The late yoga master B.K.S. Iyengar said, “Change leads to disappointment if it is not sustained. Transformation is sustained change, and it is achieved through practice.”
This quote got me thinking.
“I began to think about my daily and weekly practices. The ones that help me feel grounded, clear, and ready to face each day. I thought about the tools that re-energize me when I feel drained. It became clear that what keeps me in balance is to have consistent practices that support my whole being: physically, psychologically, and spiritually. I think of this as holistic transformation; an engagement in daily practices that organize body and mind towards wellbeing. Ultimately all of our transformational practices are about coming closer to our true nature.”
-Dr. Arielle Schwartz
Transformation requires a willingness to shift our relationship to pain. Often we avoid pain because we do not have sufficient resources to handle the losses or difficult events of our lives. In order to avoid pain we must invest our time and energy towards managing feelings. Letting go of control feels too frightening. As a result we can feel powerless and stuck.
We must acknowledge that we are stuck in order to change. Unsatisfied with stagnation we begin to feel irritated, frustrated, and angry. Now the energy is moving. Anger emerges and helps us say “no more!,” “I deserve better than this!” or “I take my power back!”
With renewed vigor we seek resources and support. We know that there is a way through this pain. We turn towards our fear and eventually to the pain itself. This is when we say, “I’m ready!” We recognize that the only way out is through. Feeling our pain allows us to reclaim the power of our disowned emotions and harness the energy necessary to create change.
5 Tools of Transformation
Tools of transformation are the daily and weekly practices that support growth physically, psychologically, and spiritually. I think of these as resilience strategies. When we stack enough resources and positive behaviors together we feel stronger and more capable of handling life stress. Some practices are aimed towards getting out of the comfort zone whereas others are focused more on nurturing self-care. All create positive, lasting change. Here are my top five personal transformational practices:
- Psychotherapy: Stress, life disturbing events, and unresolved traumas can interfere with our physical, emotional, and mental health. Unresolved childhood trauma is considered to be a leading cause of health problems. However, there is good news. Psychotherapy can produce changes in the brain that are comparable to those seen in drug treatments and that avoid the painful side effects. In therapy, the relationship is the container that can help hold the feelings that we have not been able to hold on our own. We can begin to embrace our emotional experience be it sadness, anger, or shame. When we process the past we develop insight. Putting insight into action creates meaningful, lasting change.
- NSA and SRI: Network Spinal Analysis (NSA) and Somato Respiratory Integration (SRI) were developed in tandem by Dr. Donny Epstein, a chiropractor who has trained thousands around the world to help people with pain and trauma. These practices are aimed to increase awareness of the tension patterns we carry physically, emotionally, and mentally. In typical NSA sessions “entrainments” occur within a group setting with multiple tables in the room. The NSA practitioner provides “low force” contacts to the spine helping the brain to find new strategies to adapt to stress and dissipate tension. Sometimes emotions, memories, or sensations arise. You are encouraged to breath and move intuitively in response to these experiences. The complementary practice of SRI teaches dynamic breath exercises designed to integrate new awareness into a healthy lifestyle by giving you tools to reduce the impact of daily stress.
- Embrace your Shadow: We all have parts of ourselves that are split off, hidden, or denied. It takes a lot of energy to compartmentalize the disowned parts and we can feel as if we are going through the motions of our lives rather than fully living. Turning towards the “shadow”, a term first introduced by Carl Jung to describe these repressed parts of the self, allows us to feel more grounded, real, and whole. It feels good to think of ourselves as strong, beautiful, and smart. However, we generally hold equal amounts of fear that we will be seen as weak, ugly, or stupid. In truth, neither the light nor the dark alone comprise our wholeness. The shadow softens the boundaries between “me” and “not me.” The process of working with the shadow takes many different forms, such as dream work or creative expression, all of which awaken a transformational journey.
- Lifestyle Changes: Sometimes the process of transformation requires that we purge what no longer serves us. You may need to let go of people who put you down, beliefs which no longer serve you, or behaviors that create harm. It has been said that if you change your habits, you change your life. So, if you feel like you are stagnating in procrastination, self-sabotage, or addictive behaviors assess whether unhealthy habits are contributing to feeling stuck. Are you ready to stop smoking? Is it time to make changes to your diet by reducing sugar and eating more fresh vegetables? How about that new exercise routine? Focus on cultivating behaviors that help you embrace positivity and inner strength. Partner with people who are uplifting and encouraging. You can do it!
- Mindfulness and Yoga: Mindfulness practices, including yoga, guide you to harness the power of your thoughts. The practice of being present, nonjudgmental, and compassionate helps to develop an inner witness that observes the workings of your mind. The physical practice of yoga provides opportunities to observe your body in both active and resting states. As a transformational practice you learn to respond effectively to the energy of strong emotions such as anger and fear. You observe the urge to react, defend, or snap back with sharp remarks. Instead of saying words or behaving in ways that you would later regret you focus on feeling your feet on the floor, sense your breath, and remember “this too will pass.”
Ultimately all of our transformational practices are about coming closer to our true nature. We become increasingly able to bring ourselves to the world as we are, vulnerable, raw, and real. We invite others to do the same. Your actions line up with your words cultivating a feeling of integrity within yourself and trustworthiness among others. The world is calling for your authentic presence. Are you ready?
- My top 40 Resilience Practices
- Finding the Balance Between Challenge and Ease
- Resilience Informed Therapy
About Dr. Arielle Schwartz
Dr. Arielle Schwartz is a licensed clinical psychologist, wife, and mother in Boulder, CO. She offers trainings for therapists, maintains a private practice, and has passions for the outdoors, yoga, and writing. She is the developer of Resilience-Informed Therapy which applies research on trauma recovery to form a strength-based, trauma treatment model that includes Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), somatic (body-centered) psychology and time-tested relational psychotherapy. Like Dr. Arielle Schwartz on Facebook or sign up for email updates to stay up to date with all my posts.