Two years of blogging, and happy first birthday, wellbodymindheartspirit!

Two years ago today, I posted my first blog post on this blog. Back then, this blog was called The Zafu Report. After the first year, I expanded its mission and changed the name to The Well: bodymindheartspirit. The blog has evolved as I have evolved, and it’s been a great journey of learning by doing.

I am grateful to WordPress for providing templates and widgets that make it look good and take the skill and decision-making that goes with that out of my hands, freeing me up to write.

I thought I’d celebrate by listing the most viewed posts and thanking all of you who have connected. This, by the way, is the 503rd post I’ve published, and the blog has now received 26,847 views with 156 followers. My biggest lesson: persistence pays off.

  1. Home Page has gotten 4,493 views. Of course, the home page changes with each new post, so if you click a link that takes you to the blog, Home Page is where you land.
  2. Update on my Spartan trailer has received 1,844 views and the second most comments. A lot of people using search engines to find information about Spartan trailers end up here. (“spartan trailer,” “spartan trailer for sale,” “spartan carousel,” and “spartan trailers” are among the top 10 search engine terms to steer viewers to this blog.) I feel kind of badly for them because this is not a blog about Spartans. I happen to have purchased, transported, remodeled, and moved into a Spartan Carousel in the past year, and it’s definitely part of my lifestyle redesign to a more sustainable, less stressful way of life. In that way, it fits into my main topic of wellness, and after some internal debate, I decided to post about it here. Some Spartan-appreciating readers have lingered, commented, and/or checked out vintage or, and I’ve made a few new friends whose interests jive with mine in a broader way. This particular post was added in April 2011 when I had purchased the trailer but was still awaiting title and delivery.
  3. Trauma releasing exercises has gotten 1,132 views. This post in May 2010 was written when I first revealed that I’d been experimenting with them. I’ve written a lot of posts since then about both trauma releasing exercises and shaking medicine, but this one has gotten the most views, mostly via search engines, because of the simple title.
  4. More yoga tattoos! has been viewed 566 times. That post actually links to Alison Hinks’ blog post of yoga tattoos. She’s awesome with the visuals! The internet must have many users who are hungry for tattoos relating to Asian spirituality, since “yoga tattoos,” “yoga tattoo,” and “buddha tattoo” are also among the top 10 search terms that landed viewers here. I have a yoga tattoo myself, a small OM.
  5. About me is actually a page, not a post. It’s received 500 views. I actually revise that page every so often because how I describe myself changes and will continue to change. Good for you for coming back. This page has gotten a few comments, too.
  6. Comparing trauma release and shaking medicine videos has gotten 336 views, and I’m pleased to have posted it. My exploration of these healing modalities included locating videos of each online and sharing. Curious viewers can see each modality in action.
  7. Book review: Buddha’s Brain by Rick Hanson is the next most viewed blog post, at 326 views. I enjoyed reading this book and writing this review. I especially liked the appendix to the book that lists supplements for optimal brain health, written by Rick Hanson’s wife, an acupuncturist. I wrote about that in Buddha’s Brain: Supplements for brain health (236 views). I take them.
  8. The left brain right brain crossover has received 322 views. That seems surprising for an anatomy topic, but I guess a lot of curious brain geeks out there are wondering about this too. I got a few comments, and it was reassuring that one reader told me, “just to let you know that you could study this for years and it would still remain an enigma. such is the complexity of the human brain – even at a macroscopic level!”
  9. Spartan Carousel has arrived! got 319 views. That was posted in late June of 2011, the day after it arrived from southeast Washington.  It has some photos, and it’s received more comments than any other post. Thank you for sharing my joyous relief at its arrival!
  10. The tenth most viewed post is Fantastic prehistoric cave art movie, posted May 17, 2011, with 307 views. I loved that film by Werner Erhardt. This post was written before I saw the movie. It included online research I did in advance of seeing it. Okay, I know I’m geeky like that! My actual review, Movie review: The Cave of Forgotten Dreams, was the 20th most viewed blog post.

So there you have it, the most viewed posts in two years of blogging. Thank you for reading.

Body presence and awareness

This morning I was standing in line at the post office, and I could not stop making small movements as I stood. Shifting my weight from one foot to the other, letting my spine ripple up from the sacrum up, I became deeply aware of my muscular body, how muscles and connective tissue wrap around the bones and each other, and my body’s relationship with gravity and movement.

Today I have a sense that I have moved into my body more fully and become more physically present, more alive with more awareness. 

I like it.

I’m guessing this is a benefit of going to massage school and receiving/giving several massages a week as well as the last few years of working on my physical body with multiple healing modalities including yoga and shaking medicine.

The brain training I did in June could also be a factor, since changes continue for several months afterwards.

I’ve been lucky enough a couple of periods in my life to be able to afford a monthly full-body massage, and for several years to receive 15- to 30-minute massages at work once or twice a week. Massage is a great antidote for tension and stress, and it’s so beneficial if you can receive it regularly. 

We were told early on at massage school that we will receive 70 or so massages during the six months of training, and that that will change us.

I believe it. I feel more connected and present in my body already.


Today another HVAC expert looked at my Spartan trailer. I think I’ve found someone who can fix me up with a central heat and air unit using the existing closet and ductwork. He’s emailing me a bid, and once I crunch the numbers, I can make a decision and move forward.

It’s been so hot, it’s hard to work more than a few hours early in the day before needing some relief.

I’m making decisions today about the bathroom — tub surround, wall covering, vanity, sink, faucets, and more.

Progress is slower than I thought, and the decisions are worth getting right.

Why massage, yoga, shaking medicine, and movement make you feel so good

One of the coolest things I’ve learned in my first two weeks of massage school, besides that I actually know something from my years of experiencing bodywork and that my hands love connecting with people, is about fascia.

If you don’t know, fascia is the name for a type of connective tissue, a thin membrane. It is labeled superficial when it is right under the skin and deep when it surrounds, binds, and separates muscle. It’s really all the same — these terms just differentiate the location.

The semi-transparent membrane on an uncooked chicken breast is fascia.

Here’s a new word: thixotropism, from the Greek for touch and turning. It refers to the fascia’s ability to change from one state to another. Fascia has two states: a thin fluid (sol) and a thicker gel. In its thin state, it is fluid, pliant, and elastic, offering a wider range of movement. In its gel state, it is tougher, more inflexible, and restricts movement.

When the body is out of alignment, such as when the head is jutting forward, the fascia supporting those straining neck muscles become more gel-like, stiffer, and supportive.

When you feel stiff, it’s because the fascia is in its gel state.

Through touch, exercise, and/or stretching, fascia “melts” from gel to sol and becomes looser, more flexible, and elastic. This allows the muscles to be manipulated in massage, increases joint range of motion, and frees the body from restrictions in movement.

When you move fluidly and freely in your body, your fascia are in the sol state. And of course, that feels fantastic.

This is at least one piece of the physiology of why it feels so good to get a massage, do yoga, warm up your muscles through work or exercise, and do the movements of TRE and shaking medicine.

They literally transform stiffness into fluidity.

Conversely, this is why it feels bad to sit for prolonged periods, and why we need to stretch after the stillness of sleeping.

If you want to feel free in your body, move, shake — and get massages.

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!

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.

Update on trailer, brainwave optimization, TRE and shaking medicine

My Spartan Carousel trailer is still not here. Southeastern Washington state, usually somewhat desert-y, has had unusual flooding on the Columbia and Yakima Rivers. Although my trailer has been on high ground, the road to it has been underwater. However, it’s finally drying up, and a truck may be able to get in there and start its journey here any day now!

I’ve been having dreams about it for a couple of weeks now. Have talked to a handyman with RV experience about helping me get it operational.


It’s been almost a week since I did brainwave optimization at Neuro Beginnings. What I notice is that my thoughts and emotions seem clearer and I feel more together, sparkly, and capable than before.

Meditation and doing something physically active in nature, like walking or swimming or kayaking, each day seem to be really helping.

I am more aware of my mind than ever, and notice how untamed it often is, and yet it functions pretty well! I work on actively calming it (moving from beta to alpha) several times a day. When I meditate, I surrender from alpha into theta.

I’ve borrowed the book Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain,by David Eagleman, which “navigates the depths of the unconscious brain,” according to the book jacket. I am very much looking forward to reading it after I finish my current book.


I have experienced some spontaneous shaking, i.e., trembling without doing the trauma releasing exercises. A couple of times, I’ve noticed tension in my body and just laid down and shook for 5 minutes. Nice!

If I haven’t had any spontaneous shaking, I do the exercises about once a week. More of my body is involved. If you remember, at first it was just my legs, then my left arm and shoulder, and it has continued to spread.

I notice that I do less of the fine quivering or trembling, although I still experience that in my legs. I do more shaking, rocking, rolling, flapping, circling, twirling — repetitive movements of all kinds.

My body seems to like to do quite a variety of these, not staying in any one pattern for more than 15-20 seconds.

Then I lie still for a while, not knowing if I’m “done” shaking. I discovered that if I straighten my legs, sometimes they still need to shake. So my feet move back in forth, in unison and in opposition, and sometimes my heels bounce!

I’m also noticing that after I’ve laid on the floor and shaken, sometimes when I stand, my body still wants to make rhythmic movements for a while. These seem more dance-like, but it’s more like I am being moved than deliberately moving.

More and more I notice the feeling state I’m in after I tremble or shake. It’s like the channels are cleared out. I feel lighter, more open, more centered. My vibrations feel stronger and higher. I feel very balanced between mind and heart.

It is definitely a good feeling to have, a very pleasant state to be in, a kind of quiet, subtle ecstasy.

I wonder if I’m moving from the trauma releasing exercises into shaking medicine. Will keep you posted on that!

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.

Bodywork and TRE update

Yesterday I learned something: there is such a thing as too much bodywork.

I had an early appointment with Chandler Collins, DC, who did applied kinesiology on me. I’d been having some nerve pain down my outer left leg. He made it feel better. That was about 20 minutes.

At 11, I had two hours with Bo Boatwright. We talked and then did some tablework. We did the stretching myofascial release on my hips, and then he spent a good amount of time doing reiki on my left sacroiliac joint. Just quietly holding. I had some shaking in my left arm. Then a lot of neck work.

That is, if I’m remembering right. You’ve heard of “sex haze”? There seems to be such a thing as a bodywork haze, because when I showed up for my appointment with Fran Bell at 1:30, she took a good look at me and could tell I couldn’t integrate much more.

She taught me an exercise using a stability ball, worked on me, woke me up to being more present. We talked, then she got out her pendulum and had me lie on the table. She checked — my chakras were still, not spinning. (Heck, I can’t tell. All I know is how open they are.)

So she did more work with me on the table, and left me there to integrate it. I dipped down into delta waves for I don’t know how long. My chakras were spinning after that, energy reaching at least a couple of feet out.

Advised me to look at tree trunks and go home and take a nap.

It has hardly ever happened that my appointments line up on a single day like that. A few times I’ve seen two healers, but never three.

You really do need time after bodywork to integrate it and get the most out of it. Take a nap or do simple things — gazing at a landscape, walking at a leisurely pace, making a salad, playing with a child, listening to music — not reading, working on a computer, or watching anything intense on TV or movies. 


This morning I did the trauma releasing exercises, which I haven’t done for a few weeks.

Wow. I had an entirely new pattern come up. After shaking of legs, pelvis, arms, shoulders, and neck while lying with knees bent, soles on floor, I straightened my legs. Usually that puts an end to the shaking.

Not today.

My legs wanted to shake while lying straightened on the floor. They even came off the floor for a bit. Then they shook with my heels as pivots. My feet and legs rocked right and left in unison, like windshield wipers. They moved pointing out-in-out-in in unison. They moved forward and back in unison. Sometimes just my knees lifted and lowered repeatedly.

Some of these are Trager-like movements. (I’m barely familiar with Trager but remember that. My astrologer mentioned recently that she was certified in Trager and referred me to someone if I’m ready to experience it.)

When my body stops shaking, I lie still, not knowing if I’m done. Usually, more shaking arises.

I like to give my body the space and invitation to release what needs releasing. When nothing is forthcoming, just being still seems to give the deeper tensions time and permission to release. 

It wasn’t intense shaking when my legs were straight. The most intensity came from my arms and my legs with feet flat on floor. The rest of it was mild to moderate.


I am hoping to start Level I training in TRE later this summer. After completing it, I’ll be able to do sessions with individuals.

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:

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.

Comparing trauma release and shaking medicine videos

Having just done the exercises along with the Trauma Releasing Exercises DVD for the first time, I recommend using the video over using the book to get up to speed on these.

The extra exercises at the beginning are nice, and they are more pleasant to do with the models on the video. They make it seem easier and get to the shaking part more quickly.

Read the book, The Revolutionary Trauma Release Process, for background and detail.

Get both!

I know some of you are probably confused about these two techniques, trauma releasing and shaking medicine. They are different yet related.

The trauma releasing exercises are specifically designed to strain the feet and leg muscles so that they begin to quiver and tremble and shake and release the deeply held tension from trauma and prolonged stress.

Every body does this a little differently, but basically, you lie on your back on the floor and let your legs tremble. The trembling may move into your pelvis, spine, neck, hands, arms, and shoulders, as well. The whole process is done lying down.

A room full of people may be doing these exercises, but each is in his/her own space, not touching.

Deep emotions may arise during this process.

Here’s a video of people trembling after doing the trauma releasing exercises.

Shaking medicine, as far as I know, is a term coined by Dr. Bradford Keeney, who also wrote a book called Shaking Medicine: The Healing Power of Ecstatic Movement (which I’m currently reading but bought used without the 40-minute CD of ecstatic drumming it came with).

I see he has written another book, Shaking Out the Spirits, and released a 6-CD audio set from Sounds True, Shaking: The Original Path to Ecstasy and Healing.

Shaking medicine is practiced in cultural traditions around the world, including the Kalahari Bushmen, Quakers, Shakers, and holy rollers. Shakers may stand, sit, and lie on ground, and move from one to the other “as the spirit moves them.” It also may be accompanied by vocalizations such as shouting and singing.

This kind of shaking is a way to heal and connect with God and let spirit move you. Literally.

It too may be accompanied by deep emotional release.

Here’s a video of Bradford Keeney shaking with some Kalahari Bushmen. It’s pretty long but you can certainly get a sense that this kind of shaking is different. It’s part of a community ritual with singing, drumming, and clapping.

It’s also practiced by individual shamans healing people with their shaking touch, sometimes passing the shaking on to another person.

In my current view, trauma releasing is a form of shaking medicine. Both practices release energy blockages and enhance the flow of chi in the body. Literally, both use shaking to heal, thus they are shaking medicine.

The term shaking medicine sounds pretty woo-woo and far out. The term trauma releasing exercises sounds much less threatening of the dominant paradigm and has a “legitimate” purpose that you could probably get a grant for researching.

The biggest difference I see is that shaking medicine is also an ecstatic practice. That word, ecstasy, isn’t associated with trauma release.

I haven’t had an opportunity to do shaking medicine yet (or have I? I practiced ecstatic dance for a dozen years…)

Both TRE and shaking medicine are kin to rebirthing and holotropic breathwork, which use breath to release deeply held tension and emotion.

I have a hunch that with all of these practices, when you’re done, you feel full of life and clean and fresh, very present, unstoried, and renewed. When you feel stale, you do it again.

I’ll keep reading and report on the book when I’m done, or when I find something too good to keep to myself.

Meanwhile, I’m looking for someone to do holotropic breathwork with me.

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…