Yesterday I found an old folder with notes and writing from my twenties....I didn't really look at the pages although I vaguely recognised my handwriting which is quite different to what it is now. I didn't think much of the paper until today when I saw them again when I sat down at my desk to update a recording of a breathing technique that I needed to send a client to help with her get to sleep at night.
I stopped to read what I had written all those years ago.....
'Sleep Eludes Me'
Sleep eludes me
Like a child trying to capture a butterfly
It flirts with me and stays in my thoughts
Right in front of my nose but so far out of reach
Every fibre in my being, every corner of my mind
Screams out in protest for relief from the ceaseless turmoil
But the unconsciousness I crave flits about
Denying me the blankness and nothingness of deep sleep
It rules my life, my actions, my emotions
Governed by the unattainable desire
Directed by the overpowering need
For a release from the never ending cycle of active days and wakeful nights
My thought and emotions now tired seek refuge in vain
I envy those who close their eyes and immediately enter oblivion
This is like dying a very very slow agonising death
Never knowing whether the end is near or aeons away
Prolonged torture which drains you of your life and more importantly....of hope
Hope for an end to this unending vicious cycle
This may sound a bit dramatic but sleep deprivation wreaks havoc with your system and affects every aspect of your life. I was an insomniac for a couple of decades and became used to going an entire night with no sleep. I remember trying everything from warm showers and hot drinks and everything in between (except medication since I wanted to stay away from becoming dependent on pills) but at the time nothing seemed to work for me. Then I discovered a progressive relaxation technique which helped me to settle my monkey mind and calm my nervous system enough to finally have a good nights sleep! The constant stress of sleep deprivation, anxiety, an overactive mind and internal pressure of repressing overwhelming emotions was wreaking havoc not only with my life but my nervous system. It's not surprising that I was able to get to sleep once I finally started to regulate my nervous system and switch on the relaxation response (parasympathetic nervous system) by turning OFF the stress response (sympathetic nervous system- fight/flight/freeze response) that was caused by all that chronic stress.
Sometimes self directed meditation or mindfulness techniques may be counter productive for people who have experienced past trauma as it can activate traumatic memories or other overwhelming/ unpleasant sensations or emotions. For this reason, some years ago I made a recording for my clients of the 4-7-8 breathing technique which is also known as "relaxing breath". It involves breathing in for 4 seconds, holding the breath for 7 seconds, and exhaling for 8 seconds. Breathe in through the nose, hold the breath and exhale completely through the mouth. This technique can help with reducing anxiety, helping a person get to sleep, managing cravings and controlling or reducing anger responses. I decided to upgrade the voice recording to a video so I can share it with anyone who has anxiety, is often triggered, struggles with insomnia or an overactive mind or just wants to use it as another way to regulate their nervous system.
Would love to here how you go with it.
For as long as I can remember I have felt a bit invisible…..
Those who know me may be surprised to hear this because that is definitely NOT what it looks like on the outside. I began dancing professionally as a 16 year old and have spent over 25 years in front of large groups of people whether it was teaching a class full of students older than me as a teenager to strutting my stuff in front of live audiences or in front of a camera, all the while feeding what I thought was my deep seated need for attention. I only allowed myself to get this attention from my ‘work’ and tended to shy away from what I called ‘unwanted attention’ because even though I was desperately seeking it I had convinced myself that I didn't want it…..or deserve it
I knew nothing about my inner world - all I knew in those days was that I was miserable on the inside, constantly fighting inner battles and being pulled by opposing forces…..If you asked me how I was feeling I would have first been shocked because no one around me in my family or culture really talked about these things, and then I would be totally confused as to what is actually going on inside me (I want to say my head but it was not just my head that was experiencing extreme levels of tension at the time)
The first time I saw my movements mirrored back to me with an empathic reflection was a revelation that opened the flood gates of emotion, memories and unprocessed experiences that had been accumulating in my body for decades…..I began to connect the dots between the sensations in my body, my breathing, my posture and my emotions and started feel to again…..or rather I began to decode and understand the messages that my body was sending me and started to identify and actually feel my emotions…..We all know that dance is a form of self expression but what I soon came to realise was that for me it was a lifeline to my inner world. By becoming aware of and reconnecting with sensations in the body as I moved, I could start to make sense of my inner landscape, I didn’t have to live in a state of constant internal tension, pressure and confusion…..
That’s when I slowly began to realise that the feeling of invisibility was coming from NOT SEEING MYSELF….from all those parts of myself that I had avoided, denied, rejected or neglected the needed ATTENTION……all those voices of long lost and unprocessed emotions, memories and experiences that were longing to be seen, heard, felt and experienced within me. So many of us have grown up in environments where it was not safe to feel and express all of who we are and we carry this fear into adulthood.
Invisibility= Fear of not being seen/ heard/felt/understand
And so we shut down our emotions and our inner world because it’s better than feeling this feeling of invisibility
Like you do not exist
If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it….does it even exist?
This can show up as not wanting to stand out or be too loud or too emotional, making yourself small or the fear of putting yourself out there or being too outspoken. This may also look like an empath who is always looking after the needs of others- because it’s safer/ easier to feel what other people are feeling, it’s easier to hold space for others than ourselves, it’s more comfortable to focus on the inner world of someone else than our own and our own needs.
We tend to be the helpers and wounded healers, always caring for and looking after the needs of others.
This is can be a beautiful thing…..except the ALWAYS part….
Because in order to be of service we need to also be serving ourselves
We need to redirect some of that compassion and empathy to ourselves.
We need to take the time to attend to our own inner world, to develop self compassion and the ability to rest and reflect on our own inner experience….
The medicine drum meditation monthly sessions are a space to dive deep into your inner world and explore your inner landscape of sensations, emotions, feelings, energies and impressions. In these sessions you will have the opportunity to not only immerse yourself in your internal experience, but to find your medicine- that specific antidote or guidance that you need to receive at this time from your higher self/ intuition.
"True love begins with the act of going home to ourselves and our body.....Keeping our compassion alive and releasing tension in our body brings us deep peace and wellbeing." ~Thich Nhat Hanh
I woke up this morning inspired to make a recording of a short drumming journey to share here after my last post was so well received and to thank everyone for for helping me reach the 900 like mark!!….
Not quite sure exactly what I was doing, I just began to follow the thread of inspiration.
Got the drum out and warmed her up as I started to set up the space- tried a couple of test runs with head phones on/ off etc……Set a 3 mins timer and began recording drumming rhythms.....
As I was playing and started to feel into the different rhythms until I found the one that wanted to come through today…..I felt myself drop deeper into my body, as if the centre of gravity had suddenly dropped down low.
I took a deep audible breath in (which you will hear in the recording)…..I began to feel the beat of the drum vibrating through my body and I started to feel my body move in response with the drum, shifting my weight from side to side in time to the beat.
I knew this was the place I needed to be.
A couple of days ago I woke up with these lyrics in my head “One the way down” (turns out it was a song called ‘Lights Out’ by Odette- more on this later on my blog but for now there was a deep knowing that I needed to drop down)
So here I was on the way down....
The rhythm starts to take over as I continue to enter into deeper states, the energy starts to rise up and crescendo…..
Feeling into the rhythm and entering into a state of flow, doing a dance with the drum and allowing her to sing her song through me….a final integration and the last beat…..
I finish the recording and start to transfer it onto the computer…..
Synchronistically, I happen to have lit a fire last night and shot some footage of it….oh did I mention the drumming rhythm I ended up with was a 3 count- a 3 count rhythm that connects to the 3rd chakra or energy centre which is the solar plexus chakra….which is associated with the element of fire…..
So now I have 1 audio recording of a solar plexus drumming rhythm + video of the fire from last night.
The initial idea is starting to take form….
I start putting the drumming and video together and realise that I will need to include words to guide any listeners.....and the next thing I know I grab a piece of paper and pen and scratch out a script that just pours out of me.
I record the voice overs and start to drop them into the video- Everything started to fall into place…..as I did the final edit I hear my voice over say “take a deep breath in” and then I hear the audible intake of breath on the initial drumming recording….somehow they have magically lined up as if that was planned…..
This is how spirit moves through me….it uses the force of my creative expression to blast it’s way into my conscious awareness and surprises me with the finished product.
So here is a gift for you (and me) that came through me
But not from me
From inspiration to action
Taking that which is formless and giving it form
This 5mins Solar Plexus Drum Medicine is best experienced lying down with headphones on with a journal and pens + crayons/ markers besides you, a warm blanket or shawl and have some water handy.
Please take some time after listening to journal, draw, move, ground and integrate before returning to your normal activities. I would love to her about your unique Solar Plexus Drum Medicine Experience! Please comment below and let me know how you go.
Opening track: Sounds for the Seven Chakras, Steven Halpern
Native American Drum Journey, guided meditation, voice overs, video
editing and production by moi- Anjali Sengupta
I know you’re strong.
EVERYONE knows you’re strong.
They expect you to always have it together.
They just don’t UNDERSTAND what it’s like to HAVE to be strong all the time.
The constant internal pressure and chaos, and what it takes OUT OF YOU to stay on top of things ALL THE TIME.
Maybe you didn’t choose to be strong but it was never really an option.
You are always the one people turn to when they need help, the one caring for and addressing everyone else’s needs….but they just don’t get it when you have JUST HAD ENOUGH of being there for everyone else and that little voice inside screams ‘What about me!’!!
Of course we would much rather do anything than have to listen that voice as we have become accustomed to ignoring it but what would happen if you stopped to listen.
What would happen if instead of ignoring, rejecting, avoiding, denying or abandoning that voice you listened to it?
What would happen if you stopped inflicting this hurt on YOURSELF and instead give yourself the attention and care that you deserve?
When you take the time to immerse yourself in YOUR OWN INNER WORLD, you can attend to YOUR OWN deepest wishes, desires and dreams. The single most transformational ‘tool’ / ‘technique’ / ‘life changing system’ / ‘model’ / ‘game changer’ is something that everyone can do for FREE!
And you don’t have to sign up for anything to learn how to do it
You just have to SHOW UP FOR YOURSELF
Show up for yourself= showing up for your own needs
Show up for yourself= attending to your inner world which includes your deepest hopes, dreams, fears, desires and infinite potential
Show up for yourself= listening to the SOFT inner voice that KNOWS what you need in order to live your best life
SHOW UP IN SERVICE OF YOURSELF
The problem is we can’t hear that ALL-KNOWING voice because our world is filled with other peoples’ needs/ energies or our minds are too noisy with all the different voices that seem to need our attention all at once.
We hear the voice and don’t act on it because we are NOT hardwired to prioritise our inner wellbeing- the cave man did not have to take time out from his busy schedule to meditate!!
We have become so accustomed to not going there that we have totally disconnected from feelings, disconnected from the body, from our needs and that inner voice/ intuition
We learn to fear going within because the landscape has become so unfamiliar and we naturally tend to have fear of the unknown
Showing up for yourself and taking the time to attend to your inner world is a new neural pathway that is just waiting to be formed and deepened through your repeated acts of serving yourself
Give yourself what you never got- emotional attention and validation
Give yourself permission to honour YOUR INNER EXPERIENCE
Your emotions matter
Your INNER WELLBEING matters
You can heal the wounds of past neglect by not neglecting yourself NOW
Allow yourself to be deeply nourished and lovingly held as you give yourself your undivided attention
My own inner knowing has been persistent in directing me to hold space for those of you who are ready to dive deep into yourself and find your medicine through the primal beat of the medicine drum. This particular process brings together Eastern and Western models of wellness and includes an opening intention setting ritual, personalised guided chakra activating meditation, archetype work, channelled Native American drumming rhythms, journalling/ art making and closing. Sessions are available online or in comfort of your own home within Melbourne and surrounding suburbs.
For the winter months when the energy moves so strongly inwards, I am offering the Medicine Drum Meditation Experience for $100 (usually $150) as well as pre-booked monthly sessions for the same rate. Please message me or call 0401 334 738 to book your session.
There are so many myths about therapy!! I could probably write a book about it....and maybe this is the start ;)
Myth #1: You have to talk about your trauma in order to heal it.
As a trauma-informed therapist, I have never had a client walk through the door asking to work on their trauma. The effects of trauma are long lasting and varied and may show up as anxiety, depression, trust issues and relationship problems as well as other mental health issues. Sometimes it becomes clear that the current situation is a reminder or a trigger than unleashes memories or emotions from the past whereas at other times we may work purely in the present moment- on what is here and now, integrating different parts of the self (our internal voices), finding new ways of seeing, responding or experiencing the current situation.
A good trauma therapist will STOP you from going into the gory details of your trauma. Because that will most likely re-traumatise you and reinforce those pathways in your brain.....
This myth is particularly damaging as not all psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists and counsellors have been trained in a brain-wise approach that is informed by the latest research in the neurobiology of trauma. This is why some therapists make it explicit that they are trauma-informed i.e. they know that trauma and traumatic stress are stored in the nervous system and that talking about it without using a body based approach can do more harm than good.
I remember being surprised when I first started working with clients because we never actually spoke about the trauma or what may or may not have happened in the past that is still having an impact on their present moment experience. Instead we talk/ move/ draw about relationships, work issues and pretty much anything else that is brought into the session or arises out of the therapeutic process. In those days I was working intuitively and learning to trust the process which basically involves creating a space in which a client can tune into the answers that they need and find their own personal medicine. However, any doubts I may have had about the process (or my intuitive abilities) faded as I began to get some further training and professional development in trauma-informed approaches to working with traumatised children and adults.
In every training I attend, they advocate a bottom-up approach which basically means start with the body i.e. you have to get clients into their body, to feel their body, to breathe and move as part of the treatment for trauma. Of course this approach seems radical to everyone else in the room (mostly talk therapists/ counsellors/ psychologists) except for me and all the other dance movement therapists, somatic and body based practitioners out there!!
So once more, here was a reminder of one of my core beliefs and motivating forces in my life.
Movement is medicine and sometimes (more often than not!) moving the body is much more beneficial than talking!
Another thought that occurs to me as I write this is that our natural tendency to NOT talk about our most painful and traumatic life experiences is probably the best natural protective mechanism that prevents us from constantly re-traumatising ourselves (we do this in many other ways instead!)......Once you do decide to embark on the healing journey, it is essential to find the right person to work with and remember that you should never feel like you HAVE to talk about what happened to you.....
On the other hand, once you have processed and integrated your experience, you may well choose to share your story to inspire others- if you flick through my blog posts you will find one about a client who wrote a book about her healing journey.
Here are some links if you are interested to read more:
Stress: It's Not in Your Head, It's in Your Nervous System
Is You Therapist "Trauma-Informed"? (And Why It Matters)
Healing From Trauma Step By Step
Although my clients may not have walked through the door intending to work through their trauma, they were nonetheless inexplicably drawn to working with me without necessarily knowing the reason why.....
Perhaps that's you?
If you feel a strange inner call or are curious to know more about working with me (in person or online), please feel free to contact me for a free consultation.
Today I facilitated two very different sessions at two residential aged care facilities on either sides of Melbourne...
The first was chair yoga for seniors with a group who I have been working with for many years now and know the resident at this particular facility well. It was a full house including one gentleman in a wheelchair who usually doesn't attend who is known to be inappropriate with female staff (I have been warned to beware of him). When I checked in with him at the start of the session he said 'You and me can make sweet music together'. His eyes were darting around the room and he looked quite agitated and fidgety as he said it. I responded with a gentle laugh saying we were all going to make music together with our breathing and stretching and moving our bodies......
We proceeded with the yoga session which has a general structure but it's not a pre-planned sequence so I that I can meet the specific needs of the group as they present themselves in the moment. Today one of the participants said she was having trouble staying awake (which is often the case due to the medications that they are on) and so I chose a more dynamic opening and warm up and generally found that big full body movements were the most engaging. Despite the many interruptions of residents being brought in/ taken out and nurses coming in to take temperature/ give medication, everyone started to really get into the session (this is not always the case as most of the residents have dementia and other mental &v physical health issues). At one point I invited the group to do a modification of the Lion pose and demonstrated breathing in and the sticking my tongue all the way out on the exhale with a loud growl to release anger......to my surprise everyone started to do it- now imagine a room full of 80-100 years old doing this......
There was a palpable shift in the room, the temperature changed, the mood, energy and focus of the group had completely transformed. After the closing meditation when I did a final check in with the same chap who was being cheeky at the start he looked deeply into my eyes for a long time with his own eyes wide open and said.....
He was so present. There was a sense in that moment that he was aware of himself, his inner experience, his external circumstances, his physical condition.....
And his loneliness.
'But it's better when you're here'
I just stayed there with him, making eye contact and placed my hands on his hands.
We stayed for what seemed like a long time in silence gazing into each others hearts and touching each others soul.
I finally responded softly- 'We are all here with you'
He couldn't hear what I said so repeated it very loudly and firmly.
I had to pack up and leave as I had another job on the other side of town so drove home, had a bite to eat, put on my make up and costume and headed off to a new facility to facilitate a multicultural dance experience with group of about 30-40!!
This was a completely different session, setting, group and facility and although I had never met the residents, I love that I can use the magic of movement, music and dance to form deep connections that seem to instantly arise and we move and play together. I began by handing out coloured bellydance belts to everyone (men and women) encouraging each person to choose their preferred colour. I began the session with a mini performance (to warm up the crown ;) ) and proceeded to learn some Bollywood moves, followed by Italian dance and finishing off with Greek dance (the Zorba!).
During the Italian dance part of the session, we handed out tambourines, hand bells and maracas- it's amazing how difficult it is to keep your hands still with one of these in your hands!!
After learning a modified version of the Tarantella (traditional Italian dance), I explained to the group that now we would do some improvisation and invited each participant to come up with a movement or a rhythm that we would all copy. I started to move around the group to stand in front of each person when it was their turn so I could mirror their movements and show the rest of the group so that we could all follow the same rhythm and gestures. It was a large group and just as I got to the very end I found myself in front of an old man, leaning back in his chair, listlessly shaking his hand bell.
I began to mirror his movement matching his energy and intensity.
We made eye contact.
I began to make my movement/ sound with the hand bell more deliberate and with a definite rhythm.
Now he started to match the strength and timing of my movements
I began to increase the speed
So did he
He suddenly leaned forward and began shaking his handbell directly in front of my chest
His eyes became shiny as he looked at me with more intensity....
I matched his fist pumping/ shaking with my hand in front of his chest
A cheeky smile started turning up one side of his face
We continued to shake our fists at each other
We started to laugh
It had turned into a bit of a competition but we didn't really care who won....we had a moment of pure connection.....
As I later found out, his daughter was sitting next to him watching this whole interaction. I met her on my way out in the car park and she told me about her father who was turning 100 years old this year. He had moved in 18 months ago but was not really interested in things like bingo which he hated. He used to be a farmer and lived by himself (his wife died 38 years ago) until a couple of years ago when he suggested to his daughter that perhaps it was time for him to move into a facility. Unfortunately he has not been getting out of his room much but after our session when they returned to his room he said he quite enjoyed that and asked his daughter if she had her car. When she said yes he told her to go home as he was going to 'see what else they had on today'.
This conversation brought new meaning to the moment I shared with the gentleman who was shaking his fist at me with a gleeful look in his eye.....
These are the moments when the inner spark is ignited and the light returns to the eyes where once there was no one home that have become the highlight of my work in aged care with the elderly and those battling with different stages of dementia. Both of these sessions were not traditional dance movement therapy sessions as that is not what the job title is and yet that is exactly what I am doing using the body and movement to communicate and connect on a non verbal level to explore their experience and provide movement interventions. I love reminding my clients and their families that no matter how unwell or lifeless or depressed we are, we still have the capacity for joyful embodied experience.
What is the therapeutic potential of joyful experience?
That is a question that has been in my mind for a long time now and perhaps one day we will be able to study this and provide empirical evidence so that we can then all be convinced and start to cultivate a culture where we prioritise joy.
In the meantime, I'm gonna spread that shit liberally everywhere I go and continue to experience delicious moments of presence and smile at the surprised faces of staff and family members as their loved one experiences the joy of being in the body and living in the present moment 💓
I am a clear channel for divine love
I am divine love manifest
A clear pathway exists between mind, body, heart and spirit, for love to flow as it must
Always in service, always in love, for love and by love
Clear words, clear thoughts, clear expressions and clear actions of pure love
Love is discrening but without judgement
Love is compassion in action
Through the earth mother, sky father, water spirits and fire dancers
A symphony of souls journeying together
Gratitude always overflowing for the blessings of existence and abundance
For breath, connection, expression and dance
I come from a long line of gifted women
Mothers, sisters, grandmothers, daughters and aunts
Who never recognised their gifts
But instead carried guilt and shame
Their forsaken jewels of light and dark are embedded in my flesh and bones,
Buried deep in the earth of my body, flowing in the water of my blood, floating through the air of each breath and burning brightly in the the fire of my spirit
Thank you for these gifts- thank you for all of it
For speaking through me, through the vessel of my body and through song, dance, magic and art
And teaching me through the language of pain, suffering and loneliness
Mothers, sisters, grandmothers, daughters and aunts
You are valued and your unique gifts enrich each moment
For all that you are, all that you have been and all that you will be
All that you bring into this world and all that you take with you when you leave
For all that you bring to those around you, your family, your children, community and kin
I see you, I hear you, I feel you and I honour you
Through the mother
29th November 2016
"The first regular therapist I saw a lady who was an art and movement therapy. She was refried to me by a woman I met at a festival as someone who I could learn dance from. Believe it or not, I initially contacted her to join her Bollywood dance sessions. I always loved dancing and wanted to bring some form of creativity into my life. When I met her, I was instantly drawn to her commanding, regal and wise energy, and found myself speaking to her about femininity and that I felt quite unfeminine, particularly with the environment I worked in.
What started as an innocent conversation unfolded into a beautiful journey through which I connected with my inner artist and dancer, She explained the concept of mind, body, and importance of a connected dialogue between the two! I started to paint after I saw her and began creating a lot of art which also became one of my main outlets for healing. I now create at least two or three painting every month, if not more! The paintings are bolder, livelier and tell the story of my healing and carry deep vibrations of love. I meditate and create these paintings often in a deep trance allowing my subconscious to express, to release, and heal itself, This process is unexplainably satisfying and deeply healing, and I am ever grateful to this Angel for guiding my to my creative temple. I saw her regularly every week for two months, after which I met her a few times when I felt there was something to shift"
These are excerpts from Deepthi's book 'I AM' that describes her experience of our therapeutic journey together and how she was able to reconnect with the body, breath, creativity and dance.
As a creative arts and movement psychotherapist, I work with the 4 dimensions of human experience- the physical, emotional, psychological/ mental and spiritual levels of existence. Often clients are disconnected from one or more of these aspects of human experience and once we are able to connect the dots, life does not necessarily become less challenging but we are able to deal with life's challenges in an embodied and empowered way as well as tap into our creativity, intuitive guidance and the wisdom of the body.
As a psychotherapist, it is uncommon to receive direct feedback of a client's subjective experience of therapy. So you can imagine my surprise and gratitude to hear about the impact the therapeutic journey had on a clients' life! It was an honour to work with this dynamic and talented woman who went on to not only write a book about her healing journey but more importantly found the way back to herself and back to loving all that she is as woman.
Here is the link to Deepthi's e-book 'I AM', if you would like to read the whole story- I AM by Deepthi Amin
What do you need to connect with more in your life?
What dimension of your experience are you most disconnected from/ challenged by?- physical/ emotional/ psychological/ spiritual?
Are you ready to reclaim your body, breath, creativity and dance as vital and life giving tools that connect you to your inner wisdom and higher self?
If any of this resonates or you feel a strange and unexplainable pull, perhaps it is time for you to embark on your own healing journey to reconnect with who your truly are, beyond your baggage, wounds and trauma…..
(and now as I notice my discomfort at self promotion, a quick plug)
So call me (0401 334 738) or email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and let us journey together….
Or just a take some time to breathe, connect, express and dance!!
Embracing Spirit: Creative Arts and Movement Psychotherapy
Aatma Dance Company
Breathe: Connect: Express: Dance!