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Stephanie Nash: Cultivating Health, Well-Being, Joy & Compassion While in Solitude

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Nuggets From Stephanie Nash's Call

Last Saturday, we had the privilege of hosting Awakin Call with Stephanie Nash.

Below are some of the nuggets from the call that stood out for me ...

  • Stephanie grew up in the woods and was used to being alone in nature. She took “people fasts” staying in nature, mostly sitting still (influenced by her vision quest, where she sat alone in one spot without food or water for four days.)
  • Being alone in nature nurtures and feeds her. She has gone 1-3 weeks each year for 30 years, with the last 20 in the same location. It’s integral to rewiring her nervous system. She also calls immersing herself in nature “being in ceremony.” We forget that we are nature. So being one in nature heals us and our nervous system. In nature, she changes her relationship with animals, and becomes one with the clouds and trees, and disappears, so the time passes quite quickly. She does not feel scared in nature, because it is like a womb and “there is no safer place.”
  • Like cleansing the body by fasting one day a week, Steph called her periods of solitude in nature, “People Fasts.” Her “people fasts” restored her, allowing her to later connect with people with abandon.
  • Her first meditation retreat was reminiscent of being alone in nature, because once you close your eyes, you are isolated, except that they feed you and give you a bed.
  • She no longer experiences loneliness. When you have oneness, you realize there is no such thing as loneliness. It’s like the shadow on the wall like a boogey man.
  • She initially did not want to get involved with meditation, but she had a mystical/spiritual experience and wanted to find someone who might explain her experience.
  • She first was attracted to Shinzen Young’s teaching because of how articulate and what a good teacher he is, but initially she didn’t want to do his meditations. She has served him for more than 20 years. Through his techniques, she became intimately present to sensory experiences, feeling, for example, the vibrations of a helicopter become a massage of her body and the light on a tree a visual massage.
  • Shinzen asked Stephanie to participate in a Harvard Brain Study that required meditators with 20,000 hours of meditation. The study was designed by Shinzen and David Vago, Ph.D., and, at their request, Stephanie designed the second part of the study. The study found that advanced meditators, compared to non-meditators, have a more restful default mode when not meditating, have less emotional reactivity, and have higher meta-cognitive functioning.
  • If you want compassion, serve somebody. Even if you are not feeling a lot of compassion, you will after service.
  • Stephanie repeated a theme that at any given moment, you have the option to let go of the negative and tune into the positive. After she had a bad fall in India, she identified the sensations of the gash in her arm and injury to her leg, and the related pain, but chose not to judge it and thus not to suffer.
  • Letting go of your self is good for compassion and empathy. As a professional actress, she has to let go of who she is to become a character. To play a character, she looks for and has to know their pain. You cannot judge a character you play. A key skill she developed is to be able to go into other people and really understand who they are.
  • Acting also led to her learning about body posture through the Alexander Technique. And her acting training taught her that merely by assuming a specific posture, she could change her way of feeling and thinking, and her confidence.
  • Posture can help shift our emotions from fear and anxiety into confidence and heart opening. Shoulders back opens the chest and the heart center. Elbows away from the body help reduce anxiety. Shoulders and head forward contribute to depression. Only when your posture is erect can your brain get the information from the stomach that it’s full.
  • She changed her relationship to her food and body after she had gained 45 pounds over her now-normal 117 pounds. Say hello to your food, because it’s going to become you. Welcome it. Close your eyes to smell your food. Close your eyes because more of your brainpower is available to focus on the sensory experience of taste, and smell. Smell your food because much of the satisfaction is in the smell, especially baked goods and chocolate. Tune into the flavor in your mouth after you swallow – notice the “Aftertaste”. Take a bite of every food on your plate and choose the food with the best aftertaste to conclude your plate of food. If your last three bites has good aftertaste you will have more satisfaction and you will be less likely to go get more food/seconds.
  • A few seconds of laughter can instantly shift your mood and release endorphins and serotonin. Laughter strengthens your immune system, and lowers your blood pressure. Laughter helps lower blood sugar levels for Type II diabetes, increases pain tolerance, strengthens the heart and supplies the same gamma waves in the brain as deep meditation.
  • Stephanie ended the call by teaching us the “Three Bounce Chuckle,” which involves a deep exhale squeezing the air out followed by a few wheezing cackles that themselves tend to promote more laughter.
Lots of gratitude to all the behind-the-scenes volunteers that made this call happen!


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