Are We Living in a State of International Apathy?

In a World where we are constantly told how we feel, how we should feel and that if we buy ‘x’ product then we’ll feel better, I fear that we’re starting to lose touch with how we really feel in replacement of how we think we feel. On the surface I guess it doesn’t appear to be too much of a problem, everyone seems quite happy, life is progressive and generally, all is ok, isn’t it? Or are we unconsciously in a state of apathy?

For example, when was the last time that you truly felt like you were alive? For me, it’s those moments dinghy sailing when I’ve caught the wind and my crew and I are heeling over balancing ourselves on the edge of the wind, carefully adjusting our movements to get the maximum speed we can without making the boat capsize. Even if we do capsize, it’s exhilarating to know that we found a boundary and pushed it. Without pushing it, we wouldn’t have known where it had ended. So even if we’re in the water, wet, and with a boat to right, we’d at least learnt something. The opposite of this approach is living in the fear of capsizing. This results in reactive thinking and quickly jumping about the boat without communicating to the other crew member what’s happening, resulting in no one being in control of the boat, inevitably causing it to capsize anyway. There is also a lesson to be learnt by the second capsize but it’s never as fun, in fact, it usually ends up in two stressed out crew members blaming each other. The thing is with sailing is that the wind changes and no one can control that, and sometimes that can be scary but we all have a choice as to whether we let the fear control us or not. To me, this situation is reflective of a lot of life scenarios, there’s the option to feel the fear and do it anyway, go through the experience whilst reacting to the fear or to not go through the experience at all because of the fear itself.

I wonder how many of us sit on the shore with certain activities, disengaging because of unconscious fear? Disengaging with relationships, jobs, even just speaking our own mind in fear of being judged, criticised and shamed? I know that I used to be one of those people and I would completely back out of any situation that would cause me to be vulnerable and I would do that by firing out judgments, criticisms and blame towards others because that is the ego’s way of defending us. Ironic isn’t it, that the very thing we fear the most is usually the thing we are unconsciously doing in order to protect ourselves.

I see this more often since I’ve practiced mindfulness and after having gone through so many difficult emotions in the last 18 months, so now I always try to put myself in other’s shoes and empathise with others situations rather than judge them. I do still slip up from time to time and it can take me a couple of days to get out of my ego and reflect upon a situation but I make a conscious effort to reflect and question my thoughts and behaviour and I ask why I did a certain thing. This reflection is the starting point of change because it always presents an opportunity for growth, but it’s this step that I see unconsciously avoided by most people. I guess it’s because if we ask ourselves why then we might find a difficult answer and then we have the dilemma of dealing with it or ignoring it and knowing that we’ve ignored it. When I ask myself why I’ve jumped to a conclusion or why I’ve judged someone without knowing the whole story or why I find myself backing away from something/someone, it always comes back to fear, usually the fear of being vulnerable. This isn’t surprising, considering that we live in a society where shame is so prevalent, the shame that creates the very fear that makes those judgments, and if we are unconsciously aware of this then we can start unconsciously shutting off, and this is when things start to get a little dangerous.

If we constantly bear away from things that fear us and we never face them, then we never grow. What we do instead is safeguard. We safeguard from anything that could scare us, and ultimately by doing this we starve ourselves from life. We starve ourselves from the same intensity of positive emotions as we do negative ones because you cannot have the good without the bad simply because without one the other doesn’t exist. Instead what happens is that we numb out, eventually leaving us in a state of apathy; the lack of feeling anything much at all. This is when the connection between humans starts to breakdown, in relationships, in friendships and day to day occurrences. It’s where the compassion dissipates because we fear those feelings of pain so much that we can’t be there for others when they’re experiencing it, because the very acknowledgement of that vulnerability in others, means acknowledging it in ourselves. This would bring us back to the dilemma of deal with it or ignore it. So instead a road that many of us walk down is where we numb out and disengage. I know this because this was the reaction from some people when my Dad died and it resonated with me because when a friend of mine lost her sister when I was 19, I remembered that I had done exactly the same thing and I’m not proud of it, but I can have compassion for myself and my friends in knowing that we are products of the culture we live in and unfortunately at the moment that appears to be in a state of unconscious apathy.

It doesn’t have to be this way, though, and you certainly don’t need to go through the trauma of being in a life-threatening situation or losing someone close to you to snap out of it. You do however need to start paying attention to your actions because they hold the clue to your thoughts, and how you feel, and it’s only when you feel that fear that you can become aware of it.

So next time you find yourself distancing from a situation, judging someone’s actions or getting angry at the way a situation is unfolding, stop and ask yourself what is it that you’re scared of? Then why not go ahead and do it anyway? You might find that you learn something by facing that fear, or that voicing it might bring you that little bit closer to the person you voice it to. These emotions are part of our being and by denying them we deny part of ourselves, so whether good or bad I implore you to fully feel those emotions and challenge why they’re there.

If you like this blog post, check out my Therapy Reviews, my Sketches, and my Therapies.

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‘Female Power’ Workshop – The Name Says It All

Having spent a week on the Community Experience Program at Osho Leela and having previously met Sanjula, I knew that the Female Power Workshop was one that I wanted to try out. Before I even met Sanjula, I’d heard her reputation as a very intuitive bodywork therapist and I had been advised to see her for a bodywork session to help me look into some of the post-traumatic stress that I’d been dealing with. To say the least, I was very inspired by the strength of this woman and when I returned home, I booked straight onto this workshop.

As usual, my review is set into three parts – description of the workshop, how I felt directly before and after, and my overall review.

The workshop

I arrived on Friday evening, before dinner – as requested in the booking email which allowed me some time to settle into the accommodation and get to know some of the other women in the workshop. After dinner, we went straight into the workshop, which gave me the impression that we were being prepped for some hard work throughout the weekend. There were 7 participants in total and two therapists running the workshop – Sanjula, and her assistant Amrita – I liked that there were two women running the workshop, kind of like a leader and a backstop to support the all-female tribe. We started off with sitting in a circle and sharing: why we’re here, how we feel and generally where we’re at in life, which was a great starting point because it built a sense of connection within the group straight away that was built on honesty and authenticity from the word go. Sanjula started off with the sharing and opened up the space with her own very vulnerable sharing, really overcoming the shame that could have potentially lurked in many areas. By setting the bar at this level, it left a totally open platform for each of us to be truly authentic with the group about exactly how we felt at the same depth. An honesty that we sometimes don’t even share with ourselves, so to openly vent it in front of the group, for me, was actually a little scary, so when it got to my turn I shared that, that this felt scary.

Scared and numb, to be exact. They are the two most prominent feelings that frequent me these days and that’s how I felt at the sharing, combined with an air of resistance which I was battling with. There wasn’t much of a response from anyone during the sharing, everything was just listened to and accepted which, in essence, created a sealed area of emotional safety. With this, Sanjula explained that everything shared within the room will be treated with confidentiality and that she would like us to respect that between ourselves. That request is respected in this review and thus, it is a factual account of only my experience which I obviously give consent for (The dark inner workings of my soul are openly shared on this blog, so, of course, I’m keeping up that openness, even if it does feel a little cringeworthy at times). Following this, a general explanation of how the workshop would unfold was given and then we did an active meditation (possibly a dance one… I can’t quite remember exactly but I remember lots of good music and opportunities to dance). Then we heading off to bed.

Reflecting on Saturday and Sunday with the individual tasks is difficult because there are so many things that happen that it’s almost impossible to remember them in order so instead, I’ll give a general description. Firstly we didn’t start the sessions until after breakfast which meant that we didn’t need to get out of bed until 8ish, allowing plenty of time to sleep off any exhaustion from the activities. This was hugely beneficial for me because I know that processing these traumas can still be exhausting for me sometimes, and if I overdo it then it can result in a physical illness which my body takes the time out to recover and process.

Saturday started with openly sharing and sense checking with our emotions, and although we had done this the previous night it was interesting to see that many reflections and considerations had been made in such a short time, the work has already begun I thought to myself. The main part of Saturday was spent exploring hard emotions through expression, particularly anger, which is one that I feel I’m not always allowed to express is our ‘stiff upper-lip’ Western society, in fear of someone pointing out that I’m crazy because of this. The fact is that yes, sometimes I am angry, and it’s valid because of all the pain I’ve been through so as long as I’m not taking it out on anyone else, why shouldn’t I be allowed to express this emotion?

What this workshop further clarified for me is that, us humans are emotional beings, women especially, and by not expressing these emotions we risk destroying ourselves from the inside. The workshop focused on letting out these emotions in a healthy, constructive and controlled manner by using the body’s movements. One exercise that I found quite powerful was one that caused us to regress back into our early childhood and think about moments which caused us pain, to do this we got dressed up (Osho Leela has an awesome theatre cupboard) into clothes that we would’ve when we were aged around 12 – to really set the mood. Then we had individual sharings in pairs to talk about these experiences (between the ages of 6-12 are influential times in the development of our personality and sometimes we can find that it’s where we learnt to suppress pain). We swapped around so that we talked about four different experiences and equally listened to four different experiences. We were asked to listen mindfully and to try and not react, comfort or advice – this in itself is a useful skill when practising compassion and is especially valuable when someone is upset about a situation that cannot be fixed. I remember this from when my Dad passed away, getting agitated with people who wanted to tell me that everything would be ok or not to worry when all I wanted was for someone to be present and listen.

Personally, I found it difficult to think of painful memories pre 12 years old, mainly because I didn’t really experience anything that was particularly hard on me at that age. The most painful memories that I did manage to tap into ranged from the age of 14 – 17 where I first experienced heartbreak, bullying and a few other painful things that I’m not going to divulge into in this review. After the sharing, these memories and feelings were pretty raw so it was easy to go into the next stage – expressing the emotion, anger. For this, we did part of the Osho dynamic meditation where we listened to quite aggressive loud music, and we encouraged to use our body to bring the anger up and out by hitting a mattress, thumping a pillow, using our voice to scream and shout, and generally just allow anything that needed to come up to come up. Spit buckets were provided if any of us needed to spit or vomit, which I can imagine sounds a bit farfetched to read, but when something is deeply painful the body’s natural reaction is to physically try and get rid of the pain, as it would do if there was a physical poison. I know this from my personal account from all my traumas, the pain of some of them ran so deep that I physically almost vomited on a number of occasions, but because I’m so used to suppressing this reaction I didn’t allow myself to. By just acknowledging the judgement that I initially had to this physiological response, it demonstrates the shame that is so prevalent in our society to expressing our emotions. The shame that stops me expressing, understanding and validating many of my own emotions in their full depth.

After this expression, we did another active meditation of shaking and dancing and my body felt a lot more fluid in movement than it had done the night before. As though I’d broken through some judgement and shame barriers which had physically locked me in some sort of invisible body cage. I guess after screaming obscenities, and spitting to a bucket whilst on all fours meant that I wasn’t so bothered about other people’s judgements anymore, I mean that in itself breaks through a few shame barriers with quite a force that the space created after is vast, vast and fresh.

Later that day we explored boundaries and this exercise was particularly intense. To do this we all had to stand in a ‘power stance’ – with our feet are wide apart, knees bent, back straight with hips slightly forward, with our fists clenched and raised. It’s the same stance used for the anger stage of the AUM meditation and it’s a very powerful position to own as it really allows you to fill a space and hold your ground. It’s actually the same stance used in a lot of self-defence teachings such as Krav Maga too. For this exercise, one member of the group would shout “NO I WON’T” (or various versions of) and the rest of us lined up to scream “YES YOU WILL” at that person, one by one. The ones who were waiting in the queue were encouraged to shout at the individual shouting “NO I WON’T” to push them to scream louder and fiercer. After every person in the ‘Yes crowd’ had had a go at the ‘No person’ we’d swap around and a different person would be in the ‘No’ role. This meant that when you were in the ‘No’ position that, although there was only one person screaming in your face at any one time, they had a whole army behind them that you were competing with. To be in the No position was extremely intense as there was a lot of energy coming your way.

I ended up being in the ‘No’ position last, by at which point my voice was already starting to fail for having egged on the ‘Yes crowd’ for so long and the exercise was taking its toll on my momentum as well as my throat, but I figured that this would only encourage me to find that inner strength which I knew I had because it came out and protected me on the night I got attacked. At first it was difficult and I felt fatigue which I knew was my subconscious being resistant, probably because of fear of going back to such a scary place, but I pushed deep into this feeling because I knew, intellectually, that by going into this place in a safe environment would help eradicate the fear of going there altogether. At some point, I remember a voice coming from the bottom of my stomach, like a deep roar that burns from the pit of your belly, all the way up the throat. The last time I had really heard this was the night of the attack when my own voice woke up me up out of a blackout with the words ‘HELP ME’. I carried on screaming until the last of the screaming Yes women had had their go, then I went and hugged one of the girls, simply because I just needed to flop into the arms of someone else. I was exhausted.

After this, we stood in a circle and shouted “No one has the right to hurt me” a few times and at that moment I burst into tears and I realised that I was shaking quite intensely. For a minute I was right back in the moments straight after the attack; sitting on a stranger’s sofa trying to catch my breath whilst trying to explain in broken Spanish that a man had tried to rape me. Then the shame of having to tell people in the crew house and their wide-eyed faces of discomfort, then the same people avoiding me etc, all those horrible vulnerable and disgusting feelings that I’d locked away and forgotten about had burst out of me and streams of tears flooded down my face. All the feelings seemed entangled up together and it was as though they were rushing out of me all at once, really fast, spilling out in the tears. At the same moment, I felt a sudden release of tightness in my back, like a metal rod had broken off it was so weird, but refreshing all at the same time. As with any Osho Leela experience, there was a lot of hugging, sharing and comforting afterwards and I think that having the opportunity to relive the aftermath feelings of the attack and then receive the comforting that I deeply craved was hugely therapeutic because in reality, the morning after the attack hardly anyone comforted me and I had to deal with everything on my own which only added to the pain. Whereas now it felt like although the wound had been opened again, it had been tended to properly so it could heal now.

In the evening there was more dancing, sharing and a visit to one of the trees on the property which is said to be a very calming and nurturing place. Believe what you will about spirituality but who doesn’t find sitting at the base of towering oak tree nurturing? Just stopping there and appreciating the perspective of where I am at in my life, the oak tree’s life and the lives of the beetles that were ferreting around my feet helped me appreciate my place in the World. A moment of gratitude that we often forget in our busy lives. The last session was a massage exchange that we did in pairs, just to practice vocalising what we like, what we don’t and how we would like to feel. I think this is a skill that women have been shamed not to exercise but it’s another valuable tool to take into the outside World.

The Sunday felt a lot calmer and needless to say, I slept very well the night before. We started off with a Samasati Meditation, a humanaversity meditation which is about letting go of grief (grief of a person, a relationship or whatever feels right to the person). The meditation itself moves through a few different stages that actually explores dying and some part of it felt very heavy, mainly because it took me to that moment when I had to kiss my Dad goodbye. It left different women with different perspectives because it put us all in a reflection of ‘are you really living your life totally?’ Personally, I feel like I started living this question the minute I quit my corporate job back in 2010 and I haven’t looked back since but it’s important to be reminded of because for me it pressed me deeper towards what I want to accomplish in this life… stay tuned for that one.

There was more sense checking and sharing, which I feel I personally took to a deeper level than I had done before and I noticeably built on a deeper sense of empathy and compassion. I’ve noticed this since getting attacked that I feel things where I wouldn’t have before, nausea when someone tells a gruesome story, or upset when someone else gets upset about something around me, but after Saturdays session, this went to a deeper level and at first I felt extremely overwhelmed by it. As I write this I’m becoming more comfortable feeling the compassion and empathy without letting the feelings engulf me, especially when the event isn’t mine to be upset about. On Sunday however, the magnitude of this was strong, and I felt like I needed to let out all that emotion, to make up for times when I’ve bottled it up in the past. The release of it felt like a heavy sludge being sucked out of my blood, leaving a light fresh flow behind.

We spent some time on Sunday in the Tipi with one of the community members who holds it as her place of sanction – don’t we all need one of those in our lives? It’s a beautifully set out circular space with a fire in the middle and cushions, pillows, and blankets to lie on. We sang a few songs to a lightly strummed guitar and drum whilst an aromatic incense filled the air. It took me back to my days of camping with the scouts, apart from instead of smelly immature boys, I was surrounded by strong beautiful women who I had witnessed grow in so many ways in such a short space of time.

The workshop ended with coffee and cake (it was one of the lady’s birthday) and a ‘positive hot seat’ exercise – this is where one person volunteers and everyone in the group has an opportunity to tell them what they love or appreciate most about them. I’ve done this before when I ended a volunteer project in Ecuador and the power of it has stayed with me since. It’s not often that we explicitly say what we love about someone to their face, but it’s so important to do so and to also recognise and say thank you when we receive such positive comments. I thoroughly enjoyed telling each woman what I liked most about them and it was fascinating to see how each person offered and took different things away from this session. It prompted me to reach out to the special women in my life who have walked me down the most difficult path of my life so far, held me together as I broke down and offered me a sense of normality when my head just kept on spinning throughout the traumas. These types of connections are unfortunately rare but they don’t need to be, it just takes a little bit of courage to open up and share.

Overall

In a word – powerful. I knew that I would get something out of the session because Sanjula is the kind of woman who thrives in seeing people become the best version of themselves. It’s a kind of tough love that pushes you beyond your boundaries that we might have only ever experienced with explorative and supportive parents, which I was lucky to have. There was a lot of talk about sisterhood and how the general thread in society encourages us to turn against each other through jealousy when in reality we should be sticking together and building compassion in the World. The workshop also took me back to some conversations that I had in Bali with my two amazing ‘Bali sisters’ and female friends as we’ve delved deeper into our friendships and it’s an important lesson to keep visiting as women. We are all here to support each other, through the times when we think we’re ‘failing’, or when we feel like we’re ‘not enough’ or when we’re scared of being branded as ‘crazy’ because we’re rightly pissed off (we’re emotional beings remember)!

What was really noticeable was how each woman physically changed throughout the session. I noticed this when one of the women told me how my face looked completely different after I had broken down in tears, it was as though there was a real tension that went from my face (as high as my left cheekbone to be exact), down my back that had literally melted and others could actually see it – wow. When I thought of this comment and looked around the group I knew exactly what she was talking about, some of the women’s eyes had opened wider and brightened up. Smiles were fuller and spanned wider and the general tone of body language was more open in a confident yet whole-hearted way. Witnessing that and being part of it was really powerful.

I really feel like I broke through some barriers during the female power workshop, or uncovered some layers, whichever way you want to see it, at the end of the weekend I felt happier and more open. Obviously, some of the exercises were difficult, vulnerable and sometimes felt emotionally uncomfortable but having the support of sisterhood bond allowed me to feel nourished and supported throughout all of it. I know that there are many other layers to uncover and that is the journey that we call life, but the intensity of this weekend really pushed me to delve deep, hard and fast which I appreciated. I will also take away some very valuable tools back into the real world, including knowing where my boundaries are, and how to vocalise them. How to and having the right to express my needs and also what empathy and compassion feel like to a greater depth – a tool that keeps growing.

The thing is with any workshop is that you will only get out what you put in because it is no one else’s responsibility other than your own to delve deep into your psyche but if you’re willing to do the work then doing it in a place like Osho Leela is immensely therapeutic. Even with an amazing group of therapist friends who can hold my space, doing such a large amount of work in one weekend really opened my eyes to how beneficial personal growth workshops can be. A theme that I see in Osho Leela throughout is the acknowledgement that personal development is ongoing. There is never a ‘fix’ or a ‘solution’. It’s just a constantly evolving and working through of the psyche, practising new tools and realising new lessons. The point of it all is just to enjoy the journey as you travel through it.

Sense check – before, 24 June 5pm

Physical – The standard niggling pain in my back from my neck, down to my left arm. It still comes and goes but since having acupuncture, the intensity is much less – as I feel better emotionally it dissipates more and more. I feel a little tired from the drive down, especially in my calves but that’s nothing that a sit-down and a cup of tea won’t fix, so generally I’m all good.

Emotional – Anxious again! I remember this feeling from last time that I made the drive down to Osho Leela and my mind was coming out with all sorts of excuses as to why I should turn back, even stronger than the last time I drove down – probably because I know that I will be doing some things that quite frankly will make me squirm in discomfort. Apart from the anxiety I’m happy, I feel more solid in myself these days and I know deep down that I want to grow more in the area of female power so I keep on driving.

Sense check – after, 27th June 6pm

Physical – Throughout the workshop I physically felt a release in the pain that comes from the back of my neck, down the left side of my back. It was as though a tight strand broke off and my back muscles started to relax, the exact moment when it happened was sensational. There is still the tightness on the front which comes from the neck muscles near my jaw and they still feel a little tight but there is literally just half the pain that was there before which is amazing. Generally, my muscles are tired, from the dancing, the tensing and from releasing emotion. I’m looking forward to a bath tonight.

Emotional – This time I was ready to leave, maybe because I have a sense that I’ll be back so instead of a farewell it was more of a ‘catch you later’ to Osho Leela and all the great people there. I left feeling a little more whole and certain of myself. I’m not sure if this is a feeling that will last for long but I definitely feel like a firm foundation has been laid which is reassuring because I have, at times felt very uncertain and up in the air about myself in the last year. It’s left me feeling grounded, not so much that I feel like both feet are solidly on the ground but at least the balls of my feet are firmly planted, which for me is huge. For that, I am immensely grateful.

I want to create a world of greater wellbeing for ourselves and the planet that we live on. That’s why I’m starting an honest conversation about wellbeing; encompassing self care, emotional intelligence, body and mind awareness, personal development, and authenticity. If you want to learn more about these subjects then then head over to www.shereensoliman.com to find out more about the packages I offer.

Sending self care vibes,

Shereen x

Is it Possible to Shake Out Trapped Emotions? Find Out in This Review of Kundalini Meditation

There are many kinds of meditation and the one I do in my personal time almost every day is a traditional vipassana – sitting up straight and concentrating on my breath. This can be quite difficult in the Western world because it requires us to slow the internal chatter that has been further increased in modern times with marketing messages, technology, and other stimulations. Fear not, fellow inner peace seekers the Osho Active Meditations that I review in this series have been scientifically designed for the busyness of the Western World, and thus Western mind.

Kundalini Meditation

The Kundalini meditation is a type of shaking and dancing meditation that helps move energy within the body. According to Emerging Sciences ‘Kundalini’ is the name given to the discovery of a certain mechanism in the body which is responsible for spiritual awakening.

There are four stages to this meditation; Shake, Dance, Be Still and Lie down, all are for 15 minutes each and play out in that order.

Stage 1. Shake 15 minutes

The stance for this I to stand hip width apart with both feet firmly placed on the ground. With knees bent and mouth slightly open we were asked to shake from the knees upward by bobbing up and down on from our knees, rickershaying a shake upwards through out bodies. This action moves the body in an up and down motion with slight forwards and backward rocking. We were encouraged to released sounds if we felt this but I’m not that vocal and to be honest I felt in new territory and wasn’t completely able to let go. It’s almost impossible to think at this stage but when I did find myself thinking the most common thoughts were self-conscious judgements ‘you look stupid’, ‘you’re not doing it right’, ‘you’re not doing it good enough’. Every time these came up I managed to shake them away and get back to feeling the shakes but this was a constant process of going back and forth as my mind came grabbing for the wheel of control. The struggle between the two was interesting to observe.

Stage 2. Dance 15 minutes

After 15 minutes of shaking with actually felt like it went n for a lot longer than it did so I was happy when the tape changed to dance music as we were encouraged to dance how we felt like and move around the room. I enjoyed this stage because I like dancing, but again I was surprised at the self-consciousness that came up, that I wasn’t dancing good enough. On reflection these self-conscious judgements stopped me from fully immersing myself in this stage because deep down I know that I wasn’t putting in the same effort of dancing that I do when I’m in my room, on my own singing my heart out to emotional songs which I actually do do on quite a regular basis (don’t pretend like you don’t do that too because I know it’s the first thing that anyone does when they realise they’re home alone… don’t they?). I realised that the notion of feeling self-conscious in front of a group of people doing the same thing in a non-judgemental space actually sounds ridiculous and again it’s another interesting discovery to go deeper into.

Stage 3. Be still 15 minutes

After 30 minutes of movement, we sat down in silence and concentrated on our breath, very much in the way I would do in my regular vipassana meditation. This is where the tears hit me, flooding out of my face like a gentle waterfall. I didn’t actually feel upset or sad, in fact, I felt numb but it was as though someone turned on the ‘eyes tap’ and the water just moved freely out. I’ve had a few experiences like this before when I’ve meditated, especially after my Dad passed away and I spun myself into busy avoidance – living out our ridiculous societal stereotype of ‘Keeping busy’ when something difficult in your life happens (yeah, great idea because by not validating our emotions they’ll just fade away right? No. Wrong. They most definitely will not). In reflection, those emotional releases when meditating are probably what has kept me balanced in times when I refused to acknowledge the inner turmoil that’s happening inside, obviously this stage shows that there is still more that needs to surface from my subconscious.

Stage 4. Lie down and be still 15 minutes

For this stage, we literally just lay back on the mat and again concentrated on our breathing. What I found interesting was that when I lay horizontal the tears began to stop and instead I was overcome with a feeling of exhaustion. An interesting reflection here is that I sometimes do my regular meditation lying down, not for any other reason that sometimes I’m a little bit lazy with it but by seeing this reaction of tears drying up when my body position changed it made me wonder if my positions of meditation affect my emotional expression. Maybe I have a comfort association with lying down and a focus association with sitting up? Maybe it’s easier to suppress tears in a lying down position? I don’t know but another area to investigate and play with.

Overall

I really enjoyed the Kundalini meditation and I found the internal struggle between my mind and my body actually really fascinating. In reflection, I particularly find the judgements towards myself a good insight into who I am and also what self-limiting beliefs lie beneath the surface which ultimately hold me back. ‘I’m not good enough’ is a constant record played that I have been consciously working through but subconsciously it still seems to be controlling the reigns of my thought patterns. Also the ‘looking stupid’ and ‘not doing it right’ are also threads which I suspected were pulling strings deep down. The underlying fear of not ‘fitting in’ or not being ‘perfect’. ‘Bringing this to light showcases how ridiculous it is and throughout the week I gradually felt myself standing into the place of the person I am wholeheartedly, without the shame of being ‘too fiery’, ‘too outspoken’ ‘too direct’ – all the tags that my society tells me I ‘shouldn’t’ be. Consciously I know that these are messages fed to us through corporate marketing to build up insecurities that can be directed to ‘solutions’ of buy this product to fix that. I know this intellectually because of the reading and studying I’ve done in psychology and marketing but I was really surprised how deep these threads ran into my subconscious regardless. I’ve found that underlying all of this is the need to accept myself for who I am, where I’m at and for what I’ve been through. Overall I found some very insightful messages surfacing which I see as positive directions of where to focus my healing.

I want to create a world of greater wellbeing for ourselves and the planet that we live on. That’s why I’m starting an honest conversation about wellbeing; encompassing self care, emotional intelligence, body and mind awareness, personal development, and authenticity. If you want to learn more about these subjects then then head over to www.shereensoliman.com to find out more about the packages I offer.

Sending self care vibes,

Shereen x

Ever Wondered What Ayurveda is? Find out in This Review of an Ayurvedic Consultation

Ayurvedic Consultation – at Aiona Garden of Health, Bunutan Beach, Amed, Bali

Whilst in Bali I stumbled across a health food cafe which also did Ayurvedic Consultations, so I decided that I would have one. Before reading up on Ayurvedic on the internet and reading the literature in the cafe I wasn’t too sure what it was about. When I’ve previously heard it mentioned it seems to have been used as a marketing buzz word to make a massage or certain treatment sound more desirable without an actual explanation, so because of this I’ve previously strayed away from it. However, Ayurvedic is actually an ancient way of life which was originally developed in India thousands of years ago and it is centred around principles of creation, energy, and spiritualism. There are many facets to Ayurveda but the main principle is that in order to live a healthy life then a person must maintain a certain balance in their mind, body, and spirit that is specific to them. To find out this balance there are a variety of different factors that need to be considered such as date of birth and characteristics which are defined by DNA. This consultation was for me to find out my body type by an Ayurvedic Practitioner and to find out what type of foods and actions will benefit me in my way of life and which ones won’t. As every person is different, it is worth going to a practitioner to find out what body type you are because it’s not easy to work out and there is a lot of theory to be understood, which is why it takes up to 7 years to be an Ayurvedic practitioner. There is a lot more to understand than I’ve managed to squeeze into this introductory paragraph so if you’d like to find out more check out The Ayurvedic Practitioners Association.

My review is set into three parts – description of the session and my overall review. As this wasn’t a therapy I didn’t feel that it was necessary to perform a before and after sense check.

The Session

I booked the session two days previously and was asked to write down my date of birth when I booked as this also determines something about my characteristics, along with family heritage and a variety of other things.

I arrived at Aiona Garden of Health and was offered a glass of cold water and to sit down until I was called in for my consultation. When called, the practitioner-led me through the beautiful gardens with a variety of vegetation, plants and wooden structures to a small veranda where there was a bamboo table and chairs and bed. First, the consultant asked me to tell her something about myself, which I did – my family background, occupation, the recent life events and where I currently am in my life, the trauma story flows pretty easy these days. The consultant then explained the principles of Ayurvedic living and then asked me to lie on the couch so that I could consider the five different elements and see how I felt about them. These are Water, Earth, Fire, Air, and Space. She asked me to lay down on the bamboo couch and concentrate on my breathing to allow myself to focus and then she talked me through each element by asking me to imagine certain things. For example for water, she asked me to imagine a spring of water on a mountain top, and then a river and a lake and how it feels to be swimming in the water and drinking it etc. At the end of imagining each element she asked me how I felt about it and to associate three words with each element, silently. At the end of the final element she talked me back into being on the couch and when I opened my eyes she asked me to sit back at the bamboo desk. Then she asked which of the elements I felt the most strongly about and which one was my least favourable. For me, I felt very strongly for Water and Fire, and least about Earth, whereas wind and space I was generally neutral about.

Following this, we began to talk about spirituality and how I generally didn’t feel too connected, even though I meditate every day. I guess even though I believe that there’s something bigger out there, I still come from a very practical and scientific mindset, to be blunt the fluffiness of spiritual people seems quite flaky to me so I tend to believe but in secret. This could be because I’ve been brought up in a Muslim/Catholic family which didn’t really practice either religion, therefore religion/spirituality has never been a strong part of my life and I guess I have been somewhat confused as to where I sit with it. I also think that this could be a more widespread problem in my generation as we see the rise of people using religious labels for their own personal endeavours: ‘Catholic’ Priests who take advantage of their position for sexual impulses and ‘Muslim’ terrorists who claim to be acting in the name of God when they kill people to name a few. Unfortunately, regardless of religion or belief this abuse of status actually comes down to a lack of personal integrity and such religious systems have been caught up in this, so like many I’ve ended up staying away from religion and spirituality altogether because of this. However what I’m coming to realise is that regardless of the system you adhere to, it’s naive to believe that there isn’t something greater out there that we don’t understand, I mean science is even starting to acknowledge that there are energies out there that we don’t understand – energies which spirituality has been talking about for decades. What was interesting was that the consultant picked up on this as something for me to work on and asked me if this might be the reason that I found myself in Bali, and maybe it is. I mean, I don’t really believe in many religious frameworks but I do believe that there are energies that we can sense and that something greater exists but I don’t feel strongly connected and after all these traumas, especially after my Dad passing away I do feel a bit lost in the World. The practitioner actually said that my Dad gave me a lot of things, which he did but that he didn’t give me prayer and this is absolutely true because it was difficult for him to continue to pray five times a day and work as a Doctor in a country where the majority religion wasn’t Muslim and neither was his wife, kids or social, political or education system. She mentioned that this is something that I could bring back to my family karma and it’s something that I think I’ll work on.

In regards to my body, she said that I have a kafa – pitta – vita balance, in the ratio of about 60:30:20, this means that I should avoid foods that make me ‘slow’ – particularly white sugar and white flour and instead try to eat raw foods to make me feel more balanced. What’s interesting is that during last year when I went home after the attack, after falling down the stairs and after my Dad died I concentrated on having a healthy diet, meditating and doing yoga. Specifically, in my diet, I cut out refined sugar and instead used honey or coconut sugar and I made my own bread, mainly brown or granary. I also ate a lot of vegetables, specifically raw food and superfoods. I did so because it just felt right to do this for my health, so I was basically living the principles of Ayurveda without knowing it. However, it’s more of a challenge to do that while I am constantly on the go (well, I actually carry coconut sugar around with me so I do try). Another thing that the practitioner mentioned which I thought was interesting was that I feel better by the ocean, which was spot on and probably the reason that I’ve ended up working on yachts. She specifically said that it probably doesn’t feel good for me to work in a city or an office which made me laugh because this is actually my nightmare scenario – I would much rather be broke and sailing a boat unpaid than working in an office earning a comfortable wage. To hear this out loud confirmed my thoughts and made me think that maybe I wasn’t so weird after all (that’s my societal shame right there).

The other thing that she said which is something that I am continuously hearing is that I’m at a point in my life where I’m not sure what to do next – I think I keep hearing this because it’s pretty obvious for a start – find me someone who is travelling around Bali that isn’t lost for a start, secondly find me someone who has gone through a variety of traumas who feels grounded – these things are obviously going to shake me up right to the core! At first, it was really hard to hear that I was lost and that it’s ok to be lost because this is the last thing that I want to admit. I’ve already changed my career four times and although there are massive benefits to this I sometimes reach a point where there are so many opportunities that I feel like I’m not too sure which road to take. The next piece of helpful advice, which I also often get – just do what feels right. This is helpful if you’re connected with your feelings but for me in my post-trauma state, even feeling itself, is still difficult. My usual answer to this is how do I know what feels right when I’m disconnected to my feelings? To which I already know that answer… I’ll work it out… which is why I’m allowing myself to run completely out of money being in a place that I feel nourished at the moment and trust that the Universe will send something my way… won’t it? We’ll see. The other thing that she mentioned was that whatever I was meant to do next might be something like writing. Interesting I thought because I wrote a book last year which I am trying to finish and obviously I have this blog but am I really going to take on a 5th career? I guess right now I don’t need to make any firm decisions, I’ll just keep on doing what feels right, right?

When explaining about Ayurvedic principles, the practitioner also described the Ayurvedic morning cleansing routine – to scrape the tongue clean (because during the night this is where toxins from the body build up), then to clean the inside of the nostrils with salt water, to then wash the eyes with fresh water. Then to meditate to cleanse the mind and to do some small exercises or yoga to wake up the body. Oil pulling is something that can also be done to cleanse the body but as this is more of a remedy for illness it is something that is performed for a week or month as a form of treatments. What’s funny is that back home when I have a routine it consists of waking up and oil pulling for 20 minutes, doing 20 minutes of meditation and then a short series of yoga exercises combined with my physiotherapy posture stretches before then going and having a drink of either homemade water kefir or hot lemon juice. Maybe this is the reason that I have been dealing with the traumas so well and my physical health hasn’t taken too much of a beating under such psychological stress.

Overall Review

The objective of an Ayurvedic consultation was to give me an idea of what my body type was and how I could maintain a mind-body-soul balance in my life, however I thought that some of the information that the practitioner gave me was also very interesting because it made me think about certain elements in my life differently as to why they are important – e.g. Sailing, because it allows me to be close to the water. Spirituality because it fills the void that religion might have otherwise provided. I can imagine that a consultation can also be used as a medical diagnosis but as I don’t really have any ailments at present, apart from the pain in my left side which I know is emotional so this wasn’t how I approached the consultation. Considering that a practitioner needs to study for up to 7 years in order to practice, an independent 80-minute consultation will only ever be a brief introduction, however, it did provide me with a deep insight into a philosophy of life which I wouldn’t have otherwise known. I need to do a lot more research on how Ayurveda and it’s principles but it has definitely encouraged me to build a routine into my life again.

I want to create a world of greater wellbeing for ourselves and the planet that we live on. That’s why I’m starting an honest conversation about wellbeing; encompassing self care, emotional intelligence, body and mind awareness, personal development, and authenticity. If you want to learn more about these subjects then then head over to www.shereensoliman.com to find out more about the packages I offer.

Sending self care vibes,

Shereen x

What’s With the Shame Around Talking to a Therapist Anyway?

As well as meditation, one of the most effective things that has helped me cope with difficult life situations has been to go and see a therapist for counselling. When I talk openly about this I get some interesting responses – some people look at me quite awkwardly then disengage their eye contact not knowing what to say, some tell me how brave I am to go to a therapist and some people just ask me about my experience. I find the first two responses quite interesting and it makes me wonder – why is it so taboo in our society to go and see a therapist?

It’s a strange conundrum because there’s a taboo around acknowledging all dark emotions, expressing them and reaching out for help when we need it. The thing is that as humans, we all have something in common – that we all feel good and bad emotions at one point or another. It’s like it’s one big secret that we all know about but if we acknowledge it then the World as we know it will combust into a tiny thousand pieces! Apart from, it won’t. In fact, the minute you start talking in a non-judgemental space is the minute that you start to heal.

Luckily I have some very supportive friends and family around me who supported my decision to go and find a therapist. I remember one of my friends saying “Just think you can anything you want to and get away with it, awesome” when I told her that I was booking in for my first therapy session. An interesting way to view it, I thought and it changed my viewpoint from negative shame to positive exploration.

The fact is that at some point everyone is going to go through a difficult life situation, and experience the negative emotions that come with those experiences. Emotions such as shame, guilt, anger and sadness and when that happens it’s damn right destructive to pretend they don’t exist and suppress them. So let’s all just step outside the closet for a minute and acknowledge that we’re human ok?

I guess being attacked allowed me the opportunity to seek help for my ‘difficult situation’, as though a classic traumatic event somewhat lifted the cloud of shame and weakness that hovers around seeing a therapist. Would I have gone to counselling if I was feeling trapped in a job or depressed about a relationship? No, I probably wouldn’t have, I probably would have told myself that I can deal with it and to carry on without addressing the problem – in fact, I have done this in the past. I remember a time when I worked in my first graduate office job where I was paid well, had good career prospects and a great benefits package but most nights I would come home deflated and in tears simply because I felt trapped in a situation and didn’t know how to get out it. The last thing I would have considered doing is talking to an unbiased professional to help me find a way out of my problem. However, had I had a more physical problem, like when my wisdom tooth was infected at the same period of time I wouldn’t have thought twice about seeking help from a professional to sort it out.

So why is it that we expect to fix a problem of the mind, with the mind and don’t seek external professional help? Would I try and fix my broken right arm with my broken right arm? No. Even if I was a Doctor I wouldn’t, because quite frankly that’s dumb. So why do it with the mind? I mean it’s only the part of the body which dictates how the rest of the body behaves and performs that we basically can’t full function without, surely it makes sense to tend to it like we do with the physical problems we have?

Back then I probably wouldn’t have talked about ‘feeling trapped’ as a problem, I was so ashamed and guilty for not feeling how I ‘should’ feel that I just suffered in silence and told myself that it was my fault. In the end, I quit my job but not without almost two years of putting myself through this personal torture. Had I seen a therapist at that time I probably would have found my solution a lot quicker because what a therapist does is give you the tools to explore those negative emotions and question why they’re there, which ultimately guides you towards your own solution.

The difference for me, this time, is that with so many traumatic events happening in such a short space of time, suppressing them was physically impossible. Being the ‘strong’ woman that I was, with a background in construction and sailing I didn’t view crying in front of people as socially acceptable, especially not in front of my male colleagues but with these traumatic events, I didn’t have a choice. The tears, aggression and panic attacks would come and there was nothing I could do to keep them at bay. It even got to a point where I couldn’t even trust my own judgement anymore because I couldn’t tell if I was seeing things through an emotion or not and this would ultimately affect all my thoughts and behaviour. After having therapy sessions for a while I realised how important it is to be able to talk a situation through in a non-judgemental space, which at the time was something that I didn’t have in my life because I just hadn’t reached that level of authenticity within myself to accept my own judgements.

Through counselling, I also realised how entrenched I can become in my emotions, to the point where it’s like I’m wearing blinkers which can be quite common especially in emotions life grief and (post-traumatic) stress but now that I’m aware of this I can see it in myself, and also strikingly in others. Others who tell me that everything’s fine, but deep down I know it isn’t. People, mostly men, who are locked in an emotional cave and don’t realise how beautiful their World could be if they stepped out. The thing here though is that people will only see a therapist when they are ready, so I can’t and won’t push people if they say that they’re fine. My mission, however, is to help clear the shame around dark emotions by openly sharing my story, standing tall and admitting that I feel shit sometimes too, but that when I talk about it I start to feel better.

Anyway, what’s the harm in going to a therapist just to find out what happens? Like my friend said it’s an opportunity to be in an emotionally safe space where you can say absolutely anything no matter how shameful or weird it is. Isn’t that first session worth it for the sake of a curious hour of productive mind exploration?If you’re ready for that kind of exploring then my article 3 Step Guide to Finding The Right Therapist is here to help you on your way. I guess, if you don’t like it, no one is forcing you to go again… although if you don’t like it then I would question why? It could be that it’s not the right counsellor or maybe it’s a judgement that comes from a protective mechanism that actually comes from the fear of being vulnerable. If you’re unsure then check out my article on When to Call it a Day With Your Therapist.

Enjoy exploring your inner psyche, I wish you well on your journey.

What is Cupping and Why Are Olympic Athletes Going Crazy For It?

I had cupping as part of an Acupuncture Treatment that I was reiving when I was in Bali and seen as Olympic athletes are going crazy for it, I’ve dedicated a specific piece on the theory, my thoughts and how it made me feel.

My overall review of how I felt physically and emotionally after the series of treatments can be found in my review of Acupuncture but I’ve included my notes on how I felt about that particular acupuncture and cupping session on the day, especially for this review.

Cupping is an ancient technique from Traditional Chinese Medicine and it can be used as its own treatment or alongside acupuncture. The British Acupuncture Council states that it’s used to stimulate acupuncture points or larger areas of the body, which may be the reason why it’s being heavily used in the Olympics – all that work on those pumping muscles must require a lot of healing.

The cups are rounded and can be made of a variety of material, most commonly in the Western side of the practice, glass is used. To use the cups, the practitioner heats up the air inside the glass with a flame and then places the glass on the clients skin. Then the natural laws of physics prevail and a vacuum is created inside the glass, causing the skin to be sucked into it. It’s typical that multiple glasses will be used at any one time and they are left on the skin for up to 20 minutes.

The theory behind this method is that it supposed to reduce stagnation of ‘qi’ (energy) and also help draw out toxins. In the news however, it’s been reported that the athletes are using it to aid recovery from the physical aches and pains brought on by constant training and competing.

Red Dots

The Session

This was my fourth session of Acupuncture with Ben and as always it started off with some talk therapy which ended up being a roundup of how I was feeling at the time and how I felt about going home – I was leaving Bali that afternoon to slowly head home (via Jakarta, Bangkok and London). We talked about a recent mindset change that I’d experienced and how I envisaged moving back into the real world once I got home. It was evident that I was starting to come down with a cold which was probably a combination of working through all these emotions so intensely and a little bit of partying towards the end of my trip – I was squeezing in as much Bali fun as I could before leaving. Due to the cold, Ben suggested that I have some cupping as well as the acupuncture to help my body release toxins and move around some of my energy, seen as he’s the expert I agreed.

As I lay on on my back, on the acupuncture couch, Ben took my pulse on both of my wrists and then proceeded with placing some acupuncture needles. After he removed the acupuncture needles he asked me to turn on to my front and remove my upper body clothes so that he could put the cups on my bare back. He left the room whilst I did this and knocked before he returned to ensure that I was decent.

He explained the procedure of cupping and methodically started to place them on my back, one by one. Instantly I could feel the pressure of the sucking of my skin into the cups, it didn’t feel uncomfortable but it was a strange feeling. It reminded me of the feeling of being massaged when the therapist goes quite deep to stretch a certain area, however instead of my skin being moved across my body, it was being pulled outwards. There was a feeling of release as though some kind of space was being created within me, like a void was being created between the pressure of the skin in the glass and the muscles within my body. This feeling felt quite pleasurable but it was difficult to really tap into it because so much was going on. I could also feel that some cups had a slightly stronger pulling sensation than the others, but none of them were strong enough to cause any discomfort. The cups were left on my back for what felt like a considerable amount of time but in reality it was only about 20 minutes, for which time I tried to focus on my breathing.

When Ben came to take the cups away he told me beforehand and then proceeded to remove each glass by releasing the pressure at the side of the glass in what felt like a peeling motion, probably much in the same way that I’d remove a sucker off a glass windscreen. When all the glasses were removed he left the room to give me some space to get changed before coming back and asking me how I felt. We talked a little bit about my experience and also about what to expect in the next 24 hours – that I may be slightly tired. I already felt a little lethargic because of my cold and I was aware that after these treatments I can sometimes feel exhausted, but luckily, apart from getting a taxi to a hotel in the south of Bali I didn’t have much else planned.

Pre-session sense check (02 May 2016, 8am –  1 hour before treatment)

Physically – I’d woken up with a head cold, which has been coming for a few days and is now in full force. I’m feeling tired, achy and without much motivation to do anything other than what is necessary. My head hurts, my eyes feel a heavy and my shoulders ache a little too.

Emotionally – I don’t feel that emotional, or I’m not connected with my emotions much today because my physical sensations are quite intense with the feeling of being a ill. I’m a little upset at having to leave Bali but I know it’s the right time so I also feel contempt too.

Post-session sense check (02 May 2016, 5pm –  7 hours after treatment)

Physically – I feel exhausted and my whole body feels really heavy, my movements are also sluggish. I just want to sleep. I have a weird sensation in my head, as though I had had a pressure build up that was now releasing but very slowly.

Emotionally – I’m feeling pretty fragile. I ended up crying when I got to the hotel, not for anything in particular but just because the tears were there and needed to come out. I feel quite numb to any sense of feeling, as though I’m a bit detached from them at the moment.

Overall Review

The sensation of having the cupping treatment was quite strange at first but overall I enjoyed the treatment. With regards to the ‘success’ of it, it’s difficult to review it individually as I had it as part of a series of acupuncture treatments, however those treatments overall were very beneficial for me because they released a lot of physical pain and also instigated a couple of strong mindset changes so overall I would say that it was effective. As with all holistic therapies, it’s difficult to scientifically measure them as the placebo effect could be having a very strong effect, and because I strongly believe in the meridian energy system which these treatments are based on then of course they are more likely to ‘work’. Whether or not they are proving as successful for the Olympic athletes is something that we’ll have to watch out for when we compare the medals and red spots – hardly scientific but worth a shot to find out. Personally I enjoyed the cupping treatment and would have it again but I think that it’s worthwhile to do your own sense check and reflection to see how effective it is for you.

I want to create a world of greater wellbeing for ourselves and the planet that we live on. That’s why I’m starting an honest conversation about wellbeing; encompassing self care, emotional intelligence, body and mind awareness, personal development, and authenticity. If you want to learn more about these subjects then then head over to www.shereensoliman.com to find out more about the packages I offer.

Sending self care vibes,

Shereen x

New Sketch! Meet The Emotional Cat

I met the emotional cat for the first time after the attack when I was in Mallorca, in the middle of my Yacht master theory course to be exact. It was lunch time and I was chatting to the instructor of the course who had decided that it was appropriate time to start criticising and judging me for no reason. Well, there was a reason and it was probably the same reason why a lot of people like to shoot down others – to make themselves feel better. It’s something that I see and experience regulaly as an independent women, working in a World where men feel imasculated (sorry about that but it’s not fault, give me a break already)!

This type of uninvited aggression was more than I could handle at the time, being in such a vulnerable post trauma state. I’m not sure what reaction this guy was expecting but it caused the emotional cat to jump out on me unexpectedly, leaving me in a blubbering mess of tears. The thing is that when the Emotional Cat decides to come out and play there is no stopping him. Worse yet, as soon as he rugby tackles me to the ground he gets bored and then runs off to find someone else to play with, leaving me floored and drained with everyone looking at me like I’m a weirdo – Thanks E-Cat, great job!

Since my father died, I see the Emotional Cat a lot more and I’ve learnt to accept him in my life and play with him when he’s around as we work towards a more balanced and healthy relationship where I control the cats behaviour, not the other way around.

I want to create a world of greater wellbeing for ourselves and the planet that we live on. That’s why I’m starting an honest conversation about wellbeing; encompassing self care, emotional intelligence, body and mind awareness, personal development, and authenticity. If you want to learn more about these subjects then then head over to www.shereensoliman.com to find out more about the packages I offer.

Sending self care vibes,

Shereen x

Introducing the BS card

After experiencing such raw and heavy emotions as anyone who has dealt with a major trauma in their life can empathise, I reached a point where being authentic became really important for me. It called for me to become brutally honest with myself and those around me in order for me to progress with my recovery journey and create the authenticity in the friendships so that a space was created where anything can be talked about.

This meant that there were some uncomfortable conversations to be had that I might not have otherwise invited into my life. Conversations that created challenges and opportunities and took courage to approach. It’s not easy being completely honest and when you’re as direct as I am, you don’t always get the most receptive response (delivery is a challenge that I am constantly working on). Regardless of the difficulty of having these conversations, it’s really important that difficult subjects are aired between people if we want to create honesty in our friendships because that’s the firm foundation that all deep relationships are based upon.

The lesson that I’ve had to learn is how to approach these conversations with compassion when I’m delivering honest feedback to a friend, because even though I can take direct feedback I know that this isn’t the norm. Instead I’ve learnt that feedback must be delivered from a standpoint of ‘I care about you and that is why I’m pointing this out’, rather than ‘you did x, y and z and I don’t think you should have done that’. Hopefully, you can see the difference between compassionate honesty and judgemental spotlighting in those two sentences.

A recent example is a good friend of mine who avoids conversations when she knows there’s going to be something that she doesn’t want to hear, even if she knows that she needs to hear it. However, that’s pretty difficult when you’re friends with me because as all of my friends know, I call them out on this kind of avoidance like I expect to be called out when I’m in my own avoidance. This friend of mine wasn’t being malicious and the avoidance wasn’t about me, it was about a lot of things going on in her life and she just didn’t need to know about another thing to work on at that time, so it was easier for her (subconsciously) to avoid those conversations all together. The frustrating thing for me was that it meant that I lost one of my best friends to have any kind conversation with, even just an easy chat on whatsapp. When we did finally chat I brought up the situation in the most compassionate way I could, by telling this friend I was upset that I was losing my friend but I needed to voice something that was going to be difficult to hear because I think it could be in her best interest to know. By putting it like this she was open to listening to what I said because it came from the heart. It was the same when I started feeling a certain way towards an ex-boyfriend of mine and considered that I might want to try and patch things up with him, when a friend bluntly pointed out that I was probably only feeling that way because I felt vulnerable and that I didn’t actually want to be with the guy in question. She went on to point out that when we were together and I had my chance to be with him, I wasn’t that bothered about being with him anyway. “Oh yeah,” I said. Funny how our emotions can cloud our thought patterns, which is why we need such honest friends to point out the obvious when we’re unable to see it!

As I was in my car a few days later, talking to another friend about these reflections I joked about how it would just be easier if we could shout out “BULLSH*T” when we thought someone was blindsided by their emotions. She laughed and asked “Then why don’t we?” as she picked up a handy business card that was lying around in the front of the car, only the psychologist Dr Jenn’s business card (how appropriate for my psychologist friend to be the BS card when she has called me out on multiple BS’s this year)! Thus the concept of the BS card was born.

The thing about using a card to call out someone’s BS is that it can be used really objectively, and is thus less likely to be taken personally. However delivery here is still key and with my friends, I request for the use of a BS card before delving into the reason for using it. I still find though, by actually using a card and by approaching the situation in this way that it creates an objective space where two people can observe and dicect a situation without getting too emotionally involved. This creates more honesty and an objective learning opportunity based on the feedback received, bypassing any pain received through pervied judgement or blame that may have otherwise surfaced.

Getting to this level of authenticity in my friendships has strengthened the bonds between us and I know that anything and everything, no matter how shameful or tragic, can be aired in this space. It’s also helping me create the kind of authentic compassion that I want my post trauma life to be centered around, and the kind that I want to spread out into the World.

I want to create a world of greater wellbeing for ourselves and the planet that we live on. That’s why I’m starting an honest conversation about wellbeing; encompassing self care, emotional intelligence, body and mind awareness, personal development, and authenticity. If you want to learn more about these subjects then then head over to www.shereensoliman.com to find out more about the packages I offer.

Sending self care vibes,

Shereen x

New Sketch! Pulling out of Negativity

When I asked a friend recetly why she didn’t tell me how bad a negative state she was in, she replied that she didn’t want to pull me down into her pit in case we both couldn’t get out. I get this, it’s the whole ‘Tree’ sketch all over, however as I explained to my friend, it is my responsibility to enforce my boundaries and that if  I’m unable to deal with her situation then I can at least signpost some of our other friends her way who are in a healthy mindset and have the strength to pull her out of the negativity. Even if it takes more than one person (I know sometimes it has with me when I’ve been in my darkest times) isn’t this what friends are for – to pull each other up when we’re down?

I want to create a world of greater wellbeing for ourselves and the planet that we live on. That’s why I’m starting an honest conversation about wellbeing; encompassing self care, emotional intelligence, body and mind awareness, personal development, and authenticity. If you want to learn more about these subjects then then head over to www.shereensoliman.com to find out more about the packages I offer.

Sending self care vibes,

Shereen x

Can Traditional Chinese Acupuncture Assist in the Release of Emotional and Physical Pain?

I’ve had acupuncture before at a physiotherapist clinic and for the most part, it was good. It certainly helped me release some physical tension in my body and relaxed me somewhat but when I had Traditional Chinese Acupuncture, the effect was something completely different.

I stumbled across a good acupuncturist in Bali and for some reason the first time I came across him, I didn’t end up booking a session but when I ended up in his presence again (at Hubud, a co-working space in Ubud, Bali) I decided that this might be a sign and I booked a session – trusting my intuition here was the best thing I did because this treatment at that time brought around a whole mindset change. My Therapist for this session was Ben Elan who’s services include Narrative Counselling and Classic Chinese Medicine (Acupuncture and Cupping). He offers a very holistic care service with talk therapy, and energy work based on the intuition and agreement of client and therapist, the way I believe all therapies should be.

My review is set into three parts – description of the session, how I felt directly before and after the four sessions and my overall review.

The sessions

There were four sessions in total and they were spaced over a course of 4 weeks with a week between treatments. The first session lasted 90 minutes and involved a thorough consultation period, where I explained the physical pain on my left side, how long it had been there, significant life events, and of course the most recent traumatic events. Ben asked a series of questions and I answered them in as much detail as I could. As I’ve talked out the traumas and my life events so much I’m quite happy and open to explain everything and give a therapist as much information as they need so that they can use their experience and knowledge to assess how best to treat me.  After the initial 90 minute session, the following 3 sessions they took on average 60 minutes each, as the consultation period was more of a review of what had happened in the last week since the last session, however we would usually find that some additional life information would pop up and provide more of an insight to Ben and his decision of how to treat me for that session. Following the consultation period, I would lie on the massage couch, on my back while Ben took my pulse on both of my wrists one at a time. This usually took about 5 minutes per wrist and would give him an idea of how my energy was running through my body – not being an expert in Traditional Chinese Medicine I don’t have much of a clue what this means, but when he explained to me what he could feel my pulse his assessments were a clear representation of how I felt inside. For example he explained that he could feel a haze, which is normal after trauma because it’s a way of protecting the body. That falls in toe with how I would sometimes feel completely numb to certain things, as though I was unable to access certain feelings. After this, Ben would tell me how many needles he would like to use and where he would like to place them and then he asked me if this was ok with me. Of course, it was, that’s what I was there for but it felt very empowering as a client to be asked if this was ok, something I always appreciate.

There were never more than five needles used and the number of needles depended on my current state of mind, my pulse and what Ben believed was safe and appropriate for that session. During one appointment he only used two needles because he was concerned that I might have a strong reaction if I had more than that, which wouldn’t be good if I wasn’t ready for it. “It’s like if you pull a scab off that’s not really healed underneath yet, the wound will just scab over again” he said. I liked that analogy and he was spot on because even with two needles I had a strong reaction after that session. It was a positive strong reaction but it felt very powerful, three needles might have overwhelmed me.

For those who haven’t had acupuncture before and might be concerned about the needles, I can assure you that they don’t hurt more than a light scratch. They’re not the type of needles used in syringes; in fact they’re a lot thinner, at most they feel like a scratch when they penetrate the skin and then there’s a somewhat dull ache when the needle hits an energy point. The needles would usually stay in for about 20 minutes, and then Ben would remove them and ask if I’d like a glass of water. Just like all therapies, it’s important to drink plenty of water to flush out toxins in the body once the energy (physical or meridian) has been moved around. After the session, we would usually have a chat about what I might expect to feel and he would assure me that I could contact him if I felt unsure about anything, which was really reassuring.

Throughout the four sessions Ben worked on a variety of things and having a sequence of sessions with one practitioner was really beneficial because we could reflect on how I’d felt the week after the treatment. During the first session he concentrated on my general energy flow and placed needles accordingly to see how I would react, I felt fine straight after and very relaxed that evening. During the second session he started to get a bit more strategically, I guess he had a good idea of how I was reacting to the acupuncture. For this session he concentrated on my left side on the pain that I regularly experience – the ‘heart protector’ area because the muscles there seemed tight and overworked (can you blame me after the year I’ve had??). After this session I was quite emotional and did have a few strong emotional releases throughout the week following this appointment. On the third session he simply placed two needles on my right wrist and elbow to help open up my heart energy flow and this is where I had the strong reaction. Straight after I was full of energy and in a very positive mood which lasted for quite a few days before I then had a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, but I felt physically less tense and happy within myself, something which I had lost in all the numbness. The final session was a more of a general session to get my energy flowing and I also had some suction cups on my back because I was experiencing the beginning of a cold. Suction cups apparently help rid the body of toxins. After the final session I felt sleepy and exhausted, but that was probably more because I was becoming ill rather than the acupuncture, however processing all those emotions, at that intensity and speed probably was starting to tire me out after four weeks.

Pre-session sense check – (20 April 2016, the day before my first session)

Physically – At the start of the four sessions, I still had the grappling pain on my left side. The pain would stem from the back of my neck, across my shoulder, spreading across the front and back of my chest, under my arm and down my left arm, down to my ring finger. I’ve had the pain on and off for about 6 years, which was about the time that I started to feel unsupported emotionally (this ties in perfectly with what Louise Hay’s book You Can Heal Your Life has to say). It goes on and off but intensifies at times when I feel vulnerable or scared. Generally, I felt a little fatigued at the start of the 4 weeks but that’s something I was coming to accept after experiencing the emotional traumas – processing is exhausting.

Emotionally – I still felt like I was in a bit of a flux emotionally. Ok one minute then not the next, confused most of the time as to whether I was feeling clear headed or not, and in general still a little numb sometimes. During the time I was having the acupuncture sessions I was in a period of ‘time out’ to specifically work on process things as they came up and working on accepting and expressing my emotions. I was knee deep in a messy process and I wasn’t sure when I was going to be done so I was just taking things one day at a time, and Bali allows for this which I am grateful for.

Post session feeling – (23 May 2016 – 3 weeks after my final session date, 2 May 2016)

Physically – It was during the third session that I felt a physical release in my left shoulder. I had two needles in my right arm and they were placed strategically to help open up my heart – the physical pain that I was experiencing was from my heart being tightly protected (and who could blame me after everything that I’d been through). I remember this session vividly because after it I was full of energy and I felt like a whole weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I felt light again and I had forgotten what it felt to be like that, that pain that used to come on and off over the last 6 years has dissipated completely and it’s remarkable to feel so free from it.

Emotionally – Just before the last session of acupuncture I remember feeling like I was just bored of my trauma story now. I had a complete mind shift in the last week of the acupuncture sessions (and last week in Bali) and I felt like I was making decisions with a clearer mind, one that wasn’t so muddled up by emotional stories playing scare tactics in my brain. A mind that wasn’t fogged by emotions, judgements and should I or shouldn’t I. Since the last session I have felt more open, refreshed and comfortable in my own skin to the point where I feel like I can be here for others – a state which I haven’t felt for a long time.

Overall

I was having the acupuncture sessions during my last month in Bali and it was a time when I had decided to stay in one place and work through my emotions, so as well as having the acupuncture I was also talking through a lot of things, dancing and expressing myself creatively. However, I know that acupuncture has a strong effect on me and I think it was the tool that I needed to help speed up my recovery journey and get me to the point where I felt empowered to move forward to the next chapter of my life, whatever that may be (stay tuned). As well as working with a therapy that I know I respond to, a lot of this also comes down to the therapist and in this case I couldn’t have asked for someone more intuitive or safe than Ben. He has an air about him which creates a space of emotional safety and I could feel this from the moment that I met him, almost like that comforting feeling of someone you trust placing their hand on your shoulder. I found him to be professional and supportive throughout the treatments and the ability for him to hold space for himself and for me, his client was something that he was able to do very successfully. This is extremely important as a therapist because without this security then I client cannot relax into their hands, inhibiting their own recovery by holding back. Ben allowed me to feel safe enough to express my emotions and vulnerabilities fully, which I know aided my response to the treatment even more.

Acupuncture worked for me and I was lucky enough to find a very intuitive therapist which is key to any treatment. It’s something that is worth exploring and I would highly recommend it for someone who is going through any emotional or physical pain. Going to an acupuncturist who is also a trained counsellor was also very beneficial. I’m unsure as to whether all Traditional Chinese Acupuncturists are trained in counselling but it is definitely worthwhile finding one who is and arranging to have a series of sessions to allow for sense checking and reflections. Check out my 3 step guide to finding the right therapist if you’re ready to start your own healing journey.

I want to create a world of greater wellbeing for ourselves and the planet that we live on. That’s why I’m starting an honest conversation about wellbeing; encompassing self care, emotional intelligence, body and mind awareness, personal development, and authenticity. If you want to learn more about these subjects then then head over to www.shereensoliman.com to find out more about the packages I offer.

Sending self care vibes,

Shereen x