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Month: April 2019

MAPS: A Self-Healing Framework

Through my studies in psychology, mindfulness and meditation, Buddhism, Mysticism, diverse spiritualities, metaphysics, and self-compassion I have learned quite a bit about the practices of self-study and internal listening. While there are many methods that we I use with myself and clients to engage in this process of being present with what is in order to heal and rebuild a deeper connection with the heart, one that I feel called to share with you is one that I developed a few years ago. Through my own process of sitting with my heart and the layers of beliefs and feelings that arose, I intuitively found this self-healing method which I call MAPS. It is an acronym to help provide a framework for somatically grounded, heart centered, shadow work and healing, which breaks down into 4 basic steps:

M: Mindfully notice the suffering that is present.

This is the step where we consciously tune into our experience of suffering on a somatic, emotional, and cognitive level with mindfulness. We bring our mindful attention to our bodies and notice the sensations that arise, becoming curious about them. We bring our mindful attention to our emotions and identify the different feelings that are present, being open to them. We bring our mindful attention to our thoughts, and notice the content, pace, flavor, and quality of them without judgement or following them.

A: Allow the feelings to be present.

In this step we take our mindful noticing of our suffering even further by truly accepting what our experience to is by allowing it to be. By letting go of our minds (now that we have noted our thoughts we can release them with gratitude) and allowing the felt experience of our emotions in our heart and body we give space to the shadows to be known and understood by welcoming them into the forefront of our consciousness.

P: Peel back the layers of feelings and beliefs to get to the core of our present suffering.

After we become mindful of our suffering, and allow it to be, we are ready to work with our heart to understand our suffering. With gentleness and compassion ask your emotion what it is believing. An answer will arise, and in this first layer of belief it may be one you are familiar with from your regular conscious experience of this suffering. With all answers that arise, allow them to be. In that allowance of the belief to be seen and heard, another emotional layer will appear in response to it. After allowing the next emotional layer to be present and felt, again ask this feeling layer what it is believing. Again, an answer will arise stating a new belief. This will again be followed by another layer of emotion. With mindful compassion, gentleness, and allowing we continue to peel back the layers of feelings and beliefs until we find the core of our suffering. This is the place of not only the core belief at the root of our suffering, but the core wound that began it. This is something you will intuitively know and feel. There will be a sense of a bottom to it, and you can recognize it often because it revolves around feeling unworthy in some way. This step is the meat of the practice and depending on the shadow we are working with and how hidden it has been from us (i.e. how many layers we need to go though to get to the core), it may go by quickly or take some dedicated sitting time.

S: Soak with self-compassion.

In this final step, after we have identified the core belief at the root of our suffering, it is time for healing this wounded aspect of self with self-compassion. There may be tears, perhaps a lot of them. There may be moaning and/or sounding. There may be the desire to punch a pillow or stomp your feet. There may be exhaustion and silence. In whatever way it is that your heart wants to express this core wounding, allow it. By allowing and witnessing this expression, you begin to release the emotional energy of the suffering, freeing yourself from it. When the expression has come to its completion, you now have the honor and opportunity of becoming your own source of compassion and healing. By placing a hand on our heart with a compassionate touch and speaking to yourself in a compassionate tone, offer yourself the compassion that you need to hear and receive. This could look like acknowledging the suffering, and the pain of this core wound and the core belief that arose from it. It may include offering yourself forgiveness and understanding. It may be the offering of loving words and affirmations to yourself. It may involve the recognition of how this suffering is common to humanity. It may be the declaration of a commitment to more deeply love, accept and protect yourself in the area of this wounding. Listen to your heart for guidance, as it speaks through you and acts as both the source and recipient of your compassion. The heart will let you know what it needs.

When this process feels complete, continue to listen to your heart. What do you need next? How does your self-compassion continue outside of this sitting practice? Whether your heart guides you to make a cup of tea and watch a movie, to take a shower or a bath, to go out into nature, or to call a family member or friend, continue to strengthen your connection to your “heartuition” and deepen your healing and integration process by listening to the wisdom of your own heart.


Written by Alicia Sunflower of Sacred Spiral Healing Arts
Counselor · Medicine Womxn · Artist

Going to PT sucks…and I’m a Physical Therapist

Guys – I’m going to level with you. I hated the thought of going to physical therapy (PT). I hated the idea of having to be someplace at a certain time. I hated the thought of doing something I didn’t want to do, and I hated paying $40 a visit for it. So I didn’t. And I limped around for 1.5 years until I had a “Come to Jesus” talk with a friend and decided I was too young to be limping.

So I got on board, made an appointment, went to a PT that someone recommended to me, and laid it all on the table. She listened to me and let me vent a bit as I gave her my long history of aches and pains. I’m also fairly certain I told her I was going to be a “bad patient”, and then she pointedly asked me, “do you want to get better?” My response was, “I’m here, aren’t I?” (side note: I knew this was the wrong answer, but I couldn’t help myself!)

First rule of PT: if you don’t actually want to be there, you’re not going to get anything out of it.

It was after my first or second session, that I started thinking about the bigger picture – that being someplace physically is not the same as being “all in” and mentally present. That half-assing it wasn’t going to work and I wasn’t going to measure up. So I dug deep and decided I was going to practice what I preached. I was on time for each of my sessions, I worked hard at it, and I got better.

But that’s not really the lesson I’m working on teaching you guys. I’m here to tell you that I know what it’s like to be on the other side; to be a patient and to not want to be there.

My first session was an hour long, spent one-on-one with my PT where she asked me a lot of questions! We spent a good chunk of time going over what brought me there to begin with, how long I had been in pain, and what my goals were for PT. She typed while I talked, and then she took at look at my body; she watched me walk, squat, monitored my movements in my hip and spine, and also measured my strength. After that, she walked me through her findings.

What I loved was that Jen asked if I wanted to be the patient or a PT patient (most PTs are terrible patients!). She took me through the mechanics of what she saw and the plan she would like for me. The most important thing, was that she asked how I felt about that plan and if I had any input that needed to be added. To all you readers out there, this is the most important thing I can teach you:

Find a PT who values your opinion and recognizes that you know your body better than anyone else! The only way you will benefit from PT, is if there is a true partnership between you and your PT.

Being the patient was terrible! I sucked at the exercises – they were all hard and made me feel super klutzy. I knew they were valuable, but man did I break a sweat. Jen chatted with me through all my exercises to keep my mind distracted, but made a point to check in and see how my body was feeling. If I was in pain or uncomfortable, she also made it a point to re-direct my body if it was going haywire and moving of its own volition.

After my first session, I felt rough because my body was tired; but also felt incredibly humbled. Most of us challenge our bodies on a daily basis – 90 min yoga classes in heated rooms, 75 min spin classes, 10 mile obstacle course races, etc; but these itty bitty exercises put all of that to shame. Standing on one leg with your eyes closed on an unstable surface is LEGIT.

Because I’m a terrible patient, I didn’t do nearly as much of my homework as I should have. Once I told Jen that, she tapered my exercises down each week and would say things like “how many exercises are manageable for you this week?” Being able to choose made a big difference in my mental shift from “homework” to “exercise I choose to do”. They were still tough, but I made it a point to do them daily!

I’m not sure that I can pinpoint the exact session when it all clicked, but what I can tell you is this:

When I sat down to write this article, I realized that what I got out of those sessions was more than physical.

Yes my hip got stronger, but so did my mind. I learned that I can always push myself to do “one more rep”, that I can be completely unwavering when it comes to doing a hard exercise. I learned that the mind-body connection is one of the most important connections we have and shouldn’t be undervalued. Lastly, I learned that all of the things I tell my patients are things I truly believe in:

Your attitude can change your pain, sleep matters, and having a good relationship with your PT can be inspiring, insightful, and one of the most powerful agents in helping you achieve your goals. So find one you like!


Sejal Gajarawala is a local physical therapist with 15 years of experience. She believes in a holistic and comprehensive approach – along with manual therapy – leads to a mindful treatment. She can be reached at: sgajarawala@gmail.com

Energy Forms & How to Set Them

Each morning I take healing walks. During my walks I set a series of energy forms that are particularly helpful for keeping us balanced and processing amidst the tremendous social, emotional, spiritual, political, and environmental upheaval and change of our current time.

These forms came from the beings Kwan Yin, Miriam, and Leah (not me), channeled by my long-time mentor Linda Crawford, an empathic healer and therapist in Massachusetts. These forms are equipped to replace the energetic grounding practices many of us have used for decades (rooting into the Earth) when Earth herself is in a state of massive change. These times call for a grounding tool that can be stable amidst massive change and movement. One of these forms is gyroscopic. If you haven’t ever seen a gyroscope look up a video, it’s spinning keeps it steady even when it’s axis tips or it hops to another location.

To set the forms:
I have described a visual of the forms below. Imagine the visual in your mind’s eye, then allow the mode(s) you experience energy to confirm your setting of the forms.  For example you may experience energy in pictures, little movies, energetic/physical sensations, colors, sounds or words, scents, or taste. Visualizing the energy form in your mind’s eye is all you need to set the forms, and don’t be surprised if you get your own sensations that accompany it. I like to set my forms as I walk. It feels important to my process and growth to work at this spiritual level while also moving physically through the world. However, you may find it is much easier to concentrate on setting the forms while in a seated meditation or stillness. Experiment with what works for you.  You could even pair each one with a yoga asana that embodies the energy you feel from it.

Form 1: Pranic Tube/Central Power Core
See/feel/locate a circular column of white light 3” in diameter reaching from the heavens down along your spinal column and down into the core of the earth. At your heart feel a tuning chamber of unconditional love and acceptance, that tunes all this white light/charged pranic life-force energy and sends it out to all parts of your body.

Form 2: Universal Heart Chakra (the gyroscopic form)
Between your heart and solar plexus chakras place a basketball-sized spinning golden ball of light, with a denser band of golden light at its vertical midpoint. Notice that as you move this Universal Heart Chakra stays steady.

Form 3: Labradorite Form
From the crown of your head to the base of your spine (in the same geographic location but on another dimensional level than the Pranic Tube/Central Power Core) set the form of a 4” square column of Labradorite-colored light (think winking greens, blues, golds, and oranges within a base of translucent deep grey). At both the crown and base of the spine a hopper shape flares out from the square column parallel to your shoulders and hips. These hoppers would appear triangular when viewing you from the front or back and have a shallower (4”) side profile. Once the hoppers are set ask to connect your Labradorite form to the Labradorite Net or Web, which has been with Earth since her beginnings and connects you to all those beings working to bring forward the Divine Feminine on Earth throughout all times, levels, dimensions and lifetimes.

Using the Forms:
Now your forms are set! You are ready to do any healing/balancing work you need to through them. To do this I use whatever is up for me at the moment. These forms will help you balance literally EVERYTHING!!! It can be current events, anxiety, shame, anger, gratitude, joy, power dynamics, hopes, I dedicate all that I am working with through these forms.  Even through the INSANITY, massive flux, and chaos of what is happening in the world with the presidency, white supremacy, xenophobia, famine, sexism, and environmental devastation—all very much up in our collective for us to face and heal in heal in humanity and in relationship—I am able to keep my personal balance through the use of these forms.

How to do it:
When you notice a pattern, a thing out of balance, a physical discomfort, or a strong feeling (I dedicate gratitude and joy too, to benefit the collective!)  Say the following:

“I dedicate this _____ to and through the web, for the benefit, blessing, and healing of all beings who may take benefit and blessing from it throughout all times, levels, dimensions and lifetimes for the greater good of all.”

Often my first dedication scratches the first layer of the thing and will start a release of emotion. I continue with what emerges from that layer until I get to the foundation/root of the pattern. After I am done with setting my forms I journal each dedication I made, this helps you to ground the work allows you to grow in your use of the forms and track what you are working with. Much of what needs to be worked through in this current time are distortions of Ignorance, Intolerance, and Power. So, you can add this to the dedication too, starting with:

“I dedicate the ignorance, intolerance, and power related to____to and through the web…”

When you do this work know that you are healing a pattern for yourself and the collective simultaneously. I imagine it as a dual-ended violet flame of healing that burns both inward and outward simultaneously. When something triggers me in the news, I do inner work related to it, for example:

“I dedicate all parts of myself that turn those in need of help away, distance myself from others, or build walls to protect myself to and through the web…”

And I also work with the outward distortions so I am healing both the piece of the pattern I hold personally and part of the collective pattern to ease the balancing and shifting of that pattern in the world.


Written by Leah Nguyen, Artist-Healer and Creator of Planet Paint People.