Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Student Perspectives on Working with Jim Tolles

I know that stepping into a session with me can be a new and sometimes unsettling experience (both in good and upsetting ways). Below I've posted perspectives on having a session with me as well as pre- and post-session care from three of my long-time students:


They offer interesting differences and similarities because of the nature of their individual work. Mary is coming from a path of gradual self realization. Brandy had a spontaenous awakening, going from 0 to 60 in her spiritual path, and Tina has needed a lot of support in healing sexual abuse.

I hope this is helpful for those who are about to work with me, those who already working with me, and those who are considering stepping into these sacred depths on a regular basis. 

(FYI: I do have water and tissues for my local students. This topic gets brought up because many of my students work with me via Skype.)

Working With Jim: Tips from Mary

For me, working with Jim has been all about rhythm. There has been the almost unbroken rhythm of a one hour session every two weeks for over a year [soon to be 2 years], and within this, there quickly established an ebb and flow of issues arising, healing, and letting go.

I have never taken notes, but found that after a session, certain things Jim had said or issues raised would naturally float into my awareness. I would take these and focus on them, both by just holding them in my thoughts during the course of the day and by really getting into them in my journal at night. These things would also naturally lead to other areas that needed my attention. I have found that everything has arisen as it’s needed to, and on the occasions that Jim has said something that has jarred me or I have thought “That can’t apply to me,” then that’s a sure indication that it definitely does apply to me and in a way that I might not recognize until quite a bit further down the line.

Showing Up Regularly

There have been plenty of times where I have sat down to a session in a hurried, breathless state due to last minute rushes around childcare or technical hitches, and Jim has encouraged me to breathe and calm myself into them. When I have allowed plenty of time, I sit for ten minutes or so and let myself wind down.  I still find I get butterflies in my stomach as it approaches session time. One thing I've always done is shown up. I think this is the most important part because you are honoring yourself with this simple commitment.

When I first started working with Jim, there was a lot of silence. Partly I just enjoyed the space and the fact that there was no pressure to say anything, but mainly I was encountering my own issues with expressing myself. Over the year or so of working together, I have been able to open up and communicate more and more freely as I've learnt to trust the loving space and myself. Often when I speak in the sessions, I feel like I am rambling, struggling to express myself clearly, but I have learnt to go with this as often I surprise myself with what comes to light. If I am unconsciously glossing over or missing something, Jim has a gentle but direct way of bringing my attention to it, taking me deeper into it.

Energy and Post Session Shifts

Regardless of what is said, a whole lot of energy moves during a session. Between sessions, I have found that it’s generally followed this pattern:

  • a couple of days ‘sitting’ with what’s come up, 
  • a day or so of shifting or realization around the issue,
  • a few days to a week of feeling absolutely crummy--tired, depressed, discouraged, and then
  • a settling or normalizing before the next session.

As my time working with Jim has gone on and with talking to his other students, the crummy times have got easier to deal with in that I have become more skilled at seeing them for what they are (not me!).

Top Tips for a Session With Jim

Show up. Schedule and keep regular sessions. If your intuition says you need an extra session, ask for it.

Bring tissues and water. But don’t have any expectations. I haven’t cried as much as I thought I would have, and when the real pain came out, I think I wiped my nose on my sleeve. Also, I find I feel much more comfortable and grounded if I take off my shoes.

Maintain a private space. For me it’s helped to keep the same place and set up for each session. It doesn’t need to be anything special except private and as free as possible of distraction and interruption.

Trust! Trust yourself, trust the process, and trust the loving space that Jim holds. Keep going, keep looking deeper. Much more will be happening than you realize.

Spiritual Session Preparation Tips from Brandy

Do your work 

“Your work” consists of your daily spiritual practice and whatever else your inner knowing is asking of you. Having done the work in the days and weeks beforehand will make space for much-needed clarity while maximizing session time.

Issues begin to move involuntarily in Jim’s company. If one hasn't been doing their work, it’s easy to get lost in the uncomfortable spaces. That makes it almost impossible to unpack and/or work on issues because one has even less access to their personal clarity.

Meditate/Prep your inner self before the session

Take the time to meditate or whatever you need do to meet your Self just before session. It just goes more smoothly, and the heart space and issues are more accessible.

Come Equipped/Take Notes

List of supplies: 

Pen and Pad of Paper
- Having had no spiritual foundation when I started with Jim, it seemed like I had to write down just about everything. Whether you’re a spiritual novice or not, you will have a lot going on when the camera goes off. Write down what is moving inside. It’s a great way to work more deeply after the session since you’re already in that space.

- Bring the Costco-sized box of tissues; don’t even try to get away with simply parking a few next to your chair. This is not to say that there will be crying every session, but true healing incites the (unexpected and inevitable) “ugly cry” from time to time.

Glass of water
- Some of us have been known to sweat out most of our valuable hydration during a session. Even if you don’t, it’s a good idea to flush the system anyway since all kinds of internal debris get dredged up.

- Working through journal entries have been some of my favorite sessions. This level of vulnerability lends space for a beautifully intense healing session and makes it easier to remain open in future sessions. There is an opportunity to learn some practical journaling techniques as well, such as how to go more deeply in your journal.

What to Expect

  • Expect to learn a lot about yourself--good and bad
  • Expect to hear the truth, and not all truths are attractive and comfortable
  • Expect to cuddle with vulnerability
  • Expect loving support not answers, predictions, and bullet-point task lists for healing and spirituality
  • Expect that you’ll only heal as deeply as you’re willing to dive
  • Expect to feel uncomfortable, frequently. This discomfort belongs solely to the individual. Jim happens to be the healer supporting one in discomfort that was there before he came; he is not the cause of this discomfort.
  • Expect that just when you think you are all healed, it’s actually time to go deeper and explore places you really, really don’t want to go into
  • Expect to also feel really good. I have felt inexplicable joy in sharing the expansiveness that follows breakthroughs with someone that has not only sat in the trenches with me but also helped guide me through them
  • Expect to be energetically held and guided by a true Teacher while healing the issues obstructing your soul’s path

Post-Session Shifts

I have definitely experienced shifts after sessions, and some of them have lasted a week or more. Some of these shifts were good, and some were not so good or comfortable. Whether they’re good or not, it’s a great opportunity to delve more deeply into your work in the privacy of your own safe space. As I work through these shifts, I have found it important to take notes, and post-session shifts have made for a very powerful next session every time, if I step into the fear rather than stepping out of it.

Regular Sessions

Post-session shifting brings to mind the importance of regular sessions. Many questions, emotions, and issues will arise very rapidly at times and sometimes all at once. I have learned that regular support and guidance is necessary. Regular sessions also really help to keep a good rhythm going--if sessions are sporadic, a portion of session time inevitably gets spent on “catching up.”

Sexual Abuse Healing With Jim: Tina’s Thoughts

When I began working with Jim, I wasn't setting out specifically to heal from my sexual abuse, though I knew that was part of my stew of ailments in this life, and I’d been in and out of therapy to address it. I just knew that something was deeply amiss, and a mysterious, extended illness I’d had the year prior confirmed that on an intuitive level for me.

Jim and I have worked together via Skype every two weeks since we began in November 2013. No two sessions are exactly the same, although they share a basic framework:

  1. I sit and drop into whatever’s going on in my body, whatever’s coming up;
  2. I narrate it to Jim; and
  3. we ease towards whatever the work of the day wants to be. 

Gradually, as we worked, the sexual abuse started to take center stage. The abuse happened when I was very, very young, and the abuse itself was shocking enough that I’d buried it deeply in my memory, to the point that I couldn't access it volitionally. It was too large to process, so it both went underground and became the entire backdrop of my existence, which sounds paradoxical but is true. All of my ways of being in the world stemmed from this early, traumatic experience. My identity was defined by this thing I couldn't see, couldn't properly remember, and so the sexual abuse was unconsciously driving most of my actions.

Slowly Working Through Pain

Jim worked with me very slowly and carefully as I descended further and further into the source of the pain—which was at some points pretty excruciating, both physically and emotionally. Jim always guided me to breathe and keep going deeper, and as I did that over the course of our sessions, clearer insights and more distinct pictures of the abuse arose.

During this process, the agreement was that I would

  • meditate regularly (daily whenever possible),
  • journal, and
  • receive bodywork to help release the trauma (all of which I’ve done).

Our work plus my own homework along these lines made a sturdy frame for the healing to take place in.

Releasing the Pain

As we've worked, the sorrow and pain and anger that have always lived in me have come to the surface, flared, and—to an amazing degree—dissipated. Jim and I are still working together, and we have lots of areas of growth left to explore. But it’s starting to look like the lion’s share of this problem has been transmuted. Now I get to see what it’s like to participate in life without looking/feeling through that perpetual prism of old trauma. To say that this is an enormous blessing is the understatement of the century, and because of this healing work with Jim, I’m ready to enter a different phase of growth.

My gratitude for Jim’s steady, loving presence and wisdom and energy through all of this is gigantic. Through this work I've found my voice, which was squashed before I could even get going in this life, and is now decompressing and expanding and rising to its full expression. We've accomplished more in a year of working together than I did in all my years of therapy. This work is so direct, so transformative. It’s been nothing less than a rebirth. Jim is a gift, and if you have this particular trauma in your background, he’s somebody who can guide you in complete integrity and with great care to your own healing.

This picture is a gift from Becky Stiller. You can see more of her photography on this Flickr link.
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