I thought about writing some existential version of the meaning of colonial settlers declaring independence from the royal crown across the Atlantic 245 years ago. But, instead, I decided to show gratitude for my privilege and freedom despite my mixed feelings about the way we got here. And as a gift, I want to present four (4) things on the 4th that have recently been revolutionary to my journey.
Consider these precursors for a future deeper dive into each category.
Breathwork. It's so easy, yet so hard to practice regularly. It took me about two years to adopt a consistent practice, and even after six months of the daily routine, I'm feeling the need to switch things up. Why is breathwork effective? Here's a good summary. It has transformed how I approach life—through my first holotropic breathing exercise, taking me into my deepest fear: dying. Ever since that voyage, I've seen how breath can guide me back into gratitude, patience, and openness with a few minutes of focus and intention. 💨
Shadow work. I originally learned about shadow work from the book The Dark Side of the Light Chasers by Debbie Ford about six years ago. It was like a freight train to realize we are just judging and projecting onto others what we don't accept within ourselves. Ms. Ford's description of judging a murderer is particularly persuasive in my eyes because of the gap she closes between the anger we believe we would never act on and our judgment for someone who commits the ultimate crime from a place of rage. This type of work is relentless because, let's face it, accepting your whole 'shadow' self is like climbing Everest. My current favorite method around shadow work comes from Byron Katie's Loving What Is. It's appropriately called 'the work,' and I'm finding it as an anchor for my climb. 🏔
Group reflection. Have you ever had those energetic moments within a group where you felt so connected by being seen, heard, and loved? I remember feeling hits of euphoria in group environments growing up, from sports teams to BBYO. We had a shared vision and desire to grow together. Even effective work cultures can induce oxytocin and connections that deepen bonds. Imagine combining the shared vision and harmony in those environments with therapeutic exercises. That's what group reflection is in my mind—a safe and secure container of intentional like-minded individuals unifying to support and reflect for one another. It just works for me. I've heard others joke about their peer reflection group getting them to drop their licensed therapists after years of guidance. If you want to listen to a couple of high-achieving people, talk about its potency, journalist Neil Strauss and health guide Darin Olien talk about the intentional peer group they've set up in this podcast episode.🪞
Vagus Nerve Exercises. If you haven't heard of the vagus nerve, no worries. No time like the present. It's the longest cranial nerve running from our brains to our colon. Most importantly, it helps regulate our parasympathetic response (rest and digest). We can stimulate the nerve to help toggle ourselves down from a stress response triggered by our sympathetic nervous system. It's pretty simple to enable it. See the video below for my current go-to aptly named 'basic' exercise. I'd love to write more on this one alone, but I'll resist and save it for the future. Just try out the exercise here 👇🏽