Rachel Grant Coaching

March 24, 2015

How Meditation Saved My Life When Nothing Else Could


This week, we wrap our series with the fabulous Zoë Wild, Spiritual Life & Business Coach, and spectacular woman. This week, she shares with us her own personal story.

And this also marks the 200th post for the Return to Your Genuine Self blog -- kinda exciting!!!

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Almost a decade ago, while living in LA and working in the film industry, I experienced a complete emotional and physical breakdown. I couldn’t stop crying, couldn’t get out of bed, couldn’t sleep for weeks on end, or talk without pain.  I couldn’t work, see my friends, or leave my tiny studio apartment. I was overwhelmed and exhausted from a lifetime of knowing there was more but not knowing what, seeking for true meaning in every corner of life, simultaneous high and low self worth, intermittent depression, anger and pain about the state of the world and the things I had witnessed and been through. I felt as if I had tried everything to quell the longing in my soul and overcome the trauma and nothing was working.

I gave myself a year to live.  Therapy, career changes, worldly success, relationships, sex, travel, self-help books, making myself beautiful-- all had done nothing to sustainably shift the deep ache I felt inside.

I told myself I would try everything that I had always wanted to and never had and if, at the end of that year, nothing had changed, I would end my life.

One of the things on that list was meditation.

Every day, I would crawl to the end of my bed to follow the instructions in a book a friend had given me.  I took to the practice like a fish to water.  The techniques for using my own direct experience to explore the true nature of being alive were the first thing that ever really made sense to me. Finally, someone was starting at the foundation– and asking me to look for myself rather than telling me what to see.

Very quickly, I realized that I was not my mind, emotions, or body.  What I am revealed itself to be something much more profound, and yet so ordinary, something that had always been there and yet I
had missed it in the hustle of daily life and lack of instruction. It was the source of the longing I had felt, calling me back from the insanity of the world, reminding me of what we are and how to live in harmony.  By returning to it, the door I had been looking for in healing and in my life was opened.

I made some inquiries, saved up some money, and moved to Burma-- a country I didn’t even know existed beforehand, to live in a monastery.

I can still see the bright sun on the stone walls, the tall tropical trees out of an exotic adventure novel, and feel the impact on my heart of the smiling faces and openness of the villagers, full of a simple joy I had never before experienced.

I went to that monastery not to become enlightened, discover God, or learn supernatural abilities.  I was there to find a reason to live.  I wanted to know if there was any rhyme or reason in this universe, lasting peace to be found in my heart, a way out of the overwhelm, pressure, intrusive thoughts, painful memories, self-criticism, bad habits, relationship patterns and hopelessness about the state of the world that were so pervasive in my experience.

What I got was so much more.  Within three months, everywhere I looked, I saw only the miracle that is life.  I had no desire to be anywhere other than this moment, open and curious about what was.  Through practice, the layers of limiting perspective I had accumulated over the years dissolved, allowing a fresh experience of even the most minute details of life to emerge.  Everything appeared the same on the outside, and yet I experienced it completely differently internally. The transformation from separation to unity was so complete that I didn’t even consciously notice it had happened for some time.

Through meditation I discovered the true nature of my being – beyond thoughts, emotions, physicality, and perceptions. The way the mind works, and how to use it as a magnificent tool, rather than have it run me. The nature of emotions – how to experience and allow that energy to transmute and express in helpful rather than destructive ways. A profound connection with all of creation.  Gifts and abilities I could share with the world.  A wealth of joy and creativity I had no idea lived within me.  An immovable place of peace in the center of my being.  The beauty of the world.  Freedom from my inner state being tied to outer circumstance or any idea of identity.  The true, alive meaning of Love.  I healed my relationships with my family. I became so kind to myself and others.  I was healed.

What do I mean by healed?

The experiences of the past don’t create my present.  They are not forgotten, but they are integrated and not a part of my daily repertoire.  I truly love and accept myself.  To me, this means I allow and experience all of my emotions and thoughts without making them mean something about me or my worth. I don’t feel controlled by my thoughts.  I have a wonderful relationship with my body, and the physical ailments I was suffering from at that time went away.  I feel in communication with my body, mind, heart and soul – and I am committed to following my inner guidance.  When I have conflict, I know how to deal with it and use it for my growth.  I am more often relaxed and peaceful than stressed or anxious.  I am free to define myself in each moment as it comes rather than based on the past. 

Meditation is a vehicle (sometimes an extreme sport!) for examining what it is to be alive that continues to take me on an incredible adventure and revelation of the secrets of what this life is.

Is my life perfect? My definition of perfection has changed.  Do I have hard days?  Of course!  I am human.  Life doesn’t stop having a huge range of experience, nor would I want it to – but the understanding of the whole picture, and the approach to the ups and downs is entirely different.

When I returned to the US, I saw so many people suffering simply from not having access to the simple yet profound teachings that I had been given.  I also saw that most people did not have the freedom in their lives to get up and go off for several years, as I had – even if they were in as much despair as I had been.

I was shocked to see how differently most meditation was taught here.  It had become attached to a specific lifestyle that led to ideas of superiority rather than humility and connection.  People were spending more time reading and writing books about it than actually practicing it.  Worse, people didn’t seem able to bring the peace they found on the cushion to their actual daily life.

I longed for other people to be able to experience the immense transformation and freedom from so much suffering that I had been blessed with.  That is why I created www.WildMeditation.com.

Wild Meditation is meditation anyone can do in any activity of life. It’s a group course because that is how it has been taught for thousands of years. It is so much easier to stay committed when you have companions on the journey. It is pay-what-you-can because I believe this tool is your human birthright.

Sharing these teachings is the way I can say thank you to the universe for all the benefits I have received.

Whether you learn meditation from me or someone else, I urge you to try it.  May it be the key for you that it was for me, and open up the door to the healing you are seeking…and so much more.

With Love,
Zoë


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Zoë Wild, CPCC wants to live in a world where every single person knows their essential, liberated nature – where the truth of each unique soul is fully and freely expressed, so we can play and explore life in radiant compassion and electric freedom, together.

As a Buddhist Nun, Interfaith Minister and Spiritual Life & Business Coach she has spent thousands of hours in personal retreat and worked with thousands of people on their own spiritual unfolding for life success. She is a beloved spiritual community leader known for her grounded, no BS approach and unshakeable love.

When she’s not bringing people to their knees in awe of themselves or exploring the deepest questions of life with her community -- you can find Zoë hiking the red rocks, riding horses, and learning to sing.

Her book The Little Book of Being is scheduled to be complete by summer 2015.

You are so much more than you know. Liberate yourself at www.zoewild.com

March 10, 2015

Reconnecting to Spirituality After Life Treats You Like Sh*t


This week, we continue our series with the fabulous Zoë Wild, Spiritual Life & Business Coach, and spectacular woman. This week, she shares with us some keys to creating a spiritual life even if we've been through hell.

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For people who have experienced trauma, the idea of connecting to any sort of “spirituality” can feel like a bunch of BS.

How and why should you trust in the basic goodness of the universe after what has happened?  Sure, it’s easy to believe everything happens for a reason and there is some sort of benevolent design to this mysterious unfolding of life when everything is coming up roses – NOT when you’ve been abused, traumatized, and experienced devastation, pain and injustice.  

Yet, it is when we are feeling at our most low, abandoned and meaningless - that spirituality can be the very thing that returns us to wholeness and belonging.

So, how can you build trust in life again, or for the first time?




1. Shift your understanding of what “spirituality” really is.
True spirituality is not a religion or a set of beliefs – spirituality is the practice of re-connecting to your own center or “spirit” – the unique and universal life within you that is unseen, the alive Consciousness that is experiencing and processing your life. Your Being.  Your Soul.  Whatever you want to call it, it is perhaps the only part of you that the trauma isn’t able to damage. Trauma can impact your connection to the transcendent, but it can’t actually harm it.   

When you see this as what spirituality really is – reconnecting to your essential self – you can see the importance of turning to it rather than abandoning it.  This is also the part of you that most clearly knows your personal path to healing and is waiting to guide you home. 


2. Allow yourself to try ancient shamanic methods of healing.
Western medicine has a lot of ideas about how to heal from trauma – but the truth is, these techniques are very new, even experimental, and often don’t reach the deepest injuries in our being.  Treatments like pharmaceuticals can often serve to simply numb symptoms.  Many people stay in therapy for years with limited results, and end up blaming themselves.

A shaman or medicine person in ancient cultures was someone who could transform stuck energy through their knowledge of the human spirit.  The techniques they used are based on heart wisdom rather than head wisdom.  These methods may seem far from practical or rational, but have a way of bypassing the mental traffic in order to reconnect you to your body and soul.  Veterans I work with go to ceremonies that release and integrate what all else could not.  When you allow the possibility for more than meets the eye, healing becomes possible.

"In many shamanic societies, if you came to a shaman or medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited, or depressed, they would ask one of four questions. When did you stop dancing? When did you stop singing? When did you stop being enchanted by stories? When did you stop finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence?...Dancing, singing, storytelling, and silence are the four universal healing salves." ~ Gabrielle Roth


3. Return to Nature. 
There is an ancient Sufi teaching that the only truly spiritual text is the Sacred Manuscript of Nature.  Humans are a part of nature, an equal part – no more, no less – in this great cosmic ecosystem.  Remembering this is key to re-discovering a sense of belonging and connection in the world again.  Belonging is a key to healing.

Walk in the woods, lie in the grass, watch the seasons turn, let the earth hold you.  Reconnect to the mystery of life, to wonder, to the beauty and vastness of the world.  A silent night spent out under the stars can do more to put things in perspective than reading 20 books about it.  Animals and plants know how to heal themselves instinctively, learn from their wisdom.  Everything you need to know about life can be revealed to you if you are willing to become an innocent in the natural world.


4. Learn to Meditate

Meditation is the art of learning to observe what is happening without identifying with it so that you can see ever deeper levels of reality.  When you have experienced trauma, it is common to re-traumatize yourself by playing it over and again in your mind.  Through meditation you can learn to observe it and let it play out in new ways so that you can finally release the need to keep re-experiencing it.  Meditation is also helpful because it creates a way for you to differentiate between the self-hating and limiting beliefs you have created, as a result of trauma, and what's really true.

Many people avoid meditation because they believe it is too difficult, or requires sitting silently for hours and eliminating all thoughts, which feels impossible.  There are many forms of meditation, and you can find the one that is right for you.  To learn more about meditation, you can watch this video. Or message me at wildlifecoaching@gmail.com about the next Learn to Meditate Online Class.
  

5. Find a spiritual coach or teacher who sees your deepest self. 
One of the greatest gifts of a sincere spiritual teacher is that they see the you underneath all the abuse that has happened to you. Before this happened, even if that was just when you were in the womb, you had a sense of self worth, a unique personality, likes and dislikes, and a purpose for this life.  That, and the even deeper universal self, is all they care about.  Simply by being around them, through their energy and vibration, it will awaken that memory in you.  Much like a musical instrument will harmonize with the vibration of others around it.  Additionally, they will have tools and wisdom to help you navigate your way back to forgiveness, meaning and self love.  This will allow you to live your life from a place of true freedom.  


6. Forgive Life. Forgive Yourself.
Life treated you horribly.  It feels unfair.  It feels unforgivable.  Yet, if you refuse to forgive you are only limiting your own life.  Forgiveness doesn’t mean saying that what happened was OK.  Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting.  Forgiveness is the courageous act of releasing the rage and resentment that you are holding in your system as a result of the trauma so that you can grow something else in that space of your heart.  Hanging onto these emotions is harming your body, mind, and spirit –holding you back from moving forward and making a meaningful life. Feel the feelings, allow them, they are your dear friends outraged on your behalf – let them speak their piece in healthy ways.  Then, let them go. When you forgive yourself and life, you can reconnect to your deepest spiritual knowing once again.  May it be so.


“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” ~ Elizabeth Kübler-Ross




Join us next week as we one more post from Zoë!

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Zoë Wild, CPCC wants to live in a world where every single person knows their essential, liberated nature – where the truth of each unique soul is fully and freely expressed, so we can play and explore life in radiant compassion and electric freedom, together.

As a Buddhist Nun, Interfaith Minister and Spiritual Life & Business Coach she has spent thousands of hours in personal retreat and worked with thousands of people on their own spiritual unfolding for life success. She is a beloved spiritual community leader known for her grounded, no BS approach and unshakeable love.

When she’s not bringing people to their knees in awe of themselves or exploring the deepest questions of life with her community -- you can find Zoë hiking the red rocks, riding horses, and learning to sing.

Her book The Little Book of Being is scheduled to be complete by summer 2015.

You are so much more than you know. Liberate yourself at www.zoewild.com

March 2, 2015

Don't Put Off Joy on Your Journey to Healing!

This week, I bring to you the fabulous Zoë Wild, Spiritual Life & Business Coach, and spectacular woman. We are in for a huge treat to have her sharing her spirit and teachings with us!

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Most people see the journey of healing from childhood trauma as a journey from A to B. 

Island A looks like this: you, broken, wounded and alone on a desert island.  You can’t find happiness; your past has a negative impact on every area of your life.  Your relationship to yourself and others is a constant struggle, an emotional roller-coaster.  You are miserable, unhealthy in body and mind, and you fear a happy life is simply not possible for you.  

Island B is a much sunnier place: full of kind faces and drinks with umbrellas.  You have fully healed and integrated your past.  You are in perfect health.  You are successful in your relationships, your work and you love your social life.  The best part is you love yourself and feel inner peace and joy almost all of the time – free to live the life you desire and deserve.  You can finally relax.

And to get from one to the other, you just need to follow the path of your “journey to healing” – therapy, coaching, spirituality, diet, exercise, forgiveness and whatever else, until you are there.  Right?  WRONG. 

The trip from A to B is not linear, nor is it overnight, and – once you arrive at island B – you discover a chain of islands that goes on into the horizon infinitely.  There is no such thing as “fully healed” because as a human being there is always room for more wholeness, peace, success, and contentment.  So, if you are waiting to arrive somewhere in order to relax and enjoy life, you will be waiting forever!

“That the abyss is bottomless is the bad news.  The good news is it must also be topless!” ~ David James Duncan

When you believe that joy is not possible until you are fully healed, you put it off forever and deprive yourself of the very practice that will facilitate the majority of your healing.

The journey of healing is about learning to enjoy life again.  Learning happens through practice – and that is something you can give yourself permission to start doing today, right now.  Here are a few tips on how to do that.

1.    Build your joy muscle by noticing and celebrating the little joys in your life each day; the big joys will come later. 

Each day there are things to be grateful for: even if it’s just waking up, eyesight, the ability to walk, a beautiful flower, call from a friend, relaxing bath, or a kind word from your boss or child.  Really notice and take in these moments of joy.  Breathe them into all the cells of your body.  Much trauma is stored in your body, not just your mind – so bring the new message of joy to your body as well.  Even if these moments only amount to 10% of your day – focus on that 10%.  What you turn your attention to begins to show up more in your life.  Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater by ignoring the joy available now.

2.    See Joy as an integral part of your recovery program, and commit to it. 

Practicing joy is as essential to your healing journey as seeing your therapist or attending meetings or changing your diet.  Does it matter how healthy you are if you don’t know how to enjoy it?  Also, joy has been proven to increase neurotransmitters in the brain that actually help you to create new neural pathways – ie. healing!  You can do this by the simple act of smiling.  Think of activities that bring you joy, and commit to a joy-date with yourself at least once per week, ideally once per day. You will be amazed at how much faster you heal.

3.     Surround yourself with people who make the journey worth it. 

This walk of life can be a doozy of ups and downs – good companions can make the whole thing worth it!  Choose your friends wisely.  Keep people around who bring you UP rather than bring you DOWN the majority of the time (everyone has bad days). You know the saying, misery loves company – well, so does joy!  If you surround yourself with people who make you laugh, feel loved, and experience happiness themselves, you will feel joyful.

4.    When you have a bad day – don’t compound it by beating yourself up – simply let it go.

It’s time to redefine lapses as just another step in the process rather than failure. When you have a bad day, yell at your kids, eat the whole pint of ice cream, take a drink – don’t make it worse by beating yourself up on top of that.  Be kind to yourself.  Forgive yourself.  Laugh if you can, and set the intention to do better next time.  Trust that you are headed in the right direction, and that this is not a block to your destination, but part of the path.

5.    Be present -- stop and smell the roses – take your eyes off the destination.

As someone who has recovered from complex trauma myself, I know that the healing process is a process that brings you alive.  You will explore your soul deeply, discover gifts of empathy and sensitivity that result from your experiences, a wealth of knowledge within, learn things, go places and meet people you never would have otherwise. So be here for your journey as if your soul chose this path intentionally for your own growth and in order to serve the world more deeply.  When you don’t feel like you “should” be at the destination, you are free to enjoy what’s actually happening now.


The truth is – the more you enjoy yourself along the journey of healing, the faster the ship starts to sail.  So, give yourself permission to feel joy NOW, in this moment, today.



Join us next week as we get even more awesomeness from Zoë!

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Zoë Wild, CPCC wants to live in a world where every single person knows their essential, liberated nature – where the truth of each unique soul is fully and freely expressed, so we can play and explore life in radiant compassion and electric freedom, together.

As a Buddhist Nun, Interfaith Minister and Spiritual Life & Business Coach she has spent thousands of hours in personal retreat and worked with thousands of people on their own spiritual unfolding for life success. She is a beloved spiritual community leader known for her grounded, no BS approach and unshakeable love.

When she’s not bringing people to their knees in awe of themselves or exploring the deepest questions of life with her community -- you can find Zoë hiking the red rocks, riding horses, and learning to sing.

Her book The Little Book of Being is scheduled to be complete by summer 2015.

You are so much more than you know. Liberate yourself at www.zoewild.com

February 26, 2015

The Transformative Power of Practice

This week, we wrap up our series with Staci Haines of Generative Somatics. Enjoy!

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What is Practice?

 
A central component of any change process – personal change or organizational change – is the concept of practice.  But what is practice and why is it so important?

Practice is simply the act of doing something, whether that something is as complicated as doing a piano solo or as simple as washing the dishes.  We call it practice when the act becomes a repeated behavior.

Practice can be both distinct and indistinct.  We can set aside time to intentionally focus on our practice, such as when we set aside time to practice a musical instrument, practice basketball, or practice meditation.  Practice is also indistinct in that we are always practicing something, whether we are conscious of it or not.  The ritual of our morning coffee and newspaper, how we behave in meetings, our attitude when it is time to do unpleasant activities – in all of these situations we are practicing how we should be, though usually without conscious intent.

This is important because generally speaking the more we practice something the better we get at

it.  Our experience of course teaches us that sometimes we practice and we don't seem to get better, but in fact we are getting better – we just may not be getting better at what we want.  Each time we practice piano with a grumpy attitude, then we may get better at piano, but we will also certainly get better at being grumpy.  Or when we practice meditation and consciously allow ourselves to daydream, then as time passes we get better and better at daydreaming while sitting ever so still.  Practice is always happening.  It is continuously shaping us: opening us up to new ways of being, or increasingly calcifying the way we think, act, and feel.

There are two central areas we need to focus on to understand practice as it relates to how we grow and change:  default practices and intentional practice.


Default Practices
 
Default practices are the deeply rooted behaviors that we do automatically, consistently, and unconsciously in response to any given situation.  By automatic we mean that it is the primary reaction that is triggered in us when we are in a particular situation; consistent means that it is the reaction that we engage in more often than not; and unconscious means that we do it without being consciously aware that there are probably other responses that we could choose in the situation.  


For example when we feel a conflict arise at work and we find that we begin to start avoiding the issue or avoiding the people involved, then we are probably engaging in our default practice around conflict.  The behavior happens before we know it, and when we finally realize the behavior we are doing, it usually seems like we had no choice, or it was the only thing to do in that situation.  They are so rooted in us in fact that often they feel like who we are…”that’s just me, that’s what I do.”  This sense of ourselves is natural, we identify with what we experience over time.  But where do these kinds of behaviors come from?

Default practices are learned behaviors and reactions that are inherited through our life experiences.  Our families, cultures and the social conditions in which we live invite and at times demand certain ways of being.  Violence, oppression, rejection, loss, or other situations that threatened our safety as children (and as adults) all played a role in shaping our default practices.  We have a practiced response to anger or to sadness, a practiced way to interface with power and intimacy, and countless others.  These practices were formed at a time when we needed them – they played a crucial role in our survival and our ability to belong.

However, because our default practices have often been shaped out of difficult experiences when we had limited means of dealing with and processing them, these practices often don’t align with our present-day values, politics, and/or what we most care about.  We can find ourselves acting and reacting in ways that make us more difficult for others to trust, less effective in our work, or more limited in our approaches to systemic change and movement building.  Where once they were essential survival strategies, they may now be problematic.  Because they are so practiced and have now become unconscious behaviors we can feel like we have no way to change them.

The good news is that we can learn to observe our default practices, instead of reacting out of them immediately.  We can learn other ways to take care of what they were taking care of – other ways to deal with conflict, power, our own and others emotions and need for safety.  We can begin to purposefully take on practices that align with our values, to become organizers, leaders, and people who more embody or model the social visions we hold.

To become more aware of your default practices begin to pay attention to your own automatic reactions.  Do you move toward or away from conflict?  Can you feel and tolerate your own emotions (sadness, anger, guilt, joy, fear) or do you need to rid yourself of them by denying them or putting them out on someone else?  When you don’t understand or know what to do, do you cover it up, blame someone else or take more responsibility than is yours?

The easiest way to learn about your default practices is to feel your own sensations and emotions and to observe your own thoughts.  Meditation, centering practices and self awareness are new practices that can help you learn about your default practices.  By building awareness of your default practices you begin to uproot them.  You stop the automatic reactions and prepare the ground for new ones.  You build in time between your internal reaction and your external action.  You can feel more without reacting.  This allows you to begin to make choices and take actions more aligned with your values and your politics.



Intentional Practices

 
Intentional Practices are those that we choose to do in order to transform the way we show up in the world.  Through new practices we increase choice and alignment with our values.

When we begin to look at our own practices and then practice on purpose, the first thing we want to ask ourselves is: “What matters to me?”  “What do I care about?  “What am I committed to?” The answers to these questions become the guide for taking on new practices.  Organizationally we want to ask similar questions:  What practices do we need to be in as a staff and organization?  What practices do we want to support in our member base to align with our vision and political commitments?

There are three key aspects to the transformative power of practice:

1. Practice is organized around your commitments.  What are you committed to?  What practices will help you realize this commitment?  The answers, individually and organizationally, act as the guide to developing your new practices.  These questions can be answered based on your mission and politics and/or based on what default practices you want to change.  For example if you are committed to building a strong movement beyond any one organization, then you may consider engaging in a practice of regularly assisting organizational allies, even if your organization gets no immediate benefit from it.  Your organization could have a monthly practice of giving another organization 5 hours of volunteer time, helping them build a skill around something that your organization has expertise or competency in.


2.  Practice lays bare all of our resistances to change.  It is like a backdrop, a canvas against which all of our anxieties, fears, anger, denial are vividly painted for us to see, if we choose to see them.  Each time we do the practice, even if it is a practice we relish, we will find that one way or another some part of our “selves” will want to resist it – to find some means of escape and relief from the practice.  This desire for escape may be subtle or it may be pronounced.  It can become particularly noticeable once the practice moves past the initial novelty stage.  The desire to escape the practice shows up in a variety of ways, tailored specifically to our unique persona and hot-button triggers.  It can show up as boredom, anger, frustration, discomfort, fear,

daydreaming, exhaustion, sleepiness, fake joy (trying to make the best of it), and many others depending on the situation and your personality.  And the bonus is if the practice is sufficiently frequent and consistent, this glorious picture of our resistances, or variations of them, gets painted with startling regularity.  They will show up again and again – they are actually there for us to see them all the time if we are present and attentive.  You can track these reactions and use them to help you see the default practices you have been in.  This can inform what new practices you can engage to shift toward what and who you want to be.

You can expect that you will have a complex relationship to new practices.  Sometimes you will likely love them and other times hate them.  You are purposefully changing yourself, changing your practices, and this involves being uncomfortable.  It can feel weird, not like you, or surface old emotions, memories, and struggles that you have tried to stay away from.  All of this is normal in the change process.  Throughout, we want to keep orienting back to what we are committed to.  This mission, this commitment, needs to be emotionally, intellectually, spiritually and politically engaging enough to you to mobilize you through discomfort.  Before you begin your new practice, remind yourself of your commitment – why it is that you are practicing.  This then becomes a powerful aspect of your new practice and helps build a sense of conscious purpose toward positive change.


3. Practice begins to orient and shape how we show up in the world.  Practice changes our minds, bodies, and moods towards the new way of being, because we are in fact momentarily living a new mental narrative, a new emotional orientation, and a new physical shape.  Each time we do the practice we are spending that moment of time interrupting the old habits and living the new pattern that we seek to put into place. Literally, as we practice new movements, internal conversations (reminding yourself of what it is you are committed to) and new emotional states, we are creating new neuronal pathways in the brain and new muscle memory in the body.

So we want to ask ourselves, “What is it that I want to be practicing?”, and take this question seriously.  If what you want for yourself is being present with yourself while you can also listen to others, then this is what you need to practice.  If you need to deal with certain emotions, like anger or grief, more effectively, you need to practice facing these emotions and learning to feel them, instead of avoiding them.  If you need to learn how to give direct and useful feedback, or ask for it for yourself, you’ll need to practice feeling but not acting out of your anxiety, and squaring up to direct conversations with care.  Each practice can be built to have you be more present and more choice-full (less reactive).  Each practice can be designed to help you learn and then embody a new skill, or way of being.

Once you know what you care about and have built a relevant practice for that, you want to practice regularly.  You don’t want to wait for the heat of the moment to try to practice something new, you want to practice it like you would the piano or basketball, during practice time, daily.

Practice while being present.  Pay attention to your mental narrative, emotional orientation, and physical organization of your body as you practice.  Feel your sensations and your breath.  Watch if you go into default reactions or old practices.  If you notice you are there, come back, and make the correction.  Move back into your new practice, even if you need to start over.  Anytime we slip out of attention and the present moment, we run the risk of practicing unwanted behaviors, and we definitely practice being out of attention.  On the other hand if we practice with consciousness and intention we hold the capability of fundamentally changing how we show up in the world.  In this case we are practicing what we seek to become and also un-practicing our old habits.

Practice is transformative because you begin to embody new ways of being.  Through repetition what was a new practice becomes natural, easy, a new habit.  You are in fact beginning to become somebody new.  You will begin to see more clearly and quickly the choice that opens up in the moment about how you want to be.  We are what we practice.  Are we practicing what is most aligned with our vision for the world, for justice?  This is where we want to continue to hone ourselves, organizations and work.



The Road to Transformation
 
 
Practice is the fundamental element of transformation.  If we are going to practice towards transforming how we are, then we should strive for mastery at the level of change we seek.  We may not get there and we may not even ultimately wish for mastery, but the intention of mastery can compel us to put our best effort forward in our practice, to be fully present and committed to what we are doing.

Transformation will always at some point engage our emotions and an emotional process.  Nothing is wrong with this, it is just to be expected.  As we change default practices and engage in new practices the internal terrain of who we are is changed.  This often brings old avoided emotions to the surface to be dealt with and healed.  Transformation can also bring new emotions that we may

be unfamiliar with or not yet identify with, be it compassion, fear, full hearted commitment or having to confront the unknown.  The more you notice your emotional landscape being changed, stirred, and engaged, the more you know you are on a road of transformation.

At the end of the day there are no shortcuts or magic tricks.  Practice offers this brutally refreshing reality:  practice only puts into place what you practice.  If you don’t put in sufficient practice, embodiment of the new way of being simply won’t come.  In fact the key to good practice is to accept this fact and to strip away all that is superfluous and distracting from the bare practice itself.  Strip away the stories and narratives about how difficult and punishing the practice is.  Strip away the stories about what a great person you are for walking the path of practice.  Release the desire to be seen by others as magnificent or as a martyr.  Simply practice with intention, and pay attention to what happens.

Each period of practice is a flagstone on the path to self mastery.  Self mastery is a path that we are always on.  In fact it can be said that we are never not on a path to mastery because we are always practicing.  We may not be conscious of what we are practicing in any given moment, but the fact remains that we are constantly in a process of mastery.  The long path to mastery has the power to transform who and how we are.

This ultimately is the best way to change ourselves.







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Staci K. Haines is the founder of generative somatics, and is committed to the interdependence of personal, collective and systemic transformation.   “We are shaped by our deeply personal experiences and our social conditions.  Through embodied transformation and collective action we can move ourselves, communities and society toward what is life-affirming.  The focus of generative somatics is to bring the transformative power of somatics to serve social and environmental justice movements.”

Staci is also a founder of generationFIVE, a social justice organization whose mission is to end the sexual abuse of children within 5 generations through survivor leadership, community organizing, transformative justice approaches and movement building (www.generationFIVE.org). She has been working and organizing re: child sexual abuse prevention since 1992.

Lastly, Staci is the author of Healing Sex: A Mind Body Approach to Healing Sexual Trauma (Cleis 1999, 2007), a how-to book offering a somatic approach to recovery from sexual trauma and developing healthy sexual and intimate relationships. Healing Sex includes both men and women as survivors of sexual trauma, and represents people from a diversity of communities, and has both English and Spanish subtitles (www.healingsexthemovie.com).

February 17, 2015

A Gateway to Healing Trauma: Embodied Transformation

This week, I am super excited to be introducing you to Staci Haines of Generative Somatics. I have been following Staci's work for some time and her book, The Survivor's Guide to Sex, had a huge impact on me and my healing. In this two part series, Staci is going to be sharing with us some beautiful somatic techniques for healing. Enjoy!

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Healing from traumatic experiences, those that break a deep sense of safety, belonging, trust or dignity, is an embodied experience.  What do we mean by embodied? I’d like to invite you to think of embodied as the “whole self and how we relate,”…not just adding the body to psychotherapy, and not even just understanding the brain better through neuroscience (although this is great!).  

Embodied includes our thinking and belief systems, our nervous system, muscular system, endocrine system, skeletal and circulatory system, our felt senses, our actions, our relatedness to others and life, our heads, hearts and guts, our identities.  All of this is embodied, or in Somatics we call it the Soma.   We are organisms, relating with other organisms. 

When we are hurt or deeply threatened though abuse, violence, certain kinds of loss, oppression or hate crimes, we automatically move into a deep set of survival reactions.  These are built in -- we didn't have to learn them -- they come with the package of being human.  


Our entire system moves into a complex set of survival responses that include: flight, fight, freeze, appease and dissociate.  All of these are deigned to take care of our safety, belonging (to love and be loved), dignity and our significance.  These later are core needs as humans.  We adapt, and adapt to survive.  

Sadly when adaptation is driven by harm or shock, or lacking love connected to safety, things get complex.  Our survival strategies become automatic, even when they don't serve our lives anymore (i.e. distrust of self and others that is generalized, giving up safety to find connection or visa verse, isolation, constant anxiety, etc.)

Below is an embodied process of transformation, we call the Arc of Transformation.  This is an overview of the aspects of healing through the Soma that are a part of embodied transformation.  By Transformation, we mean that you can take new actions, make new moves and choices, even when under pressure.  When looking at transformation and healing trauma, it means you are not “managing” your symptoms after trauma, not being driven by that hurt, rather, you have new ways to generate safety, belonging and dignity… that safety and love are re-connected, rather than split.  Most people talk about feeling lighter, like the trauma is behind them, that they are able to feel and embodied themselves, etc.

 


In each area of work there are somatic conversations, processes and somatic practices.  This work also integrates somatic bodywork and breath patterns.

Current shape:  This is what is currently embodied in you -- thinking, actions, emotional range, ways of relating.

Circle 1: This is a time to explore: What do you care about?  What matters to you? What do you long for?  The body usually has a different answer than the mind alone.  We form declarations for the future.  Also, this is the time to build the relevance of the Soma and begin feeling and listening deeply to the whole self and body (sensations, emotions, aliveness).

Circle 2: The embodied exploration of  “conditioned tendencies” (our embodied adaptations), of resilience, and our safety shaping.  How did you adapt to find safety, belonging and dignity?  What of this works still and what is automatic and limiting your choices?  We build new practices for safety, connection and dignity, learning embodied consent.  What deep embodied resource did you access, and how can you practice that on purpose now? 

Circle 3: Processing the historical contractions and numbness in the Soma through the body.  The body holds our history and adaptations to our experiences through contractions, numbness and physicalized patterns.  We call this body-up learning.  When the Soma opens, new information will emerge from the body, and inform the thinking and identity.  We hold that there is an inherent healing system that wants to re-harmonize…like an immune system for healing the self.  When we help the Soma open old safety contractions and numbness, this system works.  It is a very quick way to heal. 

Circle 4: Mutual connection and healing shame.  We are inherently relational.  Loving and being loved is core to our human experience, and usually the place we need to heal and grow to get good at.  Feeling ourselves and others at the same time.  Dignifying self and others simultaneously.  Where there is trauma, there is shame.  We hold a multi-phase healing shame process that includes: education (often we think things are our fault that aren’t), blending with shame, spirited commitment to dignity, centered accountability (not over or under accountable) and cultivating forgiveness (self and others).  Lastly, learning to build more connection, rather than split), when there is conflict.  Conflict as generative.

Circle 5:  Embodying new practices.  We become what we practice, we are always practicing something. Are our practices aligned with what we most care about?  In this phase our purposeful practices are more and more aligned with what we care about and who we want to be. These are embodied practices with purpose and intention behind them.

New Shape:  This is the phase of embodied transformation when you have, and are, the embodied commitments and longings you began with.  Perhaps you yearned for an ability to create intimacy with yourself and others, or for the experience of safety and connection combined, for an ability to have centered boundaries that care for you and others, or to speak and pursue what you care about…etc.  Your actions, thinking, expanded emotional capacity are more aligned with what you most care about and your values. Because we continue to grow and deepen, the “New Shape” becomes your “current shape” and we get to continue to move through the Arc.  This is an iterative process.

Lastly, another way of thinking about “embodied”, is that our human form/body is the result of 3 billion years of evolutionary wisdom.  Why would we only attend to our rational mind when we have all of that wisdom?



Join us next week when Staci will be sharing with us how to understand trauma and resilience on a somatic level!






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Staci K. Haines is the founder of generative somatics, and is committed to the interdependence of personal, collective and systemic transformation.   “We are shaped by our deeply personal experiences and our social conditions.  Through embodied transformation and collective action we can move ourselves, communities and society toward what is life-affirming.  The focus of generative somatics is to bring the transformative power of somatics to serve social and environmental justice movements.”

Staci is also a founder of generationFIVE, a social justice organization whose mission is to end the sexual abuse of children within 5 generations through survivor leadership, community organizing, transformative justice approaches and movement building (www.generationFIVE.org). She has been working and organizing re: child sexual abuse prevention since 1992.

Lastly, Staci is the author of Healing Sex: A Mind Body Approach to Healing Sexual Trauma (Cleis 1999, 2007), a how-to book offering a somatic approach to recovery from sexual trauma and developing healthy sexual and intimate relationships. Healing Sex includes both men and women as survivors of sexual trauma, and represents people from a diversity of communities, and has both English and Spanish subtitles (www.healingsexthemovie.com).



Resources, personal stories, communication techniques, and strategies for survivors of sexual abuse who are ready to break free from the past and return to their genuine self.