Ep 15 – Emotional First Aid with Chopra Center Certified Angie Parris-Raney

Illustration of a stick figure placing a band-aid on a heart

Let conscious communication aid you in increasing your emotional intelligence. Listen as Angie Parris-Raney, Chopra Center Certified in Meditation, walks us through navigating how we react to a variety of experiences. Learn how to move through clinging to past stories and the anxiety surrounding the future in order to find balance in the present. Move away from victim languaging and into clear and specific processes.

Author Images: 
Angie Parris-Raney, Chopra Center Certified Meditation Instructor
Author Bio: 

Angie Parris-Raney has been a licensed massage therapist for 20 years and is the advertising director for ABMP. Parris-Raney recently became Chopra Center Certified in meditation and is currently studying ayurveda. Her training explores physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health. Angie is also the face and voice behind ABMP’s Meditate & Move series that runs every Wednesday on Facebook. Angie is also the founder of the nonprofit Project Inti, an organization that provides aid to low income Peruvian families and communities.


This episode sponsored by Anatomy Trains and Yomassage.

Full Transcript: 

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00:49 Darren Buford: Welcome to the ABMP podcast. My name is Darren Buford, I'm the editor-in-chief of Massage and Bodywork magazine, and Senior Director of Communications for ABMP. I'm joined by my co-host, Kristin Coverly, licensed massage therapist and Director of Professional Education for ABMP. Our goal is to connect with luminaries and experts in and around the massage, bodywork, and wellness profession in order to talk about the topics, trends and techniques that affect our listeners' practices.

01:15 DB: Our guest today is Angie Parris-Raney, someone who wears many hats in and around the massage and bodywork profession. Angie is a licensed massage therapist and is the advertising director for ABMP. Angie recently became Chopra Center certified in meditation, and is currently studying Ayurveda. Her training explores physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health. You can also see Angie in ABMP's Meditate and Move series that runs every Wednesdays on Facebook. And Angie is the founder of the non-profit Project Inti, an organization that provides aid to low-income Peruvian families and communities. Hello, friend.

01:53 Angie Parris-Raney: Hi, how are you guys?

01:55 Kristin Coverly: Hi, Angie. Welcome.

01:56 AP: Hi.

01:56 DB: Doing well. Angie, we could go in so many directions today because of your varied learning and expertise and philanthropy, but we're gonna save that for some future podcasts. Today, we're gonna focus on your involvement specifically with the Chopra Center and Conscious Communication. Angie, why did you seek out Chopra training? And can you tell us a little bit about your involvement with them?

02:20 AP: Absolutely. Well, I have been practicing massage for almost 20 years now, and a few years ago, I was really starting to feel this sense of burnout, and just looking for something else that was going to light the spark again inside of me. And I knew that healing happens on more levels than just the physical level, and so I just started to tip-toe into this idea of meditation and mindfulness, not really thinking that I was somebody who could sit still and actually do this. I put a lot of stories around what I thought that was.

03:02 AP: And then one day, I'm listening to another podcast where Deepak is a guest. He starts talking about meditation, and that led me to the 21-day meditation series that he does. And there is something about the mantras. That was, for me, a way that I could connect and I could occupy my mind and focus on something so that I could let everything else fall to the side and get into that place of stillness. So that then led me to go to a weekend retreat with the Chopra Center, and it was in that moment where I'm listening to one of the speakers talk about all the people that they can help, and they can help these people, many in one shot, and suddenly that struck a chord with me. That felt good. That felt like the day when I decided I was gonna become a massage therapist. That light ignited, and so I knew this is what I need to do.

04:00 AP: I even tried to talk myself out of it and gave myself all the obstacles of, "Oh, that's for other people. I don't have the time. I don't have the money." But something led me to go talk to... We're assigned individual mentors when you go to these retreats, and I just... I think I invited him to talk me out of my own obstacles, and so by the... Just minutes before I was leaving to go to the airport, I was like, "Alright, I'm in. I'm doing this. I am going to pursue certification with these guys."

04:33 AP: So last year, I got the certification for the Primordial Sound Meditation, and I just have to say, just that move in and of itself has completely changed my life. And that then has led into the Ayurveda Lifestyle training, which again, it's all very conscious based. So using the tool of meditation is really what helps you get into that space of conscious awareness, and so the more that you practice it, the more you bring that into your daily life, and then you can become more peaceful, you can become more mindful, you can... I don't like using that word "patient," 'cause I think the universe throws crazy exercises at you to test that patience, but [chuckle] just to pause and take time and to listen and to be more present. So that's the journey. That's what got me here.

05:33 AP: And yeah, the part that, as I'm going through this Ayurveda Lifestyle training, the piece of it that I think has taken me by surprise, or has gotten me the most curious, is we have a whole section on just emotional freedom. So we talk a lot about nutrition and daily routines and the importance of digestion, but the emotional aspect of it... It's like we all know that we experience and have these emotions, and we all know that we're taking in experiences through all of our senses, but I don't think we consciously think about that. And I feel like that for me has been what's the most fascinating, and has opened new doors for me going through this training, it's just really taking a moment to understand, "Okay, I get to own this emotion. I get to spend time with it, sit with it, observe it, and then figure out what am I gonna do with that." And so that's where I'm hoping to bring forth some of that knowledge and information from the Chopra Center to share with everybody, 'cause I'm excited about it, I'm still... This is a practice, this isn't something that you just acquire and you're done, you check the box, you move on. This is something you gotta practice and work at every single day.

06:56 KC: Well Angie, as someone who has been lucky enough to be a bystander watching you on your journey, from your first Chopra Center weekend to now, and looking ahead to everything in the future, I'm really excited for you. I know how passionate you are about this, so I'm really excited for you to have the chance to share just even a little bit of that knowledge with our podcast listeners, because your enthusiasm for it is infectious. And all of those principles are so important for us in our personal lives, but also in our work lives as we work with clients, as we navigate our lives and future. So let's dive in and talk a little bit more about Conscious Communication. What does that mean, and how can we apply that?

07:38 AP: Absolutely. Well, thank you first of all for your kind words. [chuckle] I will say that the interesting thing is that suffering comes from wanting our circumstances to be different than what they are, and that's pretty obvious in today's current time. This is not comfortable, this is not something any of us wants. And so it's interesting to take a step back and observe human behavior and our reaction to that. And so what's happening when we're having these feelings of, "I don't want this, I don't like this." We're quickly dividing our emotions into two categories, either they're, 'this is comfortable' or 'this is uncomfortable.' And then we're going to either react or respond according to how we feel about that, and so we might say, "Okay, this is not comfortable, I'm either going to avoid this, I'm going to react to it with anger, fear, whatever." Or, "You know what, this isn't that bad of a thing. I can set this aside and kind of move through it."

08:46 AP: The other aspect of just even having an awareness of our own happiness, a lot of times, this is where we'll do more of the object referral as opposed to the self-referral. So when we think about our happiness, it's, "Oh, if I... When I get married or when I have the house, when I have the car, when I buy this, then I'll be happy." And how many times have we've done that, we get there and you're like, "You know what, I'm not really any happier. What's that about?" And so we keep seeking and pursuing. That's where this meditation practice really helps with that because it's getting you to a place of self-referral. "How do I live and find happiness and joy within me, aside from whatever external environment circumstances might be like." So, again, even with that, we can come into a place of, is this comfortable or uncomfortable? Even when you're in meditation, emotions are gonna rise, this doesn't mean just because you go into meditation, "Oh now I'm this blissful person and I'm magically transformed."

09:58 AP: It can be the most simple practice, but the most difficult practice, because now you're sitting there and I have to witness and experience this emotion, but try to step back from it and not necessarily become that emotion, and maybe just witness it for what it is and try to not judge it good or bad. So that's laying the groundwork of where to begin this whole journey of, okay, now that I can be in a space of witnessing awareness and being in that silent space, now I can have a moment to witness what this emotion is, I can identify, that's fine, if it's comfortable or uncomfortable, but now I can have some choices of what to do with that.

10:49 KC: That's great, and just to clarify for our listeners, when you reference meditation, are you speaking specifically about the primordial sound mediation through the Chopra Center, or would this same sort of principles apply to any meditation practice that they may already know or be comfortable with?

11:04 AP: Any meditation practice, there's no one or right way to do meditation, the whole goal is to just get silent and listen to that inner wisdom, that voice that was within you.

11:16 DB: Angie, how do emotions affect our biology?

11:19 AP: Yes, that is something we probably aren't always thinking about either. So when we experience our emotions, there is some kind of a response, either a fight or flight or a rest or digest sort of response that's happening. So, when we're in that space of anger or fear or worry, just think, just take a moment and even think, how do I feel within my body when I'm experiencing that emotion, and that'll give you a sense of, "Okay, I might be getting some of those stress hormones running through my body." And so every single emotion that you're having is information that's going to every cell within the body, so that's important to think about like, "Okay, I have an opportunity here to shift my thinking or to shift my perception or my reaction or my response, in this moment." And so, taking that same example of, "How do I feel in my body when I experience these uncomfortable emotions?" "How do I feel in my body when I'm joyful and I'm happy and I'm... "

12:31 AP: You just might feel this lightness of being, you just... There's no weight on your body. And again, our body is responding to that, and the physiological responses would be some of those happy hormones, and now we've got serotonin and we can sleep better, and we got the oxytocin that makes us bond with the people around us. So emotions definitely affect our physiology, and that's why it's probably even... It's just as important to our overall health and well-being to tune in to, "What I'm doing with those thoughts and emotions. How is that affecting my physical being as well?"

13:11 KC: That's great. And what determines whether someone interprets an experience as comfortable or uncomfortable?

13:18 AP: Yeah, most of the time, our default might be a past experience. So for example, let's just say I'm four years old, I'm playing with a little kitten, the kitten bites me, I get an infection, and I have this whole traumatic experience. Now, my point of reference will be, "I got bit by a cat." So now the next time I see a kitten or a cat, I may be like, "I'm not so sure I wanna be around that." So that's one example of how we can lay a foundation for a conditioned way of thinking or a conditioned response. If our response isn't based out of a past experience, then we can look to a need. So all emotions derive from some kind of a need that's not met. And those four needs would be; attention, everybody wants to be seen and heard. Affection, we're all seeking love. Acceptance, we wanna belong somewhere. And then appreciation, we wanna be valued.

14:26 AP: So if in the moment, whatever your reaction or your emotional response is, you can first identify, is this based on a past experience? If it is an experience, you have an opportunity of, "Oh, that's my filter, that's how I'm seeing the world right now." That's based on this. That doesn't mean that's gonna necessarily apply in this situation, and so whatever you can do for yourself to help you move through that. That's helping you to identify that. Or just like I did back when I was kinda feeling a little blue, like, "Hmm, I'm not really feeling inspired right now, what is it that I'm not doing for myself?" And so that's... I didn't have this framework to know that, "Oh, I'm... There's something I'm not doing." I just sat there and thought, "What is it that I'm not doing for myself?" I wasn't feeding my own soul. I was almost bleeding out trying to help everybody else, and so what did I need to do for me? Well, I need to get attention back to myself, and I needed to do that for me, so.

15:36 DB: Let's take a short break to hear a word from our sponsors.

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16:28 DB: Now, let's get back to the podcast. We hear the term emotional intelligence. What does this mean?

16:35 AP: Emotional Intelligence. So this is really having the ability to feel our emotions and then to deal with them, it's not like when we were born into this world, we came with an instruction manual and we knew exactly what to do with these emotions. And so it's interesting because, again, we'll get attacked, what's our first response? We attack back, it's just this natural reaction that we have. Being emotionally intelligent is maybe understanding, again, what's the basis of it? Where is it coming from? And then how do I deal with this? We can go to the situation of my non-profit, so when I'm going out and I'm engaging with people in the community that, they're living in a different culture, they have a different lifestyle than me. Having empathy is something where you can actually temporarily put yourself in their space and feel what they're feeling. Which is a skill that not a lot of people maybe think about, or it's a skill that either comes naturally to some people, and other people you have to maybe work at it a little bit more.

17:49 AP: But the important thing with empathy is, not projecting how you think they should feel, it's how do... How do they feel in this moment? And then compassion... So people who are highly sensitive and they can feel everybody's emotions might get paralyzed or stuck with that. And if you haven't taken the Unconscious Bias course. You should do it now because they talk about this, and I think it was a really good exercise. But compassion is a little bit different than empathy, in that that gives you maybe one step removal from it to where you can see a path of maybe what you can do to take action to help others. So just another way to identify maybe how to navigate through these emotions. This for me was an experience that I had at one of the retreats that it just struck a chord with me, and hopefully it resonates with you too.

18:50 AP: But a lot of our suffering comes from wanting to cling to something, either in the past or in the future. And to explain that a little bit more. And this is how it was presented to me, that when you're clinging to anger or jealousy, you're clinging to a story that exists in the past. And when you are clinging to fear and anxiety, you're clinging to a story of the future, it hasn't even happened yet. So don't even project that out there. So for me, when I'm having an emotion, I'll try to stop and I'll be like, "Okay, what is it that I'm experiencing? Okay, it's anger. What's the story? What am I hanging on to? And then how do I move through that." Again, is that something that I'm just being conditioned to respond to? Or is that still some need that I'm not serving for myself?

19:50 AP: So that's one way to look at these emotions when we're experiencing them. And so really all we've got is the present moment. That's why I love the idea of breath, you can't breathe in the past, you can't breathe in the future, you can only breathe in the present moment. Breath is another way to help us get here into this present moment. So, some questions you can ask for yourself, once you can get into that space of being in the present moment, is, "What happened?" Start with your own point of view. What's my perception of the story? What do I think happened?

20:27 AP: And a good exercise, and this really did help, is to sit down and actually write this down in a journal. Alright write down my version of it. Then, what's the other person side? How do you think that they're seeing this story? Suddenly that shifts things a little bit, you're like, "Oh okay, yeah. There could be another point of view to what happened here." And then the third point of view is pretend like you're a news reporter, and all you're doing is stating facts. These are the facts, this is what happened. That suddenly breaks wide open the story and gives you an opportunity to work through that.

21:05 AP: Again, you can look to, what are those emotions that are coming out of this story that I have. And one way to do this is to get... To really own the emotion, as opposed to using victim language. Victim language would be, "Somebody betrayed me or they manipulated me." That is an example of you're giving the power to somebody else and they're making you feel a certain way. Nobody makes you feel a way, you feel your own emotions. So helping you to get out of that victim language, and it was interesting 'cause I started realizing how I was using victim language, like somehow I was a product of this thing that happened, and so that really helps you to just get to know, "I feel angry, I feel frustrated." And that's okay to have those emotions, own them.

22:00 AP: Then you can go to, "What do I need that I'm not receiving?" And you can go back again to those four A's, attention, affection, acceptance or appreciation. Which of those am I not experiencing in this moment? And then you can start to identify what is it that I'm asking for? And then be very, very specific and clear about that. For example, I've been married for over 20 years, and you can get pretty complacent and lazy when you're communicating with each other, and now it's, "Okay, when you walk into the room and you say my name and you wanna start a conversation, I want you to stop the activity that you're doing, and I want you to look me in the eye." That would be an example of being very clear and very specific, you're not being emotionally charged, you're stating facts. This is what I need.

22:53 AP: And that might be because I need to be seen, I need to be... I need to feel like I'm being accepted right now as you're communicating with me, so that might be an example. And then if you can get to it... Again, when you're going through that exercise of going through different points of view, if you can get to the place of, "What are their needs that aren't being met?" That might put you in a place of empathy now. Now I can maybe see what their point of view might be through all of this. So again, set aside time for yourself. This isn't something that you can do in the heat of the moment, obviously, but it is a really great process to get through those emotions. When you finally can get to that space of, "Alright, now I've got all of that explored." Then you can look at, "By holding on to this experience, what is it doing for me, what purpose is it serving? Is it time for me to let this go?

23:58 AP: Does it no longer serve me? I don't need to carry this burden with me anymore." And that's part of what forgiveness is all about too. It's not that the other person, what they did was right, it's just that I don't need to carry this with me anymore. You're forgiving for yourself, not necessarily for the other person. You can also take a moment to... Everything in life is there to teach us something, so even if these... We have these uncomfortable situations or have these uncomfortable feelings and emotions, "What is this moment teaching me right now and what can I take away from this that I can apply to the future?" And so that can be another way that you can help to move through that. One example that the Chopra Centre encourages as you go through this sort of emotional freedom, getting to freeing yourself up from some of these emotions, is they'll encourage you to write down, "Okay, I'm at a moment now where I'm ready to release the story. I wanna get rid of it." And you can write it down in your safe space and then shred it, burn it, bury it, do whatever you wanna do to literally get rid of it, and then it no longer is with you.

25:15 AP: It isn't a part of you anymore. And if you can get to that space, then celebrate. "Oh my gosh, this is amazing. I don't have to live with this anymore." And so whatever ritual that is for you, that rewards yourself like, "Okay, cool. I'm light now. I don't have to carry that anymore. That's there for me."

25:34 KC: That's wonderful Angie, there are so many tools you just shared for people to understand, process and release their emotions through ritual. That's incredible. I think already, people are gonna be able to apply a lot of that. Now, looking at it from a slightly different point of view, there's one thing about being able to do all that processing when we're in a good head space and we're calm and can really look at things without too much emotion clouding. However, what happens when we're in a heated moment when there's charged emotion, how do we help navigate it through those moments using some of these principles?

26:10 AP: Yes. Great question because I for one am one of those people where you charge me, I'm gonna charge you. So this is a practice that I am definitely still working at. Deepak has a really awesome four-step process here. One thing he likes to remind you is that there's that ego response, that one that I just said that fight or flight, somebody charges at me I'm gonna shoot right back with either criticism, sarcasm, anger, shutting down, that's gonna be that fight or flight response. But we can have an opportunity, that conscious response, where again, in that heated moment, it's gonna be hard to get to that silent space, but that is where the wise voice speaks in a whisper. If we can try to get there, that's what we wanna do. So he has the four-step process that to me, reminded me of first aid, so it's S-T-O-P, stop. Stop, think, observe, plan and proceed. That would be the first aid. Well, in his case, for me, I would say this is emotional first aid, this is what we do in the triage moment. Stop, take a few breaths, I mean really, take a few deep breaths.

27:23 AP: And then observe the situation for what it is. And this is where it could be a little hard, but if you can put a smile on your face, just do it. And then see if you can observe the whole situation from a place of innocence. That will help you to observe it for what it is. And then you can proceed on with kindness and compassion, hopefully. You might have to go through that Stop little circuit a couple of times if people keep charging at you, but that... It's a really good tool. The other thing that is helpful is just remembering, there's fear on all sides here. They're coming to you from a place of fear and your response might be coming from a place of fear, so if you can already recognize and own that, that can already help to de-escalate the situation and help you to maybe use non-violent words, or words of kindness and compassion. Try to not be belligerent like I said, none of that condescending, making them wrong. That's something they're gonna remember and that's something, you don't want coming back at you.

28:39 AP: So if you can just remember to treat this adversary with respect, just know that they have every right to their four needs just as you have the right to your four needs as well. And then be ready to forgive. Again, that's a process, you're not gonna forgive in the heated moment, but once you can get to work through that a few times again, it's realizing that the need to be right... What are you really gaining from that? Is it really important to really own that, we're not... Nobody is right about anything, we're all having our own experiences and our interpretations of everything, so try to get to that place of just understanding that. We're all in this together and when we can meet each other from that space of vulnerability even if you can just stop and even say, "Hey, look, you know what, that reaction you're giving me right now. It's making me a little bit afraid right now." And you can own that and that can suddenly diffuse the situation, it could be like, "What, I'm doing that to you. What do I need to do to change that a little bit?" So being, Brene Brown talks about this too. So if you can be brave with your vulnerability. That's the place where we can diffuse things, and that's where we can bond.

30:00 DB: I wanna thank our guest, Angie Parris-Raney for joining us today. Angie, where can listeners reach out to you and find out more information about you?

30:07 AP: Yeah, well, you're more than welcome to email me at Angie@abmp.com.

30:13 KC: That was amazing. Thanks Angie.

30:14 DB: Thanks, Angie.

30:19 Speaker 5: This has been a production of Associated Body Work and Massage Professionals. ABMP is the leading association for massage therapists and bodywork professionals in the United States and beyond. From liability insurance to professional advocacy, award-winning publications to the world's largest continuing education library for massage, to this podcast, no organization provides more for its members and the profession than ABMP. ABMP works for you.

30:51 S1: Thank you for listening. If you haven't already done so, please subscribe to the ABMP podcast on iTunes, Google Play, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.


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