Since I’m part of Breathe Yoga & Wellness now, I’m writing something for their monthly email newsletter. Woohoo! Here’s the first installment, a welcome and introduction. It serves as a nice overview to what I’m doing and how it differs from traditional therapy. And I really don’t mean any disrespect to traditional therapy. I really don’t. I know I can come across that way sometimes, and I’m working on that. I just get excited, because this is a new approach that seems to get better and faster results, all things being equal. And let’s face it, if that’s even remotely a possibility then it’s well worth talking about and exploring. Our peace is just too important. So let’s get excited about another way that might be more effective and even fun. Enjoy!
Hello, Breathe! I’m Ashley Pennewill, LCSW, the new Holistic Coach/Counselor for Breathe Yoga & Wellness. I’ve been friends with Stacey, Tara, and Christa for a while now, and this really is awesome for me. I just love them, and the future is wide open as Breathe expands to have more and more offerings to help us all have the best lives we can. What I’d like to do now is introduce myself and let you know exactly what I’m doing and how it represents an actual paradigm shift in the field of psychology. Big words, I know. Hey, I didn’t do anything by myself – I’ve had amazing teachers. I really do think that this approach represents the coaching/counseling of the future, though. It’s so cool, so powerful, so fast in many cases, and it’s happening right here, right now. Here we go…
In a nutshell, I teach health as opposed to treating illness. That’s a 180-degree turn. Just like physical health is built-in, psychological health is built-in as well. It comes with the body. When we cut ourselves, get a cold, or break a bone, the healing just happens. Nobody really knows how it happens. We can prevent healing, like constantly picking a scab, but we cannot heal. The best we can do is be smart, like keep the cut clean, put on a band-aid, do some pranic healing or another energy healing modality, and/or get stitches if needed. But the healing itself just happens pretty much magically. So here’s the big question… why wouldn’t psychological health be built in as well? That just wouldn’t make much sense. When I first thought about it this way, I was blown away. Of course psychological health and resilience are built-in! They have to be. This means it is built-in that we can thrive in life rather than cope and survive. It means we can thrive even in the face of hurts, disappointments, and traumas. It means we can handle it and grow and move on and continue to thrive some more.
When viewing things this way, our issues such as stress, anxiety, depression, trauma, anger issues, or whatever are merely symptoms telling us that our innate health has gotten covered up. And what covers it up? Our thinking. How we are seeing things in that moment. More specifically, we believe our thinking too much. We take it too seriously. Or you could say that we spend too much of our time doing low quality thinking. More on that later.
A great example is the student that freaks out whenever he has a big exam coming up (I got this from the amazing book, The Renaissance of Psychology by George Pransky). He gets terrible anxiety, gets angry, fights with his partner, and has trouble sleeping. In traditional therapy, he might get treated for an anxiety disorder, anger management, relationship issues, and insomnia. And this might come with some medications as well. The real issue, though, is his low quality thinking related to exams. So what would I treat? His low quality thinking related to exams! I would show him where these feelings and behaviors are actually coming from (how he views exams as oppossed to exams themselves). He doesn’t have an anxiety disorder or any of the other labels. He simply needs to raise the quality of his thinking related to exams. That’s the problem. The rest are merely symptoms.
So what is the difference between low quality thinking and high quality thinking? Basically, we have two ways of thinking. One is our computer/processor/analyzer mind. It shows up in the form of that voice in the head that talks incessantly. It can be critical, and it can analyze things to death (and then analyze them some more, just in case). It can make up scenarios that haven’t even happened in the name of being prepared. Sound familiar? This is how adults are conditioned to spend most of their time thinking.
There’s a more natural way to think, though, and it’s actually how kids think, so it’s how we all used to think at one point. It’s creative, free-flowing, responsive to any specific situation, helpful, and even wise. We could call it our inner wisdom, but another name is plain old common sense. This kind of thinking is available to us all the time. We just have to turn down the chatter, ask, and receive. This voice is not trying to compete with the loud chatter, though.
Now here’s where it all comes together. If you really, really think about it, our feelings are not connected directly to the world. Rather, they are connected to how we see the world. Big difference. I’m totally phobic of snakes, so if a snake lover and I are standing next to each other and we see a snake, we will have completely different feelings. I’ll freeze up and be stricken with fear instantly, while she’ll get a warm feeling of love. And we’re looking at the same snake! I used to think that the snake was emitting feelings of fear. But she feels love. So which is it, fear or love?? Neither! A human body is simply not wired to feel the world. It can only ever feel how it sees the world. It can only ever feel its thinking. So we can start to practice disconnecting our feelings from the world. Literally. All the time. Starting right now, wherever you are in this moment.
The more we notice that we’re feeling our thinking, the more our power begins to shift back to us. I’m in charge of how I feel now, and that sure beats being a victim of the world I see. I’m responsible for how I feel and nobody else. Not my parents, not my friends, not my romantic partner (or lack thereof), not my job, etc. Goodbye, co-dependence! The very ordinary awakening that comes from living this way is indescribable. And it grows and grows (I feel like I’m just beginning. And that’s totally fine!). That’s because our default setting of peace, which has been there the whole time, is now being covered up less and less. So it can come out more and more. Now when I notice I’m in my analyzer mode of thinking, I can simply switch to my wisdom/common sense in an instant. And how will I notice? This is the cool part. Since my body is feeling my thinking 24/7, feelings are now an ingenious guidance system telling me when my thinking is off. So there’s no such thing as a bad feeling; it’s all very valuable information guiding me back to peace.
So that’s my approach in a nutshell. I’ll be expounding upon it more in these articles, and I really look forward to connecting with you in this way. We’ll have lots of fun as we journey to more and more peace. And it’s just so ordinary; that’s the best part. You don’t have to become an expert on any modality or make it complicated. It’s your natural state, and there’s nothing you can do to change that. You can only let it be covered up by believing your thinking too much. I just feel so grateful that I’ve found the teachers and teachings to learn how to do things this way. It sure speeds up the coaching/counseling process. It really does act as a one size fits all, too, because we have what we need inside of us to handle the specifics. We just have to start living from our wisdom/common sense rather than from our ego. And we can feel the difference in a split second. Happy practicing, and let me know if I can help! Also, I’ll be talking about this at the Breathe studio downtown on Friday night, April 24, from 7:30-9. We’ll also do a really cool meditation at the end to show you how easy it can be to relax very deeply. The more we can relax, the more Life can flow through us. And it can be pretty amazing what unfolds.