Lesson Learned from The Sedona Method

Nov 14, 2022

Follow the show

Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify | Everywhere Else

Letting go can be hard. Even if we academically understand the validity and the health aspects behind releasing negativity and emotions, it can be difficult to put into practice. That’s why it’s extremely helpful to have some idea of step-by-step techniques and questions we can ask ourselves. 

In my personal journey to being a stress-less physician, I’ve learned an approach made popular by Lester Levenson based on Hale Dwoskin’s book, The Sedona Method. The concept is to bring yourself to a place where you’re not holding on so tightly to painful or unwanted feelings, whether in the moment you have them or later on as you reflect. This method has five approaches, and each works slightly differently but all can be useful. Although I’m not trained to teach the method, I hope that as I share an overview of it, you find the concept potentially beneficial to you.

“What if feelings are actually just perpetuating the problems that they appear to be preventing? What if feelings are sometimes a lie?”  – Dr. Sara Dill

What You’ll Learn

  • What The Sedona Method works on
  • The continuum of letting go
  • Shifting from heavy to light
  • Feelings sometimes lie
  • Emotional ladder
  • Pitfalls to avoid
  • Stuck on the why
  • 4 questions to ask yourself

Contact Info and Recommended Resources

The Sedona Method by Hale Dwoskin
(Learn more about The Sedona Method with Lester Levenson

Podcast Episodes that pair well with this one:

Connect with Sara Dill, MD, The Doctor’s Coach


I'm Dr. Sarah Dill, and this is the Stress- Less Physician Podcast, episode number 39. Welcome to the Stressless Physician Podcast. I'm your host, Dr. Sarah Dill, md. Using my unique combination of coaching and mindfulness tools, I will teach you practical ways to reduce your stress level, feel happier at work, and create a better balance between your medical career and personal life. If you are a busy practicing physician who wants to design a life and medical career that feel good to you, you are in the right place.

Hey, everyone, welcome back to the podcast. Happy Monday or happy whatever day it might be that you're listening to this. I am doing well. I am actually recording this on Halloween. We are having a little trick or treat get together in the neighborhood tonight, so I have to go buy some candy . The question I have is always, should I buy candy that I also like to eat, or should I get candy that I don't really care for? And then there's a whole lot less temptation to indulge after.

So, today I am doing one of my lessons learned episodes. I have a ton of books from just years of enjoying reading self-help and self-development, personal growth, spirituality. It's interesting because I don't actually really go looking for a lot of new self-help or self-development books. I sort of feel, I think I mentioned this before, that I've found tools that work for me and sort of helped myself to a place where I feel like I have good resources and tools and techniques to deal with and let go of a lot of the limiting beliefs and stories that cause a lot of my stress.

And I like using these episodes though as a way of going back and sort of revisiting some of the techniques or books or authors or teachers that have been important and just offer you a little tidbit and if it's something that you're interested in, then certainly these resources and books are available to you as well. And so I know mostly what I talk about is working with thoughts, ? Working with sentences in your head, working with sort of the mind itself. But what I wanna talk about today is something called the Sedona Method. It's a book in that name, The Sedona Method by Hale Dwoskin. I'll put a link to the book in the show notes.

And one reason I like this, it was sort of fun to go through and revisit it, is that it's a way of working with emotions and not with thoughts. And in particular, the recommendation is to try not to get into your head, to try not to figure out why or look at your thoughts, but to work primarily with the emotions.

And so for me, this was interesting because as I've shared before in the podcast, I really was very out of touch with emotions in general for many, many years. A lot of it was somewhat intentional. I was just uncomfortable with emotions as a child and then in college and medical school and residency, I just really trained myself to try to suppress everything possible and just go about my life. I didn't really know how to navigate emotions or how to express them in a way that wasn't disruptive, and that is a lot of what brought me to coaching.

But the Sedona method, while it discusses that a lot as well, it really is designed to go beyond this sort of what they describe as the suppression expression cycle of emotions. But it is a technique that is described as allowing you to find lasting happiness, success, peace, and emotional wellbeing through learning how to release or let go of what you're feeling.

And so I'm just gonna go through and share some of the passages that I found useful or helpful. And again, just let this be sort of a taste or a flavor of the Sedona Method. I am not qualified to teach it. It is a technique that I like, and I think you'll notice some familiarities with some of the other things I've talked about. But again, the Sedona Method is a technique of letting go of how you are feeling. Which often might be disappointment or unhappiness, anxiety, any of those emotions that you don't wanna be feeling, and it's a way of learning how to let those go.

Specifically, it's learning how to let go to a point of view that might not be serving you any longer. It's learning how to let go of an emotion even when there's nothing you could do to satisfy it, to make it right or change the situation. But often we have a hard time letting go of that emotion. We sort of feel attached to it or identified with it. And it's learning how to let go of tension and anxiety, which we often hang onto even after the initial event or events that triggered them. Were long over. So that's sort of the kind of holding on and letting go that the Sedona Method is really focused on.

In the book, he starts by talking about how most of us relate to our emotions, which is typically suppression, which I've talked about where we just sort of push down and avoid our emotions, denying them, repressing them, pretending that they don't exist. Often we'll do it through distraction as well. Versus expressing our emotions, which some of us feel is maybe healthier, but sometimes we can over express them or sort of have them on repeat or express them in ways that are not helpful or perhaps can be disruptive or hurtful to other people or to situations.

And so there's discussion of a third method of relating to one's emotions, which is called releasing. And so rather than feeling like you have to suppress or express, you can release or let go, and that's really what the Sedona Method is discussing. And it's a way really of sort of getting to a middle ground. If you think about suppression and expression as two ends of one continuum, the releasing or letting go is just allowing that, that emotion almost like a cloud in the sky to just continue on its way. We aren't clinging to it, we aren't feeding it. We aren't hanging onto it.

He talks about the continuum of letting go, and as you get better at releasing, you'll notice that you shift from emotions and feelings like apathy or grief, fear, anger, pride. And they might shift into emotions like courageousness, or acceptance or peace. There's a flow chart here where you can notice moving from feelings and emotions, like being tense and unhappy and confused to feeling more relaxed and happy and clear. Going from heavy to light, from feeling closed, to feeling open, from feeling contracted to feeling expanded, going from unproductive to productive and ineffective to effective.

So as you practice releasing and letting go, the idea is that you tend to move from the one side, the more tense, unhappy, tight, constricted side to the more open, happy, relaxed, expanded, and effective side. So it's sort of interesting and that's often how when I work with thoughts I'll ask how do they feel in my body? Do I feel more relaxed? Do I feel more open? But this is a way of working with emotions rather than with thoughts. And you can practice releasing these emotions.

Often we identify with our feelings, and we even forget that we're holding onto them. We don't usually say, I feel angry. We say, I am angry. Even by starting to shift that and noticing that what you're feeling is anger rather than being anger.

So the General Sedona Method is a series of fairly straightforward questions, and one way you can start is by just focusing on an issue or something that you would like to feel better about, and then allow yourself to feel whatever you're feeling in the moment. It doesn't have to be strong.

So you just wanna start. The basic releasing technique is to ask, what is your feeling, ? Try to welcome it, Try to allow it to just be there. Can you identify it? So ask, what is your now feeling? The next question to ask yourself is, Could I welcome it? Could I allow it? You can also ask, could I let it go? The third question is, will I let it go? And the fourth question is when.

So you're just gonna identify what you're feeling, ask yourself if you could welcome or allow it. Ask yourself if you could let it go. Then ask yourself, would you let it go? And then ask yourself when.

So it's just a way of sticking with your emotions, with your feelings. Notice if you want to have a lot of conversation about it. The answers here are just, yes. And no. So it would look like I'm feeling anxious now. Could I welcome or allow myself to feel anxious? Yes. Could I let my feeling of anxiety go? Yes. Would I let it go? Yes or no? If your answer is no for that question, the invitation is to ask if you would rather have the feeling or would you rather be free. It sort of reminds me of Byron Katie when she asks, ? Is there a stress free reason to keep that thought? This is a way of asking, Would you rather hold onto this feeling or would you rather be free of it? And then you just ask when.

So this is something that you would wanna practice. Trying out, again, some of the further instructions are to notice if you wanna really get involved in thinking about your feelings. A lot of us like to do that. So I like this technique and that it's a way of just working with the emotion rather than working with the thoughts. So if sometimes you're just tired of the thought work approach, this might be an approach that you might wanna try.

So he goes on to say that if you catch yourself rationalizing a specific emotion, if you're telling yourself what a useful function it serves and justifying why you're right to hold onto it, that can be a signal that you are resisting letting go of it. He actually says that that's a sign that you're being handed a pack of lies. He likes to say that feelings only lie. They tell us we are going to get from letting go of them, what we already have from holding onto them. An example would be fear keeps you safe. That would be a rationalization for feeling afraid, and that letting go of the fear is somehow going to be dangerous. So it's an interesting idea that what if feelings are actually just perpetuating the problems that they appear to be preventing? What if feelings are sometimes a lie?

Another thing I really appreciated from the Sedona method that first introduced me to it was this idea of what's called a ladder of emotions. And so, this helped me sort of understand that there are some emotions that have more energy and some emotions that have less energy. And so in this book they describe what he calls the nine emotional states. So nine emotional states which go from apathy to grief to fear to lust or desire, to anger, to pride, to courageousness, to acceptance, and to peace.

So if you think about it as a ladder on the bottom is apathy, and on the top is peace. And the idea being that these fall along a scale or a gradient of energy and action. So with apathy, you have almost no energy available and you take very little or no external action. And as you go up the ladder, from apathy to grief, grief, you have a little more energy and you can maybe take a little bit more outward action, as you go up you get to anger. Anger has a lot more energy. A lot more energy and available outward. Then you can go to pride, to courageousness, to acceptance. So sometimes when I think about shifting my thoughts, to go back to a different technique, I like to think about it as moving up the ladder, you're gonna find an emotion that feels a little bit better.

And so grief may actually feel a little better than apathy. Anger may feel better than fear. I think that's often why we feel angry when sometimes what we're feeling below is fear. Your child runs into the street and you're afraid you often express anger. Pride might feel better than fear or anger. Courageousness again, has more energy and you can take more action.

So I really liked this idea of the emotional ladder, and I will see if I can post a link to that as well in the show notes. But you can notice where you are when you're doing this releasing, and notice how maybe you're moving out of apathy or grief or fear, desire and anger and into what he would call sort of these higher emotional states of courageousness and acceptance and peace.

He also talks about sort of common pitfalls to avoid when you are someone who's interested in personal development. One of them is this over-attaching or over-identifying with our problems. The idea of believing that we are the one having those problems that we maybe use our obstacles and problems as a way to justify our existence. The idea of I suffer, therefore I am. So, you could ask yourself, if you think of a problem that you believe belongs to you, you can ask, would you rather have the false sense of security that comes from knowing all about this problem, or would I rather be free.

Another pitfall might be worrying about if you are someone who doesn't really have a lot of problems or you feel pretty good, what will you talk about? How do you connect with people? A lot of the times we connect with complaining or sharing our problems. And there's nothing wrong with that either, of course. The freedom to share what's bothering you with others is often one of the first steps in letting it go and moving on. And also part of being a good friend and partner is being able to be there for them when they are in emotional need. It can be a sign of being a good friend, but where you can get stuck is in continually sharing the same problem repeatedly with no relief. So you could just notice if you find yourself telling the same story more than once. Are you seeking agreement or approval, or are you willing to let that problem go?

And he also talks about sometimes we get lost or hung up on the why. We wanna understand or figure out why. Why do we have this tendency, why do we have this problem? Why are we holding onto our problems? Why can't we seem to move past this? And I think I've talked about this before, is sometimes asking why is not helpful. You can ask, would you rather understand your problems or would you rather just be free of them? If you'd rather be free, then can you let go of wanting to figure them out? That might actually be the thing to try to let go of.

He says, We only truly need to understand a problem if we are planning to have it occur again or planning to some way to maintain it. If you could just let go and release the very problem, maybe it's feeling angry all the time, do you need to figure out understanding it versus could you just allow yourself to release it?

And then he says, to stop rushing past life. Can you begin to approach your life as though you have all the time in the world? That we're often in a rush to retain our goals, even in the realm of self-improvement, which is sort of funny. We often rush past the very moment that offers the greatest opportunity for self-discovery, which is the now. So can you start to look for the freedom that is here and now and only here and now?

The ultimate goal of the Sedona Method is, Getting to a place of freedom or imperturbability, which is the freedom to choose to have or be or do anything and everything. It's a point where you are no longer disturbed by what happens in your life, or no longer disturbed, at least without sort of your permission and awareness.

And he would say that that freedom is already here and now below the surface of your emotions. And what we're doing is practicing releasing the emotions that disturb us, of getting to be at peace. He talks about emotions are just energy, which I like. Emotions are neither good nor bad. They're not right or wrong, they're just energy. And that again goes back to that idea of the ladder of emotional states and wanting to move up the ladder to a place of more energy and more ability to take outward action when that's necessary.

So again, I'm just gonna summarize the Sedona method, which is an idea of working with emotions and learning how to release whatever emotion you're feeling. And it's pretty simple. So the first step is just identifying, what are you feeling now? Doesn't have to be strong. And then asking yourself one of the following questions: Could I let this feeling go? Yes or no? Could I allow this feeling to be here? Yes or no? Could I welcome this feeling yes or no?

And then the third step is to ask, would you? You're basically asking if you're willing to let it, Or willing to let the feeling be there, whatever it is, you could play around with either one. And then the fourth and last question is just to ask yourself when? When would you let it go? And that really is the invitation to let it go now, cuz of course that's the only time that you can let it go.

And it's just a way of working with the emotion as an emotion, as a feeling, not get involved in the thoughts. Not getting involved in attaching or hanging onto the emotion. So that's what I have for you today. It's a little bit different. I know, usually I'm always talking about thoughts, but I think this is a complimentary technique, especially for any of you that are a little bit more in tune with your emotions or perhaps if you're someone who is very comfortable with working with your thoughts and self-coaching and thought work, this could be a way to work with the feelings and emotions themselves.

All of it is just allowing ourselves to sort of step out of the narrative, step out of the feeling. And just let life continue to unfold as it is and take action when we need to. A lot of the time we get so involved in the stories and the feelings that we sort of miss out on what's actually happening around us.

So again, I will put a link in the show notes to the book, the Sedona Method, and I will also see if I can put a link to the ladder of emotions. Those are sort of my two favorite parts of this technique. Hope this was interesting and I will talk to you next week. Okay, bye.

If you are a busy practicing physician, ready to start feeling less stressed, enjoy work more and learn how to create a more balanced and sustainable medical practice and life. Sign up for a consult call with me at saradill.com. It would be my privilege and pleasure to work with you.

Stay connected with news and updates!

Join our mailing list to receive my weekly tips to create a happier life.