Updated: Dec 19, 2019
The "Happy Place" is a place we create in our mind that we can retreat to when we need a time out. It gives us a feeling of safety and extreme peace.
In the practice of IRest® - Yoga Nidra, creator Richard Miller, calls this happy place the inner resource. By invoking the inner resource, It is meant to give us the sense of calm, security and peace. It is explained as a place within ourselves where we can retreat when emotions begin to take over. During the practice, we are encouraged to create a space in our minds, or imagination where we feel most comfortable and completely safe.
When I first began the practice, I didn't quite know what it was I was doing. I imagined being in places of fantasy, filled with all of my favorites. I included my favorite people, favorite sights and sounds, all existing in my favorite places. But it always felt very external. Sort of like painting a picture and looking at it, but not knowing how to get into the picture. This was creating stress in a practice that was suppose to be making me feel more calm. I struggled to discover what was I missing. It wasn’t until a few years and several trainings later that I discovered the missing peace. (sic)
I was attending a yoga nidra session, being delivered by my mentor, Senior IRest® instructor, Karen Sholtes. As we settled in, she began to lead us through the steps. When we arrived at the part where we bring the inner resource to mind, she said ”Think about how this place makes you feel. It should feel like, Ahhhhh… this is perfect! I would not change a thing.” There is was, the missing peace! I had been focused on creating the place, but I really needed to consider the feeling this place could give me. I realised that I was being too objective, which is often a block in progressing to finding our own personal sanctuary.
The purpose of the personal sanctuary , or happy place, is important to our overall well being. Not only do we use it in the practice of yoga nidra, it is a valuable self-care tool that we can use on a daily basis in any stressful situation. There is some basic science to it.
When the body experiences stress, as in day to day challenges, or catastrophic such as a trauma, there is constriction in the body. The Autonomic Nervous System is activated, particularly the Sympathetic Nervous System, or fight or flight response. Muscles tighten, heart rate increases, and breath becomes shorter and quicker. As this process repeats, stress compounds within the body. Compound stress can manifest into realities. These can be physical illness, substance abuse, uncontrolled emotional issues, and/or mental illness such as depression.
Finding your inner sanctuary can help reduce compound stress. By conjouring our happy place, we can activate the Para Sympathic Nervous System, or our rest and digest mode. Muscles relax, heart rate rests, and breath smoothes. Engaging this practice during times of non-stress can help us move more effectively and automatically when we experience stressful situations. In doing so, through mental practice, we train the body to move from a reactive state to one that calms us by soothing the central nervous system. In scientific terms, we are actively switching from the Fight or Flight mode to Rest and Digest mode. The steps are simple and should be practiced regularly. Below is a short exercise to help you get started in creating your own personal sanctuary, your happy place, your missing peace.
Find a comfortable supported position. This can be reclined, or sitting upright is a supportive chair.
Take a few moments to relax with some long slow breathes.
Think of a time when you felt comfortable, and safe, or imagine what it would feel like to be comfortable, and safe.
If using a memory, try to extract the sensations. Are there sounds or smell associated with this memory? or perhaps a physical sensation, such as sand under your feet, or the warmth of sunshine?
If building this from your imagination, start with a perfect location, again, extracting the sensations. Consider if you are there alone, or if there are any people or pets there too. Perhaps we welcome a loved one that has passed or someone we simply enjoy being with that gives us those positive feelings. Layer in sensations as you discover what makes you feel comfortable and safe.
Take as long as you need to consider every aspect of this sanctuary. It is being designed only for you, by you. And no matter where you are or what circumstance, no one can take this from you. It remains within you.
Over time and with practice you will develop this happy place. This retreat. It is a feeling, not a place. #Beempowered!
“The feeling of...ahhh...everything is perfect in this moment ,
and there is not a thing I would change.“ Karen Sholtes