From Lizard to Lucid
Over a month ago now, my mom and I hosted our second ever Reset and Recharge Retreat. The second of many, we hope. I had every intention of writing about that retreat right after it happened, but life happened instead. It’s been a tumultuous few weeks for me during which time the phrase “in every ending, there is a beginning” is particularly apropos.
Even in terms of writing a blog post - things happen the way that they do for a reason.
The retreats that my mom and I host are a combination of our professions; Yoga and Energy Psychology. Most people have a pretty good understanding of what yoga is, at least superficially. And if you’re reading this blog, chances are pretty high that you know there’s more to it than a pretty Instagram picture. But do you know what Energy Psychology is?
Having an Energy Psychologist for a mother has given me a bit more exposure to the field than the average person, I imagine. Having worked for her from time to time, I believe I can give a pretty good, and simple, overview of it here. The basic idea is that our physical bodies hold onto trauma and even if we work on releasing those traumas from our psyche, we are still unintentionally holding onto them physically.
The presence of trauma in our bodies affects the movement of energy throughout, bringing us out of alignment and increasing things like illness, injury, discomfort, sleeplessness and all kinds of other physical ailments. Energy Psychology uses different techniques to remove those energetic blockages in the body so that you can release the physical manifestation of your trauma while also releasing it from your psyche. It’s not about forgetting the pain, it’s about not being triggered by the pain of the past, anymore. The technique that I'll focus on in this blog post is called EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) or, more simply, "tapping".
According to the evaluations from the two retreats we've hosted together now, people find the energy work very releasing. Personally, I had always been a little resistant to it probably just because it was my mom who was administering it. That changed recently, very dramatically. I won’t get into personal details here; suffice to say that I’m going through a difficult period. I spent a couple of days with my mom, very upset and very triggered. She spent some time with me on that Saturday using a technique referred to as ‘tapping’. The gist is that you tap on the body’s energy points - the meridians, while repeating a variation of:
“Even though I feel so sad, I deeply and completely love and accept myself.”
She’ll go through this process a few times with each phrase that targets a particular emotion, event or moment in time. Before and after she’ll ask how triggered you feel on a scale of 1 to 10. She uses muscle testing to determine what needs to be worked on next. Muscle testing involves holding your arm out and saying something like, “I know that I can let go of this (insert specific hurt)” while she pushes down on your arm. If your arm holds up under the gentle pressure, then you believe that you can do the thing you just said. If your arm can’t hold up under the gentle pressure, then you still have an energetic block keeping you from really believing what you’ve just said. That’s what will guide us through the next round of tapping. I knew from hearing others’ stories that tapping could be incredibly powerful, but it wasn’t until this happened a few weeks ago that I experienced the full impact tapping can have in a short period of time.
I understood that saying something like “Even though I feel guilty about …. I deeply and completely love and accept myself” was powerful all by itself. It really is surprisingly hard to get those words out if you don’t actually believe it. And if you don’t believe it then that’s an entry point into the tapping work that will come after.
From years of studying learning, and in particular the ways that stress can negatively impact an individual’s ability to retain, process, and utilize information, I know that when we are triggered our rational minds shut down and get drowned out by emotional reactivity. We then operate from what’s affectionately referred to as our “lizard brain”. This effect is most commonly referred to as fight or flight. Biologically speaking we function this way so that our thoughts don’t get in the way of reactions - deciding whether to run from, hide from, or fight a predator or enemy is a split second decision. While many people in the world do still need this biological response, most of us who have the luxury to write and read blog posts about yoga and healing, don’t have a life where we have a split second to choose between how we’ll face, or not, potential death. We do, however, live in a high stress (and for many people traumatizing in different ways) society and many of us are walking around functioning more from our lizard brain than our rational brain for a huge percentage of our lives - that’s a crazy thought to me. For us, these things take the shape of anger, anxiety, sadness, addiction, fear and probably lots of other shapes as well.
When my mom was leading me through my own private tapping session, the thing that really stood out to me was how drastically my thought patterns changed. I had been stuck in this one thought pattern for a long time and I couldn’t reroute it. On the weekend in question, the thought had been triggered into a frenzy. Through tapping and the very directed questions my mom asked and the specific phrases she had me say while tapping on the particular points she had me tap on, I was able to recognize the stuck thought pattern and change it. In a matter of about an hour, I was able to see something that had been plaguing my mind for a long time, in a completely different light. All of a sudden it became something that was manageable. I saw with clarity that while there was certainly an issue present needing working on, it wasn’t the issue that I thought it was, nor was it insurmountable.
Back to the retreat… My mom led the group of about 16 people through a group tapping session. Not surprisingly, a group tapping session is by necessity handled differently than an individual session. My mom speaks in generalities, asking the participants to focus on a moment or an experience that they want to focus on - maybe that they haven’t been able to let go of, or that still makes them mad or sad or triggers hurt. She says “Even though this thing happened or I feel this way about this thing, I deeply and completely love and accept myself” and asks the participants to say this to themselves, silently. They go through the sequence three times, repeating part of this phrase as they go along. After the third time through, mom asks everyone to check in with their response to the thing they’re thinking about and rank it on a scale of 1 to 10. She asks if anyone wants to share. What people share is entirely up to them. Someone might give the specifics of the event or situation, some might just talk about their experience with tapping without revealing specifics about the event or situation. In the context of our retreat, I found the sharing part to be the most impactful. So many people talked about how their energy shifted, about how they didn’t feel as triggered by that thing, they felt calmer, more able to think clearly about it. It really was remarkable to hear them share the impact that this portion of the day had on them.
There’s something riveting to me about watching someone do something that they’re really good at, or talk about something that they’re both passionate and super knowledgeable about. My mom is really good at what she does, absolutely passionate about it, and very knowledgeable. All of those things are evident during our retreats and the group workshops she conducts.
For more information on her work, check out her website here! And sign up for Yoga Heals International updates to find out when our next retreats are!
For more on tapping, check out this website (where you can download the app): Self-Help for Trauma where a cute little potato head looking character walks you through the tapping sequence. It takes less than 5 minutes and you always have it handy for those moments after life has happened in a way that has triggered that fight or flight reaction and brought back the pain of the past.