Breath over thoughts – slowing down your mind and body.

This exercise is good for letting go of thinking about outside issues, particularly if you caught up in thinking, finding it hard to let go. It also gives you a sense of how breathing differently influences how alert or relaxed you feel in yourself. The structure I offer switches the method of breathing regularly. This helps you come into the moment immediately to notice the sensations caused by inhaling and exhaling. Take time to feel your connection to the ground and your heart before you start the video.

In the video I am describing and modelling one round of the exercise. You may wish to repeat this exercise or adapt it by repeating more rounds of one of the methods. Notice how it affects your relationship with your breath, your mind and the balance of relaxation or alertness in your nervous system.

As usual, if you feel pain or resistence to any of the methods – please listen to your instincts. Ask yourself if this is indicating you should stop, slow down with the exercise or come back to your normal way of breathing. I encourage you to notice insights from your body which may arise during the exercise or afterwards, in relation to your health and wellbeing. If you feel you may benefit from a session with me to explore any symptoms or insights, please contact me for a free 20 minute phone consultation and we can discuss your needs.

short self care practices to bring you closer to your body

This post is the first of a series which will bring video and audio guidance for embodied connection and nurture. Befriending your body in simple ways like these offers so much potential for supporting health and wellbeing. This is a relationship with yourself that you can grow with and increasingly, you can find emotional, physical and psychological balance through this relational contact with your body.

This Breath, Heart and Ground attention practice is simple and effective for relaxing and stablising your nervous system in your body.

In this video I’m guiding focus to connect you to your body, breath and heart whilst feeling anchored on Earth. I am in the practice as I guide it, to support you to really drop in to your own somatic experience and the resourcing from these simple orientations.

I hope you will enjoy this practice and adapt it to suit you in different situations, e.g. when you feel stressed or need a quick break from intense activity or interactions with others. If you wish to move or stretch your body during and after the video ends, this can further nourish and resource you! If anything physical or emotional arises which you want to explore in a therapy or coaching session, please contact me to book your free 20 minute phone consultation.

Adaptation to comfort

Stress is so prevalent for many of us and builds with out us noticing to intolerably high levels. Like all animals, humans are adaptable in relationship and environment in order to survive but survival doesn’t always accommodate comfort and ease.

I am suggesting that we also adapt our habits and environments to enhance our sense of comfort in our lives and that this will positively impact our health. So with this meditation, I’m offering the question: how can you use the potential of adaptation to help you to feel well in yourself?

The intention for this 10 minutes is to take your attention into your body, notice and receive guidance as to what you need to adapt to feel more at ease within. Notice what you can change in your environment to support that. You can refer to my earlier post about creating a sanctuary at home and making uninterrupted space for self care. If you like this meditation and want to radically alter your way of relating to your body, contact me to find out about how Embodied Coaching can help you, or to try one of my classes.

Body and Nature – connection and movement groups outdoors

Return to Nature: Being in Nature feels simple and enlivening. Elements, colours, and movements feel simple and real, bringing me in to the present moment. Humanity came from Nature yet now it seems there is a risk of us never returning fully to our natural state. Technologies and geographical divisions mean that we spend more time online, hooked to computers rather than rooted in the grasses.

The image of a hand rising out of the grasses feels poignant to me, reminding me what we are losing more of as we build more on our our Earth. In these last years I’ve been prioritising reminding myself of the feeling of Nature each day by having an interaction with Earth, water, a tree or an animal. It feels like Nature forgives me each time for being absent, welcomes me back and offers me strong and gentle reflections of what really matters in life.

I encourage you to do the same, remind yourself of your Nature, to balance the time you spend hooked up to technology. Staying aware of this balance feels crucial at this time… and Nature awaits our returning.

If you find it hard to make time for your own Nature connection and would like to join a group activity which places this connection at it’s heart, please click the images below for details. These are two separate groups and forthcoming dates are:

Meetings with Nature – 17 November in Box Woodlands – click image

Soil & Stream – 1 December in woodlands in Stroud – click image below

Meetings in Nature

A new Nature immersion session in Box woodlands, near Nailsworth.

These Sunday morning sessions offer you a structured time in a beautiful woodlands, where you can connect more deeply to the goodness of Nature and share your experiences with others. Sue and I look forward to welcoming you, and please use the contact details for Sue on the flier.

Soil & Stream

A monthly group for movement in Nature in Stroud. Please contact me to find out more and reserve your place. Vanessa and I are experienced somatic movement facilitators and we love discovering Nature around and nature within during these sessions. We’d love you to join us.

Change your relationship to your body forever…

The Autumn 2019 series has started and dates with themes are listed below.

Tuesday 5th Nov: Mind and Muscles – exploring the nervous system through our essential ability to perceive and move responsively
Tuesday 12th Nov: Skin and Bones – sensitivity on the outside and the inside
Tuesday 19th Nov: Ingestion and digestion – active and receptive processes and deep ecology
Tuesday 26th Nov: Immune System – mapping and tending our boundaries and defenses
Tuesday 3 Dec: Glandular system – tuning into balance and alignment

There are a couple of drop-in spaces each week, so contact me if you would like to book your place – pre-booking essential.

On Eco-anxiety

Is the climate and ecological crisis affecting you feel emotionally and physically? Is what you hear and see reported on the news causing you to lose sleep and feel anxious, yet helpless to do anything to avert the crisis that is predicted? You are not alone and more people are experiencing symptoms of what has been termed ‘eco-anxiety’. Please read on for some more context, and also consider the value of getting some support for yourself. Contact me if you wish to explore having some therapy.

A recent radio programme, and feature article have captured some individual stories as well as generalising on themes that characterise ‘Eco-anxiety’: https://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcthree/article/b2e7ee32-ad28-4ec4-89aa-a8b8c98f95a5. It is common to many people who care about the state of Nature and realise the dependency we humans have on our natural ecologies for a stable future. The article says that if you are feeling anxious or depressed and distracted by fears of collapse of our natural life support systems, your experience is a very appropriate response to a real existential threat. I agree that to feel scared is appropriate and it is natural and human to want to feel a togetherness in this with others.

However, it is not straight forward to accept and share these experiences and you may be in an internal conflict around your own feelings. Despite your fears, you may not feel able to change your lifestyle just like that; and amongst your friends and family, you may encounter disagreement rather than support, if they see things differently. Feeling separation and conflict can lead to overwhelm, so it’s important to try to find ‘like-minded’ people who can help you.

There are resources and alongside more established environmental and human rights charities, there is a growing number of grass roots groups who are prepared to explore responses to ecological and climate change crisis scenarios. These groups can feel supportive to many who feel driven to activism. The sense of agency and interpersonal connections can be empowering and reduce isolation.

Often in activist groups, the focus is on taking action to rectify a ‘wrong’ or injustice, and not so much on the complexity of feeling or interpretation of the reasons for action. Yet many people can also feel blocked by their feelings, which prevent them from acting, or there’s confusion about where to contribute, particularly if work, family or health issues make it hard to join in meetings or action in their community. Is this something that you are experiencing? It may feel particularly hard at this time to know that others are mobilising whilst you feel stuck.

Feeling stuck and ‘frozen’ when it comes to action can stem from a variety of root causes in our nervous systems. Our individual experiences of threat to our lives are unique, and whilst for some of us the response is to fight back, or to run away, for others of us, there is a very scary place of frozenness, which debilitates and refuses to release us to move.

Therapy can support you to meet your overwhelm safely, to unblock stuck emotions and to find stability and clarity in both your emotional experience and in your choices about taking action. I am writing here and offering therapy in direct response to eco-anxiety, because I know that feeling this degree of threat is a healthy response from our bodies and minds. It is a time to recognise that our lives are not separate from our natural world. I believe that we each have unique contributions to make to our human and Natural world. You are entitled to find stability and resource to be able to contribute to our collective effort to rebalance and resource our world.

If you would like to have an initial free telephone consultation with me, to start to get unstuck and find your way forward in this time, please contact me to book a time. I look forward to hearing from you!

From simple to complex – and back to simple!

Human Egg from Lennart Nilsson’s ‘A Child Is Born’.

We began as a single cell with homeostatic functions for energy consumption, waste clearing, immunity and growth. Then we became ever more complex organisms! The essential functions of this cell got more complex, diverse and fascinating as we developed into our full human form with cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive, immune, endocrine and nervous system diversification, which are all about the homeostatic balance of wellbeing… which began in the cell.

It’s that simple and that complicated: unless we can consciously receive and respond to signals from our instinctual and homeostatic functions, the tendancy is to loose sight of how we can support our natural internal balancing process: we override signals from our nervous system that we need to rest or breathe more deeply, or from our digestive system to eat / drink differently to support the balancing of our physical body and biochemistry. So when we experience imbalance and upset of these systems, it can be deeply restorative, to go back to this simple place of being, as a witness.

To simply witness and allow with regular ‘tuning in’ time, turning our focus from outward to inward, we can begin to notice more details about the internal signals, find familiarity with a bigger range of communications from our bodies and learn what they are guiding us to do. This helps us be in a process of regaining balance in our health and wellbeing.

Ways to connect and allow this homeostatic process to happen can be mindfulness combined with curiosity about your body’s physical composition; finding opportunities to relax deeply into your body and move with the intention of supporting your body into ease, pleasure, sensuous feeling and expression of your internal feelings. Maybe you can notice all the ways you don’t allow this for yourself in your everyday life, and maybe find small moments to begin or give more time to being this way with yourself.

You are welcome to try one of my classes which support this intention of returning to this deep embodied connection, to witness, to allow and to integrate our bodymind back into everyday life.

Understanding Safety in Therapy

When I feel safe, I feel I can deal with most things myself or by asking for help. Perhaps more importantly, in this state I feel more trusting with the unresolved things.

I hope this article will help to open your curiosity about your experiences of feeling fear and also of feeling safe. How much of your sense of safety is about how things are inside you and how much is it about actual external threat?

Fearfulness can start from a bodily feeling or a thought, or be triggered by something outside of us. Usually a combination of these conjures scarey images and worst case scenarios, because fear is designed to mobilise us to do the utmost to survive: fight, flee, freeze or flop. We get this from our animal ancestors, to increase chances of survival of attacks from predators. Like animals, we base our responses to threat on our experiences of what has worked or not worked for us to overcome or escape threats in the past.

Feeling safe is proportionate to our resourcefulness to deal with potential threats and can likewise be associated with our experiences of ease, safety and being able to deal with threats effectively, including whether we are alone or together with others we trust. Like pack animals, humans can feel safer when in a group and feeling safe creates conditions for mental and physical health to thrive.

Primates and Humans also have an additional safety mechanism which most other animal species don’t have: a complex level of social empathy. We use our faces and our voices to try to create safe, attuned relational connections with others so that we know that those we are with are on our side. Social empathy is something we feel as well as think about and it most often opens us to creative dialogues and activities with others. Our bodies and our thoughts are deeply connected so that if social empathy is working, we experience relaxation, wellbeing and spontaneity in behaviour. A good level of social empathy with those around us enables us to feel safe and therefore at ease in our bodies which encourages health and creativity within us. If it isn’t, we may start to feel estranged from people and anger or fear escalate, such that we fall back into patterned reactions of behaviour and thinking which are more related to fight, flight and freeze. These conditions can impact detrimentally on our physical and mental health, as we isolate or are isolated and our bodies are stressed and unable to relax.

This is one of the important factors in my work with clients and I will do all that I can to help each person find the conditions they need to feel safe enough or understand what is feeling threatening. For each person this is very different, so there is no such thing as a ‘safe space’ because it is a process that needs to be understood from the individual experiences. I support clients to sense into their bodies and notice where they feel fear tension or wellness and relaxation. This often matches how they are feeling threatened or safe. Once this is established, we can explore the evidence in the present moment and from the client’s history that can explain why they feel this and together explore how to reduce any threatening aspects of the therapeutic environment for the client and name the historical patterns which might be influencing their experience currently.

If you are curious about what I have written here because you are feeling stressed, fearful or overwhelmed by aspects of your life, it may be helpful to consult a therapist and I would be very glad to hear from you. I offer a free 20 minute phone consultation in which to help you take the next step toward getting help. Please contact me to enquire if I can help you.

References

The Body Keeps the Score: Bessel Van Der Kolk. 2015. Penguin Press

When the Body Says No – Exploring the Stress Disease Connection: Gabor Mate. 2013. John Wiley & Sons Ltd

The Polyvagal Theory: Neurophysiological Foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication, and Self-Regulation. Dr Stephen Porges. 2011. Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology. USA.

The Polyvagal Theory in Therapy. Deb Dana. 2018. W. W. Norton, Inc. USA