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“Stay connected.” With Beau Henderson & Ilene Smith

Everything changes with mindfulness because we can feel into our emotional, physical, and spiritual self. This is a higher level of being. It’s a different vibration, one that moves away from fear, projection, and rumination to a place of simply being with whatever shows up in our mind and body. The body and mind are […]

Everything changes with mindfulness because we can feel into our emotional, physical, and spiritual self. This is a higher level of being. It’s a different vibration, one that moves away from fear, projection, and rumination to a place of simply being with whatever shows up in our mind and body. The body and mind are intrinsically connected. When we are in a state of mindfulness our nervous system has an opportunity to move out of its survival states of fight, flight, or freeze (which are only meant for acute experiences) and into a state of balance. When the nervous system is balanced, every other system in our body is healthier.


Asa part of my series about How To Develop Mindfulness And Serenity During Stressful Or Uncertain Times, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ilene Smith.

Ilene is the author of Moving Beyond Trauma: The Roadmap to Healing from Your Past and Living with Ease and Vitality. She is a certified professional coach and Somatic Experiencing practitioner who is passionate about helping others explore life with curiosity and exuberance. Her research into Somatic Experiencing and eating disorders has contributed to the importance of Somatic Experiencing and body-based therapies in recovery.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

Inmy early forties, after a career in banking and real estate financing, I returned to school for a master’s degree in mental health counseling. I had no idea that this path would lead me to my greatest passion in life thus far. During my internship to complete my degree, I was introduced to Somatic Experiencing, which was developed by Peter Levine, PhD. What distinguishes Dr. Levine’s work from other trauma-informed therapies is the importance of bringing the body into the therapeutic process.

When I became a student and patient of Somatic Experiencing (SE), I saw phenomenal results both personally and professionally. I incorporated SE techniques into my own life and my clients’ therapeutic processes, and I saw our nervous systems move towards more balanced states. Clients made quick progress with their long struggles with depression and anxiety, and I no longer struggled with the eating disorder behaviors that had flared since adolescence.

I wanted to bring the possibilities of Somatic Experiencing to a larger audience; I wanted more people to understand that while our perception of trauma and healing is often associated with cognition, in order to heal on a cellular level, we need to invite the body into the process. I decided to write an accessible book about trauma resolution and began the task of creating Moving Beyond Trauma: The Roadmap to Healing from Your Past and Living with Ease and Vitality.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

There are many interesting stories because each day and each client presents unique and fascinating circumstances. Touch sessions, in which a client is lying on a bodywork table while I am touching into different parts of the brain and body are often transformative. I have seen clients integrate their deepest traumas, including preverbal traumas that happened before the age of three. In one session, a client actually went through her own birth and came out of it with an entirely new and healthier perspective on her relationship with her mother.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

There are two books that hit home for me and led me to take a deeper dive into Somatic Experiencing and body-based modalities for trauma healing. Waking the Tiger by Dr. Levine was eye-opening. In it, he talks about how animals in the wild do not get traumatized, yet people do. According to Dr Levine, trauma is the energy that gets locked in our body when we experience real or perceived threat. Animals intuitively shake off the trauma and move on while humans generally do not. The book opened my eyes to the importance of resolving trauma organically through the body and how safety significantly impacts the state of the nervous system.

The other book is The Body Keeps the Score by Besel van der Kolk, M.D. The book introduced me to the anatomy of survival and how trauma changes our brain chemistry and robs us of our connection to self and the body. Both of these books confirmed what I personally experienced and what I was seeing with my clients.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. From your experience or research, how would you define and describe the state of being mindful?

Mindfulness is about intention and moving through life in a state of presence. When we can become our own observer without judgement and simply notice our experiences without being in a reactive state, we become mindful. Instead of asking ourselves why things are the way they are, we are better served by being with the experience of what is happening in the present moment.

This might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to spell this out. Can you share with our readers a few of the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of becoming mindful?

Everything changes with mindfulness because we can feel into our emotional, physical, and spiritual self. This is a higher level of being. It’s a different vibration, one that moves away from fear, projection, and rumination to a place of simply being with whatever shows up in our mind and body. The body and mind are intrinsically connected. When we are in a state of mindfulness our nervous system has an opportunity to move out of its survival states of fight, flight, or freeze (which are only meant for acute experiences) and into a state of balance. When the nervous system is balanced, every other system in our body is healthier.

Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. The past five years have been filled with upheaval and political uncertainty. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have only heightened a sense of uncertainty, anxiety, fear, and loneliness. From your experience or research, what are five steps that each of us can take to develop mindfulness and serenity during such uncertain times? Can you please share a story or example for each.

There are so many things we can do each day to create more inner peace and serenity in the midst of all the chaos.

Here are my top 5:

  1. Limit news intake and choose one or two reputable news sources to check two times a day.
  2. Make this time productive and commit to finishing projects for a sense of accomplishment. Maybe you could use this time to complete neglected tasks such as cleaning out the garage or heart-warming projects such as assembling scrapbooks for your grandchildren.
  3. Find ways to give back. It can be as simple as assisting in grocery shopping for an elderly person who is at high risk for the coronavirus.
  4. Staying connected with others is extremely important for our safety and well-being. Make sure you talk with friends and family each day.
  5. Do something every day to relax your body and mind. This can be as simple as going for a walk or rolling out a yoga mat in your home. 10 minutes of yoga each day will have a cumulative effect.

From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

For starters, we have to put our oxygen masks on first. You cannot support someone else effectively if you are not calm and mindful of yourself. The more you are attuned to yourself, the more you can attend to others rather than be reactive to their behavior. Helping others feel safe is key to reducing anxiety. When you can speak to another in a calm, gentle, and melodic voice, you will help calm their nervous system down and in turn reduce anxiety. Sharing your own stories and being vulnerable is a great way to create a connection. A connection is essential in helping others feel safe in the world.

What are the best resources you would suggest for someone to learn how to be more mindful and serene in their everyday life?

There are so many wonderful resources out there today. There are apps like Calm, Headspace, and so many more. The Omega Institute has a great YouTube Channel but I think with the internet and so many great influencers, each person has the opportunity to find the right teachers and methods that they best connect with.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

“Everything excellent is as rare as it is difficult.” This was one of my late husband’s favorite quotes and I think it has a lot of merit. Striving for greatness in our lives means working hard and experiencing growing pains. This is not an easy path to travel, but what is on the other side of the hard work and pain is worth it. I had a lot of healing to do in my life after a chaotic and traumatic childhood. On every level I feel grateful that I was willing to face the discomfort and take care of myself to make a great and joyous life for myself.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would create a movement called “The Healing Lifestyle.” As a society, we are collectively more anxious than ever before and the only way this is going to change is if we each do our part to create a healthier and more balanced nervous system. This means slowing things down so that we can be more present and more connected in our day-to-day life. A healing lifestyle means learning how to take care of your body, mind, and spirit. Think of a world where we all were living with great intention in our actions and reactions.

What is the best way our readers can follow you online?

https://www.instagram.com/ilenesmithhealing/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/ilene-smith-073ba8172/

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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