I make my living doing advanced integrative bodywork in Austin, Texas. I use four main techniques: craniosacral therapy, biodynamics, Zero Balancing, and orthopedic massage. As standalone treatments or integrated as needed, depending on my clients’ needs and preferences, these techniques can accomplish the following:
Since 2013, I’ve been developing my skills and expertise in offering relief from jaw tension, pain, and dysfunction. I’ve studied with Ryan Hallford, craniosacral therapist and teacher from Southlake, TX, completed multiple craniosacral courses from the Upledger Institute, and studied with John W. Corry of London, Ontario, long-time massage therapist and teacher specializing in jaw and vocal issues.
My intent when working on jaw issues is to create as little discomfort as possible. This means that any pain experienced should only be productive “hurts-so-good” pain. I check in frequently, and my sessions end with deep relaxation. I can also help you start changing the habits that contribute to jaw discomfort.
I offer several ways to be of service to people with jaw issues:
You may schedule a 75-minute TMJ Relief session, which can be right after the in-office consultation if that time slot is available on my online scheduling program.
You may decide to join my TMJ Relief Program, designed to create long-lasting relief by offering 5 sessions in 4-5 weeks, along with education, exercises, supplement recommendations, links to videos, and more. Many patients try one session and then decide to do the program.
You need to be in Austin to receive a session, unless you arrange my travel elsewhere — please call to discuss if interested. The Facebook group is open to people anywhere who are seeking to address their jaw issues. The educational units (click Units on left panel to view) available for the group include teaching relaxed resting mouth position, jaw exercises, self-massage, relaxation techniques, terminology, sleep positioning, and more.
If you’re interested in joining the group, click this link, answer the three questions, and you’re in!
On August 14, 1984, I experienced a dramatic spiritual awakening, but I didn’t know that it was at the time. It took years for me to find a context and to recognize it as spiritual.
Here’s the backstory. I, a single mom and full-time college student, employed part-time in a psychiatric hospital, took a much-needed vacation, leaving my beloved 3-year-old daughter with her grandparents for a week as I traveled from Norman, OK, to Santa Fe, NM, not that far in miles, but my first solo vacation.
In hindsight, this was a sobering period of my life. I was raising my delightful child by myself, with little help from her father at that time, which I hadn’t planned on. I was stressed from working and going to college without much money or support from anyone. My family was in another state, and I had few friends in Norman then, and no money for a babysitter so I could go out and meet people. I felt like it was all on me to make a future for myself and my child, one day at a time.
This vacation meant a lot to me — a break from constant single parenting so I could experience myself as an individual once again, which is such important self-care for mothers. I drove to Santa Fe, my first visit to that town. I believe I stayed at a bed and breakfast, but maybe I camped. I don’t remember what all I did as a visitor to the city that time, but while there, I learned that the Santa Fe Opera was holding auditions for opera companies. Singers from around the country went onstage, one at a time, and with no sets or costumes, sang famous arias for opera directors from around the world who were looking for new talent. Purchasing a ticket was affordable, and I thought going to opera try-outs would be a novel and entertaining experience.
On the appointed night, I wore my thrift store jeans, t-shirt, sandals, and backpack to the Santa Fe Opera — a magnificent structure with a roof cantilevered over the audience and wings open to the hills and distant mountains, an open-air experience in a beautiful setting.
There weren’t many people there, just a handful near the stage, presumably opera directors listening to the singers, deciding who to hire.
I arrived late and stood at the back, surveying the area in front of me, listening to the beautiful, almost unearthly sound of a talented soprano singing an aria. Might it have been something from Mozart? Verdi? Puccini? I don’t recall. To inspire you for the setting, though, here’s my favorite aria, so you can get a sense of the incredible beauty I was hearing.
Meanwhile, dusk segued into night. In the open-air wings on either side of the stage, lightning flashes outlined the hills and mountains in the distance.
Was it sensory overload from the sound and the view, the glorious aria surround-sounding me with the dramatic weather and terrain as backdrop? Was it that a poor struggling single mother stood and listened in this beautiful opera house built for the culturally and financially elite? Both and/or something else?
The next thing I knew, I felt an energy — it seemed to be white light and yet it was palpable — piercing the top of my head and going all the way through the center of my body down into the ground under my feet. There was a strength and an insistence to this energy. You WILL feel this. It WILL be clearly undeniable. It WILL penetrate your being from crown to feet. It WILL change your life.
I was transfixed.
I don’t know how long it lasted, but it was long enough to make a deep impression. I had no conceptual context at the time to put this experience in. I knew nothing about the energy body, sometimes called the subtle body although at this time, it was anything but subtle. It was an undeniably enlivening, beneficent, mysterious experience.
Having no explanation, I shrugged it off as a one-off experience, and I tucked it away in my memories, wondering if someday I would understand it.
With hindsight, I can say that it gave me strength. Something unusual and special had happened to me. It marked me. Even though the physical sensations of being pierced by white light faded, I had this memory. In some way, I felt chosen, although why me, I can’t say.
At various times since then, I have had a sense that some higher power is looking out for me. It’s not that I never make mistakes or struggle with problems. I do. The real blessing is that I accept these as part of being human, not to be avoided but to learn from. I can change and grow.
Maybe this experience was fuel for getting through some hard years. My mother died unexpectedly two months later, and I grieved hard about losing her, having never imagined raising my child without her presence and advice. I had a bad experience with a psychotherapist. I felt a lot of sorrow and loneliness and struggle for years.
The experience let me know for sure that there’s more to life than just the material world, which was the mindset I grew up in. People I knew just didn’t talk about spiritual experiences. What is this energy that I can’t see (except sometimes I could — another story), that I can’t grasp (but I can now palpate and even feel it pouring out of me now)? Qi, prana, life force… It’s there all the time but mostly ignored, unless you seek it out through qi gong or yoga or energy work — or it makes itself known to you, like it did me.
Years later, I finally connected this experience to starting to practice yoga a couple of years earlier, in 1982, when my daughter was a year old — from the book Richard Hittleman’s Yoga: 28 Day Exercise Plan (amazingly still in print) — because that was all I could afford at the time.
I was so yoga-ignorant then, I thought asana was pronounced a-SAH-na. I of course didn’t have the good eye or experience that yoga teachers use to help students get the most out of each pose. I was on my own, and I was diligently doing some yoga that was making a difference. Luckily, I did not injure myself. Practicing every day, learning new poses, getting into my body, building what we now call somatic awareness, was a highlight of each evening. I didn’t own a mat. I used a blanket or a towel. I did the work in front of me, day by day, as the book prescribed.
I’d always been flexible as a child, able to do backbends, cartwheels, walkovers, headstands, and I enjoyed my daily yoga practice. Sometimes my toddler joined me for a short time — we liked downward facing dog a lot. I finished the Hittleman book and may have gone back through it a second or third time. Once I got a television set, I watched Lilias on PBS and learned to pronounce AH-sa-na correctly.
I got other yoga books. Sometime in the next few years, I learned about chakras, the energy vortices along the body’s midline. There’s a lot of lore about chakras — colors, number of lotus petals, sounds, stones, etc. I don’t remember anyone back then tying the chakras to the anatomy of human body, to the places where the spine curves or to the endocrine glands, but I wasn’t looking at the right sources.
Saharasra, Sanskrit for the crown chakra, is said to connect us to the cosmos and to divinity, just as the root chakra connects us to the earth. Saharasra’s color is white or violet. It’s said to be the chakra from which all other chakras originate. It is located where the anterior fontanelle is in infants, where the coronal and sagittal cranial sutures meet, and is considered to be related to the pineal gland, which we don’t fully understand, except that it regulates the sleep cycle, a foundation for healthy living. Some say it affects performance, decision-making, psychological health, spiritual awakening, and self-actualization.
Doing yoga asanas opens up the channels through which prana/energy flows. My crown chakra opening was the result of practicing yoga for a couple of years. I cleared my energy channels, which allowed this further clearing and energizing experience.
It’s interesting that I now practice craniosacral therapy, a bodywork modality that works with the body’s midline and chakras and uses energy awareness to facilitate the release of restrictions (aka, healing).
I was in Santa Fe earlier in August, and I stopped by the Santa Fe Opera one day in honor of this memory. It’s had improvements and an expansion since 1984. La Boheme and Cosi Fan Tutti were playing that week, and I seriously considered going. However, the tickets were quite expensive, and I didn’t have anyone to go with or the proper attire for the opera, given I’d been camping. It might have been loads of fun, given some advance planning.
Instead, I took a yoga class (Prajna) in a great studio (YogaSource) with a great teacher (Linda Spackman). I attended a dharma talk on community at Upaya Zen Center. I ate some great Indian food at Paper Dosa. I danced and connected with a few people and enjoyed my four days in Santa Fe.
And nothing dramatic happened. It was just life, which is mostly pretty good.
I went to a 5 Rhythms movement lab in Santa Fe, where I am on vacation, the other night. Chloe Goodwin facilitated. The space was extraordinarily beautiful, the music inspiring, and I quickly saw a range of more and less experienced dancers among the 20 or so people present.
It felt so great to be back in a dance studio. I’m accustomed to dancing once or twice (very occasionally, 3 or 4 times) a week in Austin, but it wasn’t available in Taos that I could find when I was there last week. I’ve been driving a lot. My body felt sluggish and stiff. Yoga classes have been helpful and also a nice way to meet people who share this interest when traveling, but even more than yoga, ecstatic dance in a studio allows me the freedom to let my body show me how it wants and needs to move to restore well-being.
So we danced freely in the space for a while. I felt shy at first, not knowing anyone (they all knew each other), so I just paid attention to what my body wanted. So good. Then I shyly began to make eye contact with a few people and danced with various partners.
Chloe introduced experiences of body parts: hands, elbows, knees, feet, hips, head, and more. Yes. I’m sure she was watching and seeing how people unconsciously restrict themselves. Yes, your head is a body part, and it can dance too, and it’s really good for your circulation and neck flexibility to move it. Instead of focusing your eyes, use your peripheral vision.
Then Chloe pointed out the blue masking tape on the floor, which created four spaces for dancing, which she described thusly: the outer edges of the room were reserved for people who just wanted to do their own dance by themselves. Coming in toward the center a bit was a space for dancing with a partner. The inner circle was for dancing in community, and the X in the center was for surveying, and dancing with, the entire room.
I danced in all the spaces. I love dancing alone, sometimes with my eyes closed to intensify my auditory/kinesthetic synesthesia and to be one with the music/my body/the space around me. I don’t care what it looks like. There’s a joy and freedom there for me that I recognize may be alien to others.
I had an especially wonderful and vigorous dance with a male partner, meeting and sweetly challenging each other over and over again. Yay!
Moving into the community circle, something interesting happened: Dancing in community, without a partner but in close proximity with other dancers, can be just like dancing alone at the outer edge. It doesn’t have to be, but on Tuesday night, it often was.
We noticed this after the dance ended, when we were standing in a closing circle.
Toward the end of the evening, when I was in the community circle for the third or fourth time, I noticed I was feeling tired, slowing down. I had already danced vigorously for an hour and a half, and I’m not a late night person — my batteries were running down.
I noticed that when I’m fatigued, I just want to dance alone, to wind down, to care for myself in vulnerability. I could have moved to the outer circle, but I didn’t. Maybe I was just too tired to think of doing that. That was a choice that perhaps I could make differently, next time.
I love the name Movement Lab. I’ve long considered ecstatic dance to be my own personal experimental movement lab. Movement, people, space, music, life. Play with it, learn from it, I be me, you be you, we be us.
It’s been a while since I posted. It feels good to be back here, sharing my thoughts, feelings, and fascinations. I was busy, then spending a lot of time helping a friend in need, did some training and traveling, then a lot more time helping that friend, only to have that relationship unravel last week. It may have unraveled entirely and forever. I don’t know, and I don’t really care right now.
What I do know is that I am exhausted, reclaiming my space, my time, and my energy, while preparing to do some more travel. I’m taking time this week to recalibrate and nurture myself.
Processing is one of my favorite things to do. It’s such a great teacher, a guru, to feel so many emotions arise over time. To allow every one of them to express itself and move through me — it’s great company and also entertaining, this guesthouse. Feeling sadness, anger, judgment, curiosity, incredulity, a few regrets, the amazing aha of a huge insight that was right under my nose, disdain about their assumed entitlement and their obvious discomfort with their choices past and present, the deep compassion I have for them and their road ahead (yes, it’s gonna take 10 years), fears for self and others, stress, unwinding, missing the fun and affection before the criticism set in, recognizing my mistrust all along and the reasons for it, feeling a bit defensive that what they choose to believe are my issues are actually not — although they are based on inconsistent behaviors on their part, recognizing the need for a major shift in the relationship or perhaps shutting that door entirely, caring and yet oddly enough very coldly not caring what happens to them, recognizing they’ll survive, or not, and this break may be just what they need to ground themselves and do the difficult thing, that’s only hard to get started with.
Separation has many gifts.
Shocks instigate growth. Instead of whining about them, we can be grateful for the opportunities to further develop our resources.
I look back to see where I could have made better decisions, to take some responsibility and learn for the future, because there is never just one person at fault — we’re all in this together, always, even through misunderstandings, and even when we need to pull back. A few of my actions (especially the lack of me setting some clearly needed boundaries, in hindsight, regardless of being labeled “controlling”) are glaring at me.
“Knot by knot I untie myself from the
past / And let it rise away from me like a balloon. / What a small thing it
becomes. / What a bright tweak at the vanishing point, blue on blue.”
I look at what’s ahead for me, and I feel pretty good about the choices I have and how to use them well. I can leave this relationship entirely behind (using the famous INFJ door slam — look it up if curious — I’ve done it before, though it’s rare). Closure might be healing, which was the intent in the first place. If we talk, it will be with a therapist present, and I have no idea if that’s going to happen. Either way. Take it or leave it. I have a good life that I”m happy with.
I’m grateful for my friends, one of whom has called me out and also been kind, and another who has been purely embracing and loving.
Mostly, today I want to share how much meditation is helpful. I got away from my daily practice. I missed my daily sit on June 20, and since then have had two gaps of as long as 5 days. I’m getting back on track — I can see how my brain, memories, and equanimity operate so much better when I do a daily sit.
I use Insight Timer to keep a log, even when I use another app (I used Waking Up with Sam Harris for a while). Before June 20, I had meditated for 990 consecutive days. Also in June, I reached the milestone of 1,000 days with a session.
Anyway, here I am living in the midst of samsara with all of its chaos, grins, and grief, and meditation allows me to take a small, temporary break from it.
I sit, I get still, I breathe, I tune into my experience in the present, and my thoughts begin to slow so there are gaps, sometimes long gaps.
In these gaps, I feel my sensations. I feel myself soften. I feel my energy body extend beyond my skin. I feel tensions releasing and leaving my body. I feel my chakras open and spin. I feel radiance in my face.
I feel kindness toward myself. I feel love. I experience an empty awareness that’s full of connection with Source, or whatever you call it in your tradition. I am plugging into Something.Important.
I become fucking Re-Source-full. Empowered. Full of grace and confidence, not the blustery let-me-try-to-impress-you kind, but the “I am present for whatever arises in each moment” kind of confidence.
I am so, so grateful to have this practice, to have experience with it, and I’m especially grateful for having done two 10-day Vipassana courses, which, in video-game terms, each took me to a higher level. Just as they say Rolfing is the equivalent of 5 years of yoga, a Vipassana course is the equivalent of 5 years of meditation. Generalities, of course, but pointing to something important. I hope to do another one within the next year.
The starting place for each meditation is so much more aware than when I began to practice, also after a relationship breakup, back in 2006. I get to return to Source, and that’s what is truly healing.
Loving you for reading this. Thank you, my friends.
Here I sit in the middle of my wildly imperfect life, in my 1959 trailer, in my bed that also serves as office, looking out a cracked window with cracked trim, seeing a spot on the wall that needs touchup paint, listening to birdsong through the thin metal walls.
I am not a good housekeeper. Clothes have been sitting in the dryer for two days. Dirty dishes are piled up, waiting a cleansing. The floors need sweeping, vacuuming, and mopping. My sofa’s upholstery needs cleaning. My coffee table holds piles of papers that await further investigation. (At least the piles are sorted. I know where to find stuff in the chaos.)
There’s large pile of books waiting for me to show up, feel gratitude, and then touch each one and see if it sparks joy. I’d like the ones that do to somehow fit perfectly into a bookshelf I have, yet I know me and this is laughable. That will not happen, and this is a never-ending issue. So many books, so little time. Audible, Kindle, and podcasts have not even made a dent in my book hoarding problem.
My huge trailer has sunk over time, because it was never set up properly in the first place in 2011, with gravel and cement pads under the supports, and now the door scrapes on the wooden steps when I open and close it because the steps haven’t sunk. I can hire someone to jack it up and re-level it — and put some cement pads under the supports to slow the sinking — or I can dig to deepen the steps, or get out a saw and cut the bottom step off. Maybe tomorrow.
I have problems, and these are just some of the ones to do with my home.
I floss my teeth and clip my nails in my car, on the way to work. Mostly at red lights.
At work, the walls are thin, and sometimes we have three practitioners working on three patients at the same time, and someone’s talking and everyone can hear it. It sounds like the adults in the Charlie Brown cartoons.
When the HVAC unit right outside my office window turns on, it sounds like someone blew hard into a didgeridoo, and patients have literally jumped on the table from the deeply relaxed states that I’ve worked so hard to induce.
I’m co-teaching a series of classes in April, and so far, no one has signed up.
So. Problems. They dwell in every area of life: home, work, self, relationships, just getting through each day. I’ve had a lot of problems, and some were really difficult. Some can never be resolved — I can only make peace with.
I have made mistakes, some of them serious. I have held myself accountable for making them. I have punished myself. I have been in denial about how bad certain problems were, fearful of the truth. I have felt shame.
Today it seems I’m having my own personal day of atonement.
Please forgive me.
I love you.
~ Ho’oponopono prayer I recently had an opportunity to sing to a friend and have them sing it to me. so.powerful.
I am happy to share with you that I actually have resolved a lot of problems, and that having them made me more resourceful than I would be if I had never had them. Problems bring out creativity and expand your capabilities. You cannot buy that with your perfect life.
I also love that quote, a problem shared is a problem halved. Your new problem may be easily resolvable if you share it with someone who’s resolved it already or has resources you don’t, and you likely won’t know that until you share. Most humans love to be part of the solution, in my experience, although a few will judge you for not having your life all nailed down and tidy. But you probably didn’t want to know those people anyway, and their day will come.
My heart chakra is feeling open and vulnerable and tender now. I’m having a problem with someone dear and not sure what my right action is, so meanwhile, I’m going to put the dirty dishes to soak, get those clothes out of the dryer and put them away, and get started on the book sorting. And sing to myself.
It’s a coolish, rainy morning here in the outskirts of ATX. Haven’t heard the mockingbird yet, but a cardinal made itself heard just outside my trailer. The rain now hitting the metal roof is drowning out all birdsong. It can get quite loud during a heavy downpour!
A friend texted me yesterday that her mother, in Missouri, is passing. She got to talk to her on the phone, texting me later, “Lots of Love exchanges. She said goodbye and to take care of myself.” The mother was conscious, in no pain, but very weak.
That’s a good way to die. I’d like to be conscious, unmedicated, and not in pain when death comes for me. It’s got to be quite the experience!
I wish I could tell you afterwards what it was like, but that seems to be against the rules. “Just one more blog post, please? This is too amazing not to share!” But I don’t think you can bargain with death. It might play with you, but it always wins, in the end.
Today: loving my matcha/sitting/breathing/downloading early in this day, then hairdresser, then biodynamic session for my friend who’s losing her mother, and then a visit with a shaman to work on some emotional/empath issues that i haven’t been able to resolve on my own.
Some friends have been studying with this shaman, and I look forward to meeting her and experiencing how she works. I received a yummy practice session from one of those friends, now studying energy medicine, who told me about a class for empaths, but the class had filled, so I’m doing 1:1 with the shaman.
I’m seeking something of a superpower for me: the ability to not feel others’ deep suffering. I can suffer well enough from my own losses and traumas and don’t need to experience the broken hearts and minds of others in order to be compassionate and supportive and resourceful. I can be more useful with a healthier boundary.
It’s the biggest downside of being an empath that I can think of. If you’ve been a reader for a while, you will know that calling myself an empath is new, something I’m starting to dance with. Once it occurred to me, a lot of mysteries about me and how I’ve chosen to live began to fall into place.
What is being an empath good for? You tell me. It served extremely well once, may have saved my baby daughter’s life, but there’s a lot of weirdness, and some fun, that comes with it, so far. Premonitions, insights, auras, dreams, beginner’s mind, flow states, obviously empathy. I have marks in my hand indicating clairvoyance, but I don’t practice it.
There are some superpowers that with the right teachers, I could probably develop. Not sure I need or want to, though. For now, becoming a healthy empath is my intent.
I’ve begun paying more attention to the people and environments that are nurturing and those that are not. I had to go to the mall a couple of weeks ago. The commercialism — the bigness of the “buy this — enter this store — take this free gift bag” messaging — was overwhelming. Giant words are scary! Pushy people are scary! It was not a friendly place, and I felt like an alien — I wish I could say that was unusual, but it’s not.
I felt my resistance and stayed focused on my errand. Found a chair and closed my eyes and just breathed while waiting for a genius to replace my phone battery. Once outside under the big sky, trees in view across the vast parking lot, so much better.
I notice I have better rapport with intuitive feelers who may also be empaths. I’m so lucky to know and love a few!
If you are an empath and are reading this, what has helped you? Books, people, classes, practices, learnings. I want to hear it, please.
The rain has paused and the mockingbird is singing its heart out. Enjoy this promising day.
What if…something about you that you believed was your worst liability — for instance, surviving a devastating trauma and learning to live with it the best you knew how but also accepting that it’s embedded in your bodymindfield and part of who you are — actually drew someone to you for a healthy reason?
And what if…you had a really long and difficult time finding your place in this world, finding your people and your livelihood, and you learned that you had a personality type that 1% have — and the other 1%-ers are introverts too, so good luck finding them, right? — and then you met someone who’s so close who seems capable of being a mirror that reflects you back to you, and that you can do the same for them?
I’m just going to shut the fuck up now and take this in.
I’ve been thinking about useful delusions, the beliefs that help us cope with the harsher realities of life. I’m talking about common, everyday delusions, not hallucinations or psychotic delusions.
I like to believe there’s going to be a tomorrow.
For some people, there isn’t.
I like to believe I will see the people I love again, many times.
Sometimes that doesn’t happen.
I like to believe the people I love know how much I love them, even if I haven’t told them lately.
They may not know what I see and adore in them.
I like to believe that I will continue to enjoy good health.
Until I don’t, because I’m mortal.
I like to believe that when I go to sleep, I will wake up.
I knew someone who didn’t.
I like to believe that goodness will prevail, and so will truth and beauty.
Sometimes they don’t.
I like to believe I can make a difference.
Sometimes I can’t.
I like to believe I have control over my life.
So much is beyond my control. Politics, economics, the environment, imprints, conditioning, ancestral energies, blood type, genetics, the weather, my own non-conscious mind…
I like to believe my plans will actually turn out how I planned them.
Nuh uh. Nope. Nada. Planning is cool. Just leave room for surprises because they are gonna show up.
I like to be optimistic.
Haven’t I just given you a bunch of reasons not to be?
I like to believe I will again see those I’ve loved who have preceded me in death.
I don’t know if that will happen.
Without useful delusions, the universe is a random and chaotic experience. Useful delusions bring comfort — and perhaps most of the time, they are true.
They can also be inspiring, giving us energy. If you aim high, you may achieve more.
Like perfection: perhaps your useful delusion is an ideal. Perhaps it gives you direction. Perhaps your non-conscious mind is leading you. Listen!
Just keep in mind, not always. Life includes shocks, losses, regrets, betrayals, conflicts, helplessness, sickness, death. It takes courage to face that truth, especially when it’s not in your face. It’s sobering.
You don’t have to think about it every minute. Just take it out of your pocket and acknowledge it every once in a while.
Sometimes I have second thoughts. My wild mind gets half-baked ideas that are so exciting, and the next day they don’t look that good. I took down my most recent post that was like that. It’s just not ready for public consumption.
So. New day, new topic. Please note I am not saying what follows to brag. I hope saying it gives those who need it encouragement.
For someone who was traumatized by a sudden, tragic, violent loss in childhood, who as a result had PTSD for decades before it was even a diagnosable malady — life can be good again.
I wake up happy to greet a new day, on most days. I feel balanced, grounded, centered, open, resilient, buoyant, strong, like a fountain constantly replenishing and renewing. I have more than enough.
Perhaps these good days are even sweeter because of the past. Trauma survivors, please savor and enjoy every good day, every good hour even, that comes your way.
It’s not as if the trauma in this bodymindfield is gone, over, done. Even when you’ve done a lot of work to remember, sort, get perspective, feel, self-soothe, reconcile, and heal that wounded self, a scar still resides in your nervous system. But it can disappear for long stretches of time.
You can work with your autonomic nervous system to rebalance it so that you read and respond to actual threats and to safety appropriately, but in reading what psychotherapists with 40 years of experience have to say, trauma is scar tissue in the psyche. Scar tissue will never be as healthy and resilient as unscarred skin. It’s more fragile. It’s not organized the same way at the cellular level. You can work with it to make it more pliable and reduce the scarring, but it will never be as if the trauma never happened, the skin unscarred.
Also, obviously, trauma resides in your memories, which are connected to your ANS. How often do you need to revisit those memories? Not that often for me, any more. I want to mention that some of the memories from the time of the trauma remained veiled from my conscious mind for a long time, and sometimes a memory shapes our behavior, unbidden.
Trauma is definitely something you want behind you on your timeline, not in the way of denial but in the healthy manner of moving on with your life, because healthy life beckons after trauma, if you let it. It may start with one peaceful hour.
Investigate peace, and savor it.
Facing forward, sometimes trauma from the past sneaks ahead and gets right in your face. Boo! Your ANS, which is instinctual and not really all that smart, interprets something as a threat that simply isn’t. Something happens in the present that unconsciously reminds the part of your brain that’s trying to keep you safe of a time when you were unsafe in the past, and you react sharply, as if past were present, get flooded with stress hormones, experience the fight-or-flight dance going on.
Hopefully, the thinking part of your brain will kick in to help you evaluate the situation! Are you actually in imminent danger? If the answer is no, then you get to wait it out while your system rebalances itself, recovering from the dump of stress hormones. Acupuncture and supplements for adrenal depletion can be very helpful.
Beautiful self-care is required when a memory hijacks the ANS and there is no actual threat. Be ever so kind to yourself. Rest as much as you can. Make beautiful cups of tea. Slow down. Light a candle and watch it burn. Take a long fragrant soak in the tub, preferably with Epsom salt. Just breathe. Listen to lovely music. Move your body with care. Do restorative yoga. Walk in nature. Spend time with a loving friend.
Afterwards, trauma resides in memories and the ANS. Build yourself a vast toolkit of self-care resources for the activated times.
Trauma can also play a huge role in your beliefs. We are run by our beliefs, and some of them are outside our awareness. Feeling cursed? Been there. Having bad luck with relationships? Been there. So many questions. Why me? Am I being punished? What did I do to deserve this? How can anyone love me? How could God let this happen? Does God love me?
What are some things you have believed about yourself, your life, your character, your worthiness, after a trauma?
At this point, all I can say about belief is to frame it in the healthiest way you can. If that means you acknowledge that you encountered misfortune — something that has happened to a lot of people throughout human history — and understand it’s just the way life as a human can sometimes be, and don’t take it personally, that seems like a great start. You didn’t cause this, you didn’t deserve it, you are not being punished, you are not cursed. You ran into some bad luck, that’s all.
This is how you build resilience and move on. If you need a little healthy delusion, I say go for it. If rocks or essential oils or photos of Ramana Maharshi soften the harshness, use them. I do.
Beliefs are about what’s important. Identity is who you are. By working with your beliefs, you start to change your identity.
We live our lives inside a huge mystery. Theoretical physicists say that two thirds of all existence consists of dark energy, and no one knows what it is. I just love this, my favorite new factoid! We.Don’t.Know.What’s.Going.On.
So feel free to make something up that works for you, that gives you strength and courage and takes the weight of oppression or unworthiness off you, so you can rise up to meet the rest of your life. Why not?
By all means, take credit for and celebrate the good stuff — for taking right action, or coming to understand what that means or if that was even possible then. For persisting in the face of hardship. For recovering some of your mental health. For those who understand and accept you, or are willing to make that attempt. For self-care and self-compassion. For bonding with all of humanity through your compassion for all suffering. For finding your path.
After trauma, you get to work with your autonomic nervous system, your memories, and your beliefs. Exploring and reframing your beliefs are where you can make the most difference. Have courage. You’re worth it.
Yesterday was rough. A dear friend for over 20 years was in the hospital having breast cancer surgery with preparation for reconstruction. We’d had ceremony Wednesday night for support, a gathering of friends to hold her and another friend with a serious health issue in our big collective heart as we move through this difficult part of the journey, walking each other home.
I shared part of that ceremony with three other women, and we laughed a lot. Fishermen’s Friend does that to people. May our laughter contribute to the healing of all.
Dear goddess, bless you for the gift of levity in the face of the unknown.
The surgery was longer than expected — 9 hours. Pauline’s older sister Marie was there at the hospital with her, and I was Marie’s contact person to post progress in the ceremony’s Facebook event for all to see.
Surgery started at 8. By 10:30 am, Marie shared that the sentinel lymph node that was removed and examined was cancer free. Good news. Marie said the surgeons expected her to go to the recovery room about 3-4 pm.
At 5 pm, I’d heard nothing and contacted Marie. Marie texted that Pauline was in recovery but she (Marie) was still waiting for the doctors to come talk to her.
And then, finally, the news came that both surgeons were pleased with the outcome. Whew.
I also did some deep digging and writing yesterday morning to a friend on something he’d challenged me to examine. I love doing that kind of self-examining work, and I needed time to let it cook into coherence.
It takes attention to go within so deeply. I went back to a time when my legs went out from under me, the beginning of not wanting to be here, having learned very young of the existence of unspeakable cruelty in a very personal way. Wrote it, sent it, went out to meet the day.
After my morning obligations were met — and my networking group laughed a lot — again, thank you, dear goddess — I came home and crashed. I needed my own space and stillness to let my earlier self-examination continue to unwind its gifts and flow through me with attentive care.
I lay in a heap of exhausted sorrow and realized this happens when I go there. It depletes me to remember. This is why I don’t do it often and not just for anybody. It’s always for me, really. I could have said no, but I was curious about where my behavior was coming from too.
I cried. My tears felt good and tasted salty.
I didn’t get stuck with the raw bleeding heart sensation. It was there but wasn’t as intense. It’s open and tender today, a bit achy.
It’s vulnerable, revisiting a trauma. Sometimes the truth — or a truth, because when the spiral comes back around, truth will be different, with different insights — is hard fucking won.
I learned something valuable about myself, that I need to push, and sometimes I push against others, and it’s probably not very pleasant to receive. I come across as blaming and misunderstanding, rightly so, on a superficial level. I grasp at an excuse to push. And really, it’s an indicator that I need to set a healthy boundary and perhaps offer a challenge myself.
Where does this behavior come from? I push to get out of the box, the box of being violated, disrespected, dishonored, crushed, silenced, dominated, overpowered, overlooked, robbed of my agency, minimized, underestimated, isolated.
I push to make space for me, to stand on my feet, connected to heaven and earth with the horizontal embrace of humanity as well, life force flowing through me freely.
I am a troubled person too sometimes, and I’m working on it. I’m trying to think of a name for the troubled part of me, because I can, much of the time, come from a healthy place, and when this troubled part comes out, I’m usually aware of it but sometimes not, and I need others to help me see it so I can do my healing work.
I’m learning toward Harriet, because I don’t know anyone named Harriet. “I’m wondering if Harriet would like to say something.” “Hi, Harriet. What are you experiencing now?” “Harriet, what do you need?”
Do you have any other suggestions for a name?
Eventually my energy moved toward equilibrium, and to cheer myself up, I remembered my favorite cartoon, What’s Opera, Doc? I must have watched it half a dozen times. Elmer and Bugs sing Wagner. Elmer is pretty funny, but Bugs is my cartoon hero. He’s brash, witty, unpredictable, a wisecracking carrot-eating trickster — and oh, yeah, he’s Jewish.
Third time: thank you, goddess and Chuck Jones, for the gift of levity.
Then the good news about my dear friend’s surgery.
Feeling so much appreciation for my offspring, my sistren and my brethren, for the ability to process and learn, to dive for a fish and come back up with one in my hands. Today, it’s all good.
Sitting in my favorite writing spot, staring out the window as spring unfolds upon the land here in Austin, Texas. There’s a mature tree on my property, a volunteer planted by nature, that is fully laden with white blossoms. It may be in the apple family, malus. It doesn’t bear fruit and has thorns, and butterflies and bees love those blossoms.
Yesterday, an intense phone conversation. Attempts to set things right, correct misunderstandings, set boundaries, wrestle for domination, with no shouting, but needing to be fierce and interrupt. Two very different ways of using the English language were struggling to be understood.
This is the closest I’ve been to having a fight with someone in years. It was healthy, timely, and deepening, in my opinion.
“The meaning of your communication is the response you get.” That’s a presupposition in NLP. What does this mean to you? Do you check to see if your words are understood?
Meanwhile, I was watching butterflies alighting on blossoms, feeding, fluttering away.
How do you know when you’re out of your cocoon, when you’re done turning and are ready to emerge and spread your wings? My full emergence is yet to come. This wasn’t it. Or maybe it was. Sometimes metaphors only go so far.
I like my verbal communication to be personal, simple, and clear. When I’m working with another person professionally or just having a long conversation with a friend, I like to listen and use my touch in just the right place or use my words to say just the right thing. It’s like seeing where the cracks are and bringing the light that gets in. I like to be accurate and clear. Best case, it penetrates, heals, and adds to their wholeness. Click. Breathe. Yes.
Sometimes it takes a while to get there. Some bodies and psyches are confused, including mine, at times.
I do not yet know if there was anything healing for my counterpart in yesterday’s exchange. I mind a lack of healing, because that is the intent.
I met it as best I could and still felt prickly enough hours later to leave my house to dance because movement and rhythm help me come back into myself.
I don’t enjoy conflict and have often fled from it. Sometimes it’s important to say who I am in a world that underestimates me, to plant myself and stand my ground and let my hard-won worthiness be known.
I felt strong in my center line throughout, connected to heaven and earth. When I felt pushed off center, I recovered my balance.