Transformational Spring Reading – Hold Me Tight

I have been thinking about belonging, and the various points in my life when I felt I more or less belonged.  At this particular phase where I live a rather secluded life due both to personal choice and the more recent COVID-19 pandemic, all of my attention is going toward taking care of my most basic needs, I set up my daily schedule so I can get all of that important self-care stuff in like I never have before.  My house is set up so it can be as efficient as possible.  If I didn’t make a concerted effort to do it, I assure you, it wouldn’t get done. 

The quality of my life, of my future, depends on how well I meet my basic needs.  This was also true when I was an infant.  Like all infants, I had many needs and obviously a good many of them were met because I survived, right?  I am here writing this blog post.  But as I am getting more clear on my unmet infant needs now, my home was set up primarily to meet everyone else’s needs because either they were providing the income necessary to put a roof over our heads or because they were attending to one urgent emergency after another, juggling financial hardship and probably postpartum depression, leaving me not feeling particularly safe or cherished.  The home was not set up to make sure that my unique needs were well met. 

I have more clarity about this today because of a book I’m reading called Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love, by Dr. Sue Johnson (a little hint as to what I was needing and not getting).  The book’s basic premise can be summed up with an acronym, A.R.E., which stands for Accessible, Responsive, and Emotionally Engaged. The level of belonging I felt in my family of origin was directly proportionate to the degree to which I felt that my caretakers were accessible, responsive to my needs, and able to emotionally engage with me. 

The quality of my relationships and my adult life have been a reflection of the absence of the accessibility, responsiveness and emotional engagement that nobody but me was even aware of.  Through this lens, I can finally see what it was that caused me to create relationships where I did not feel connected or safe.  And now that I am in the process of parenting myself well, I am experiencing what it feels like to be safe and connected, if only to myself.  And it is with great joy and anticipation that I can say that I feel as though a whole new world awaits me.  As a result of the ongoing dedication I have to caring for myself well, and books and other resources such as this, I am broadening my vocabulary, my capacity to experience new things interpersonally and educating myself about what is possible when we feel truly attuned to, and are accessible to our tender selves, responsive to our own needs, and committed to staying emotionally engaged with ourselves – uncomfortable emotions, vulnerable needs and all. 

I see a very different life opening up for me, where the dialogue involves a whole lot of listening to and paying attention to what delights me (even if that sounds silly or selfish), and at the same time offering myself an environment that provides safety, along with the structure and tangible practicalities that are necessary to meet the more typically recognized needs like adequate rest, good enough hygiene, sufficient exercise, hydration, routines that ensure that my spiritual needs are met, human connection and remedial care that my body requires after a lifetime of neglect.  A lifetime of not being sure that I was the kind of person who could get attuned to, responded to, and emotionally engaged with – at least with a parent or a primary partner.   Holding it all together on the outside is a very different thing from feeling that sense of safety and true belonging on the inside that is a result of strong bonds and healthy intimate relationships, whether it is the mother-infant dyad or the couple who knows how to stay calm and listen and offer assurance when his or her partner is experiencing intense emotions or an automatic reflex that harks back to an earlier traumatic moment.

Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love, by Dr. Sue Johnson is a godsend.  It is just the material I needed to catapult my healing work forward.  I recommend it highly to anyone who wants to experience more depth, connection and oxytocin in intimate relationship.

“…once distressed partners learn to hold each other tight, they continue reaching out to each other, trying to create these transforming and satisfying moments again and again. I believe that A.R.E. interactions turn on this neurochemical love potion honed by millions of years of evolution. Oxytocin seems to be nature’s way of promoting attachment.”

– Dr. Sue Johnson in Hold Me Tight

Prayer?

Over time it has become increasingly evident that prayer is the single most powerful tool in my toolbox.  For me, there are three aspects to prayer: Gratitude, Asking, and Humility. 

You might not think of the first, initially.  So let’s look at GRATITUDE.  I see gratitude as letting the powers – whatever they are – know that I have noticed and received the abundant gifts all around me.  I accept!  I delight in them; I take them in.  I receive them; they are for me.  I feel loved and grateful.  I notice all manner of things, large and small, obvious and subtle; straightforward and quirky.  These gifts are here, whether I notice them or not.  I attribute them to a benevolent force more powerful than me.  I let my thank yous flow free and abundant.

The second aspect of prayer is ASKING for what I want more of.  Something that is not as easy as it sounds for many of us.  Reaching for what our hearts desired was often shamed out of us as children, and it was not in our repertoire to believe that we were worthy of asking God for what we wanted.  Therefore, we unlearned to naturally reach for what we wanted or put importance on developing a regular or clear sense of what we liked or preferred.  Rather we learned to hope that if we were good enough (not greedy or selfish), God would reward us with all He thought we needed and that was the correct and proper way of it.  Nor were we encouraged to know ourselves to understand what made us uniquely ourselves, and what made our unique hearts sing (beyond merely getting by).  This is what we saw our parents doing too.  I sometimes attribute this trait to my Puritan ancestors.  Make no mistake, it is not normal or healthy; it is a form of intergenerational trauma.  But I digress.

I now understand that for so many years my body was too bound up in defenses and unprocessed emotions to ask for what I wanted.  And there was the issue of the missing skill set.  That is what I am working on now.  And I am making beautiful strides.  This crucial step in growing one’s self up emotionally involves studying oneself and noticing when they like something.  A smile creeps over your face.  You feel lighter.  You sense that your heart has been flung open.  Or there might be a subtle putting down of defenses, a relaxing.  A nod.  And then taking that one step further, taking the risk to admit, I want more of that, please.  Can you help me?  For me, that is the third aspect of prayer: HUMILITY.  

As I dedicate these days to studying myself, caring for myself and slowing way down in the heart of this COVID-19 quarantine, I think of The Serenity Prayer, which tells us to ask for the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.  This is such an important prayer to be praying at this time.  Being confused about what we do and don’t have control of is something that might also have followed us from emotionally impoverished childhoods.   It was developmentally appropriate at age seven to believe we had control of things we absolutely did not.  Many of us learned that we should try to control things we had no business controlling – other people’s moods, feelings, opinions of us.  And without proper role models or any other way to recognize these errors, we entered into adulthood with the toxic combination of unexamined shame and unrealistic expectations of ourselves and others: I am responsible for the bad things that are happening.  I am responsible for your bad mood, etc.  I should be doing something to fix this.  And if I try harder to be what you need me to be, then I might be able to get what I so desperately need.

Wisdom often comes with maturity which comes not just from getting older, but from resolving trauma and releasing hurt from the past.  It is what helps us know whether we should accept a thing or fight to change it.  And whether it is ours to change.

My wish for you is that you learn to cultivate a prayer practice beginning with gratitude.  Pray.  Ask for what you want, even if you’re not sure what to ask for.  Even when you can’t see how your heart’s desires could possibly be granted.  Spend time thinking about what you would rather have.  What you want more of, what would truly delight you.  Go ahead.  Make it detailed, and imagine what it feels, looks, tastes, smells and sounds like when you actually have what you have asked for.  Write those things down because they matter.

You are an infinite being of light; one cell in the organism of humanity.  And that organism needs you and me to be fully who we are, to choose for ourselves what we want.  To reach for what makes us shine, what delights us, to bud and blossom into all of who we are, which necessitates kicking into self-care mode, fearless self-attunement.  I do this now in order to coax out what I had deemed as my shadow before, but which is actually my Great Self. 

Spirit, please let this time be the container I need to study, to know and to nurture my Great Self.  Help me to appreciate and cherish Her.  Help me to value Her above all else.  Guide me so that I can be the person I came here to be, to contribute what the world needs most from me and can only get from me.  Guide me so that I can find my way to my tribe, to feel that I belong.  To share physical warmth, harmony and deep connection in a supportive family environment, to be part of a whole – a thing of great functional beauty.  This family community is the one that gets to usher in a new version of modern life.  A more sustainable one, connected to heart and filled with physical and emotional warmth, balance and beauty.    Thank you, and so it is.  Amen.

Thank you, Spirit, for putting me in a family of visionaries and healers.  Three of the healers and visionaries who are inspiring me during this pandemic, who never cease to amaze me with the way they use their gifts and talents to make the world a better place, and serve as role models for me, also happen to be sisters. If you don’t already know them, allow me to introduce them to you:

Tracy Barnett inspires me endlessly in her tireless ability to see the bigger picture, to be an advocate for the planet, and for people who are on the front lines making strides toward not just environmental and economic sustainability but regenerative living. She has helped me to add flesh to the bones of my vision of what that kind of life might look and feel like, and that is such a priceless gift. She supports so many in telling their stories that would otherwise go untold. With her magnificent heart and her journalistic spirit, she shows us the world, and introduces us to change makers and wisdom holders. I hope you will check out her recent Patreon and learn more about Tracy at Esperanza Project.

I have had the great pleasure to witness the blossoming of Tami Brunk, Shamanic Astrologer, as she literally blossoms these past couple months. Quarantine for her prompted the call for a free Earth Sky Woman Summit, a gathering of enlightened women who shed their light and share gifts to help those of us who want to maximize this time of transition, or a portal into a profoundly changed post-pandemic world. That summit can be viewed here. Tami recently kicked off a brand new podcast which you can check out here. Tami’s knowledge of astrology and her ability to zero in on what is most important right now never fails to knock my socks off.

Trina Brunk continues to inspire me by doing her own sacred and beautiful work, to share on her own Patreon, and to offer SoulPath Sessions, Hypnotherapy, and EFT Support Groups. Not to mention inspiring music, kirtan, poetry and artwork. SoulPath is my favorite of her offerings, which powerfully and consistently help me connect with my spiritual supports, remove blocks to love that I didn’t even know were there, and blast through self-defeating patterns that have flown beneath the radar for so long. She is a wonder, and I don’t know what I would do without her.

I have immeasurable gratitude for these three during this time of great transformation and change. If you need inspiration on your journey of learning to better care for yourself and/or create a better future for yourself and the planet, I encourage you to check out their free offerings or dive deeper and get individualized attention you need to break out into a deeper, richer, more connected reality for yourself and those in your circle.

Affirmations to Address Blocks to Sweetness and Abundance

And the kicker, which is a combination of my conditioning and what my body instinctively knows: This really is a matter of life or death. I die either way. If I’m not attuned to or if I demand what I want/need. The ultimate double bind.

(As infants) “our most intimate sense of self is created in our minute-to-minute exchanges with our caregivers.”
“Early attachment patterns create the inner maps that chart our relationships throughout life, not only in terms of what we expect from others, but also in terms of how much comfort and pleasure we can experience in their presence.”

Bessel van der Kolk in The Body Keeps the Score

I get to reach out for what I want.
I am more of who I came here to be when I reach for what I want.
I get connection that feels sweet to me.
I get to have friends who give of themselves, who have skills, who do their emotional work.
Doing without is not a virtue.
Doing without is a way of shutting down and blocking the flow of good.
Identifying with doing without is another form of anger, resentment and unfelt pain.
God and I are on the same team.
God tells me what I want and need by giving me emotional responses, which I can attune to, and learn from.
I can be involved in this process.
It isn’t some mysterious process that happens behind the scenes.
If I stay in denial about my emotions and needs, I am telling myself that I am not worthy of my own care and attention.
There is no reward for applying austerity measures in response to scarcity.
I am totally worthy of the sweet stuff.
Doing without is not what gets me what I should have had in the first place.
Doing without is not what gets me what is already available and free for the taking: the really sweet stuff of life.
The really sweet stuff of life is free.
I am the one who gets to say what I like and what is sweet to me, in each moment.
There is no should when it comes to my desires.
I am completely worthy of pursuing my heart’s desires.
Spirit is right behind me, encouraging me to reach for and satisfy exactly that.
My heart’s desires are gifts, and I can attune to them, clarify them, and explore them.
I am encouraged to act on my desires.
I can be deeply satisfied even when I am reaching for other things I don’t yet have.
Me being deeply satisfied hurts nobody!
I can get what I want and need.
I release the pain, frustration, anger, resentment, and terror of not being well-attuned to in infancy and childhood.
I can let that go now.

These affirmations sprung out of my head after working with a client who shares my blocks around moving from scarcity to abundance.

The fear and pain and resentment that is trapped in a human body from infancy and childhood can be expressed in words.  Once the words are stated, a part of oneself can feel seen, heard and validated.  Once the feelings are acknowledged, they can actually be released.

Here are the emotions (not truths) expressed in words:

• If I do without (the sweet stuff – these profoundly necessary things: connection, being attuned to well, expression of my desires) I will be rewarded.
• The real reward comes if I am self-disciplined and accept doing without (without complaining or being upset).
• I will be rewarded with what I “really” need (what God thinks I need).
• If I accept the lie and tell myself I’m not worthy – for some reason – of the sweet stuff in life, then I will subconsciously believe that doing without what I really want will get me what I should have; that I will be rewarded and that I will then be worthy.
• Sacrificing gets me the good stuff, that I may or may not like or understand, but God knows better than me, so I’ll trust and accept that.
• If I accept the other lie that what I really want is not a trustworthy or reliable gauge of what I should have, I’ll eventually get what I should have.
• I can’t trust my desires, for sure. That will bring me unhappiness.
• Acknowledging my desires and outwardly reaching for what I want is selfish and bad and will only result in unhappiness.
• I will be punished if I act on my desires.
• There will be serious negative consequences if my wants and needs are deeply satisfied. It will probably really hurt someone I love.
• It is impossible for my wants and needs to be satisfied, so it’s an infernal waste of time to pursue that or focus on them.
• This really is a matter of life or death. I die either way.
• If I’m not attuned to or if I ask directly for what I want/need.

Ode to the Mother

I am willing to remember what it feels like.

Wow.  So many of us are traveling the same path, though not realizing how others are quietly doing their own work that is so very similar to ours, right alongside us.

It was so lovely to see Trina Brunk drawing on her Paneurhythmy roots in her recent post, and this exquisite piece of music with her resonant, moving rendering.  I was listening to it this morning, wrapping my mind around the idea that for the past several decades I have been learning how to put words to how it feels to NOT feel/have this. 

I listened thinking first of the universal feeling of unbounded, uncontaminated mother love – when it does happen – and then I made the Earth Day connection.  (How ironic! Because it was the Earth connection I know – not the infant connection with my biological mother). 

Today it strikes me that increasingly, I have seen the importance of feeling what THIS does feel like, even though it is not strongly in my immediate memory.  And anger and resentment and fear have been blocks to reaching consistently for it (stemming from old feelings of unworthiness?).  Below is an affirmation set I wrote for a friend a week or so ago.  It was inspired somewhat by Trina’s Closer Than You Think system of clearing old trauma, but also by Theta Healing, The Work, and EFT:

  • I now release any feelings of unworthiness from all lifetimes past, present and future.
  • I am willing to release feelings of unworthiness.
  • I can allow myself the time I need to remember what it feels like to be completely worthy.
  • I allow myself to remember what it feels like to be completely worthy.
  • I am completely worthy.

What a glorious musical piece; what a glorious expression of YOU, Trina.  To support us all in feeling loved and worthy of this huge unconditional love.


Ripple Effect in My Body

I feel like I have been following a trail of breadcrumbs to the diagnosis of TMD or Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, which I received with a huge sense of relief in November.  I followed one un-ignorable breadcrumb to another: the inability to chew because of pain and sensitivity, months and even years after getting dental work on several molars; developing what seemed like tendonitis in my right arm; chronic, never abating pain in the neck; one chronically constricted muscle along the right margin of my spine; the inability to sit for very long before experiencing back pain; difficulty standing without slumping.  My massage therapist and others had mentioned mouth guards, and how well they worked for a lot of people.  My chiropractor noticed that the pattern of lock-up I experience seemed to originate somewhere around my right neck/shoulder.  My CranioSacral therapist said that there was an irritated nerve in my molar, but that the tooth was healthy enough.  An iridologist in Missouri said that there was something significant going on in my jaw/shoulder area.  I clearly had a problem.  Now the breadcrumbs had finally led me to a solution.

Since I’ve been seeing a specialist recommended by my dentist, and have been wearing a mouth guard, I have been slowly recognizing that for many years I had been unconsciously clenching – not just in my jaw, and jutting it forward, but other places in my body as well.  Little by little I bring consciousness to places in my body where I had been unknowingly tightening my muscles.  And I am learning, slowly, how to direct my attention toward those places with love and care.  And even more slowly, I am learning what it feels like when I am truly relaxed.  As I do, the pain is going away as if by magic. 

I have been instructed to wear my mouth guard night and day.  Wearing it during the night was helping, but not enough.  Dr. Citlali, my specialist, explained that my jaw is so habituated to being in a forward position, that I will need some time to train it to be where it is supposed to be.  After having the guard and using it night and day (when I’m not eating), when I take it out, I notice that my teeth come together differently.  Now it feels a little odd because it will take a while for me to get used to having it in the right place after having it forward all these years (maybe +50?).

This makes me think about how that misalignment must have been impacting my teeth.  When I was always chewing using my molars in a way that they were not designed to be used, with the jaw jutted forward, they just didn’t line up right, which caused undue wear and tear on them.  They served me as best they could under the circumstances, but with time, they wore down, chipped and cracked.  Now I understand why I have always needed so much dental work on my molars.  Before this treatment is said and done, I’m going to need to raise the height of the molars themselves because form follows function; my teeth have changed to accommodate my jaw movement patterns over time.  As a result of my jaw being relaxed and in the right place, many muscles (that I had no idea I was clenching) begin to relax.  This one little thing has had an impact throughout my entire body. 

The good news is that in response to the treatment (ongoing work with Dr. Citlali via the mouth guard) my body is relaxing and settling into its new normal.  I am noticing a ripple effect.  My arm (I couldn’t use that arm without pain) is back to normal.  My back feels somewhat improved, but it’s all the way back there and I still can’t really tell for sure.  The brittle feeling I was having in my feet and ankles is gone, and I sense my feet as newly supple and responsive to the demands I put on them.

With ongoing care scheduled (I have an appointment with the kinesiologist and two massages with my favorite massage therapist in the next couple weeks), I hope to bring even more awareness to those places so that my new normal will be relaxed, stronger and even more resilient than before. 

With this kind of care, education and support, I can learn to notice when I am clenching or drawing in, and anytime I tune in, I will more easily and automatically be able to return to a healthy, relaxed state. 

Through my healing process, I am bringing loving, conscious attention to obviously affected places, and my body in general, and am definitely feeling results.  Over the years, my legs did not really seem to be part of me, and it felt precarious to move through life in a fluid and grounded way.  By comparison, I can look back at times when it felt as though I was walking on tree stumps.  What I experience now is so much more fluid and integrated.  Like my right leg – my shins – my heels.  They are now parts of me.  I walk with more connectedness/awareness, more fully inhabiting my feet and lower legs. 

So, the journey continues.  I am super excited about this, and I am interested to see what happens next!

What is Embodiment, Anyway?

People ask me what I mean when I say embodiment, and it’s a subtle thing, really.  If you are busy all the time, you run the risk of missing it – that is, until you are faced with debilitating pain, chronic aches, or unexplained disorders.  But that is really not what I’ve come here to talk about.  For me it’s much more fun to talk about what I’m experiencing in this process, which is more like watching grass grow than going to a doctor for a prescription and a more sadly standard cure.  My way, of course, is worlds more empowering and fulfilling.  There are so many dimensions to what I want to talk about, so it’s hard to know where to begin, and like I said before, it’s subtle but life changing – winding but profound – when you commit yourself to it as a way of life.

Mammals lick their young.  Watch a mother lion lick its cub.  (skip to minute 4 if you don’t have much time) This activity is nothing like what happens when a stressed-out working mother bathes or otherwise cares for her young.  When a mammal in nature cares for her young she is relaxed herself.  The motion almost a meditation.

When I was on the roof the other morning, just before sunrise, I thought of her in that warm meditative place, as I rolled an empty olive oil bottle around on the knotted and burning fibers of my muscles and ligaments and attachments, along the length of my lower leg.  As the sky had turned from twinkling stars to glimmering-on-the-rim to rosy and then bright, I rested in my quiet place inside.  As the hardness of the green glass met the various places on the leg I adjusted my motion so as to appropriately meet each complaint, each whimper, each outcry of rage for having been neglected and taken for granted for so long with not so much as an ounce of consideration for its never failing loyalty and devotion.  Imagining the mother, adjusting the pressure of her tongue so as to have the desired effect…the seemingly compulsive motion of the tongue designed to work out the knots, soften the stressed and defended places and render the tiny thing completely undefended…never having to ask for warmth, closeness, connection, or attention to its needs.

Since I took up the practice of bringing the bottle with me to the roof, originally for the purpose of rolling my feet, I notice that I walk on cobblestones a lot easier and with a whole lot more grace and agility.  Since I have been working on my quads and lower legs, I have begun to build a relationship with my legs.  They tell me where they hurt, but only if I ask.  They tell me how much pressure to use, but only if I’m present.  They tell me what they want, but only if I’m unhurried.  And, despite some old fear that their needs can never be met and that giving them attention will be a colossal mistake, they soften.  The pain subsides and I discover more about my legs that I never knew before.  No-touch zones turn to touch-with-care zones.  Touch-with-care zones turn to burning-like-fire zones.  Burning-like-fire zones turn to boy-that-feels-good zones, and on and on it goes.

Along with this relationship I’m building with my legs I am making connections about various parts of my body and how they work together.  For example, I had a bodywork session with a German friend (who worked with my shoulder blades, asking me to engage muscles I had no idea I could operate), who left me with an increased ability to – might I say delight in – lowering my shoulder blades, pulling them down against the contracted and chronically tense and indistinguishable muscle mass around my neck and shoulders.  With her help, I made some progress, and with the next bodywork session I expect to reclaim another formerly estranged and exiled body part.

I noticed, the other day, a sweet sensation of delight after pulling up some leg warmers over my leggings.  A sensation I don’t think I’ve ever noticed before.  I wonder in astonishment.  How have I gotten to be this age without knowing how the various parts of my body relate to one another in a kinesthetic way?  I’ve taken the anatomy classes and I’ve memorized a lot of anatomic terms, but it’s the finding of them in my body that’s always alluded me.  It’s the knowing of them sensually that I’ve tragically missed.  And in re-membering each one – slowly, tentatively – I understand why I cut them off in the first place.  There is so much information stored there!

This morning, for example, tending to my leg, and all those burning sensations, I begin to make connections in my mind.  This is about an old story that started when I was 15 or 16.  Wanting to run but can’t run, my inner 16-year-old tells me.  Wanting to run but can’t run wanting to run but can’t run.  My life depends on it, and I can’t run, but needing to run.  It burns.

I have not always had the presence of mind, the inclination, the patience or the curiosity to explore that sensation I called pain and shoved aside with disgust.  I was stronger than that.  No self-respecting person admitted to pain, much less indulged in giving it attention.

But my attention and curiosity turns any pain into an important piece of information I can use to take care of myself.  Pain, as it turns out, is not better ignored.  It is better used to tend to real needs and real wounds, which with a little care and attention, eventually melt into pure consciousness, connectedness and bliss.

Now I am not afraid of becoming a slave to my old wounds and pain.  I stroke and caress.  I tease out the knots.  I soothe the burning muscles into submission.  Now, as I do this, I know that as my body relaxes, as I care for it and become better acquainted with its nooks and crannies, a million tiny connections are made, sending signals to my brain that I am okay, that I am worthy of attention, that I deserve care, that my needs are not too much, and that there is nothing wrong with my body that a little TLC can’t make right.

Horse Therapy – Living Without Defenses

Three weeks ago I had a Horse Therapy session with Tonya Crady in Festus MO.  It took some coaxing for me to do it, but I finally agreed, having been called in many ways to find out more about this mysterious healing modality.  This was my chance.  I knew Tonya, and I knew she was good people.  The therapy itself gave me plenty to chew on, with Tonya’s support in assigning meaning to each of her three beautiful horses and seeing what they did when they encountered me.  During the session, Tonya gave me a task to complete and watched how I went about doing it, and took pictures of me throughout the session.  She also instructed me to pay attention to the other animals that showed up in my life on the day of the therapy, during the therapy and afterwards.  Days after the therapy we went through the pictures she had taken, which told me a whole lot about myself, what I’m up to on a social and emotional level, and a whole lot of other things I could have never learned in traditional psychotherapy.  Today I am arriving at some very exciting new realizations about defenses I have used against intimacy and what the Universe is trying to tell me about it.

The therapy session itself was kind of puzzling.  Trying to figure out what it all meant, trying to do it “right,” trying to do it efficiently, as my mom was kind enough to wait for me in the car while I did it, circumstances as they were.  We were there anyway, she encouraged me to do it, so I did.  After it was over, we all got into Tonya’s jeep and she proceeded to drive us back to her house where Mom’s car was.  It had gotten quite dark and when we were about halfway to Tonya’s house we all saw the possum with his gleaming eyes staring us down, there in the middle of the road.  Tonya slowed down to a crawl in her jeep, assuming that the creature would run and save itself, but when we got to where the animal was, we heard a sickening bump as the vehicle struck the animal.  Or did the animal strike the vehicle?  Tonya looked at me with an agonized grimace.  It had not been her intention to kill the little guy.  During the next several days, more dead possums showed up along with Skunk and Armadillo. Armadillo is said to represent armoring as a defense.  And Skunk also showed up representing defensiveness.  They all showed up as carrion, though.

What I’m coming to believe is that this phase of my life is about living without defenses.  The primary defense that was put on the chopping block that night was Possum, followed by Skunk and Armadillo.

Possum freezes, plays dead.  His nervous system shuts down so that his predator thinks he’s dead (or gone), and often the predator will lose interest and leave him alone long enough for him to escape.  Freezing, playing dead, shutting down until the danger is gone, and then leaving when the coast is clear is exactly what I learned to do, watching my sister Tracy’s attempts at independent thought, questioning authority, or fighting for her rights in the family, which brought a whole lot of noise and resistance from our parents, and sometimes even what seemed to me like violence.  It all felt like too much.  Individuating seemed like something I, personally, would never be able to pull off, being 4 years younger and so much smaller, so I avoided all that and did my best to get along.  I had defenses at my disposal, like stinking up the place with stinging criticism or an unflattering “truth” when the opportunity presented itself or if backed into a corner.  And for sure I armored myself to the hilt.

This might explain why I was so shy and felt so generally unsafe to be playful or controversial or vulnerable around groups of people.  Instead I was serious and hardworking.  I was “the good one.”  I listened carefully and did what I could to offer support.

This also might explain why I am affected the way I am when a loved one escapes injury or experiences a close call – with my daughters in particular.  While talking to Tracy yesterday I was explaining how when my oldest daughter told me about a close call she’d had, and how thankful she was to be safe, I noticed that the image of the disaster she escaped was still stronger than the information I got with my eyes when I saw her, all intact and smiling afterwards (more than two weeks ago).

I don’t have much in the way of childhood memories, but I get a strong sense that when we were younger, and Tracy was being threatened with violence and when there was a lot of noise and angry discussion going on, I must have been terrified for her safety and mine, and probably dissociated, and didn’t ever quite recover from that.  Unlike Tracy, who was duking her way out, knowing what she wanted, and believing that she could cause a ruckus and still have a family and a home afterwards, she moved through the normal cycles of discomfort, vocalizing her discomfort, getting various reactions from our parents; sometimes getting her way and sometimes not.  In any case, she didn’t learn that resistance was futile, as I did.  She could feel the rewards of her small victories, which at my age probably didn’t make much sense to me, whether it was fighting to be able to listen to a popular radio station, watch a TV program, stay out an hour later with friends or get an allowance.

Through Horse Therapy, I learned that I can get what I want and need, I am way more powerful than I ever imagined, and I have not only adoration, but also support and cooperation from those around me.  What is required of me is to believe in my power and worth and ask for what I want.

Here are the other animals that showed up:

The support Tonya received to help her prepare for the session and set the foundation for the session:

  • Barn Swallows – sun rays and playfulness; showering home with love and protection
  • Frog – connects us with world of emotions; supports us in time of change
  • Turtle (with missing foot) – take it slow. Be gentle.  Abundant wisdom.
  • Groundhog – Ability to watch out for danger and move to safety; family, community.

The support Tonya received during the session:

  • Fly – abrupt change regarding lies, gossip, dirty; impurities

The support I received to help me prepare for the session and set the foundation for the session:

  • Deer (in a large group with babies) – Sensitivity, intuition, gentleness; fertility

The support I received during the session:

  • Lightning bugs – Illumination

During the night after the session, I spent some time lying in the bathroom floor with cramps.  I processed some old memories about an ongoing trauma from my late teens having to do with my first husband and how our relationship began.

The support I received after the session for processing and release:

  • Armadillo – helps you define your space; armoring
  • Skunk – defense mechanism; prudence, valor, awareness
  • Possum – protects itself by dissociating, playing dead, becoming immobile

My old, automatic defenses are useless to me now, they don’t really protect me.  I can’t armor myself, cause a big stink or play dead anymore if I want to get what I really want, which is deep and rewarding closeness with other people.  I release the need to use these defenses any longer.  I allow myself to move through life in my power, using my voice to communicate with others about who I am, what I want, and what I need.

The support I received even later, for processing and release:

  • Pooping Hawk – awareness; sharp eyesight. Release.

The support I received even later, for processing and release:

  • Pooping Squirrel – Don’t be so serious; have more fun. Release.
  • Baby bunny – fertility, innocence.

Another important thing to note is that the session was on Saturday, two days after the full moon.  Lots of planets were retrograde.  We were still in the very powerful activation of release, with a need to slow down and just be where we were.  All of this served to kick up what had been in the shadow, so that it could be released.

Animals that have visited since:

  • Groundhog – watch out for danger, boundaries, and hard work; helps us bring up stuff to work on
  • More squirrels – fun, playfulness
  • Cricket – cheerfulness, good luck
  • Grasshopper – good Luck. Trust your inner voice. Take a leap of faith and jump forward without fear. This has to do with change on a larger scale, and has to do with how you perceive myself.  You are taking the right steps to move forward in your current situation. Go ahead and move forward, to get past what is hindering you.
  • Blue heron – immerse yourself in the world of feelings and look for your own truths.  If you only ever look at yourself in a negative frame of mind, you never really understand your true potential or see the opportunities that come your way.  Heron tells us that we need to really reflect on our feelings and get to know who we are intimately to find our true calling in life. He tells us to claim responsibility and face the enemy that lives inside us all.    Sometimes he wants us to find balance with our truths inside, work on our inner weaknesses and develop the inner strengths we possess so that we really own our spirituality.
  • Deer – sensitivity, intuition, gentleness; fertility
  • Turkey (maybe) – a spirit animal closely associated with honoring nature and the Earth. Symbol of abundance, this totem animal encourages us to honor our sources of nourishment, whether they are physical, emotional or spiritual. The turkey reminds us to develop a harmonious relationship with the land and our environment and consider them as foundations to our well-being and sustenance. The Turkey totem is a powerful guide to unlocking the fullness of life and feeling content with what we have instead of accumulating material belongings to seek happiness.
  • Cardinal – in this case, cardinal symbolism is reminding you to be clearer with your intentions. Moreover, setting a clear and insightful goal for yourself will accomplish everything you are asking for and more. The key is to focus and set your intentions clearly to expedite matters.
  • Hummingbird – lightness of being, swiftness, independence, courage, sensitivity, determination, love, beauty, endurance, wisdom, vitality, hope, and enjoyment of life.
  • Owl – intuition, transition, wisdom, silence, observation, quick wit, independence, power, intelligence, and protection. Prophecy and wisdom.

You can find Tonya Crady here.  Drop her a line if you want to set up an appointment.

Meet Mariana

Mariana is my Spanish teacher, my friend, my translator and now my publisher.  Here she describes her publishing house, Ban Pang – Casa de Harina Editorial.

Thanks to Mariana, my book is going to be available to speakers of Spanish anywhere in the world.  Being In My Body (Estar en mi Cuerpo) is now available in Spanish as a PDF.  Read more about the book here.  You can get your copy here.  By August 18 it will also be available in paperback!

Photo Shoot – Being In My Body (Estar En Mi Cuerpo)

This is what emotional work can look like!

This past couple days has been so interesting, as I wrestle with my body’s terror about being the center of attention and knee-jerk reactions to staying present in situations where resources are coming from others to me, specifically.  It’s really stretching my mind and my understanding and challenges the wiring of my brain.  Not always fun, and not always comfortable, but always held in love and gentleness and so much kindness and creativity.

Hope you like my photo collection!  Watch for more photos from the shoot which will be appearing on Facebook and other forms of social media over the next couple months.  They will make up the launch for Estar En Mi Cuerpo, but they will be professional photographs by Kitzia, who I am sure you are going to love.  For those of you who don’t know, Estar En Mi Cuerpo is the Spanish title for Being In My Body, What You Might Not Have Known About Trauma, Dissociation, & The Brain.  The other women in the photos are so dear to my heart – my translator, Mariana and her sister, Margarita.

Margarita, setting the tone for Day 1

Mariana, Shoot Director, Translator and Publisher

Kitzia, Photographer

Kitzia, Mariana, Margarita, at Bicycle Snack Station

Bicycle wheel table and reading the coffee grounds

Juice and coffee stop

Kitzia loves this pup

Photograph the photographer – What a love

It just doesn’t get any sweeter than this.

Aren’t I photogenic?

The Crew – Day 2

Breaking Free

I was at Unity Center in Portland on New Year’s Eve – The last day of 2017.  These two weeks I have been visiting my sister Trina and her family has been such a blessing, and stepping into the Unity Center here I immediately felt the warmth, beauty, inspiration, and safety that I’ve always felt at the Unity Center back in Columbia Missouri.  I jotted down some notes that the speaker was sharing, and I’ll record them here, for you to see if you’re interested…and for my own future reference.

Moving into this new year, I am being asked to expand.  Do I believe that real change is possible?  This year is about breaking free of the prison of my old programming, my beliefs, my limitations.  I am being supported in living as if the chains that have held me are breaking and falling away.
I am so much larger than my doubts and fears.
There is so much more for me to do.
I am at the very brink of finding a larger picture of myself and my world.
What would I like to feel in 2018?
Here I am.  Move through me, Spirit.

Since that service on Sunday, I have been writing short paragraphs in my journal that begin like this:  I am thinking about how it will feel when/to…..

And each paragraph gives a sweet, detailed snapshot into an aspect of my new life.  Spend some time doing this.  Take time to savor and review and revise your writings for the next week or so, noticing how it feels when you imagine your new, desired life.

Give it a try!  Take a chance; get clear on what you want more of and ask for it!

I am thinking about how it will feel when/to…..