On Saturday, February 18th, Margaret and I facilitated our Releasing I workshop, which explored our proverb, "Tears cleanse the soul as well as the I". We had six participants who gathered at The Happiness Institute to heal the pain within using band-aids, mandalas, debrief, and ritual. It was a truly powerful workshop that demonstrated the power of naming our pain, honoring our pain, healing our pain, and releasing our pain.
We started the workshop as we do all of our workshops: with a check out, or (in other words) simply answering the question, "What do you need to check out of in order to be present today?" This simple welcome and introduction always produces some insightful comments. Too often, we find our minds and emotions wrapped up in other activities even when present in a room with others. Our check out empowers participants to honor their concerns in order to cultivate presence.
Then, we shared our Release Theory, which was created by Margaret and me specifically for this workshop. As we created the agenda for Releasing I, Margaret and I slowed our development process looking both inward and towards each other over a three-week period. This slowing down produced an incredible intentionality in the agenda, and it is ultimately what lead us to our Release Theory for we practiced the theory as we created the agenda. Thus, our Release Theory is grounded in our personal experiences.
The Release Theory is simple and in four easy-to-follow steps. They are:
- Step One: Name the pain. It is important to know where the pain, whether emotional or physical, resides. We used the example of a headache. Sometimes a headache originates from tension or stress and resides in the shoulders or the neck. Sometimes a headache is the beginning of a migraine. Sometimes a headache resides in the sinuses. By specifically naming the pain and where it resides, we become one step closer to releasing it for without understanding its origins we are unable to address the roots of the pain.
- Step Two: Honor the pain. This step is crucial for release. Too often we jump right in to trying to fix the pain or at least alleviate it. We want it to go away so badly that we don't take a moment to honor it and let it tell us what it needs to. Taking a moment to honor its message, understand its meaning, and simply "let it be" allows us to move from "fixing" and "alleviating" to deep healing.
- Step Three: Heal the pain. Healing pain comes in many forms from the physical to the psychological to the spiritual. Healing pain does not mean it will immediately disappear. Let's take the headache example again. If, as you scan your body, you realize that your headache is behind the eyes and, then, as you honor it, you uncover its roots are stress, healing your headache may include popping two Advil or Tylenol and doing some deep breathing to ease your stress level. That said, relieving stress takes time and will not magically disappear. However, taking two Advil and doing some deep breathing starts the healing process. If you didn't do those two things, you wouldn't even be on a path towards healing. Healing the pain requires a multi-layered approach, one that must blend the physical, psychological, and spiritual. (Disclaimer: This does not substitute for professional medical or psychological advice.)
- Step Four: Release the pain. Ultimately, we want to release pain. Releasing the pain does not mean it will be completely gone. Rather, it means we have found peace with our pain; we have found a way through our pain. Release comes when we know where the pain resides, honor its root causes, and do what we can within our means to heal those roots. It may still sting and hurt and throb. But that is also part of both the healing and releasing process.
To "Name the pain", Margaret led the group through a meditative body scan. She asked us to pay attention quietly and humbly to our bodies noticing where there is ease and where there is tension. She called forth the top of the head, between the shoulder blades, the thighs and hips and backs of knees. Each named body part bringing deeper awareness of the joints and muscles and veins and nerves. The simple task was noticing where we hurt.
After the body scan, we handed out band-aids to everyone. We asked participants to place a band-aid on each part of his/her body that had pain. We requested that as s/he placed the band-aid on their pain that s/he take a moment to honor it and notice its roots.
Then, we shared a healing/meditative practice: mandalas. At first, participants asked "What does this have to do with healing?" as they did not see the link between a meditative practice and the healing that silently occurs when one is able to turn off the racing mind.
We responded, "please, just try it out; go with it. You will be surprised by what occurs."
We shared a simple set up for how to create an eight-fold mandala. We also provided pre-designed mandalas participants could simply color in. The goal was not to stress about the creation of a mandala. Rather, it was finding the wide open space of meditation within the process. Most preferred creating their own. One loved coloring and chose that path instead. All found a moment of insightful meditation.
We debriefed the creation and coloring of the mandalas as a community. People were moved by the experience of quieting the mind and finding healing within. People share deeply personal emotions, of which I will honor by not sharing here.
To "release the pain", Margaret and I created a simple hand washing and band-aid removal ritual. When Margaret and I first sat down to create the agenda for Releasing I, we were inspired by the story of Jesus washing his disciples feet. Margaret is a practicing Methodist that also incorporates other faith practices into her spirituality. I don't really identify as any particular religion or spiritual belief (informal Daoist if I had to choose). I was raised deeply Catholic, and the story of Jesus washing his disciples feet has always been a moving one for me. What moves me is the simple act of service by a man in a "leader" role. And even deeper for me is the fact that that service is one of personal touch and cleansing.
For Releasing I, Margaret and I invited the participants to slowly remove his/her band-aids and place them in a bowl held by me. As they removed their band-aids, I genuflected (very, Catholic I know!) and bowed my head. Then, Margaret held a bowl of water with rose pedals in it. Each participant washed his/her own hands and dried them on a towel. We went around the whole circle until all had removed his/her band-aids and washed her/his hands.
During the ritual, emotions were palpable. People were moved and some even cried. As one who held a bowl, I felt humbled by being in service to others, and it made me value my role within the community in a way I had never experienced before: that of facilitator of personal healing.
We closed Releasing I the way we close all of our workshops: with a Mudra, a simple hand yoga pose. The one we shared was on release.
As I left the workshop, I was inspired, humbled, and grateful. I was inspired by the deep intention of all. I was humbled by the stories of healing and release shared. And I was grateful that I, too, had the experience of Releasing I in the company of others.