A New Year, and Part 6

Here I am on the first Tuesday in 2017 pledging to you my intention to write every Tuesday this year. So much has happened and the mystery just keeps unfolding!

The 6th installment to the SE Experience posts is summarized here:

  • Being more fully embodied led me to work on my posture (with Egoscue and Rolfing) and has resulted in 9 minute miles on my 3 mile runs, and complete turns while skiing, and less pain virtually everywhere!
  • More and more feeling like I’ve “arrived”. I’m alive, I survived, and life keeps providing opportunities for refinement of clarity of being through new awareness of and shedding the old unneeded patterns and defenses.
  • I can do more than I could before…it’s more like there aren’t enough hours in the day, rather than not enough energy to sustain it.
  • My view of trauma and the routes to healing it keep expanding…beyond body, beyond this lifetime, beyond personal story.
  • Expansions and contractions, up and downs, focus and lack of it, are all ok to come and go as they are.
  • My work and my clients keep benefitting from this ongoing expansion.
  • Gratitude feelings and my capacity for connection seem to keep growing, and are more important than I ever could have realized.
  • I can make decisions and take action to address my needs without permission from others.

There’s something tumultuous going on…can you feel it? There’s a call to action, to change, to shed the old. There’s an electricity in the air. There’s also chaos and confusion. Here are some possible points of entry or support if you feel that call but don’t quite know what to do:

Any book by Barbara Marx Hubbard, including Conscious Evolution.

Right now I’m reading The Adventure of Self Discovery, by Stanislav Grof about new dimensions of consciousness and inner exploration.

I’m also reading about connection and the powerfully transformative effects of compassion, connection and kindness meditations and exercises in Barbara Frederickson’s book Love 2.0You can go to her website here and get started without the book.

I continue also to read Alice Miller’s work to keep myself open to seeing and understanding the pervasive patterns of abuse that we all have been subject to at varying levels and degrees, and then subject others to through subtle and over messages and acts. It’s such a powerful lens for seeing how trauma is culturally condoned, perpetuated and sustained.

And, probably most important, get busy clearing your trauma. If you don’t know where to start, you can contact me for suggestions.

Happy New Year, and see you next week!




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Love Trumps Hate

To all of you Dears who are struggling right now, I thought I might provide this list of things I have found enlightening and inspirational this week. I have found myself first in shock, and then surprisingly motivated and energized, as I realize that we all are responsible for being the  change we want to see in the world. I have to credit all the work I’ve done via Somatic Experiencing for the way I am bouncing back, as well as credit the amazing field of supportive energy generated by all of the SE community. I have witnessed breathtaking honesty and capacity to question personal bias, perception, and beliefs, both by myself and others.

I am realizing that I cannot presume to know how or when change is meant to occur. I can only keep moving in the direction that makes the most sense, with love and intention, as I hold lightly my ideas about how it “should” or “shouldn’t” be.

Much love to you all. Please share if you have anything I could add to the list below that promotes love and understanding.

  1. This is how the future voted: see map
  2. The power of safety pins: symbol of anti-violence, anti-bigotry
  3. Jeff Goldblum’s response
  4. Charles Eisenstein post
  5. Past presidential debates footage
  6. Post on opportunity for feeling into our darkest parts
  7. Gabe Dixon Band “All Will Be Well”
  8. No Ordinary Time
  9. TPM: This is More than a Technical Failure
  10. WP article calling out liberals’ ignorance
  11. Advice from Jack Kornfield
  12. Reminder: Don’t bite the hook
  13. tricycle’s 5 Teachings for post-election healing
  14. on Raising awareness of micro aggression (11/12/16: I’m still struggling with the anger/aggression of the author’s tone in this one, but I am glad to have the increased awareness of other’s reactions to my reactions)



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My SE Experience: Part 5

Life goes on, as does my continued progress in healing with Somatic Experiencing, which I’ve been sharing in this ongoing series of posts (Part 1Part 2Part 3, Part 4).

My capacity continues to grow. When I use the word “capacity”, I’m referring to the ability to handle whatever arises, the capacity for embodiment and full enagement in my experiences, self-regulation, or the nervous system capability to handle charge or energy responses elicited by life, whether positive or negative emotion is attached. I continue to notice it in new and specific ways:

  • A sense of being supported by ground, or by the earth. It’s quite literally a feeling of being held, soothed, supported, calmed – just by the thought or idea of literal ground, and also a feeling of support or comfort just in feeling the chair or the solidity of ground underfoot. It’s the feeling of knowing I can rely on it, no matter what, that it’s always there.
  • Continuing increased sensitivity to touch. I think this cannot be adequately described if you’ve never experienced it. There’s something pleasurable or satisfying about touch now, even my own touch – clasped hands, for example – where I can feel it in a way that I couldn’t before. I can feel the size of my fingers, the bones in my hands, the warmth, the aliveness the cushion in the palms and pads of my fingers.
  • Sex. More interested, more pleasurable, more present during, new access to sensation…actually kind of great!..see previous item in this list.
  • Increasing ease of connection. More able to feel easy connections with others and ride out temporary disturbances in feeling of connection. Feeling more a part of things, and seek out my “tribe” of likeminded people and nurture ongoing connection there. Less panic or fear or whatever that discomfort is after being relaxed with others, giving a speech or performance, or sharing my feelings.
  • Increased awareness of tension patterns. I’m really aware lately, perhaps at a new level, of the patterns of tension, especially holding in the gut. I’ll notice it, check to see what else is “going on” at the moment, and consciously release the tension in the abdominal area. It’s an awareness practice if ever there was one. I highly recommend it. Seems like all manner of problems below the waist can originate from tension patterns there, based on my research and work with myself and clients.
  • Increased freedom of action to shape my environment. Making my home and work spaces more comfortable, organized, and pleasing for me to be in.
  • Increased ability to be with and recognize fear, and other uncomfortable emotions, and stay with them as they move through and OUT. (Since first beginning to compose this post, I would have to say I now am even curious, interested, or EXCITED about exploring intense negative emotion to see what is there to uncover or process. I know – sounds utterly ridiculous! I couldn’t make this up if I tried, and never expected it to happen.)
  • Increased access to subtle sensation, ability to sense it, and to track it as it moves through. Example: The other day in practice with peers I tracked the anticipation sensation and urge to reposition a vase so I could see the pattern better. I could feel the motion my arm and hand and wrist wanted to make, and the feeling of holding/anticipatory tension in gut and chest of just imagining the view of the vase after turning it. And I never even touched the vase!
  • Increased motivation and ease for maintaining my body. Becoming aware of and bringing my body into a state of ease before eating, tailoring my frequency and intensity of exercise to my body’s needs, adjusting activity levels (work, people time, busyness) to my current capacity.
  • Wanting and having more play. Increased interest in play, and in making more things playful that I wouldn’t normally have in the past.

The journey continues, and I’ll continue to update you.

Contact me if you’d like to know more about anything I’ve presented in this series of posts, or have questions about meditation, mindfulness, or Somatic Experiencing.


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Meditation and Trauma

I was checking out the groups on the Insight timer app on my phone after meditating yesterday, and there was a thread in one of them where a bunch of well-meaning people were offering a lot of advice to someone suffering with a huge grief reaction triggered by meditation. She described having opened up a well of grief that she could now not close off and could not meditate, and was hoping to try walking meditation.

People offered all kinds of things, from very spiritual sounding worthless advice to just “be with the pain”, to formal instructions on how to do traditional walking meditation.

I cringe when I see things like this happen. Apparently this person listened to a guided meditation designed to purposely connect her with her grief, or produce forgiveness, or something (she knew that was what it was about), and she was quite surprised to wind up flooded by emotion, and by her description, now quite paralyzed by it. It sounds like she’s trying to just go it alone and cope, and it sounds like it’s not going away.

This sort of opening to grief happened to me at one point in my meditation practice, and the MBSR teacher evidently had no training in trauma, and told me she didn’t know what I should do, but that it wouldn’t hurt me. I stopped meditating for a long time after that. I just didn’t have the skills or the capacity to deal with it. Neither did the teacher. Not long after, I sought counseling.

Meditation is not a cure-all. It’s not for everyone, and if you have an experience like this woman is having, I don’t recommend just trying to white-knuckle your way through it. Meditation is not a cure all for trauma, and if you know you have a trauma history, just know that triggering grief or other powerful emotion is a possibility when you venture inward. Meditation is portrayed by some to be sufficient for alleviating trauma. It is not. It is not a substitute for therapy. It can be a very helpful adjunct, but in my experience, meditation alone doesn’t produce the kind of depth and completeness of healing.

I also believe now, and have had Peter Levine say before, that we’re probably not meant to do trauma work alone. We are social creatures by nature, and not designed for isolation – not in living, and not in the healing process. I can’t tell you how much time I’ve spent sitting with or trying to “be with” some particular piece of content, and yes, perhaps some tiny movement happens when I do that. But by and large, the biggest and most powerful shifts have come doing essentially the same thing, witnessed with a guide (Somatic Experiencing practitioner or student) who provides just the right amount of support – no more, no less – for the content to be processed (shifted and integrated).

Meditation can bring us into contact with long-buried pain, grief, and trauma. Innocently making contact with the inner landscape, without a skillful guide, we can find ourselves overwhelmed and confused. We don’t just “get over” the things that happened to us in childhood, contrary to popular belief, or our wildest fairy dust dreams. Our bodies remember the things that happened to us, and we don’t currently have the kind of societal recognition or social support to make the skills and methods for processing what our bodies remember common knowledge.

Our educations consist primarily of learning to suppress felt senses, and to rely on our minds as our sole source of intelligence.  There is a way to come into contact with our body’s memories of the past, skillfully and gently, that promotes balance in body and mind. Somatic Experiencing helped me discover I had a body and that listening to it was the key to healing, and now I help others learn how to be more fully embodied and skillfully relate to their emotions and sensations. Call me or visit the Somatic Experiencing webpage for more info.


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More Playing, Less Working, Please!

One of the neat things that is starting to really come into focus as a result of my own healing through Somatic Experiencing the last couple of years is the dilemma about productivity. Lots of things are coming into clearer focus, but this just happened today, and it kind of took me by surprise.

In the beginning, when school started with kindergarten, there was work. And there was the trying to work like others seemed to. And then being exhausted, unhappy, and falling down. And there was beating myself up until I got back up and did it all over again. And sometimes feeling a surge of energy from the sheer willpower of it, or from the moments of high that come with getting in the groove of workaholism.

After successive realizations/awakenings over the last decade, it became easy to see the destructiveness of buying into a generic idea of productivity. I have seen how others were trampled and I lost connection with them and myself and the present moment by my pursuit of a cleaner house or a better work product, or a more perfect  ___________ (holiday, meal, yard…anything, really). With practice, I’ve been able to soften in these mindless pursuits a great deal, and be in the present, and value the process at least as much as the product. This has been wonderfully healing to myself and others.

And yet, the questions still plagued me. How much to do? How busy to be? What’s the right answer? What’s the right perspective on productivity? And what do I do with all the messages I get from “out there” about how I should be sqeezing every drop out of life and pursuing success with every ounce of my being? Am I wasting potential? Will I regret it down the road if I don’t work enough or hard enough?

And there I am, driving to Mansfield on a beautiful winter day. Everything is coated with snow from last night, and there’s a misty fog. It’s like something out of a storybook. It’s nearly two hours’ drive just to ski for two, and it’s a weekday, and I’m noticing the familiar guilty feeling popping up. And then I notice the stream of garbage that trails in the wake of the guilt: all the times I heard “lazy” and “slob” and “daydreamer”, and how in some strange way it makes sense to me to also notice that I feel scared that I could be punished in some way for pursuing fun while most others are working today. My car could break down, or I might injure myself, or be ill, or beset by some other malady, and I should know better. I would have deserved it.

Then, as I simultaneously puzzle over the new awareness of the fear and start to push away the ominous thoughts for fear I’ll attract the bad things just by thinking about them, curiosity at that moment says WAIT A MINUTE…

“HOW IN THE STATE OF OHIO does my car possibly breaking have a damn thing to do with skiing today? Or with having fun? Or with being bad, lazy, a slob, or a daydreamer, for that matter!!!?” Silence.

“What if cars breaking, or getting sick just happen?” Silence.

“What if it doesn’t matter how freaking much I work or play or achieve or don’t?” Silence.

More silence. There it is. THE VOID. The thing all the spiritual teachers and pointers are always talking about. It really doesn’t matter. The truth of it rings from deep inside. Something inside my core trembles for a minute, then comes to a rest and a feeling of some kind of greater settling or peacefulness sinks in.

And just like that, there’s another level of realization. It feels so obvious. The old belief/trigger/pattern is about my worth being tied to achievement. But they are not connected. There’s no right answer to how much to work. I work as much as my body (not the ego) says work, and play as much as it says play. I do my best to stay within capacity and use my inner guidance (not the ego) to aim toward the things that seem to call to me. And sure, I could also probably still be more efficient or organized, and watch less tv, or do less mindless internet surfing.

And what about the voices, the messages, from “out there” that say I should do more? It feels so incredibly simple right this moment. They don’t matter. Comparing myself to others or to some imaginary standard, even my own best days, will never lead to peace. It can, however, lead to greater “success”, and more struggle, and possibly more money, and less rest, and less balance, and less grounding. And I can do all that, if I want to.

Right now, I’m just gonna ski as long as there’s snow. Spring’s right around the corner, after all.






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Starting the New Year Right

Everyone is familiar with the resolution madness that occurs with what I heard recently called the “Caucasian New Year”. November and December are the biggest months for retail, but I bet for gyms it’s January and February. I can barely stand to be at the gym this time of year. I don’t think it’s the crowd I detest, but the energy. I really don’t have anything against the push to create exercise habits. Exercise is a “keystone habit“, a habit that, over time, winds up being a transformation agent, trickling into many other areas of life. I am in favor of anything that has the possibility to make humans happier and therefore possibly kinder.

Understanding habit formation is good for getting started when that is the biggest hurdle. There are times when I wish I could get clients to exercise or eat healthier because I know the possibility of change in other areas increases with it. I do think that habit has a downside, though. It encourages us to sleepwalk. Habit is a pretty mechanical thing, but not always that easily manipulated. And I think the reason we go after a change or try to instill a habit matters a great deal.

In my experience, behavioral change programs can be a surface change, or an act of violence toward self. That means the change is for reasons associated with rejection of self, such as: looking better/thinner/fitter, engaging in competition with self or others, eating more, blowing off steam, or taking the edge off emotions. Efforts to get rid of some part of ourselves we don’t like (which is why folks who lose a lot of weight without investigating the underlying emotional issue tend to gain it back) are like being at war with ourselves. Occasionally a habit leads to new insight or a more authentic reason for the habit, and yet, exercising for a general increase in health doesn’t seem to have the same motivational spark for most, even though, in the big picture, it seems like it should be the driving factor,doesn’t it?

I am quite familiar with resolutions for change that come from egoic identity – for example, running too much, for all kinds of reasons – feelings of power or accomplishment, the endorphin afterglow, controlling weight. It eventually landed me at the orthopedic surgeon’s office with knee pain and months of therapy. Lots of other intentions I have had for change were about “becoming a better person”, but more deeply examined, would have been exposed as being about trying to become something more acceptable to me, rather than becoming more fully and radiantly me.

Behavioral change is an interesting animal, and you can find out more about it in Charles Duhigg‘s book The Power of Habit, which makes an alluring argument for conscious construction of habits, using the latest brain science. Habits can be a great source of momentum for maintaining physical and mental health.

But change achieved in this way also seems to be largely a top-down processing effort. That means it’s sort of a willpower game, mind over matter, mind trying to make the body obey. There is actually another way, though it isn’t widely acknowledged. The other way is “bottom-up” processing. The nervous system highway that connects the brain to the body (see Stephen Porges’ polyvagal theory) has 10 to 20%  of road traveling from top to bottom (head to gut), and 80-90% traveling from bottom to top (gut to head).

Willpower feels like a struggle because it IS! It’s incredibly inefficient. Most of the information is traveling from the viscera – stuff in the trunk of your body (your “body-mind”) – and then your brain-mind explains it to you. The trouble comes when you try to make a change with your brain-mind, and your body-mind disagrees. The disagree message gets through 80% better than the brain-mind message! Example: imagine trying to convince yourself you aren’t starving, or sleepy, or need to pee, or aren’t angry when you really are. Making sense?

So, you might wonder, “how can I change using more efficient “bottom-up” methods”? How can I get my head and my gut to agree? What would that even look like?

There are at least two ways I know of.

The first way is with the shift that comes from discovering your true identity. When you discover you are not anything or anyone that you thought, it is eventually followed by a period of loss and or feeling lost or unmotivated. Routines and habits can be really helpful for getting through this time when old motivations fall away, and on the other side of that shedding is an energy that moves toward authentic action, not driven by egoic identification (which is just energy with two basic movements: grasping, or aversion). You can achieve this by self-inquiry, or with a guide, that is led by the question, “who or what am I?”

The second way is by releasing traumatic stress that is “held” or remembered by the body, to free up authentic expression. The best method I know for achieving this is through Somatic Experiencing (SE) work. There is an effortlessness to the movement toward health and life that seems to occur as a result of SE work. I’ve experienced this organic movement in myself, and witnessed it repeatedly with clients.

So just to illustrate, here’s what exercise looks like for me now: I am drawn to move in certain ways, from someplace inside that seeks health. I run about 3 miles, 2-3x per week, and I walk about ten times during, since I don’t have the need to prove anything by an uninterrupted slog. I train with weights 1-2 times per week depending on what my body tells me it needs. The rest of the days, I walk, do qi quong, do yard work or housework, tennis, or whatever calls to me. I can tell my body wants to move everyday, someway, but it doesn’t have to look a certain way anymore. No more overtraining, no hours-long workouts, no more injuries, less struggle or shame about the inevitable interruptions due to work or travel or illness. The result: I am fitter, healthier, and less neurotically preoccupied with my workout routine, with fewer and smaller lapses in activity. It just seems to happen, and I don’t have much of a routine, aside from the running route and list of exercises to choose from at the gym.

It was quite interesting to observe the shift in myself from egoic pursuit to the more recent health/life driven motivation. For awhile there was “no reason” to exercise. I often relied on going through the motions, or “just doing something” to get through this period, because I knew deep down it was good for me, even though I wasn’t “interested” anymore. I was amazed that I could keep doing something positive like exercise even though the ego motivation was not there. It was a great way to get to see the energetic charge that moves toward life, regardless of mood or preference, and to discover I could trust it. From there I discovered there was enjoyment in the simple sensation of moving and exertion, not just for an end reward.

Can you imagine what it might be like to move through life from this place? The mind cannot tell you how to get there if you haven’t experienced it. It’s a place of great freedom. There’s a force inside you that knows what your body needs to eat, how much it should sleep, work, and play. It’s a completely organic movement accessed by stripping away all of the layers of crap that you thought were you, but are not you. How can you do that? Start meditating to see through your patterns, contemplate your true identity or find a teacher to help with both or either of those, or go to a somatic therapist to unload the past from your body.

It’s your choice: New Year’s resolutions that add more layers to cover your true identity, or one big resolution to strip away all that is not you, so all the world may more clearly see the light that is you. Willpower, vs. the power of the stillness. I think you can feel which one has the greatest potential, even if your mind cannot imagine it yet. Others have traveled the path and are there to help you find it, too.

My New Year’s Hope for each of you is that you find exactly what you need in order to connect more fully with your radiantly True Self.

In addition to those listed in the linked services above, I also can provide Somatic Experiencing sessions as a psychotherapist, meditation coaching, and free guided direct inquiry into the nature of being. Contact me for more info.

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My SE Experience: Part 4


Afternoon at Barefoot Beach

I this series (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3), I’ve been relating my continuing experience of personal transformation through Somatic Experiencing (SE). It’s been a little over 2 years since I learned about SE and started using it with clients, and about a year and a half since I’ve been intermittently engaged in personal work.

At the beginning of this year I started keeping a journal of what I notice as I proceed through the work. Initially I started doing it because I noticed the new, reorganized version of myself seemed so natural I was concerned about being able to remember the “before” version. At the level of absolute/spirit, this is really not a problem, but in terms of wanting to understand the transformation from an experiential perspective aligned with my academic understanding to enhance my clinical application of SE, it seems useful.

The journaling is useful in other ways, as well. I sometimes make an entry after a session about how we worked with a particular issue in session. I also log entries that describe what seems present or at the surface recently: memories, thoughts, dreams, sensations, impulses, judgments, states of mind, emotions, and often after meditation practice. I review recent entries before an SE session so I can remember to share significant progress or challenges with my practitioner. This helps me organize and summarize so I don’t use up session time with stories and long description.

The journaling has also been helpful for noticing that what my mind calls a problem or issue, doesn’t necessarily dictate the content of the work in a session. My thoughts will often say what is most important to work on or how it should go, but it hardly ever winds up being that way. It’s so helpful to have this record of “here’s what my mind thinks is going on and I should be doing” and to witness again and again that what surfaces in session is the right stuff to work on, and bears little correlation to my egoic identification or attempts to plan or control. This is a major support in relaxing the need to control. I now take the thoughts more lightly, rather like I register them, but they don’t dictate anything.

Things I am noticing in addition to the above:

  • Continuing energy increases: both in supply and stability. I’m less attracted to overexertion (overly long or intense exercise, yard work, or any other type of work). Now I take breaks, I don’t really bottom out from exhaustion, and I’m more comfortable and productive during periods of high or low energy. I don’t have a preference for relaxed or meditative states, and no state (relaxed, neutral, active) seems better than another; they’re all necessary.
  • Increased sensitivity to pleasurable sensation: especially touch. Touch has a dimension of satisfaction it didn’t have before, and there’s more curiosity and pleasure in textures, for example, even just noticing the grit of concrete underfoot, or running my tongue along my teeth.
  • Increased interest in play: playing with impulses to make certain alliterative sounds, run my hand over upholstery, tap my feet, play with my hair, talk to the plants or animals in the yard, wander, explore. It’s hard to describe if you’ve always had this. I never saw or was interested in play as such. It had no purpose for me. Now it needs no purpose; it just feels like a fascination with life that expresses itself through me.
  • Easier to seek out social contact when I want it: and easier to cope with not being able to have it at times when I really want it. And definite sensation of the need for it. It used to be more like “I can easily do without it most of the time”.
  • More consistent, productive work toward goals: it happens organically, and this continues to amaze me. My lists are so I don’t forget the items, not a dictate of the day’s activities. Ego/mind still wants to direct and control the activity and judge what’s getting done or not. I just notice the egoic energy, and then do the thing that obviously needs attention next. It’s not always the thing I want to do, and the day rarely goes how I planned, but it continues to be all right. It all gets done when it needs to, and I’m not as exhausted and discouraged as I used to chronically be. I used to spend so much time reading books on procrastination and productivity, and not one of them ever acknowledged the underlying issue of trauma…bummer!

Self help books all seem to remedy the subjects on the list above with willpower or organization strategies. Even though I used to sense that planning and willpower were always going to fall short, I kept trying, kept searching for the right strategy; resolving trauma is like going to a deeper level than that – the cause level. Self-help or behavioral strategies are like trying to find a channel with a brighter picture on your tv while the dimmer is on; resolving trauma is like turning off the dimmer. It sure seems like the energy freed up by not having to manage trauma symptoms just naturally moves out toward life and expresses. I don’t have to even try. It’s really organic and spontaneous. It’s not a struggle. I could not have imagined or anticipated this result. It’s pretty cool.

Contact me if you’d like to learn more about Somatic Experiencing or to schedule a session.

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