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Teresa

perfect feet pt. 1 by dml82.

“The place where you made your stand never mattered. Only that you were there… and still on your feet.”

Stephen King


Since I returned from Sonoita I have been assessing my emotional state, feet first.  There is a very pointed reason for this.  A wise horsewoman and trauma survivor with a casual penchant for qualitative research pointed some really profound things about the nature of the foot and reading body language from the toes up.  In all my time focused on somatics I had never given much attention to the foot–almost none.  But I met someone who spent her life’s work noticing the nuances of human and equine body language from head to toe and with a very finite lense on the feet.  In traditional psychotherapy the feet are not a focal point but in horsmanship the foot, where it is, the angle, the flexing and all, are the language in movement between horse and rider.  So, of course, the well-versed horsewoman Shelley Rosenberg has been spending a career looking at feet in a way that I, as a therapist, never would have thought to–she can read the language of the body in a completely different way than I and, it seems, feet have been speaking especially loudly to her.

Even at a distance her acute vision notices things like toe curling in a boot and feet flexing on tippy toes.  She tells me this as she notices my toes curling in my own Mountaineer size 7’s as I sit with some dis-ease atop Max–an elderly white horse who is teaching me a lot about what my body is saying to him.  She tells me that she noticed her own toes doing this while standing, walking, or crossing her legs as a sort of last stopping point for trauma or tension trapped in the body.  She found that even the trauma survivor that had peeled back all the other layers and evaporated all the other clenching of muscles seemed to linger at the toes–hanging on to that one last muscle of control and space to prepare for danger.  A person’s whole body could be lax, she tells me, but she can read what they are really feeling with one glance at their feet.

Until she mentions it to me I don’t notice my own toes clenching, unfamiliar with the back of a horse and the gait of a trot, I had ,unknowingly, clenched my last bit of muscle and flesh–hanging on when I didn’t even realizing it.  But since she pointed this out to me all I can do is realize it; I am assessing my life in steps and flexes.  And finding it to be amazingly accurate on a personal case study level.  I am beginning to explore myself and my emotions…feet first.

I was discussing the other day the ripples and waves that are created in the self post-trauma and post-PTSD.  I have shed the PTSD of my self and have been lifted to a beautiful place where I can explore this life after Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  In the process I am attuned and aware of my “self” at a new level of clarity.  In this awareness I am learning more about the ripples after PTSD.  I am exploring those things that linger in me that are nowhere near that of a DSM-IV version of any disorder but are, what I can only describe as, the ripples and aftershocks; the behaviors and responses in body and mind that have to be undone after years spent in a state of constant fearful survival, raw and empty all at once.

This exploration of my sensory responses and my emotional sensibilities through my feet is another layer of that onion of aftershocks.  Now that I am thinking feet first I have found my toes to be a very accurate barometer of how I am feeling, even below my own first glance interpretation of myself–at the layer below conscious or superficial self and down to the muscle and bone, “subtle self”, if you will.  I wonder what we all might discover about ourselves if we spent a little more time in our toes–also the place of grounding and centering and rooting into the earth.  In yoga I have spent much of my time for myself and for students exploring rooting into the earth with every toe, from heel forward, but in psychotherapy and daily life I have paid it less attention.  Now I find myself starting in myself, in my patients, and in general, eyeing the world feet first.

Take a look down at the ground and see what you find!

“Move and the way will open.”

Zen Proverb

REMEMBERING THE RESTORATIVE: FROM CLIENT-CARE TO SELF-CARE

As someone who has guided clients through the intrinsic healing experience of yoga from yoga studio students to combat veterans I know how amazing and rejuvenating it can be.  Likewise, when I integrated yoga into the equine therapy practices I felt this light of finding a combined practice that resonated so profoundly for people that I wondered how I could bring this gift to every client I ever worked with that day forward.  Combat veterans and other trauma survivors seem to find drastic levels of healing in the experiential practices of mind/body medicine with a yogic edge and relational therapy through the silent compassion of a horse.  I had seen this therapeutic magic in action, seen the teary eyes of a modern day warrior gently petting the flank of his equine companion.  I knew this was something un-ignorable and I wanted to spread the concepts and conjoined practices to every place of pain I could, and to every person in need of connectedness. 

In my fervor, however, I had still never been a participant so I had never experienced the combination of body scans, somatic attunements, centering and grounding exercises, yoga, and horses all in one gloriously zen package.  I got the chance to see the results as a therapist and take part in the clients’ processes but not indulge myself in the participant role.  By the time I was packing up my boots and jeans for my trek to Arizona I was ready for a temporary role shift and some horse & yoga indulgences of my own.  Perphaps even a few revelations and epiphanies of my own as well.

I knew there would be mind/body practices in Shelley and Nancy’s equine program but when I received the email 3 days before leaving for Arizona stating, “Bring yoga clothes for the morning,” I nearly wept from excitement–seriously.  I had been putting self-care on the back-burner for a while; a fact that came fully into focus while giving my “Room to Breath” self-care workshop to a room full of women desperately in need of self-care a few weeks prior.  I was exhausted, I was drained, and part of me was wishing to be on the other end of the room–to be more participant than guide (although I love both roles in their own way). 

What is it about the nature of a woman that makes us constantly take from our own personal well of energy long past the time that every drip has been ladled out of it–until we are digging up moist dirt looking for water?  That is a mostly rhetorical question because I could give about 50 answers off the top of my head–ones that always come up when I give self-care workshops and ones that always resonate with me being someone who preaches far more than I practice when it comes to self-nurturing activities.

Well, I thought, I would, finally, give back to me.  And the deliciousness of yoga mornings, greeted by a dawning sun in the guesthouse of a cozy Arizona farm, was definitely enough to bring tears to my tired eyes.  Since ending yoga school for my teacher training life had caught up with me fast between a new job, private practice, workshops, and fine-tuning materials for upcoming trainings, not to mention 3 weeks of a killer sinus infection.  I had not even had time to maintain my own personal yoga practice in any way.  I needed a dose of the yogic in a big way.  I always felt the response of my body, mind, and spirit when I fell into a yoga drought–my brain got more distracted and white noise crept in, my body stiffened up, and my shoulder muscles tightened to rigid blocks of muscular tissue.  I felt distanced from any semblance of soulful peace.

CHECKING INTO THE OM HOTEL…

So, you may be wondering, what is the Om Hotel?  Is it a place? Is it a state of mind? The answer is–yes.  You create the space in a place and it becomes the conduit to a state of mind.  The place can be as simple as a yoga mat or a wooden floor or if you have a penchant for improvisation, it can even be on the back of the horse.  It can be a squared off corner of a room, or a particular room in a house, or an Arizonan guesthouse down a quiet dirt road with plenty of sunlight, soft yogic crooning, and a singing bowl or two.  The latter is where I laid myself at 9:00am on the first day of the “Riding Your Way Into a Mutual Relationship” workshop which Shelley and Nancy had crafted with the Epona Method as a base and the flavors of their expertise sprinkled throughout which, to my great delight included a very qualified psychotherapist yoga teacher at one end (Nancy) and an expertly intuitive horsewoman at the other (Shelley).

My “Om Hotel” experience began every morning for 3 days with a fluid, peaceful, and restorative yoga practice led by Nancy which was such a gentle yawn into the morning I could have spent about 3 hours in the guesthouse studio.  Nancy wove together the best of somatics and language from both psychotherapy such that the merging was seamless and helped evoke people’s true states of self without feeling invasive or probing.  Her postures were gentle and meditative, bringing the practice to a room full of horsewomen without yoga background in such a palatable way that it left them all wanting to go home and begin a regular practice of their own–which I always love to hear.

The studio walls were coated in a sunlight shade of yellow and mats were lined across the cream tile urging anyone entering to melt into the cool earth and let their yoga take them away from the external and come back to the root of themselves.  As I always like to quote e.e. cummings, taking us equine yoginis on a journey to, “…the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life.”  There were sun salutations, light meditations, restorative postures, and soft melodies; the perfect sampler of the practice to a room of beginners and one lapsed-yogini in need for a lot of softness in her practice.

The “Om Hotel” practice provided me with a return to my inner yogini with a side of self-reflection and introspection.  I loved the morning practices and relished a return to my private practice every evening, returning to the Xanadu Ranch and taking my practice to a comforting place–for muscles sore from saddle sitting and other unfamiliar farm-related aches.  Another beautiful revelation was the increasing level of yogi in each of the workshop participants leading to the creation, by Cathy (one of the participants with a very earthy sensibility and highly attuned intuition), of such equine/yogic terms as “om trot” and “spiritual legs”.  I was in love with the blossoming of vocabulary and the embracing of the yogic in the equine.  Although my ability to achieve my own “om trot” later in the week was quite a difficult thing.

THE PRANA EQUUS IN ACTION…

Prana, in yogic terms, is the vital life-sustaining force that is the root of our root and is embodied in our breath–life begins and ends with breath and, in my study, how we breathe says a lot about how we live.  The same can be said about how we ride.  Our breath acts as a barometer for our emotional experience and while riding your horse, part of the communication in the “mutual relationship” and the language we silently convey to the horse, comes in the forms of movement and breath.  Much like in yoga it is in the movement and breath that all communication and all of the emotional experience is acted out.  So to find your yoga in the equine is crucial in my opinion–and luckily, it seems, it also is the same for Nancy and Shelley’s work and workshops.  I loved how much they integrated body awareness, emotional experience in the body, and our body and breath language into their workshop–for me it proved to be even more revelational than I expected.  And resonated so much with the work I had been doing integrating the two practices together in my own little South Florida pietry dish of life.

My riding, I have learned, brings out all of the survival mechanism responses and discomfort spoken in physiology which I will discuss more in the next few posts.  This was a vital deepening of my own body awareness and attunement to how the oldest of habits die hard.  I carried my om with me and my breath skills as much as I could but my personal mounted equine work definitely tested my yogic capacities.  

I am one of those people for whom it is difficult enough to, say, tie my shoes and chew gum symultaneously let alone find my horseback seat, balance, breath, and hand placement–this I am going to need to work on.  Perhaps I need to chew gum and tie my shoes more often to build the tactile multitasking.  For now I am going to try a few oms to recalibrate my brain after an already long week–even longer while reminscing and longing for days spent alongside roundpens, on horseback, or on a yoga mat.  There is something diminishing about the return to an office-based week and paperwork-laden life.  Here is hoping all of you find a little bit of “The Om Hotel” in your daily life!

Stay tuned for the upcoming posts in this series:

  • RUNAWAY BRIDLE: THAT WHICH IS LOST & FOUND AMID HORSES
  • FEET FIRST: A HORSEWOMAN-STYLED REFLEXOLOGY
  • REFLECTIVE ROUNDPENNING & BOUNDARY GOATS
  • ….& ending with a NEW interview with yoga & equine enthusiast, Margaret Burns vap of COWGIRL YOGA & BIG SKY YOGA RETREATS!

“The infinite is in the finite of every instant.”

Zen Proverb

Pegasus on Pont Alexandre, Paris by Max London.

O for a horse with wings!

William Shakespeare


SO THIS IS YOUR PASSION?

I am sitting on the plane trying to whittle out the nuances of stories, looking for a way to bottle the last three days of experiences in the container of words.  It’s hard.  The woman next to me looks anxious and I brace myself for another flight next to a severe flight-o-phobe but instead she asks me why I was in Tucson while staring with curious amusement at the large and stiff ring of rope I am trying to stuff below my seat.  I say, “Horses,” but seeing that she isn’t quite satisfied and her eyes, still shifting between me and my lasso ring, are asking for a little more than a one word description.

I pause, thinking how to encapsulate what I was doing in Arizona, knowing that whatever I say could be less than enlightened.  I tell her I am a mental health therapist and I work with horses to help people through emotional problems but admit that I am trying to learn more about riding and horsemanship for my work.  She pauses and then in rich rolling espanol she says, “So this is your passion?”  Both question and answer, as if something in my eyes or the tone of my voice revealed the not-so-hidden-truth.  I smile, sigh a deep ujjayi breath, and say, “Yes.”

THE PRELUDE…

I knew in going on this journey out west and into the mountain-ridged skies of Arizona that I would be confronted with many things: emotional truths, passions envisioned, and dreams taking flight.  I set out from West Palm Beach prepared with pen in hand, yoga pants in tow, and hiking boots–yes, I still had not yet managed to get myself a good pair of riding boots.  I knew there would be yoga, creative exercises, mindfulness, and riding.  It was a yogini-equine-therapist-writer’s dream!  Although, before even landing I was already very nervous about the riding.

My riding experience was limited to the blissful summer camp experience and a variety of trail rides in a variety of countries; all with horses that were either spastic or sleepy from being over-riden by clunky tourists (like myself).  All my therapeutic “horsemanship” came from face-to-face time with my four-legged counterparts, not bottom-to-back.  I remembered the little girl who fearlessly cantered on her last day of summer camp and I hoped to rediscover some of her bliss–but I was afraid that age had only instilled skepticism and fear where imagination and bravery used to reside.  But as my stomach flopped with daydreams and fantasy I was hoping there was as much childlike excitement to outweigh the adult mind’s pesky critical thinking.

CHASING DREAMS TO THE BORDER OF MEXICO.

In the southeast corner of the southwest, an hour south of Tucson and less than an hour north of Mexico sits the unassuming town of Sonoita where the biggest restaurant is gas station adjacent and you can map out every constellation in the night sky.  I had chased my passion all the way to the Mexican border and found bliss on the first morning waking at the Xanadu Ranch, named by the owners since they had carried the sign and their horses from Ohio to New Mexico and finally settling on a large stretch of land in Sonoita.  Three black horses grazed in the tall dry grasses and the quiet of the air and the laziness of the hammock out in front of my door made me think I could spend days just hammocking my way to a higher state of being.

I had come out here to commit.  To commit to the dream of mine that included horses, yoga, and healing–something I believed in so strongly and had seen impact people so profoundly but I wanted to experience it at the other end of the lunge line and see what my clients saw.  In creating Prana Equus I knew I was giving myself over to my dreams but in coming out to Sonoita I was giving the dream wings and seeing what magic might come from seeing a space of healing outside of my own little cul-de-sac space with Angel Smile Farms and Maurette in South Florida.

I think the first morning, 9:00am, sun brightly shining through the windows of Shelley Rosenberg and Nancy Coyne’s yoga house on the property of their home and their barn, breathing in unison with my workshop-mates Deb, Cathy, and Ann at the direction of Nancy Coyne (MD, psychiatrist, and yogini-du-joir) I realized this was a special space and I was about to share a wonderful three days with a beautiful mosaic of souls.  Maybe horses can’t sprout wings like the golden Pegausus in the photo above but my dreams and my work with them felt like they were already taking flight to new and beautiful lands–in my mind and on the ground in every deep ujjayi breath.

So. This is my passion.

Nancy whispered softly with a little hint of jest, “Welcome ladies to the Om Hotel…you can check out, but…well you know the rest.”  I felt like I had come home inside and out.

CHECK OUT THE NEXT POST IN THE SERIES “GREETINGS FROM THE OM HOTEL”…UPCOMING!

Plane Wing by aka Kath. //

The modern airplane creates a new geographical dimension.  A navigable ocean of air blankets the whole surface of the globe.  There are no distant places any longer:  the world is small and the world is one.

Wendell Willkie

Well, maybe not my life but definitely the last month feels like it has been more in flight that on the ground.  I have been flying and flying and flying and between plane changes and 24 hour turnarounds between trips I find myself contemplating the excitement of what my next beverage will be on my next flight–seltzer or tomato juice or tea, oh my–or who my intimate plane seat companions will be.

Heading from NJ to Palm Beach in April after giving a training “Emotion In Motion: Yoga for Trauma Survivors” I sat next to a woman with a flying phobia who downed two Bloody Marys while asking me questions like, “How do you think this heavy metal can stay in the air without careening to the ground?” and “What does it mean when the plane shakes like this?”.  We discussed breathing and grounding methods, although she seemed to prefer the liquid courage to my techniques and I gave her my card, at her request, before we disembarked.

On the way back from my sister’s college graduation in NJ heading to Ft Lauderdale I found myself next to an elderly Messianic with loose teeth which, mid-nap, mid-flight, and mid-drool, accidentally lost their grip on the gums they were held to and his dentures flopped suddenly onto his shirt.  Later in the flight as we were landing he asked, “Young lady, what do you do for a living? I saw you scribbling the whole trip.”  I had been engrossed in my audio from the IAEDP (International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals) Conference and was writing down notes, apparently copious enough to rouse even my dormant elderly seat neighbor.  When I told him I was a therapist he proceeded to disclose, quite loudly, that his nephew sitting in the seat in front of us was dyslexic and had “a lot of problems”.  He also discussed the mission of the masons to give money towards good causes in anonymity to avoid accolades saying, “We do good but we don’t need or want people to know about it.”  My husband assured me later that, that is because free masons run the world; if running the world means anonymous donations to good causes then I will take more of that in the world–although perhaps with a little less of the denture mishaps.

Waiting for my delayed flight back again at the West Palm Beach airport, eagerly anticipating my Equine training in Arizona, I took a moment’s reprieve on the $1.00 massae chair tucked behind the newstand.  The 10-year-old boy gleefully “riding” the chair next to me like it was a carousel asked if I was a teenager.  I replied, “I am a little bit older than a teenager.”  The boy’s younger brother came running over and chimed in, “She’s not a teenager!  She’s a mommy! You are a mommy aren’t you?”  I tried to explain that I was not a teenager or a mommy but apparently the delineation of any role between teenager and mommy didn’t compute to the 10 and under crowd.  I left before I had to pick on category between the two.

The West Palm Beach flight finally took off and upon landing in Fort Worth/Dallas airport (the first leg of my journey to Arizona) a toddler sitting in the row in front of me lifted his hands in the air emphatically and shouted, “All done!”  Although I was not done with my flights for the day, I still had an hour wait and a flight to Tucson ahead of me I was definitely “all done” with the plane delays and the uncomfortable position of being in the person in the  middle seat which was code for “one-who-gets-no-arm-rest”.

Flying back from Arizona I met a melange of interesting characters between 3 airports and a 3 1/2 hour layover in Dallas/Ft Worth I met a woman traveling from Sierra Vista , AZ to go to her grandchild’s graduation and asked me (when I told her I was a therapist) if there is such thing as sex addiction.  I met woman flying to New York to visit her boyfriend and about to move across the country from Arizona with her children in a month to live with him on the east coast.  I met a trainer of airplane pilots who flies for free and asked me about real estate in South Florida as he is beginning to plan for retirement.  Oh, and a little British boy who had way too many “sweeties” in his system and could not stop making noises like a Halloween wind-up toy: “Wooo hooo hooo haaa haa haa!”

So I have been in a haze of rumbling engines, condensed air, tray tables, and iphone records for the past month.  Turbulence, turbulence.  Prayers, prayers.  Complimentary beverages and in-flight yoga stretches.  And passing the time with the vocal stylings of talents like Marsha Linehan (creator of DBT, zen& centering prayer enthusiast), Bessel van der Kolk (trauma guru), Andrew Weil (natural medicine titan), and the cast of the Integrative Mental Health Conference, Psychotherapy Networker Symposium, and IAEDP Conference (all great performances if you can get them on audio).  And, yes, I am a nerd.  While others are listening to jazz, country, pop, or musicals I am listening raptly to the rhythm of psychological exploration and the melody of theory and practice.  Hence the psycho-nerdish scribblings my Messianic neighbor astutely observed.

One training given, one training taken, and one sister’s college graduation attended–all respectively amazing and profound in their own wonderful ways.  I am finally just sitting back and absorbing the sum total and taking the time to breathe–between having seen a client in North Palm Beach, running to teach a yoga for trauma class in Lake Worth and then back to Delray to discuss potentially giving some educational programming on Centering Prayer (Christian contemplative practices) in my local spiritual community.

So, between trips, starting a new job, and 3 weeks of a monster of a bronchial sinus illness, the blog has been so sparse!  I apologize sincerely and promise that beyond a few new interviews on their way, some great activities I am so excited about on the horizon, I have a whole series I will be dedicating at least the next few weeks to but probably about a month in total around equine therapy, yoga, passion, and an amazing experience in Sonoita, Arizona with SHELLEY ROSENBERG, NANCY COYNE and my lovely group members for this training DEB, CATHY, and ANN.  I am excited about this new leg of both my cerebral and visceral journey and to explore the profoundness of this trot into the new with all of you!  I will begin with my first post tonight or tomorrow but in the meantime please feel free to look back at the preceeding equine posts to get in the zone🙂.

HORSE & YOGA POSTS ROUND-UP…

Equine Enamored: Adventures in Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy

http://myembodiment.com/2009/10/25/equine-enamored-adventures-in-equine-facilitated-psychotherapy/

Present Moment Living: Horses, Yoga, Therapy & How They All Come Together

http://myembodiment.com/2009/11/23/present-moment-living-horses-yoga-therapy-how-they-all-come-together/

Yogic Equus Part 1: Finding the Yogic in the Equine

http://myembodiment.com/2009/12/07/yogic-equus-part-1-finding-the-yogic-in-the-equine/

Yogic Equus Part 2: Horse as Metaphor for Relationship

http://myembodiment.com/2009/12/14/yogic-equus-part-2-horse-as-metaphor-for-relationship/

Horses & Finding Freedom

http://myembodiment.com/2010/01/28/horses-finding-freedom/

Q&A with Nancy Coyne, MD:  Trauma Therapist, Yogini, and EFP Practitioner

http://myembodiment.com/2010/02/28/q-a-with-nancy-coyne-md-trauma-therapist-yogini-efp-practitioner/

Q&A with Shelley Rosenberg: Horsewoman, Author, Trauma Survivor

http://myembodiment.com/2010/03/03/qa-with-shelley-rosenberg-horsewoman-author-trauma-survivor/

30 Days of gratitude- Day 16 by aussiegall.

At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person.
Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.

Albert Schweitzer


Hello All & An Early Happy Weekend!  Between being sick with a sinus infection since this past weekend and back to the doctor for a second time this afternoon for a nebulizer treatment of albuterol due to serious bronchial issues from a secondary infection I have been a bit of a sick-ful mess this week.  I was, as well as the rest of the sick staff at my job, pretty much ordered to go home and get well which I hope to do!

I have been left with little time, energy, and unfevered brainspace with which to write this week and I missed it.  I really relish the reflective moments on this blog and love to share in the community of the blogosphere!  Next week promises to be HEALTHFUL and BLOGFUL if I can get myself back on track internally and externally to do so.

I had my clients in group today end the week with a statement of gratitude to begin their weekend and I would like to do the same and go back to my enjoyable past time of a Friday LIST! Yay!  Fevers make me a bit punchy and jubilant–when not coughy and curmudgenly (also aliteration inspired apparently).  And I think ESPECIALLY when we feel low and depleted it is important to reflect on the metaphorical food that feeds us.  The literal food that feeds me today is pizza and sinus medication.

10 THINGS I AM GRATEFUL FOR RIGHT NOW ARE….

1. …A husband that will bring me soup on a tray and a seltzer in bed when I am hacking up my lungs.

2. …A wonderful holistic community in South Florida that continues to amaze me with the passionate professionals in mental health and beyond that are working to bring care to people : mind, body, and spirit.

3. …Sunshine.  I don’t think I even want to take for granted to wonders of sunshine and the plentiful sun of South Florida.  To be able to take a therapy group outside and by the beach is an amazing blessing.

4. …To be able to teach what I love to those who want to hear about it.  The other day I mentioned to a co-worker that when I was a child I wanted to be a teacher and a detective.  She replied, “So you sort of did that then didn’t you?”  I laughed and thought that is true–as therapist alone I am sort of an investigator of the psyche and teacher of coping skills.  It is even more rewarding that I get to be part of an academic sphere even beyond that–giving back what I learn as therapist-detective-teacher with my clients to other passionate professionals.

5. …Family.  I have an immediate and extended family and circle of friends that, especially hearing so much about the painful family histories of my clients, I know how lucky I am to have a system of support, caring, and mutual respect that many people struggle long and hard to find one tenth of the same.

6. …Yoga.  Especially lately with changing jobs and getting sick and having almost 3 WEEKS now yoga-less I am reminded again of how much yoga is at the core of my own grounding, self-care, and centering.  I gave a Self Care workshop last Friday (right before getting sick) in Delray Beach and I found myself leaving rejuvenated by the energy of the collective of women giving back a little peace to themselves–and found myself hungry for more moments of the same for myself.  I am so thankful for my yoga practice and cannot wait to stop hacking up my lungs and start down-dogging myself and my  limbs back to limber bliss.

7. …Virtual Communities & Live Communities.  There is so much power in the intimacy of a collective–whether in cyberspace or in physical presence–the healing power of communities and sharing constantly astounds me.  There is such a profoundness in group therapy–I love leading groups in collective healing and love any form of collective healing–community acupuncture, community EMDR (both which are done at my current job for patients), group equine facilitated psychotherapy programs, group creative arts workshops (like are being explored at the WISH STUDIO), and all avenues of sharing life experience and the journeys with others.

8. …The beautiful ANGEL SMILE FARMS in Loxahatchee where I cannot wait to begin presenting PRANA EQUUS workshops for self-care through yoga, creative arts, mindfulness, and equine relational activities!

9. …What I learn daily from others.  My clients are so profound–and often most profound when they don’t even intend it.  I love being able to take their journeys with them and in the process move forward on my own path with the richness of their experiences and their own revelations about life, self, and happiness.

10. Being asked to present at the 2010 National NARHA Conference in Denver!  I just found out today & I cannot wait.  Both because I always miss Colorado since I moved away in 2003 and because I cannot wait to talk with a national audience of equine mental health professionals about this integrative programming I am so passionate for–bringing yoga, horses, and mental health together in a creative package.  Check out this link for more information on the conference (I will also be speaking with Maurette Hanson at the Region 5 NARHA Conference in Alabama in August): http://www.narha.org/Conference/2010/Conference2010Home.asp

Lost Dog Coffee Shop by ohmeaghan.

“In this world of change, nothing which comes stays, and nothing which goes is lost.”

Anne Sophie Swetchine


Today I lost something I really, really wanted and I found something else that I never, ever did.  I lost a piece of a dream that I had and really thought I had a firm grasp on.  And in the process was reminded that nothing is certain and we must always be prepared to weather change and disappointment.

What I found  was a dog.  Another one.  Well, to be more exact my husband found the dog wandering around near his work with perfectly manicured nails and hair and no collar or master to be found.  In all likelihood he was abandoned by some semi-well-intentioned owner hoping he would land somewhere good.

I felt a bit of kindred sensation–both me and this Rhodesian Ridgeback mix were dropped off in the middle of nowhere, completely under-prepared and disoriented, and with no idea of what the future would bring.  But both our fates led us to the essentials of life–we will both have food to eat and a roof to stay under while we figure out what life might hand us next–and he is going to get his mug shot plastered across town just in case there is someone looking for him (although in all likelihood he was abandoned).

I am constantly reminded of this simple fact in life, succinctly described by Operation Ivy in their song titled “Knowledge”:

“All I know is that I don’t know.  All I know is that I don’t know nothing.”

Whenever we think we know something, have some certainty, have something or some path figured out we get a sharp turn into the unknown and blinding humility.  I always find myself rooting back to the addiction mantra that I have mentioned before, “Let go and let God.”  Whether you believe in God, or the universe, or a force greater than the self and also part of the self, I feel that sometimes in life, as hard as it may be (and maybe especially when it is that hard) we have to just LET GO.  LET GO.  LET GO.  I am working to remind myself that now and trying to just let go and see where life goes.  Cause in truth, all I know is that I don’t know nothing.

Thank you Operation Ivy and punk rock for taking Socrates and making it palatable for all.  Socrates said, “I know that I know nothing,” and if he can admit that then none of us are ever too big or too small to be able to step back from our life and understand that truth for ourselves–what we know in any given moment is a pin-drop in the pool of infinity and it is good, if painful, at times to find a wincing reminder of that.  What I thought I knew yesterday was all wrong for the truth of today and the same might be said about what I will learn is true tomorrow.

Me and Gizmo (as Chris, my husband, has already named this dog we are definitely, certainly, not going to keep) came into today with truths that have expired as of today.  He is TEMPORARILY part of a new 3 dog household and I am part of something very new and unexpected myself.  Do you remember being certain of something that turned out to be all wrong?  And then were you able to breathe, reboot, and just let go of yesterday’s assumptions to deal with today’s circumstances?  I’m working on it as we speak–life the journey…always the journey.

Now, how to introduce three other dogs to the newbie–I am leaving that up to my husband, self-proclaimed Dog Whisperer Deux Joir.  We’ll see about that!

Breathe Deeply by creativedc.

“It is impossible to be in a state of panic and to breath deeply, slowly, quietly and regularly.  It cannot coexist.

The subjective experience of anxiety is often of being out of control.  If you deal with this by giving a patient a drug you are reinforcing the notion that the locus of control is outside.  If patients can discover that they have within them access to controls over emotional states it is a revelation.  And when you try to deal with this with an outside suppressive measure the effectiveness of the measure decreases with frequency of use. Whereas when you rely on an innate measure like this the power of technique increases with repetition.  This is the single most effective anti-anxiety measure I have come across (breathing exercise).

When I tell colleagues about it it is TOO simple.  How did we get to this state where we think the only effective medical treatment is drugs? ”

BY DR. ANDREW WEIL,  BREATHWORK Workshop, INTEGRATIVE MENTAL HEALTH CONFERENCE 2010.

BREATHWORK:

I am a huge proponent of breath as a potent healing activity and so I was excited when I got my 2 disc CD recording of the first ever INTEGRATIVE MENTAL HEALTH CONFERENCE in the mail and found an entire workshop with Dr. Andrew Weil on a biological, neurological, scientific and psychological affirmation of the power of breath for healing!  His quote above only touches on the mastery of the workshop, the hopefulness of breathwork integration in the field of psychotherapy, and plenty of rich data from the anthropological to the biological as to why breath can alleviate many of the ills we, as a society, might presently over-medicate before looking for alternate solutions.  He perfectly synthesizes above the crux of the reason why internal resources can be more potent and long lasting than chemical and external solutions for issues of anxiety.

In Dr. Weil’s workshop “Breathwork for Optimum Health” he discusses breath as the “Master Key” and I could not think of a more apt description of this tool that I have imparted to every client I see–and so, apparently, does Dr. Weil.  I feel in good company.  He stated that his simple breath exercise, similar in structure to my own, is the one thing he teaches everyone he sees.  I take clients through a breathing exercise and ask them how they feel, when they say how relaxed they feel I remind them that THEY not I got themselves to that state of relaxation.  I may have said the words but the only thing that got their body and mind relaxed was their own body and mind.  Another thing I was excited to hear resonate with Dr. Weil’s description above of the internal resources versus the external crutches that over-medicating can produce.  We have such powers for change inside ourselves which I explored in the NEUROBIOLOGY & NEUROPLASTICITY post a short while ago–we just don’t tap into that power for change for the positive nearly enough.

If I can teach one client breath and they can sleep better, calm down faster, diminish their anger in one situation they would not have had the internal resources to deal with prior then, to me, it is a valuable tool.  When I hear a COMBAT MARINE VETERAN tell me he is practicing alternate nostril breathing at home for anger and sleep or another telling me that he presses his palms together at his chest and practices nostril breathing for anxiety, both with amazing anecdotal results, then I can say that if it works for them it could work for any of us–given the chance!

If you have not tried a basic breathing practice then maybe just try listening to a quick soundbite, mp3, cd of a simple breathing technique or maybe I can outline a simple one on the site if there is interest.

INTEGRATIVE MENTAL HEALTH CONFERENCE:

Am I a nerd because I checked my mail anxiously every day awaiting it’s arrival?  Answer is: yes!  But I was waiting all last week to receive the INTEGRATIVE MENTAL HEALTH CONFERENCE recordings as I could not make it to the conference but I wanted to imbibe every moment of the rich material with speakers like Jon Kabat–Zinn, Dr. Weil, Amy Weintraub and many other academics, researchers, and practitioners in the field of integrative practices for mental health and wellness.  The CDs, which contain 40 hours of material, are a rich and hopeful array of work in this field and an inspiration of what is possible within the field.

The conference was made up of social workers, nurses, doctors, psychologists and psychiatrists and was sold out weeks before the event.  If this doesn’t show the hunger in the health and mental health field for treatments outside of the scope of what western medicine is capable of then I don’t know what is.  It shows that this field is burgeoning and that more professionals than ever before are integrating holistic approaches into the course of traditional treatments they already provide.  The point of INTEGRATIVE is not to get rid of anything just to find the perfect complement of what is being done and what else can be added to the equation for more effective results for a whole person: mind, body, and spirit.

The recordings are phenomenal and I recommend them to any professional in the healthcare field or any person interested in a variety of treatment approaches for their own health–body and mind.  The conference sessions can be purchased as a complete set or a-la-carte per workshop for $15.00 per session.  Each one has a dense collection of material and each presentation gives a variety of resources where you can learn more about the practices discussed in the lecture–a lovely bonus.

A few of the amazing lectures included:

  • The Psychoneuroimmunology of Resilience, Optimism, and Hope
  • Mind-Body Medicine: Clinical Hypnosis for Medical and Mental Health Conditions
  • Transforming Your Mind: Meditation and Neuroplasticity
  • Spirituality and Mental Health: Paradigms and Evidence
  • Deficiencies in Omega 3-EFAs & Substance Abuse Mechanisms
  • Creating the Chemistry of Joy
  • A Vision of the Future of Integrative Mental Health
  • Lifeforce Yoga: Empower Your CLients to Manage Their Moods

Can you see why I was in love with these CDS?

For more information on the Conference & The hosting facility ARIZONA CENTER FOR INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE: http://integrativemedicine.arizona.edu/integrative_mental_health_conference.html

For more information on the recordings go to: http://www.conferencerecording.com/aaaListTapes.asp?CID=IMH10


Emily Van Horn

I met Emily via email a couple of months ago when she sent me a kind email related to a comment I had made on Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s blog for CNN in which he reported that there was no healing from traumatic experience.  I disagreed and so did Emily.  She thanked me for my comment on the blog post and so a lovely email communication began.  Emily’s work began in the bodywork realm and through the access to the body in her treatment approaches she began helping her clients express and deal with traumatic material from a bodywork perspective.  I, coming from the opposite origin (learning psychotherapy and the mind realm first) but coming to the same endpoint (learning how much emotional pain is stored in and can be released from the body) am always interested in bodyworkers who have always worked in and explored the rich realm of body-oriented healing.  Emily’s work and her story is lovely to read and I hope you all enjoy learning about her practice as much as I have!

Q:  What is your professional background?  What interested you in holistic therapies and treatment approaches?

A.  I’ve been a practitioner of the healing arts for almost 20 years.  I’ve always been interested in natural healing, preferring plant based medicines to chemicals made in a laboratory.  In 1991, I read Louise Hay’s “You can heal your life”.   That was my first introduction to how our thoughts affect our health.  It made sense.  I became fascinated in working with healing modalities which encompass aspects of body mind and spirit, and which are based on the premise that all of life is energy and that we have everything we need to self heal.

Q:  Can you explain your practice as an Energetic Bodyworker, Somatic Trauma Resolution practitioner, and your use of Polarity therapy and Craniosacral therapy?  Please explain these different treatment approaches for people.

A. My main focus is helping people resolve all types of trauma both shock and  developmental traumas.  To start with I help them find what their resources are.  Whether it’s cooking for friends, walking in nature, or organizing the office Christmas party or riding their bike I help them discover what is working in their life.  We call that resourcing, which is the first step in re regulating the nervous system.   I ask them to become mildly curious about the physical sensations happening while thinking about something that makes one feel joyful or successful or good in the body.  This sensation awareness combined with imagining something you like or used to like doing, becomes a supportive tool when unraveling an experience that has been overwhelming for someone.   I see profound results when we focus first on healing the nervous system first.  When the client is able to track or follow their sensations when thinking of a resource as well as when addressing something traumatic and be able to go back and forth between the two sides, we are on the way. The next step which I consider foundational to the process is to do some simple boundary exercises.  The whole thing is a sort of complex and delicate process which is difficult to explain or imagine being effective, but it works really well.

Polarity Therapy is a whole healing system which involves bodywork, exercises, counseling, and nutritional guidance as away to relate to life force energy.  I help the clients energy field to open up and clear blockages and get things flowing again.  With CranioSacral I’m accessing the tides of the cerebral spinal fluid through subtle hands on palpation which encourages the body into self healing mode.  I use both these methods as compliments to the STR work.

Q:  How are these approaches effective for trauma and issues of mental health? Where did you study and train in these different approaches?

A. In my experience many  mental health issues stem from unresolved trauma.  It is key to help a person out of fight/flight/freeze, and assist them to feel safe in the body before delving into specific issues.  When the client has been able to discharge the shock from the nervous system, it’s much easier for them to talk about difficult experiences.

Most of my training has been through Polarity Healing arts here in the LA area, although I’m constantly updating and learning new skills new modalities to help people heal. 

Q:  Where did your passion for working with survivors of trauma come from? What other ailments and issues do you work on with your clients?

A.  I guess because there is so much of it around!  Every time I read a story or hear about someone who has experienced trauma I  feel compelled to help.  I feel uncomfortable seeing someone suffer needlessly, especially when I know I have skills that could be potentially life changing.

As a foundational part of the trauma work, I work  with boundaries and resourcing.  Until people feel safe in the body and the body knows it’s ok to defend itself,  it’s hard to heal.  There are specific exercises I do with clients to help them reestablish boundary muscles and complete truncated fight flight or frozen defensive responses.

Q:  What have been the effects and results you have seen with clients seeking your help with mental and emotional distress?  What are so examples of how these treatments have impacted client’s lives in positive ways?

A.  My clients have experienced relief from issues that have been troubling them, from acute to chronic both emotional and physical.  After just one session, one of my clients was able to resolve  3 phobias; not being able to sleep with the light off, fear of public restrooms and fear of heights.  Another felt her chronic neck pain dissolve after renegotiating a childhood trauma.   Things like being able to sleep without medication, feeling safe in situations that had previously been anxiety provoking, or even something like a woman who resolved her “frozen shoulder” issue that had it’s roots in a brutal attack more than 20 years ago.  After just one session one of my clients stopped having flashbacks of a car accident that was plaguing her for 30 years.   It usually takes more than one session, but is meant to be a short term approach with long term effects. In general people end up being more resourced and functioning better in all aspects of life.

Q:  Do you ever work in coordination with or receive referrals from other holistic practitioners, bodyworkers, yoga teachers, or mental health professionals?  Would you work in collaboration with other practitioners, mental health or otherwise, to bring healing and wellness to others?

A.  Yes, dentists, therapists, chiropractors, acupuncturists and physical therapists have refereed me.  Other types of  treatments work much more quickly and effectively once shock has been discharged out of the body.

Q:  Do you find that there is a community of like-minded professionals you can collaborate with on ideas and work together with on projects?

A. Sometimes but not as much as I would like.  In LA there are so many alternative modalities available that it’s sometimes hard to interest people in yet another healing approach that isn’t well known in the mainstreem.  I think if therapists and health practitioners had more exposure to this method they would be more eager to try it themselves and to refer their patients.

Q:  Do you find that people seeking treatment has diminished with the recession?  Or do you see people coming more readily to treatment due to increased stressors?

A.  I’ve found both.  One thing I’ve noticed is sort of a wave of people who have known they’ve had “issues” for years and suddenly they feel compelled to make changes and begin to heal.  The old ways of managing are no longer acceptable.

Q:  What approaches do you use for your own self care? Yoga, acupuncture, meditation, or other activities or practices for enjoyment or to relieve stress?  DO you feel it is essential to take care of oneself when working in this field?

A.  Hiking and yoga are both great outlets.  Also, I’m a painter so I think I work things out through the paint.  I’m also constantly learning new modalities which keeps me on my toes and keeps me doing my own work.  I never have the attitude that I’m done.  I’m always pushing myself to do my own inner work, resolve old patterns and keep my energy field clean.

Q:  Who and what have been your greatest inspiration(s) in this work?  What book do you feel is essential?  What lecturer would you recommend anyone with an interest in these practices go see?  What training was essential?

A.  Years ago, I had the pleasure of watching Dr. Peter Levine doing some live SE demonstrations.  I was so moved, I knew I had to study the work myself.  I  have had many mentors along the way. The first was Gary Strauss who taught me to palpate an energy field which was an amazing discovery.  I would recommend  Anna and John Chitty in Boulder Co. for the study of BioDynamic CranioSacral.  I learned STR with Sharon Porter who came from a Polarity/Cranial background like myself.  I’m grateful to have the energetic component of her teachings, which makes the work multidimensional.  Having had the opportunity to teacher assist with her has  deepened my understanding of the trauma work.   Joel Hipps facilitated my clairvoyant training which has been invaluable for keeping me grounded an increasing my perceptive abilities.  I’m very kinesthetic so I had to learn to see energy instead of feel everything.  Lastly for anyone who really wants to “think outside the box” I would highly recommend taking a weekend “Matrix energetics” workshop.   Your life will never be the same!

Q:  What are your hopes for the future of complementary medicine and alternative treatments for mental health and wellness?  What are your hopes for the future of your work over the next 1 year, 2 years, 5 years?

A. I hope that I will see the day when we stop labeling trauma as a disorder of the mind and begin to see it as a dis regulation of an overwhelmed nervous system;  a result of our natural healing mechanism being interrupted.

I would hope that every mental health professional, every paramedic, policeman, fireman, physical therapist, and Doctor could be more educated about how the autonomic nervous system works in relationship to trauma.  Minimum that they could all at least read “Waking the Tiger”  and “Crash Course”, and  that we would stop medicating people with developmental trauma, and learn some basic first aid tools that would help shock trauma from setting in in the first place.  I know that sound like a lot,  but some of the principles are so basic. The less traumatized people there are, the less patterns of abuse and violence will continue to repeat.

Q:  What would like people to know about the work you do?  Any words of wisdom, inspiration, or advice to others interested in this field of study or practice?

A. Sometimes people comment when they find out I don’t usually start out working on the table, they might say, “so what,  it’s just talking?”  NO, this work is very different from traditional talk therapy.  It’s a body centered approach and even though I’m not usually touching you, you will feel things physically.  That’s why you have to have an experience to “get” it, because it’s not like anything else that we do.   That it’s a relatively short term approach and that you will learn self healing skills that you can use throughout life.

Q:  Any advice to persons seeking a variety of paths to healing from trauma, ptsd, and emotional issues?

A. Keep trying things until you find what works for you.  Not the same thing works for everyone.  There are some great modalities like EMDR, EFT, and even dietary changes. Myself for example, I experienced huge benefits for depression using NAET.  The important thing is to make your healing a priority and don’t give up until you find what works for you.

EMILY VAN HORN PRACTICES OUT OF SANTA MONICA, CALIFORNIA.  TO LEARN MORE ABOUT HER WORK PLEASE VISIT HER WEBSITE AT: http://www.emilyvanhorn.com

Breathe by szlea.

Fear less, hope more; Eat less, chew more; Whine less, breathe more; Talk less, say more; Love more, and all good things will be yours

SWEDISH PROVERB

Everything in life lately seems to be both sped up and slowed down simultaneously;  it seems that way when we are on the precipice of the new and the verge of jumping out of the old.  When things shift in our world they can appear seismic and one shift can propel multiple shifts–with the change of pace to our life steps we can, in the process, leave people, lose people, separate from what doesn’t work from what was and finding what could work in the new.  What an exhilarating thing–the possibility of possibilities!  And how frightening as well.

As I launch of the edge in my present life and change the pace of my step I am both these things–exhilarated and frightened.  I think about my clients, coming into a therapy office is often the precipice of life–wanting something new, something else than what we have created in our world but so afraid of what that change could mean.  For a trauma survivor change means opening up the wounds of old ghosts and the things that haunt us, having to look them head on, and find a way to move beyond survival living and finding a way to thrive in existence.  For persons suffering from the disease of addiction coming into therapy or treatment means owning up to the first STEP in the recovery process: Admitting that my life has become unmanageable and I have no control over my addiction.  But isn’t that the way with all of us when we have to own up to what is not working in our life–admit that there is a problem and that life has become unmanageable as is.  What a brave thing to do!…And how frightening.

And so I return to breath as I often do in times of stress and renewal.  Breath is our life source, our origin, our beginning and our end is all breath and silence.  So we can go back to the root of ourselves through breath and silence.  I teach my clients breath first to find a way to bear the daunting task ahead–change.  And I constantly remind myself to return to breath when life and those in it surprise, disappoint, injure, or exhilarate.  Yesterday I taught a workshop at THE RED TENT in Delray Beach, Florida and I told a wonderful and strong group of women the importance of breath and keeping one’s gaze on a fixed point in life and in yoga, because without it we cannot maintain balance through the chaos and storms that always, inevitably come.  I continue to remind myself, as I do my clients to do this–breathe, find inner silence, and keep my gaze on the fixed point in the distance.

What is your stability–the point you can fix your gaze on in your life?

When do you find silence and breath in your day?

20 minutes dedicated to YOU per day can make a vital shift internally to help find the resilience and resolve to deal with all the externals that life throws at us!

Give yourself some time, some care, and some room to breathe.

PLEASE TAKE SOME TIME CHECK OUT MY NEW VIRTUAL WORKSHOP now available at THE WISH STUDIO called, apropos, ROOM TO BREATHE!  I AM VERY EXCITED ABOUT THIS NEW VENTURE THAT HAS BEEN SOME MONTHS IN THE WORKS!

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http://wishstudio.com/events/

And I wanted to thank Durga at YOGA OF RECOVERY for linking to the EMBODY MENTAL HEALTH TIMES PAGE!  Thank you Durga for both your thoughtful interview and your virtual “shout-out” to the mission of this blog and EMBODY MENTAL HEALTH of being able to discuss on issues of integrative and complementary mental health!  See Durga’s interview in the previous post.

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  • The Wordless Language of Trauma: Trauma, the Brain, & Speech September 10, 2009
    Trauma is contained and retained in the body and mind.  Normal memory and experience is processed in the brain in a sequence: the experience is had, it is absorbed into a person's memory, and then it is catalogued in our memory log of past events and becomes past.  An example I often give my clients as a comparison of normal memory and trauma is remembe […]
    noreply@blogger.com (Teresa Bennett, LCSW)
  • Dancing Through Our Inner Darkness: Movement for Mental Health August 29, 2009
    * This article coordinates with elements discussed in MY EMBODIMENT BLOG POST at https://myembodiment.wordpress.com/2009/08/28/dancing-in-the-dark-the-expanse-of-movement-therapies/ * Yoga can be a powerful tool for healing (see "Yoga &Trauma Article) but it is not the only movement therapy.  There are a kaliedeoscope of ways in which the body can wo […]
    noreply@blogger.com (Teresa Bennett, LCSW)
  • Posttraumatic Stress Disorder & Symptoms August 25, 2009
    Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a NORMAL reaction to ABNORMAL circumstances that have been put upon a person. Whether it be from emotional, sexual, or physical abuse and/or the impact of war, and whether it coincides with other issues which might be part of a person's coping mechanism to trauma (addiction, eating disorders, ect.) trauma is not d […]
    noreply@blogger.com (Teresa Bennett, LCSW)
  • Trauma & Yoga: A Brief Overview August 24, 2009
    Yoga is becoming a noticed treatment for posttraumatic stress disorders: at lease in the more holistically inclined circles. It is being found that the impact of this practice on traumatized clients is beneficial and healing for a variety of reasons. All the elements of yoga are attuned to the mind and the body and communicate fluidly between the two. It is […]
    noreply@blogger.com (Teresa Bennett, LCSW)
  • Complex Trauma & PTSD: A Preliminary Exploration August 22, 2009
    Posttraumatic stress disorder consists of a web of symptoms that are cultivated in a person who has a traumatic experience from which they do not immediately recover. This can happen for a number of reasons, one of which is a sensitivity to traumatic events due to having experienced trauma previously in their lives. When I am working with traumatized clients […]
    noreply@blogger.com (Teresa Bennett, LCSW)

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