3 Habits To Drop In The Quest For More Meaningful Relationships

I often get funny looks when I talk about personal development, human behaviour or emotional intelligence. As though these subjects are some kind of taboo, when really it’s the study of what we’re doing, how we’re doing it and most importantly, how we can do better. In fact, it boggles my mind that so many people go about their lives with a lack of awareness of their behaviour and how they can improve it. I mean discussing these are the things actually help us engage in more authentic and meaningful relationships. Why wouldn’t we discuss them? Craziness. Well, it’s probably because acknowledging these subjects would highlight the amount of work each of us needs to do on ourselves, which in an instant gratification society isn’t the most pleasing scenario. In fact, we’ve run away from it for so long that now that there are some common bad habits that stop us engaging in meaningful relationships all together. Here are 3 habits to become aware of (and limit) if you want to move towards engaging with more meaningful relationships.

  1. Watching TV for the sake of watching TV

Personally I’m not much of a TV watcher, in fact it’s very rare for me to sit in front of the TV unless I intentionally want to watch something. I mean, of course I get watching TV for inspirational films, or documentaries, or even just to chill out for an evening every once in a while. But to watch it unnecessary every evening, just to flick through the channels rather than engage in conversation or go out and do something meaningful is eventually destructive to our social skills. TV itself isn’t bad, but the overuse of it has lead to a lack of engagement between people to the point where we are losing the skills to communication. Skills that are necessary for us to successfully progress in our personal and professional life. Aside from that, I think the whole concept of mindlessly watching TV is kind of bizarre. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me. But I can’t help wonder why would I pay to sit inside and watch people pretend to be other people in fictional situations when I can go into a crowded place and watch real life unfold for free? Or when I can talk at length and in depth to people and reflect with them about our own crazy-ass situations. Analysing, debriefing and picking up the lessons we learn from our own lives. Mind-boggling.

  1. Getting drunk into the abyss, frequently.

I realise that this is predominantly an English, American and Australian trait as I’ve found that many European and Asian cultures drink for taste rather than effect. It may be relevant to other cultures too – I haven’t travelled everywhere so I wouldn’t know. My question is – why do we do this? Could it be to escape the mind? To numb the mind from particular thoughts? Negative thoughts, inquisitive thoughts or just an overload of pecking thoughts. I think drinking is often used as a subconscious coping strategy to escape ourselves, under the rouse of excuses such as ‘I just drink to have fun’ or ‘but everyone else does’. When people tell me that they don’t drink to escape themselves and that they could stop at any moment, I ask them to challenge themselves to stop drinking for a month, cold-turkey. I mean stopping anything for a month is surely a personal challenge worth taking to watch our progress in life isn’t it? At least to make sure that we’re not being controlled by the mental addiction to a substance that’s messing up the body in the meantime. The thing is that the thoughts we avoid talking about are the thoughts that many of us have, and admitting them is what can help create the connections between us. These thoughts can be what bridge together our vulnerabilities which is where deep and meaningful relationships are connected. Avoiding them literally builds barriers between us, but you don’t have to take this from me Brené Brown did 13 years of PhD research on this very subject which is pretty credible evidence in my opinion.

  1. Not saying exactly what we mean.

What is this about? When did talking so honestly become so offensive? I get told all the time that I’m too direct – really? Or is it that I’m just pointing out the obvious which no one else wants to because they’re cloaked in subconscious fear of not getting validation from the people they’re talking to? I find it really strange that people are so scared of speaking the truth, their truth. Sometimes it even gets to the point where families, friendships and whole organisations can swim around in so much bullsh*t that everyone sees yet no one points out. Then when an honest person does come about everyone gets offended when they’re told the truth. This is a hilarious observation that I make often and it makes me feel like I’m watching a sitcom from the 80’s – with the overacting facial expressions from the audience because it seems that obscene to me. The thing is that when the truth is spoken, it provides feedback. This feedback causes a reflection on the current situation, the opportunity to view problems, talk about solutions and allows for a discussion of how things can be done better. It’s necessary for our human progression and, yes, you guessed it, meaningful relationships because the truth often lies within our vulnerabilities. Or we can keep swimming in the bullsh*t, never actually saying anything meaningful and looking clueless when something goes wrong. Strange human behaviour if you ask me.

Personally I believe that something deeper lies beneath these actions and the clues are in our subconscious emotions. We need to ask why are we escaping through the TV rather than engaging with each other? Why are we choosing to drink ourselves into the abyss so regularly? And why do we avoid speaking the truth, even when we know it’s right? The sooner we start finding out the better, because in the meantime our meaningful relationships are at stake.

The real knack is being able to catch out your own behaviour in your emotion and have the awareness to choose your reaction in a mindful way.  Kind of sounds like something out of the matrix right? Apart from it’s not, it’s just awareness and emotional intelligence. The very tools that help us take control of the steering wheel of our life, surely isn’t that motivation enough to at least question our habits?

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

Photo Credit Michael Ramey

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Three Life Lessons From Growing Out of Trauma

  1. Life is precious.

One day you are going to die.

I am going to die.

It could be tomorrow by getting hit by a bus, it could be in 20 years time with a horrible illness but the truth of the matter is that one day I will be a lifeless, cold, corpse and everything will be over.

Yes, this is pretty morbid, especially as most of my posts are bringing messages of ‘yes you can conquer anything, love life to the full etc’ but that joyful message doesn’t hit home as hard as the realisation that we are all going to die someday, life is short. Embrace it.

While thinking about that, ask yourself these questions:

  1. If you dropped dead right now would you be happy with how you’ve spent your life?
  2. Did you chase your dreams?
  3. Did you tell the people you love often enough?
  4. Were you happy with what you achieved?

If the answer to any of these questions is no then I seriously insist that you explore these questions more and ask yourself what the hell are you doing with your life?

We can often get wrapped up in the nitty gritty of life, and I get it, we’ve all got our things to do, got to pay the bills right? When you’ve come through a life threatening situation though, you see things a little differently and it’s as though you really see what matters.

I remember when I experienced this mindset change quite vividly. There was a poignant moment during the attack that I seriously thought “I am going to be raped, murdered and then left here to rot”. This was the exact moment that I seemed to spring into life. As though something inside me said “No fucking way”. It was the moment that I pulled out all the stops to get out of that situation, and I did get out of it. I survived and I’m here writing about it today. That situation was the scariest thing that has happened to me in my entire life and it has brought me a whole load of uninvited emotions that I otherwise wouldn’t have experienced. They weren’t pleasant and I would never wish for someone to go through something as horrific as having to literally fight for their survival or to experience the rickershay of emotions that pop up at every trigger in the aftermath – the panic, the fear, the depression, the shame, the guilt, I could go on. However, without this experience I wouldn’t have the perspective I do now, so I’m passing this message on to you. We only have one life, don’t take it for granted.

  1. Fear is a signpost for growth

Fear is a funny thing, sometimes I know it’s there and I can really feel the terror, the butterflies, the anxiety – like I’m going to physically vomit  because of it, and then sometimes I can’t feel it at all but it’s there lingering in the background controlling my thoughts and actions behind my subconscious state. The second type of fear is the most debilitating, it’s the unconscious state of fear that causes us to disengage in a relationship, cause arguments to create distance and generally provoke negative actions in a way to protect ourselves.

What I’ve come to realise as I unpick the triggers in my post trauma state is that every negative reaction we have usually comes from fear. That means any judgment or blame towards others, the avoidance of a particular subject/person, numbness, suppression or outright anger – all of these deflection techniques are the ego’s way of protecting us when we’re in a state of fear. When we become aware of this and we can see the ego’s behaviour it becomes easier to question it and find out why the fear is there in the first place and from my own experience I’ve found that underneath fear are almost always signposts for growth.

In a recent situation where I was starting to become vulnerable with a man I found myself judging, blaming and becoming angry with him, I didn’t even realise that I was doing it until a friend pointed this out to me. So I decided to address it like all my other triggers. When I did this, at first I found myself in tears. I was terrified. I was scared that if I let someone into that vulnerable emotional space that something awful was going to happen to me and that I would experience all the emotions from heartbreak, attempted rape and the death of someone close all over again. I desperately did not want to feel all those emotions in that intensity again and I was terrified that this situation was headed that way. Having got to know my triggers very well, I know that they create a whole world of illogical scenarios in my head based on a couple of situations in my life and during those moments of fear I remember what those scenarios feel like which causes me to back out fast. The reality though, is very different because the past doesn’t determine the future and the trick is to remind myself of this reality when I’m experiencing what feel like very real occurrences. Practising that continuously is what has allowed me to grow out of trauma in to a more authentic and stronger person than I was before. The next time you find yourself bearing way from something, as yourself why? If it comes down to fear then it could be an opportunity for growth too.

  1. Communicating that we don’t know how to feel is the first step to connecting

Anyone who knows about Brene Brown’s research on shame and vulnerability will already know that vulnerability is where human connections thrive. I’ve watched her TED talks, I’d read the books but what I hadn’t done is really practiced what she preached when it came to vulnerability and to be honest it’s because I wasn’t aware that I didn’t know how to be vulnerable. To be completely honest, I thought I knew all about vulnerability before I experienced my traumas but in reality I was running away from all negative feelings in my very privileged and somewhat entitled life, without the awareness that I was running. So when I was faced with so many difficult situations I got to experience first-hand what she meant in The Power of Vulnerability, especially when she explains about those vulnerable moments:

  • Making that phone call to the relative who just lost someone, even though you have no idea what to say
  • Telling someone you love them, without knowing if they feel the same
  • Admitting to someone you care about that you did something wrong and that you’re sorry

What all these situations do is communicate our feelings at the times when it’s the hardest because those are the times when it matters the most. When I was on the receiving end of these situations I appreciated the friends who called me and said “I don’t know what to say”, over those who just avoided me altogether because we could at least converse over the fact that neither of us knew how to deal with the situation which meant we were in it together. I also did this with the vulnerable situation where I acted reactively with the guy I previously mentioned, after I had become vulnerable. I explained that I was terrified and that I didn’t know how to handle the situation and because of that I had pushed him away. In both these situations I found that communicating the very observation of the feeling led to me becoming a lot closer with these people and that is the start of practicing vulnerability.

All our life experiences give us a choice. The choice to deal with them, learn and grow from them or the choice to shut off, avoid and live in a life of safe guards. For me, the latter meant that I would give up the nomadic lifestyle which was the very thing that made me feel alive, so I had to find away to grow out of it or I knew that I faced a life locked in silent misery, clouded by apathy and an inability to connect with other people. Urgh, no thanks.

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

Therapy Review – Ecstatic dance Ubud

Therapy Review – Ecstatic dance Ubud

It’s undeniable that dance is a therapy. In terms of exercise it releases a lot of tension in the body which builds up endorphins, music can also bring up your vibration frequency and, well it just makes me feel good really.

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

The session

I’ve been to the ecstatic dance at the Akasha villa in Ubud a couple of times and the crowd never ceases to surprise me, it’s always full of vibrant and colourful people. The last time I went there was a man dressed as a unicorn and almost the whole crowd was wearing glitter or a face paint of sorts.

The dance is held in the beautiful Askasa villa about a 20 minute scooter ride out of the centre of Ubud (where the palace is) and as I walk in I’m greeted with a sacred smudging ritual. Whilst I stand there the man in front of me ceremonially waves a smouldering piece of wood from my head to my feed, ask me to turn around and then do the same thing from feet to head on the back of my body.

I walk up the path and to the left is a fire, alight in a large metal bowl. Directly in front of the fire is the swimming pool, complete with flowing waterfalls and a pagoda which some artists are using as their painting studio.

I can hear the music playing loud as I enter the main dance room of the villa, that’s where the DJ is; happy, engaged and whispering the occasional motivating sentences into the microphone. The villa is huge and the music can be heard from all around. Through the dance room is an archway that leads through to another large space. On the right are some steps which lead to another dancing space where at the back a man is serving tea with a blessing of sorts. On the left of the archway is a large couch which actually sinks into the floor, so I can literally step down into it. I guess it’s for dancers to rest if they get tired feet.

As I was past the couch, the double doors open up to some stepping stones right in front of me which are set in a beautiful natural water feature. They lead down to an enclosure which keeps a monkey on the left and a bamboo dome on the right, which is an exclusive naturally build bedroom. During the dances the bamboo dome is usually occupied, and off limits to dancers, but I’m lucky enough to have been inside during the daytime and I can assure you, it’s absolutely beautiful.

Ecstatic dance is a sober affair, on sale you can find vegetarian food, coconut water and raw food chocolate but there is no alcohol, no drugs and I rarely see anyone smoking, well not smoking cigarettes. All in all it’s a very holistic affair. It’s a place where anyone and everyone can feel free who be who they want to be. Want to wear glitter and do a yoga dance on your head in the pagoda? Go for it. Want to bop around subtly to some tunes in plane shorts and a baseball cap? Feel welcomed. It really is for all and the premise is just to dance. Just feel comfortable and dance, and what a therapy it is too. I can’t say for sure what the music type is because it’s a mix and it changes, but throughout the night there’s something for everyone. Whether you’re into house music, reggae, rock, jazz or anthems. It’s a good variety of beats to dance to. Also for those who don’t want to dance, you can soak in the pool, chill on the sofas or just chat to someone whilst sipping some coconut water. However I decided to approach this as a therapy, so for me it was the dancing that I explored.

As expected I felt anxious when I arrived. There are a lot of people this time and being surrounded by a lot of people these days brings up an anxiety in me, an anxiety that actually almost caused me to leave until a friend sat me down and stayed with me through that discomfort.

This fear sets off a negative chat in my head, and the battle to overcome it cane become challenging because all I really want to do is leave. Leave because of fear. But, fear of what? It’s the ‘fear of what’ conversation that helped me shake it off. I mean, I’m at a sober ecstatic dance in Ubud, spiritual centre of the Universe and I’m here with a group of friends – really what is the worst that’s going to happen? Even if I decided to strip naked on the dance floor, loudly confess my undying love for a randomer then do a serpent dance to the exit in rage-tears I seriously think everyone around me would just carry on doing their own thing as though all of that was completely normal behaviour. Some may even join in to help me embrace my emotional state, or sincerely cheer me on from the edges of the dance floor. As I realised this with my friend, I laughed. Ecstatic dance in Ubud wasn’t the place I needed to fear judgement of others. Acknowledging that highlighted that judgement was another trigger for me, another trigger that needed to be unravelled and reframed and what better time than now?

With a little pep talk and a few tokes on a walk-by shisha I was able to suck in my inner shakes and get on the dance floor, even if for me that can sometimes mean just swaying from side to side until I get into it. It’s one of those things where I know it will do me good in the long run and although it’s scary and difficult to climb over that barrier of fear, it must be done anyway.

By the end of the evening I was in full swing dancing and managed to stay until the end of the night.

Pre-session sense check (30 May 2016, 3pm –  1 hour before leaving for ecstatic dance)

Emotionally – I feel quite anxious. I’m excited for ecstatic dance because I love the dance aspect but at the same time I know there will be some triggers for me to deal with, and with them my own judgements and fear of being judged. I also know that all of this is in my head and it’s stupid, then I need to not beat myself up for being stupid – there’s a lot to deal with today. I’m generally in high spirits and I feel quite clear headed. I also feel very motivated today too and I know that I can shake off the anxiety, I just need to get myself to the dance.

Physically – the anxiety is like a flutter in my chest and stomach. It’s not too unpleasant and it’s not that strong but it’s still there, just a general sense of discomfort really. Apart from that I’m feeling good in my body. The pain in my shoulder is pretty much none existent these days, I feel healthy and alert.

Post-session sense check (30 May 2016, 12 midnight –  1 hour after returning from ecstatic dance)

Emotionally – I feel quite drained because I think that I worked through a lot of inner judgement at the dance. I also had a lot of triggers from the attack come up – fast movements in the dark because at one point there was some very active dancing. I persisted to stay and dance, even the moments when I didn’t feel comfortable in myself and this gives me a sense of achievement but I’m also tired and ready to relax.

Physically – I feel a head cold coming on, my head is foggy and I’m sneezing. I’m not surprised at this because physically and emotionally over the last few weeks I’ve released a lot of emotion so this is probably a sign that my body is ready for a rest, hence putting me out of action. Conversely I also feel quite energised, like the way you sometimes feel after a work out, strangely tired but energised at the same time. It’s a nice feeling, and there’s some purity to it because I spent the evening drinking coconut water and dancing in a beautiful setting.

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

An Open Letter to All Therapists

I originally wrote this article for the Good Men Project, but I wanted to post it on my blog because I think it highlights a few important issues that my generation face when it comes to therapy – that some of the most ‘experienced’ aren’t always the most connected, and in fast moving times like these that is a real hindrance to clients.

Dear Therapist,

The World is different these days. I am in an abundance of information and I have instant access to it at the drop of the hat. I am constantly bombarded with messages, day and night that drown out my inner voice. I’m in a state of emotional hypersensitivity and I am terrified about it. At best I am coping. Safeguarding, by locking out all depth of emotion so as not to show my true self, because I am different, I am the problem. Or so I believe.

But I am different. Inside me is my authentic voice which is stifled underneath the messages of marketing material, rules from outdated religions, and educational systems that consistently tell me that what I feel is wrong. For decades, they have told me that I am not good enough. That I’m a failure. That I should fit in the boxes and be perfect. It’s what they told my parents generation and some of them believed it. Some took the pills and numbed out. Some locked away their inner voice and the ‘crazy’ emotions that went with it. Some of them believed that they were the problem.

But I am different. Whilst there is the voice inside me that tells me I’m not good enough,. There is another voice inside me that is fighting to be heard. Fighting against the messages of the American dream and the scared egos of those who are killing themselves in the belief of it. The ones who shut down my voice, in fear of having their own exposed. The older generation that tell me I should take some anti-depressants, not wallow and not be so openly vulnerable. The younger generation that freeze in fear when I talk so openly, hoping that I don’t see the scars on their arms that expose the evidence that they’re fighting the same battle. My peer group when they become awkward, deciding whether or not they will confess that they too have these feelings and thoughts of injustice. That there is the faint light of an internal revolution ready to fire up and fight out against this gorilla warfare.

When I confess these ideas, thoughts and analyses to you, they may sound different. They may come from a source of information that wasn’t around during your studies of Psychology. They may be the silent voices that went unspoken in your peer group.  They may be the same words that you once heard but denied and now sit in the pit of your stomach, defeated.

Our World is different from when you studied Psychology. It’s different from 10 years ago. It’s different from 10 minutes ago and I am moving at the fast pace that it is changing. I am fighting the pull to numb out. I am fighting the temptation to lock away, but today I am tired of fighting and I am coming to you for sanction. I am coming to be heard and it is your job to listen. To hear my own voice through your fears and accept that you too, are different. That in this difference we stand together, but at difference paces because of the cultural times that have birthed us. Please accept that my journey may be moving faster than yours because of the access and speed of the propelling information that I am fighting against. That I may have sourced tools from toolboxes that weren’t readily available to you. I am different because the world is different and the tools that have worked so efficiently for other generations might not work for me, because trust me, I’ve already tried them. What I need is for you to help me find new tools and to join me on this path of discovery because I am exhausted from fighting alone.

I am in your chair today asking not to be judged by the differences that my path presents you. Or to be criticised when I fall down the hills that I am trying to climb. I am just asking that you accompany me on my journey and acknowledge that it exists. That it exists in a world of people that constantly tell me that it doesn’t, just because it rises so steep into the clouds that to simply acknowledge it, scares them. I need you accompany me on it, because I know that at the end of it, there is a reward and that the reward will be worth the journey, no matter how hard it gets. That is why I am in your chair today.

Regards,

The new generation of thinkers.

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

‘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

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

Therapy Review: A Week at Osho Leela on the Community Experience Program

Whilst exploring therapies in Bali a friend told me about a place back home in the UK which he strongly recommended I visit if I was seriously interested in therapy exploration. I remember at first, thinking that some of the things that he told me sounded a little bit strange and initially my reaction was something like ‘a community experience at some spiritual centre? No thanks’ but as he told me more about Osho Leela and their no bullsh*t approach I began to become intrigued and I booked myself on a one week of the Community Experience Program. That one week really opened my eyes to an integral and authentic approach to self-development, with the kind of realism that I’ve been craving as I work on my own trauma recovery.

Osho Leela is a community in Dorset which runs workshops on a variety of subjects all to do with personal growth. Concurrently they run a Community Experience Program which is an opportunity to experience living in the community and doing certain exercises (active meditations) as well as working on house and ground upkeep as a affordable way of exploring personal growth, which is an amazing opportunity for those who can’t afford to do expensive workshops or therapy sessions but are committed to working on themselves.

The Osho Leela centre is a mixture of Osho teachings and Humaniversity therapy, basically, the combination of inner recognition with a psychological realism approach served on a plate of honest integrity. What do I mean by that I hear you ask? Well, I mean no fluffy spirituality talk shoved down your throat on the promise that all your inner conflict will be fixed by doing a few workshops or meditations. They’re authentic with the message that if you want to look inside yourself and grow as a person then they will provide the safe environment and opportunity but as with all personal growth work, the actual work comes down to the individual.

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

Osho Leela

The Week

New Community Experience Program members (CEPs) arrive on Sunday afternoon and they’re greeted into the community by a long term community member with the usual introductions, why you’re here kind of conversation and just a general get to know each other. There were four of us, and everyone had either been here for a workshop or had been to an Osho centre before… apart from me, who as usual was just rocking up to try something out for the sheer fun of exploration. Exploring the inner self and all its scary dark shadows? Sign me up!

The CEP program has a working schedule made up of three mandatory meditations on weekdays, two of which are usually active meditation and one 30 minute vipassana. The active meditations are usually before breakfast and in the afternoon, with the vipassana typically before lunch. On the weekends the schedule usually doesn’t have the active meditations because the rooms are being used for workshops, but that doesn’t stop the organisers holding an impromptu dance rave ‘meditation’ on a Sunday evening for those with bubbling energy that needs expending.

As well as the meditations there is a morning meeting every day which starts with a gentle dance (which I am now of the opinion that this is the best way to start any meeting and also just a great way to start the day). After the dance, there’s general meeting-y kind of topics which are discussed, a welcome to new CEP’s and a goodbye to ones leaving and then everyone is released on to their work duties.

Throughout the week CEPs spend six hours a day up-keeping the house and the grounds, that can be anything from cutting the hedges or cleaning the bathrooms, through to cooking for up to 30 people. It gives the general community experience of everyone looking out for each other and understanding that we all have a vested interest in the upkeep of such a beautiful house so that it can be used for workshops that undoubtedly offset the cost of a very reasonable personal growth program. I’ve lived in communities before, mainly when I’ve taken part in volunteer or student opportunities and when they’re run well, like the Osho Leela one is, it leaves you with a sense of appreciation for hard work and pride in what you’ve accomplished. Even if it is just hoovering the stairs, making it look nice and clean is really gratifying.

Apart from the normal program, Wednesday is community day and that’s where the schedule changes. May I introduce you to the AUM meditation: Awareness, Understanding, and Meditation. This meditation is taken from the humaniversity side of Osho Leela and it’s a 1 & ½ hour session that explores 14 aspects of the human experience: hatred, forgiveness, love, stamina, life energy, chaos, dance, sadness, laughter, sensuality, chanting, silence, respect and sharing (humanaversity.com). To put it bluntly, it’s like speed dating with your emotions and as with any kind of dating, the best connections are made when you put shame aside and put all your effort in. It’s intense and it allows you to really shine a light into your dark shadows where some uncomfortable home truths might be hiding, but all within a safe and supportive environment, check out the full review here. After the AUM there was shower time – there are lots of showers breaks at Osho Leela because the active meditations make for very sweaty volunteers, but it’s because it feels a little like a cleansing ritual every time. Later on, in the day we had a group sharing which is an opportunity to confidentially talk about where you’re at and how you feel to the group. It’s also an opportunity for the organisers (who are also therapists) can give some guidance, much like any therapist would, which is insightful. It was also really beneficial to explore each emotion in the morning, reflect upon this and then openly share it with a group and two therapists because after the AUM I seemed to be a lot more in touch with how I was feeling, which was, in fact, a huge numbness. Like a haze that had been stirred up and was now waiting to lift. I can imagine that this kind of group sharing/therapy session is very beneficial for people who stay on the CEP program for a long period of time because there is the opportunity to bring out emotion, discuss it in a session and reflect continuously with therapists who get to know you well enough to ask you the right questions to help you pull yourself out of your old tricks and patterns.

Throughout the working week, there were a variety of Osho and Humanversity meditations that I took part in. The Khundalini Meditation, which is a shaking meditation, The Dynamic Meditation, which explored 5 areas of expression, Bio Energetics Meditation which combined dance and bending exercises, Sacred Earth Meditation which was a predominantly dancing, and also the Gibberish Meditation, an Osho Meditation which is literally talking gibberish. I’ve never known a place where there is such great exposure to such a wide variety of personal growth exercises with such a realistic an authentic approach.

Pre-session sense check (6 June 2016, 2pm – Arrival at Osho Leela)

Emotionally – I feel anxious and very resistant to being in the place which I spent over 3 hours driving to. I’m not entirely sure what I’m getting myself into this week or whether I’m ready to deal with the ‘crazy’ emotions that I could be suppressing deep down. In my head there’s a ‘what the hell am I getting myself into?’ kind of question, as images of floaty hippy types appear in my head, telling me to ‘Just be’ and then the fear of my fiery Arabic nature arising and telling them to F-off… It’s an interesting stereotype that I hold against the spiritual community, and the judgement and resistance towards myself on this journey too. I know that this resistance and judgement is a signpost to explore something, a deeper fear maybe because I don’t want to deal with the discomfort of my own emotions or a huge fear of vulnerability. This realisation of inner fear is what stops me from turning the car around and running away, that and the realisation that if I did do this then those emotions would just come along with me anyway.

Physically – My shoulder is tensing up and there was a definite stiffening up in my body as I drove down here but generally, I’m feeling quite awake and alert and I’ve been eating healthy food all day which is probably the reason for this. I’m also well rested so apart from tensing, my body generally feels in good health. There is a feeling of butterflies in my solar plexus, like a gut reaction of fear. It’s kind of like nerves butterflies but not the good kind, the kind that makes you feel a little nauseous but will gently fade away if ignored… Ignored for now at least.

Post-session sense check (13 June 2016, 4pm – Arrival back home)

Emotionally – I feel energised and empowered. I feel like I explored a lot about myself and my inner emotions this week and it’s left me feeling more accepting of myself. It’s difficult to put my finger on it but I feel free to be my authentic self and if people don’t like that then that’s ok, they’re not my kind of people so they can bugger off and make way for those who are.

Physically – My body is tired but also energised, which is weird because these two feelings seem to contradict each other but the best I can explain it is the feeling you have after a really good workout. Throughout the week I had to take some hour long naps, especially on the 4th and 5th day and I think this was because of the emotional processing, it just exhausted my body and I had to sleep to replenish my energy.

Overall

At Osho Leela, they are upfront about what they deliver – an opportunity for people to go deeper into their inner-self – with the support of therapists who can hold that emotional space, should anything overwhelming arise. I think the thing that I felt most reassured by Osho Leela was the acknowledgment of humanity here – that the people leading it are also only human too and equally have desires and needs that must be met. For example, in one day we might take part in active meditations, reflections, and open conversations about our innermost vulnerable truths, all in the safety of the house. Then some of us would go to the pub for a drink whilst another group gathered together and watched some apparently important football match (no idea which one). This strength and integrity is refreshing to see and by feeling this comfortable it allowed me to go full throttle with the meditations, no matter how ‘strange’ they seemed at first (yes, I had judgements and resistance… I am at least only human too). So regardless of the voice of resistance in my body and mind I pushed through the discomfort and delved right in.

Having meditated consistently for well over a year now I feel like I have the ability to step out of my emotions and see them for what they are – sometimes. I find this process to be a skill that needs regular practice, with the acknowledgement that perfection of it is an illusion. The tools that I picked up from the Osho Meditations were how to fully feel, express and manage emotions so that I don’t numb out like Western society conditions us to. I believe that by going deeper into emotions we widen the spectrum of what we can feel, so by becoming accustomed to my deepest anger, fear and shame I can also feel ecstatic, love and joy to a deeper level too, leading to a more fulfilling life. I mean that’s the point of us being here right? To live life to the full? Well, that’s what I believe anyway.

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

When to Call it a Day With Your Therapist

We live in a bit of a ‘go to an expert to fix all my problems’ kind of culture and because of this I find that there can be a tendency to stay with a therapist longer than necessary or worse yet, stay with one that doesn’t necessarily help at all, yet because we’ve handed our power over them in the short-sighted belief that they can fix us we don’t even realise that we’re not getting better. Let me be clear about this – only you can heal yourself and it’s up to you to take that responsibility, find those tools (from the right therapists) and commit to doing that difficult work, yourself. I find that until this realisation is met many people spend a lot of time spiralling in avoidance and escapism spirals in the illusion that someone is healing them, when in reality only you can heal yourself. I know this because I experienced this first hand and had to call myself out on my own bullsh*t, but to do that takes awareness, reflection and courage, it wasn’t easy.

When I think about therapy, there are a lot of things at play here and ultimately the therapist is only human too so we have to see them for what they are – someone who provides tools for us to heal ourselves, whether that’s providing healing through massage for symptoms such as physical pain or a different perspective on how to think about life events. The role of a therapist isn’t to give the final fix solution and to think of them in this way is naive, like any other human, they might get it wrong or their judgement might get the better of them and this is ok (within reason) because they’re only human too. This isn’t to say that they should be allowed to work by sloppy practices, not at all. As long as they act professionally and try to do the best for the client with the tools that they have available to them I think it’s acceptable to acknowledge that they are on their own journey too, learning things and passing them on as they go. But ultimately the work that needs to be done remains within the responsibility of the client.

I’ve found that in order to really steer my recovery I had to keep asking myself a series of questions so that I didn’t get lost in the wishful thinking that x, y or z therapy was going to ‘heal me forever’ because that my friends, that, is delusional thinking. These are the questions that I use to sense-check my therapies and how they are currently working for me.

  1. Has this session made a positive influence on me?

If you read my therapy reviews you’ll notice that I do a physical and emotional sense check before and after each therapy review. By doing so I allow myself to check in with the current state, record them as they are, then I can go back to what I’ve written and objectively see whether or not the therapy was beneficial to me, rather than just rely on my (often rose-tinted) memory. If no positive difference has been made then you can choose to persist and see if you need a few more sessions to really get into it or consider that it may not be the one for you. If it’s positive, great! Stick with it for as long as you continue to get what you need from it.

  1. Am I still getting what I came here for?

Firstly what are you going to the particular therapy for? If you’re going to have your symptoms treated then regular sessions are probably useful and necessary, that’s how I use sports massages – a good way to manage the problem of my tense shoulder that is sometimes unbearably tight. However, if you’re looking to heal then it might help if therapy is seen as an opportunity to receive tools that help you solve your problems. I used my counselling sessions for both treatments of symptoms – I needed to vent in a non-judgemental space to release some pent up emotion but I also needed some objective viewpoint and knowledge of what might be happening in my brain to be able to understand, process and help myself in the reflection periods in between sessions. After quite a few sessions I reached a point where I felt like I’d attained all the tools that I needed from this counsellor and that particular therapy. It was the signpost that I didn’t need any more sessions, for then at least. I take comfort in the fact that I know a good counsellor who knows my baggage and can be there for more sessions as and when I need them for now though I feel quite capable of processing on my own and I know this comes from a place of reassurance, rather than fear of what’s in my subconscious.

  1. What does my intuition say?

Ultimately all therapists are only human and are still susceptible to human traits, such as mistakes, misjudgements and their own emotions. The most important role of a therapist is to create the security for you to be able to get what you need from them, whether that is emotional security in a meditation workshop, physical security in salon environment or psychological security in a counselling session. If you don’t feel safe then you won’t be able to indulge in the therapy. I found however, that the fear can either be a resistance to the therapy for fear of expression (usually because of the shame that our society associates with expression of emotion) or that it’s a legit message from my intuition that is telling me that this person/therapy isn’t right for me at this moment. I always air how I feel now and give the therapist the opportunity to make me feel secure, just in case it’s my own worry of what I’m too shameful to let go of, which most of the time it is. If the therapists answer fills me with integrity and security then I know that it was a fear of vulnerability/expression popping up but it’s always worth sense-checking this because I have had a few experiences where I’ve not been satisfied with the answer and I’ve upped and left the therapy altogether.

For example, my first experience with a counsellor after the attack was not positive but I fought my intuition and went back a second time and this time I told the counsellor of my expectations – of being able to get on a boat in 4 weeks time and sail from the UK to Mallorca, in winter, with three men I’d never met before. The answer I received rang alarm bells for me to change counsellor, it was “I would never recommend for any young woman to get on a boat across tricky waters with three strange men, let alone in the state that you’re in”. What happened here was that the counsellor had measured me by her own limitations when in reality our risk factors and capabilities are completely different. As a trained counsellor, she should have been able to extract her judgement from her professional opinion but she didn’t.  This is actually pretty bad practice for a counsellor and I hope that she has the mindfulness to reflect on this, and why I ultimately cancelled all our future sessions, however, I also recognise that like me, she’s also only human too and we’re all constantly working through things so I’m compassionate towards this. I can’t expect everyone to have the same level of courage, adventure and well, let’s be fair, recklessness that I may appear to have, I imagine for some this attitude to life is really scary. I can, however, choose to leave a therapist that doesn’t understand me and find one that does, which I did because ultimately I am in control my healing, no anyone else.

For the record, I got on that boat and sailed across those ‘tricky’ waters with those three ‘strange’ men.

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

Are You Outrunning Your Emotions? If You Were, Would You Know?

I love to travel. It’s what I spend all my money on pretty much as soon as I get it. It’s not just the exploration of visiting new places and challenging the social norms that I bring with me but I love the actual travelling part too. Whether it’s a plane, boat or train I enjoy the suspension of knowing that I will be somewhere soon and have the time to build up the excitement within me for that next place.

What I didn’t realise is that for the past few years that I’ve travelled I’ve used it as a tool to escape when people came too close. I didn’t see it back then because I wasn’t consciously aware that I was doing it but nowadays I am conscious of this and I question myself when I embark on a new journey – am I leaving to run away from something or am I running towards something? And what might that something be?

 

This week I’m in Palma de Mallorca and the feelings that I have inside me are excitement, nourishment and an overwhelming sense of joy just to be here. Mallorca is the place where I arrive two years ago by boat on my first yacht delivery and from the moment that we secured the lines I liked the place. It felt like a place I could settle in, I speak Spanish, I love the people and enjoy the food and the culture so I decided to rent a flat here for 6 months and finally plant some roots whilst studying for my Yachtmaster. Those 6 months didn’t go quite as planned as a month later the traumas started rolling in, heartbreak and then getting attacked. I remember coming back to this place that I love so dearly in January 2015 (after having returned from the Caribbean) and feeling like I really didn’t want to be here. No matter what friends were here who were here before I felt like a stranger, no matter what places I knew previously I felt like a foreigner and no matter how much the sun shines, inside I felt dark and broken and un-fixable. The place which I’d finally decided to call home was now the last place I wanted to be and with that, I ended my flat rental early and moved back to my parents house in the UK where I started to see a counsellor to help me get through the post-traumatic stress that was starting to pop up in my life.

 

Since then I have visited Palma, I stayed for a month in May 2015 in between yacht deliveries. Although I didn’t feel as strongly negative towards the place as I had done in January I remember still feeling very unsettled inside, it wasn’t that I didn’t want to be in Palma, I just didn’t actually want to be anywhere. So I jumped on the next delivery to Athens and continued to run away from those feelings, not realising that they would be on the dock in Athens waiting for me to pick them up again.

 

This time, it’s different, I feel different. I’ve got the carefree confidence of travelling that I had before being smashed by the traumas, but with the knowledge that I have real strength now to stop and sit through discomfort, vulnerability and any other intense negative emotion. I had it all along but I was so scared to deal with those negative feelings that I was never willing to find out that inner strength until it was tested. What’s interesting is visiting the same places where I once felt loved and also once felt destroyed, reflecting on this and realising that I was projecting the feelings that I had inside out onto my external environment. Whereas now I realise that if I can maintain a positive feeling inside then the outside reflects this back at me. Now that doesn’t mean pretending to be happy and positive on the outside when I’m actually feeling insecure or upset on the inside, no, infact that would mean putting on a superficial mask and basically bullsh*tting myself. It means giving space to those negative emotions when the arise to validate them, express them and let them pass so I can go back into my generally positive outlook, which is now back to being my centre point. Without doing that I know that the negative feelings will keep on popping up until they are dealt with and no matter how many miles I travel they will still be right there with me.

 

“Resistance means Persistence” is what a good friend in Bali once told me. “The more you try to busy yourself away from the difficult emotions, the more they’ll persist until you deal with them” she would say, and she was right. They did.

 

It’s a reminder to me that when my first reaction is no, or I don’t want to be here, or I don’t need to do that, to stop and see what emotion is driving that response. Is it fear from being vulnerable? Am I running away from something that I need to deal with? Or is there something else at play? Questions and reflections that keep me on an ever-learning path.

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