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Origin Story  
Michael Zaurov

I created Sherpa Within in order to share the tools that have worked for me and my clients to resolve emotional repression, childhood traumas, and lifelong deficiency patterns. Nobody wants to suffer, but the tools and methods out there for emotional growth and shadow work are usually overly conceptual or just simply not effective. It can seem rather hopeless, especially if one works as a mental health practitioner, that the road to peace and contentment is long and arduous. But it certainly does not have to be.


In my own practice as a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP or Psych NP), I've experimented with the various therapeutic modalities available but found traditional therapy to be lacking in efficacy. I will share below a bit of my own journey not only as a mental health practitioner but as an individual. I will share how I came to be where I am now, what approaches I have learned from, and what the purpose is of Sherpa Within. 

My background prior to getting into mental health was Buddhist meditation. I started studying and practicing Buddhism at a very young age and in particular focused on Tibetan Buddhism (Dzogchen and Mahamudra) and Zen. I spent a year abroad in Asia in college, living in both India and China, which was very transformative for me and made me realize that I wanted to work in healthcare in some capacity. When I learned that mindfulness was being utilized therapeutically by psychologists and therapists, I became very excited and decided to work in mental health. 


I have been in practice since 2016 and have a private practice in Oregon where I do psychiatric assessments, medication management, and therapy. In the beginning, I was utilizing a mixture of Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). While this was somewhat helpful to my patients, I quickly saw how limited this was, and most of my patients needed to have a separate counselor to see weekly. These patients still did not seem to get much better, and it was difficult to not see them progress and constantly need medication changes in order to stay stable. This really motivated me to seek out what actually works therapeutically, as I kept seeing how traditional therapy was lacking in actually resolving people's problems. It all seemed like a band-aid to me, and I saw how people would end up stuck in the cycle of needing to have regular therapy sessions otherwise they would regress back into their old patterns. Many in my field view this dependence as healthy and necessary, but I believe this is due to the fact that we're somewhat hopeless about the efficacy of our approach since we rarely see people actually get better to the point of not needing therapy anymore. It’s basically the best that we can do. I knew intuitively that there had to be a more permanent solution out there. 


In my own healing journey, I discovered an approach to working with emotions called Focusing, which has been around for a while but is unfortunately not too popular. This was created by psychologist Eugene Gendlin in the 1970s after watching recordings of therapy sessions and seeing why certain people get better and others don’t. He found in his research that it did not matter the particular type of therapy being used, rather it was all about what the client was doing or not doing (feeling in). Focusing is basically a step wise method to teaching people to feel into the body, connect to feelings that are murky and out of focus (hence the name) in the form of images and words, and allow for the release of that feeling. I found Focusing personally to work very well and began using it with my clients.  The Power of Focusing by Ann Weiser Cornell was a great aid that I still can recommend to those having difficulty with feeling into their emotions. Thanks to the approach of Focusing, I was able to start to recognize resistance patterns and be able to bring myself out of a triggered state and have release. I quickly saw the merit to this approach and started to believe that people could learn these methods and learn to depend on themselves. 


In 2019, I became friends with Angelo Dillulo who has a Youtube channel called Simply Always Awake which focuses on meditative inquiry and awakening. His approach really resonated with me because of my background in Buddhism, but in particular I was drawn to his clarity on emotional repression and shadow work. I had never met anyone before who could speak to the deepest fears we have as humans with such clarity, and working with him and learning to do inquiry into emotions had a profound effect on me. I am still integrating what I have learned from Angelo, and the deepening is ongoing.

As I explored shadow work, I also came upon the work of Scott Kiloby and Dan McLintock who created a set of mindfulness based tools called Kiloby Inquiries (KI). I immediately felt familiarity with KI due to my experience with Focusing and meditative inquiry. I found it to be very compatible and saw how some of the practical tweaks made offered quicker resolution in some cases than just using Focusing alone. I also found the focus on deficiency patterns to be very helpful. I completed one on one Certified Facilitator training with Scott Kiloby in 2022.  


My approach is intuitive and combines what has worked for me, including aspects of Focusing, 

Buddhist meditative inquiry, Kiloby Inquiries, and what I have learned on my own journey.

For simplicity sake, I call this approach inquiry, shadow work, or emotional work. I have found inquiry to be very effective at permanently reducing suffering by resolving lifelong issues and fears stemming from childhood, trauma, and repressed emotions. On a personal level, I was able to resolve many fears that plagued me since childhood and interfered with my quality of life. These patterns also served as emotional blocks that were impeding meditation progress. I’m talking about the big fears that everyone has like fear of being embarrassed and humiliated, fear of intimacy and vulnerability, fear of failure, fear of abandonment and being alone, fear of the unknown, and fear of losing control and being unsafe. It is these very fears that inquiry can target directly and resolve, and I am incredibly grateful for coming upon these tools which completely transformed my experience in a way that is difficult to put in words. 


In short, I would say it has been incredibly life changing to come out of emotional repression and resolve childhood wounds preventing authentic expression and connection. The way that I feel day to day is beyond words, but there is an incredible amount of peace and a great capacity to handle whatever challenges arise in the moment. I also know without a doubt that this is possible for anyone to achieve, as long as there is the desire. 


In my practice I am now seeing the change that I’ve always wanted to see in clients. Instead of waiting for months to notice a difference, now there can be an effective change in a client in as little as 20 minutes, if there is openness and trust. Sometimes it may take an hour or longer, but I have not met anyone who is unable to participate and have some kind of release and shift that is palpable. It certainly can be termed miraculous, but is not a magical cure-all. The programming runs deep and has many layers, so there’s still the need for persistence as we all unknowingly carry a significant amount of unresolved emotional trauma.

I also noticed that I have needed to make fewer medication changes with my clients who are doing this work and am now starting to taper some off of medications. This has motivated me to want to share what I’ve learned with a broader audience, for both mental health professionals and clients alike. 

I believe that the approach to emotional healing in our culture is unnecessarily complicated and overly intellectual to the point of not being effective. My aim is to try to change that with my videos and writings. Sherpa Within is the result, and I hope that the content I share will be helpful and practical for a large general audience.


I chose the name Sherpa Within because I have a lot of respect for the Sherpa people of Nepal who are synonymous with 'expert guide' when it comes to mountaineering. I have found that shadow work can seem very scary and is difficult to talk about conceptually, much like a journey through unknown territory. People often either never take up the journey or they do but end up getting dependent on an authority figure, whether a therapist or a Guru of some sort. But what I hope to convey is a different approach whereby you are guided through unknown emotional territory and as a result learn to become your own sherpa so that during times of peril and distress you can support yourself to navigate the territory on your own.


Nobody can make this journey for you, but together we can venture within, explore, and get to know the landscape so that it is no longer the unknown. Staying curious and continuing with the process will build up the necessary confidence and fortitude to become your own sherpa up the mountain. 

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