✔️ WEEK 4 // Listening
🫁 WEEK 4 // Protocols
👪 WEEK 4 // Reflection + Group Explorations
🎙️ Building Emotional Resilience (transcript)
🎙️ What we'll be discussing today:
Welcome to Week 4 of Nervous System Mastery!
Last week we talked about tools for deliberately activating our sympathetic nervous system to increase our capacity and heart-rate variability using bellows breath and exhale retentions.
This week I'm going to unpack the concept of what I call 'emotional resilience' and share some approaches for cultivating anti-fragile and dynamic nervous systems — that allow us to show up for the full spectrum of our lived experience.
This emotional sensitivity, which is the ability to track, sense and feel the accumulated emotional debt that we all carry, from perhaps a moment earlier in the day or an experience that occurred decades previously, is at the core of mastering our nervous systems.
After all we are all human, and feeling emotions, especially those that we typically shy away from such as shame or anger or grief is not only part of life—but as I will make the case for in this episode, our capacity to feel these challenging and confronting emotions is directly correlated with our capacity to feel gratitude, joy or connection at the other end of the spectrum.
📝 Overview of Week 4
- We'll begin by defining some key terms and exploring what it means to build dynamic and anti-fragile nervous systems along with a anecdote around why these explorations have a deep importance to me personally.
- From here we'll briefly explore the relationship between our emotional fluidity and our capacity for high level decision making.
- Then we'll begin to unpack the biological mechanisms that underpin emotional resilience, bringing in the two important concepts of 'Allostatic Load' and the 'Mobilisation Response'
- Finally I'll share three overarching principles for working with our emotions that when embodied lead to a greater sense of aliveness, creativity and authentic expression.
🤓 Working Definition of 'Emotional Resilience'
There's an important addition to add to the calming, down—regulating protocols shared in week two.
This is that at times if we are feeling a strong emotional charge, let's say after a conflict with a partner or colleague — once we've realised that we're in a trigger, we then need to discern if we need to only down-regulate in that moment, because say we need to step back into the exec boardroom — or if there is some spaciousness and safety, the other option is to actually allow or even encourage the emotional charge we feel in our bodies to be fully expressed and released.
A good friend and mentor of mine describes emotion as E-MOTION or 'energy-in-motion'—this framing of 'emotional fluidity' I find to be helpful.
This can be somewhat abstract to imagine so I find it helps to work with the metaphor of your nervous system as being like a circuit board—which on some level is true as there are literally micro-watts of action potential flowing through our axons — where if too many Watts are charged through it will begin to overheat — which is akin to our sympathetic response...
The greater our capacity, the more voltage we can run through our internal circuitry.
However, when we approach the edge of our window of tolerance, we may ‘emotionally flood’ — which occurs when we’re barely able to contain the intensity of the emotional experience.
If this flooding persists, we have an extremely effective biological fuse that trips the system — which is the dis-associative response of our dorsal vagal branch that we discussed in Week Two.
So the desired goal here for Nervous System Mastery is to build both the capacity of our internal circuitry and familiarity with practices that allow intense emotional energies to move when they arise.
Hopefully this is making sense so far. Another way of phrasing this is that we’re aiming to build dynamic & anti-fragile NERVOUS SYSTEMS that are able to both feel high levels of emotional charge — whilst remaining grounded and connected to the breath in our lower diaphragm — such that we allow the intense energy of anger, grief or even joy and bliss to be fully experienced.
🙋 Personal Anecdote
I appreciate that it’s likely some of this information might be new to many of you listening, so I’ll aim to go slowly and combine the mechanistic theory with some personal anecdotes to illustrate what's going on.
I’ll start with a personal anecdote — and I honestly wouldn’t be here today researching and exploring the human nervous system had it not been for an intense chapter of my life that followed losing my ex-fiancé, who took her own life, overdosing on her medication following an anxiety attack whilst at work as a young medic.
Initially, the grief was too overwhelming that I didn't have sufficient capacity to hold it. It was the experience of pendulating – imagine a pendulum swinging in and out — through the intense waves of grief in the months and years that followed that allowed me to process and move through that experience.
This process opened my eyes to how emotionally disconnected I had been for much of my life and also opened me up to processing years of buried emotions that ranged from burning out whilst working at my start up to experiences from much earlier in life.
I don’t think that we ever get entirely 'complete' on this journey and life will always throw us more curveballs — but I can say now that I feel far greater ease and safety feeling into shame, fear or expressing healthy, clean anger whenever it arises — and this has enormously improved my relationships, my creativity and my sense of moment to moment aliveness.
Okay, so I wish to tread slowly and carefully here because we’re in complex territory, we all have unique nervous systems with our own constellation of lived experiences and I wish to re-emphasise that this isn't medical advice — I'm neither a doctor or trained psychotherapist, and whilst there is a growing body of research to support somatic-based approaches and the various modalities that support embodied emotional processing, so I ask that you keep in mind that whilst I hope it is supportive, what I'm about to share is in no way a replacement for working 1-1 with a professional.
🤔 Emotions & Decision Making
Okay, let’s take a step back and explore a simple but fascinating question. What exactly is an emotion? Even to this today there is no scientific consensus on a precise definition, which I think is fascinating and speaks to still how little we really know about this emerging field.
However, I believe there is a pervasive – but thankfully slowly dying myth in western productivity-oriented culture that emotions are somehow at odds with or even get in the way of purely rational decision making.
There's a famous, landmark study conducted a couple of decades ago by the famed neuroscientist Antonio Damasio (study and more context) in which he studied a patient who had the deep misfortune of getting a brain tumour in the frontal lobe tissue in his brain... which eventually grew so large that it had to be removed.
In the weeks following, this patient, named Elliot who previously had a good job at a business firm—begun to have his life fall apart... and even though his IQ remained as high as before Damasio realised that his emotional capacity had been severely limited such that he was unable to make even basic decisions.
This went on to become the foundations for Damasio’s 'somatic marker' hypothesis, which essentially says that our emotions are tools for filtering data sets of information for any kind of decision—and we choose what we think will feel good. And without these somatic markers (what we're training through interoception) even basic decisions are overwhelming.
Okay, that was a brief tangent, let's bring it back to working with our nervous systems and defining an important concept called ‘Emotional Debt’
🤔 Emotional Debt Theory & Allostatic Load
Remember the metaphor of the circuit board, well ‘Emotional Debt’ refers to what happens when our nervous systems are flooded with emotional charge but when this mobilisation response isn’t completed.
In extreme cases this happens when we're in accidents like a car crash, but we’ve also likely experienced moments when we’ve felt a strong emotion arise, but it wasn’t appropriate or possible to express that emotion at the time.
In neuroscience terminology, this emotional debt is measured as an increase in what's called 'allostatic load', and typically presents as fluctuating or heightened neuroendocrine response—or in other words we get stuck in this sympathetic mode of being with a diminished ventral brake.
If we have a higher degree of emotional debt, then our nervous system will be more prone to what I referred earlier to as 'emotional flooding'.
Let's say someone at work shares critical feedback to you—and this triggers a memory in your implicit nervous system, which is stored in the subconscious parts of your lower brain-stem — which in turn triggers a felt sense of shame... this feeling of shame might lead to feeling like your brain has been ‘hijacked’ or that your capacity to act rationally or with empathy is severely diminished.
In the short-term, there are certainly times when holding back emotion and building up some emotional debt is essential as it allows us to get through a stressful experience — but and this is the crucial point — if left unaddressed, these accumulate, increase fragility and manifest as greater susceptibility to emotional triggers.
In the Emotional Resilience in Leadership Report that I co-authored with Jan Chipchase, we researched the costs and contributing factors of this increased fragility which creates the conditions for the dorsal shutdown that we spoke about in week two.
This is another way of saying that at a certain point of operating outside of our window of tolerance, our internal fuse will blow and we experience burnout.
There's a visual in the course notes which helps to illustrate this allostatic load over time in the presence of chronic stress.
💙 Understanding Emotional Resilience
So we've introduced the concept of Emotional Debt, now let's explore what healthy real-time emotional resilience looks like and how to move through and integrate challenging emotions when they arise:
- First we'll share what is happening from perspective of the nervous system when our 'mobilisation response' is activated—an example of this could be receiving critical feedback from a colleague.
- Then we'll talk about how we might pay off this emotional debt and learn how to safely complete our mobilisation response when unexpected stressors come our way.
🐅 Unpacking the 'Mobilisation Response'
So what happens from the perspective of the nervous system when the sympathetic branch is highly activated into a state of fight or flight? We touched on this briefly in week 2’s section on Polyvagal theory, but I believe it’s critically important to understand the mechanisms at play here so that we can witness them with less judgement or fear if and when they arise in ourselves. So let’s go a little bit deeper.
As an example, I experienced a powerful mobilization response only this morning as I was going for an early surf and a pack of stray dogs, frothing at the mouth, started bounding towards me on the beach — I felt my heart rate rising significantly, my gaze narrowed and almost without thinking about it, I sprinted into the sea to avoid them when I was then able to calm down and relax.
Exploring this mobilisation has been the focus of Dr. Peter Levine’s research for the past 3 decades. I first came across his work reading his seminal book titled 'Waking the Tiger'.
In this book, he investigated the dynamics that enable animals in the wild to be virtually immune to any kind of traumatic symptoms — his curiosity was piqued when he realised that in cases when prey are able to avoid predators — just as soon as they're safe, they will literally shake off the residual effects of their fight/flight/freeze response.
I've posted two videos in the course notes that I highly recommend you watch because they both highlights how this mechanism works—the first one shows an impala that goes through this process after having been chased by a lion.
and the second video is of a polar bear that was shot with a tranquiliser dart and begins to complete the immobilisation response by shaking upon waking.
Now there are many many different types of physical reflexes that can be initiated by our human bodies but then not completed — those that have been documented often occur during early years of childhood but also present in later life if we have say a severe accident, surgery or near-death experience.
Alright, so coming back to Dr. Peter Levine's breakthrough — what he realised what that we humans, as mammals also have this natural response as a way of digesting the intensely stressful experiences.
He worked closely with one of his patients called Nancy, who had an unexpected panic attack during one of their sessions—and he told her to RUN as if she were actually being chased by a tiger.
Nancy's legs spontaneously moved wildly in the air as if she were actually running away—and during this experience an unconscious memory of hers surfaced from when she had experienced a tonsillectomy in her childhood in which she had been secured down to an operating table and the anaesthesia was only partially working, such that she had the experience of being strangled.
In later years Dr. Peter Levine developed the modality of Somatic Experiencing or SE, which was specifically designed to guide patients towards completing these incomplete reflexes or repressed emotions that in many cases had been stored in the subconscious for years or even decades.
This is slightly beyond the scope of essential information for this course, but in case you're curious it's not only near death experiences, but there have been an entire range of primitive reflexes documented and many of which I've seen or experienced for myself.
These include the Moro reflex, which is a quite common version of the startle response or the landau reflex which relates to posture development... you can see the course notes for more details on the specifics of these reflexes.
If you'd like to go deeper into this literature I would recommend the book 'Nurturing Resilience' by Kathy Kain which has been my go to resource for understanding these fascinating processes.
So circling back to what is most essential for you listening to this and presumably caring about how to achieve more emotional fluidity and release accumulated 'emotional debt'...
Since Dr. Levine's insight with his patient Nancy running away from that metaphorical tiger—several varieties of somatic or body-based modalities have arisen that are designed to elicit these subconscious memories and reflexes and allow them to be safely 'completed' as we say in the language of neurobiology.
The most well-known include somatic experiencing, TRE (or trauma release exercises), guided MDMA and psilocybin-assisted therapy that is currently undergoing phase three clinical trials in Johns Hopkins and MAPS.
This week we're going to be working with two complementary modalities — the top-down practice of self-enquiry journaling, and the relatively unknown bottom-up protocol that I have found to be extremely beneficial in my own life known as 'Conscious Connected Breathwork'.
If you plan to attend the virtual breathwork journey I ask that you listen to the full protocol episode that follows beforehand and also check the full list of contra-indications ahead of time.
📝 Principles for Working With Emotions
Alright, let's take a step back. Hopefully now you have at least some sense of the beautifully complex process of what is going on in our bodies when we experience intense emotions but aren't able to express or release them.
In all honesty, there is no one size fits all protocol for mastering our emotions – it's more of an art than a science and perhaps it's part of maturing as adults — or more accurately unlearning some of our childhood conditioning patterns to resist or repress our full expression.
I'd like to share three principles to keep in mind, and offer that this work that we're touching on here is rarely a linear path and likely a lifelong journey.
There are always more depths to be felt and new layers to unpack and I would love to hear your thoughts on both what arises for you listening to these and your own experiences navigating your own emotional landscape.
1. Cultivate Courageous Curiosity
This is something of a meta-principle that applies to working with our emotional landscape and that is holding an orientation of what I call courageous curiosity. If we can let go of any judgements that we have and have the deep interest to deeply enquire into the nature of our felt experience and the courage to explore, feel into or accept whatever we find, I believe this really is the key to cultivating emotional intelligence and wholeness as humans.
The poet Rumi once wrote: 'Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.' — what we are really investigating in this work are the various barriers that have been lodged in our minds and bodies to this innate wholeness.
2. All Emotions are Welcome
The second principle which follows from the first is that, all emotions are welcome and none are inherently bad.
For most of us aspiring adults, and I speak for myself here, we have work to do retraining our nervous systems to feel a sense of safety (i.e. ventral vagal tone) whilst expressing the full spectrum of our emotions.
Our culture tends to label certain emotions as undesirable or even bad, but the truth is that they're all sensations and an inherent part of the human experience.
In my case, growing up I learnt to hold in my anger to the point where I didn't even realise that I felt it... for others we can have deep resistance to feeling guilt, shame or maybe grief.
If you sense that a challenging emotion may be arising, the invitation is to do your best to embody that sense of courageous curiosity and to trust the wisdom of your body, which is the 3rd principle.
3. Trust Your Body's Wisdom and Drop the Story.
As greater levels of awareness comes on line we'll increasingly be able to track sense and feel the more subtle sensations that lead to emotional charge.
According to the neuroscience and my own lived experience, emotions themselves if fully leaned into only last for a matter of seconds, at most 90 seconds) before most of the charge disappears or they flow into another sensation.
If you think of young children who often display remarkable emotional fluidity, or even the Dalai Lama who might be moved to tears one moment and then belly laughing in the next. We get stuck only when we're lost in story.
In moments when I've found myself highly charged or triggered, I've found it helpful to ask myself the question 'if this sensation could speak what might it say' or even deliberately amplifying the sensation itself and then witnessing my body move or express in any way that it needs to.
It really is a constant game of returning to the felt sensations and gently dropping stories or meaning or judgement that we have attached to the feeling.
🙋♂️ Why Explore this Emotional Rabbit Hole?
The gift on the other side of what is often very challenging and confronting work is not only deeper self-awareness but in my experience when we can unblock the natural flow of our emotions, a torrent of creativity and aliveness is unblocked — it's almost as if to truly master our nervous system, our conscious mind needs to surrender to it's wisdom.
As these practices become more intuitive, I've found that we also tend to be more embodied — which others will recognise in our presence and trust us more to express authentically. And perhaps most importantly we're gradually able to return home to ourselves and our full sense of aliveness in each moment.
Finally, I'll add that it is extremely beneficial to work with someone who is trained in one of the somatic modalities — especially if you're new to this work and there really is no replacement for having professional 1-1 support as well as co-regulation from a fellow human as you explore your own emotional landscape.
📝 Wrapping Up
Alright, once again we covered a lot of ground today. I would definitely recommend taking 10-15 minutes today to summarise some of what you heard or questions that may have arisen as well as checking out the course notes to watch the two videos and see the diagram of allostatic load.
🫁 Protocol Episodes
🫁 Protocol #1: Conscious Connected Breathwork Theory + Preparation
🫁 What is Conscious Connected Breathing?
Welcome to this protocol episode exploring the theory and practicalities involved with 'Conscious connected breathing'
Up until this week we have primarily been working with categories of protocols that are designed to either up or down-regulate your nervous system.
This week however, our primary intention is to explore protocols that give rise to the possibility of resurfacing unprocessed emotions or incomplete reflexes that have been stored in the implicit memory deep in our brain-stem.
In so-doing we are able to release muscular tension and experience greater resilience and emotional fluidity in our lives.
Whilst there are several approaches for achieving this, the protocol which I am committing the next chapter of my life to studying and working with is as I just mentioned called Conscious Connected Breathing or CCB for short.
I personally prefer this approach over say somatic experiencing, because through harnessing the breath in the way I will demonstrate, we're able to induce an altered state of consciousness and heightened level of neuroplasticity, in which any emotional debt that has been lodged in our brain stem arises such that any emotional digestion or mobilisation response can be completed.
Let’s return to the metaphor of the computer circuit board, as we move through life, every single time that we are emotionally activated but are unable to diffuse the emotional charge associated with the experience, it becomes gets stored in the biological subconscious file-cabinet deep in our brain-stem to be processed later.
And so when we engage in the practice of conscious connected breathing, the associated shifts in our blood chemistry increase our access to stored subconscious material, which assuming there is also a felt sense of safety—this stored emotional charge and the associated physical reflexes will rise to the surface to be completed.
I've witnessed friends and 1-1 clients literally re-live near-dear experiences of drowning or accidents during these journeys and personally I've witnessed myself move through profound emotional releases—ranging from anger and grief to joy and deep gratitude. Some of these were clearly connected to past memories, and others were purely sensation-based without any conscious stories attached to them. Other first time breathers may not experience many emotions but receive creative insights or breakthroughs, this is also very common.
I'll add that, as you can probably guess from my accent, I grew up in England where I'm sorry to say that we're not famed from being an especially emotionally expressive nation—but through the combination of honing my interoception and going through at this point hundreds of breathwork journeys, I have become far more comfortable expressing the full spectrum of emotion without judging myself for them, and the freedom that I've experienced from this is one of the reasons that I'm so inspired and excited to share this knowledge with you.
🍄 Comparison to Psychedelic Therapies
Before we dive into the neurobiological mechanisms at play here—one common question that I get asked is how this process ofbreathwork compares with psychedelic or MDMA assisted journeys (I've linked to one of the major trials being conducted by MAPS in the show notes)
And my answer is that although there isn't yet as much literature or data to support this, although I have linked one promising pilot study in the show notes titled 'MENTAL WELLBEING, IT’S AS SIMPLE AS BREATHING: A PILOT INVESTIGATION TOWARD EMPIRICAL RESEARCH ON CONSCIOUS CONNECTED BREATHWORK' — one of her preliminary conclusions of this investigation was that:
So, it's an emerging field of research and the working hypothesis is that the protocol of conscious connected breathwork offers similar potential for relieving the allostatic load and completing the mobilisation responses and reflexes that are believed to be the root cause of not only nervous system dysregulation but also many diagnosed cases of anxiety, depression, PTSD and other chronic psychosomatic illnesses.
Currently, the psychedelic compounds being used in studies are only legal within very limiting containers of a handful of clinical trials around the world — so it's my belief that conscious connected breathwork – conducted in a safe setting with trained and trauma-aware practitioners – offers a safer, widely accessible and zero cost alternative.
🤷♂️ What are the Neurobiological Mechanisms at play?
Alright, with that context I'd like to return to some of the neurobiological mechanisms that are at play here.
Some of your ears might have perked up when I mentioned the term' altered state of consciousness' — which I think will be helpful to define for our purposes since the term is used in a wide-variety of contexts.
When we breathe using this specific technique of Conscious Connected Breathing (or CCB), we are effectively shifting the balance of oxygen and carbon-dioxide in our system, which in turn shifts our blood PH balance and induces what's called 'respiratory alkalosis'.
In this state our brainwaves also shift away from everyday Beta into more Alpha, Delta, Theta & occasionally Gamma — in these states there is greater access to subconscious material stored in the lower brain stem — this material includes implicit memories or incomplete mobilisation reflexes.
In addition, in this state of respiratory alkalosis, there is a high degree of neuroplasticity. It is higher—meaning that when our breath re-patterns itself during a breathwork journey to be more vibrant on inhale or a more relaxed on exhale, then this new pattern will be stored.
What the emerging research around CCB is finding is that certain breathing rhythms correspond to related emotional patterns. There is a breathing rhythm that will likely elicit sadness or grief, another that will bring up anger or rage and another et cetera. And by deliberately triggering ourselves so to speak, we're able to track, sense and fully feel these emotions or incomplete reflexes that have been stored deep in the brain stem.
🛠️ Practical Considerations
🎵 What is the Format for the Breathwork Journey?
The breathwork journey will be guided by music which follows the arc of a bell curve—meaning that it will begin with more stimulating and activating music, before reaching a peak around halfway through and at that point will drop down into a more relaxing soundtrack, allowing for the integration of whatever surfaced and eventually entering a state of deep relaxation and rest.
The format of our journey which will be taking place virtually will be a 75 minute journey in total, allowing for 15 minutes in the beginning to ask questions and half an hour or longer if needed at the end for optional group sharing, insights and reflections.
🛑 Breathwork Contra-indications
Please check the full list of medical and psychiatric contraindications—whilst breathwork is safe to engage with, if any of these might apply I ask that you do not partake in the online breathwork journey and get in touch to discuss what some of the additional options might be for experiencing CCB safely and connect you with trusted practitioners who will be able to work with you in person in a 1-1 setting.
- Detached Retina
- Osteoporosis that is serious enough whereby moving around actively could cause potential issues.
- High Blood Pressure that is not controlled with medication.
- Cardiovascular disease and/or irregularities including prior heart attack
- Strokes, seizures, TIAs or other brain/neurological condition or disease
- If either you have had an aneurysm or if two members in your immediate family have had one.
- Use of prescription blood thinning medications such as Coumadin
- Asthma (if you have asthma you can participate but you must have your inhaler available)
- Prior physical injuries that are not fully healed and could be re-injured through intense movement.
- Prior diagnosis by a health professional of bipolar disorder or schizophrenia
- Hospitalization for any psychiatric condition or emotional crisis during the past 10 years included but not limited to psychotic break, attempted suicide or nervous breakdown.
- If you have been diagnosed with PTSD and still have strong symptoms, you are required to get your therapist’s approval to participate before you register
- Any other medical, psychiatric or physical conditions which would impair or affect ability to engage in any activities that involve intense physical and/or emotional release.
🫁 What is the Technique of Conscious Connected Breathing?
The technique itself is really quite simple, there are just three things to keep in mind:
- Breathe in and out through an open mouth with a relaxed jaw.
- Breathe such that there are no pauses at either the top or the bottom of your breath. So, as soon as you finish inhaling, you exhale. Before you get to the bottom of the exhalation, you connect right back up to the full inhalation again. Like a circle. Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale. No pauses.
- Finally, breathe with a vibrant and full inhale and a relaxed and soft exhale. Ideally the inhale flows from deep in the belly, up through the chest and then the exhale should drop without much of a sound or any effort. At some point, you might begin to feel as if you are being breathed and you won't have to focus on the technique so much.
I've added a video to the show-notes demonstrating the technique. As you'll see it's actually pretty straightforward. The main thing to be aware of for most people is to allow the exhale to drop effortlessly and be aware of any tension or holding in our throats.
It is possible to experience what's known as a tetany response — which can feel like either tingling or numbing in the fingers or extremities which may then increase to a feeling of cramping.
It's important to know that it's both completely safe and common to experience this it's caused by the alkalisation of your blood, and at the same time it's an indication that your inhale is outpacing your exhale, so see this as an invitation to soften your inhale or relax even more fully with each exhale.
📝 Three principles for Navigating the CCB Journey
All kinds of experiences are possible during a breathwork journey, from receiving profound insights and downloads, experiencing deep states of rest – sometimes even sleep – as well as expressing and integrating stored emotions or incomplete reflexes. Here are three guiding principles for making the most of the experience.
- Embrace Curiosity // Even if your mind is busy at the beginning. The invitation tune into your interoceptive awareness and increase your sense of curiosity for any sensations that might be arising — and if tension or emotions do start to arise then the invitation is to welcome and soften into whatever surfaces — trusting that whatever happens during the breathwork journey you'll make it through just fine on the other side.
- Stay with Your Sensations // If emotional starts to surface, there might also be memories or a story attached to it. The invitation with breathwork is to just witness or even entirely let go of the story and use your interoception to stay with the alive sensations that are present in your body and to give ourselves permission to express or move in whatever way we intuitively feel drawn to.
- Stay with it till the end // it's really important that we have sufficient time for relaxation and integration at the end, so I ask that you stay all the way to the end of the journey to allow your body to rest and completely integrate anything that might arise.
🙏 Finally, How to Best Prepare for the CCB Journey
It really helps to ensure that we feel safe and comfortable. So ideally you'll be lying down on a yoga mat or bed, perhaps with a small blanket under your head but not a full pillow as this can impede the breath.
Ensure that no-one will interrupt you during the journey, turn off all notifications, ideally use wireless headphones of some sort and if you like you can also wear an eye-mask during the journey.
It's also helpful to have a pen and journal nearby to write in afterwards for reflections and integrating any aspects of your experience.
Okay, that's everything you need to know, if you plan to attend the virtual session please remember to register at least 24 hours ahead of time and to read through the list of contra-indications before joining us.
✔️ Register: Virtual CCB Breathwork Journey
NSM Live Breathwork Journey Timings (2 hours each)
Depending on your timezone you can sign up for one or both. You must register for this on the registration page linked below ahead of time.
📝 Protocol #2: Self-Enquiry Journaling
Welcome to this week's second protocol episode on self-enquiry journaling.
There's a saying from the eastern traditions that goes something like: One Arrow. A thousand arrows. The first arrow is the stressor we feel, the thousand arrows are the stories and narratives that we project onto the feeling about what it does or doesn't mean.
This week one of our core NSM practices is going to be a complementary top-down practice of 'self-enquiry journaling', meaning that for once we'll be working with the mental aspect of emotional resilience.
One of the aims of this practice, as well as certain forms of meditation practice is to create more psychological distance between the sensations we experience through interoception and the meaning that we make from them...
From there we can then examine and unpack some of the beliefs or stories that we carry which might be getting in the way of our resilience or ability to show up fully for any given situation.
I would imagine many of you have kept a journal at some point in your lives, the way this specific practice works is that for 3 mornings this week I'd like you to set a timer for 15 minutes — ideally fairly soon after waking when our connection to our subconscious mind is clearer and then write a stream of consciousness in answer to the following question:
‘In what ways might I be complicit in creating the conditions I say that I don’t want? How might I be getting in my own way?’
The word complicit is chosen deliberately since it implies that you are neither fully responsible nor a victim of the circumstances. The question invites honest conversation and self-reflection.
The format that I'd like you to explore as you contemplate this question is to write down mental barriers that you think might be getting in the way of your emotional resilience — or your ability to rest and recharge.
For each mental barrier that comes to mind—see if you can unpack how it shows up in your life and then jot down possible counter-measures you could take to reduce it's impact.
To give you an idea of what this might look like, here are some barriers which I've noticed in myself at times, as well as counter measures that I've attempted to put into practice:
Believing that I have to seek permission from others or ourselves to switch off and recharge.
Permission. Grant myself a permission slip to take time for mental rejuvenation, creative play and physical recovery.
A belief that I need to be self-reliant and capable of navigating all challenges without outside assistance.
Ask for support. Be willing to ask for emotional support and guidance from trusted peers, family members, therapists, coaches or mentors.
Mistaking commitment for workaholism, stubbornly forging ahead and not listening to physical or emotional warning signs.
Self-enquiry. Asking what story or belief might be underneath a perpetual desire to forge ahead, lose sleep or keep your nose to the grindstone at all costs.
Believing that ‘this is just the way it is’—not appreciating that my nervous system and brain is neuroplastic and thus have the capacity to learn and rewire.
Growth mindset. Viewing certain stressors as an opportunity for growth and reframing their context with personal values e.g. “I’m stressed about recording the NSM podcast because I deeply care about the work I'm doing...”
Lack of perspective.
Catastrophising, projecting into the future and imagining current challenges to be insurmountable.
Equanimity. Revisit my mindfulness practice and remembering that whatever arises, ‘this too shall pass’.
Times when I've experienced a harsh ‘inner-critic’ which gets in the way of recovery practices
Kind words. Start collecting ‘kind words’ in a note file on your computer as a reminder of how I've helped others or the impact that my contributions have had.
These are just examples, I imagine that your barriers and counter-measures will be quite different to mine.
So the protocol for this week is to set a timer for 15 minutes soon after waking and using pen + paper journal whatever comes to mind when you contemplate the question:
‘In what ways might I be complicit in creating the conditions I say that I don’t want? How might I be getting in my own way?’
Okay that's all from me, good luck with carving out time for this and enjoy the rest of your week.