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How You Can Heal from Within

“People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. 

Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.”

 ~~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Greetings to all my precious people!!

The month of April in the Year of the Dragon has given us pause and reminds us to expect the unexpected.  Earthquakes in Taiwan, followed by 4.8 magnitude temblor shaking the East Coast multiple times and then, the magnificent Solar eclipse this past Monday. I hope you were able to witness the phenomena outside and experience some moments of awe.  The world is filled with daily miracles and magic, if only we are still enough, and choose to be Present with our selves and the space we inhabit.  

The theme of this week is a combination of how to heal from within as well as consciously making choices about cultivating compassion.  Truly they need to go hand in hand, for being able to inquire about our interior landscape requires kindness and non-judgmental observation.  Have you ever thought about who you are meant to be?  Why are you here now – in these times of conflict and chaos? How do we make meaning of our life and what can we share with our loved ones, our community and our selves that is unique and special?  Examining how we think and what we think can provide the starting points for the inside healing process to manifest.

How are thoughts actually created?  One theory says that input from our external environment (such as home, relationships, media, etc.) leads to a pattern of neuron firing, which results in a thought process. A continuous pattern of neuronal firing reinforces the circuitry. This means that if we are put in the same situation twice, the firing of our neurons is going to be similar and reinforced. This is why people tend to react the same way to similar situations: because neurons, which are part of the circuit responsible for this response, fire robustly.  From neurological research, the sensory input always goes through the emotional centers of the brain before it reaches the frontal cortex — the place for our rational thought. With that understanding, one must realize it is actually physically impossible for thought to come before emotions/feelings.

So why do we have feelings and emotions that seem to rise up from nowhere?  Those moments when suddenly, we feel agitated, anxious, angry, fearful – even though the environment around us gives no indication of threat or need to be defensive?  Those emotions are actually being processed by our nervous system, but it can feel like all the circuitry is on the fritz when things seem to be out of sync.  The unconscious feelings – those little wayward connections that pop up – actually create a message for us:  it is time to wake up and pay attention.  We need to be discerning when we choose to automatically believe everything our mind tells us.  

Unprocessed emotions create problems.  They get stuck inside and they stay inside the nervous system, doing their job with misinformation.  They default to the old programs and long ago messages that told us we are not safe, we are not worthy, we are not enough.  This is emotional congestion that interferes with the smooth relay of messaging in the present moment.   So how do we clear the congestion?  How can we become the person who prioritizes the inner messages?

We can first begin to notice and observe our behaviors and practice self-compassion.

Self-compassion is simply the process of turning compassion inward.  We choose to be kind and understanding rather than harshly self-critical when we fail, make mistakes, or feel inadequate.  We give ourselves support and encouragement rather than being cold or judgmental when challenges and difficulties arise in our lives. Research indicates that self-compassion is one of the most powerful sources of coping and resilience we have available, radically improving our mental and physical wellbeing. It motivates us to make changes and reach our goals not because we’re inadequate, but because we care and want to be happy.

According to Dr. Kristin Neff, a global leader in self-compassion training and practice, there are three elements which comprise self-compassion: Self-kindness vs. self-judgment, common humanity vs. isolation, and mindfulness vs. over-identification.

Self-Kindness vs. Self-Judgment

The element of kindness at the core of self-compassion entails being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or punishing ourselves with self-criticism.

Common Humanity vs. Isolation

Common humanity involves recognizing that suffering and personal inadequacy are part of the shared human experience – something that we all go through rather than being something that happens to “me” alone.

Mindfulness vs. Over-Identification

This is central to self-compassion and provides the awareness needed to be with ourselves as we are and to validate our pain. It’s a balanced state that steers clear of two common reactions to suffering: avoidance and over-identification.

Another leading voice in the realm of self-kindness and compassion is Dr. Brené Brown, who has spent the better part of two decades researching shame, vulnerability, courage and empathy.  Her message is clear:  

Don’t walk through the world, looking for evidence that you don’t belong or you are unworthy or not enough, because you will always find it.

Our worth and our belonging is NOT NEGOTIABLE with other people.

We need to be clear about who we are and carry our truths in our hearts.

We will not negotiate who we are with anyone, because if we do, we will be creating a self that fits the other person, but we will no longer belong to our own Self.

With all these good reminders from Kristin Neff and Brené Brown, how can we begin a practice of self-compassion and radical intention today?  How can we undertake the space of non-judgemental observation?  We need a space of grace and safety in order to blossom, and as we evolve, we transcend and shift at the speed of safety.  So how to feel safe? How can we be true to ourselves with full ease and full availability?  Remember that your mind is untrustworthy – it is, in fact, informed by the body – the “soma” – which helps to regulate your nervous system.  So to create regulation in the body requires moving the body, and that can involve shaking, jumping, running, twirling, dancing, singing, laughing, crying and more.

Try this as an experiment:

Place your left hand on your heart.

Take a deep breath through your nose and exhale slowly through your lips.

Speak to your Self:  “Hello body – I see you, I love you, and we are safe.

With your minds’ eye, go inside the body and imagine your heart beating, your lungs filling with oxygen, your blood coursing through your veins.  Find the places in the body that feel restricted or tight.  Take another deep breath into the spaces that feel tight.  Hold those spaces with gentle love, support and reminders of safety.

You are consciously connecting to your body – the soma – the regulator of your nervous system.   Being able to hold these spaces with gentle non-judgmental observation is critical.  Your nervous system needs to learn how to receive the present moments, to be reminded that it is safe.   Regulating your nervous system is within your control and ability but this is not a fast and loose practice.  Instead, it takes intention and attention to bring the mind and body into alignment.  This is your slow medicine, your commitment to healing at the level of safety through your body and your nervous system.

These are your reminders:

  1. You are not broken – there is NO NEED TO FIX YOU – nothing is wrong with you.
  2. You are being called to a journey of healing – to grow and expand. 
  3. Your emotions are ENERGY IN MOTION – being able to feel feelings is a gift.
  4. Don’t wait for your mind to miraculously be your cheerleader – you are in charge so direct your mind – it is your responsibility.
  5. Practice non-judgmental observation.
  6. Remember that the feeling comes first, the thoughts follow the feeling.
  7. Nothing changes if nothing changes.
  8. HEALING is your calling and responsibility.

Acmhainn (aw-kwin) is the Irish word that represents capacity and endurance. Acmhainn speaks to the inherent qualities within us that enable us to overcome challenges, pointing to the presence or absence of the resources: mental, emotional, and physical and necessary for facing our fears and persevering through adversity.

Acmhainn invites us to reflect on our internal reservoirs of strength and resilience, urging us to recognize and cultivate these qualities as we navigate life’s trials. It prompts a deeper inquiry into our own capacity for endurance: What inner strengths do we possess that empower us to continue, even in the face of daunting obstacles? How can we develop and enhance these attributes to bolster our ability to overcome the challenges that lie ahead?

Exploring acmhainn within the context of facing fears, we’re encouraged to consider how our personal capacities can be both a source of strength and an area for growth. This perspective shifts our focus from external solutions to the power and potential that lie within, highlighting the importance of self-awareness and self-development in the process of overcoming adversity.

As we contemplate the meaning of acmhainn, let’s also recognize the dynamic nature of our capacity for endurance. Our acmhainn can grow and evolve over time, shaped by our experiences, challenges, and the strategies we employ to navigate them. This adaptability underscores the importance of fostering resilience, cultivating a positive mindset, and seeking out supportive relationships and resources that can enhance our ability to persevere.

What is most important during our Earth journey is the ongoing connection between people – the social aspect of simply being together, without big agendas, without the need for a highlight reel on Instagram.  The human connection fosters our ability to see and be seen, to listen as well as be heard, to show up with our imperfections and celebrate our idiosyncrasies.  Give yourself the gift of connection today – take 5 minutes and call someone you’ve been thinking about.  Slow down and chat with your neighbor.  Wish the barista a blessed day.  Bring the school crossing guard a coffee.  Smile and wave at the person walking their dog.  Be the change you want to see and experience in the world.  Choose to let your spark shine!!!

The healing of our heart and soul is a courageous undertaking, but it does not need to be a solitary path.  Working with a trusted advisor along the way is always helpful. This partnership allows you to learn new tools, engage a new perspective, be held in a space of safety, as you are encouraged with enthusiasm and optimism to see your Self as a multi-faceted amazing human.   This is certainly what happens in my practice at Touchstone Acupuncture & Wellness, combining ancient medicine with the spirit of Anam Cara, supporting humans to find their way home.  It would be my privilege to be part of your healing journey.

“Nothing can harm you as much as your own thoughts unguarded.”

~~  Buddha


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