Ivana Gligoric, PhD.s, is a personal growth and transformation explorer. Joining us as an in-residence advisor, Ivana is leading a series of in-depth, intimate conversations, guiding us through self-awareness and powerful transformational change.
Marbella Club: What should a beginner know about the power of our self-image and how it affects us in the day-to-day?
Ivana Gligoric: By the very nature of your question, you opened the path to discussing various versions of self. We could say that self-image is a combination of our social image and our private self.
The social image, the mask, is the one we present to the world, and it directs how we behave when other people see us. The social self wants to belong and to be loved and respected. And, if we let it steer the wheel, it will do everything to protect our outer shell, which would consequently make us highly fearful and guide us towards harmful behaviours and make our life meaningless in the long run.
The private self, which is also an essential part of our self-image, is the one that only you can see—it is the one that you identify with when you are all alone, and it is subject to mood swings, self-criticism, and it is home base for thoughts, feelings, impulses, and desires. And, often, it is a playground for negative emotions, self-doubt, inner conflict, which could keep us stuck for years, preventing us from moving in the direction of fulfilment. These internal struggles combined affect us significantly in our day-to-day lives and lead to depression, anxiety, and many other harmful feelings.
If we agree that a very high percentage of diseases are triggered by stress, some say even 90%, then we can understand the consequences of the self-image to our life experience and those in our environment.
MC: What benefits are involved in breathwork in helping us to self-assess?
IG: It is safe to say that we have all experienced stress due to our own thoughts. Besides many benefits, breathwork could teach us to pause these thoughts and restore a sense of ease.
Once you feel the nervous rush of anxiety, you need to remember to pause and take a deep breath through your nose and into the belly, asking yourself, "Am I truly in immediate life-threatening danger?"
And if the answer is no, and in 99% of the cases, the answer is no, then choose to continue to breathe deeply, slowly, and through the nose. Move the focus on the rise and fall of the belly.
Suddenly, you are practising diaphragmic breathing, one type of breathwork which will stimulate your vagus nerve and reverse the fight-or-flight response. You could continue for 10 to 15 deep breaths, or until you feel yourself relax, and suddenly you are back into a calm state.
Once in a calm state, you could take this opportunity to observe what just happened, how you reversed the challenge and how fast you have recovered. By recognizing this potent yet straightforward superpower we all have, you could build resilience to stress and deal better with various life challenges. Within the process, and by self-observing as objectively as possible, you are continuously self-assessing and building a more potent and more resilient self. Every day in every situation, you have a possibility to respond in a way that is not ignorant but mindful and compassionate, which will heal you and have the potential to heal the world.
MC: "Transformative practices" garners a lot of expectation or expected results in a way. What do you consider a transformative experience?
IG: As pleasing as everyday life might be, the desire for something more is inescapable—we are all motivated to evolve from the moment we are born. It is the magnetic pull of the true self, and if we respond to the call and stop projecting an outer image to society, we can transcend harmful thoughts of the private self, and here we are on the transformative journey.
However, rooting our desire for growth and transformation in rigid expectations, self-hatred, and inner criticism will not lead to true healing and transformation. The deepest, most lasting, and most authentic transformation is rooted in paradox or the holding of two apparently opposite truths. We need to remember that we are enough just as we are, and we have the capacity to grow even more thoroughly. Then, if we make a courageous choice to generously treat ourselves and with self-compassion, we have all tools towards transformation, which is free from expectations and filled with love, compassion, kindness, empathy, creativity, and personal evolution.
MC: What would you consider the ultimate toolkit for a joyful living?
IG: Letting go, forgiveness, radical self-love, and compassion are some of the values available to us if we are courageous enough to choose happiness and love instead of fearful living.
Further, not judging others is another way of letting go of fear and experiencing love. When we learn not to judge others and totally accept them, without the desire to change them—we can simultaneously learn to accept and love ourselves.
Releasing the past means not blaming anyone, including ourselves. It means holding no grievance and totally accepting everyone, making no exceptions. It means a building to see only the light in others and not their masks.
MC: What would you consider red flags in our daily lives that tell us that we should seek guidance in our wellbeing journey?
IG: Most of us manifest a condition called tunnel vision, which limits us from seeing people and the world as a whole. Most of us were brought up in a home and school environment where the emphasis was placed on constructive criticism, which actually is usually a disguise for faultfinding. Once we become aware of the hard truth that we are faultfinders, suddenly, we can see the endless red flags in our daily lives. We can recognize patterns in our behaviour and relationships and finally become aware that being a faultfinder is totally dependent on our past experiences, which are dragging us down, keeping us weak and fearful. We see what we expect, and what we expect, we both invite and seek. Past guilt and fears are thereby continuously recycled, and to truly experience life, we must get rid of the evaluator part of ourselves.
However, it could be confusing to know how to act, and I believe it is courageous to seek advice. Still, eventually, we will find the most remarkable powers within ourselves. Compassionate guidance could play a crucial role on the path towards our inner wisdom and inner powers, resulting in the most extraordinary states of human wellbeing.
Ivana is a consciousness doctoral researcher and a mentor at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, an explorer of the intersection of science and spirituality, and the most extraordinary states of human wellbeing.
As an internationally recognized advisor, keynote speaker, and author specializing in personal and professional transformation and tremendous growth, she brings a unique perspective from the Olympics and other multi-billion-dollar projects.
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