Leo Searle Hawkins experienced an unexpected event in the shower that taught him the body holds the secret to true and complete freedom.
On the afternoon of May 1st 1996, I stepped out of my shower a changed man.
It would be several hours before I could drink anything and many weeks before I could eat properly again. My whole body felt so vulnerable and delicate; it was almost as if a demon, which had possessed me for years, had been exorcised. It left raw nerve endings where once its leech-like tentacles had sucked the life out of me.
Personal growth workshops, psychotherapy, hypnotherapy, and counselling had been the focus of my life for the previous six years. Driven by the waking nightmare of suicidal depression, of a deep, black pain that haunted my every breath, I had searched everywhere for healing and an end to my suffering.
I’d worked with world-renowned therapists, practised powerful meditation techniques, and analysed myself into the ground. I thought I was getting somewhere. I thought I was getting better and making progress.
I thought my mind could heal and free itself …
Then, completely without warning, all the pain, all the dark memories, all the agony of self-loathing, came back. In an instant, all the therapeutic work undid itself. The pain became so extreme I could not tolerate it any more and emotionally I died. During three long, desperate, days I became a walking, talking zombie-like shell that appeared human but inside was dead, empty, and unable to feel anything except pain.
This was my state of consciousness as I stepped into the shower. As the water began to cascade over my body, a wall of fear rose in front of me. I felt trapped and alone. Previously I’d hung on to the hope that my mind-orientated therapeutic and personal growth practices had given me. I had believed that one day I would get rid of the pain if only I applied myself to doing the techniques and took part in enough workshops.
Now, all that hope had gone. It felt as if everything had failed me. My mind was unable to think a single lucid thought and the fear was almost overwhelming.
Fortunately, one small memory filtered through, of a spiritual teaching from years gone past. A silent voice whispered, “Feel into your body. Feel into the pain. Feel into the blackness.”
A volcano of searing, tortured energy erupted from within as I felt into the darkness of the deep abyss that opened before me. It was like diving into an ocean of suffering. From somewhere deep in that ocean there arose a wave of emotional and physical pain of such intensity that it devoured all remaining consciousness of my surroundings.
I screamed out loud as a torrent of horrific childhood memories tore loose from my gut, releasing their pain into my body. A chaotic montage of flashing, kaleidoscopic images flew across my inner vision as if I were witnessing my whole life go past me in seconds.
My fingernails clawed the tiles of the shower. A cutting pain sliced through my body as if a million bayonets were stabbing every inch of my skin surface.
I screamed again. And again …
Eventually, the frenzy subsided. As I looked around, I became aware of the water still flowing over my body. And that was all that was happening. The black emotional pain had dissolved, never to return with the same intensity. My body felt incredibly delicate and fragile. But my mind, although dazed and stunned, was clear of self-torturing thoughts.
Although I did not realize it at the time, as I stepped out of the shower I was walking into a new world of increasing freedom, and a journey of discovery that continues to this present day.
The insights you are about to read came to me over an intense 10-year period, in which a greater consciousness directed me to travel and sit at the feet of spiritual teachers on three continents.
Gradually I learned how to present the seed that had grown spontaneously in the wilderness of my mind, as a more cultivated practice that has the potential to bring about the flowering of consciousness in anyone who engages with it.
Fast forward 18 years …
We all know that a minor cut or abrasion simply needs to be cleaned and offered an environment in which it can heal naturally. Most times we don’t even need to visit a doctor. We only need to help our bodies do what they are already programmed to do.
In a similar way, your body knows how to resolve all emotional pain, and will do so rapidly when you allow it to. And yet what many people do is tantamount to continually opening up a physical wound to see if it is healing, which obviously thwarts your body’s efforts to do just that.
Your body will heal your emotional wounds rapidly and effectively when you create the inner environment for emotional energy to naturally, and effortlessly, release and resolve itself to zero. (btw: emotion is an interesting word: e-motion, or “energy in motion”. I’m sure Einstein would have liked that one. 🙂 )
Ok, sounds good, you say. So how do I create this magical environment?
Fortunately, for most people – and I’m excluding those who are seriously ill and in need of psychiatric care – the solution is exceptionally simple.
Each time you choose to consciously feel the emotional energy in your body – staying still and silently present with the energy – that energy will diminish. It doesn’t matter what label you give the emotion. It could be named fear, sadness, loneliness, apathy, grief, anger, or something else. The truth is, whatever name you give it, it’s only energy running through your body.
Sometimes the dissolution can be instantaneous. Sometime it takes a few days, weeks, or months for it to resolve completely. Compare that to the experience of those who suffer for years, or even for the rest of their lives, following a death, divorce, or other traumatic event.
When you enter into this quality of conscious bodily relationship with the emotion each time it arises, its energy will eventually dissolve completely. That, in essence, is the principle that set me free from hell all those years ago.
The emotional soap opera
Every negative emotion, whether it be anger, apathy, grief, guilt, lust, shame, sadness, hatred, fear, and so on, has a story. And when allowed to, those stories can rule your life.
For example, when you feel anger, memories will most likely arise of past instances when you felt angry. Often, there will be judgements about the person or situation you feel angry about. There will be beliefs about what should or should not be happening, and about what other people should or should not be doing.
You may recognize this drama from the many soap operas that dominate television. It’s what I call your “surface story” – the story of a separate “I” or “ me”.
These stories do not have happy endings.
Until you choose freedom from your emotional story, instead of enslaving yourself to it, you will never enjoy emotional freedom. That’s the simple truth.
Listen to your body’s deep story
A much deeper “story” unfolds in your body when you allow previously buried, or suppressed, painful emotions to come to the surface.
What I call your deep mind, often called the “subconscious”, stores information about everything you’ve ever experienced. But it has no verbal language with which to converse with you. Instead it communicates through a subtle feeling sense that you can experience in your body. You may already know an aspect of this communication by the names of gut instinct or intuition.
Images may also arise, but physical sensations are a more powerful portal to emotional transformation. Simply acknowledge any images and, as best you can, let them be as they are. Then return your attention to the feeling sense in your body.
When you truly listen to your body, in this way of giving it your feeling awareness, attention drops out of psychological time. You are “present” here and now. And when you are simply present with your emotions, you allow their energy to transform. By no longer resisting your emotions, you set them free.
Take small steps
The first step to allowing your body to reveal its deep story, is by first telling yourself the truth about the emotions you are experiencing. You don’t need to name or label the emotions. Naming can increase identification with them and can block an even deeper emotional story from emerging. But if a mental label arises spontaneously, simply welcome it and notice that it’s just another thought.
The next step is to notice where in your body you feel the emotion most. This will usually, but not exclusively, be somewhere in the torso. Although some people may at first believe a feeling sense is in their head, when they take time to focus in more deeply and precisely, they often become aware of another sensation in the torso.
The most common locations are the abdomen, solar plexus, centre of the chest and the throat. Often, when the stuck emotional energy clears from these locations there’s also a spontaneous release of pressure, and increase of clarity, in the forehead and the top of the head.
The third step is to simply “be with” the bodily feeling sense of the emotion. Be with it in a similar way to how you would be with a distraught child. All the child wants is to be held with your kind, caring presence, to know you are here for them and are not sitting in judgement.
Simply be with whatever sensations arise in your body and, as best you can, allow whatever comes to be exactly the way it is.
Sometimes, when long-buried emotions arise, as they did for me in my shower, the pain can be intense. But when you stay present as the witness to the pain, and thus are consciously not the pain, you will know that nothing can hurt your true essence, the Being you really are.
When you no longer identify with your emotions, you can allow any emotion to arise, even the darkest and ugliest. The secret is to stay conscious in this present moment as the pain arises, or in other words to “suffer consciously”. You will not have to experience the pain for long before it permanently clears.
As you allow emotions to come to the surface, accompanying memories may also arise. These may have been suppressed for many years, sometimes for a whole lifetime, or more. Simply acknowledge and honour them as events that have brought you to where you are now. Then rest attention as the silent witnessing awareness of both the surface story of your mind and the deep feeling story of your body.
You cannot change what happened in the past. What happened, happened, and there’s absolutely nothing you, or anyone else, can do about it. The good news is that when you see these painful memories from the clear light of the present moment, you set yourself free from the past. You set yourself free to enjoy the mystery of Now.
When you stop resisting emotional energy, it will spontaneously drop away. Notice you don’t “do” anything. You simply stop resisting, or in other words you stop the “doing” that is your resistance.
And the way you stop resisting is by letting the emotion be exactly the way it is in this moment. Simply let it be and do nothing – absolutely nothing – with it.
Unleash your emotional power
Some people find the prospect of acknowledging the truth of their emotional experience a little daunting at first. If this sounds like you, simply notice any tendency to imagine that you are your painful emotions.
To become more aware of your identification, it can help to listen to your own language. For example, you may hear yourself saying, out loud or in your mind, “I am angry” or “I am unhappy”.
Fully feeling a painful emotion can seem overwhelming and even unbearable, but only if you believe that you are your emotions. Changing your language to “I feel angry” and “I feel unhappy” is an excellent step to freedom and is, quite simply, reality.
If you believe you are your pain, then losing the pain can feel as if you are losing a part of you. But when you no longer derive your identity from a painful past, and know that you are free Now, you can allow your whole experience of life to transform. You can allow yourself to enjoy great emotional power because you will no longer have any fear of feeling any emotion.
Your complete non-judgemental welcoming and embracing of painful emotions, allows them to arise out of the darkness of your deep mind and into the light of awareness. When you witness painful emotions and their stories from prior awareness, you will clearly see that neither the pain nor the story is You. This is true and complete freedom.
When you fully welcome, acknowledge, and feel your emotions exactly as they are – and surrender all intention to change them – a storehouse of latent energy becomes available to you. When you suppress your emotional energy you lock up this storehouse. You lose access to the energy and expend yet more energy on suppressing it. Is it any wonder that people who suppress their emotions often feel tired and run down?
Yet when you unlock the door and release this dammed up energy, you are free to express it. For example, you may well find yourself able to communicate more powerfully, enjoy more intimacy in relationships, make love more passionately, deliver higher performance at work, and experience vastly increased levels of confidence and self-respect.
What about positive emotions?
Although we are looking here at safely clearing painful emotions, which is primarily what most people want, you can run the same process with positive emotions and you’ll immediately feel even better. Then, through the law that what you give your attention to grows, you will feel better and better through time.
This is a powerful way to use the process and will often work best after you’ve cleared out some of the heavy negative stuff. Notice that whether you feel positive or negative, awareness is always present in the background, prior to both – simply waiting for you to turn to it.
Ultimately, if you identify with either your positive or negative emotions they will restrict you equally. Feeling good is great, but is only feeling good. It’s still in the realm of the mind and thus continues to have an opposite in feeling not so good.
The happiness-peace-joy of Being however, has no opposite. This is not an “ascended” state, nor some metaphysical altered state – it is simply your true and natural state.
You may like to allow your emotional pain to release with the help of a guide. This could be your coach, therapist, spiritual teacher, or a trusted friend. Having someone hold you in a safe space can be extremely valuable. Almost everyone finds it easier to be guided through even the most lightweight blocks. If you have any doubts about the wisdom of using this process however, always consult a qualified medical professional first.
Tip 1 Place both hands on the centre of your chest. Allow the muscles under your hand to soften and relax more with each outbreath. Simply feel into the area of your body beneath your hands. Use this gesture in conjunction with Tips 2 and 3 to increase your ability to feel into your body.
Tip 2 Sit or lie down and simply begin to notice your breath. Feel the rhythmic inhaling and exhaling. Without altering your rhythm, become interested in how your body breathes. Simply watch your breath and allow your mind to gently come to rest. If thoughts distract you, just notice them without judging them, and gently bring attention back to your breath. Simply notice there is awareness of breathing.
Tip 3 Stop – breathe – feel – rest. Animals naturally know how to give their bodies time to rest and recuperate. But our culture demands constant effort, which has led to an epidemic of stress-related illnesses. So whatever you are doing, STOP! Stop NOW.
Take a few deep, slow, conscious breaths and allow all unnecessary tension to release on the out breath. And simply feel your breath and whatever is happening in your body – without labelling your experience or adding meaning. And now, notice there is awareness of your emotional experience.
Finally, simply notice that there is awareness of awareness …
Authors note: In the context of a short article I could only communicate a small fraction of the knowledge and practices that came to me over that 10-year journey. If the content of this article interests you, you may like to read my book Break Out of Your Mind, in which I’ve shared everything I was graced to receive. It’s available in Kindle and paperback.
Medical Disclaimer: This article is for educational and entertainment purposes only. If you are experiencing any form of psychiatric illness, or are in therapy for any emotional or mental disorder, or feel in any way unsure of the wisdom of using this process, or applying any of the principles in this article, please consult with a fully qualified medical professional first. Under no circumstances discontinue medical, therapeutic, or psychiatric treatment unless under supervision of your doctor.
Photo: Flickr/Arman DZ