Meet the Therapist: Irena Sekulska
What attracted you to become a therapist?
In my late 20s and early 30s, I was at what one would consider the peak of a successful corporate career. I had built myself alone from poverty, I was in love, I had ticked every box that one could tick for my age. But deep within, I felt empty.
At times, I would manage to successfully distract myself from this emptiness with relationships, new work challenges, dance floors and recreational drugs, but sooner or later, it would (blessedly) reveal itself as my old “dark friend”.
In my early 30s, also very blessedly (though it didn’t feel that way back then), everything that I held on to for my shaky and fake definition of who I was suddenly crashed. My relationship, career, friendships, health...they were all gone in the space of a few months.
I had nothing to hold on to – I spiralled into severe depression and suicidal ideation. The thought of waking up one more day felt unbearable and I felt that there was no adequate support for me. Medication made things only worse and the traditional psychotherapeutic help I received left me feeling unheard, misunderstood, even emptier. There was this unspoken assumption that something was wrong with me and that this therapist on the other side had some knowledge that could fix me so that I can function in our corporate world.
However painful this period of my life was, it was the most blessed time – I discovered that none of this was true. I also discovered that this longing and emptiness, the depression, could be seen as sacred and not something to medicate or fix. It was my heart calling me home to myself.
This is why I’m here – I am extending the same invitation to you. It is possible to discover lasting and true fulfilment in the beauty and radiance of your own heart. All it takes is the willingness to stop looking for it outside of yourself.
Where did you train?
as a Leela therapist, self-inquiry and enneagram teacher at the Leela School, which is a US-based organisation
in introduction to Somatic Experiencing with Dr Peter Levine through PESI online
as a Mindfulness teacher with Mindfulness Now in the UK
as Rasa yoga teacher in the UK
in sound healing and yoga nidra practitioner in the UK
Can you tell us about the type of therapy you practise?
Leela Therapy is a beautiful form of non-directive integrative hypnotherapy mixed with mindfulness, spiritual self-inquiry, NLP and the wisdom of the enneagram of character fixation. In the UK, it is recognised as advanced clinical hypnotherapy.
I meet you with a quiet mind, open heart, without judgement or agenda. There is no one and nothing to fix here; I am simply a loving and skillful mirror for your own wisdom and the beauty of your heart.
I chose this type of therapy because it changed my life profoundly – from recurrent anxiety and severe depression to recurrent peace and severe joy. For the first time, I felt deeply seen and heard with compassion and care. Finally, there was no more fixing, no more trying to squeeze me into a better or more socially functional “me”. I believe and know experientially that this is what we’ve all longed for and where true healing happens.
How does therapy help people who feel disconnected?
Most of us live disconnected from our true nature, essence, heart - whatever you want to name it. This disconnection leads to all sorts of symptoms: anxiety, depression, insecurities, self-sabotage, overworking etc. Most therapeutic support and coaching that we receive focuses on managing the symptoms.
I call my sessions "True Friend Sessions", in which we go at the root of the problem. A session focuses on your direct experience, rather than the story of it, and goes deeper than the level of the conscious mind, into the body and the subconscious, where our wounds and beliefs originate and can be truly transformed.
At the healing level, a True Friend session supports you in recognising and reclaiming the parts of you that you may have disowned due to conditioning or trauma. It helps you meet emotional wounds at the root, learn the lessons they are trying to teach you and uncover your own inner resources of strength, integrity and (self-)compassion. This healing ripples through every aspect of your life, from the deepest to the most mundane, and reveals your innate wholeness.
Deeper than that, a True Friend session invites you to stop searching for fulfilment outside of yourself and meet yourself fully, just as you are – unfixed, unembellished, imperfect. This most simple and intimate meeting is not easy. It exposes all the ways in which you abandon yourself in the pursuit of something “out there” to fulfil your longing. Yet if you are willing to stop, be quiet and meet this longing fully, it reveals your true nature: radiant, free, and already fulfilled.
What sort of people do you usually see?
My clients are usually past their 30s. I work with both individuals and small groups. What they have in common is a dissatisfaction with what we have been conditioned to strive towards and an intuition that there ought to be something deeper and more meaningful than that.
What do you like about being a therapist?
I love meeting people in this simple, beautiful and loving way. I’m always humbled by their willingness and courage to meet and “love back” some difficult parts of themselves. My heart fills with such joy to see them reconnect with their own heart. I love what I do. To me, there is no difference between “what I do”, “who I am” and “my life”. I feel very blessed that I can be used in this way.
What is less pleasant?
How long you’ve been with welldoing.org and what you think of us?
I joined in the summer and appreciate the ease of use and the community feeling of the platform.
Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients?
I invite people to listen to my sleep support and mindfulness meditations on Insight Timer.
Interesting podcasts: Sam Harris
I follow the self-inquiry lineage of Gangaji, Papaji & Sri Ramana Maharshi, so if my clients have a spiritual inclination or a desire to discover their true nature beyond the ego, I welcome them to read:
The Diamond in Your Pocket by Gangaji
Be As You Are: The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi, collected and edited by David Godman
Wake Up and Roar by Eli Jaxon-Bear
Sudden Awakening by Eli Jaxon-Bear
For people interested in research on psychedelics and consciousness, I recommend Michael Pollan’s book How to Change Your Mind.
For people interested in the enneagram of character fixation (one of the frameworks I use for inquiry), I suggest the Enneagram Institute website which has good tests and summary information.
What you do for your own mental health?
I spend a lot of time sitting quiet - at least an hour a day - and attend satsang with a teacher regularly. I receive mentoring support from the Leela School on a weekly basis, attend many groups as part of the school.
Even outside of that, I feel that my mental health is my only priority. I teach yoga and free movement classes, which forces me to practice too. I sing and dance a lot (mostly badly, but it’s so much fun), write blogs, cook, eat ice cream (a lot), have cacao ceremonies with my partner at home and spend a lot of time with trees. I find tremendous joy in the simple pleasures of life, which feels so good to see. It is nice to reflect on this – I have come a long way.
Without a doubt however, my most significant therapist and teacher is my 2-year old dog called Sam Pawsome. That’s pure love.
You are a therapist in Stoke Newington, North London What can you share with us about seeing clients in that area?
I’m not well-versed with the area. I mostly work online with people from all over the world. Many of my clients are based in the US and continental Europe (I give sessions in Bulgarian and French too).
What’s your consultation room like?
At the moment, a zoom screen :)
What do you wish people knew about therapy?
That there is support and tremendous love for you, however dark it all appears sometimes.
What did you learn about yourself in therapy?
That the only thing that was missing from my life was me.