Parvati Magazine’s yoga editor Ella Isakov interviewed iRest founder, yoga teacher and psychologist Richard Miller.
Parvati Magazine: You discovered yoga in the 1970’s, and spent years, as a clinical psychologist, researching the effects of integrating eastern and western philosophy to help people with trauma, PTSD, and chronic pain, and founded the IRest program. Through the IRest program, what would be the first step to healing?
Richard Miller: The primary step is teaching people how to welcome themselves. How to be with themselves just as they are without trying to fix or change themselves, but the first step is always in being with what is, just as it is. I feel strongly that we all have within us a perfect response to the what is, we just need to get out of our conditioning and accept the what is.
PMAG: You speak of connecting people to their “own beingness”, what are the main ingredients to guide a person to a “state of beingness”?
RM: Being is something we all know, and we slip into it every day, hopefully. First step is orienting people that being is possible, and it’s a moment where we take a momentary time out from doing in the day. Instead of engaging in the next thought of what should I do, we take a momentary time out, and in that we sense our bodies. Sense the body as sensation which slows down the thinking, and the more we sense and add different parts of the body to sensing, the more we move into the sense of being.
PMAG: How does coming back to oneself lead to breakthroughs for people living with trauma, PTSD, chronic pain or substance abuse?
RM: As we are able to rest in this ease of being, the normal ways of thinking, self-criticism, self-judgement, shame, and guilt begin to fade away and we begin to rewire in new responses. Also as we rest in being, it opens a portal to insight and creativity that we would not have otherwise had if we were captured in thinking. Just coming into sensing the body, letting thinking subside, and opening the portal to a creative moment of insight, then we gain more ease, and may see a piece of the trauma drop away. If we were in a moment where we were wrestling with a desire to engage in a substance, it is past. It is a good way to let a challenging situation pass by without being engaged.
PMAG: Your IRest program cultivates resiliency and well-being, which gives a breakthrough to healing and a better quality of life. What part of the IRest program brings forth the resilience?
RM: Whenever we have a difficult emotion, or a difficult circumstance, we want to pair it with a feeling of well-being that comes as we are able to rest in being. That well-being gives us a sense of heartiness, self-confidence, a sense of ground with which we can meet each moment, that’s where the resiliency starts to come in. If there’s a situation that causes you anger, if in that moment of anger you bring in a feeling of well-being, you will not be hijacked by the anger, which opens the portal of creative insight and a different action.
PMAG: You speak of a somatic connection in your programs, coming back to the body to heal and the state of witnessing. Why is this so powerful and transformative?
RM: We access all of our information through our body. An emotion is a sensation, a thought is a sensation, an image is a sensation. By having access to the body we have access to information and on how to respond to the moment. As we learn to respond and not react, it opens us to an understanding the larger perspective, that we are aware of these sensations, emotions, thoughts, and even the feeling of being, and as we step back into being more of a witness of them, we become more free of them, it’s allowed to be dissolved in the witnessing. We enter a larger perspective that paradoxically enables us to feel more connected to ourselves, more connected to the world around us, and have an even deeper response to life. We step out of reactivity and into a responsive action.
Richard Miller, PhD is a clinical psychologist, author, researcher, yogic scholar and spiritual teacher, whose teachings integrate the wisdom of Eastern and Western spirituality, psychology and philosophy. Richard is president of the Integrative Restoration Institute, co-founder of the International Association of Yoga Therapy, past president of the Institute for Spirituality and Psychology and a senior advisor to the Baumann Foundation. Author of The iRest Program for Healing PTSD (New Harbinger), Yoga Nidra: The Meditative Heart of Yoga (Sounds True) and iRest Meditation: Restorative Practices for Health, Resiliency and Well-Being (Sounds True). Richard teaches internationally leading trainings and spiritual retreats on enlightened living in daily life.