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Finding my authenticity in the presence of others
Running on empty
When I heard a podcast with Dr. James Gordon M.D. I immediately knew that the Professional Training Program (PTP) at the Center for Mind-Body Medicine (CMBM) was exactly what I needed. At the time I was suffering greatly, I was constantly exhausted, everything was a struggle. I was running on empty. I was already trying yoga, meditation, autogenic training, cardio exercises, muscle relaxation exercises, etc. on a regular basis, but nothing really had the effect I was hoping for. I knew my soul needed something else to help me move forward and heal. Now I trust in the magic of the group and the self-care methods I learned at the Center of Mind-Body Medicine.
It changed my life
I knew the PTP at the CMBM would be something very special, I could sense this was something I HAD to do, that it would blow my mind and change my life. I was right. It really was the best thing I have ever done in my life so far. It HAS changed my life. The PTP at the CMBM is a programme originally for medical professionals, health and healing professionals, teachers, community leaders, homeopaths, therapists, etc., but ultimately anybody can take the training who has an interest in helping themselves and/or others deal with illness, stress or trauma.
Self-awareness through listening
The training teaches us various meditation and self-reflection techniques in a group setting which can at best help heal ourselves of trauma. We learn with and from others who have similar fears, worries and goals. We bear witness to others and simultaneously learn so much about ourselves. We often feel alone with our worries and fears. We feel we are the only ones who have these feelings and we have to hide our pain from others and the world. Sometimes we do not even notice we are having these feelings, let alone are able to express them. This often causes conflicts internally. When we hide ourselves, we cannot connect with others on a deeper level, we become isolated from our social networks and we feel even more lonely. When we learn to be authentic within a group, to react authentically and show up as our authentic selves, a whole new world opens up. We can connect with other people on a completely new level. Through this training I learned how to show up authentically and how to be OK with my emotions and thoughts, no matter what they are. Even though I often felt embarrassed, ashamed or automatically worried about what others may think of me, ultimately I learned that this didn’t actually matter! When we share what we have been trying to hide, we encourage others to share, too and we realise we are not alone.
How does it work?
We meet in groups of about ten people, each group has a facilitator. Every meeting starts with “Soft-Belly Breathing,” a short concentrative meditation, in which we learn to observe our breathing and relax the muscles in our bellies. A very useful method to calm ourselves and focus when we are feeling nervous or anxious. Concentrating on softening our bellies sends a signal to our central nervous system which in turn relaxes the rest of our body. Our body recognises we are safe. One after the other we do a “check-in”, we say how we are feeling and what is coming up for us during this experiential exercise. We then do another exercise together, for example “drawings” - we draw pictures that are inspired by specific impulses given by the facilitator, we then show and tell, alternatively we do some “shaking and dancing” - an active meditation, moving our bodies to music, which can release emotions or blockages within us. Other exercises include autogenic training, mindful eating, guided meditation, there are many. After the exercise there is another check-in and we each have the opportunity to share our experience with the group. There is no wrong way to do these exercises, the experience is very individual. There is no criticism or judgement. We only share what comes up for us and what feels important to share.
Speaking openly using “I” sentences
The BEST part of this group work is the check-in. During which we are encouraged to talk only about ourselves and our own experiences, as much or as little as we would like. If we don’t feel like sharing at all, there is an “I pass” rule, we then have the chance just to listen for that round. If we would like to share, we won’t be interrupted, nobody comments, nobody judges. The only possible interruption is from our facilitator, if time is running out or if we are getting distracted from ourselves and need to be brought back. We are required to use “I” sentences.
The magic of the group
The true magic of the group lies in this requirement. Use I-sentences and listen. I notice how I recognise myself and my own experiences while others are talking about theirs. I am not allowed to react, I have to sit with my feelings and my thoughts until it is my turn to share. This is a very important exercise! We don’t usually manage this well in our everyday life. Whether it is excitement, joy, enthusiasm or anxiety, sadness, fear or anger. I learn to deal with these feelings as they come up. I notice they can be fleeting and change momentarily. I don’t have to actively get rid of them or push them away. They come and go all by themselves.
All feelings are welcome
In the group I learn that I am not alone in my feelings or thoughts. No matter how ashamed I am of them. I may want to keep my shameful thoughts to myself for fear of judgement, but I don’t. When I share I encourage others to share the same and realise everyone has similar experiences and feelings, nothing is “wrong,” it is all part of us, of our human experience and there is room for it ALL in our lives. All feelings are welcome!
We heal in community
These methods help people all over the world deal with their experiences and their trauma. The CMBM works in various settings around the world: in crisis areas, after natural disasters, and after shootings to help people as fast and as easily as possible. Everyone can learn these skills and use them, pass them on, or share them with others. They are simple (not always easy!) and effective.
What I learned
I quickly learned how similar we humans are, even when we think we are not. I learned to trust who I am. I learned I am allowed to show up as myself, with all that I am, instead of working hard to be something or somebody else. I learned that other people can relate to my experiences, too. I learned to be authentic and to be accepted with all my problems, worries, fears, feelings, craziness and weirdness. What else became clear to me: I do not have to try to have ”the answers” or force my advice on others. I can only talk about myself and my own experience, everyone experiences their feelings differently and “the answers” are very individual and have to come from within ourselves. I notice now, when I feel the urge to give unsolicited advice that I should take a moment, take a breath, and focus on myself and listen inside, and TAKE MY OWN ADVICE. I need a bit more practise on this! Old habits die hard.