Many people who come to therapy present with racing or intrusive thoughts and/or limiting beliefs that they just can’t seem to shift or let go of no matter how hard they try. It is common for thoughts and beliefs to swirl around in our mind and for us to get hooked by them believing them to be true. We find ourselves stuck in a loop, trying to make sense out of something that may not even be rational.
The reason this happens is because our brain’s job is to problem solve and make sense of things. This is a human response to both internal and external stressors which at times serves us quite well, however if we don’t know how or when to release our brain from this task it can lead to debilitating bouts of anxiety and depression.
Using our energy centers, aka Chakras is one very effective way to process and release unhelpful thoughts and limiting beliefs. It gives us something to “do” which makes our brain happy and it allows us to free up space for the things that really matter and require our attention.
For those of you who are new to using your energy body, humans have seven major Chakras (wheels of energy) that correspond with nerve bundles in our physical body. They are located along our spine in our energy bodies which extends out from our physical bodies 3-6 feet. Our Chakras transverse our physical body and each one vibrates at a certain frequency and has a particular job.
This process of running thoughts/beliefs through these centers can take anywhere from a few minutes (especially once you are practiced in it) to several minutes (especially if it is a very sticky thought/belief that carries big emotional charges). To begin, find a quiet place where you can sit and close your eyes for a few minutes at minimum. Take 3 deep breaths inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. Once settled into your body bring your attention to the top of your head where your crown chakra is located.
Your crown chakra, sits on the top of your head like a crown and is related to the pineal gland. It vibrates white and is connected to the pineal gland and Carotid Plexus. This is where we connect to the Universe and develop an understanding that we are more than just a body. Stay here for just a few breaths and remind yourself that you are supported by the Universe.
From here drop into your Third Eye which is located at your forehead between your two eyes and is related to the pituitary gland. It vibrates purple and is connected to the pineal/pituitary gland and Carotid Plexus. Our Third Eye is where we attempt to make sense out of our thoughts and beliefs. It is also where we may intuit extrasensory information. Often times our thoughts and beliefs get stuck here, where we ruminate and become fused with them assuming that they have to be the truth. Bring the thought/belief forward and ask yourself whether this thought/belief is helpful and/or is in service of your highest good. Does it align with your values? What benefit does the thought/belief serve? Most importantly, is it helpful?
Next, drop that thought/belief into your Throat Chakra which is located in the throat/neck, ears and upper shoulders and related to the thyroid gland and Pharyngeal Plexus. It vibrates blue and is our center for giving and receiving communication. From here give the thought/belief a strong voice. Say it out loud several times, really listen to your voice as you say it. Ask yourself if the thought or belief has a message for you.
Next, drop it into your Heart Chakra which is located in the middle of your chest and extends through your arms and hands. It vibrates green and is connected to our heart/thymus and Cardiac Plexus. While in your Heart Chakra, surround the thought/belief with unconditional love and compassion. If you are having trouble with this, first bring to mind someone or something that you love unconditionally (a pet, child, significant other, friend, etc), feel into your compassion for them and then shift that feeling toward the thought/belief. Try thanking the thought/belief. Notice what comes up for you. Is this difficult? Do additional thoughts/beliefs arise?
Next, drop it into your Solar Plexus. The Solar Plexus Chakra is located in your core just below your rib cage and above your naval. It vibrates yellow and is connected to the pancreas. This is your power center and the place from which we make decisions and take action. Ask yourself, whether there is anything you need to do with this thought/belief? Is there an effective action that needs to be taken? Try not to “think” about this but rather allow the answer to arise from your gut. There may be nothing to do, or perhaps there is an action that would be in your best interest but you weren’t able to access it before.
Now drop it into your Sacral Chakra. Your Sacral Chakra is located in your pelvic area right below your belly button and extends into the hips. It vibrates orange and is connected to sex organs/adrenals and the Lumbar Plexus. This is where our creativity, playfulness and emotions live. While here identify any emotions that are connected with this thought/belief. Tune into where in your body you feel the emotion, notice the size, color, shape, texture and temperature of it. Get as close to it as you can, expanding around it and intensifying it to the extent it feels safe. Notice what comes up and stay with it. Allow it to run its course which should take about 90 seconds or less. When you are ready to release the thought/belief and emotion drop it all into your Root Chakra.
The Root Chakra is located at the tailbone and extends down through the legs and feet. It vibrates red and is connected to the adrenals and Lumbar and Coccygeal Plexus. The Root Chakra is where we ground to the earth and develop a sense of safety. From this place of safety and being grounded, shrink the thought/belief/emotion into the size of a small rock and prepare to release it into the earth where it will be absorbed and repurposed.
When you are ready, take a deep breath in through your nose and with the intention of releasing the small rock back to the earth exhale forcefully and drop it into the ground. Imagine it being pulled by the earth’s energy through all of the layers to the center of the planet where it disintegrates and is absorbed. Do this at least two more times and as many times as you need.
When you are finished with the process, take a few minutes to reflect on your experience through journaling. Take note of what showed up for you and if there is any effective action that you still need to take in order to fully release. Notice any energetic releases such as yawns, hiccups, gas, tears, laughter or sweating.
Here is a video walking you through the process.
Let me know in the comments if this has been helpful and what your experience in using the Chakras to process your thoughts and feelings was like for you!
It seems that over the last year or so conversations around the use of psychedelics in psychotherapy crossed the tipping point into the mainstream. Up until recently I had been mildly aware of the research being conducted on the use of MDMA to treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and every once in a while a training opportunity around the use of psychedelics in psychotherapy would show up in my inbox. For whatever reason however, it never really resonated with me. That is, until more and more people started to talk about it from an experiential perspective.
Through listening to stories and experiences, I learned that people were having Non Ordinary States of Consciousness (NOSC) experiences, and at times full on mystical and out of body experiences, and that with integration therapy they were using what they learned through those experiences to take intentional and committed action in their everyday lives. Whoa! As a holistic integrative practitioner who practices from a mindfulness and values driven framework, this is right up my alley. How did I not know this?!
So I did what I always do when something peaks my interest…a deep dive into the topic matter of psychedelic assisted psychotherapy. After reading numerous articles, listening to hours of podcasts, taking several self paced psychedelic assisted psychotherapy trainings and a live training on psychedelic harm reduction and integration, connecting with many other psychotherapists who are doing the work and joining a community with the intention of ultimately providing Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy (KAP), I am finally coming up for a little bit of air. Wow. There is quite a bit happening here!
There is a lot of promise in the use of psychedelics to treat stubborn mental health challenges including treatment resistant depression, anxiety and PTSD. The FDA has designated MDMA assisted therapy for PTSD a breakthrough therapy and it is currently in Phase 3 trials. Research using psilocybin (active ingredient in “Magic Mushrooms”) to treat mental health disorders is well under way and Oregon has legalized its use for therapeutic purposes. Ketamine, which is a dissociative psychedelic used in emergency rooms and on battlefields as an anesthetic, is being used off-label with great success for treating depression and alcohol abuse when in conjunction with psychotherapy. And of course, there is the indigenous use of plant medicine for healing and rites of passage rituals that has been occurring for thousands of years.
But this post isn’t about the medicine, or even the research that is being done. It is about the process, and how over and over it is made clear that the medicine by itself is not what heals. Without preparation, intention setting, integration and work on the part of the patient, the experience simply becomes a story that sits on a shelf. The medicine works as a facilitator that allows the individual to access unconscious material and non ordinary states so that they can do the healing work. Ketamine in particular improves the plasticity of the brain for a period of time after dosing which provides an opportunity to learn new skills and habits that may have otherwise been difficult.
This got me thinking about Reiki and whether it can be used in a similar way. Reiki after all, is a contemplative experience during which most people experience a trance state. Studies using EEG have shown that the recipient and the practitioner enter into beta, theta and delta states during a session. In my own subjective experience I find that a Reiki treatment allows me to drop in, similar to meditation but with more ease and support as I am energetically held by the practitioner. Individuals with whom I have provided Reiki with intention setting often report an experience of being able to go “deeper” and coming out with a clearer understanding and more insights.
As I come to learn more and understand the use of psychedelics to treat mental health challenges, as well as for personal growth and enlightenment, I am drawn to the desire for us as human beings to access “something more”. During this time when anxiety and depression are the highest they have ever been and we are struggling to find purpose and meaning amidst the toxicity and stress in the world, we are reaching. While psychedelic experiences can certainly open doors, with the exception of Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy, currently psychedelics can only legally be used in this way in research trials.
Also, if you don’t already have a contemplative practice nor have had the experience of Non Ordinary State of Consciousness a psychedelic experience can be jarring. If you are contemplating the use of these medicines as an initial step at healing, it is strongly advised that you find a therapist who is trained or knowledgeable about psychedelic harm reduction and integration to help walk you through the decision, weigh the pros and cons and ensure safety. It may be that what you are seeking can be found in other ways, including a contemplative spiritual experience such as Reiki or breath work.
See here for more information on how I use Reiki in my holistic integrative practice.
Most of us who enter the helping profession do so with a conscious drive “to heal” others. This is usually because we have our own wounding that may still need attention, or because we want to give back, having had the impact of powerful healing in our lives. The “Wounded Healer” archetype was coined by Carl Jung. Jung believed that disease of the soul could be the best possible form of training for a healer. In essence, our woundedness serves as an inherent drive to heal others affording us the ability to empathize and come into wholeness with those we serve.
The shadow side of the wounded healer however leaves us vulnerable to misusing our gifts as a way to feed our egos. Our shadow seeks other wounded souls believing we can save them. We ignore our own needs and get hooked by our ego, believing we know better and have all of the answers. We can lose touch with ourselves and the gentle art of creating space for healing to occur.
Shadow sides of any archetype are not inherently bad, yet they are often unconscious and drive behaviors without awareness. The lack of self care and the need to keep wounded souls in one’s orbit without realizing it can easily lead to burn out, misuse of power and toxic relationships. If the healer is not properly trained, nor seeking supervision and doing their own reflective work, their conscious drive to heal and help ultimately becomes driven by the unconscious needs of the shadow.
When this archetype finds themselves in a leadership role, their system can become easily confused creating an opening for the shadow to dominate. As a leader the primary role is no longer “to heal” others, instead it is to guide or shepherd towards a shared objective or goal. This can be confusing to the shadow as without conscious awareness they continue to seek relief from their hurts and fail to take responsibility for holding the vision of the greater good. Without realizing it, healers turned leaders can fall to the shadow using power, control and blame to satisfy their unmet need. A transpersonal approach gives us a perspective from which we can continue to ground ourselves in leadership roles and bring light to our shadow part.
Four ways healers turned leaders can bring light to their shadow for transpersonal leadership:
2. Learn and Understand your Relationship with Power
As healers we tend to have a complicated relationship with power, especially if it is involved in our original wounding. We enter into space with others in a unique hierarchical relationship. Although we would like to think that it is balanced, people come to us for help which automatically gives us implicit power. When we are operating from our shadow, we can take advantage of this unknowingly and in the most toxic forms we may even keep people dependent on us.
The power dynamic in a leadership role however is explicit and necessary. Minimizing or ignoring it can leave people confused and feeling unsafe. A transpersonal leader understands their influence and is able to empower individuals while still holding them accountable. Transpersonal leadership requires us to identify our unconscious use of power so that we can use it to serve rather than control.
3. Practice Humility
As healers we are taught to practice humility however our shadow side believes that we should have all of the answers. Transpersonal leaders operate beyond their own ego to balance the needs of those they lead and the organization or community they serve for the greatest good. A transpersonal leader knows that they don’t have all of the answers. Instead they practice curiosity and humility. Their job is to ask the right questions and take in all of the information exercising flexibility and conscious decision making when it comes time to make the tough decisions.
4. Identity your Values
As healers we are required to do our own work including the continual identification and alignment with values. Transpersonal leaders align with their values as well as the values of the organization/community and use them to help guide decision making. These decisions are not always easy and knowing how you want to show up will become your north star. How do you want to treat yourself and how do you want to treat others? Is this move aligned with the mission of the organization and how does it impact the greater good? Transpersonal leadership requires healers to think beyond themselves and the individual in front of them, knowing and aligning with values will help you stay on track.
Ultimately, healers have the training and insight to be powerful change agents and leaders. Often we are thrust into these positions because we are good at what we do even if we have little leadership experience. Luckily, as trained healers we are not strangers to ourselves. Transpersonal leadership requires us to continue our internal work, shining light on our shadows, so that we can show up in authentic and radical ways holding the vision of the greater good.
Reiki is a Japanese stress reduction technique based on the idea that life force energy runs through all living beings. When we encounter threats in our environment however, our nervous system reacts to protect us and that energy can become blocked, stagnant or overloaded in certain channels. According to Polyvagal Theory these reactions are generated by the autonomic nervous system and are not within our conscious awareness. As stated on Deb Dana’s Rhythm of Regulation website, “This is not the brain making a cognitive choice, these are autonomic energies moving in patterns of protection.” Reiki practitioners use gentle touch to deliver needed energy and remove blockages so that equilibrium can be restored to the whole system.
A Reiki experience usually involves the individual lying fully clothed on a table or reclining in a chair. Typically there is soft lighting and music playing in the background. While channeling energy, the practitioner may direct the individual to focus on their breath and any sensations they may experience. At times the session can be focused, ie: invitations to visualize the energy as it shifts throughout the body and/or letting unnecessary energy go. Other times the individual may fall asleep or go into a trance state while the practitioner follows their intuition for hand placements. Ultimately we trust in the wisdom of the Reiki energy to do what it needs for ultimate healing and the greater good of all.
This process is both an opportunity and practice for an individual to drop into their body and notice sensations without judgements or attachments, giving themselves permission to let go of what is no longer serving them. Reiki energy is kind and loving, thus creating a safe container for the nervous system to express itself. During and after a Reiki session individuals may be able to access parts of themselves that were previously exiled due to shame, fear and pain.
Because Reiki energy restores equilibrium, individuals are able to find their state of safety and connection. From this perspective they can access self compassion and psychological flexibility that may have previously been blocked. This allows for new ways of approaching problems, the ability to identify and use “glimmers” as a way to come back to safety and to open pathways of connection.
Lastly, Reiki energy works directly with the subconscious and unconscious mind. For those individuals who ask for, and are willing to accept healing on a deeper level, Reiki can assist with identifying unhelpful beliefs that lie in the subconscious and unconscious and are causing behaviors and attitudes that are not aligned with the individual’s conscious values.
As a holistic energy healing technique, Reiki as an enhancement to psychotherapy can assist with nervous system regulation allowing for the individual to access states of safety and connection thus creating opportunities for self compassion and psychological flexibility when working with both conscious and unconscious states.