I'd like to share with you a map i've created and use a as starting point for all my clients who step on the path to open up. It involves three simple questions.
I look at this map as a personal development process to come to know the truth about ourselves. In combination with breath work and counselling, inquiry, movement and sound we work through the layers of protection that hold us back from the meaning and fulfilment we long for.
Breathwork in a series of sessions in my approach can offer a true change. It invites you to develop the ability to make authentic contact with yourself and others; find the courage to stand up, be honest, and discover what is stopping you from being real; and work through pain from past and current relationships; and reduce the dominance of the mind, and find what it is to be still and present.
The map offers a simple route and doorway to explore your Longing, Blockage and Escape and uses:
Radical Honesty and full Responsibility Approach
Purpose and potential in life
1. What is your longing?
One of the most frightening states that we can face is a deep sense of dislike when we do not believe that we can truly be loved as we are, when we feel too imperfect and do not realize our true value. This is one of the most basic wounds of our heart – the feeling that we are separated from our true nature, our deepest perfection. And usually, we are ready to do everything possible to not face this feeling, to neutralize it, to eliminate it and never to experience this pain again. We must be ready to be disassembled into parts, to allow old structures of our ego to collapse, in order to acquire an ability to embody those very glimpses of essential perfection that is the real focus of our true nature.
Due to fear, anxiety, our conditioning and life circumstances – a lot of our emotions remain unexpressed. and uncompleted. The power of counselling is that I am there professionally to witness your discoveries, blockages – and help you to release them without any judgment. I will ask you several questions through this part to guide you and give space for what might be suppressed, or held back for years. This can bring a huge release already. Suddenly you hear yourself again in a more original language.
I could ask you: "What would you like to move towards if you imagine a real change in your life? What do you seek for that is missing in your life. How does that make you feel and function. How do you think and act on making a change?. What is the change you fear? What could make your day a great day, a great week, a great life?
In a session we create a big container for this, reviewing your life and what is holding you back - and to speak and explore from a place of truth. This exploration is totally free from judgement, or a goal, and is not intended to fix you.
2. What is the Blockage?
Would you be open to explore and step into the unknown by daring to reveal the deepest truths about your life, and projections? What are the underlying patterns of what's keeping you 'small', hidden, blocked? What can we open that weighs heavy on you, and on your heart. What do you generally avoid in moving forward - and who might be part of this dynamic in your life, that you make complicit to your life's circumstances. What are the structures within the roles that you play? What are the assumption and expectations you have - and create this mechanism and dynamic.
We explore this together in the work. What blocks us can be caused by trauma, pain, suffering and will also have an effect on your breathing.
3. What is your Escape?
What place do you seek safety in? Where do you go when things become overwhelming. What happens when you disengage. What qualities are there, and what it is that you could actually need or want in that place, to come out of it?
There’s a common misunderstanding among all the human beings that the best way to live is to try to avoid pain and just try to get comfortable. But we of course also know that that is not it will not solve our problems. The best way out, is in, and through. In a kind, adventurous, and joyful approach to life we can begin to develop our curiosity, not caring whether the object of our inquisitiveness is bitter or sweet.
Over the course of the sessions you will regain trust in your truth, in the choices you make. From there you can slowly start to implement the insights to direct your life differently.
The life we build, and wish to simplify
“When people start to consciously breathe and do the inner work they often think that somehow they’re going to improve, which is a sort of subtle aggression against who they really are. It’s a bit like saying, “If I jog, I’ll be a much better person.” “If I do one more workshop, i'll understand myself", If i can match my last experience, i'll know I'm growing".
This type of longing is what i would describe as "chasing the uncatchable of our own completion". Holding on to beliefs limits our experience of life. It is the illusion that once we reach that specific mountain top, that we will be free from suffering, from pain, from poverty, from jealousy.. The work is of liberating ourselves from that idea, and become more present, grounded, resilient to change and the choices we make to meet the complexities. It is of standing in the world and learning to participate. We build new building blocks and allow the character in the story to become you.
Who would you be without the story? Are you trying to change that story, by wanting to change the past? How does the story feel, when we unpack it, and give it room, so i can be discharged and released What is stored in your body that has not been given the opportunity to move forward?
When we meet the person behind the protected image, fear may come as it holds a responsibility to meet yourself from this unknown place. Our identity often masks our true self, and covers itself in fear that you might not 'survive' if you would you expose yourself. The protection and holding in of energy - blocks our breathing from flowing naturally. It takes a lot of energy to live from a protected and controlled identity. The body is in a constant readiness to act, or be a certain way when underneath another story is playing out. It can be fearful to take off the mask or let go of certain responsibilities that distracts you from being with what is actually here.
Anxiety is an emotional state associated with a cognitive component of increased attentional focus on threat to the integrity of the individual. It's complex sympathetic arousal response, and the behaviors aimed to avoid stimuli or contexts predictive of threat to the individual.
Through breathing you are able to process the fundamental physiological functions of the human body. It involves the sensing of the physiological condition of the body, the representation of this internal state within the context of ongoing activities, and the initiation of motivated action to homeostatically regulate the internal state.
Breathing is not just for oxygen; it's also linked to brain function, behavior.
Northwestern Medicine scientists have discovered that the rhythm of breathing creates electrical activity in the human brain that enhances emotional judgments and memory recall. These effects on behavior depend critically on whether you inhale or exhale, and whether you breathe through the nose or mouth.
In the study, individuals were able to identify a fearful face more quickly if they encountered the face when breathing in compared to breathing out. Individuals also were more likely to remember on the inhaled breath than the exhaled one. The effect disappeared if breathing was through the mouth.
They also discovered that there is a dramatic difference in brain activity in the amygdala and hippocampus during inhalation, compared with exhalation. When we breathe in, we are stimulating neurons in the cortex, amygdala and hippocampus, all across the limbic system. The amygdala is strongly linked to emotional processing, in particular fear-related emotions. Active breathing brings a certain activity in the brain that are important for smell, emotion and memory. Changes in brain activity also lead to cognitive changes over the course of our breathing cycle.
In the research scientists asked about 60 subjects to make rapid decisions on emotional expressions in the lab environment while recording their breathing. Presented with pictures of faces showing expressions of either fear or surprise, the subjects had to indicate, as quickly as they could, which emotion each face was expressing. When faces were encountered during inhalation, subjects recognised them as fearful more quickly than when faces were encountered during exhalation. These effects diminished when subjects performed the same task while breathing through their mouths. Thus the effect was specific to fearful stimuli during nasal breathing only. This indicates that when you are exposed to a dangerous environment with fearful stimuli, you can respond more quickly when breathing through your nose.
Another potential insight of the research is on the basic mechanisms of meditation or focused breathing. "When you inhale, you are in a sense synchronising brain oscillations across the limbic network. From the science research - rapid conscious breathing doesn't stimulate the fear centers in the brain as much when you breathe with an open mouth.
Conscious connected breathing is designed to reconnect with our body, and mind, and each session brings you closer to yourself, closer to your longing, and for many becomes a way of life which they feel inspired to share with others, and for some - with the world.
It's been my path.
Katrien Franken is founder of Open Up and a trained and skilled breathwork practitioner, facilitator, educator and group leader. She is specialised in trauma and tension release and has facilitated thousands of people through (often) life-changing experiences. She is accredited as Holistic Counsellor by SIAF and approved by the CRKBO by the Dutch government and within the European Union guidelines for quality vocational education.
Want to explore the map yourself? Reach out to us to make schedule a session at email@example.com