Getting the most out of your FLOW Session(s)
FLOW somatic sessions are designed so that you get an experience of what you have been carrying in your body and mind. In this sense, every session is catered to you as an individual, as your 'constellation' of experiences is unlike anyone else's.
The work is very powerful, as it uses touch to challenge the barriers between you and your body, and therefore between you and the world / other people. Sadly, most people won't get the opportunity to experience this process in this lifetime.
Over the years, I've discovered a few guidelines that will support you in getting the most out of sessions.
Receiving the sessions is a skill, that you and your body learn. So the integration process generally gets smoother over time, and we are able to access deeper layers of the wounds.
You can go back to this page between sessions, or whenever you feel like you need a refresher. Each time you come, or each time we work on different pieces, you'll notice different aspects that seem to come to the surface.
Pain and Pleasure
The Language of Healing
We tend to learn to frame experiences in black and white. That 'hurts', that feels 'good.' This experience is about broadening our life experience.
When I ask what you are experiencing during challenging points, you might notice yourself wanting to say 'that hurts' or 'I feel pain.' This is an over simplification of the experience, and actually gets in the way of cultivating a rich inner life (one of the keys to happiness).
It can be helpful to frame it like this...
When you feel painful points, we are reconnecting your awareness to sensations that are already there. Whenever we go through an intense experience, and we 'disconnect' or 'repress' our response, it gets stored in our tissues somewhere for later processing. The key to clearing it is to process what has been stored.
Instead of using the pain and pleasure framing, I encourage you to broaden the vocabulary you use to describe the sensations. Remember, 'You can't step into the same river twice. ' That's an old zen saying, that reminds us that things are always changing, so whenever you experience a sensation, it is different in some way than the one before, even though there may be similarities. Grouping these sensations together can keep 'the past' locked in the body, because it overlooks 'what is different and what is new.'
Here are a few examples of physical sensations (adapted from Peter Levine):
Examples of Qualities of the Felt Sense:
- pressure – even, uneven, supportive feeling, crushed feeling, cutting off circulation
- air current – gentle, cool, warm, from right, from left, stimulating, rush, like a feather, like mist
- tension – solid, dense, warm, cold, inflamed, protective, constricting, angry, sad
- pain – ache, sharp, twinge, slight, stabbing
- tingling – pricks, vibration, tickling, numb
- itch – mild itch, angry itch, irritating itch, moving itch, subtle itch, small itch, large area of itching
- temperature – warm, hot, burning, cool, cold, clammy, chills, icy, frozen, like: hearth, oven, fire, sunshine, baked bread, snow, stone, shade
- size – small, large
- shape – flat, circle, blob, like a mountain
- weight – light, heavy
- motion – circular, erratic, straight line
- speed – fast, slow, still
- texture – rough, wood, stone, sandpaper, smooth, silk
- element – fire, air, earth, water, wood
- color – gray, blue, orange etc.
- mood/emotion sinking, pulling in, open, closed, uplifting, sunny day, dark cloud, roiling
- sound – buzzing, singing
- taste – sour, bitter, sweet
- smell – pungent, sweet, like rain, like leaves
- absence/nothingness – blank, empty
I encourage you to see the sensation in 3d, and to trace the edges of it, and to see where it travels. Anything you can do to 'witness it' for a time will bring more resources to you in those moments when you might have 'disconnected' before.
Similarly, the language we use to describe how you feel emotionally can often be broadened, for a richer life experience. Many of us learn to live in just a few words, so we don't feel much. There's happy, sad, angry, depressed, for instance. It's like a painter painting with just a few colors. HERE is an interesting list of emotions from Byron Katie (which can be used until I create my own version).
Visual Imagery and Other Arisings
I also encourage you to share visual imagery as it arises, or colors, or whatever words come to mind, however 'random' they may seem. They are never random. We don't often share such 'esoteric' experiences for the fear that we won't be understood. Tuning into them again can bring them more to the surface, for a deeper intimacy and refinement of our intuitive gifts.
PAIN: Pay Attention Inside Now.
During FLOW sessions, 'pain', or I will say 'intense sensations', occurs in a few instances and serve a few purposes:
- While breaking up physical congestion, intense sensations can arise
- Intense sensations bring attention to an area and reconnect it energetically (now I FEEL my leg!)
- Intense sensations allow us to gain insight into our relationship to pain and suffering, and our typical modes of dealing with it
- Experiencing intense sensations and reacting to them in the presence of another can be deeply healing, and enhances vulnerability
- Intense sensations allow us to access repressed emotion
What shows up, shows up for a reason
As a memory or emotion arises while we are touching into a certain point, that arose for a reason. The body is intelligent, and it remembers everything; not only that, it is built in with healing intelligence, meaning it knows what layers to release, in what order.
So whenever you catch yourself 'going away' or 'drifting off' there is a thought there. As you practice, you'll get better at catching what those are. Sharing them can be helpful.
In sharing, you are re-learning to trust your own experience.
practicing ways of being
During sessions, we have a unique opportunity to open your body to new experiences, and to give it time to become accustomed to those. In other words, you get to 'practice' BEING what you want to feel more of in life.
For instance, when you 'feel supported' or you 'feel safe' or you 'feel loved', your body begins to remember that those are possible states for you, and it will get more and more comfortable with them. In that way, they will show up in life more.
And in sharing with me, you are practicing vulnerability. This helps the physical tissues soften and the energy move.
Many of us learn to withhold our spontaneous, natural emotional responses for various reasons. We learn from our parents, our experiences, and our culture. The sighing through the mouth on the exhale get get that energy moving, once it begins percolating. Remember, any time tears are 'swallowed back', they are getting stored somewhere. As we release the backlog of emotional experiences, it is important to let current experiences flow more and more, so we are not continually adding to the pile.
Sometimes it can help to tune into the heart when the wave of emotion comes. Often, we train ourselves to 'go into our mind' to lift ourselves above it, or to go off on a tangent, mentally or verbally. I'll point that out when I can.
Tears are the signal flares that let the world know that you are fully alive.
We spend most of our life resisting what is. Seeing 'life as it is' is one of the highest attainments in Buddhism. Similarly, we learn to resist pain. Often the fear of the pain is worse than the pain itself. You will get the most out of the session if you practice softening, and experiencing the pain as it is, without all of the tightening or the tension or the attempts to writhe out of it. Soon, you'll experience the fact that, instead of lessening the pain, the tension makes it worse. Then, once the pain is experienced in a state of relaxation, the congestion that has been causing it can begin to clear. Sometimes it clears in one fell swoop.
We often hear the adage in various forms 'what you resist, persists.' During sessions, you get the opportunity to experience that viscerally, the most direct way to embody a life lesson.
Experiences versus Thoughts
No matter how many times you've heard a certain mantra or theory, until it becomes anchored in the tissues, or experienced directly, it is not true for you. Many of these aphorisms associated with the self help movement are merely words, until you feel the truth of them in your body. In this way, one insight can be more penetrating than years of study or therapy. We will orchestrate sessions with this in mind.
The abdomen often represents vulnerability. As it clamps down over years, and it fills up with toxic residue from non-ideal foods, we are able to feel less. That is coupled by the fact that unprocessed 'fight or flight' energy gets stored in the Psoas, which can create further congestion in the area, which can impact urinary tract, sexual and digestive organs. Often, the organs begin to clench, and this spreads to the nearby muscles, and eventually, into the back.
I often work the Illio/Psoas and abdominal muscles as a way to release these blockage, and free up the energy that is stagnating there. It is not a passive process. It is up to you to stay present, and to notice where you are holding and where you are relaxed.
Trauma brings energy upward in the body, and centers our awareness in the head / mind. Our job in healing it is to bring it back down, so that it can flow down through the feet, and reconnect to the earth for 'grounding.'
The abdomen connects the upper and lower body as well... in fact the Psoas is an energy channel that runs from the mid spine down to the upper leg. In ancient traditions it was seen as a channel for kundalini and other spiritual energy currents. In Maha Mudra, the great tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, it was referred to as the 'seat of the ego', because it is where and how we 'hold on' to whatever we are holding on to.
I think of it as where we often carry our 'core' wounds.
The difference between limber and 'disconnected'
Sometimes, while we are moving or rotating a limb, you might notice it becomes erratic, or it won't let go, or there are little 'jumps' in the motion. This is a sign that there is some old residual energy to move. Sometimes when I draw a client's attention to this, the limb, the leg let's say, instantly becomes limp. This is because we become skilled at disconnecting, for whatever reason.
The key is to 'be where you are', and move through that. In other words, to notice the jittery or erratic motion, and notice what sensations are arising, or what emotional flow is happening.
This can be accomplished by the abdominal breathing.
the Breath of Life
When we are babies, we breathe deeply, into our abdomen, using the diaphragm. Often as we grow older, we lose touch with that, and begin to breath into our chest, in shallower shallower breaths.
During sessions, we are practicing 'letting go' and the lost art of 'being.' For this reason, the abdominal breathing will be valuable. Ideally, the breath comes into the bowl of the pelvis first, as the belly expands, and then it comes up through the solar plexus area, up into the chest. As you practice, you'll be able to imagine it coming up the spine.
Often, the breathing alone can bring healing and the release of stagnant energy, which is why there are many modalities centered around breath work. While processing, you can lie in your bed, and just breathe.
During sessions, I encourage you to breathe in through the nose, and out through the mouth, making sounds as needed.
The Ideal Flow
The ideal is a full body flow, with your conscious awareness flooding into every cell in your body. As we continually remove blockages using various tools, more and more flow will become available.
After the Session
After the session can be as critical as the session itself. As the energy ebbs and flows in the wake of a session, the insights that become available can be profound. So I encourage you to give yourself time and space to sit with those and jot them down as needed. I don't recommend rushing back to work or back into life right after a session. Wherever possible, please schedule with this in mind. If you have to push down what we just opened up in order to function, that can confuse the systems that we are working to release.
You might also enjoy reviewing this again: Tips for Integrating your FLOW Session.
Also, you can harness the power of nature by taking a walk in it after a session, or by sitting in it. There is a private path that goes up the mountain about an 8th of a mile up the road from my office. Or it is possible to drive to the beach in Jenner. In any case, nature's healing is available, always, and I encourage you to use it.
I will guide you through many of these individually as they arise, I just thought it would be helpful to have some of the guidelines in one place. I hope it supports.
Love and Flow,
Flow Healing Arts