

On some days after a thirty minute session, I am strung out on my feelings. I sweat out the trauma. It feels like stuff is stuck in my body, as if I am breaking a fever. Gross, nasty, and icky are some of these memories from my childhood coming through. Basic emotions and feelings coming out of me. Sweating out the toxins, I want to be normal. Unsure of what normal even looks like, I am alone, and there is no one to speak with. Guilt, shame, and frustration set in. My body hurts. Physically, mentally, emotionally, I am exhausting myself. Closing my eyes, while focusing on the breath brings me comfort. However, it doesn’t always bring self-love. During one session, I recall my Dad’s trauma. This makes me feel like some of my pain is not mine, but other people’s in my family. It is intergenerational trauma, and my parents passed it down to me. I am not living in the moment during these meditations. I am stuck in between the past and the future. During one session I flashback to a few years ago:

I am in conversation with my Dad. He opens up about giving his own Dad CPR after a heart attack. Reflecting on the men in my life, I recognize my Dad has trauma from his childhood, trauma that he rarely speaks about. My Dad tells me that he gave his Dad mouth to mouth resuscitation in the family business office. I wonder if my Dad lives with guilt over his Dad dying months later. My Grandfather’s health was never the same. My Dad is dealing with the trauma of his own Dad dying. My Dad may be a high functioning person, but he is hurt. 

Trauma recovery brings spirituality

One some days, I feel like a new person after practicing thirty minutes of meditation. My backyard is a spiritual place. It is a safe environment for me to explore my life. I never realized it before, but I’m a trauma survivor. Doctors diagnosed me with depression, anxiety, and other normal-ish symptoms around mental health, but never trauma. During these meditation sessions, my body feels gross. My shirt has beads of sweat on it. However, I learned the practice of self-care through this healing journey. 

During one session, I envision telling different friends and family members about the C-PTSD. I have this vision many times, and each time I am ashamed of telling loved ones about my diagnosis. I feel judged. I flash ahead:

Tears fall down my cheeks. I am sad. Whether it is my Dad, friends from college, or childhood friends- I am heartbroken. Sharing with them my diagnosis makes me upset. During one session, I tell a college friend whom I haven’t spoken to in years, and by the end of the session I am crying. During another session, I share my C-PTSD diagnosis with a childhood friend who I haven’t seen in decades, and I sob. During another session, I tell my Dad, and I’m balling my eyes out. I am ashamed. This is all in my head, I meditated these shamed feelings out of my body. 

I treat recovery like it is a job. I full-court press myself to get better, determined to try every last option to find a solution. Since college, I have seen psychiatrists, tried group therapy, gone to one-on-one therapy, and tried cognitive therapy. In my head, I am close to the finish line. This is a twenty-year journey in the making. Mindfulness is a gateway to a new reality. It gives me power. My backyard practice heals leftover feelings of helplessness. It opens up my mind to depths that I need to reach. I discover a radical recovery device that changes my life for the better. 

Through the backyard meditation sessions, I open my mind to a higher consciousness. A steady diet of meditation helps me to rediscover myself. It opens the door to more self-exploration, feeding my soul. I learn the skills of self-care in a new way. Meditation proves to be a gateway to exploring other ancient healing modalities. Whether it is practicing a calm mind with the Dalai Lama, or breathwork to process stress, pain, and trauma, sound healing to help soothe my body – meditation opens the door to expand my consciousness. 

Links:

Waking Up Meditation, by Sam Harris

Editors:Vandan Jhaveri, Abu Amin, Lyle McKeany, Steven Ovadia, Joel Christiansen, Oliver Palmer, and Drew Stegmaier.