Taking Care of Yourself: Before and After Sessions

Pre Session Anxiety - It Is Natural
Often as we prepare to dive into our psyches for the first time, we experience to varying degrees what I call the pre-session jitters, or the "heebejeebees". The jitters are characterized by physical sensations like flutters in the belly, headaches, hunger, intestinal upsets and colds as well as anxiety, loosing things, running late for appointments, loss of sleep, getting lost and cravings for addictive substances. If you experience any of these symptoms before your first session, take a deep breath and relax. It is normal! These jitters become much less pronounced with more experience.

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Many people feel much calmer when they have made the commitment to an appointment and the disturbing feelings which have driven them to seek help do not arise as intensely until they are in session. There is a sense of relief that follows when we know we can explore issues and conflicts in a safe environment. Sometimes there is even a seductive feeling of self sabotage "Perhaps I do not need to do the session now" because I am no longer suffering.

For others, the approaching appointment stirs their stuff and patterns get acted out: couples will fight as they make their way to the session or one partner will suddenly decide not to come; people may feel too poor or they suddenly have something much more important to do. Some people are so overwhelmed with timidity that they feel they cannot come, while others will get ill or have accidents to avoid opening to themselves.

There is nothing wrong in all these behaviors. They are some of the myriad of ways we resist becoming more authentic. Our feelings display how we handle the 'threat' of the unknown. When we continue to show up for the work and bring these patterns into sessions, we discover resistance becomes our teacher, exposing our hidden motives, old identities and unconscious places of pain and fear.

As we relax into into ourselves, the inner journey becomes an adventure rather than a struggle.

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Preparing the Body
Notice how you take care of your body in preparation for a session.Your body is after all your home. In our more distressed states of being, we often reflect our feelings through the way we treat our body.

Bathing is not just about getting ready to be with others, it can be used as a symbolic act of purifying the mind and heart, washing away our fears. It is a time to calm down and focus on your inner process and intentions.

During breathwork and other intense processes, the room is closed down to create a feeling of safety and inward focus. As a consideration for others in the room, please refrain from eating odoriferous herbs and seasonings, especially garlic, and the use of perfumes, especially in hair products and body lotions. If you have a tendency to need a deodorant, then use a natural, non-scented one. It is also preferable not to wear make up, especially around the eyes unless you like the runny goth look.

During emotional releases, there are often tears and physical movements and I suggest you take out your contact lenses, so bring your lens container with you or wear glasses. Also for the duration of the session, take off any jewelry, metal belts and watches that may get lost, tangled in clothing or your hair or could possibly scratch or puncture skin.

Wear soft, loose fitting clothing so that you can breathe and move around. Natural fibers are recommended for a number of reasons: they are more absorbent, they do not leave a high carbon footprint and they are in alignment with coming into a more natural, aware relationship of your body as part of the Earth.

Eating Before a Session
Many people prefer to eat very lightly or fast prior to a session as this is easier on the stomach if you become very physical or emotionally expressive. It is preferable to avoid fatty foods, dairy products, fermented foods and sugars in particular. Small servings of fresh protein are recommended for any one who has blood sugar fluctuations. Contact me for more information about dietary directions or fasting.

Please let me know in advance of any medications or other substances you are currently taking, any allergies, dietary restrictions you have and any treatments you are undergoing. Bring your meds and allergy treatments with you and especially an inhaler if you are asthmatic.

Please ensure cell phones are switched off before each session.

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Setting Intentions
The process of setting an intention provides a way for you to witness how you create your session experience. The issues of your life may be your starting point, giving you a sense of what you don't want. Maybe you feel resistance to becoming clear or perhaps you may have no idea what you want. Maybe you keep changing your intention as you come closer to the session time, allowing the issues to distill into a deeper desire.

There is no requirement for an intention for every session. Indeed there are times when it is profound to simply be open to whatever comes. By creating a deeper focus, however, you may discover that intentions are a powerful force in your inner work, creating pathways for life to support your growing awareness.

Materials to Bring With You
Many people enjoy journaling and taking notes before or immediately after a session and during the integration. Bring a non-breakable water container that will not spill and warm sox and a sweater if needed. If you are coming to a group session, bring your favorite pillow and a blanket.

The work often opens up people's creative potential, so another way of integrating is to draw mandalas or write poetry, giving fuller expression to the new energies emerging during and after the session. So, bring your drawing materials if you wish. I have a camera to photograph sandplays and will email those images to you.

You may wish to bring any personal or sacred objects like photographs, images, crystals, prayer articles or flowers to use during your process, as a focus for your intention or simply to invite beauty and the sacred into your field.

If you have any medical condition or your meds have changed please discuss it with me before we begin the session. Bring your medications with you. If you get achy muscles, bring extra calcium/magnesium with you ( its also good for calming anxiety).


Post Session Care

At the end of your session or the next day, we will spend some time sharing and integrating your experience, continuing to resolve any unfinished feelings, answer questions, share what you have learned and apply your new awareness to your everyday life and relationships. Keeping a journal engages the left brain to integrate the feelings and images your right brain activated during your session. By keeping a record of your learnings and your experiences, you can map your progress as you grow.

The deeper or longer the session, the greater the need to allow time to integrate. The psyche will expand to fill the amount of available time for the work, so if you do need to travel or rush off to work, you may not have the quite same depth of integration as when you rest. You will be able to function, albeit on a different level to your norm. It is well worth taking the time to plan for quiet time after deep inner work.

Maintaining the Container
It is so easy within the open hearted field of the group sessions to talk and share intimately,  and it is often tempting to comment on other's processes. In order to maintain a safe container for this deep work, it is important to keep the focus on one's self, both during and after the integration, by just talking about your own experience, resisting the temptation to judge or give others advice.

It is not always apparent from outward appearances, whether someone is in a young or tender state or what their issues may entail. So we neither share without permission any contact information nor discuss who was present or what happened with anyone else outside any of the groups that occur. If we happen to meet another group member in a public place, we try to remember to ask permission before launching into intimate discussion of anything related to the group.

There is an interesting maturation that occurs as we learn to hold clear boundaries within ourselves and with others. It allows our own process to deepen as we build the inner container and in giving respect to others and their processes, we become gentle with our own vulnerabilities.

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Physical Care
Old patterns hold much tension and subliminal stress in the body, so as this is released through strong emotional expression and movement, a little fatigue and soreness can sometimes become apparent afterwards. At times like this, massage, soaking in a bath with essential oils and epsom salts or having a hot tub is wonderful. If your body aches, try liquid calcium with boron. Alternatively, you may feel totally liberated and have lots of new energy available, so dance, play, enjoy!

As deep feeling and release can leave the body feeling tender and open, somewhat vulnerable, there is an important need to rest and restore afterwards. Walks in nature, pottering in the garden, lying on the beach, yoga, making love or watching beautiful, funny or inspiring movies, reading, painting and playing are all great ways to feed your soul. The gentleness you allow yourself at these times lovingly honors the depth of your work, allowing it to settle within you and balance the hectic pace of life.

It is important to follow up on any medical conditions you become aware of during or after sessions.

Dreams and Images
Frequently, dreams and meditations intensify, contributing to a much richer inner life. Your dreaming body sends messages from your unconscious through symbols and feelings to support your evolution. The most effective way to record dreams is to use a voice activated recorder or an Ipod, minimizing movement as you wake up. As soon as you move, the conscious mind is activated and begins to change the interpretation of the dream. Let the dream play forward in the morning as you wake, allowing the images to unfold in the stillness.

Sleep patterns are also often affected by the work, creating new doorways for your conscious awareness to expand. There are times when it is preferable to go with the waking, using the quiet night hours to meditate, read and journal. But when you'd rather sleep, I recommend you darken the room and wear ear plugs to reduce the sensory inputs and avoid food or drink stimulants that may keep you awake. I also suggest the following herbal remedies or supplements available from health food stores or chinese medical practitioners. Do not use any prescription sleep medications after sessions.

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A major compound which influences sleep is serotonin, which is found in the gut, regulating intestinal movement. It is an important neurotransmitter (a chemical communication link between brain cells). Serotonin has a significant effect on moods, anxiety, aggression and depression, pain perception, appetite, memory and learning, the production of niacin, as well as the quality of sleep and dreams. To regulate serotonin, take the essential amino acid precursor, tryptophan an hour before going to sleep, the day before and day after a session. Do not use immediately after sessions.

Another suggested sleep enhancer is GABA  (Gamma-Aminobutryc-Acid). It is an amino acid found in the central nervious system and is the primary neurotransmitter involved with the resetting of sleep patterns, our answer to jet lag.

Chinese medicine classifies sleep disruption in different ways e.g.: dream disturbed sleep, difficulty falling asleep, waking early, waking at a specific time each night or hard to wake up. Each aspect corresponds to different organ functions, usually the heart, spleen and liver, and the elements which govern them. Treatment is holistic, addressing the emotional, physical, mental and spiritual aspects of the individual's disturbance using ancient chinese herbal formulas and acupuncture.

Traditional herbs such as valerian, california poppy, passion flower, camomile, catnip and hops are available as supplements, tinctures and teas to enhance relaxation and sleep. One of my favorites is the 'Yogi' brand which has wonderful 'Calming' tea formula. It is important to research the correct dosage of any supplements as well as the purity of any herbal products. "Calm" is a great magnesioum supplement that soothes the nerves and quiets the mind.

The best guide to sleep and any supplements in relation to the work is to use what you normally use, at the lowest possible doses.

If you can't sleep, then let yourself be awake, but with awareness on relaxation, soothing body and mind: journal, read poetry, do yoga, meditate, watch a funny movie, take a hot bath or drink some warm milk ( the calcium helps relax the muscles). Enjoy the stillness of the night, watch the stars and the moon. Avoid mind stimulating activities like your email and the internet or continuing that fight with your partner.

Following long sessions, it is so nourishing to sit down to a bowl of grandma's chicken soup. I recommend a high protein breakfast followed by low fat, complex carbohydrate snacks throughout the following day, as this combination of foods actually increases serotonin levels. Emotional releases are often accompanied with physical detoxification, so drink plenty of water and take antioxidants such as good quality chocolate, vitamins C and E and green tea.  If you get depleted towards the end of the evening, some bring electrolyte replacement supplements (like Ultima) can really help you get balanced.

I also heartily recommend comfort foods. I love warm tapioca pudding, made with fresh coconut milk and stirred with love for an hour or greens fresh from the garden, dripping with vitality.These comfort foods nourish the young places in our awareness and often are just what the body needs after diving into the deep end of our emotional body. Instead of following your usual diet, feel into what your body really wants and needs.

Many people now smoke tobacco and other herbs. Whilst this can be an engoyable past time, these plants are not recommended in association with this form of deep inner work. They can and do affect the emotional and spiritual bodies as well as causing potentially very damaging health risks. If you have any kind of smokung addiction, bring it into the work so that you can reclaim your choice.

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Emotional and Spiritual Care
As we untangle the emotional patterns that cause pain, it is natural to feel a little vulnerable until you are able to live the new learnings. Relationships shift and change as you break free of patterns and it is an art to develop conscious ways of still being around people who trigger you or as you prepare to leave those who are no longer part of your path. As we relax into our essential self, our experience of change within outer relationships also softens.

Share your experiences with those who do similar work to gain the support you need. When you are ready, take a risk - reach out and give what you want emotionally and discover that service without attachment to outcome is a powerful answer to suffering.

Energy freed up in sessions needs to be redirected to your new intentions and awareness, otherwise you will find yourself slipping back into your old ways and it will seem as if the work does not work or that you have failed in some way. Life often presents a challenge quite soon after a session, which gives you the opportunity to apply what you have discovered. One of the most common is to be loving and gentle with yourself when you do fall back into the old addictive patterns. It takes patience, focus and loving discipline to choose a different response when we are faced with the same old triggers. It is not a pass or fail situation when you repeat your compulsive emotional responses - what matters is how aware and accepting you are of yourself and others as you learn how to love and apply your new emotional and spiritual choices.

Clearing our stuff is part of it, but equally important in this journey is nourishing the seeds of your new growth. Where appropriate, I may recommend individual practices that build awareness, clarity and compassion.

It helps to find inspiring films, books and activities that feed your spirit and reinforce healthy emotional behaviors. There is a list of great movies on my resources page, but check in with me if you are unsure of what will best suit your current process. Other articles on this site can also give your mind ways of cooperating with what your heart has discovered.

Pay attention to your intentions and relationships, inner and outer, and form your practice. It may be time to do more yoga, meditation or to be still and more balanced with your inner life. It may be time for you to prepare to change your work and your ways in the world to reflect more clearly your emerging passion and calling. You may find ways to not let other's dramas affect you so much. You might consciously choose to simplify your life or practice holding a different attitude to the way you eat. Caring for your finances, being in Nature more often or taking time to cultivate awareness of beauty are all ways of learning to love yourself and life.

It is important to occasionally check back in with yourself to see how your discipline and practices are working. This can happen in the way of dreams, meditations and images that reflect your progress or noticing you feel different, responding to stresssful situations better or maybe you have more energy. You can check back in conversations with me or others who were with you, if you were in a group, and fine tune your practices so that the work really works for you.

The dedication required to implement the awakening consciousness you experience in sessions becomes devotion as you evolve. Whatever comes out of your sessions, whether it is change or surrender into what is, I encourage you to be kind to yourself and remember to allow Life to support you in your journey.

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