In our quick fix culture, the idea of sleeping during a therapy session might seem ludicrous. But action alone will not create permanent change. We require a period of integration that often occurs during deep rest.
I admire the clients who are willing to fall asleep, because they fully trust their brain and the process of Brainspotting. They never sleep for long. If they dream, the dream often offers keen insight to our session. Some say they have never experienced that kind of “deep rest” in their lives! It reminds me of the clients emerging from my Reiki sessions who say they feel like they are “crawling out of the womb.”
Our greatest learning occurs during the stillness between active states.
It appears to me that my clients enter a state similar to yoga nidra, which is a practice to achieve a deep state of relaxation while maintaining full consciousness. Inspired by Yoga nidra, Dr. Richard Miller created iRest, or Integrative Rest, a modern adaption of the yogic state, with a specific protocol.
There are marked similarities between Brainspotting and yoga nidra or iRest. While I am not leading a visualization during Brainspotting, a client will often rest deeply. In Brainspotting healing occurs when a client brings up strong emotion and then goes to a place of calm. This pendulating between intensity and calm or rest neutralizes strong emotion associated to traumatic memory.
Similarly, Dr. Miller explains, “The ultimate design of iREST/Yoga Nidra is to help people live contented lives, free of conflict, anxiety, fear and suffering. iREST accomplishes its goal through two basic steps: (1) the embodiment of pure awareness and (2) the release of negative body sensations, emotions, beliefs and stress that give rise to self-destructive patterns.”
Dr. David Grand calls Brainspotting “focused mindfulness” because as clients tune into their bodies and follow where the body leads, the journey leads to healing, and sometimes that includes rest. Furthermore, in Brainspotting, when clients condemn or shame themselves, I explain the detrimental effects of perpetuating abuse that was experienced by self-abusing. I encourage, instead, that they label their self-condemnation as “survival programming that no longer serves.” I encourage a neutrality – to just notice the tendency to judge harshly.
Similarly, Beth Heller and Tami Quinn, iRest practitioners, explain “This consciousness is pure awareness that never sleeps and welcomes every moment as it is, without analysis, judgment or conclusion. By welcoming things as they are, a student begins to see that they are not separate, finite beings, rather infinite and eternal. Connecting with this state of consciousness offers an opportunity to resolve mental, physical and spiritual confusion, conflict and suffering.”
While the protocol is different, the goal of Brainspotting and iRest are the same. If a client goes into this aware sleep state, I encourage them to trust it. It’s where they do a great deal of integration and recovery.
“We live in a media driven world that programs us to avoid thinking, to distract ourselves, to divert our minds with entertainment or purchases. Our social norms seem to condone jacking up our energy with an incessant flow of caffeine or drama. But who engages in self-soothing activities that are intentional interactions with self? If rest seems like it would take discipline, you are operating out of someone else’s paradigm. Emotional processing takes energy, healing takes energy, learning new ways to respond takes energy. That’s why teenagers sleep so much. They are busy making sense of the world while they rest.” Gabrielle Pullen, iRest trainer
I schedule rest into my life. I wouldn’t be able to counsel effectively and show up fully present and attuned without it.
Results does not always require “doing.” Consider downloading a yoga nidra visualization or finding some way to achieve this awakened state of rest that offers so many benefits.