Gratitude for my daughter, women friends, and skilled intuitive healers

About gratitude journals

From googling “gratitude journal,” the practice apparently began in 1996 when Sarah Ban Breathnach created The Simple Abundance Journal of Gratitude as a companion to her popular book Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy.

Here’s a blurb about the book:

“Gratitude is the most passionate transformative force in the cosmos,” promises author Sarah Ban Breathnach (Simple Abundance) in her introduction.

I believe it, Sister Sarah!

Sarah asked journalers (journalists?) to write five things every day that they felt grateful for and said they would feel their lives shift within a couple of months.

In 1998, Oprah Winfrey had Sarah as a guest on her show, and as we all know, Oprah just knows goodness. The gratitude journal took off.

I missed out on this back then. It was in the early days of the world wide web (remember that?). I was working at a computer all day, and in my free time, the last thing I wanted to do was be on a computer. (My, how Facebook and blogging have changed that!)

I was raising an adolescent girl going through her most difficult period, in an often-strained relationship.

Actually, looking back, keeping gratitude journals would probably have been a fantastically wonderful practice for us to share back then, if she had deigned to share anything with me.

Hmmm. She’s changed, and so have I.

What I feel grateful for today

Today I feel grateful for my whole experience of motherhood. From pregnancy (easy), through childbirth (difficult), to the moment I held my new baby in my arms for the first time and she wrapped her tiny fingers around my little finger (instant love), I have been blessed to have had a child, a daughter, and specifically my daughter, Lela Rose, who is 29 years old now.

Lela at her Dec 2010 graduation from nursing school, with her women friends.

I watched and helped her grow up, even as I grew up more myself, and she has turned out to be a mensch, a true human being. I see her in her young adult years now, a mother herself, starting her nursing career just this week, moving through struggle to accomplishment. I see her self-esteem, her worthiness, her competency, her intelligence, her endearing goofiness, her wisdom, her discipline, her caring, her limits too.

What I am most grateful for about being a mother is the personal growth that raising her brought to my life — the growing up that I had to do, the inner work of exploring my values, learning when to be flexible and when to stand firm, the changes that being her mother brought to my life.

Today I feel grateful for my women friends, in particular Clarita and Linaka, whom I spent time with last night. We go way back to 1995 when we began ecstatically dancing together. That is 16 years of knowing each other, talking, coming together and moving away, seeing each other through difficulties and joys and sharing them, traveling together, cooking and eating together, always laughing together, and lately doing NLP with each other.

I feel blessed to have so many women friends, new and old, near and far. There is something about the friendship of women that is so nurturing. I think we let our hair down when it’s just us, in a way that we don’t or can’t with men, because we share the lifelong experience of being women in this culture. And when we have common interests and affection for each other, the connecting is abundant.

Today I feel grateful for those people I’ve encountered so far in my life who are skilled intuitive healers. I’ve mentioned Patrice, my acupuncturist, and Chandler Collins, my chiropractor, on this blog before.

Yesterday I had a heart-centering bodymind session with Bo Boatwright, who is a chiropractor but who has learned and developed a method that one could do with just a massage license.

Having experienced one session with Bo, I’d say his work with me on the table was a combination of massage, chiropractic, myofascial release, rebirthing, and visualization. He rolled me and moved me to find the stuck places, and he dug into the stuck places, having me breathe all the while, until my body spontaneously began to release stress/tension/stuckness in the manner of rebirthing and trauma releasing exercises.

After my body quieted down, I felt sadness arise in my heart chakra. I cried, and Bo asked me about my relationship with my parents, who died in 1984 and 1997 (but of course one’s relationship with parents doesn’t end with death). I opened my heart to them, forgave them, embraced them, kissed them…

A couple of hours later, in a moment of quiet stillness, I noticed a new space in my heart center, an openness that wasn’t there before.

Thanks, Bo. I’m grateful for you. And heads up, you are teaching me.

Holotropic breathwork compared to trauma releasing exercises

I finally did holotropic breathwork yesterday evening with Patrice. It’s also known as rebirthing, since if you do it enough times, apparently you get back to, and release the trauma from, your birth experience.

I had no sense of time, memory, or when I acquired the energies I released. But release I most certainly did.

Patrice was a great coach. I didn’t know what to expect as she had me start exhaling through my mouth, then after a bit, adding inhalations through my mouth. (Both of these are such a no-no in yoga!)

She told me what I might expect (shouting, shaking, crying, coughing, all forms of physical/emotional release) and made it all sound perfectly okay to experience whatever came up for me. She helped me feel that it was safe to surrender.

She warned me not to fall asleep — that some people do that as a way to escape their emotions.

She did not have to worry about that!

Patrice had put a few needles in key points, including LI4 (associated with the ego and being grounded), and at various times, she moved her hands on my body to support the energy flow. She may have also done some medical qi gong (like reiki) on me. I wasn’t paying that much attention to her after a while…

Then we sped up the breathing. And nothing happened. The exhales were supposed to have a “ha!” sound to them, and after about 5 minutes of this, I started laughing. My ha! ha! ha!s became hahahahahaha’s. She laughed with me.

‘Cause, you know, it was totally ridiculous to be doing this! Ridiculously funny and silly and wonderful!

Then I coughed a little and that felt good so I coughed some more. Patrice helped me sit up on the table. Then I started roaring… It was like some energy was coming up from my stomach out my mouth, and it was fierce and loud, and I got red in the face several times as it just kept coming up and out of me.

And then my eyes started tearing and water gathered in my mouth, and I thought I was going to throw up. Patrice got a wastebasket.

And you know what? I never did, and she  told me later she knew that I wouldn’t. But I didn’t know that. I was vomiting something. It felt real. It just wasn’t food. It was some nasty energy that had been inside of me, now coming out.  Then that urge was over.

I laid back down. More of the ha ha ha. Faster! Sharper!

My legs soon wanted to move. Soon they were shaking involuntarily, much like in David Berceli’s trauma releasing exercises, except that my legs were straight with just a little support under my knees, instead of with my knees bent. My left hand also shook, but not my right — just like when I do the trauma releasing exercises.

I went through cycle after cycle of leg shaking. I even repeatedly kicked something out of my body (which I never do with TRE), then went back to leg shaking. The kicking seemed to be removing something energetic from my sacrum, which (if you know me or have been reading this blog regularly) is where some ancient issues have been residing in my body.

After awhile, I slowed down on the ha’s, drawing them out, making them long, and at the beginning of each exhalation, my legs would start quivering, and by the end of the exhalation, they were nearly still.

Winding down… At the end, Patrice was just rubbing my belly gently. I laid there, getting more and more still, feeling the surge of electrical energy in my body, just like after TRE.

Patrice said later that I was putting out so much heat, she had to open the door and let some cool air in. I was totally unaware of that.

I feel so grateful that I had the core strength and the stamina to stay with the process all the way through. Thank you, yoga!

So… to compare holotropic breathwork to David Berceli’s trauma releasing exercises from his book The Revolutionary Trauma Release Process

The holotropic breathwork overuses the diaphragm, the breathing muscle. The trauma releasing exercises overuse the leg and hip muscles. With both, you deliberately create a state of overload or stress in the body, and the release brings up deeper stuff.

The trauma releasing exercises don’t include noise. I liked being noisy. But you can do the TREs in a hotel room and/or alone, so there you have it. Make noise if it works for you! There’s a place for them both.

The holotropic breathwork should definitely be done with a guide present, because you could get so wild, you might hurt yourself. (Apparently people do this in groups. That must be quite an experience!)

You can do the trauma releasing exercises alone, without a guide. At least, I’m guessing most of us can. For someone who’s recently been traumatized, it is probably best to have a guide present.

So, having heard of holotropic breathwork but not knowing what it is before doing it, this was my experience. And afterwards, Patrice gave me a compliment — that I went through a nice range of emotions.

I liked it. I want to do it again.