Soul connection

Vita Segalla’s in-the-body experience

WHATEVER FLOATS YOUR SOUL: Teacher Don Kollmar explains his brand of self-attunement meditation with Vita Segalla (sitting right).

WHATEVER FLOATS YOUR SOUL: Teacher Don Kollmar explains his brand of self-attunement meditation with Vita Segalla (sitting right).

Photo by Tom Angel

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All her life, she’d searched for a spiritual connection that felt truly profound. She wanted to know divinity intimately. But her Catholic upbringing hadn’t moved her, and neither had chanting mantras or practicing Zen or Hindu meditation. She was what Don Kollmar called a “tough nut to crack,” when she showed up on his doorstep for a Complete Self Attunement session (CSA).

“I had a lot of ideas about what spirituality should be and what I should be feeling to get there,” Vita Segalla remembers, “only none of the ideas worked. But after a session with Don, I knew right away that something had happened.”

In the session, Segalla experienced Kollmar’s unique brand of meditation, feeling an internal awareness she’d never felt before, an awareness that opened the door to what Kollmar describes as the body’s special relationship with spirit.

At first the experience left Segalla disoriented, and she wanted to go home and lie down. “And when I was lying down, I felt things shifting around inside,” she says. But it wasn’t until a few weeks later, during her third meditation, that it really hit her.

“I was lying on the table,” she recalls, “and all of a sudden it felt as if there was an earthquake or a big truck driving by, and I said to Don that something was shaking the table.”

“Nothing is shaking the table,” Kollmar replied. “What’s happening is this belief system you have about spirituality, the concept, is coming apart inside you.”

“There was no actual physical movement,” Segalla explains about what for her was a moment of deep spiritual connection. “For some people this can be very subtle,” she says, “but the way it showed up for me was so huge it felt like a jackhammer.”

What this “jackhammer” represented to her was the energetic dismantling of her old belief systems, which left room for her to experience divinity.

It was the sense of profundity she’d been looking for and marked the start of her true spiritual quest, an evolution that led her—through years of work with Kollmar—to become a remarkable facilitator herself. Today, Segalla, who’s also trained in the Alexander Technique and massage, has been practicing CSA for over 15 years and along with other local practitioners offers CSA in Chico. Chico was one of the first towns to host Kollmar’s seminars, and though he now travels the world giving workshops, he often returns from his home in Amsterdam, leading meditations for a staunch following."Some meditation practices avoid any spiritual overtones and concentrate on things like de-stressing, whereas connecting with your spirit is what Complete Self Attunement is all about,” notes Segalla, a petite woman with crackling blue eyes who carries herself with a lightness of being that seems to embody this ideal. “We are all divine beings,” notes Segalla about the age-old human search for a deeper meaning to life. “We’re not just these personalities running around.” And as such, Kollmar’s approach seeks to reconnect the self to spirit. While he uses meditation to deepen this connection, the practice is meant to be taken back into everyday life.

Connecting to divinity, says Segalla, helps us to heal distortions in our personality and bring the self into balance with the soul. “And when soul and self are in sync,” she adds, “we really experience life as a definite, vibrational place.”

If that sounds a bit esoteric, Segalla points out that we have glimpses of this energetic vibration all the time. “It’s what you sense when you go outside and are refreshed by nature,” she says. “You’re aligning yourself with nature’s energy, and that’s why you feel so good.”

This sort of awareness is a pure, felt sense, she says, beyond emotion or thought, and learning to listen to it can guide you through life’s decisions with more clarity and insight.

Our personalities develop their own points of view, Segalla explains, based on ideas or habits that don’t always operate in our own best interest. “Our mission,” she says about CSA, “is to have the higher self make pathways through the personality, to heal it and use it in the most positive way you can.”

There are several variations on the CSA process, from weeklong intensives, to weekly group meditations, to private sessions. And while CSA is best understood when experienced, its concept is relatively simple, based on what Kollmar calls “the seventh sense.”

“The seventh sense is really a body sense,” explains the soft-spoken Kollmar, who developed his approach in the 1970s, after several years of trying various techniques himself, to no avail.

“What I was looking for was more than a technique or approach, but a way of being[that was] available to us, one that you don’t need to do anything to get to.”

Kollmar found the physical body was the one place where we always live in the moment, because it doesn’t have anywhere else to go. Unlike the mind and the emotions, which can be in the past or future, the physical body is always in the now, he reasoned. And the other part of us that lives in the now is who we are as consciousness, or spirit.

What this translated to was helping people get in touch with the body as a place to be aware from, and in that awareness or “seventh sense” the body becomes a door to spirit.

Kollmar believes that to open you up to spirit, the body must be comfortable with you, and CSA meditation is geared to helping you make that shift in awareness.

As building blocks to making this shift, Segalla has developed 10 weekly group meditations, where she brings a heart-felt dedication and sensitivity to the quest. Beginning with an initial relaxation meditation that moves your awareness down through the body from head to foot, she then focuses on what she terms “the light of divine love, so we can begin to feel its actual tone and texture.”

After this initial sensing, meditations center on feeling from the body, various concepts such as the relationship with self, acceptance, forgiveness, or even the delight of listening to music.

These group sessions can prove powerful, notes Segalla, because of their magnified energy. “It’s fun, too. Everybody gets to share and see that we’re not alone, that we all have the same plights and challenges and triumphs.”

But the process is truly magnified in private CSA meditations, where Segalla accompanies you in what she likens to “spiritual coaching.” Here, by sensing what you feel energetically, her guidance can help you deepen and better understand your meditation.

“It requires a lot of training and alignment with very pure, healing energies,” she says about this approach, “as well as a perception of, and communication with, the other person.”

Facilitators train intensively over the course of two years, in six-week sessions with Kollmar, with the objective of learning to “get the personality out of the way,” as Segalla puts it.

“My work is not person to person,” she explains. “I’m there to reflect the other person’s energetic state and help them feel what the self needs them to hear.”

As before, there’s a short invocation, and the drawing of awareness down through the body, with the asking for the “light of divine love.” Segalla then helps you sense this light as pure feeling, in a space where you can ask questions of, and spend time with, whatever issues, questions or wonder is showing up.

“I call it ‘feeling listening,'” she says about the sense of generosity you experience from this alignment, a generosity not only from Segalla, but also from your inner self.

“It’s like you would expect a friend to listen if you were upset about something,” she adds, “and their listening makes you feel better.”

It’s this act of listening and learning from what you hear that Kollmar hopes you’ll practice in real life. And CSA’s integration of body and spirit has helped practitioners such as Kristyna Demare, who’s used the approach for the past five years.

“The problem with people and meditation being widespread in our culture,” says Demare, “is that meditation is very foreign to us, and what Don has done is integrate it with our lifestyle. For me it’s really meaningful because it’s not so esoteric and it’s more accessible to anybody who’d take the time and make a commitment to it.

“I’m a very physical person,” she adds, “I do yoga and hike, and it does integrate with my lifestyle and gives a valuable connection to the body sense.”

David Glover agrees. Having practiced with both Segalla and Kollmar for the past seven years, the Oroville hardware store owner feels it’s benefited not only his spiritual side, but his health and personal relationships as well.

“When you’re not in the body sense,” he explains, “your physical blocks aren’t apparent. And these blocks eventually show up over the years as physical ailments. With meditation you can work them out before they become a problem.”

Glover says CSA has added a rare dimension to his life, helping him become more patient, understanding and compassionate. He especially enjoys the deep meditation sessions.

“It’s a very relaxed experience,” says the 73-year-old, “a very spiritual opening. You tune up the self and are ready to go back out and tackle the world.”

Even a practitioner of the Buddhist meditation called vipassana who attended a single Kollmar session was inspired to change his approach.

“I’ve brought Don’s perspective into my daily meditation,” says Robert Garbellano, calling the shift a subtle, very “organic” feeling. “In vipassana you’re more detached,” he explains, “but with this I feel an ongoing softening and a more spacious experience.

“It’s open-hearted, sweet and flowing,” he adds. “And it feels intimate, as opposed to detached.”

Complete Self Attune-ment does enhance other spiritual work, notes Segalla, who says it doesn’t compete with these approaches, but rather helps to enrich them. And, after years of helping others recognize the inner guidance to do everything from quitting smoking to facing the fear of chemotherapy treatments, the competent facilitator admits that in the beginning the process scared her to death.

“I just had to do it,” she says, “to realize it works. But I’m still amazed all the time,” she adds. “It’s a miracle when you give a session. You’re letting yourself be there for something bigger than you to come through.”

Something so big that Segalla more and more feels guided by the intimacy of spirit she’d searched so long to find.

“I’m just taken," she says about these times, "and there’s such an immensity of power and grace and goodness that I feel there’s no doubt. And all those things every great sage has said about the soul, instead of just entertaining them in your mind, every cell in your body knows they’re true."