A growing number of counselors and therapists are treating the whole person. Transpersonal Counseling honors the higher dimensions of the human experience- beyond the personality, beyond personal history, beyond even beyond emotions. Things that are typically unexplainable are honored and welcomed into the counseling room. Her path was greatly influenced by a Near Death Experience she had when she was just five months old.
Harmony Kwiker, MA, is a psychotherapist, author, and professor at Naropa University, where she teaches transpersonal counseling. She is also the founder of the Institute for Spiritual Alignment, where she trains practitioners to bridge the divide between traditional and spiritual transformation.
Harmony's first book was a self-help memoir called Reveal: Embody the True Self Beyond Trauma and Conditioning, where she vulnerably shares her story of transformation while simultaneously empowering readers to discover their truest selves.
In this interview, we discuss her new book, Align: Living and Loving from the True Self.
I'm excited to announce a new resource I'm very proud of. This guide outlines the four daily practices I discovered on my grief journey. These techniques have helped dozens of my clients. Get it free today.
GEMS- 4 Steps To Go From Grief To Joy
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Brian Smith 0:00
Close your eyes and imagine what are the things in life that causes the greatest pain, the things that bring us grief, or challenges, challenges designed to help us grow to ultimately become what we were always meant to be. We feel like we've been buried. But what if, like a seed we've been planted, and having been planted would grow to become a mighty tree. Now, open your eyes. Open your eyes to this way of viewing life. Come with me as we explore your true, infinite, eternal nature. This is grief to growth. And I am your host, Brian Smith.
Hi there. Before we start, Brian would like to share a couple of things with you. First, did you know that Brian is a life coach, a grief guide and a mental fitness trainer? Brian would love to help you with whatever life issues are challenging you. Brian has years of experience as well as training. You can contact Brian at WWW dot grief to growth.com to learn more. Brian is the author of the best selling book grief to growth planted not buried, which you can get on Amazon or Brian's website. This is a great book if you're in grief or to give to someone you know who is dealing with grief. Lastly, Brian creates free and paid resources for your growth. Go to www dot grief to growth.com/gifts www.gr IE F to growth.com to sign up for his newsletter, choose a gift just for signing up and keep up with what Brian is offering. And now here's today's episode. Please enjoy.
Brian Smith 1:49
Everybody, this is Brian back with another episode of grief to growth. And today I've got with me harmony, Quaker harmony as a psychotherapist, she's an author. She's a professor at Naropa University, where she teaches Transpersonal Counseling. She's also the founder of the Institute for spiritual alignment where she trains practitioners to bridge the divide between traditional and spiritual transformation. She said she's an author, her first book was a self help memoir called reveal embody the true self beyond trauma conditioning, where she shares her story of transformation while simultaneously empowering readers to discover their true selves. Her newest book is called online, living and loving from the true self. It's it's going to be available December 1 2022. We're recording this on November the 14th. So by the time you hear it, it should be available to you. So with that, I want to welcome to grief to growth harmony, Quaker.
Harmony Kwiker 2:44
Thank you, Brian, thank you so much for having me here.
Brian Smith 2:48
Yes, I'm looking forward to having this conversation with you. I got an early copy of your book. As I said, I've started reading it. I'm really, really intrigued with what I've read so far, about this Transpersonal Counseling that you do. But the first thing I would do with people is to help them understand what is Transpersonal Counseling? And how does it differ from traditional counseling?
Harmony Kwiker 3:08
Yeah, so Transpersonal Counseling really honors the higher dimensions of the human experience. Beyond the personality beyond history beyond even beyond emotions, so things that are typically like sort of unexplainable, we honor and welcome into the counseling room.
Brian Smith 3:27
Okay, yeah, that's, that's really interesting. My, one of my theories about the world is that people have forgotten who we are, we don't know anything about our higher selves, or even when our true selves are. So that's why I'm really intrigued by this idea of Transpersonal Counseling, and How was that received by like, the mainstream counseling people? How are they? How are they taking this idea?
Harmony Kwiker 3:50
Yeah, so I actually think that spirituality and the transpersonal is more welcome now than ever before. And as you just said, I think people are more aware that they've fallen asleep to a really essential aspect of themselves. In transpersonal, counseling, we believe that these aspects of ourselves that we can't see that are beyond the body and the mind and the emotions actually hold the answer to our healing and our transformation.
Brian Smith 4:22
And how did you get into counseling? I'm always curious people's background, what motivates us to do the things that we do in life? So what was your motivation for doing this?
Harmony Kwiker 4:31
Yeah, so I was raised in a family of healers. Both of my parents were really non traditional healers, my mom was a breath worker and a coach. And she led a lot of spiritual development workshops in our home when I was growing up. And so it was kind of the way I was raised. My dad is a doctor of osteopath. And so he has always been outside of the convention, you know, back in the 70s really empowering people through nutrition and by vitamins and alternative medicine. And so I, you know, my first jobs were filing at my dad's office and sending my mom's mailing list when I was, you know, 13 and 14. And so when it came time to choose a major in college psychology was the only topic that seems like it would even closely resonate with me. But I felt really actually unsatisfied with psychology, it seemed too traditional. And I really wanted to learn how to bridge the divide between this transformation and healing that I knew was possible through alternative modalities and bring that into a clinical environment where most people would seek help. And so I ended up going to Antioch University in Seattle. Back when I was looking for graduate schools, the internet wasn't quite as sophisticated as it is now. And so I was really looking for the most alternative school that I could find. I didn't know about Naropa, which is where I teach now. But when we're given when we as a clinician are given an opportunity to really find our seat as a healer, where we can contact our clients in the way that they leave contact with themselves, and be there with them as they find their way back to themselves. There's so much creativity and beauty and fluidity in what wants to happen. I believe that human beings are self organizing, and self regulating. And so when given the opportunity in the space, we ourselves can find our way back home. And it's really about learning how to do that, in the presence of somebody who trusts our process.
Brian Smith 6:47
You said something was very intriguing me, you said leave contact with ourselves and find our way back to contact with ourselves. So can you expand on that a little bit more?
Harmony Kwiker 6:56
Yeah, contact is the essence of human life. So contact with ourselves is where our soul is fully seated in our bodies, we're in full contact with our full human experience. And then once we are in contact with ourselves, we can contact another human being, it's the place where two souls meet. And so in Gestalt psychology, which is what sorry, Gestalt Therapy, which is what I teach, and arroba University contact is what we are looking for, both within the clinician and within the client. And so when a person is in full contact with themselves, they're in a healthy, aware state, where they're regulated, they're available for their human experience, they are present with life without projecting the past onto the present, in full contact fully present.
Brian Smith 7:48
And so in what ways do people lose contact with themselves? How does that happen?
Harmony Kwiker 7:55
There are so many ways people lose contact with themselves. One of the most common ways is unfinished business from the past. So unfinished situations that a person wasn't able to fully move through to completion keeps them disrupting contact with the present moment. So instead of being here, in with here with you, for example, if I had an unfinished situation that I was putting on to you, then I want to be fully hearing your experience, I want to be available for what's happening inside of me. And I'd be disrupting contact between us by working out the past right now. And we see this with couples a lot. I love working with couples, that they disrupt contact with each other because they have unfinished situations from their histories and childhood and with one another that they're putting on each other now, making it harder to find a point of contact with one another, even though that's ultimately what they want. But part of the unfinished situation is also unmetabolized emotions. So grief, for example, we can be aware that we have grief or that we can be aware that we have sadness, but how how we are with that grief and how we are with that sadness can either make it so that the emotion can consume us, or we can use it as a catalyst for growth.
Brian Smith 9:18
Hmm, okay. Yeah. So, um, so these unfinished things and unmetabolized Emotions can cause us to lose contact with ourselves, which I guess some people might say, well, how can I lose contact with myself? I mean, I am myself. So how would How would could you explain a little bit further?
Harmony Kwiker 9:35
Yeah. So on the way to deeper contact with ourselves, I look at it as the energy centers down the midline of our body. So when, when the energy centers down the midline of our body are open and flowing freely. We're in alignment. And so we're fully in contact with ourselves. We're open. We're aware lifeforce is moving through us. There's a newness and an emerge Since that happens with us, we're not stagnant and closed, right? We're more open to life and there's more curiosity. And there's more vitality that moves through us. When we're disrupting contact with ourselves, the energy is thwarted. And it doesn't move through us as freely. And that might be something unsaid that's we're holding in our throat, or it might be old grief that we're carrying around, because we don't know how to move through it fully. And so we're holding on to it, I find that people, even when they want to move through old patterns that are causing them distress, they simultaneously cling to those patterns, because there's a sense of familiarity and safety, that comes from holding on to them. And that's a way that we disrupt contact by holding on to something that we actually want to move through.
Brian Smith 10:54
And how common would you say that it is for people to end up in the state of losing contact with ourselves?
Harmony Kwiker 11:01
I would say it's the human condition, that it's actually a learned skill to allow life to move through us as life wants to. I think that human beings have a tendency to try to control their own experience and create narratives around the experience that make it more challenging to move through. So animals in nature, when they experience like a fear, they'll they'll go and let the fear move through their body. They don't have this higher level of thinking that disrupts their their ability to move through it. Right. It just moves through them catharsis. But human beings create narratives around what they're feeling that actually stopped them from feeling what they're feeling.
Brian Smith 11:45
Yeah, you know, it's interesting, you say that, because just the other day, I was listening to a podcast, and someone was talking about animals and how they deal with, with fear with conflict even, and how like, they'll get in conflict. And then they'll literally just shake their bodies and just moves through them. And I thought that was really interesting.
Harmony Kwiker 12:01
Yeah, to actually give space for our emotions is counterintuitive, because human beings want to figure it out. They want to understand it, they want to prevent it from happening again, you know, they want to make meaning out of it. And that actually prevents us from moving through the past and getting really present.
Brian Smith 12:19
And as we talk about this, and there's I ask you why, how common is this? Because I think it's pretty much everybody. I think we I think we all do this to certain extents. And people don't realize that because it's, I guess, because it's so common, we think, well, there's nothing we can do about it.
Harmony Kwiker 12:38
Right? I think because it's so common, we have a map, right of how we leave contact with ourselves. So let's just say we have an experience. And we know that in our emotional state, we're going to try to make up a narrative about it. And then we try to get closer with our partner, and we keep coming into conflict, we can start to map out the way that we're disrupting contact, so that we can find our way back. Right? I think anytime we're learning about ourselves and the human experience, when I sit with a client, I like to sit back and just watch the way they move. How do they relate to themselves? How do they relate to the world? When an emotion starts to bubble up? What do they do with that? Do they make room for that and let it move? Do they cap off and try to keep it down? And so when we learn our own map of how we relate to ourselves, we can find our way through what's happening.
Brian Smith 13:36
Interesting. So, um, what are some examples of things that cause us to develop these narratives that block off our emotions?
Harmony Kwiker 13:48
I mean, I think the most common example is feeling disempowered. So in moments in our lives, where we feel like, like, we didn't have control, we wish like we would have, we wish we would have done something differently. We gave our power away to somebody else and didn't trust our intuition. These these are places where we start to, to get stuck, because we wish we would have done something different. And so looping in that sort of regret keeps people stuck in these patterns. That's one way the other way is blaming other people like feeling like the victim, and which is still seated in that power, like where's my will? Where where's my truth allowed to be expressed here?
Brian Smith 14:37
So as I was reading your book, it reminded me because you talk about like these different aspects of ourselves these different like, I guess, I think it was shadow was a term that you use. So could you explain to people what that is?
Harmony Kwiker 14:51
Yeah. So in a line I talked about our condition self. And so our condition or condition sense of self is what we've learned about ourselves based on the experiences that we've had in life. And as we're learning about ourselves and developing our conditioned sense of self, there are inherently aspects of ourselves that we think are wrong or bad. And so we disown them. And they get sort of shoved into the shadow and rejected. And when we are clinging to how we think we need to be and disowning aspects of ourselves, we come off center, from the core of our being from our true self. And our true self is really like the spontaneous expression of life. Like, as I was saying before, as vitality is moving through us, how does life want to be expressed through us unsorted when we're not clinging to how we think we should be and disowning aspects of ourselves, which is what I call distorting lifeforce energy without allowing it to move through us.
Brian Smith 15:52
Yeah. So I know a lot of people probably heard the term shadow work. I think for a lot of us were like, we've heard it, but we don't really know what it is. And it sounds dark and scary. So why would I want to do this?
Harmony Kwiker 16:06
Yeah, I mean, I think people are scared of their shadow, which is why they reject these aspects of themselves. They think if I actually go to these darker aspects, I'm going to be unlovable, people are going to judge me. And so there's a sense of control and disowning aspects of ourselves. But the shadow the way that I look at it is it's like the youngest truth inside of us that never had a chance to get nurtured. So for example, desire is a really great example, if somebody was raised in a household where they didn't have space to say what they wanted, then they start disowning their desire. And so the desire starts to grow in this way that kind of might come out sideways and be sort of like fringe desires that they think aren't acceptable in society. And so then they cling to their conditioned self, and the mask of how they think they should be. And this is a polarity, right, there are two opposing energies within a person. And the the sort of paradox here is that the more able we are to welcome our shadow, the less it has control over us. So we have more sort of mastery over our inner world when we really claim different components of ourselves. When I first started doing Shadow Work, many years ago, I realized that I was manipulative, I realized that I disowned my desire. And because I didn't own what I wanted, I tried to get it in sort of sideways ways, by making other people more important by giving my power away by not speaking my truth. And, and it was a very distorted way to engage with the world. And when I realized this, I was first embarrassed, like, I'm manipulative, I was already a mother, a therapist, and I was teaching psychology at a different university like, but this awareness in and of itself became healing for me, because it was this sort of gateway into welcoming what I had disowned within myself. And it took so much effort, and so much work for me to reclaim my desire. And part of that was being open with people and letting them know that I was noticing this manipulation inside of me, and claiming that and realizing that that actually didn't make me unlovable it made it gave me more power, in how I want it to show up in life.
Brian Smith 18:39
Yeah, I remember reading something about that in the book. And I actually teach something called Positive Intelligence. And I don't know if you're familiar with it, was developed by a guy named Shirzad, Charmaine. And it's it we talk in this about, we have our Sage, which is like a higher part of ourselves, I would say, our true self. And then we have these things that he calls the saboteurs. And for example, one of the saboteurs is the pleaser, the person that just rolls over and gives everybody everything. And then the dark side of that, though, is there's a lot of resentment, you know, at times we do that, so that, that reminded me of some of the things you're talking about here with the shadow work, and I'm leading a group of people through this process. Right now, we're about four weeks into a six weeks program. And universally people are like, I didn't realize I was so terrible. You know, it's like, that's the response. It's like I, I've got this pleaser, I've got a controller or a hyper, hyper rational, whatever this thing is inside of me. And we and even then the reaction is like, I don't want this. I want to reject it.
Harmony Kwiker 19:41
Yeah, well, I mean, and that is why people reject it is because they think it makes them a bad person, right for having these elements of themselves. But when we're given a space to really like embody what we have have disowned and move back and forth from how we think we should b, this is the polarity work, how I think I should be and what I don't want to be and move back and forth, we can actually find our way back to the midline. Because how we think we should be isn't actually ourselves either. It's a, it's a mask that we're wearing to try to get approval. And so it's somewhere between these two polarities where the truth of who we are actually exists.
Brian Smith 20:24
Yeah, yeah, that makes that makes sense to me. There's interest. And as I was reading the book, I was saying, I never thought about this way, but that balance, right? Because people will say, Well, this part of me is good, because it makes me lovable people like me, because I'm a pleaser, and I give things away. So that's why that's why I do it.
Harmony Kwiker 20:45
Yeah, my first book was all about me recognizing my pleaser like this accommodating personality that made everybody else more important. And I was so lauded for it. Everybody loved me for it, but they didn't love actual me. Right? They just loved what I was doing for them. And I was suffering inside because of it. And I think that that happens for many people, is they think that doing this is going to get them what they want. But then when they get what they think they want, it's actually really unsatisfying, because it isn't from their wholeness.
Brian Smith 21:16
Yeah, yeah, that makes sense. So you talk in your book also about grief, and how we can get stuck in, I guess, working through grief. And I think you've had some personal experience with grief that you share. So could you tell me more about that?
Harmony Kwiker 21:32
Yeah. For me, in my own life, there's sort of two layers of grief, there's, there's the younger grief that I didn't realize I was walking around with, from my childhood, like the grief of my unmet needs, particularly around a near death experience I had when I was five months old. I, we were at a party, my parents were at a party and my I fell asleep and my dad put me on the top bunk of a bed so that I could sleep. And I woke up in the room alone. And I fell and hit my head on the dresser on the way back and fell to the ground. And when I've done work, my own personal work on this, I can see that I left my body and I didn't want to come back in because I was in so much pain. But the breath came back in. And I spent all of my life really living between two dimensions, but without being able to, to give language to it. And there was so much sadness for me in the reaching out for my parents on that bunk bed and having nobody be there and instead having tremendous pain, and that sort of pre verbal grief that I didn't have language for, or even that much awareness of was sort of seated in my personality, and drove much of what I did, and, and was like, a grief that was harder to heal because it was so much part of the water that I was swimming in. And then I went to graduate school. And two weeks later, my mom died very suddenly, I was 30 years old. And I felt like the ground had gotten just ripped out from underneath me. Like the person who I thought was the only person who would believe in me, who would love me unconditionally. We were so close. And I admired her so much for the healer that she was, you know, just to have that gaping hole in my life was so painful, I could feel the pain in my heart right now just thinking about her. That was about 15 years ago. And I had, I really sought out grief therapy from so many different therapists and I never, for two years of seeking help and seeking help. I didn't feel like I had the capacity to actually heal the brokenness in my heart. You know, there there is this way to that I could feel her presence like I could see her energy quality still here with me. But that didn't actually bring me any relief, right. It just was more pain that she wasn't here with me that I couldn't actually hug her and hold her. And then I became a mom. And the grief came out as postpartum depression, which was, I find a lot of women who have postpartum depression are actually suffering from old grief that's unhealed. And I was so lucky that I found my way to my mentor. And what I could see inside myself, after years and years of not knowing how to be with this pain, and having it come out actually is anger, anger that she was gone and a fear of not of not having any influence or control over that. situation that happened in the hospital I could see that my grief had consumed me in such a way that my alignment was, like, completely cloaked by pain and darkness and depression. And as I was saying, Before, the awareness of just being able to see that was healing for me, I could see that I was disconnected from my spiritual self, because I had clung to the grief without knowing how to move through it, and it completely consumed me. And, and that was really the beginning of my healing, which was two years after she had passed, actually, it was longer as more like five years after she had passed. And then, you know, in my work with clients, the way grief looks to me, like in the subtle energy of the expression of grief is that it's so wet and heavy, that it can be very consuming, it can take up all of the space. And, and metabolizing even just the smallest bit of it can take a lot of work, it can be really draining and exhausting. Yeah, and so. And I think that that's actually part of, of the medicine is being able to know that we don't need to process it all at once. We can be with our grief for as long as our heart requires. You know, 15 years later, I, I was doing yoga up in my room two weeks ago, and I just burst into tears because I missed her and letting myself feel that grief in little bits, little increments is is really important for me still.
Brian Smith 26:42
Wow, thank you for sharing that. That was I love the imagery use their grief has been like what and heavy and I know working with people in grief and having gone through my own situation with my daughter passing. It is it's all consuming. It takes so much energy to work through it and and people in our society, they won't allow like, when's it going to be over? You know, what, how can I fix it? And I was just talking with someone the other day, who's a friend of theirs son at taking his life. And the mother hasn't really started working through it yet. And she said, you know, would you be willing to talk to her? I said, Yeah, sure. How long has it been, she said, like two and a half weeks. And I was like, two and a half weeks is like she's still in shock. It's, it's not even time to talk to this person at this point. But we always want to just we want to fix people, we want to we want to fix ourselves. So it's good to get people permission to say, you know, even you as a trained psychotherapist, it's like took me a couple of years to even began to work on this.
Harmony Kwiker 27:44
Yeah, the shock, I think is the most surprising to people, like, the shock itself, mixed with the grief, you know, can be a really confusing experience. Like we're trying to make sense of this huge loss, and how can we make sense of something that really doesn't make sense to us, especially when we're in heartbreak. And we're in longing and we're wanting what is happening to be completely different. And so I love that, that you said that, like just letting her be in the shock of it until she's really ready to feel
Brian Smith 28:18
it's this big ball of stuff, like you say, you know, there's a shock, there's anger, there's fear, there's sadness, there's disappointment, and and you have to tease all that stuff apart and deal with it. And that takes time. And it takes it takes a lot of energy. So but as you said, just that recognition can be very healing, that I don't have to do all this at once.
Harmony Kwiker 28:48
Yeah, giving ourselves permission and seeing the sort of messiness like, and letting ourselves be messy, which was actually for me one of the hardest parts because I really wanted to wrap it all together in a bow and figure it out. And it was the messiest experience of my life. And the other thing too, is that because I didn't know how to be with it, I actually allowed it to motivate me to make unhealthy decisions, like to try to make sense of something that was so painful for me. I was grasping at finding a ground outside of myself, because as I was saying, I was so groundless. And so I was trying to find a way to find ground again. And letting myself be groundless and fully surrendering to groundlessness is where I ultimately found myself again.
Brian Smith 29:39
Yeah, yeah, it's ironic, but yes, I can understand that. I'm really curious about your your NDA, because you mentioned you had it at five months old, was it so what? Did you always have this memory or did it come back to you on later work or? Yeah,
Harmony Kwiker 29:54
so the story was always there about this fall that I had and I have a big scar I'm in my eyebrow, and I have scoliosis from the fall. And so and I also have a lot of inner ear problems because of it because it was such a dramatic fall. So physically, I could feel the effect of the fall. And I knew the story of it. And my mom had a lot of emotion and a lot to say about it happening. But it actually, when I was saying, I met my mentor who helped me to see that I had completely disconnected from the grief of losing my mom, it was in that experience that I started being able to work back to older grief that had been been there all along. And I was doing some trauma work. And I could see my young one laying there on the ground, not breathing and not wanting to come back into my body. And in the work really reconnecting with her and also reconnecting spiritually, like being held in the in it like a divine blanket and divine hug. But the other piece about it is that throughout my life, I could always see subtle energy. So I could see the way people were holding emotional pain over their heart or, or the way people were, you know, not fresh, I don't know how to say it, like their motions were sort of bogged down by something from the past. And I didn't know that that was unique. But I really believe that I could see that because of, of this old head trauma. So even though it's caused me just tremendous physical pain, I've never had a day in my life where I haven't been in physical pain, it's also been this great gift because I have a lot of access. And like when my mom passed away, I could see her energy body, and I could hear her talking to me. And it's same with my clients, when my clients are in grief, I can hear and see their loved ones, their deceased loved ones coming in, to offer support, and love and connection for them. And in the seeing of that and the welcoming them into the therapy room, the client can also reconnect, and in a way that feels really healing.
Brian Smith 32:23
Wow. Wow. So I'm fascinated by nd. So I like to stay on this for a little while if you don't mind. Because there is a common thing. But in these a lot of times people develop abilities have to have an n d, so we'll never know, because you were five months old, if that may be something that helps you to develop your ability. But another thing that people don't realize about MDA in these, especially in children, it can take a very, very long time to integrate that experience. And it can cause trauma for for a long time. And you said that not wanting to come back into the body. There's a woman named Ingrid Honkala, who had an entire year at like the age of two. And she's she's seen light beings ever since then. But she talks about the anger she had when she came back into her body. And she would say things are parents like, I don't need a name. And I'm a nameless, infinite being and just like your your two year old. So that's it does give us this effect that we carry with us for the rest of our lives.
Harmony Kwiker 33:27
Yeah, I mean, that the unknown of the trauma, while it's simultaneously influencing the way that we see and experience ourselves in the world can be so confusing. As you know, as I was saying it was pre verbal, I had no language to put to it. And so for me, I can relate it to an attachment wound, right? Like there's this deep attachment wound of reaching out. And if somebody's not there, feeling like I'm on the ground again, like that was partly how it was showing up for me many years ago when I first started realizing that this was sterile is still here. And I would feel dizzy, like I was on like literally on the ground in those moments. And so the gift of that was though, that I could be with that pain. Lovingly. I can bring my awake awareness to the pain. I really believe that when we develop the capacity, to love our pain, to love our wounds with so much sacred goodness, that that is where the healing starts to transmute. And so I would be laying there on the ground, seeing myself holding my young Mountain West simultaneously bringing in awake awareness.
Brian Smith 34:41
So, there's so much good things in what you just said, you know, first of all with grief, it is messy, and we do carry it with us. And if we don't work through it, we continue to carry it with us. And then a lot of times later grief events can trigger Previous grief that we thought we were done with.
Harmony Kwiker 35:03
Yes, I love the way you just mapped that out. Yeah, when we when we don't metabolize it, the way that it interrupts the way that we meet life now can be so confusing. Like, we don't know why we keep working out the same pattern, but there's something unhealed within us that really requires our attention and our love.
Brian Smith 35:24
And I think that's because I were getting fairly technical with the conversation. And I think I hope people are following along, because I always like to come back to like, you know, the so what, why don't why do I care about this, if I'm a listener, and the thing is, I think we're all carrying unresolved issues from childhood. I didn't know this till I was like, 40. And I went to therapy because I was having panic attacks. And I'm talking to the therapist, and she goes back to my childhood, like, why are we talking about my childhood? And, you know, we brought up some things were I didn't feel loved, I didn't feel like I got the attention that I needed. And that was still bothering me. 40 years later, and I had no idea until, you know, we actually sat and worked on this. And like, you talked about looking at your little self and saying, No, I needed this, and I didn't get it.
Harmony Kwiker 36:13
Yeah, I think when people think about trauma, they think about like a big event, or something really, like, obviously distressing. But what people don't talk about is developmental trauma, which is when our core biologically based needs aren't met, and not as if our parents or caregivers are purposely hurting us, or violating us, they're just actually not meeting these needs that we have for connection and trust and attunement and care, you know, like, they don't have those skills themselves. And so we don't get that need met within us. And the way that we organize ourselves around that, that painful experience, whether we're aware, that is painful or not, I think is really important to not only recognize, but repair within ourselves, so that we create a secure connection within ourselves so that we know that will always pay attention to what we need, that will always listen to ourselves that we can trust ourselves. Right? This is about attaching to self and creating a secure connection within. That's where the repair happens.
Brian Smith 37:20
Yes. And, again, when I was when I was in therapy, and this was over 20 years ago now. But I remember, you know, talking to my therapist, and I'm like, Well, my parents loved me, They fed me, you know, they gave me all the all the basic physical needs that we all need. But a lot of us don't realize that. It's not just that as far as being human being, we need a lot more. And we all and this is not to say anything bad about anyone's parents, because I think we all have wounds from our childhood, no matter how great our parents were.
Harmony Kwiker 37:50
Absolutely. Absolutely. Like, from the outside. I remember when I was growing up, people would say to me, will your parents adopt me like this, this household, like with these magical healers that raised me like looked like it was this utopian place to grow up. And yet still, here I was disowning what I wanted, because I didn't know that what I wanted was welcome here. I thought that my role in the family was to please. And because I was so young, and couldn't see that within myself there was I needed somebody to see that for me. Right. And since that didn't happen, it was my work to do later on.
Brian Smith 38:31
Yes, and I think that's an excellent point. Because even if even if our parents are doing a wonderful, wonderful job, we were adjusting, we're looking at, well, what is my role here? How do I fit in? What are the things I'm supposed to do to keep harmony to keep harmony in the family? And I think we all do that to some extent. And we we put on these masks, we develop these coping mechanisms. And then they become so much ingrained in us that we don't realize this is not really us.
Harmony Kwiker 39:03
Yeah, it's part of the wisdom of the strategy. And I think that if people like when you were talking about with the shadow work, if people can see that it was actually why is it for me to disown this part of myself, it kept it kept it so sense of stability in my family, it gave me a sense of safety and perceived connection, then we can actually love that strategy even more because there's a wisdom seated in it. Even though it's outdated. It's when it becomes a rigid pattern that keeps us from actually being present with life and present with our loved ones now that it becomes dysfunctional, like we don't need it anymore. I truly believe that the paradox is to love the thing that we want to get rid of. How much can we love it? It's called the paradoxical theory of change. How much can we love that which we want to change?
Brian Smith 39:55
Yeah, well, I think that's absolutely true. And you know, we You're saying I love that thing about the wisdom of it? Because it is it's a coping mechanism. The problem is it gets stuck, it gets outdated. We overuse it, right? We it's like, well, this worked for this situation. So let's use it for this situation. And that's, that's how humans are. So that's, that makes sense from an evolutionary point of view, right? Something's working, you keep doing it. But then we don't realize, well, it's not really working anymore. And it's, it's actually making us miserable. And we don't know how to stop it.
Harmony Kwiker 40:31
Yeah, the making us miserable part, I think is actually really important. Because beneath the pattern itself, there's actually nervous system dysregulation. So when we were children, and we created that strategy, there was a nervous system dysregulation that caused us to try to find that balance, right, that we didn't know how to give language to. So once we stop using the familiar patterns, we actually have to feel how our body was holding that pattern. Like what you were saying before, about, like an animal nature, just shaking it out, like somatically, the memory in the body is part of finding the new way.
Brian Smith 41:12
So I'm curious, how do you how do you work with clients with clients come to see you? How does What's that process? Like?
Harmony Kwiker 41:18
Yeah, so the first step is really just being really present with them. So clients come in with so many different like presenting issues, and, and those presenting issues are preventing them from being present. And so by me, as the space holder who's setting the container, my presence really lets their nervous system know that we can be here, together, all of you as welcome. And so I just, I listen, and I see their wholeness. And I'm learning the way that they leave their true self, I'm learning the way that they stay asleep to themselves, and, and the patterns that they cling to. And part of that is I'm I'm just reflecting I see myself as a clear mirror, I'm just being a mirror to let them be seen. Right? There's nothing to change. There's nothing to fix, but I see you. And so I do a lot of reflecting and a lot of seeing. And as I do that, I'm also paying attention to the subtle energy movements, like where's their emotion flowing? Where's their breath restricted? Where are they tight? I'm just learning how they're holding their experience in their body. And I'm inviting their own awake awareness in one of the questions that we ask a lot and Gestalt is, what are you aware of right now. So as they're talking, I'm wanting to know, how they seem to themselves, what's pulling their attention, what they notice in their body. And by by inviting in their own awake awareness, I'm also letting their system know, I believe that you and your own awareness are the solution, that I'm not the expert of you that you know, what you need, right, and your awareness and what what you're willing to see inside yourself in this moment, is going to be the information that we need to find our way through what's happening, and I'm here with you, but you're the one doing this. And I think that that's a big difference between traditional counseling and a transpersonal model, is that by bringing in a client's own awareness without being the expert, analyzing them, or rearranging ideas, or offering advice for behavioral changes, we're really honoring the higher consciousness of the client themselves, and really trusting their process trusting their timeline, and honoring their inner mind body connection. And so really listening to the body. Another question I asked a lot of if this sensation had a voice, what would it say? Because I want the sensation to have room to express and to cathartic, naturally. And ultimately, it's a very creative process where the client and myself are, are sort of finding different experiments to work through the rigid patterns and find a new way that's actually true for them.
Brian Smith 44:19
So yeah, it's you're not the you're not the expert in the room, you're not there, analyzing them. And as you said, telling them what to do is you're helping them to tap into their their inner wisdom, the thing that they already know that they need. So that's, that's the major difference between what you do and traditional therapy.
Harmony Kwiker 44:38
That's a big part of the major difference. I think that because I trust my clients sovereign will. There's more opportunity for them to find their way through on their own. And, and I actually believe that this is what children need, right like this was the unmet need in part in childhood. Is that At the caregiver is trusting the will of the child rather than asserting their will over the child. And so it's a deep repair for them.
Brian Smith 45:07
Yeah. So you mentioned Gestalt therapy and about transpersonal therapy. But you, you also mentioned that you can see the subtle energy body even talked about sometimes your clients, relatives and spirit being in the room with you. So that's not part of traditional Gestalt therapy, I would assume. So how do you how do you integrate that with your clients? Do you discuss that with them?
Harmony Kwiker 45:32
Yeah, so it happens really organically. And I, the way that I work is I just presents the deceased loved one. And by saying, I have attention on your father, let's just say like, if I know that their father's deceased. And so simply by naming that in the therapeutic space, that energy is now known that it's present without me saying, like, I can see and hear. And sometimes I will say I'm hearing it as and I'll give the voice to what I hear that the that their deceased loved one really wants the message, but the message that they're trying to convey, but first and foremost, it's the client's relationship to the deceased loved one that matters the most. And actually, English style therapy there is a traditional you know, from the 1940s. prep process of empty chair, which is different from to chair, which Gestalt is most known for, but where we put the deceased loved one in the chair and have a conversation to complete any unfinished business that still might be there. That's not the way that I work, but it is part of really honoring the passing and the relationship.
Brian Smith 46:45
So I would assume, though, in that in that empty chair, therapy, they don't believe the loved ones actually in the chair, or do they?
Harmony Kwiker 46:53
It's interesting. It's not even about what the clinician believes it's about what the client experiences. And so when I was a new therapist, before I really knew how to trust my knowing and my intuition in the, in the seat of clinician, I would do empty chair and the client would sit in, in the empty chair of their deceased loved one. And they would say, oh, my gosh, I feel completely different over here, I can feel my mom's energy or I can feel my dad's energy. And that is transpersonal. Right? We're honoring states beyond the ordinary in a transpersonal session. And so believing the client's experience fully without trying to say what we think might happen is, is really what the work is about.
Brian Smith 47:42
Yeah. My daughter is a mental health counselor, she just got her Master's like last year. So she's, you know, she's starting to practice now. So I'm really curious about you know, this and integrating this into the work that you're doing. So do your clients. I mean, you said, you see subtle energy body do you do speak about that with your clients as well.
Harmony Kwiker 48:09
So I always own everything that I see as my own. So if I'm a clear mirror, and I'm seeing you, let's say all I would simply say like, like, it seems like your emotions are getting caught here. But I can see that with my own eyes. And I just own that, that's how I'm seeing. And then I asked the client, what are you aware of. And so once we both have a shared understanding of what's here, that awareness gives us an opportunity to move the energy that's there. So I believe that there are five ways to move subtle energy. And the first one is awareness. So becoming aware of the place where emotional energy is stuck in our bodies, that awareness gives us an opportunity to start to move it. The second way is breath. Right. So breath can start to move energy and breath is also the only part of the autonomic nervous system that we have conscious control over. And so it's like, it's a resource. The other one is movement. So a person might want to move their body and shake it out or whatever, twist twisting happens a lot. Touch, they might want to touch the part of their body where they feel something is there, and then sound giving it a voice either, like if it had a voice, what would it say or even just a tone. The first part, I see it, I bring attention to that place inside of them. I see if they are aware of that too, or what they are aware of, and then we can be with it consciously and start to move it.
Brian Smith 49:45
Okay. Wow, that's interesting. It's really fascinating. And as I'm talking to you, and I think about you know you with the subtle energy and things that you can do, because I also have a lot of mediums that are friends who you know, help people bridge to their loved ones on the others. side, and, you know, mediums in depth a lot of times almost having to be counselors because by definition people that come to them a lot of times and deep grief. And I could see someone that has the ability that you have along with the counseling could just really bridge that for people and really just rocket, their transformation as I go through the grief.
Harmony Kwiker 50:24
Yeah, I actually believe that we all have our own sensitivities that we can nurture. And you know, when I'm training student therapists, I really want to encourage them to nurture their own sensitivities, even if it looks different from mine. Not everybody is as visual can see, but maybe they can feel and maybe it's through the sensations in their own body. Or maybe it's just a knowing, you know, but how can we nurture our sensitivities and bring it into a healing environment in a way that honors the clients sovereignty, like, this is the most important part, that we have our own awareness, but our clients also have their own truth. And so how to be in relationship, this is actually contact like what we were talking about before. Contact happens where two souls meet? Yeah, one of my favorite quotes from you is no all the theories master all the techniques, but when you sit with another human soul be just another human soul.
Brian Smith 51:22
Yeah. Wow, I heard that. I love that. Yeah, that makes so much sense to me. So are there other places? I know you're teaching this at Naropa? University, which I didn't know that anybody was teaching us? Are there other places teaching this?
Harmony Kwiker 51:35
Well, so I'm starting a Training Institute, the Institute for spiritual alignment, where I'm I'm teaching people who are already trained as therapists and coaches to bridge the divide how to bring their own sensitivities and start to really guide their clients back into their own alignment. But there's a University in San Francisco, there's, there's little like sort of, I guess you would say, fringe universities around the country. But yeah,
Brian Smith 52:05
so tell me more about your institute.
Harmony Kwiker 52:07
Yeah, so I just, I just launched it last year, and I'm going to start a year long training for a new cohort soon. It's a hybrid model, where there's, you know, a lot of a lot of lectures to sort of lay the foundation about how we do this work, and then a lot of real time coaching, on supporting clinicians and really finding their seat. I really believe that the more we come into our own alignment, we can do that in tandem with our clients. It's not about being perfectly aligned and perfectly aware and healed. In order to do the work. It's about making contact and meeting clients where they're at, from where we are and finding our way together. It's a synergistic experience.
Brian Smith 52:54
Okay, so this will be an online program or
Harmony Kwiker 52:57
Yeah, so it's hybrid right now. It's mostly online, and then there's in person retreats.
Brian Smith 53:02
Okay. Okay. And you said it's a year long program,
Harmony Kwiker 53:05
year long program? Yeah. So
Brian Smith 53:09
I'm just curious, have you gotten much interest in it so far? How's that going?
Harmony Kwiker 53:13
Yeah, I started my first cohort. And they're extremely wise and brilliant. And I love creating community with therapists and coaches. And yeah, people are excited to learn how to really cultivate their deeper intuition and to bring that into into the room with their clients.
Brian Smith 53:33
Yeah, I think that's awesome. I just said, you know, at the beginning, when we're talking, one of my, as I've observed the world for as long as I have, I think the biggest problem is people don't, we don't know who we are. We've been reduced to biological robots where, you know, it's all mechanical, slight psychiatrist, it's like, okay, well, you've got this problem, this drug will take care of it, it'll, it'll fix your brain chemistry. If we fix your brain chemistry, then you'll you'll be fine. And it's even psychotherapy, it's, it's still pretty mechanical at this point, doesn't really address these higher aspects of ourselves that we can really tap into. And understand that this we've all gone through the trauma that we've gone through and it's normal, it's okay. And to really take the, I guess, the shame out of going to counseling even because so many people resist, you know, even to this day, because, well, there's nothing wrong with me.
Harmony Kwiker 54:30
Yeah, well, and what I love about what you just said, Brian, is that when the the healer themselves, this psych psychotherapist, or the psychiatrist is objectifying themselves by thinking of themselves as that expert, rather than being in their full humanity, they become part of the problem, because there's no point of contact for two souls to Me, right? I'm other rising you and I'm here to fix you and I'm not honoring your sovereign self. And that's part Part of the problem, and I think that more people would seek help if they felt more empowered, and met and seen, and, and really guided in their healing rather than objectified.
Brian Smith 55:13
Yeah, as, as my daughter was going through her training, you know, and I'm a life coach. So I'm coaching people, which is totally different from a therapist, and she's always reminds me that, and I'm fine with that. But I'm like, she's like, well, we're not supposed to tell personal stories, we're not supposed to talk about ourselves, you know, it's really, you know, ask them these questions. And, and you have to put your own, like, you have to put your own thing into it that people want to feel like they're in a room with a human being not with the robot, just checking off a list of questions that they're asking them. And I think, unfortunately, too many therapists are like, I'm just gonna pull out the book, and I'm just gonna go through the book. And here's where it goes. People need to feel witnessed, they need to feel seen, they need to feel like, you know, you're, you can understand what I'm saying, you can feel what I'm saying. I love the fact that you're giving people not only permission, like, this is the way we do it.
Harmony Kwiker 56:08
Yeah, you know, I think this sort of misunderstanding about not talking about ourselves in the therapy room, is really about a nuance of not making it about us not going into my story, which is different from being present and sharing my experience in service of you, where we can meet in our humanity. And I think that for new therapists, there's like this, this yes and no around it. And as we as we mature in our seat, we realize that there's a nuance there.
Brian Smith 56:39
Yeah, right. That's why I'm so you get that's why I was explaining my daughter's like, you know, you'll that's why the way they trained you and and as you said, Exactly. It's not about it's not making about myself, like you're crying tells a story. It's like, oh, well, let me tell you what happened to me. And it's like, how does this relate to you? This is still about the client. Yeah,
Harmony Kwiker 56:57
yeah. You know, when I published my my first book, which is a memoir, I had a lot of questions about like, what if your clients read this, you know, because it's, I tell a lot of the dark journey that I've been on. It's not all rainbows and sunshine. And, and the book is in service of learning, you know, and so I feel so good about being vulnerable, and sharing myself, if it empowers anybody else, to on their journey, you know, to know that they too, can heal that they too, can come through this,
Brian Smith 57:32
I find that I think it's really important to know that the therapist, I'm going to the coach, I'm going to or whatever is a human being, because otherwise they can't relate to me. I mean, if you just tell me, okay, well just do this, this and this, and you'll be okay. It's like, I want to know that you struggle to because we all do, you know, we all have issues, we've all had issues, and none of us no matter how enlightened we think we are, we haven't overcome these things. And I love you share that, you know, your mother passed away 15 years ago, and you just cry, you know, a couple of weeks ago. You know, for me, it's I don't cry every day anymore. But I do have my times that I was on Facebook or something. I was Google. But these Google Photos have the other day at my daughter's like spotlight on Shana. I came up and no those pictures from when she was a baby up until she passed away, you know, at 15. And it made me very sad for a few minutes, you know, and that's, that's okay. And it's been eight years, I expect that it'll always be that way.
Harmony Kwiker 58:28
Yeah, that's that's love. Right? Like, that's the honoring of the love that you have. For her. It's my feeling that grief of the loss.
Brian Smith 58:36
Yeah, and I have to say it honestly, sometimes makes me feel because, you know, we can get to the point where it's like, well, have I forgotten about them? You know, am I over it? You know, because I never want to get over it. And when that happens, I'm like, good. The feelings are still there. It's still there. So it's I even that, and I heard I heard it actually in medium say one time, I thought this was brilliant. She said when you're feeling the most doubt, when you're feeling the most grief when you feel that they're the farthest away for you. A lot of times, that's when they're the closest to you. Because they've drawn close to you and you're feeling their energy. And that's what's causing you to feel like you're missing them. And hearing that just totally flipped that whole thing for me.
Harmony Kwiker 59:15
Just got the chills when you said that, like all up my head. Yes. You know, I really, I believe that grief, even acute grief. Like when we're still in the shock phase, all of our defenses are down. And we're actually more connected with other dimensions in that time because we're so raw, right? And that rawness is really essential to being in connection with somebody who's passed.
Brian Smith 59:39
Yes. And that's really interesting that you said that because I think people think it's the opposite. They think I'm in deep grief, therefore I can't connect. But I think maybe it is that it's that it's so raw that we are more connected than we realize we still we miss them so deeply. It's still really, really painful. Oh, but that's when they're I think a lot of times just when the drawing the closest.
Harmony Kwiker 1:00:04
Yeah. Yeah, you know, and I think that it's important for people to recognize that any experience that we have isn't wrong, right. So if I'm not feeling grief, that's not wrong. And if I am feeling it, that's not wrong either. Like the way the mind relates to it gives us a lot of information on how it disrupts our ability to be with what actually is present right now.
Brian Smith 1:00:30
Yes, that's, that's a very important thing for people to understand that everything in grief is normal. If people said to me, is this normal? Is it normal that I'm not feeling anything? Yes. Is it normal that I'm feeling really sad? Yes. Is it normal that I can't sleep? Yeah, it's normal. But it's like too much? Yes. It's
Harmony Kwiker 1:00:47
Is it normal that I'm anxious? Like, I think that's a surprising one for people that like grief can actually feel like anxiety? And yes, that's normal to?
Brian Smith 1:00:56
Yeah. And that's so helping people to understand that it's all okay. It's a process. It's, it's a lifelong process, I believe. It doesn't mean that we'll never get any any better doesn't mean that we're always going to be sad and always be stuck. But, you know, hopefully, if our love continues, than our grief journey continues.
Harmony Kwiker 1:01:20
Yeah. And if if we can honor whatever is happening within us as a sacred experience, right, then we're attending to what wants to happen through us in relationship to the loss. Right, like the tears are sacred, even the fear is and to really honor what is there is the is the most deeply honoring of our experience and of the person whose past?
Brian Smith 1:01:43
Yeah, so So harmony, what do you hope that people take away from from your book? Hmm.
Harmony Kwiker 1:01:50
Yeah, well, I hope they take away that. Every everything that they experience is part of their wholeness, that in their wholeness, they are so much more than any one element that they might have reduced themselves down to even their body, their thoughts. And when we really are able to welcome our wholeness, we can integrate and come back home to the essence of who we are. And when we're here, we can create the life of our dreams that feels nurturing and empowering and connecting and enlivening.
Brian Smith 1:02:26
Yeah, that's, that's great. And as you said that I just said, I want to make this other point. Because I think a lot of times people are, at least for me, because I've always been, like psycho psychology was one of my favorite subjects when I was in college. And I used to subscribe to psychology today. So I'm a kind of a pop psychologists, I guess. But I think some people might be surprised by these different aspects of ourselves. It's like, Well, I'm just me, what do you mean, all these different parts? But you said that was like, we kind of have to understand all the different parts to integrate them into our wholeness. Is that right?
Harmony Kwiker 1:03:00
Absolutely. And, and I think that when people say, that's just me, what they're saying is I'm hyper identified with my condition, self, and I believe that I am this one aspect of myself. And I've fallen asleep to the rest of me, all of me, including the shadow. Right. And so to really welcome our entire wholeness is essential and integrating to come back to ourselves. Yeah,
Brian Smith 1:03:28
yeah. Oh, so that's a good point, to just say when I'm saying that's just me, that's, that's someone saying, I'm my conditioned self, and ignoring the rest of the aspects of ourselves.
Harmony Kwiker 1:03:37
Yeah. I mean, in states of consciousness, when somebody is hyper identified with their conditioned self, their ordinary way of thinking, they believe that their thoughts hold reality. They believe that their mind is where truth lives, they believe that their perception is the perception. Right? And so when we start to pay more attention to the subtle, we shift our consciousness and we drop more into the subtle mind. And the more we bring awake awareness to all the aspects of ourselves, including our conditioned self, we start to embody a truer part of ourselves. That awake awareness is one step closer to the true self.
Brian Smith 1:04:19
Awesome. Wow. Very well said. Thank you. So where can people find out more about you? Please mentioned your book again. I know it's going to be out very soon. But where can people reach you?
Harmony Kwiker 1:04:30
Yes, well align living and loving from the true self is the book and it's out December 1, and it's available wherever books are sold. I'm at the spiritually aligned.com. And this is where I offer both coaching, service or coaching and therapy services and training to new therapists and therapists who want to deepen into their seat and hold a spiritually aligned container. All right,
Brian Smith 1:04:56
harmony. Thanks so much for being here today. It's been a pleasure.
Harmony Kwiker 1:05:00
Thank you so much Brian for having me. Enjoy the rest of your day you too
Brian Smith 1:05:25
don't forget to like, hit that big red subscribe button and click the notify Bell. Thanks for being here.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
Author, Psychotherapist, Founder
Harmony Kwiker, MA, is a psychotherapist, author, and professor at Naropa University, where she teaches transpersonal counseling. She is also the founder of the Institute for Spiritual Alignment where she trains practitioners to bridge the divide between traditional and spiritual transformation. In her first book, Reveal: Embody the True Self Beyond Trauma and Conditioning, Harmony does what most experts rarely do—she vulnerably shares her story of transformation while simultaneously empowering readers to discover their truest selves. Her new book, Align: Living and Loving from the True Self is now available.