Breathwork: 11 Magical Techniques For Spiritual Healing

Your breath is one of the most sacred, yet forgotten, parts of your daily existence.

As one of the few functions in the human body that is both conscious and unconscious, the breath is a conduit of life. It is the physical manifestation of your chi (qi), prana, or lifeforce energy. And you do it 23,000 times a day.

Most of all, your breath is always there for you, 24/7, until the day you die. It is there not only to help animate your body, but also to help it heal, purge old energy and toxins, and invite in whatever is new and invigorating.

Your breath is your most ancient friend and it is always there to call upon when you need help.

Isn’t that beautiful? Isn’t that comforting? Isn’t that magical?

Whenever you need a burst of fresh energy, breathe. Whenever you need to process heavy emotions, breathe. Whenever you need to calm down, breathe.

You have an anchor, a doorway into immediate meditation within you wherever you go and whatever you do – and that’s what’s so bewitching about breathwork. Breathwork simply takes this natural, primordial bodily function and makes a conscious practice out of it. 

In this article, I’m going to explore a few different varieties of breathwork – and they all beautifully complement the inner work practices of self-love, inner child work, and shadow work that are needed for deepening the process of spiritual awakening.

What is Breathwork?

While ancient, ‘breathwork’ is a term that first originated in the 1970s, referring to the practice of consciously directing the breath. The goal of breathwork is to positively alter the body, mind, heart, or spirit and produce therapeutic inner transformation. There are numerous forms of breathwork in existence today. While some of them go right back to the old yogic practices of pranayama, others are relatively new such as the Wim Hof Method. 

Benefits of Breathwork

Breathing is the fundamental unit of risk, the atom of inner courage that leads us into authentic living. With each breath, we practice opening, taking in, and releasing. Literally, the teacher is under our nose. When anxious, we simply have to remember to breathe.

Mark Nepo

There’s an overwhelmingly vast array of benefits associated with regularly practicing breathwork. While some are scientifically proven, others are waiting to be validated (yet are quite self-evident!). Here’s what you can expect to experience from making breathwork an everyday habit:

  • Relaxes your nervous system 
  • More calmness (and less anxiety/stress)
  • More self-acceptance (and less depression)
  • Enhances overall mental health
  • Improves immune function (which means you stay healthy for longer)
  • Alkalizes your blood and decreases inflammation in the body
  • Enhances mental clarity and focus
  • More energy and vitality
  • Can result in a mystical experience or deep spiritual insights
  • Boosts feelings of joy and happiness
  • Aids creativity and intuition
  • Enhances feelings of connection with others
  • Increases mindfulness and appreciation of life

On a side note, some breathwork practices also have mind-altering effects (in other words, they get you high!), which many people find enjoyable.

In fact, the term ‘breathwork’ rose in popularity in the 1960’s-70’s mostly thanks to LSD researchers Dr. Stanislav and Christina Grof who created their Holotropic Breathwork model thanks to their findings.

Breathwork & Spiritual Awakening

You might be wondering what on earth your breath has to do with spiritual awakening, but my response is how isn’t the breath related to your spiritual path?!

The word ‘spirit’ itself derives from the Latin word spiritus which literally translates to “breathing; breath; breath of a god”. There are also other connections between breath and spirit in many other languages as well such as Hebrew (ruach meaning “spirit, breath, wind, and/or mind”) and Greek (pneuma meaning “air, soul, breath”).

So here we can see that breath and spirit are inextricably linked – and as such, breathwork is a powerful and fundamental practice on our spiritual awakening journeys.

Learning to consciously work with our breath, whether through meditation, yoga, nature bathing, or simple mindfulness practices can help us to bridge the gap between the mind and heart, body and soul.

By tuning into the sacred cycles of the in-and-out breath, we learn about the rhythms of life, our mental states, and how to arrive fully and completely in the present moment. The breath heals us, awakens us, still us, and reveals to us our True Nature.

Warning

Before we dive deeper into this topic, I want to issue a warning.

Breathwork, for some people, particularly those with pre-existing heart problems, can be dangerous. It’s best to speak to a qualified medical practitioner before attempting any form of breathwork, particularly if your health is fragile.

Pregnant women should also seek professional advice first. Furthermore, some forms of breathwork are best practiced with a qualified practitioner, such as Holotropic and Rebirthing breathwork.

Above all, if you feel intense discomfort or feelings of unsafety during this practice (either by yourself or with another person), stop immediately. The beauty of breathwork is that you can stop at any time, and indeed you should stop if at any point it becomes too much for you.

5 (Intensely Transformative) Types of Breathwork

Where to start? There are many varieties of breathwork that can aid your spiritual healing and growth, and below I’ll summarize them:

1. Pranayama

Arguably the oldest form of ‘breathwork’ there is, pranayama (a Sanskrit word that translates to “breath control”) is a series of yogic breathing techniques that are designed to liberate the flow of prana (life force energy) and increase spiritual self-realization.

Pranayama can either be practiced alongside yoga asanas (poses) or by itself. There are eight types of pranayama with dozens of individual methods described in the Vedas (or ancient Indian religious texts). Some of the more common ones are Skull Shining Breath (or Kapalabhati), Alternate Nostril Breathing (or Nadi Shodhan), and Conqueror Breath (or Ujjayi).

2. Holotropic breathwork

Created by transpersonal Czech psychiatrists Stanislav and Christina Grof, holotropic breathwork was created in the 1970s as a way of helping people to experience deep inner healing and transformation.

After studying and experiencing the therapeutic effects of the drug LSD, the Grof’s developed their holotropic model after the ban of this psychedelic drug in the 1960s. The intention was to design an experience that was similar to LSD with its mind-altered effects but without the side effects (and legal issues).

Holotropic breathwork is often practiced alongside the rhythm of primal music, with participants breathing rapidly under instruction for up to two hours or more. Afterward, the practice is accompanied by drawing mandalas and discussing what happened.

Holotropic breathwork is a breathing technique that must be practiced with a qualified practitioner – so please be wary of trying it by yourself (having a safe holding space is important). The ultimate goal is to access higher states of consciousness and connect with the Soul.

3. Rebirthing breathwork

Rebirthing breathwork is a breathing technique that was developed by visionary Leonard Orr in the 1970s. Orr reported having re-lived his own birth in a bathtub, which is what inspired him to devise this method.

The goal of this technique is to connect you with the subconscious mind, release traumatic childhood memories, and experience a kind of invigorating ‘rebirth’ (hence the name).

Rebirthing breathwork utilizes a circular breathing technique alongside the guidance of a trained facilitator. Some forms of rebirthing are conducted in a bathtub to mimic the process of being born (or reborn in this case). Such a practice can be a powerful inner child work practice that can enable you to heal and empower the wounded inner child we all carry.

4. Shamanic breathwork

Shamanic breathwork is a modern adaptation of old circular breathing techniques with the purpose of getting a person in touch with their inner healer (shaman). Such a practice was developed primarily by visionary teacher and shaman Linda Star Wolf in the 1990s.

During a shamanic breathwork experience, participants begin by smudging, chanting, and setting an intention. They then breathe rhythmically to primal music (such as the sound of drums), with some practitioners incorporating chakra healing, spirit animal contact, and other practices into the breathwork session.

Other than connecting with your inner shaman, shamanic breathwork’s aim is to help you experience more wholeness, healing, and inner guidance.

5. Wim Hof breathwork

A relatively new technique (although based on ancient pranayama methods), the Wim Hof method was developed by Dutch extreme athlete Wim Hof – also known as “The Iceman.”

Hof earned his nickname thanks to a series of intense physical feats, such as being able to withstand freezing cold temperatures and ice baths for prolonged periods of time.

His method involves three central pillars: exposure to cold, breathing (controlled hyperventilation), and meditation. The breathwork part of his method involves taking thirty power breaths and then after that, taking a deep inhale and retaining your breath as long as comfortable, then exhaling. Afterward, one must inhale deeply for another 10-15 seconds, retain, and then exhale.

This breathwork process is then repeated for up to three more rounds. The Wim Hof method is aimed toward increasing physical and mental wellbeing and has been scientifically linked to a number of benefits.

Other forms of breathwork include:

  • Vivation
  • Integrative breathwork
  • Transformational breathwork
  • Biodynamic breathwork
  • Clarity breathwork
  • Zen Yoga Breathwork

If I’ve missed out on any let me know in the comments!

Breathwork and Spiritual Healing

Deep, slow, and intentional breaths, that expand and contract the belly, allow for more oxygen to enter the body … When this respiration is consistent, unnecessary tension will not build up in the body or in the mind. When the body and mind are free from allocating energy to unnecessary tension, that energy can be more directly utilized in the process of emotive-psychosynthesis. Deep breathing is the tool of the masters for letting go of old attachments and old emotions and for extracting the wisdom hidden within the experiences of life.

Ron Teeguarden

As we’ve seen, breathwork can help us on a physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual level – it’s an immensely powerful healing modality!

What’s essential is setting an intention beforehand. Without a clear intention, it can be difficult to appreciate (and sometimes notice) the benefits and changes brought about by breathwork.  

Think about what issue you’re facing in life the most right now. Perhaps the issue is a physical illness. Breathwork can help you with that, but it can also go to the deeper roots of that issue that are often spiritual in nature.

By creating a drug-free altered state of consciousness, breathwork helps us to access the realm of our Souls and dip into the ethereal world of Spirit. Some of the greatest discoveries, epiphanies, and breakthroughs you can ever make might be through a breathwork session.

What’s important is that you choose a form of breathwork that resonates with you – this is what will make the process deep and impactful.

By helping us to release deep layers of pain, trauma, and repressed emotion, breathwork liberates energy within us – energy to heal, to transform, and to connect with our True Nature.

6 Easy Breathwork Practices That You Can Practice Alone

The flow of breath plays a large part in determining the overall health of a person, and especially their ability to feel alive, vital, and to express spontaneously.

R. Johnson

For most of the above breathwork practices, you need a qualified practitioner to help facilitate the process (it’s safer and more effective that way). But understandably, not everyone has time or money to find a breathwork facilitator.

Thankfully there are some gentle but transformative breathwork techniques out there that you can practice alone (or with a friend).

Please note, however, that everyone is different, and some people might find the following techniques too intense. Listen to your body, and if at any point you feel overwhelmed by strong emotions or physical sensations, stop.

Below we’ll explore some simple forms of breathwork that you can (usually) practice by yourself:

1. Alternate Nostril Breathing (a pranayama technique)

Also known as Nadi Shodhana, alternate nostril breathing is an ancient yogic breathwork technique that helps you to calm down and find inner peace. This practice is particularly helpful to those who suffer from chronic stress, anxiety, ungroundedness, or insomnia. 

Alternate nostril breathing is also said to enhance mental focus, remove toxins from the body, balance the right and left hemispheres of the brain, and clear the energy channels within the body.

Here is an instructional video:

2. The 4-7-8 Relaxing Breath

This simple practice is perfect for when you’re short on time. It helps you to connect with your body, be present with your emotions, and unwind your nervous system. The basic premise is to breathe in for a count of four, hold four a count of seven, and exhale for a count of eight. 

This video will give you an idea of how to practice 4-7-8 breathing:

3. Soft Belly Breathing

In the modern world, a large percentage of us breathe from our chests, not from our abdomen. Unfortunately, this incessant chest-breathing increases stress, nervous tension, and a racing mind that never seems to calm down.

Learning how the belly breath is vital if we are to find our inner center. But frustratingly, those who encourage belly breathing often forget one vital thing: it has to be soft and unforced. Ironically, when we force the belly breath, the result is a feeling of increased anxiety.

As author and breathing practitioner Patrick McKeown writes:

Unlike many modern Western teachers of yoga, who instruct students to breathe hard in order to remove toxins from the body, authentic teachers know that when it comes to breathing, less is more. The traditional Chinese practice of Taoism succinctly describes ideal breathing as ‘so smooth that the fine hairs within the nostrils remain motionless’. True health and inner peace occurs when breathing is quiet, effortless, soft, through the nose, abdominal, rhythmic and gently paused on the exhale. This is how human beings naturally breathed until modern life changed everything.

Therefore, the goal with soft belly breathing isn’t to force any breath, but instead allow the breath to become soft, deep, and abdominal. 

This video might help you begin a belly breathing practice:

4. Circular Breathing

Circular breathing (not to be confused with circular musician breathing) needs to be approached gently and mindfully, especially as it’s often used as a consciousness-altering technique.

When we circular breathe, we take a gentle breath in and out without pausing. This is a practice that can be done quietly or out loud (that is, making a noise when breathing out).

As a breathwork technique, circular breathing can release old emotions, cleanse the energetic and emotional body, and even open up the mind to deep spiritual insights.

Here is an instructional video:

5. Visualization Breathing

There are endless forms of visualization that we can use in conjunction with deep breathing – and that’s what makes this breathwork practice so eclectic and adaptable.

Visualization breathing can be uniquely tailored to your needs in the moment; all you need is your breath and creative imagination. 

Some common forms of visualization breathing are:

  • Visualizing light washing through your body as you inhale and exhale
  • Visualizing each of the seven chakras glowing as you breathe into them
  • Visualizing air moving through your respiratory system
  • Visualizing all stress and illness leaving your body as you exhale
  • Breathing in light, breathing out darkness
  • Breathing in pain, and breathing out loving-kindness (this is known as the ‘Tonglen’ Buddhist practice)

This video might inspire you:

6. Square Breathing

Square breathing is a wonderfully simple practice and is great for those who struggle to memorize breathing techniques. (It’s also great for kids!)

To do square breathing, simply breathe in for the count of four, hold for the count of four, and exhale for the count of four (4-4-4). You can also visualize forming a square in your mind while doing this breathwork practice if it helps. 

In this video, square breathing is explained (instruction starts at 1:06)

This simple breathwork practice helps to ground and center the body and mind. It can also be used before (or during) meditation practice and as a mindfulness technique.

Takeaway

Breathwork is a powerful practice that can accompany you anytime, anywhere, on your life path – quite simply, it works like magic because practically anyone can do it!

Not only is breathwork freely accessible and gloriously straightforward (in most cases), but its ability to aid spiritual healing, growth, and transformation makes it powerfully healing and cleansing.

To start your journey with breathwork, choose one of the above practices (that you can do alone) and dedicate just 2-5 minutes each day to it. To make a solid habit, it’s a good idea to set a regular time, such as in the morning or just before bed. (If you struggle to remember, set a reminder on your phone or calendar!)

If you want to experience the benefits of breathwork firsthand, right now, watch the video below. It’s one of my favorite calming visuals that helps to guide the breath and slow it down almost instantaneously:

What is your favorite breathwork practice and why? I’d love to hear in the comments. Also, if you’ve had any amazing or mind-blowing experiences while doing breathwork, please share in the comments about that as well! I’d love to hear. 🙂

Divine Feminine: 9 Ways to Awaken the Holy Fire of Shakti

Contrary to popular belief, the Divine Feminine isn’t limited only to females.

The Divine Feminine is an energy that we all possess, no matter where we are on the gender spectrum (or lack thereof).

Therefore, this article is for everyone who is interested in creating more inner balance – and shining that out into the world.

As our planet is cast into the horrors of environmental destruction and demise, it is clear that there is an excess of masculine energy. 

As a force that is responsible for organizing, ruling, fighting, building, and dominating, masculine energy is certainly useful – but only up until a certain point.

It is now time for the rise of the Divine Feminine. But not just in females (although women certainly have an easier time accessing it), but in all beings.

For our society, for this very planet, to survive, we desperately need to cultivate feminine energies within us, before it’s too late. This inner invocation is a crucial part of our spiritual awakening journey.

What is Divine Feminine Energy?

The Divine Feminine is a form of energy that all beings possess. It is known by many names such as shakti, yin, and lunar energy, and is often connected symbolically with the moon, Gaia (Mother Earth), and water. Just like the Divine Masculine, it is ‘one half’ of the Spirit of Life.

Both the Divine Feminine and Divine Masculine arise mutually, and in their most natural state, work together effortlessly and harmoniously. This original state of being can be observed as being represented in ancient symbols like the yin yang.

Why Masculine Energy is Destroying the Planet

When the Masculine and Feminine are out of balance, the natural result is chaos. So why is masculine energy destroying the planet? To answer this question, let’s briefly wind back time.

As an active force, the Divine Masculine is responsible for progress and evolution. Unlike feminine energy, it gets sh*t done in an efficient and orderly manner. As the nature of life is growth and change, we need that force, and we have needed it since the dawn of time.

But the shadow side of the Divine Masculine is its preoccupation with power. When masculine energy becomes corrupt, it results in the toxic patriarchal society we see today that is based on a foundational philosophy of “get, reject, use, and dominate.”

The consequence is a world full of racial, sexual, and religious intolerance; gender inequality; unrestrained materialism resulting in large-scale environmental decimation; raping and pillaging of the earth resulting in climate change that leads to huge natural disasters and social collapse … you name it. 

Why has Divine Masculine energy “entered the dark side”? There are numerous theories, but mine is that Divine Masculine energy is, in essence, immature. It hasn’t ripened and is therefore like a wayward, nihilistic teenager still trying to figure out the ropes. 

If all of life is a process of growth, of maturation, Divine Masculine energy still hasn’t evolved to its fullest potential. It’s still an awkward, self-conscious, and insecure force that has come to believe (like a naive child) that power comes from overshadowing others. But it doesn’t. What it has failed to learn up until now is that true power comes from within. True power is shown through the mature Divine Masculine acts of mercy, integrity, honesty, and accountability

Similar to what the metaphysical Soul Age theory proposes (in short, that there are young, mature, and old souls), we could say that there is also young, mature, and old energy. And Divine Masculine energy is still in its teenage years – and perhaps not even that.

So where does that leave Divine Feminine energy?

Divine Feminine: Out of the Shadows, Into the Light

Like Divine Masculine energy, Divine Feminine energy, has, up until now, been immature. 

By hiding in the shadows and forgetting her own power, the domineering shadow side of the Divine Masculine has been permitted to get out of control. Who has been there to consistently put him in his place? It takes two to tango. Neither one is “more” responsible for the annihilation of the planet than the other. Both have an equal hand in their own way.

We can picture this scenario by observing two children squabbling in the backyard. One of them – the little boy – is throwing a tantrum. “THAT’S MINE,” the little boy thunders aggressively, trying to intimidate the little girl into giving back his favorite toy. “But you said I could play with it,” the little girl sobs, running back to mommy or daddy in tears. 

She plays the victim. He plays the persecutor. It’s an age-old dance. And it needs to end.

We are getting to a pivotal turning point in history where something needs to change. Our world – the very survival of our species and the spiritual evolution of our souls – depends on it. What is the solution?

The rise of the Divine Feminine.

We are seeing it more and more, with feminism, compassion for animals (resulting in more ethical eating choices), yoga, meditation, and even social media initiatives like the #metoo and #blacklivesmatter movements entering the mainstream.

But all things in life have a dark side – that is an intrinsic realization we must come to terms with on our spiritual journeys. We need to be aware of our shadow selves in order to move into the light.

The Shadow Side

With that being said, let’s break down the shadow side of the Divine Feminine and Divine Masculine:

Divine Feminine Shadow Side:Divine Masculine Shadow Side:
VictimPersecutor
Co-dependentCold detachment
InsecureControlling
ManipulativeEgotistical
PassiveAggressive
Overly emotionalEmotionally numb
AcquiesceDominate
InauthenticAbusive
CruelRuthless

Of course, no person has purely Divine Feminine OR Divine Masculine shadow qualities – we tend to have a mixture of both. It’s up to us to develop the self-awareness and humility needed to recognize what we unconsciously harbor within ourselves.

The Light Side

Now, let’s look at the light side of the Feminine and Masculine energies. We could also call this the mature, fully-actualized Divine Feminine and Masculine:

Divine Feminine Light Side:Divine Masculine Light Side:
IntuitiveMindful
VulnerableAccountable
AuthenticIntegrity
CreativeOrganized
CompassionateMerciful
Inter-dependentIndependent
Open-mindedNon-judgmental
TenaciousCourageous
SensualSexual
InstinctualIntellectual
ConsiderateImpartial
SpontaneousStrategic
AdaptableGrounded
Will to loveWill to power

You might notice that many of these traits are actually quite neutral, and here’s where words have a limit.

All traits innate to the Divine Feminine and Masculine are neutral, it’s only when they come out of balance that they become an issue.

Being compassionate, for example, is a Divine Feminine trait that can either be positive or negative depending on how it’s used. When there’s too much compassion, there is self-martyrdom and co-dependency, and when there’s too little, there’s cruelty.

So, in essence, the “light” side of the Divine Feminine and Masculine is really only another way of saying the balanced side.

Benefits of Awakening the Divine Feminine

She is so bright and glorious that you cannot look at her face or her garments for the splendor with which she shines. For she is terrible with the terror of the avenging lightning, and gentle with the goodness of the bright sun; and both her terror and her gentleness are incomprehensible to humans … But she is with everyone and in everyone, and so beautiful is her secret that no person can know the sweetness with which she sustains people, and spares them in inscrutable mercy.

Hildegard von Bingen

No matter what gender (or lack thereof) you are, here’s what you can expect to experience once you commit to awakening the Divine Feminine within you:

  • Enhanced intuition (higher perception)
  • Sharpened gut instincts (animal perception)
  • More flexibility and spontaneity
  • Greater self-compassion
  • Increased love and acceptance of others
  • Connection with the Divine Creator within
  • More ability to enjoy the small things in life
  • Greater receptivity to yourself, others, and life
  • Increased ability to let go
  • Deeper comfort with the unknown and reduced anxiety
  • Heightened connection with your body and sensuality
  • Enhanced ability to relax, receive, and be

*Both women and men possess Divine Feminine energy – it is a neutral force*

9 Ways to Awaken the Divine Feminine Energy Within You

The deep Feminine, the mystery of consciousness, She who is life, is longing for our transformation as much as we are. She holds back, allowing us free reign to choose, nudging us occasionally with synchronicities, illness, births and deaths … But when we make space for Her, she rushes into all the gaps, engulfing us with her desire for life and expression. This is what She longs for, this is what we are for: experiencing the Feminine through ourselves. We simply need to slow down, and find where to put our conscious attention.

Lucy H. Pearce

To be whole and balanced beings, we need to honor both sides of our nature: the Divine Feminine and the Divine Masculine – also known in Jungian terms as the anima and animus.

But now, more than ever, we are all being called to awaken the Shakti within.

Males need to get over their immaturity surrounding femininity, and females need to step more into their power.

No matter whether you’re male, female, or non-binary… it’s your responsibility to create change within yourself. Only when we change ourselves can true change in the world happen.

Pointing fingers at one gender or group as being “responsible” for all world’s ills, being “less than” the other type of energy, and so forth, is infantile. We need to grow up and stop feeding our lower nature.

Don’t give fuel to your shadow self. Don’t perpetuate more division within this world. Learn how to awaken both types of energy within yourself in a healthy way.

So with that being said, here’s how to start this sacred inner work:

1. Connect with your inner Divine Mother

This might sound strange, but the reality is that we are composed of many subpersonalities. Psychiatrist Carl Jung called them “archetypes,” and more recently, psychotherapist Richard C. Schwartz (founder of Internal Family Systems) refers to them as “parts.”

The Mother is a universal part/archetype that can be found within all people of all genders. We see the Great Mother portrayed through the ages in numerous forms; as the Virgin Mary, Lakshmi, Isis, Sophia, Mother Nature, Kali – you name it.

So the question is, what does your inner Divine Mother look like?

I recommend connecting with this part of you through practices such as journaling, drawing/painting, automatic writing, dream work, and mirror work.

You might like to create or print out a picture that resembles your inner Divine Mother and put her somewhere important in your house. Let her inspire and remind you of the importance of honoring and connecting with the Divine Feminine.

2. Examine your wounds surrounding femininity

Examine the following questions:

  • What has society taught you about femininity as a male, female, or non-binary…?
  • How did your mother model her femininity and what did she teach you (whether directly or indirectly)?
  • What negative core beliefs might you have developed surrounding femininity?
  • What habits and behaviors do you bring into the world that indirectly or directly oppress the Divine Feminine?

Journal about these questions and do some self-reflection. Understanding how you truly feel about feminine energy – from all angles – is vital.

Often we carry old programming that impedes our growth and maturation. The only way to move through these blocks is to see right through them.

For example, common negative conditioned beliefs include the notion that women should always be pretty, good at everything, never age, have a perfect body, be submissive to men, be meek and emotionally-restrained, and please everyone. (There are many other negative ideas out there – these are just a few common examples.)

However, your personal wounds might be totally different.

For example, if you were raised with an engulfing helicopter mother, you might fear women and see them as fundamentally dangerous. If your mother was manic-depressive, you might unconsciously perceive all women to be chaotic, unsafe, and unreliable. Try to examine both your personal and wider societal context. 

3. Tune into your emotions

How are you feeling? If you were brought up in the West, you’ll have more masculine-dominated values. You tend to ask people, “How are you doing?” rather than “How are you feeling?” We need to shift away from that mindset.

A person’s worth is not based on how much they do. In fact, a person’s worth isn’t externally based at all.

We need to start feeling things from the inside – this enables us to authentically learn more about ourselves and tune into our emotions. Getting to know our emotional landscape will empower us to develop self-love and self-compassion which are doorways into the Divine Feminine.

So stop right now and ask yourself, “How am I feeling?” (If you struggle to label your emotions, search for “emotions chart” on Google images and print one out.)

Are you feeling tired, moody, excited, intrigued, sad, nostalgic, disillusioned, surprised? Get into the habit of assigning a word to how you feel.

4. Cultivate your intuition

Intuition is a core Divine Feminine quality. Yet because so many of us live in our heads, we become disconnected from our hearts and souls (the source of our intuition!).

Sadly, the result is that most of us struggle to differentiate the voice of fear from intuition. Some of us even outright reject the value of intuition altogether!

To begin cultivating your intuition, try any of the following practices:

  • Begin meditating (this helps to silence your mind and allow intuitive flashes to emerge)
  • Experiment with oracle and tarot cards
  • Tune into your body through mindfulness exercises
  • Learn to understand the meaning of your dreams

5. Find a feminine teacher/guide/figure you admire

We all need role models, and finding a mature and embodied woman is a powerful way of tuning into the Divine Feminine. Fortunately, there are many beautiful expressions of the Divine Feminine out there.

You can begin your search in a friend or family circle, and extend it to authors, artists, therapists/counselors, historical and religious icons, and modern feminine figures. Once you’ve found someone (or a few teachers) you admire, put a picture of them somewhere special to honor the Divine Feminine.

Remember, the whole point of finding a feminine teacher/guide/figure that you admire is to learn from them. Please don’t idolize them or give away your power. Simply respect and appreciate them and make sure you integrate the lessons offered to you.

6. Slow down and be present

Masculine energy is all about do-do-do. But feminine energy is about being receptive, passive, and living in the moment.

We don’t always need to achieve something. So make some time during the day to slow down and be present. Try to enjoy the little things and practice being grateful. You may even like to keep a gratitude journal – or if you’re into poetry, a place where you write poetry in appreciation of life’s small pleasures.

Slowing down, for instance, could be as simple as turning off your phone and going outside to enjoy the sunset. Or it could mean saying “no” to that extra task your colleague wants you to finish by Friday.

While slowing down is difficult at first, keep at it. Your brain has likely been wired to be on the “doing” frequency all the time rather than in the being state of mind. So be forgiving and patient (two more Divine Feminine qualities!) and don’t give up. Even if slowing down needs to be scheduled into your day, make sure it’s a priority. 

7. Practice self-love and inner child work

A crucial part of the spiritual path involves learning how to love yourself and healing your inner child. By learning how to love yourself, you are better equipped to show true compassion to others. What better ways to awaken the Divine Feminine within you!?

Self-love and inner child work go hand-in-hand, but before going too deep into inner child work, I recommend starting with self-love. Self-love is truly the foundation of all inner work because, without it, it’s possible to re-traumatize our already-wounded inner child.

To begin self-love, one of the most powerful practices is something called mirror work. Essentially, this practice involves standing in front of your household mirror every day and repeating loving words to yourself. These affirmations might include, “I see you,” “I value you,” “I forgive you,” “I’m here for you,” or whatever loving statement comes from your heart.

8. Connect more deeply with your body

The Divine Feminine is a sensual, visceral force that is at the heart of all life. She is the one who gives birth to all existence, tends it, and nurtures it: all very raw and instinctual processes.

To honor the yin energy within you, connect with your body. Learn its language. Discover more about what it means to be embodied in this life as a spiritual being. This might take many forms, for example:

  • Learning bodywork and breathwork
  • Uncovering the meaning behind your muscle tension
  • Practicing body-centered mindfulness
  • Exploring your sensual nature (honoring the pleasures of the body such as eating, sleeping, relaxing…)
  • Taking care of your basic bodily needs (e.g., getting good quality nutrition, water, sleep, digestion, etc.) by learning self-care

9. Honor, protect, and celebrate Mother Earth

As the physical embodiment of the Divine Feminine, the earth is our ultimate provider. She sustains us, protects us, and allows us to flourish.

We are birthed within her, and we will die within her. And each and every day, she has endless reminders to share with us that reflect the Divinity, joy, beauty, and love inherent in life.

Connecting with Mother Earth is simple: go outside! Enjoy the trees, the wind, the clouds, the rain, the flowers, the sunshine, the soil – all of it. Be in a state of appreciation for her. But don’t let it stop there. 

To truly honor Mother Earth is to respect her through our actions. By committing to a sustainable, low-waste, and ethical way of living, we are putting our head where our heart is. We don’t need to be perfect. We can’t be. But we can do our best, understanding that no matter how many mistakes we make, we are loved. 

Takeaway

Our spiritual paths, our choices, our very lives are not separate from the greater Whole.

Learning how to reconnect with the Divine Feminine is a vital and desperately needed part of embracing both our humanity and divinity. No authentic growth or progression can be made without cultivating the yin, the Shakti within us. Our minds, our bodies, our children, our communities, our world are all crying for the rise of the Divine Feminine.

What is your relationship like with the Divine Feminine? Do you have any advice to share? Let yourself be heard below.

How to Trust Your Intuition & Find Total Clarity (9 Tips)

Instincts, gut feelings, hunches, premonitions … all of these words point to a deep capacity that we all carry inside known as intuition.

The word intuition originally came from the Latin word intueri, which meant “to contemplate” or “to look within.”

Without learning how to look and listen to our intuition, we tend to rely solely on the limited rational mind or external input from others, which can quickly lead us astray.

Many scientists and researchers are now referring to intuition as the highest form of intelligence we possess.

In other words, intuition is no longer limited to the new age world of magical thought; it is increasingly being seen as a legitimate way to make judgments and decisions.

Unsurprisingly, spiritual traditions for thousands of years have all known and revered the powers of intuition.

Buddhist, Islamic, Hindu, and Western philosophy have all connected intuition with planes of higher consciousness or the Soul. The Advaita Vedānta for example (a school of Hindu thought) values intuition as an experience through which a person can contact and experience Brahman (Spirit/God).

Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung also believed that intuition is a powerful force, once writing,

Intuition gives outlook and insight; it revels in the garden of magical possibilities.

Personally, I see intuition as the “Soul’s GPS” which can help us to discover our life purpose, make wise decisions, and lead fulfilling lives.

What is Intuition?

Intuition is a sudden and inexplicable feeling that arises within us. Also referred to as the instinct, sixth sense, inkling, hunch, and gut feeling, intuition is the mysterious force that guides, protects, and informs us.

The information we receive from our intuition is not usually available from our conscious mind and thus stems from the unconscious.

What common ways do we experience intuition?

Usually, intuition emerges as a quiet inner voice or feeling that tells us to take this chance, go down that path, accept that opportunity, open this door, and so on.

Intuition can also manifest as various synchronicities or messages from one’s spirit guides to signal that we’re on the right road.

Furthermore, intuition also tells us what not to do, what to be careful of, when to be vigilant, and when to stop what we’re doing. 

How Does Intuition Arise?

Intuition is associated with the right side of the brain which is responsible for creativity, imagination, musical and artistic aptitude, and emotions.

The left side of the brain, on the other hand, is connected with logic, reasoning, and critical thinking (we tend to favor the left brain over the right brain in the West).

Intuition stems from that nonlinear dimension of our minds, that part where unconscious connections and associations are made and arise within our conscious minds seemingly out of nowhere.

As Joseph Murphy, author of The Power of Your Unconscious Mind notes:

Within your subconscious depths lie infinite wisdom, infinite power, and infinite supply of all that is necessary, which is waiting for development and expression.

Intuition is an amazingly powerful tool – a natural gift of our biology that is ready and available to us at any time.

However, sadly, the gift of intuition is often ignored and forgotten by us humans. Thankfully, there are so many exhilarating ways of learning how to tap into this inner wellspring of wisdom again!

Intuition and Spiritual Awakening

Intuition is an innate quality we all possess. Yet many of us don’t recognize how vital it is until we’ve gone through some kind of life crisis or spark of spiritual awakening.

Without our intuition, we feel adrift in life. We lack a sense of inner centeredness – of spiritual direction and Soul-centered insight.

In some ways, we feel empty and bereft without this sacred heart voice.

Indeed, our intuition is a direct line to our Higher Self that offers us all the spiritual guidance we need in this life.

Why Learning to Trust Your Intuition is Powerful (and a Little Intimidating!)

Don’t try to comprehend with your mind. Your minds are very limited. Use your intuition. 

M. L’Engle

All throughout history people have listened closely to the whispers of their intuition.

From Dr. Loewi’s intuitive discovery of the chemical transmission of nerve impulses, and Elias Howe’s invention of the sewing machine, to Isaac Newton’s theory of gravity, many great strides in existence have been attributed to spontaneous sparks of intuition.

But why should we pay attention to our intuition? 

I mean … it’s not like we’re planning on becoming world-famous physicists or inventors, right? Wrong. You don’t need to strive to do or be anything extraordinary. Intuition is very down-to-earth and can help us in any area of life!

Here’s why learning to trust our intuition is so powerful:

1.  Intuition reveals deep truths in our lives

Intuition helps us develop a deeper level of understanding and insight about ourselves, other people, and life at large. The result is that we feel more intelligently and intentionally guided in our thoughts, feelings, and decisions.

2.  Intuition helps us identify negative omens in our lives

Failure, financial collapse, death, emotional threat – intuition puts us in touch with our instinctive defense systems, helping us to avoid harm. (By the way, how eerie but cool is that!)

3.  Intuition opens new paths to us

By helping us to tune into fresh opportunities and positive signs in our lives, intuition opens new doors when we least expect it – it’s quite magical.

4.  Intuition guides us and helps us to make wise decisions

By allowing us to know what decisions to make and when, intuition helps us to achieve a measure of confidence and peace of mind, assisting us in following paths that are true to ourselves: paths with heart.

5.  Intuition helps us to live fulfilling lives

Truth hurts, but truth also helps us to wake up to the false, corrupted, and delusional lives that we sometimes lead and the wayward choices we occasionally make. Ultimately, intuition is a bringer of truth and thus a bringer of change and transformation. When we listen to it, we make decisions that ultimately help our lives to be genuine and fulfilling.

How to Distinguish Fearful Thoughts From Intuition

I sometimes FEEL that I am right. I do not KNOW that I am.

Albert Einstein

Unfortunately, it’s very common for us to confuse the voice of intuition with the voice of fear.

For us to make the most intelligent, successful, wise, loving, and meaningful decisions in our lives, we need to learn how to make a clear distinction between the two.

As a person who has a very strong “inner skeptic,” it has been difficult for me to loosen my rational brain in favor of my intuition. As one given to overthinking, my mental voice has always been quite strong and persistent. I’m sure you have struggled with this to some extent too.

What helped me to distinguish fearful thoughts from intuitive guidance was to pay attention to how each inner voice felt in my body.

Here are some main differences between fear and intuition.

Fear:

  • Feels heavy and dark
  • Emotionally-charged (e.g., “I need to do this or else ____ will happen!!”)
  • Vague
  • Makes you feel frustrated, overwhelmed, confused or anxious
  • Causes you to ruminate and get lost in cycles of thought

Intuition:

  • Feels light
  • Unemotional
  • Crystal clear
  • Makes you feel calm, inspired, and a sense of resolution
  • Spontaneously arises and immediately feels “right” without further rational thought

By paying attention to these signs, you will slowly be able to distinguish paranoid thinking from neutral and intuitive knowing.

How to Trust Your Intuition (9 Ways)

Intuition means exactly what it sounds like, in-tuition! An inner tutor or teaching and learning mechanism that takes us forward daily. It is a resource that, where recognized, has infinite potential.

Sylvia Clare

Intuition is an essential life skill that we must all learn to refine and develop, preferably sooner rather than later.

Without intuition, we get stranded in labyrinths of rigid, agitated, or obsessive thoughts that limit our capacity to see clearly. The less clearly we can see, the more likely we will make bad decisions.

When we listen to our intuition, we experience a kind of clarity that helps us to make the most beneficial choices for our lives.

We can learn how to trust our intuition in nine main ways:

  1. Silence your mind
  2. Ask yourself, “How do I feel about this decision?”
  3. Focus on the sensations in your body
  4. Explore whether fear is fuelling you
  5. Formulate your conclusion, and live both scenarios
  6. Don’t allow pressure to bias you
  7. Ask for guidance
  8. Develop more self-awareness
  9. Clear your third eye chakra

Below I’ll explore each of these points more in-depth to help you learn how to trust your intuition more easily:

1. Silence your mind

Often the mind tends to hijack our decision-making processes.

While it is important that you use rational thought, your usual thinking is often subject to prejudice, past beliefs, external influences (“peer pressure”), and fear.

To access your intuition, you need to clear your mind of thought. In order to clear your mind, I recommend that you meditate, listen to some relaxing music, or focus on mindful breathwork techniques.

It is amazingly difficult to listen to your intuition when you’re in a stressed-out state of mind!

For example, you might like to try breathing deeply for a few minutes. Breathe in through your nose and allow your belly and chest to gently expand. Then, slow your breath to the count of four and breathe in slowly for four seconds, hold for four seconds, and breathe out for four seconds.

Try doing any practice that relaxes and stills your mind. Only once you are calm and centered can you accurately access your intuitive power.

2. Ask yourself, “How do I feel about this decision?”

Once you’ve relaxed your mind and body, inwardly ask yourself, “How do I feel about this decision/situation/person?

Notice the first feeling, sensation, word, or image that arises within you. Don’t overthink it! Your first impression is generally the most accurate, so stick with whatever that was.

You might like to write down whatever appears and reflect on it some more.

3. Focus on the sensations in your body

Our bodies are like exquisitely accurate truth radars that alert us to the full scope of pleasure, pain, and everything in between. It’s for this reason that connecting with your body is a powerful way to learn how to trust your intuition.

No matter how elaborate the stories or theories our minds create are, our bodies will always reveal the truth of the matter!

In order to connect with your intuition, try thinking about something weighing on you like an important decision, and focus on your body’s response.

For example, if you want to quit your job, you might notice a sensation of relief flood your entire body (which is a sign that you should quit your job!).

Alternatively, if you’re thinking of moving to a certain town, you might feel your shoulders and neck tense up (which is likely a clear sign that you shouldn’t move there!).

By practicing body-centered mindfulness, you’ll be able to connect more freely with your intuition.

4. Explore whether fear is fuelling you

Fear has a sneaky way of disguising itself as intuition.

When we’re fearful, we tend to make rash decisions or believe that we’re “following our intuition” because of how strong the mental voice inside us can become.

When you’re faced with an important decision, try writing down all of your fears surrounding the situation on a piece of paper. This simple activity will help you to create more inner space and clarity – and learn to trust your intuition more.

By making your fears visible, you’ll be able to determine whether the voice within you is driven by fear or clear intuitive knowing.

5. Formulate your conclusion and live both scenarios

Another way you can learn how to trust your intuition more is to come up with a range of solutions to the problem at hand and mentally live out each scenario.

Visualize each choice as vividly as you can, then pay attention to how each option feels in your heart and body. Whichever option feels the most “right” is the choice you need to go for.

For instance, if you’re trying to decide whether to have an uncomfortable conversation with someone, your solutions may be the following:

  • Have the conversation over dinner
  • Delay the conversation to next week
  • Bring up the conversation casually
  • Avoid the conversation until it’s necessary

You’d then visualize each scenario and notice how you feel. Whichever one you feel intuitively drawn toward (even if your mind doesn’t like it) is the right path to take.

6. Don’t allow pressure to bias you

Are you putting a lot of pressure on yourself? The pressure to make a “quick decision” tends to inhibit the flow of intuition.

While intuition can work under strenuous circumstances, if you have the option to slow down, please do.

Just because you aren’t obsessing over something consciously doesn’t mean that the thought isn’t bubbling in your subconscious mind.

Sometimes putting decision-making on the “back burner” helps you to relax, adopt new perspectives, and open more easily to the presence of your intuitive knowing.

As such, sometimes, in order to trust your intuition and know that you’re walking the correct path, you just need to take a step back for a while.

7. Ask for guidance

Intuition is seeing with the soul.

Dean Koontz

When I struggle to access my intuition, I say a prayer of guidance asking my Soul for support.

If you’re struggling with accessing your intuition, say a small prayer to whomever or whatever you believe in (e.g., your Higher Self, Soul, Spirit, God, Allah).

You don’t need to be religious to pray. Prayer is essentially condensed energy or directed intention which helps you to focus your willpower. Saying a prayer is a powerful way to enhance your intuitive prowess.

8. Develop more self-awareness

Self-awareness is the ability to be aware of your feelings, thoughts, and behaviors and the way in which they impact you and the people around you.

The more aware we are of what goes on inside of ourselves, the easier it will be to identify the quiet voice of our intuition in the first place. 

Mindfulness, meditation, and introspection all assist in developing self-awareness. However, for an easy way to begin to trust your intuition, start journaling. Learning how to journal is a relaxing and grounding way of getting to know yourself more.

9. Clear your third eye chakra

If you resonate with chakra healing, focus on balancing your third eye chakra, which is the center of your intuitive abilities.

If you struggle with problems such as negative thinking patterns, over-thinking, paranoia or anxiety, you most likely have a third eye chakra problem.

Intuition FAQ

There are so many facets involved in learning how to trust your intuition. If you’re still in need of guidance, the following Q&A’s might help:

Can your intuition be wrong?

This is a tricky question to answer, but in short, pure intuition is never wrong. But intuition that is tainted by thoughts can be wrong. As intuition stems from the unconscious and universal mind (also known as the ‘Collective Unconscious’) that has access to a tremendous amount of information, the insights it relays are far more accurate than pure rational thinking. When intuition is clouded and foggy, it’s more likely for it to be wrong or misguided. This is why learning how to distinguish the voice of fear from the voice of intuition is crucial.

What does intuition feel like?

The feeling of intuition varies for everyone. For some people, it will be very physical. It’s common, for example, to experience tingles down the spine, a rush of energy, goosebumps, a pit in the stomach, and so on. Others experience intuition as something more mental. For instance, some people get visual flashes (such as premonitions or visions) and others get a quiet (and in some instances loud!) inner voice arising within them.

What is an example of intuition?

There are endless examples of intuition out there. Intuition, for example, can arise in moments before a crisis directing a person to do/not do something that can have dire life or death consequences. Many individuals have intuitive feelings of dread or joy before making big life decisions. Intuition can also emerge in everyday situations such as what present to buy someone, what’s really wrong with your partner or best friend (“something doesn’t feel right”), and what route to take to work.

Is everyone intuitive?

Yes, everyone has the capacity to be intuitive. It’s just a matter of learning how to tap into your unconscious mind. While intuition might come more easily to some, it’s ultimately a skill that needs to be honed and developed.

Intuition is a small glimpse into the enormous magnitude of wisdom and intelligence possessed by your largely secret and untapped unconscious mind.

By learning how to silence your mind, connect with your body, identify fearful thoughts, and clear energy blockages, you’ll find it easier to access your intuition in any life circumstance.

I hope this article has helped to give you more insight and guidance on how to trust your intuition. Please share any tips you have for trusting intuition below!

100+ Journaling Ideas For Deep Mental & Spiritual Healing

Journaling is one of those practices that’s like salt or sugar – it goes well with everything!

AKA. no matter what situation you’re experiencing in life, no matter what your life looks like, or what field you work in, journaling has your back.

In particular, if you’re struggling with mental health issues, journaling has pretty rock-solid science backing its ability to help you de-stress and find more inner calm.

And for those who are wanting to go one step further and are seeking to live a more soul-centered and meaningful life, journaling excels in this area too.

The magic of journaling lies in its gift of helping us to dig deep into the blood, marrow, and bones of our deepest selves. 

Indeed, journaling is as much of a sacred soul work tool as it is a mainstream self-help practice.

100+ Journaling Ideas For Mental Health & Wellbeing

i) Holistic Journaling Ideas 

Well-being is the holistic feeling of vitality, aliveness, and freshness on all layers of your being. 

For this reason, we’ll explore some journaling ideas for your body, heart, mind, and soul below: 

Body Journaling Ideas

  1. What does my body need right now?
  2. What physical symptoms of unease have I been having lately? What might they mean?
  3. What kinds of physical self-care do I practice / need to practice more?
  4. Write about a time your body has protected or helped you.
  5. What makes me feel physically good? (How can I keep doing that?)
  6. What part of my body do I love the most? Why?
  7. If my body could speak, what would it say to me?
  8. What have I been taught about my body and how does that make me feel?
  9. What would totally accepting my body look or feel like?
  10. What is my relationship to my sexuality like? Why?

Heart Journaling Ideas

  1. If I could picture or sense my heart, what would it look or feel like?
  2. What three things generate a feeling of love in my heart?
  3. If my heart could speak to me, what would it say?
  4. How has my heart been wounded?
  5. What topics or areas of life fill me with passion?
  6. What thoughts cause my heart to constrict and close?
  7. What do I struggle with more: giving or receiving love? Why?
  8. What does self-love look like to me?
  9. How can I incorporate more self-compassion into my daily life?
  10. What do I genuinely love about myself?

Mind Journaling Ideas

  1. Write down three things you fear – how can they actually be positive things that may potentially lead you to grow in ways you’d never experience otherwise?
  2.  What places, people, or practices help you to feel mentally calm? Why?
  3. List five things you’re thankful for right now. How can you make being grateful more a part of your life?
  4. What toxic core beliefs do you need to let go of (and replace with healthier self-beliefs)?
  5. What are your three favorite positive affirmations that help you to feel uplifted?
  6. What does your shadow self or wounded part of you look/sound like? 
  7. Explore three ways you can set strong boundaries to protect your wellbeing.
  8. What’s your greatest strength in this life?
  9. If your inner child could speak to you, what would they say?
  10. If you could do anything empowering right now, what would you do (and why)?

Soul Journaling Ideas

  1. What was the most magical moment that ever happened to you? What did it look and feel like, and why was it so special?
  2. Explore one of your most recent nighttime dreams – what does it mean?
  3. Close your eyes, put a hand over your heart (which is the doorway to your Soul), and tune into your deepest Self. What does your Soul want you to know?
  4. What is the difference between Soul and Spirit in your opinion?
  5. What is your Soul place (a special physical space in this world)?
  6. Reflect on the three biggest lessons you believe your Soul came into this life to learn.
  7. Do you believe in soulmates? Why/why not?
  8. What does living a “Soul-centered” life mean to you?
  9. How has Soul Loss manifested in your life?
  10. What experiences, tools, environments, or beings help you to feel more connected with your Soul?

ii) Chakra Journaling Ideas

The chakra system is an ancient and multi-faceted philosophy that was first written about in the Vedas dating roughly back to around 1500 BC. 

Understanding and working with your chakras helps you to create energetic harmony and spiritual balance. These chakra journaling ideas can reveal what areas of your life need more attention:

Root Chakra Journaling Ideas

  1. In what areas of life am I ungrounded?
  2. What does my “personal boundary” feel like and how do I know when it’s being invaded?
  3. What element of nature most represents me? Why?
  4. What people or places make me feel safe?
  5. What part of my body am I most disconnected from? Why?
  6. If I was an animal, which one would I be and why?
  7. In stressful situations, what can I do to help myself stay centered?
  8. Write about how the following words make you feel: “I have the right to be here and take up space.”
  9. Explore the connection between gratitude and abundance.
  10. Reflect on your childhood: what basic needs were you deprived of, if any(e.g., food, water, shelter, warmth, medical assistance, a safe house/neighborhood)?

Sacral Chakra Journaling Ideas

  1. What simple pleasures do you enjoy the most in life?
  2. Write about how the following words make you feel: “I have the right to feel.”
  3. Reflect on what “healthy sexuality” means to you.
  4. What is your favorite body-centered practice (e.g., running, boxing, yoga, tai chi, swimming, pilates, etc.)?
  5. Name one of your addictive tendencies, what do you think triggers it? What healthy alternative can you find?
  6. What is the most rigid/fragile part of your body? If it could speak to you, what would it say?
  7. Explore what your relationship to pleasure is like. Do you over or under indulge?
  8. What is your favorite sense (smelling, tasting, hearing, touching, seeing) and why?
  9. What were you taught about self-gratification as a child?
  10. In what ways can you embrace your sexual nature or sensuality more?

Solar Plexus Chakra Journaling Ideas

  1. What does “personal power” mean to me?
  2. As a child, what was I taught about power and autonomy?
  3. In what areas of life do I feel disempowered? Why?
  4. Define who you are in ten words or less.
  5. What makes you feel “weak” in life? Why?
  6. Explore areas of life where you carry a victim mentality – what does it feel like and what can you do to reclaim your self-sovereignty?
  7. How does the feeling of shame feel in your body? What can you do to counteract that feeling with love?
  8. Explore ways you can individuate more.
  9. Reflect on these words by Joseph Campbell: “The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” What does that mean to you?
  10. List three ways you can strengthen your self-worth.

Heart Chakra Journaling Ideas

  1. How was love expressed in your family as a child?
  2. How do you express love as an adult?
  3. What do you love the most about yourself?
  4. Write about how the following words make you feel: “I am worthy of love.”
  5. In what areas of life do you fear intimacy? Why?
  6. Imagine connecting with a rejected and abandoned part of you, what does this part need to express to you?
  7. Explore a moment in life when you felt overflowing love, even just for a second.
  8. What are the three most important qualities you need in a relationship to feel loved and secure?
  9. Write down three common self-criticisms and counteract them with three loving affirmations.
  10. What beliefs cause you to feel shut off and disconnected from others?

Throat Chakra Journaling Ideas

  1. When was the last time you were truly heard (and what did it feel like)?
  2. Are you a good listener? Why/why not?
  3. What kind of music uplifts you? What might it say about your deeper needs in life?
  4. In what situations are you tempted to lie and why?
  5. Write about how the following words make you feel: “I will speak my truth.”
  6. Do you have trouble speaking up or conversely, do you speak too much? Why?
  7. What is your relationship like with gossiping and keeping secrets?
  8. What is your favorite form of creative expression?
  9. Think of a person in your life you have trouble communicating with. Why do you think this is the case (try to think objectively)?
  10. What does the concept of “truth” mean to you?

Third Eye Chakra Journaling Ideas

  1. What does your intuition sound or feel like within you?
  2. Reflect on what areas of life you tend to see in black or white rather than shades of grey.
  3. List the three biggest areas of life in which you feel confused. What can you do to gain more clarity?
  4. Write about how the following words make you feel: “Everything I need is within me.”
  5. What does being open-minded mean to you? 
  6. In what ways were your perceptive abilities invalidated as a child?
  7. Visualize in your mind’s eye where you want to be in life. Is your dream realistic or idealistic – or perhaps a little of both?
  8. What powerful insight have you had recently?

Crown Chakra Journaling Ideas

  1. What were you taught about spirituality as a child? Was it helpful or unhelpful?
  2. Write about how the following words make you feel: “I am a spiritual being having a human experience.”
  3. What does “Wholeness” mean to you?
  4. Think about a difficult situation in your life, what is its deeper/higher underlying teaching?

5 Types of Self-Care for Your Mental Health

So often, we find ourselves burning out from stress in our daily lives, and it’s not until the moment we’ve absolutely had enough that we allow ourselves a break. But what might happen if we all took a “break” before we reached that final breaking point?

There are five different types of self-care: physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual and professional care.

1. Physical self-care

While physical self-care can be anything from a Netflix binge to a day at the spa, there are many other activities you can do to enhance your overall physical well-being to contribute to better overall mental health. Examples of this include: eating healthier, getting regular exercise, wearing clothes you like, or taking time out of your day to get your hair or makeup done. While many of these activities might be considered more “superficial,” I think they are essential to maintaining lower levels of stress. So go ahead and go to your favorite beauty store and splurge on one of those bath bombs for a night in the tub — you deserve it!

2. Emotional self-care

Digging a bit deeper now; emotional self-care is often simply the act of allowing yourself to feel your emotions for what they are — with little to no judgement. This can be especially hard at first, but the more you do it the better you can become. Some activities in this area include finding things that make you laugh, complimenting yourself when you look in the mirror, allowing yourself to cry when you feel sad, spending time with loved ones and re-reading/re-watching your favorite book or movie until you can recite every line word for word.

3. Psychological self-care

In my opinion, this is one of the most neglected areas of self-care that most people (including my past self) are lacking engagement in. For instance, it’s OK to say “no” to extra responsibilities in your life. This is a very small but effective way you might be able to reduce stress. Some other activities in this area include engaging your intelligence in other topics (like going to an art exhibit or history museum), be curious for a day, practice receiving compliments well from others, make time for self-reflection and last but not least, pay attention to your inner experience (thoughts, feelings, attitudes and so on). You might be surprised at how even doing one of these activities a couple times a week can have a positive effect on your mood.

4. Spiritual self-care

Whether you believe in God, Allah, Buddha, are agnostic or atheist, it’s important to embed spiritual self-care into your daily routine. In this case, spiritual doesn’t refer to religion or believing in a sort of higher being (although, it absolutely can if that is what helps you). Instead, in this sense, spiritual self-care is the act of getting in touch with your inner human spirit and soul. Some examples of this include contributing to causes you care about (donating money or volunteering), meditating, spending time in nature, engaging in inspirational videos or literature and highlighting the non material aspects of life. I realize that some of these suggestions may be vague, but they can be done simply by thought or writing them down in a journal. Essentially, everyone is different and it’s up to you to engage in whatever form it makes you feel best!

5. Professional self-care

Engaging in professional self-care is essential for those in the workforce, however, these examples can be easily applicable to those still in school. Some of these examples are very basic, yet often missed throughout a busy work or school day. They include: taking time to chat with coworkers/peers, decorating your workspace to your liking, balancing your workload (literally meaning taking breaks as needed), developing an outside hobby or area of interest and creating a quiet and reserved area to get your work done. Ultimately, when you are able to give your professional life balance, lessened stress may allow you to succeed in other areas of life.

All in all, the best things in life come with balance. While certain stress in life can be necessary and even beneficial in some situations (hey, we’ve all put off our work until the last minute and felt the surge of adrenaline to help us turn it in on time), it’s easy for everyday events to become overly stressful and unmanageable. Yet, change isn’t easy. It’s said that it takes about 25 days for something to become a habit. In the process of incorporating some, if not all of the topics listed, I highly recommend doing one thing at a time at your own pace. This way you can see how each aspect of self-care benefits your mental health, and you won’t become overly critical of yourself if you miss the gym one day, forget to take a break, or fail to spend more time with yourself. After all, life is just a journey in which we should do our best to enjoy it and not be too critical of ourselves when we don’t need to.

Chakras and Anxiety: Find Balance to Soothe Stress, Fear, and Panic

Have you ever felt gripped by feelings of anxiety or experienced a panic attack?

Anxiety can feel scary and isolating, but fortunately, there are many ways to treat and manage it.

Some people turn to holistic and alternative methods, such as chakra work, to find relief.

What Are Chakras?

Chakras are wheel-like energy centers in the body that correspond to physio-emotional functions. They’re said to affect our emotional and physical well-being.

Some people believe that blockages in these energy centers can affect our health, leading to physical or mental health conditions, including stress, depression, and anxiety.

Research supporting the existence of chakras is limited.

However, a 2020 study of 223 people conducted at Nungin University in Korea suggests that chakra meditation may be effective in alleviating anxiety caused by various stressors in adults.

2018 study found that complementary and alternative medicine focused on restoring balance to energy fields in the body may be useful in the treatment of substance use disorders, stress, and anxiety.

More high quality studies are needed to define and explain the role of chakras, if any, in anxiety and mental health.

How Do Chakras Affect Anxiety?

Some believe that different chakras have different relationships to anxiety.

Root chakra:

The root chakra is the foundation of all other energy centers, so ensuring it’s well balanced and unblocked from negative energies is of utmost importance to your overall physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.

The fiery red color that represents it is connected to our flight-or-fight response, though there’s no scientific evidence to support this.

When the root chakra is blocked, you may have difficulty accessing feelings of balance, peace, and security.

A blocked or unbalanced root chakra will most likely manifest as a sense of loss and instability…

When you feel scared and full of fear, the survival instinct is to shut down the root chakra so you can’t feed the other chakras within your body.

Location: base of the spine

The root chakra provides:

  • stability
  • strength
  • security
  • grounding

A severe blockage may lead to:

  • apathy
  • anger
  • pessimism
  • overthinking
  • feeling unable to take action

Sacral chakra

If this chakra is blocked, you may find it hard to feel pleasure. Emotions will be unstable and relationships may not be balanced.

A closed sacral chakra can make you feel detached from your own emotions, as well as the emotions from the people around you. You may try to regain a sense of control by lashing out and exhibiting controlling behaviors towards others.

Location: center of the pelvis or sacrum

The sacral chakra is associated with:

  • creation
  • emotion
  • inspiration
  • imagination
  • joy

A blocked sacral chakra may lead to:

  • numbness
  • detachment
  • anxiety
  • isolation
  • loneliness

Solar plexus chakra:

A blocked and unbalanced solar plexus chakra is probably the harshest imbalance you can have relating to anxiety.

In relationships, an unbalanced solar plexus may lead to jealousy and possessiveness: It becomes harder to stay open to feedback. You may become reactive, harsh, and feel overly defensive or confrontational.

Location: in the abdomen, above the navel

The solar plexus chakra involves:

  • power
  • confidence
  • feeling unstoppable

An imbalanced solar plexus may lead to:

  • low self-esteem
  • self-doubt
  • paralysis from fear
  • no sense of direction
  • a sense of failure

Heart chakra

The heart chakra is all about love, both the ability to give and receive unconditional love for yourself and to others. If your heart chakra is unbalanced, you may feel unworthy of love or kindness which can spiral into a disbelief that you could ever have a happy relationship.

This may lead to anxiety around self-worth and a sense of defensiveness toward criticism and personal attacks.

If you’ve been struggling to feel connected to the world around you, then you may be experiencing a blockage in your heart chakra. Jealousy, self-doubt, and codependency are classic signs. It may also lead to a sense of detachment and a fear of showing your true self.

Location: center of the chest

The heart chakra deals with:

  • unconditional love
  • connection
  • ability to give and receive love
  • self-acceptance
  • healthy boundaries

A blocked heart chakra may involve:

  • feelings of unworthiness
  • relationship struggles
  • fear of rejection
  • difficulty accepting yourself
  • codependency
  • jealousy

Throat chakra

The throat chakra is primarily linked to self-expression and communication. It governs the mouth, tongue, and throat and all lower chakra imbalances must be in order before you begin working on it.

The stress of this repression can cause anxiety and insecurity as well as it can lead to a sense of pressure and fear around saying the “wrong” thing.

Location: at the center of the neck

The throat chakra involves:

  • self-expression
  • communication
  • sharing
  • mouth, tongue, and throat

An imbalanced throat chakra may lead to:

  • inability to express thoughts and feelings
  • fear of speaking
  • avoiding difficult conversations
  • social anxiety and avoidance

Third eye chakra

The third eye chakra can be a major source of anxiety when out of balance.

This is because it becomes difficult to see things as they are as your perception and awareness become more limited.

As your inner eye closes, your ability to perceive the big picture diminishes. This circle of ruminating thoughts could cause you to be plagued by fear, self-doubt, and anxiety.

Location: center of the head, between the eyebrows

The third eye chakra represents:

  • imagination
  • intuition
  • spiritual clarity
  • spiritual connection

A blocked third eye may lead to:

  • insecurity
  • indecision
  • inability to understand
  • overthinking
  • worry

Crown chakra

This chakra allows you to see the full picture, to understand that every single hardship is for a reason, and supports our surrendering to divine energy.

When the chakra is in balance, you can live life with absolute trust that you are exactly where you are supposed to be. You can process all scenarios with less drama-driven emotion and your faith is unbreakable.

On the other hand, blockages may lead you to perceive every problem as a personal attack. You may have a sense that bad things always happen to you. This can lead to fear and anxiety.

Location: the top of the skull

The crown chakra is associated with:

  • seeing the bigger picture
  • understanding
  • awakening
  • trust
  • oneness

Blockages may lead to:

  • taking things personally
  • expressing negativity or a victim mentality
  • lack of spiritual connection
  • short-sightedness

Stress And Chakras

Different kinds of stress may affect the chakras in different ways, causing them to become blocked or unbalanced.

For example, the death of a parent might put stress on the root chakra. A relationship breakup might affect the heart chakra. Losing out on a job opportunity might stress the solar plexus chakra.

Of course, the interconnectedness of the chakras means that they’re rarely affected in isolation.

When a chakra is blocked, there is absolutely no energy movement at all. Much like lots of cogs in a clockwork mechanism, if one chakra is not allowing the energy through, it’s almost impossible for all the cogs to keep moving, so the mechanism stops working.

In normal situations, a person with perfectly balanced chakras may become stressed or anxious, but it will be short-lived and there will be no after-effects from it.

Still, perfectly balanced chakras are likely rare.

Panic Attacks And Chakras

The root chakra is connected to the adrenal medulla, the inner part of the adrenal gland that’s involved in the fight-or-flight response.

Feeling unsafe and in fear for your life… will shut down the root chakra, blocking any movement of energy from the root chakra through the body. This, in turn, may begin a domino effect, and the other chakras may become blocked.

Chakra Balancing

When discussing how to unblock chakras, it may be more helpful to talk about balancing the chakras as opposed to opening them.

If you feel anxiety as you work on your chakras, visualization techniques may help.

Try to imagine a purifying white light being drawn to the particular chakra. This visualization may calm you down and help settle the chakra energy.

If you feel unsafe or uncomfortable, stop what you’re doing and try again later with maybe a crystal of a corresponding color. If it still feels ‘wrong,’ then contact someone who works in this field so they can help support you in feeling safe while you let go and surrender.

If fear and anxiety are overwhelming, don’t rely on chakra balancing alone.

Talk with your healthcare professional or a mental health professional to get support.

Chakra balancing should never replace medical or psychiatric care, though it may be a complement to your care.

Chakra Practicing For Anxiety

When you start working on your chakras, always start with your root, because as the gateway to the other chakras, it should be balanced first.

Meditation outdoors with crystals that match with the root chakra such as red jasper, heliotrope, and obsidian can also help with anxiety.

Other common chakra-balancing exercises include:

  • breathwork
  • mind-body exercises such as yoga or tai chi
  • energy healing practices like reiki or acupuncture

Heart/solar plexus breathing

  1. Rub your hands together until they’re warm.
  2. Place one hand on your heart chakra and another on your solar plexus chakra.
  3. Imagine directing your breath to those areas.
  4. Continue for as long as desired.

Third eye pressure point

  1. Press one finger into the middle of your brows, where the third eye chakra is located.
  2. Place continuous pressure here while focusing on your breath.
  3. Continue for as long as desired.

Throat-soothing crystal energy

  1. Hold a blue lace agate crystal to your throat chakra.
  2. Allow the soothing energy to envelope you.
  3. Imagine the color of pale blue expanding from the crystal to every cell of your body.
  4. Continue for as long as desired.

Rooting exercise

  1. Place an obsidian crystal at your root chakra.
  2. Imagine you’re growing roots from your feet deep into the earth.
  3. Allow yourself to believe you have the strength and wisdom of the largest oak tree.
  4. Continue for as long as desired.

Takeaway

While research is limited, some people believe that blocked or unbalanced chakras can contribute to feelings of stress and anxiety.

It’s important to follow the advice of your healthcare professional or a mental health professional when treating anxiety.

However, you may find that holistic therapy such as chakra balancing acts as a complement to treatments like medication or talk therapy.

How Meditation Affects The Brain: Exploring Neuroscience And Meditation Practice

The brain is the most complex, and arguably the most important, part of the human body, and yet, it is something that most people know very little about. To get a better understanding of how meditation affects the brain, we’ll first want to understand the basics of the brain itself.

What is the Brain?

The brain is a three-pound organ that is the seat of the intellect, the interpreter of the senses, the initiator of body movement, and the controller of our behavior. The brain resides within the cavity of the skull, and is immersed in a protective fluid called Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF).

The Three Parts of the Brain

The brain can be divided into three basic units, all of which work together synergistically: the forebrain, the midbrain, and the hindbrain.

The hindbrain includes the upper part of the spinal cord, the brain stem, and a wrinkled ball of tissue called the cerebellum. The hindbrain controls the body’s vital functions such as digestion, respiration and heart rate. The cerebellum coordinates movement and is involved in learned habitual movements.

The uppermost part of the brainstem is the midbrain, which controls some reflex actions and is part of the circuit involved in the control of eye movements and other voluntary movements.

The forebrain is the largest and most highly developed part of the human brain: it consists primarily of the cerebrum and the structures hidden beneath it. The cerebrum sits at the topmost part of the brain and is the source of intellectual activities. It holds your memories, allows you to plan, enables you to imagine and think and allows you to recognize familiar faces, read books, and solve puzzles.

The cerebrum is structurally composed of an outer layer of gray matter, called the cerebral cortex, and a centrally located white matter.

The Two Halves of the Cerebrum

The cerebrum is split into two halves (hemispheres) by a deep fissure. Despite this split, the two hemispheres of the cerebrum communicate with each other through a thick tract of nerve fibers that lies at the base of this fissure, called the corpus callosum.

Although the two hemispheres appear to be mirror images of each other, they are actually quite different. For instance, the ability to form words seems to lie primarily in the left hemisphere, while the right hemisphere seems to control many abstract reasoning skills.

For reasons that are still not fully understood, nearly all of the signals from the brain to the body and vice-versa cross over on their way to and from the brain—meaning that the left cerebral hemisphere primarily controls the right side of the body and the right hemisphere primarily controls the left side. When one side of the brain is damaged, the opposite side of the body is affected. For example, a stroke in the left hemisphere of the brain can leave the right arm and right leg paralyzed.

The Four Lobes of the Brain

Traditionally, each of the hemispheres of the brain have been divided into four lobes: frontal, parietal, temporal and occipital

Most brain functions rely on many different regions across the entire brain working in conjunction, however, it is also true that each lobe carries out the bulk of certain functions in the brain.

The lobes of the brain are divided by a number of bumps and grooves, known as gyri (bumps) and sulci (groves or fissures). The folding of the brain, and the resulting gyri and sulci, increases its surface area and enables more cerebral cortex matter to fit inside the skull.

Frontal Lobe

The frontal lobe is separated from the parietal lobe by a space called the central sulcus, and from the temporal lobe by the lateral sulcus. The frontal lobe is generally where higher executive functions including emotional regulation, planning, reasoning and problem solving occur.

Parietal Lobe

The parietal lobe is behind the frontal lobe, separated by the central sulcus. Areas in the parietal lobe are responsible for integrating sensory information, including touch, temperature, pressure and pain.

Temporal Lobe

Separated from the frontal lobe by the lateral fissure, the temporal lobe also contains regions dedicated to processing sensory information, particularly important for hearing, recognizing language, and forming memories. 

Occipital Lobe

The occipital lobe is the major visual processing center in the brain. The primary visual cortex, also known as V1, receives visual information from the eyes. This information is relayed to several secondary visual processing areas, which interpret depth, distance, location and the identity of seen objects.

Isn’t it fascinating that all of these different areas of the brain are working together, even now as you read these words?

The Inner Brain

Deep within the brain, hidden from view, lie structures that are the gatekeepers between the spinal cord and the cerebral hemispheres. These structures play key roles in our emotional state, modify our perceptions and responses depending on that state, and allow us to initiate movements that are made spontaneously without thinking about them. Just like the lobes in the cerebral hemispheres, the structures of the inner brain are each duplicated in the opposite half of the brain.

The hypothalamus, about the size of a pearl, directs a multitude of important functions. It wakes you up in the morning, gets adrenaline flowing when it is needed, and is an important emotional center that helps to control the molecules that make you feel energized, irritated, or unhappy.

Near the hypothalamus lies the thalamus, a major clearinghouse for information going to and from the spinal cord and the cerebrum.

An arching tract of nerve cells leads from the hypothalamus and the thalamus to the hippocampus. This tiny nub acts as a memory indexer—sending memories out to the appropriate part of the cerebral hemisphere for long-term storage and retrieving them when necessary.

The basal ganglia (not pictured) are clusters of nerve cells surrounding the thalamus. They are responsible for initiating and integrating movements. Parkinson’s disease, which results in tremors, rigidity, and a stiff, shuffling walk, is a disease of nerve cells that lead into the basal ganglia.

The Default Mode Network (DMN)

You may have heard of the default mode network before, but if you haven’t, this is an extremely relevant topic for meditation practice. The DMN is a network of interacting brain regions that are essentially what are responsible for what you sense as the voice in your mind (you know, the voice that says, “I look kind of fat in this shirt” “that was a stupid thing to say” “I’m bored” “what should I have for dinner tonight?”)

The DMN consists of the brain regions of the medial prefrontal cortex, posterior cingulate cortex, and the inferior parietal lobule, all of which are important for our survival. This network is most active when we are awake, when we are thinking about ourselves, remembering the past, imagining the future, or anything that involves not being relaxed and attentive to what’s happening right now.

The DMN is useful because it’s involved in our memory, particularly in the daily memories that play a role in helping us make a model of the world, and predict the future based on past events. The problem is, however, the models we create may not always be true, and sometimes we get stuck in these mental models and it makes it difficult to see anything other than the image our mind has created.

Another common issue, is that people unknowingly identify with the voice in the mind, as well as the models that the DMN has created for themselves, and don’t realize that this is actually a process of the brain, one that is now measurable by magnetic resonance imaging.

Essentially, the DMN is what many people refer to as the ego, or the monkey mind. It is the inner voice inside the mind, the one dialoguing all of our thoughts and creating our mental stories. The constant stream of thoughts that just won’t turn off sometimes.

The DMN is an essential part of the brain, but it is also a great source of psychological stress. The DMN easily leads to a wandering mind and distracts us from being present to life. Instead, we are consumed by thoughts of the past or future, planning, fantasizing, imagining, reflecting, memorizing, regretting and so on.

University of Berkley researcher Matt Killingsworth conducted a study, observing people’s levels of happiness throughout the day. What he found, and what many other research studies have concluded, is that people become less happy when they let their minds wander.

When we let our minds wander, and spend significant amounts of time lost in thought, it leaves at the mercy of whatever our thoughts are—and often many of us have rather fearful, negative, and limiting thoughts.

These thoughts are not actually reality, but are our DMN’s best attempt at interpreting or creating a model for reality. Unfortunately, many of us, mistake the model for the real thing, and become stressed out, anxious, or depressed because of the voice in our heads.

Thankfully, there are times when we are free of that voice. In particular, when we are doing something active, something we enjoy, or something that engages our attention enough to quiet the mind. In these moments, we feel most alive. This is when we are in a state of flow.

The flow-state is essentially a state of presence, or present-moment awareness, and this is what meditation helps us accomplish. Meditation helps us become more present to life, so we can actually be oriented to life from this flow state, rather than being dominated by the DMN and the voice inside our heads.

Meditation’s Effect on the Default Mode Network

Several studies have been done on meditation and its effect on the default mode network. One such study was published in the National Academy of Sciences Journal and states “We investigated brain activity in experienced meditators and matched meditation-naive controls as they performed several different meditations (Concentration, Loving-Kindness, Choiceless Awareness). We found that the main nodes of the default-mode network (medial prefrontal and posterior cingulate cortices) were relatively deactivated in experienced meditators across all meditation types. Furthermore, functional connectivity analysis revealed stronger coupling in experienced meditators between the posterior cingulate, dorsal anterior cingulate, and dorsolateral prefrontal cortices (regions previously implicated in self-monitoring and cognitive control), both at baseline and during meditation. Our findings demonstrate differences in the default-mode network that are consistent with decreased mind-wandering. As such, these provide a unique understanding of possible neural mechanisms of meditation.”

In numerous studies, it has been shown that meditation, in as little as 20 minutes, can significantly reduce activity in the DMN and quiet the voice in the mind, allowing meditators to achieve a state of presence and flow.

For thousands of years meditators and spiritual traditions have talked about the importance of living in the present moment, and the misery that is caused by the mind and its untamed, restless thinking. Now, we have scientific research that can back up these claims, and shows that people do in fact experience less happiness when they are at the mercy of their restless mind, and that they can train the mind to quiet the inner voice, and open awareness to the reality of life in the present moment.

Meditation Changes the Brain

While the quieting down of the inner voice and the reduced activity in the DMN are significant brain changes that occur in meditation, they are not at all the only changes that occur in the brain.

One Harvard study found that when people went through 8 weeks of meditation, critical areas of the brain that associate with awareness, stress, and empathy changed. They grew new grey matter in their cerebral cortex, which connects to attention and emotional integration. The participants in the study all gained more control over their emotions and even impulse control became better.

What Happens in Your Brain When You Meditate

Using modern technology like fMRI scans, scientists have developed a more thorough understanding of what’s taking place in our brains when we meditate. The overall difference is that our brains stop processing information as actively as they normally would. We start to show a decrease in beta waves, which indicate that our brains are processing information. This decrease can happen in as little as 20-minutes, even if we’ve never tried meditation before.

During meditation,

  • The frontal cortex tends to go offline.
  • Activity in the parietal lobe slows down.
  • The flow of incoming information into the thalamus is reduced significantly.
  • Brainwaves slow down considerably.
  • The default mode network becomes less active.
  • The gray matter of the brain is transformed, allowing for new neural pathways to be formed.

In the image here you can see an MRI scan of how the beta waves (shown in bright colors on the left) are dramatically reduced during meditation (as seen on the right).

Neuroplasticity

Our brain develops and adapts throughout our entire lives. This phenomenon, called neuroplasticity, means that gray matter can thicken or shrink, connections between neurons can be improved, new connections can be created, and old connections can be degraded or even terminated.

It was long believed that once your “child brain” was fully developed, the only thing you could anticipate for the future was a gradual decline in intelligence. Now we know that our everyday behaviors literally change our brains, and it appears that the same mechanisms which allow our brains to learn new languages or sports can help us learn how to be happy and to experience more joy in our daily lives.

The brain is truly a fascinating organ, and the more we understand it, the better we can work with it to shape our lives in a positive way. Meditation is a powerful tool for improving your brain’s health and overall functioning.

Sources:

https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Know-Your-Brain

https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/default-mode-network

https://www.kenhub.com/en/library/anatomy/cerebral-cortex

https://qbi.uq.edu.au/brain/brain-anatomy/lobes-brain

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4529365/

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/does_mind_wandering_make_you_unhappy

https://www.pnas.org/content/108/50/20254

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557811/

This Is How You Heal Your Deepest Trauma And Finally Start To Live Your Life Again

When something happens that scares you, and then you do not ever get over that fear, you become traumatized.

Trauma is the experience of disconnecting with a fundamental source of safety. It happens most severely when our attachment is severed to our primary caretakers. But there is truly an infinite number of ways the world can traumatize you, and to varying degrees.

There are lots of theories about what trauma is, and where it comes from. Many believe that it is passed down physically through your DNA. Others argue that it is shared mentally and emotionally, through learned patterns and observations. Most commonly, trauma is believed to be an interpersonal experience we have in which we were challenged and then lacked the skills and coping mechanisms to rise to it. Instead, we fell.

No matter where it came from, if you have some kind of lingering trauma, you will know, because you will feel it. You will feel it physically in your body. You will feel anxiety, tension, fear, terror, sadness or guilt. It will be displaced. It will not have a clear, direct cause. You will overreact to certain things and even when a problem is solved, you will still panic. This is the mark of trauma.

Trauma is not in your head. It is in your body.

This is the first and most important thing you need to know in order to overcome it: trauma is a legitimate, physical issue. You store those emotions, energies and patterns at a cellular level.

Thankfully, we can use the ripples at the top of the water to trace back down to the problem at the bottom, so to say. You can begin to use your body to help you heal.

First, identify where the trauma is.

You do this by feeling into yourself, and noticing where you are tight, or tense. Our bodies harden in order to protect us. When we have a broken leg, our fascia tightens like a natural cast, so that we do not bend ourselves that way again. Similarly, when our hearts are broken, our emotions tighten, so that we do not let ourselves feel again.

Of course, eventually, we have to walk. We have to love. We have to experience life again. We have to slowly soften the pieces of us that are trying to protect us, so that we can move forward.

Healing trauma is not just a matter of psychoanalyzing it. It is a matter of literally working through it with your breath. The next time you feel yourself overreacting to some kind of stimuli, you will notice that your body is starting to tense up, and create a fight-or-flight response. To heal this, you have to force yourself to take deep, soothing breaths, until the part of your body that was once tense is relaxed again.

You will need to self-soothe in different ways. Meditating, breathing, drinking enough water, getting enough sleep, using aromatherapy or sound therapy or whatever else works for you.

You absolutely must work to take your brain and body physically out of panic, survival mode.

Second, reinstate a sense of safety.

You are traumatized because something scared you and you are convinced that it is still “out to get you.” This is what happens when we don’t face or overcome something difficult, we assume the threat lingers indefinitely.

The psychological aspect of trauma healing is that you have to literally restore the connection that was severed, in the exact same way that it was broken.

If you are traumatized about relationships, you need to build healthy relationships. If you are traumatized about money, you need to get really good with money. If you are traumatized about traveling, you need to travel again.

We do not find the resolution in avoiding these things forever. In fact, just underneath the fear we often find that they are the things we really want more than anything else.

Third, stop taking thoughts and feelings at face value.

Last, to overcome trauma, you have to stop engaging in psychic thinking. You have to stop pretending you are able to predict what will happen, you know other people’s intentions, or that what you feel and think is absolute truth and reality.

This kind of thinking is what takes a triggering feeling and turns it into a defeating spiral. You take one scary thing and make it into a prediction for what the future will hold.

You are not an oracle. You do not know what’s next, though you are always capable of choosing what you do now. Almost always, the thing you are most panicked about is a thing you do not know is happening for sure. It is usually an assumption, a projection, a fear turned into a terrifying potential reality.

You might think that trauma is something that other, more damaged people have, but that is not true. Everyone is traumatized in one way or another, but it is how we respond to it, how we ultimately grow and develop self-mastery from it, that determines the course of our lives.

You Cannot Heal In A Place That Doesn’t Let You Grow

It’s no secret that change is intimidating and scary. We tend to be creatures of habit who take comfort in routines and familiarity. This is not always a bad thing necessarily. However, for someone engulfed in a toxic environment, staying can prove to be extremely pernicious.

Sometimes the reason we stay is because we have this warped idea that what we currently have is the best we can ever get. We put our effort into making the best of our situation rather than moving on to something brighter. The sad reality, though, is that the longer we stay here, the worse we feel. The more we breathe in our toxic life, the sicker we get.

This is a very familiar feeling for me. There is an unexplainable feeling of unease that comes from being self-aware of our harmful environment. Eventually, staying put and avoiding the unknown can take a major toll on our mental and physical health. When the brain is sick, our body tends to follow suit.

During the most unhealthy time of my life, I was that person who wanted to push through and make the best of living a life I hated. I was prescribed the pills they said I needed. I followed the advice they were sure would “fix” me. I stayed loyal to a life that was pulling me downhill. After years of thinking this was the right way to make myself better, I was actually worse. I wanted out and I didn’t feel like this place was right for me anymore. I was tired of staying and showing alliance to all of the things that were making me more and more sick. I discovered that rock bottom was my exit door.

I finally realized that I was never going to get better because the life I was living was not designed for recovery. Yes, my world was familiar and predictable. Somehow that didn’t help any anxiety I felt, because what was familiar was not actually healthy. We get so used to the bad surrounding us that we accept it as normal, even when it’s not. I was dead set on getting better, even if that meant letting go of the only places I had ever called home.

You cannot heal where you experience trauma. You cannot heal in the places you are being abused. You cannot heal in a place that doesn’t let you grow. You cannot heal while surrounded by people who don’t want you to get better. You can waste years of your life fighting it, but the simple facts remain. Healing requires a healthy environment.

Gather up every bit of strength you have created in yourself and build a better world where you can recover. Give nothing and no one the power to chain you to the past. Step out and create a life where you can feel healthy, happy and motivated to be better. I know the pain that may come from loosening your grip on what’s familiar. You may have to give up some things or people that you never dreamed of losing. It’s okay to feel that sadness. The most important thing is to keep moving towards recovery anyways.

You are worth so much more than what your environment might trick you into thinking. You are more powerful than you’ve given yourself credit for up to this point. You are strong enough to fight for your own happiness, no matter what obstacles fall in your way.

The one thing you can rest assured of is that what is waiting for you on the other side is so much brighter than anything you will ever have to leave behind.

8 Life-Changing Lessons I Learned From Therapy

1. There is a difference between boundaries and walls.

Boundaries are a healthy and necessary part of life. They’re meant to give others guidelines on behavior we are and are not okay with.

Setting boundaries will leave us happier in life, and it makes our relationships more fulfilling. It’s scary in the beginning because we might wonder if the person we’re setting boundaries with will be angry with us or if they’ll be hurt. The people who are genuinely there for us will understand where we’re coming from and respect the boundaries we’ve set.

The people who may be adding toxicity to our lives will try to make us feel guilty for setting and enforcing boundaries. Boundaries are meant to let good things in and keep bad things out.

Walls are built as a response to trauma. When we build walls, we do it with the intention of protecting ourselves from experiencing that trauma again, but it ends up hurting us in the end.

Walls keep everyone and everything out. They also keep us in. They prevent growth and processing. Once a trauma is processed, it becomes easier to cope with. Building a wall around a traumatic experience doesn’t allow for the time and space needed to deal with the emotions of the experience. The longer the wall stays up, the harder it is to break down.

2. Vulnerability is not a weakness.

Vulnerability is scary because it means opening ourselves up to something that could end up hurting us. If we refuse to be vulnerable for fear of the things that could go wrong, we also prevent ourselves from potentially enjoying deeper connections and experiences.

When we are vulnerable, our lives are enriched by not only the relationships that flourish because of the vulnerability, but also by the knowledge that we are strong enough to allow vulnerability.

Even when vulnerability does lead to hurt, there is often something to be gained or a lesson to be learned from the experience. Without opening ourselves up, we never grow and learn.

When we deny vulnerability, we also rob the people who love us of the opportunity to support us. When we refuse to let people in when we’re experiencing big feelings, we are essentially telling them that we don’t trust them enough to handle our feelings with care.

It’s okay to feel however we’re feeling, and it’s okay to express those feelings to people we trust and who love us.

3. We can’t love people into loving themselves.

It’s so hard when we see people’s potential and all of their good qualities but they don’t see those things in themselves. We might wish we could make the people we love see themselves through our eyes because then they would know how valuable and worthy of love they are.

Sometimes it seems like if we love people enough, then they’ll learn to love themselves in the same way. Sadly, that is very rarely the case.

When a person is stuck in a destructive mindset, no amount of extrinsic love can pull them out of it. The only way for people to learn to love themselves is for them to work through the trauma and lies that have convinced them of their unworthiness. It’s not until they face these things head on that they will find an intrinsic love for themselves. And until they discover that self-love, it will be impossible for them to believe that anyone else could love them with no ulterior motive.

4. Regardless of how our trauma might compare to other people’s, it is all valid.

The first lesson here is that we don’t need to compare ourselves to other people. Ever. Everyone is figuring out life in the best way they know how. It’s unfair to compare people and situations when we’re all working with different backgrounds and tools.

Sometimes when we hear about someone who has been through a horrific experience, we might think our own negative experiences are trite in comparison. Maybe we think we shouldn’t be complaining about the things that have hurt us when so many other people are suffering at such a greater degree.

It doesn’t matter how our trauma compares to anyone else’s. If it hurt us, if it continues affecting our lives, it matters, and it’s valid.

When we accept the validity of our own trauma, we give ourselves the space to work through it, to understand it, and to learn how to grow around it.

5. Don’t spend too much time focusing on the bad feelings, but don’t disregard them either.

“Fake it until you make it” is something many of us have heard at some point in our lives. We’re made to believe that if we’re unhappy or upset, we should pretend the feeling isn’t there until it just magically disappears. We’re made to believe that leaning into feelings instead of brushing them off is a bad thing.

If we don’t let ourselves feel whatever we’re feeling, good or bad, we rob ourselves of the opportunity to understand the emotion and whatever led us to feeling that way.

Emotions often come in waves. If we let them wash over us when the wave swells, then we’ll be ready to continue swimming when the swell subsides. Conversely, if we fight the swell of emotion, we’ll be too exhausted to continue swimming when we come out on the other side.

We shouldn’t spend an unhealthy amount of time dwelling on these feelings, but we shouldn’t disregard or fight them. If we allow ourselves to live in the feelings while they’re overtaking us, then we’ll be able to process them and move through them.

6. The results we get are based on the work we put in.

As with many things in life, the results of therapy are directly proportionate to the work we put in. It isn’t enough to go to a session, tell our therapists what’s going on, listen to what they have to say, then go home and not think about it until the next session. That would be like going to school, sitting in class, listening to the teacher but not taking notes or studying, then expecting to do well on the exam.

If we actively practice the strategies and healthy coping skills our therapists help us develop in our everyday lives, the positive results will be exponentially greater than if we are passive participants.

7. Love is unconditional; relationships are not.

This is a tough one. As humans, we associate love with relationships. Not just romantic love, but that deep affection we feel for family and friends. We can let our love for the people in our lives be unconditional, but we do not have to keep relationships intact if they’re unhealthy.

Love, real love, should be boundless.

Relationships should not be boundless; they should be built on a foundation of trust and boundaries. When the people we enter into relationships with can’t or won’t respect our boundaries and conditions, we can continue loving them, but we can do so from afar.

8. Grief is not a linear process with a clear beginning and end.

The human brain seeks to understand. We look for patterns and processes. Human emotions do not always follow patterns and processes. This is why logic and emotion often battle against each other.

When we experience unpleasant feelings, we may want a timeline for when we may expect them to end.

Grief doesn’t work this way.

Just when we think we’re recovering, we may have days or months where we feel like we’ve regressed in the grieving process. This is not a regression, this is simply grief running its unpredictable course. The more we try to make sense of it, the more twisted it seems. As with other feelings, the best course of action is to simply let the waves overwhelm us with the understanding that it will end, even when we feel like the pain and sadness will be a visceral part of us forever.

As we work our way through the grieving process, we may begin to notice small moments of relief when we feel like we can breathe again. Then the waves will wash over us again. In those brief moments of reprieve, it’s important for us to remind ourselves that we will feel okay again one day.