Looking back on a year full of changes

This past year held a lot of change for me. The previous year, 2010, was a year of sitting in meditation daily, and I very nearly accomplished that. It was a year of contemplation, exploring my identity, waking up, and getting clear.

The changes in 2011 helped my external life — how I live in the world — match up better with how my energy and identity had changed after all that meditation.

Changes to the blog

This blog had gotten 5,000 views in January and is ending the year with nearly 27,000. Readership really accelerated. I felt like I hit my stride in the second year, and I want to keep getting better. I currently have 156 followers, which includes WordPress and email subscribers as well as Twitter followers.

I redesigned and renamed the blog (from The Zafu Report) at the beginning of 2011 and stuck with the same template, albeit changing the photo often, for the entire year. I broadened the topics from mostly posting about meditation and yoga to posting about wellness and aliveness. I began including posts about healthy eating and reviews of movies that I’ve found inspiring and expansive.

My intent for 2012 is to be more personal in my writing. I noticed that those are the posts that get the most views, likes, and comments, not the reposts. I will still share the juicy information I come across, but I’ll also tell you why it’s meaningful to me. I’d love to have more comments from you.

Selling my house and moving into a trailer

My house was on the market in January 2011, and I closed and moved out in late February. I immediately bought the vintage Spartan Carousel that I’d had my eye on online for months. I put household stuff in storage (what remained after paring down) and moved in with dear friends until I could get the trailer here.

I found my trailer park in March.

First, I waited to get a title from the state of Washington, and then I waited for flood waters to recede so the trailer could be loaded on a trailer and hauled here. That finally happened in June. We got it set up, repaired, installed cork flooring and an HVAC unit, and I moved in in August. A friend donated a washer and dryer, and I got them set up in my shed in October.

Trailer life is good! I am enjoying living here a lot, and it’s great to have a paid-for, portable, recycled, streamlined, vintage home. I’ve had friends do two house blessings here, and I’ve done some landscaping. I’ve seen deer and a fox in the park, as well as lots of birds. My neighbors have been very unobtrusive.

The only sad part is that my cat, Mango, did not adapt well to trailer park life, and he went back to live with my former roommates, who love him, and we all have joint custody. I see him every week, and he still loves me.

It’s also been a bit of an adjustment, moving from the center of the city to the edge. I do more driving. I listen to music and NLP CDs a lot now while I drive.

My intent for 2012 is to install more window coverings, have a deck built, and get a chimenea and some bird-feeders for viewing pleasure. I look forward to doing more landscaping and gardening. I’ll see what my budget allows in terms of further improvements.

Teaching and studying yoga

I taught restorative yoga weekly through July at an acupuncture clinic. Although the class size was small, that teaching experience was invaluable. I worked with private students and substituted at a lunchtime yoga class — the one I took when I was working — and taught a restorative class in a studio for Free Day of Yoga. Did restorative yoga by invitation on a friend’s moving day.

I did two workshops in 2011 with nationally known teachers, Shiva Rea in January and Judith Hanson Lasater in February. In the summer, I began taking classes from Anusara teachers and later picked up a sweaty vinyasa flow class for a more challenging workout. I love working with accomplished teachers — I’m there to learn more about teaching as well as about yoga.

I’m signed up to take Yoga Anatomy with Leslie Kaminoff in January 2012.  I’d love to combine my love of yoga with my love of massage to work on yogis and help prevent and heal yoga injuries.

Practicing changework

I started this year serving as an assistant for NLP master practitioner training by Tom Best of Best Resources/Texas Institute of NLP. That ended in April. I served as program director for the Austin NLP meet-up for a few months and later co-taught an NLP class to women in prison. I attended Metaphors of Money, a workshop with Charles Faulkner, in the fall.

I offered NLP changework sessions this past year, and some of my clients had some wonderful outcomes, reaching major milestones and fulfilling long-time dreams. The sessions played a role in their success, which is pleasing, of course, and my clients already had a lot of resources when I worked with them. It was fun.

I attended two weekend sessions with Byron Katie in which she demonstrated The Work. I use her method of inquiry on myself often and with clients.

I did a lot of reading and personal experimentation with two healing practices, the trauma releasing exercises of David Berceli and shaking medicine taught by Bradford Keeney. Each has tremendous value.

I practiced the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) every day in January as I waited for my house to sell and found it helped keep me calm and centered. I’ve since taught it to others.

Going to massage school

In April, I learned about hands-on healing from giving it, and that steered me toward massage school rather than acupuncture school (although never say never). I began studying at The Lauterstein-Conway Massage School in late June (the same day my trailer arrived!) and finished my academic work in early December. I’m currently working in the student clinic, gaining the required 50 hours of internship to get my license.

Meanwhile, I’ve worked on about 30 friends and family members and about 25 of my fellow students.

Besides my regular classes, I took a workshop on cranio-sacral therapy. I’ve gotten massages from my teachers as a way of learning, and I’ve been fortunate enough to trade Swedish massage for lomi lomi and reflexology sessions. The learning will always continue.

Once I’m licensed, probably in February, I’ll officially start my practice, although I’ve been doing bodywork/changework sessions for gratis for several months.

Continuing my own healing

I continued to do acupuncture with Patrice Sullivan and did my usual spring and fall cleanses, which I’ve posted about before. This year I finally cleared my liver and gallbladder of stones!

I continued receiving applied kinesiology sessions from Chandler Collins and hands-on bodywork sessions from Bo Boatwright to free up even  more health into my body and life.

I began working with Fran Bell, who gave my walk a makeover. I had been walking as if I was still injured long after my injuries had healed. Sometimes it takes help to change habitual patterns. Now when I walk, my body feels good and has energy.

Also in the past year, I resumed my practice of ecstatic dance, which I fell in love with in 1995. My ecstatic dancing was on hiatus for the past three or so years. My body craved yoga and more silence, stillness, and solitude. It’s good to be back. I feel like I’ve found a good community, Ecstatic Dance of Austin.

In May I had the initial assessment for brainwave optimization, and in June I did 10 sessions with NeuroBeginnings. The benefits continue to show up for months afterward. I feel more centered, myself, and content. I imagine 2012 will bring even more health and healing into my life.

Working 

I started the year jobless, living on my savings. When I realized I had no idea how long it might take to sell my house, I decided to do contract technical writing. The day I posted my resume, I was contacted by a recruiter. I worked at 3M for 3 months.

I’ve done some freelance work writing and editing website copy.

I’m holding a space for a part-time job in 2012 for financial security while I get my practice established.

Spiritual direction

In the spring, I joined my friend Thomas in watching a group of Tibetan monks destroy a sand painting they had constructed painstakingly and then walk in procession to release the sand into Lady Bird Lake. Very moving, a reminder of impermanence.

On the fall equinox, I realized that I felt as if I had finally fully arrived, or one might say, as if I fully occupied myself, as though I became fully present. Gratified. It’s hard to know that is even a goal until you experience it.

I joined a book group in the fall, studying the 4th way Gurdjieffian path as taught by E.J. Gold. I plan to continue with that in 2012.

I also began dating someone this fall after four years of not dating. I don’t know the future, but it totally feels very sweet and lovely to be in a relationship at this time with this man!!

My second Saturn return occurred in December. My astrologer said that for Aquarians like me, rather than age, I “youth”. So far, so good!

So that wraps up 2011, the year of big changes. I don’t do resolutions, but I check in with my intentions, many of which I’ve shared here.

Wishing you all many blessings in 2012.

A reader shares his TRE/shaking medicine experience

In case you don’t read the comments on this blog but are interested in the trauma releasing exercises and shaking medicine, I’m posting a long comment from a reader as a regular post in order to reach more people.

Thank you so much, Richard, for sharing your experience.

Thank you, David Berceli, for bringing the world TRE.

Thank you, Bradford Keeney, for writing and sharing so much about shaking medicine.

I love the fluid body.

Hey Mary –

Been doing TRE for a few months now (think I commented here before possibly), and have taken a free workshop with one of the London trainers. I also notice I can allow it to come on at will, even standing up – the TRE trainer likened it to a hosepipe, and you can inhibit/disinhibit the flow, e.g. as if you were putting your foot on/off it. The explanation given was that humans generally walk around in constant inhibit-mode, and once you’ve done TRE a few times you gain the flexibility to allow it through. It took me about 4-6 weeks of daily practice to get to that point personally.

Btw, in terms of progress… it’s been plateaus with spurts of growth. Some things have changed drastically, others havent changed yet. The tension in my body has changed, and “getting stressed” now feels different in terms of the intensity and location of the tension that arises in my body.

I notice it never quite goes “how I want”… always how it wants. Some parts just shake for weeks, over and over, the same pattern, then suddenly shift in one session. Sometimes I think some things shifted and it comes back to that location for more, and sometimes new muscles start going at it that had previously been holding.

From what I understand TRE is a wildly individual process; very much a function of your personal trauma, your personal locations of chronic tension, and what emotions are entangled up with all of that. For me it’s very much about the abdomen, chest, and anxiety. For some people it’s depression, anger, etc.

What I do know for sure is a) it’s the only thing that gets me “unstressed” daily on a physiological level (and I’ve tried a lot), and b) I’ve gradually become much more the person I want to be; the person I feel I truly am; since starting with TRE.

Hope you and others are finding similar benefits!
Thanks
Richard

I notice that Richard started out with the TRE exercises and has transitioned to shaking medicine. My distinction is when you can stand up and shake at will, TRE has become shaking medicine.

I have a strong hunch that the vast majority of people need to learn TRE first, to learn how to allow shaking to happen. Once your body learns to trust the trembling and lets it move into various parts besides the legs (and of course that will take different time periods for different people), try it with your legs flat. Try it standing up. Try it sitting.

I agree that it’s like a pipeline you can turn on and off at will.

Eloquently said, Richard, that you’ve become much more the person you want to be, the person you truly are. This is truly energy medicine.

I’m going to massage school at Lauterstein-Conway!

I was taken with this quote in a book I’m reading.

The leading contemporary philosopher of the body, Don Hanlon Johnson, also underscores how the invention of different body therapies arises from the originator’s own spontaneous movements, which too easily become rigidified when they become formalized and taught to others in an authoritative manner. The most promising future for body therapy will be in the direction of returning us to an experience of basic, natural movements that take place effortlessly and spontaneously.

This quote is taken from the book Shaking Medicine: The Healing Power of Ecstatic Movement, by Bradford Keeney. I’m nearing the end of reading it. (Okay, I’m slow sometimes and usually have four or five books going at once.)

Keeney reports on his first-hand experience with Kalahari Bushman ecstatic shaking practices, shaking medicine on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent, the ecstatic “holy rolling” of the African-American church, the Japanese shaking medicine called seiki (not to be confused with reiki), kundalini, and his own Life Force Theater.

More to come on that…

The quote above fits with the practices of some of the bodyworkers I’m working with, who, although they trained in a rigidified method, have evolved their work in the direction of moving and healing naturally, using their intuition, familiarity with the body, and healing skill to facilitate rapid change and healing.

I’m feeling more solid, aligned, and at ease than ever — and that’s something for someone who’s had nerve damage, PTSD, scoliosis, and serious injuries. (Some of this great feeling of health and wellness may be due to the brainwave optimization process I undertook last week as well. There’s no separation between mind and body.)

Bodywork is a very inspiring area of learning and practice that I want to pursue. I’ll be starting my training later this month in The Lauterstein-Conway School of Massage in Austin, Texas.

There are three more spots to be filled in this class — click the link to learn more.

A reader’s experience with shaking medicine

I’m feeling very blessed to have recently had two readers of this blog respond to it in depth, either by sending me a personal email with questions or by leaving a lengthy comment on a post and sharing their experience.

Readers, you are welcome to comment on anything you read that so moves you. You may also email me privately with questions. I love the personal connection.

My theory is, if you take the time to ask your questions or share your comments, there are at least 10 people behind you with questions and comments, and I’d like to share them publicly, disguising your name to preserve your privacy unless you explicitly give me permission to use it. This is one of the great strengths of blogging — the community aspect of it. I’m currently getting about 50 views per day and one or two new subscribers a week. This blog is reaching and speaking to people interested in at least some of the things I blog about — people who want to come back. I’m really tickled about it!

Jose Luis shares his experience with shaking medicine, and his experience is worth sharing in a post

Hi Mary Ann,
just a sharing… Shaking Medicine emerged in my life spontaneously during a series of Holotropic Breathwork workshops I attended years ago…and then 12 years ago, I found Brad Keeney’s work: everything fitted… Brad Keeney’s “The Energy Break” is a nice, friendly-user introduction (you can begin inmediately!). Amazing medicine! Finally I could attend two three-days-gatherings: As-toun-ding! It’s a deep mystery, but this I know: It’s heart medicine, for sure…and it keeps “cooking me”…

“Bushman knowing is inspired by feeling love rather than thinking ideas. The more they feed love – loving the loving in a recursively spun positive feedback loop – the more they amplify its presence and impact on their body. It causes them to tremble and shake, an indication to them that they are awake and in the only state worthy of trustworthy knowing. For them, thinking should serve authentically experienced love rather than the latter being an abstraction for intellectual word play. Bushmen seek to make their “ropes” (a metaphor for relationship) strong. They do so by shooting “arrows” of amplified love into one another. You might be tempted to say that they are “cupid scholars” who hunt for “n/om” (the soulful life force). They work to make themselves “soft” through absurd play and open hearted expression so that the arrows and ropes that enhance relational connectivity may pierce and join. Bushman stories emphasize changes that surprise and trip you into being off guard with any convenient category of understanding. In effect, Bushman knowing is all about letting yourself out of any and all typological grids of abstraction so that the Heraclitean movement of spirited love can dance you into ever shifting relations with life.
***
A group of elder women n/om kxaosi were asked what made them so strong in matters of n/om (Keeney 2010). They replied, “we are this way because of the tears we have wept for the ancestors who have passed on.”  The deepest longing human beings experience often comes from the loss of a loved one. Rather than trying to emotionally get over it, these Bushman elders keep the longing alive, feeding it until it breaks their hearts wide open in an awakened way, bringing them inside a more expansive and intimate relation with their ancestors. In this connection tears flow along a channel that keeps their relationships strong and permits a never-ending expression of love and soulful guidance.

Another intense form of longing is familiar to all lovers who fall deeply in love. In this infinite ocean of Eros we find there is more than simple love. There is loving love. When we become lovers of loving, the ropes are inseparable from us and carry our hearts into the highest realms.”

Nice interview with Brad here:
http://www.futureprimitive.org/2008/05/shaking-up-bradford-keeney-phd/

warm regards
Jose Luis

PS (Peter Levine speaks briefly about the connection between trauma and spirituality at the end of his latest book…in fact he is writing a book about the spiritual experience…)

Thank you, Jose Luis. I took the liberty of making bold some things that popped out at me.

I’m adding Brad Keeney’s The Energy Break to my next book order. I love what he has written about love in the Bushman culture. I’m still reading Shaking Medicine and recently got Shaking Out the Spirits.

I would so love to know about these gatherings! Please email me about these.

Love is embodied experience. It does mean opening to our own softness and letting down our defenses, which once protected us but often become habitual. I thank healer and bodyworker Fran Bell for showing me the difference.

The intent of Bushman storytelling seems very Zen-like.

What you shared about Bushman grief expanding the heart came just in time for me to share with a friend who recently lost her mother and is grieving deeply.

Peter Levine’s latest book, In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness, has been highly recommended to me by others as well, and it’s now on my list. His book Waking the Tiger changed my life. One of my friends just got certified in Somatic Experiencing.

Thank you for the link to the interview. Thank you again for sharing.

New book, Shaking Medicine: The Healing Power of Ecstatic Movement

I found a book, Shaking Medicine: The Healing Power of Ecstatic Movement by Bradford Keeney, at Half Price Books on Sunday when I was looking for another book. Of course it jumped off the shelf and right into my hands!

The author is a professor at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, or at least he was in 2007 when this book was published, and has made a remarkable connection with the bushmen of the Kalahari Desert, who practice shaking medicine ritually. Dr. Keeney has been shaking his whole adult life and has the gift of being able to induce shaking in others.

Plus, he seems to have training in anthropology, systems theory, and hypnosis, so I have a connection there with my NLP training.

Here’s a link to his website. Oh, and he and a colleague (operating as The Mojo Doctors) now offer 5-day experiences they call Rehab for the Soul in New Orleans.

I do like the term shaking medicine better than trauma releasing exercises. And please note that it is about shaking, not dance, although apparently ecstatic dance can unleash ecstatic shaking.

It also seems that the trauma releasing exercises are the latest incarnation of a practice that goes way back in time. It has surfaced in various cultures, religions, and places over millenia. It may be the opposite of meditation: instead of deep stillness, it’s deep uncontrolled movement.

Whatever. It’s good medicine.

I’ll write more as I’ve read more. Just wanted to let y’all know where this path is now taking me…