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  • Writer's pictureLona

Safety in Workshops and Healing

I trained to become a Tantra Teacher with 57 other students in an intensive 200-hour 30-day course in Greece. I kind of skipped over the word intensive when I signed up. I knew it would be a lot, but I had no idea how intense indeed it would be. There was no time for integration as classes were 11 hours a day and we maybe had one day off a week. And there were a lot of us going through this same intense experience. By week 3 things started to fray at the seams. This is where the importance of safety finally reared its ugly head. I've realized now, looking back, that safety was not as important as it should have been. And I'm not even sure how to make an intensive course like that safer, except to teach students how to resource in safety themselves. The coaching program I'm in now is an online course that will take minimum a year and maximum 2 years. Safety is baked in from the start here. I want to explore this relationship to safety and transformation and healing, and how you can find it within yourself.

Safety. It's a word that's thrown around a lot and I think people honestly just hope for the best. They head off any situations they can imagine might impact safety and try to remain flexible and open to dealing with any issues that come up (if you're lucky). But how does this state of safety affect students and teachers alike in expansion? Well, if my goal in a workshop or session is anything expansive, then safety must be a number one priority. If someone doesn't feel safe on a physical, emotional, mental, or energetic level then they will not enter a state of healing or transformation.

I'll share something with you that I start all of my workshops with, in an attempt to cultivate safety in expansion. We all live in the comfort zone most of the time. This is where all our patterns and programming are. It's comfortable because we aren't rocking the boat. But beyond the comfort zone is the discomfort zone. This is when we are pushed out of our traditional patterns and programming and enter a state that, I believe, is possible to heal and transform in. We get the opportunity to see things from a new perspective and the chance to change them. In many ways, I hope to push you into discomfort in many of the workshops. This is where healing can happen. But beyond the discomfort zone is the trauma zone. In the trauma zone no healing can happen, and you are even at risk of retraumatizing yourself. I do not want to push you into the trauma zone.

I go on to say that I have to trust you to know these boundaries because I couldn't possibly know them for you. I trust you. But what if you don't trust yourself? What if you live in such unsafety that you can't distinguish between discomfort and trauma anymore? This is the difficulty in leading a safe space. Each of us lives in a certain window of tolerance. This window is constantly changing day to day and even hour to hour. When you are in your window of tolerance, you feel like you can deal with anything that comes your way. Even if you feel stress or trauma, you feel like you can handle it. This is the comfort and the discomfort zone. Things like stress, trauma, and overwhelm can cause your window to shrink. Things like embodiment, mindfulness, energy work, meditation, and music can expand your window.

Some people are almost never in their window of tolerance. This means that even small hiccups in their day can cause them to dysregulate and enter states of either hyperarousal (anxiety, anger, manic, or out of control) or hypoarousal (numbness, exhaustion, depression, or dissociation). Ever done something small like forgot your keys as you walked out of the house and it ruined your whole day? Even though the fix to this is to just go back inside and get your keys, this small transgression has caused you to dysregulate and you might become angry or numb. In someone with a larger window of tolerance (that is a practiced skill) this wouldn't cause much harm to their day. They may even happily go back inside, laugh as they grab their keys and move on.

So, what do you do when you leave your window of tolerance? This is a skill that all teachers and facilitators should be knowledgeable in and teaching. It's something I'm trained to react to as it happens in the workshops, and something I try to prepare students for as we move into uncomfortable sessions. And it's not about "just relaxing and breathing". In fact, deep intentional breathing can make it worse in some cases because it gives more energy to the feelings. As you leave your window of tolerance there will be subtle ways you can start to identify in yourself that give you clues that you need to find safety resources. This could be a temper starting to flare up, anxious thoughts, a desire to return to old patterning, feeling needy, numbness coming up, starting to check out. Plus many more that could be unique to you. Safety starts with noticing what the feelings and sensations are when you start to leave that safety.

Next, you want to learn how to start regulating again. Especially in deep Tantric practices, this may require you to take a step back from the activity. Resourcing in safety can look like sitting out on an exercise or standing up and walking around. When we are trying to heal old trauma and the trauma tries to suck you back to that original state then regulating can look like these: orienting yourself to the present by looking around at the room you're currently in, touching your body firmly, laying on the floor to ground, or scanning your body for the present moment sensations and speaking them out loud. A lot of us feel the need to keep going in deep practices because we want healing so bad, but staying longer than feels safe can have the opposite effect. If true healing is what you desire, then learning this difference between discomfort and trauma states will help you more than any other practice. And learning how to return to a regulated state will help you all the time in the rest of your life.

Safety is not some side thought to healing. It should be the number one focus of healing. Because healing cannot happen without safety. And safety isn't just something to be mentioned at the beginning then never brought up again. Living in safety is so much more expansive than just acknowledging safety.

It is my job as a Tantra Teacher to understand this principle, and I want to share this knowledge with you. You don't need someone else to guide you into safety if you know how to guide yourself. This is liberating! I also encourage you to ask about safety when you start a course with a new teacher. See if they are safety-informed or trauma-informed. Then understand that no one else can give you safety if you aren't willing to find it yourself. You may find new tools to live within safety from new teachers, but don't rely on them for all of your safety either.

Below is an expanded list of ways to resource when you feel you've stepped out of your window of tolerance. It is not complete though, trust yourself to know what can bring you back to safety as well. We are all unique and I trust you. Just make sure it's not something that is checking you out of the present moment, like smoking weed or drinking. These are crutches that can hinder our healing because we can get attached to them and feel like we need them to regulate. YOU are your highest power. Smoking weed and drinking can have their place in your life, but not as a resource to safety.

• Firmly touch your body: Use a firm hand pressure, pressing and releasing, moving top to bottom, bottom to top, inside out or outside in.

• Lean against a wall: Notice that you are held, you don’t have to do it all on your own.

• Press or push your body into the ground or a surface: This can give you sensory integration or feedback if you are feeling ungrounded.

• Drink a glass of water or a cup of tea: Feel the liquid in your mouth, down your throat, in your belly.

• One minute dance party: Play a song you love and dance however your body desires for one minute or longer.

• Visualize yourself surrounded by people you feel safe with and/or your divine masculine and feminine.

• Write down an empowering truth or affirmation (possibly when you feel more regulated) and say it out loud while offering yourself soothing touch.

• Take a walk around the block or just step into nature.

• Eat something that feels nourishing and grounding.

• Cuddle with someone you feel safe with.

• Reach out to a friend or peer.

• Breathe in rhythm with another person.

• Breathe with sound on the exhale.

• Watch funny videos on YouTube.

• Snuggle under a blanket.

• Pet an animal.

• Take a bath.

• Shake.

These are somatic ways to feel safe. They do not work in the logical brain as much as they work in the primal brain and in the body. Safety was one of the first things we needed to develop as early humans, so feeling safety is more important than just thinking about being safe. Save this page so you can return to it when you need it most.

INSPIRED ACTION: Write down a list of the top 5 ways you want to start resourcing in safety and put it somewhere you will be able to easily find it when you need it most. It could even just be in your phone. Start recognizing your own triggers for when you begin to leave your window of tolerance. It could take time to find them because they subtly work their way into our lives. Remember that your brain wants you to feel safe all the time, so it will try to influence you on many levels if it starts to feel unsafe. Find your triggers, and continue to resource yourself somatically back to safety. Reach out if you're struggling.

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