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The Sophroliminal level of consciousness

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The work in Sophrology takes place in what we call the sophroliminal level of consciousness.  This is something Caycedo took from hypnosis, though it is not a hypnotic state.  Rather it is a level of consciousness connected with alpha brainwaves, deeper than our normal level of awareness but not as deep as hypnosis or sleep.  In this state the brain is calmer, and more open to insight and clarity.  You are in total control of your experience in the sophroliminal level.  You are guided into it by the Sophrologist’s voice at the start of every set of exercises, and all exercises take place within it.  Then at the end you are guided out of it, back up into normal ‘fully awake’ consciousness.  Interestingly, though, not all practice has to take place in the sophroliminal level.  For instance, driving to drop my children off at school today I found my shoulders up round my ears with tension.  My neck was actually hurting with it.  I’m not going to lower my level of consciousness while driving, so I just did a quick dynamic exercise at the wheel, and the relief was palpable.  Literally the work of 30 seconds and life moves on.

From his neurological and psychiatric expertise, Caycedo identified three distinct states of consciousness: pathological (where the mind is substantially disturbed); ordinary (where a lot of us are); and sophronic (a state of ongoing awareness, peace and connection to your life).  The pathological state is a place for psychiatry and expert medical support.  But for those of us in the ordinary state – which encompasses a wide spectrum of experience including a certain degree of ill health - regular practice, even in very small chunks, can bring more and more experience of the sophronic state.  Not that we need Sophrology to get us there: this sophronic state is accessible to us all at any moment.  It is known by many different names.  And it is always there.  We all have glimpses of it, in a moment of love, a moment of flow with life, a time when the snowstorm of our heads is settled and there is a spaciousness, a calmness.  We handle everything with more wisdom from this place.  But some days, or weeks, or longer, we get lost in our personal thinking again, believing it to be true.  Spending our lives in the past or the future.  Because the sophronic state is always connected with being present.  In this place we think but are not consumed by our thinking, and are therefore not swamped by the feelings that our thoughts give rise to.  We can watch them come and go, without needing to jump on board every thought that passes through our heads, and ride it to the (often bitter) end.  So many of us are prisoners to our thinking.  Instead we have a sense of okayness, of friendliness towards ourselves and life, of peace.  As I said, a spaciousness within ourselves.  Ideas come to us, creativity happens.  The thinking we do have is of a higher level, more productive, more accepting of ourselves and others, less personally painful.  But more of this another time.

Some people are worried about any type of hypnosis, fearing that they will not be in control of their experience.  That they will be exploited or manipulated in some way.  I can assure you that in the sophroliminal state of consciousness you are absolutely and entirely in control.  You don’t have to close your eyes if you don’t want to.  You can even choose not to participate in the exercises that the Sophrologist suggests, if your wisdom is telling you not to for any reason.  Or you can adapt them in any way you need to.  A very important part of Sophrology is the client’s total autonomy.  So perhaps you won’t want to move that part of your body on that day – we talk a lot about ‘respecting the limits of the day’.  I have had this experience in my training.  I sit there with the group, going through an exercise, and thinking: you know what, that’s not for me today, not going to do that.  The thing is that Sophrology actually, over time, connects you more and more strongly with who you are, and what you want and need in this moment.  And with that knowledge and that connection you start to make choices that honour this experience.  I have had moments of stopping midway, opening my eyes, looking around and thinking: well I wasn’t in the mood for that today.  And that’s ok.  In fact it’s more than just ok – it’s another powerful lesson in itself.

Because we have choice.  Another time we were experiencing the walking meditation of level 3 – which is quite beautiful and profound.  We all walked round in a circle behind each other, as we thought we had been told to do.  Afterwards our teacher asked us why no one had chosen to walk a different path in the room – we had the choice.  This was not to make us feel down on ourselves for walking in a circle, but rather just to notice that in each moment we have choice.

So it’s ok to be who we are.  And you have freedom and autonomy to decide what works for you in Sophrology.  In fact these are guiding principles of the method.  Of which more another time.

Thank you once again for reading!

Wishing you peace.

Helena