Author Archives: Lisa

Embrace your Dance, Embrace your Life

This blog piece originally was published as “The Dance of Life” on the Living Inquiries website.

I went to a 5 Rhythms[1](5R) retreat over the weekend.  If you’re unfamiliar with 5R, it is an organization devoted to freedom, utilizing dance. As with all sacred work, the 5R container is carefully crafted to invite, invoke, ignite, inspire… mind, body and spirit. 

5R uses music to tap into resonances that live through all human beings, but often get blocked, denied, ignored, numbed, or stuck. Different words can be used to explain the resonances but in the 5R world they are named as “Flow, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical and Stillness.”

Just as all emotions are crucial to know the expression of wholeness, all rhythms are important in the human journey of embodiment. They all have their time and place, depending on the contextual moment of an individual. There is no “wrong” rhythm, or “bad” rhythm. Phew!

If you’ve read my posts before, you might be seeing how this practice aligns so much with whatis already woven throughout my life. 

  • Deeply inherent in this practice (and my life) is the movement away from the dominant narrative that is rule bound, controlling and linear, to the transformative narrative which values inclusion of expression, both/and perspectives, and connection.[2]
  • There is a focus on embodiment- of allowing what is, to be felt, expressed, and honored. Another way of saying this- it is deeply alivening. 
  • There is an honoring of the human experience, in all its flavors: hard, soft, contracted, spacious, rigid, flowing, contracted and divine-and so much more.
  • 5R is a kinesthetic practice – I love involving my body in conscious engagement! 
  • Sacred space is important in this practice. We are waking up in the collective, uniquely. Safety, trust and love are inherent.  
  • The practice is rooted in simplifying, connecting with the ordinary and practical (which ime is often profound), and being in direct experience. Too often we are distracted by the conceptual mind, and what is literally right.here.and.now is disguised. 
  • Empowering the participants is a primary focus. Participants follow what feels right for them and are not forced or required to participate in any particular kind of way. No agenda. No fixing. In that space of no agenda, worlds open up, and what hadn’t been seen, comes into view… what hadn’t taken form, finds wholeness in being. 

Gifts of the Rhythms 

My life is set up to support me in connecting with my un/subconscious- habits, conditioning, patterning, strategies, and so on that may exist outside of my attention. This practice is similar, in that by exploring the different rhythms I one may connect below the surface level into those subtle layers of uncharted territories. 

Flow

Take Flow, for example- the first of the 5 rhythms. Flow energy is that kind of adaptable, fluidity that can be considered a feminine energy. Think of how a woman’s hips can move with a certain kind of expression that may not be as innate in men. In the dance it is distinguished as flowing, continuous movements.  In my life, I’ve often had too muchof an ability to flow- or adapt. As a survivor, it became a strategy to adapt to those around me- to become who they wanted me to be, or to try to be a certain kind of someone- so as to avoid rejection or abandonment. As a young person, I learned to adapt to stay safe, but then later in life that adapting no longer kept me safe. Too much fluidity made me ripe for abusive dynamics when I was an adult. To help shift that conditioning, I’ve needed to learn about and to employ staccato energy in my life.

Staccato

Staccato energy is another of the rhythms. It is more of a masculine energy by nature, and can be distinguished by more rigid movements in the dance. Staccato energy teaches us how to have healthy boundaries, to stay true to our own wisdom even when it feels risky, and to stay in the simple clarity of Love. This is a resonance that I lived most of my life without. It has been extremely empowering to discover this energy- and to know that I can be fully open in my heart, connected with Love, while having boundaries. 

There was one paired exercise where we were invited to be in staccato energy while staying in our open hearts. I so appreciated being able to engage in this in such a kinesthetic, full-bodied way.  Too often the mind is trying to manage us into a homogenous experience. “I need to say YES to everything to be a loving individual!” As such we get caught in a trap. The mind says that if we have boundaries, or say no, it must mean we’re not being loving. Although it may be the belief, this is simply not true. With practice, we can discover that we can say no, set a clear boundary, AND be open hearted. Embodying paradoxes is powerful! 

Chaos

Another powerful experience was being in the rhythm of Chaos. As the name might give away, chaos can be rather whirlwindish. For survivors, we often detest this energy because it was the energy of our childhood. And yet because we dislike it so much, we wind up creating or being involved with dramatic (and traumatic) lives and people because of our inability to have boundaries. In the chaotic rhythm we learn that we can have both flow AND boundaries. We learn that it is safe to be in chaos, out of strategy, and in the disruption of old patterning. We learn that in life there is a creative flow that awaits our participation- if we can open to it, it is ours!!!

Many times the chaos rhythm took me towards immense states of freedom- old ideas of myself falling away effortlessly as more of me was available to the expansive energy of the creative field. 

Lyrical and Stillness

Dancing through chaos, I fell into the rhythm of Lyrical, where a sense of space opens up for integration, and a sense of lightness emerges. And then finally, into the rhythm of Stillness, where completion reveals itself in slow, if not motionless, expression.  

Many times, on the other side of Chaos, I found myself in an awe inspired ecstasy with God- in a union with the utter vastness of grand design. Tears falling down my face, in the holiest of the holy- in the Magnificence itself. 

Another paradox revealed itself to me through the weekend. While Stillness does have it’s own rhythm in the practice of 5R, stillness also can be maintained throughout all of the other rhythms. I remember one times, in the energy of Staccato, where I was connecting to anger and rage, there was a sense of stillness running through me at the very same time. Said another way, it became clear to me that Love/God co-exists with everything. EV.ER.Y.TH.ING. The embodiment of paradoxes is profoundly transformative. 

Embrace your Dance, Embrace your Life 

Over the course of the weekend we were summoned to engage with the energetic resonances that live deep within our being. This is no small task, but it is a task that we choose to fall into, with guidance, support and love[3].  

Although it may seem like it, this isn’t an advertisement for 5R. This blog post is about the celebration of life as a human being- and the dances we engage in. I invite you to engage in your humanity in whatever way allows you to dance, metaphorically or literally, with your humanity. 

I invite you to know the expressions, or rhythms, of your human self, and to experiment in and with them, with conscious curiosity. Many of you do this with me in 1:1 sessions, in trainings, in gatherings, and/or in deepening courses. I look forward to our continued dance, in deep courage, compassion, and love. 


[1]https://www.5rhythms.com

[2]I wrote about the dominant/transformative narratives here.

[3]Thanks to Visudha de los Santos(and David Watters for brining 5R to Bloomington).

Including our bodies in Social Justice: Voices that Teach

www.alexispmorgan.com

What if?

Recently I was recently at a vigil to end human detention camps. While standing amidst the crown I started to wonder if any one else’s heart was hurting. Mine certainly was. 

If you are aware of the detention camps throughout the United States, inundated with inhumane conditions, not to mention rampant sexual, physical and emotional abuse for children and adults alike, a somatic/visceral/physical response when taking a moment to consider this predicament would be quite appropriate. 

If you’re willing, take a moment now to recall what you’ve been reading, watching, and hearing about the detention camps, which are now commonly referred to as concentration camps due to their abhorrent conditions and the violent circumstances in which they exist. 

Does it make your heart break open?

Does it make your heart close down?

Do you feel your stomach clench?

Do your hands ball up in fists?

Do you shake your head?

Does your body tighten or shut down a bit?

Do you hold your breath?

Do you feel a surge of adrenaline?

Do you feel a bit frozen?

Does your body want to physically turn away in some way?

Do you want to go into denial?

Any such responses would be valid, appropriate and understandable. Emotions such as sadness, fear, or anger that might come along side the physiological responses would be appropriate, too.  

It is natural to feel a bodily response when we are connecting with pain, injustice, and suffering. These responses remind us that we’re human, and connecting with the plight of other humans. These responses tell us that we have the capacity for empathy and compassion. These responses remind us that well-being is important for us, and that love and nurturing is a human necessity.

Back to the Vigil

After the speakers were done, it became time for anyone to speak. I wondered what it would be like if we could get real about what we were feeling. What might it be like if we could consciously give name to the emotions and sensations we were feeling in our body, as we were connecting with the atrocities of the United States Government

I imagined how it might be if the crowd was asked: 

“Who else’s heart is breaking?”

“Who else’s stomach is gripping?”

I wondered what it would be like for us, as a group gathered together, to feel the anger, the disgust, the sadness, while also paying attention to our bodies? I wondered what it would be like for the crowd to be guided into their bodies, so they could safely connect to their human selves. 

Including our Somatic Bodies

Underneath any emotion there is a bodily response happening, and yet because our culture is not somatically intelligent we often don’t recognize these bodily sensations, or know how to safely include them. We don’t talk about these aspects our humanity nearly enough.

I wondered what it would be like to include our full human selves, consciously, together, as we were gathered in the solidarity of wanting humane conditions for our brothers and sisters. 

I wondered what it would be like for us to consciously acknowledge that under the anger, there was also some heart break – and that perhaps that’s why we were really all gathered together. 

I wondered what it would be like to consciously include our precious and wise hearts, which are hurting because others are being violated.  

I wondered what it might be like for us to realize that we feel pain, and everything else, because of Love: we gathered together for our love and value for other human beings. 

I wondered what it would be like if we all know that it is a wise heart and a sacred heart which feels pain when others are being oppressed. I wondered how it would be to validate each and every person’s wise and sacred heart for showing up in Love.

I wondered how amazing it would be to consciously feel this sacred pain in our hearts, and discover that although it may be immensely uncomfortable, we are safe to feel such honest and sincere responses. We are safe to be in Love.

What would it be like if we all consciously knew we were safe to feel, safe to be fully human, and safe to love? I imagine a crowd of empowered individuals, enabled to utilize the heartache, the anger and the love they feel to help others. As I imagine a group of people who feel embowered in their being, I see a new expression of humanity that can bring great change into this world. 

Heart work and Action

I think there are often chasms within social justice efforts. Generally speaking I notice that there are those who do what I might call heart work, and there are those who do more direct action or involvement. 

Sometimes those who do heart work stay away from direct action as they assume it will be full of violence or they don’t feel safe to participate, or because they are uncomfortable with conflict. Sometimes those who do direct action stay away from heart work because they don’t think it’s effective, or don’t know how to do engage from this place amidst conflict. While I find those perspectives to be valid- I myself can flip flop between the two- I’m coming to learn that there is another way.  And, more than that, I think this other way is necessary in evolving past the dominant narrative into a transformative valued system. 

There is a way to participate in non-violent direct action **and** heart work. This territory is so very unfamiliar that it’s rarely acknowledged as even a choice, but in my experience it is a choice, and it is something for us to consciously move towards.  I see few role models and the “how to” is scattered amidst various resources. I too don’t have a guidebook, or a manual. I have more questions than answers. And, I have a deep and sincere passion to move from Love, and in my experience there is nothing more wise than that. We can learn together. 

My journey

The desire to move from Love is a central part of my life in every way- including activism. I began writing about my journey with heart work and social justice a year ago, and have been writing about it ever since. I haven’t yet found a way to convey this journey in linear, logical way- instead I offer you my own discoveries and experiences in this ongoing exploration of listening, learning, and acting. You can read them hereherehere , here and here.Indirectly related, is also this post.  

My first steps in returning to the area of social justice from a more embodied place started slowly. It started by exposing myself to different people, perspectives, and ideas. I read and listened, and I felt. I noticed what my body was doing while I was coming up against ideas I’d never thought of. I noticed what emotions were emerging as I read perspectives that were so different to my own.  I noticed my guilt, shame, defensiveness and denial. I noticed confusion, disorientation, and uncertainty. I kept reading, listening and learning. I engaged in somatic inquiry. I connected to my wounds. I connected with others who were doing similar deep work. Over time I noticed increased connection, empathy and compassion. And, over time, I noticed a very different relationship with safety and Love.

I am committed to listening, learning and then acting. This is ongoing, as I continue to look at my own conditioning from my family of origin as well as my conditioning as a privileged white female from the middle class. 

Voices That Teach

I have been reaching out to some of my favorite people on Facebook over the last few months, asking them for their favorite resources in learning about racism and social justice. The rest of this blog post shares those resources, as well as some of my own resources. This is not an inclusive list – just a small sampling. 

I’d love to hear back from you on what I’ve missed. Let’s keep learning with each other! 

Facebook, in no particular order  (may also be on Twitter or Instagram) 

Generally speaking, I find it good Facebook etiquette to “Follow” people that I’ve never been exposed to and want to learn from. I also find it good etiquette that while learning, I don’t say much, and act as if I am a guest in their home. 

Brig Feltus 

Ericka Hines 

Desiree Adaway

Lace on Race

Nicole Lee

Ally Henny

Tada Hozumi

Mary Ann Canty Merrill

Andréa Ranae Johnson 

Jackie Summers

Staci Jordan Shelton

Bakari Parrett

Soyara Chemlay

Irami Osei-Frimpong

Saira Rao

Tania Singh Bhatia


Dimitra Stathopoulos

Books, in no particular order 

White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo 

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo 

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

Unapologetic by Charlene Carruthers

Stamped from the Beginning by Ibrahim X. Kendi 

How To Be An Antiracist by Ibrahim X. Kendi

They Were Her Property by Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers.

Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

We Want to do More Than Survive by Bettina L. Love

The Privileged Poor by Anthony Abraham Jack 

Dying of Whiteness by Jonathan Metzl

Racism without Racists by  Eduardo Bonilla-Silva

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander 

Between You and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates 

Learning to be White by Thandeka 

Chasing the Scream by Johann Hari

Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good Peopleby Anthony G. Greenwaldand Mahzarin Banaji

Mothers of Massive Resistance by Elizabeth Gillespie McRae

Homegoing Yaa Gyasi

Heavy by Kiese Laymon

Barracoon, The Story of the Last “Black Cargo” by  Zora Neale Hurston

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

I’m Still Here, Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown

Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

A list of books recommended by Irami Osei-Frimpong: https://medium.com/@iramioseifrimpong/ten-books-i-wish-my-white-teachers-had-read-75bdb8543279

Podcast series, in no particular order

Hidden Brain “Implicit Bias and Police Shootings”

Seeing White

Code Switch 

Intersectionality Matters 

Movies, in no particular order

10,000 Black Men Named George
Norma Rae

When They See Us

I Am Not your Negro

September Embodied Gathering: Being in the World, and Being of Love

We live through relationship. In relationship to air, to ground, to form, and the formless, we live, love and grow. A safe community is the perfect place to discover the our never ending relationship with life.

Belonging, community, connection and a healthy nervous system are crucial for our well-being. We gather to become more intimate with, and more available for, our life.  For those who would like support in their journey, this is an affordable option.

These gatherings are sacred spaces where everyone is welcome. People going through their Dark Night of the Soul experiences, survivors of abuse, people who have had awakenings and want community, people struggling in their life in various ways, and/or people simply wanting connection along their journey are likely to find home in these gatherings. 

Gatherings focus on practical and experiential exercisesspecifically designed for the development of self-awareness, self-love, safety and a healthy nervous system. Each gathering is organically shaped around attendees’ needs and wants. Each gathering includes a guided rest, time for questions and sharing, ways to heal the nervous system, and ways to engage in self-inquiry. Participation is always optional.

In this groupwe honor our experiences and we learn that we don’t have to pretend, or hide, or run. We gather together in a welcoming space where we are allowed to be exactly who we are, exactly as we are, and through slow, simple experiential practices we realize that profound safety can be found right here and now.

Safety is important. Our bodies, our spirits, and our psyches function with more well-being when safety is known from within.

We live in a culture that often disempowers and creates stress, a culture that conditions us to find our well-being in people, places, and superficial activities and things – without teaching us sustainable, empowering safety from the inside out. As such, we often don’t know how to cope with existing in an overwhelming world, or how to recover from traumatic experiences. Many of us have developed post-traumatic stress as a result, and have forgotten that safety is possible.

We can learn. By providing a safe environment for this deliberate purpose, we can slowly and gently learn what it’s like to feel safe. 

We come together to find safety in our experiences and discover that we are safe – even when we have trauma or loud core stories and emotions. 

All are welcome here regardless of political affiliation, sexual orientation, race, gender or background. You are important, and appreciated, whoever you are. 

Upcoming dates:

September 1, at 3pm EDT 

September 22, at 7:30pm EDT

You can come to one, or both!  We will meet for 60-75 minutes on Zoom. Each call will be recorded, and yours to keep. Please contact me with questions, concerns or future dates: LLMEUSER@ME.COM

Investment: Sliding scale, what you can afford – $10-25 per gathering. To sign up please send a PayPal payment to LLMEUSER@ME.COM, subject line “Gathering” along with your email address so I can send you a link.  

No one turned away due to insufficient funds.

Minimum participants required: 4 

Maximum: 15

From past participants:

Lisa is like a cocoon for expansion and love.  I really love working with her.  She walks her talk and creates a space for acceptance and non-judgment and I’m better able to accept and not judge myself and others.  My heart has opened in my work with her.  So grateful.  

 It is quite breathtaking to experience you working with a group; watching and listening to your communion with who-they-really-are. You have a gift, Lisa.

 You represent what Adyashanti talks about:  “A safe place for the world to come and rest.” You are that safe, benign presence in the world.

I have listened to the recording many times since our gathering. It continues to support me. 

Free with Deepening Courses. Email me for details. 

About me.

To read more about embodiment check out my blog.

August Embodied Gathering: Being in the World, and Being of Love

August Embodied Gathering: Being in the World, Being of Love

We live through relationship. In relationship to air, to ground, to form, and the formless, we live, love and grow. A safe community is the perfect place to discover the our never ending relationship with life.

Belonging, community, connection and a healthy nervous system are crucial for our well-being. We gather to become more intimate with, and more available for, our life.  For those who would like support in their journey, this is an affordable option.

These gatherings are sacred spaces where everyone is welcome. People going through their Dark Night of the Soul experiences, survivors of abuse, people who have had awakenings and want community, people struggling in their life in various ways, and/or people simply wanting connection along their journey are likely to find home in these gatherings. 

Gatherings focus on practical and experiential exercisesspecifically designed for the development of self-awareness, self-love, safety and a healthy nervous system. Each gathering is organically shaped around attendees’ needs and wants. Each gathering includes a guided rest, time for questions and sharing, ways to heal the nervous system, and ways to engage in self-inquiry. Participation is always optional.

In this groupwe honor our experiences and we learn that we don’t have to pretend, or hide, or run. We gather together in a welcoming space where we are allowed to be exactly who we are, exactly as we are, and through slow, simple experiential practices we realize that profound safety can be found right here and now.

Safety is important. Our bodies, our spirits, and our psyches function with more well-being when safety is known from within.

We live in a culture that often disempowers and creates stress, a culture that conditions us to find our well-being in people, places, and superficial activities and things – without teaching us sustainable, empowering safety from the inside out. As such, we often don’t know how to cope with existing in an overwhelming world, or how to recover from traumatic experiences. Many of us have developed post-traumatic stress as a result, and have forgotten that safety is possible.

We can learn. By providing a safe environment for this deliberate purpose, we can slowly and gently learn what it’s like to feel safe. 

We come together to find safety in our experiences and discover that we are safe – even when we have trauma or loud core stories and emotions. 

All are welcome here regardless of political affiliation, sexual orientation, race, gender or background. You are important, and appreciated, whoever you are. 

Upcoming dates:

August 18, 7:30pm EDT. 

(September 1, 3EDT, and September 22, 7:30pm EDT)

There will only be one Gathering in August due to the Deepening Course

There will be two in September TBA

You can come to one, or both!  We will meet for 60-75 minutes on Zoom. Each call will be recorded, and yours to keep. Please contact me with questions, concerns or future dates: LLMEUSER@ME.COM

Investment: Sliding scale, what you can afford – $10-25 per gathering. To sign up please send a PayPal payment to LLMEUSER@ME.COM, subject line “Gathering” along with your email address so I can send you a link.  

No one turned away due to insufficient funds.

Minimum participants required: 4 

Maximum: 15

From past participants:

Lisa is like a cocoon for expansion and love.  I really love working with her.  She walks her talk and creates a space for acceptance and non-judgment and I’m better able to accept and not judge myself and others.  My heart has opened in my work with her.  So grateful.  

 It is quite breathtaking to experience you working with a group; watching and listening to your communion with who-they-really-are. You have a gift, Lisa.

 You represent what Adyashanti talks about:  “A safe place for the world to come and rest.” You are that safe, benign presence in the world.

I have listened to the recording many times since our gathering. It continues to support me. 

Free with Deepening Courses. Email me for details. 

About me.

To read more about embodiment check out my blog.

Loosening the Grip of Oppression

Artist Alexis Morgan

This blog post was originally shared on the Living Inquiries web site as “What elephant? Naming systemic oppression”. Summary: Our own internal oppression is linked to oppression that exists in the world, and vice versa. Waking up necessities exploring this territory.

What elephant? 

Oh, the elephant in the room! You know the one- the topic that people don’t talk about. In my most recent blog post about embodiment and waking upthere was an elephant in the room that I didn’t mention. I know in my heart that if we’re going to talk about embodiment and waking up, we have to include this elephant: Oppression is the elephant in the room, and this is the elephant we have to purposefully wake up to. 

Why oppression? Why me? I’m not oppressing anyone! I’m not being oppressed[1]!

Whydoesit even matter? I wrote about waking up to my own internalized racism, and how it counter-intuitively brought me closer to Love. Here’s a summary:

waking up to and connecting with oppression in the world allowed me to connect with and to the oppression in my self; waking up and connecting further to the oppression within myself then allowed me to wake up even more to the oppression in the world.  My heart broke open, wider, and deeper. My fragility shifted, and, quite surprisingly, my sense of being safe in the world increased. It was all rather unexpected. Then I started seeing this happen with my clients. 

We do not exist in isolated existence, we exist in relationship: a deeper sense of embodiment and safety with life develops as a more healthy and honest relationships with the world within and outside of one’s self is cultivated.  

My relationship with Love, compassion and safety has never been the same, and only continues to grow and expand, as I keep being honest with the ways I oppress others, as well as myself. I continue to learn, and hope what I share will be helpful for you on your journey.  May we learn together.

Oppression traumatizes 

Embodiment and oppression intersect so deeply- it’s in the air we breathe- that it’s unrecognized by most into our family structures, our religious and spiritual modalities, and our political, health care, judicial, and educational institutions. We know that oppression is traumatizing to the one oppressed, and we also know that it’s traumatizing to the one doing the oppressing.   As a client shared with me about his lineage of slave owners, ” You can’t oppress people and not have your soul ripped out of you.” 

Here is the biggest elephant in the room: oppression has bled into the very structure of our beings- internalized into the composition of our minds, psyches, and somatic systems. 

We often have the feeling that “I’m my own worst enemy.” It’s no wonder: we have systematically been taught beliefs, ideas, and ways to cope (by an oppressive culture) that lead us to oppress ourselves (and each other).  Is it any wonder that we wind up hating ourselves (and others), as we unknowingly oppress and traumatize ourselves (and others) through our words, thoughts and deeds? 

Is it any wonder why embodiment and healing is so darn hard? Or why those in the social justice arena get burned out so fast, or become bogged down in darkness? When we can’t see the oppression in subsistence of our lives or within our psychological make up, we are unable to function as sustainable change agents- even when we have the best intentions. 

Opening our eyes to what we value

None of us have escaped from the tendrils from oppression[2], and we suffer immensely (and inflict suffering on others) when we do not look at what the tendrils are connected to. It might help to see these webs by exploring the values of dominate modern day culture, as well as transformative[3]or alternative values. 

When we study the tenets of prevalent modern day culture, we find the following dominant attributes: power-over dynamics, authoritarianism, competitiveness, focus on the individual, over emphasis on the mental/linearity, secrecy, struggle for/consolidated power via hierarchy, scarcity, either/or thinking, us/them thinking, focus on achievement and outcome, and exclusion of the past and people of certain demographics.

When we study the tenets of what we might call transformative or “life valuing” culture, we find attributes such as: power-with dynamics, accountability/ responsibility, shared power, inclusion of heart and spirit, focus on the collective/on “we”, collaboration and cooperation, transparency, recognition of past, abundance, both/and thinking, “us” thinking, focus on the process/the journey, inclusion of all people, and focus on connection and relationship. 

In my early years as a social worker 25 years ago, it became undeniable that the dominant values in our culture were not for the good of all people, and so of course I wanted to explore other ways of being in the world. Easier said than done. As I started to experiment with these paradigm shifts, my heart and intent was often in the right place and yet I often found myself utilizing the same tenets of oppressive culture, to try to change aspects of oppressive culture. I noticed that I was not the only one who wanted to do good, but kept getting bound up in oppressive ways. [4]

I didn’t realize that oppression was in me, not just around me. 

The macro and the micro reflect each other

Changing our narratives is a process, and it requires conscious exploration to discover that oppression lives deep within our very psyches and somatic systems.  

When we study the psyche within many of us, we will find a profusion of tenets that tend to exist within oppressive culture: competitiveness, self-loathing/lack of abundance, reliance on over-thinking, disconnection from/fear of others, striving to feel safe through a sense of power, bypassing the past, hiding behavior (the inability to be honest with one’s self), restrictive thought patterns, and right-wrong/good-bad (either or) thinking[5]. There is also often a sense of fear in the body, or disconnect from the body altogether.  There are usually life-affirming traits as well, but these can be overshadowed by the dominant values of our culture. 

The narratives most of us have are rooted in the very same things that our cultures prize encourage, and teach. Could it really be that culture is teaching us to suffer? Could it be that culture doesn’t really want us to be free? It would seem so.

When we study the psyche of a “healthy” or life valuing person, we will find tenets similar to that of that of transformational culture:  a sense of abundance that allows for open and curious connections, a sense of well being, honesty (including “the dark side”), inclusion of heart and body, accountability and responsibility, allowance and acceptance of the vast terrain of being human, and acknowledgment of the past. There is often accepting relationship with the body, and a willingness to experience its vast landscape rather than try to control or limit. Sure, there will likely still be some oppressive tenets found within “healthy people”, but even those will be met with more inclusion and less self-judgment.

Could it be that by learning new ways of being that we create new narratives within us? Based on my experience, yes.  Is it any surprise that these are the values that are a natural part of the embodiment process? I find it an exciting “coincidence”! 

In my own study of waking up, and in working with hundreds of people who have been on the waking up and healing journey, I have seen radical narrative and experiential transformations. In each case, there had been a fierce sense of oppression within their psyche- this was the base they worked from and were fiercely bound to, until they consciously started to learn another way. Over time the dominant values slowly changed into transformative, life affirming values. Along the way their suffering started to turn into a healthy relationship with life and allowed them to be more effective change agents in the world. 

Whenwe fail to connect with our internalized oppressive existence, we continue to harm others as well as ourselves.  Being change agents for the well being of all embraces inclusion, we-ness, connectivity, intimacy, love, openness, abundance and possibility. In the denial of nothing, we stop oppressing ourselves, and those around us. 

So, Now What? 

In my blog post about embodimentI left out the elephant in the room. I didn’t specifically write about how important it is for us to inquire into our relationship with the oppression found in racism, sexism, nationalism, capitalism, classism, gender/sexual orientation, fatism, ableism and others. When we don’t address these topics, we deny, ignore, and exclude reality. We cannot live as embodied people when we are ignoring the reality of humanity. When we live apart from the hearts of those who are oppressed, we have to live in separation. In this state of separation, we suffer and experience oppression within, and in the process often cause harm to others. 

I readily admit, for most of my life I have tried to stay removed from the hearts of those who experience the horror of systematic pain. I thought I had to figure out my own suffering and pain first as I felt too fragile to “get real” with the pain of systematic oppression. But then a strange thing happened: 

One day, with the support of my somatic therapist, I was feeling despair and defeat with regards to the imprisonment of immigrant children coming in from Mexico. I wanted to turn away from it as it reminded me of my own despair and defeat with regards to being trapped and violated in my own past. The pain in my body was too much, I just wanted to be mad about it- and I was. I was enraged at our government, and felt that heat move through my body. 

It was all too much, I said out loud, grabbling my heart, as if to protect it. 

As I named this, something that already shifting, started to shift some more. With the compassionate presence of my therapist I started to fall into a pain that was deep in my heart. This pain took me in, all the way in. It felt excruciating, like it would never end, as I kept turning towards those children separated from their families, as I kept turning towards my own lived pains. 

The heart I came out of was wider and deeper that I had ever known. I felt a Love that included myself and those children, in a way that had never felt safe to feel. It was then that my sense of fragility started to fade, and I was able to be more real with life. My relationship with empathy and compassion with others experiencing horrid pain and suffering felt different from that moment going forward. 

I understand that not everyone is going to have the privilege of having the resources, the resourcing, time and most importantly support of others. But I hope those who are reading this post can at least ask themselves some big questions, which may create some space for deeper connections with the world in which we live. 

The relationship we have with reality reveals the quality of our relationship with god, with life, with creation, with existence itself. Are we open to god (however we perceive that)? Are we open to life? Are we open to seeing the flavors of reality? Are we open to learning? Are we open to including more? 

We often filter out oppression because we feel conflicted and uncomfortable, and many of us have never been taught how to be with discomfort. When we don’t know how to be with discomfort, we suffer more as we have to limit ourselves, more and more, to keep ourselves from experiencing what we don’t like. Ultimately, we wind up controlled by our fears, but will often try to control and oppress others as an attempt to escape that sense of debilitation. The cycle ensues. 

Everything is connected- when one of us is oppressed, we are all impacted.  When one of us authentically frees ourselves from the web of oppression, a light shines for others to follow.  “The wound is the place where the Light enters you”- Rumi. 

Can we be willing to move towards that light?

A New Way Forward

Some reading this blog post are in full acceptance that oppression is systematically woven into our culture. Thank you for all that you are doing to address the toxicity in our world. I hope that this has been helpful as a reminder that in order be change agents in the world, we must look inward into our oppressive make up. As we work to change the system we have to address our internal levels of psychic and somatic oppression otherwise we will stay in the same oppressive loop. We cannot employ the toxicity of the dominant paradigm to get to well being, we must embody life-affirming values to make effective, sustainable change.

To those who want to have access to opportunity and privilege, and are somewhat disconnected from the reality of oppression, but who are interested in healing and well being, I hope you will be willing to become more aware of the systemic and systematic practices that our culture is rooted in, otherwise we too will stay in the same oppressive loop. Those of us who exist in privilege are still governed by psyches that are rooted in oppressive values. Our circumstances do not mean that our internal landscape is free from oppression.  As we become willing to take a look at the external landscape that we are enmeshed in, we will become more aware of what is keeping us from being rooted in well being and in full participation with life.

Let’s Journey Together

We cannot be embodied human beings while we are immersed in oppression- either from within our psyches or in how we interact with the world. If we are not aware of our oppression and the oppressive system of our culture, and if we are not aware of the oppressive system within our psyche, we are doomed to suffer, and our world is doomed to suffer. There must be both freedom from oppression inside ourselves and outside ourselves. 

Oppressing others is traumatic to one’s own psyche. Oppression always breeds more oppression, within one’s self and outwardly. Unless consciously integrated, this trauma, oppression, and violence passes on to future generations. 

We are living in a culture that is paying the price for this repressed and unacknowledged trauma. And it continues to be poor and Black or Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) (and other marginalized peoples) who suffer the greatest and most overtly.

Being able to name and then consciously explore the matrix of systemic oppression as it lives within my psyche and as it lives in the fabric of our culture has been a necessary and fundamental part of my embodiment journey.  It is impossible to convey the level of safety and well being I have now, as compared to when I was bound by the values of dominant culture.  

It all started by asking curious questions of myself, and being willing to look honestly at and feel deeply into who I was, who I wanted to be, and getting serious about the harm I was creating in my life. Change comes through honesty and vulnerability. It’s not always easy, but in my experience it’s always worth it. A lot of us are waking up together- there is so much support available!  I look forward to continuing to learn with you. 

Practical Explorative Options

1. Unsure as to your level of internalized oppression? Take some of the Harvard Implicit bias tests free, here:  https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html

When we don’t know our bias’, we live in a choice-less world bound by the bidding and the wiles of oppression. 

2. Questions you can ask yourself:

  • What resonance does the voice in your head speak from? 
  • Does your internal voice tend to be kind, and loving voice? If not, who’s voice is that? Is that how a caregiver used to speak to you? A teacher? 
  • What does that harsh narrative need or want? Is it wanting support? Safety? Love? 
  • When you listen to perspectives from BIPOC, women, people with disabilities, and so on, what does that bring up in you?
  • Pay attention when you’re reading or listening to. What perspective are you hearing? The dominant narrative, or the transformative narrative? 
  • Do you feel defensive when you think about your own privilege? 
  • How do you employ dominant values while you are trying to do good in the world? 
  • Do you become overtly or subtly violent as a change agent?
  • How am I unintentionally or intentionally oppressing others? 
  • How am I oppressing myself? 
  • How can you support yourself, or be supported, as you journey into this vulnerable terrain? Finding people and groups where I can have real conversations about these very real topics and challenges has been life altering for me. You are not alone on this journey- there are people and groups to support you. We are growing and learning together. Email me for more information or for ideas. 

3. There are so many ways to learn about oppression. Journaling can be a powerful practice, combined with aspects of #2 above. Reading and listening to voices other than my own has probably been the most important part of my evolution. I’ve been compiling a list of books, face book pages, blogs, podcasts and so on to pass on. In the mean time, feel free to email me for recommendations. Get clear on what you’d like to learn more about before you email me, and I’ll do my best to match you up to something that aligns with your request.  Also, if you have a beloved source, please pass that onto me!!! 



[1]Some reading this blog post are in full acceptance that oppression is systematically woven into our culture. Are you aware that it is systematically woven into your psyche? This post is for you too! 

[2]Oppression is the in the very creation of western culture, and if you’re from the United States, it’s in the very fabric in which the United States came to be. There would be no United States of America if it had not been for the slave labor that quite literally manufactured and built up it’s existence, making the U.S. into a world power. Oppression is not unique to the U.S.- world history is filled with it. The level of oppression that is a systemic part of the world has fused itself into our minds, our psyches, and our somatic existences. 

[3]Some of this terminology comes from Crossroads, an amazing organization doing much good in the world. 

[4]We commonly use violence or oppressive strategies while trying to eradicate violence: countries “bombing for peace”, spiritual teachers misusing their power, parents who spank their children for misbehaving, vegans who dogmatically judge those who eat animals, pussy hats, parents, friends or therapists who want to fix people, and trying to makepeople be accountable are a few examples that come to mind.  I have participated in many of those just listed, creating harm in the process. 

[5]Rigid right/wrong/good/bad thinking is the perfect breeding ground for what we can call “should energy.”  It is very oppressive in that it is rooted in harsh judgments and often comes with shame. It also causes people to control and oppress others as a way to bypass the self-loathing that is often experienced in this oppressive thought structure.

Our Sacred Stories; Honoring Wounds, Honoring Love: A Deepening Course 

Our Sacred Stories; Honoring Wounds, Honoring Love: A Deepening Course 

Our stories may be different, and yet they are all sacred. 

It has taken my whole life to fully understand that that wounds and their corresponding stories are to be honored. I now experience wounds, and the stories of wounds, as sacred, grace filled, and also as the way Home.  In this deepening course we will explore our sacred stories, in ways that feel safe to us, in a way that we choose. 

Shame kept my stories hidden, from myself and from others.

This hiding was often retraumatizing in that repression is oppressive, and oppression traumatizes. Telling my stories had the opposite effect. Telling my stories, first to myself, and then, when it felt safe, with another, had a liberating influence that left me feeling a sense of real empowerment – maybe for the first time in my life. 

Naming and believing my stories was deep work and took courage in that it was often counter-intuitive based on all the strategies I’d learned to keep silent, and more so, to pretend. It was profoundly healing to be in my own truth, after giving it away for so long. For me, being in the compassionate company of others was an immensely important part of the healing process.  

“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” Rumi

It is crucial that as we heal from our wounds, we find safe spaces and safe people who listen to and believe in our stories – to our sacred, lived experiences. This produces a beautiful fertile ground “for the Light to come in.” Your stories are the hallowed ground of your being, and will be fully honored in our sacred and carefully created container. 

Every day I witness immense freedom when people feel safe enough to honestly connect to their stories – to their actual lived experiences instead of the pretend life they held onto in their minds.  There is often immense freedom that comes when stories and wounds are allowed, named, spoken, expressed, and felt.  It is something far beyond what the linear mind understands, and births a sense of empowerment that is known from deep within the being. Neuropathways shift, one’s sense of safety in the world changes, and relationships with life are transformed. Possibilities we couldn’t even imagine reveal themselves. 

To read more of my journey in how sharing my sacred stories changed my life, please read my blog post.

A Safe Container for us Evolve Together

Join me in this course as we explore together. Using tools and practices I have developed and learned through my training in holding sacred circles, I will compassionately and gently journey with you as you safely get to know your stories, your wounds, and the Love that holds it all. We will use simple yet profound writing and experiential practices to slowly and gently explore our unique lives. No previous writing experience needed. Sharing and participation will be optional.

This course and your private 1:1 sessions will utilize gentle embodied experiential practices designed to safely explore your various experiences – shame, depression, anxiety, compulsions, identities, body contractions, debilitating thoughts and/or memories and more. You will become familiar with the nervous system, vigilance centers, the fight-flight-freeze-feign responses, and attachment theory. You will learn profound ways to support and be kind and loving with your self, just as you are, without needing to pretend or be different. I will be facilitating and guiding you in practices which will start to re-wire your nervous system and limbic system in ways that are sustainable and profound. Lastly, you will get to experience the different inquiries first hand, and be able to practice skills for learning how to self-inquire.

I will be utilizing a myriad of tools and practices, some of which will be my own, while others will be from my role as a student of the Women Writing for (a) Change, Bloomington Conscious Feminine Leadership Training.

You will have recordings so that you can practice on your own between class dates, which will help replace old habitual behaviors with new useful behaviors. All of this will set the stage for deeper self-intimacy and knowing, with compassion and love.

Course Information:

When: Group sessions will be August 18, August 25, and September 8, 3pm-5pm EST

Where:  This is an online course. I use Zoom, which is similar to Skype. You can attend from anywhere in the world using a phone, iPad type of device, or computer.

What: On top of the 3 group sessions, you will receive a total of six individualfacilitations: Four with Senior Facilitator Trainer Lisa Meuser and two facilitations with Certified Living Inquiries Facilitators. The investment is a sliding scale of $550-$650. This counts as a prerequisite for applying for the Living Inquiries facilitator training. Please contact me if you only want to attend the course without the private sessions.

All classes will be recorded so if you are unable to attend one, you’ll receive the recording. Also included in the course will be multiple natural rest and guided rest audios and videos, and a private FB group for participants to share and receive support.

Scholarship spots available by application as a part of my commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.

Also included is free attendance to the August and September Embodied Gatherings. (Dates and Times TBA). Read about the July Gatherings here.

Space is limited. First offering will be towards current clients and Gathering participants. The container of this group is extremely important to me. All participates will be required to fill out a brief application. This will likely be my last Deepening Course of 2019.

Please email me for questions. llmeuser@me.com

July Gatherings: A Safe Community

July Embodied Gathering: Being in the World, Being of Love

We live through relationship. In relationship to air, to ground, to form, and the formless, we live, love and grow. A safe community is the perfect place to discover the our never ending relationship with life.

Belonging, community, connection and a healthy nervous system are crucial for our well-being. We gather to become more intimate with, and more available for, our life.  For those who would like support in their journey, this is an affordable option.

These gatherings are sacred spaces where everyone is welcome. People going through their Dark Night of the Soul experiences, survivors of abuse, people who have had awakenings and want community, people struggling in their life in various ways, and/or people simply wanting connection along their journey are likely to find home in these gatherings. 

Gatherings focus on practical and experiential exercisesspecifically designed for the development of self-awareness, self-love, safety and a healthy nervous system. Each gathering is organically shaped around attendees’ needs and wants. Each gathering includes a guided rest, time for questions and sharing, ways to heal the nervous system, and ways to engage in self-inquiry. Participation is always optional.

In this groupwe honor our experiences and we learn that we don’t have to pretend, or hide, or run. We gather together in a welcoming space where we are allowed to be exactly who we are, exactly as we are, and through slow, simple experiential practices we realize that profound safety can be found right here and now.

Safety is important. Our bodies, our spirits, and our psyches function with more well-being when safety is known from within.

We live in a culture that often disempowers and creates stress, a culture that conditions us to find our well-being in people, places, and superficial activities and things – without teaching us sustainable, empowering safety from the inside out. As such, we often don’t know how to cope with existing in an overwhelming world, or how to recover from traumatic experiences. Many of us have developed post-traumatic stress as a result, and have forgotten that safety is possible.

We can learn. By providing a safe environment for this deliberate purpose, we can slowly and gently learn what it’s like to feel safe. 

We come together to find safety in our experiences and discover that we are safe – even when we have trauma or loud core stories and emotions. 

All are welcome here regardless of political affiliation, sexual orientation, race, gender or background. You are important, and appreciated, whoever you are. 

Upcoming dates:

July 14, 3pm EST, July 28th 3pm EST.  (August Gathering is August 11th, 5pm EDT. )

You can come to one, or both!  We will meet for 60-75 minutes on Zoom. Each call will be recorded, and yours to keep. Please contact me with questions, concerns or future dates: LLMEUSER@ME.COM

Investment: Sliding scale, what you can afford – $10-25 per gathering. To sign up please send a PayPal payment to LLMEUSER@ME.COM, subject line “Gathering” along with your email address so I can send you a link.  

No one turned away due to insufficient funds.

Minimum participants required: 4 

Maximum: 15

From past participants:

Lisa is like a cocoon for expansion and love.  I really love working with her.  She walks her talk and creates a space for acceptance and non-judgment and I’m better able to accept and not judge myself and others.  My heart has opened in my work with her.  So grateful.  

 It is quite breathtaking to experience you working with a group; watching and listening to your communion with who-they-really-are. You have a gift, Lisa.

 You represent what Adyashanti talks about:  “A safe place for the world to come and rest.” You are that safe, benign presence in the world.

I have listened to the recording many times since our gathering. It continues to support me. 

Free with Deepening Courses. Email me for details. 

About me.To read more about embodiment check out my blog.

Stories Return Us Home

Stories Return Us Home

If I could write a tomorrow, 

it would be wider than but include the wounds we have worn… 

it would include my wounds, 

it would announce my wounds, 

it would put my wounds on display so that others too 

could include, announce and 

display their wounds,

as we move into tomorrow.


If I could write of a tomorrow, 

it would have less denial, less hiding, less pretending… 

By naming and sharing our wounds, 

we would weave something so bountifully amazing, 

taking us wider than the wounds we have ever worn.


If I could write a tomorrow, 

I would use my wounds 

and all that I have learned, 

to springboard into creating a world where 

community and connection is paramount, 

from birth to death, 

woven into the very ways we value the 

ways we spend our days

and deeper into the way we view 

our very selves. 


If I could write a tomorrow, 

humans would not be commodities 

or things. 

Worth would not be earned but known.

Sharing would be common place and 

love would be given, 

not bought or sold in the guise of 

consumerism and exploitive capitalism. 


This may be my soap box, but it doesn’t feel like an 

impossible dream. 

When I 

slow down 

and 

take a look 

towards pain and suffering.


I look at it in the eye, 

feel pain burrow into the 

caverns of my heart. 

As I do 

something widens 

and deepens. 

Something called Love


takes it all, 

filling me with a sweetness of now that 

exists at the very same time as 

sorrow, sometimes in the very same place. 

Reminding me another way is 

indeed possible.


I write of another way…

where we know and 

live knowing that, 

in our shared plight of 

being human,

there is Love.

The joy, mystery, pain, and 

beauty of 

being human.  


I write of 

lessons  

being learned from the 

wounds of yesterday.

Creating an amazing 

tomorrow to be a part of. 

I commit


to staying with 

these wounds, honoring these wounds, 

taking responsibility for these wounds, 

and the wounds that my foremothers and forefathers 

were born from,

have created,

which birthed me

and which I have birthed.


I write of a now, 

inviting all to share 

unique dreams and unique pains. 

To share without needing to fix or problem solve

but to celebrate.

A recognition that each 

story is sacred and powerful 

as we return Home. 

Reconnecting with our Bodies: A Journey of Allowance

A question was sent to me:

“I feel I’ve often confused and conflated the two: What is the difference between stillness and frozenness? What is the difference between peace and playing dead?”

I love this question! While there may be a simple response to this question, there’s also a lot going on in this conflation. I’m going to give it a shot, knowing there is so much to say on this deep and rich topic. 

Humans need support

All of us have likely experienced a frozen[1]state at some point in our early childhoods. Whenever we experienceoverwhelm as young beings, going into a frozen state would be a valid, normal physiological experience based on brain chemistry and our inability to process at such an early developmental phase. 

Many of us have seen what happens when a bird flies into a window: we think the bird is dead, only to find it “coming back to life” after a quick shake, and then fly off. 

When animals experience that frozen state they instinctually know how to “shake themselves” out of that frozen or stunned state. Pretty simple.

It’s a little more complicated for young unresourced human beings. We are the only species that requires loving and attentive care well into our teenage years (and beyond – our brains don’t fully develop until we’re 23) if we are to grow up to be healthy human beings. So while we may have the ability to shake off a frozen state, we also need nurturing, support and safe environments.

If, while growing up, we didn’t have adults around to help us process frozen states, or if we had adults who drove us into those frozen states, we likely never learned how to process frozen states in a healthy, functional way, and so we lost that inherent resource. As such, we adapt, but we stay a little frozen as the brain chemicals that were initially released get pushed down intoour system, never fully released outof our systems. Meanwhile, not having our emotional needs taken care of starts to create mayhem for our psyches.  After all, humans are coded to want to feel good, comfortable and loved, and it is confusing and often scary for us when we don’t. 

Adapting to dysfunction, the new norm

When we live in environments where there is unpredictability or chaos (which may show through manifestations of parental conflict or negligence, emotional or physical) we adapt by staying partially frozen, vigilant, and/or on guard, even when things are “fine,” because we intuitively know “it’s just a matter of time” until chaos re-occurs. After a while we get used to being in this state – it becomes our new normal, and we get used to disconnecting, and/or numbing out as a way to cope. 

If we are living in challenging, chaotic situations or circumstances with a lot of conflict and/or highs and lows (fight or flight energy), we may even likenumbing out and find comfort with it, particularly when compared to the alternative.  It may even start to mimic a sense of stillness, peace, or calmness when compared to the overwhelm of fight or flight. 

Said another way, in this state of disconnection we’ve partially shut down, which can feel like relief from the alternative highs and lows of mania or dismay, or the chemical response of fight or flight energy[2]It makes sense that we might prefer to feel nothing, than discomfort, pain, or terror.

This state may become our refuge, our safest place, our new norm. It no longer feels like a frozen state because by this point we’ve learned quite well to disconnect from our bodies, and live in our minds. We escape, using our minds, into a world of daydreaming, fantasy, reading, thinking, or some kind of social or entertainment media source. We may also use food, drugs, or other coping activities such as porn as a way to escape. Sometimes we turn to meditation practices that teach us how to go “up and out” of our bodies.  

It’s all a perfect escape from the highs and the lows, as well as the frozen underpinnings in our system, and a way we can feel some control in an environment that is very much out of our control. Keep in mind, we’re coded to want to feel good, and we’ll do whatever it takes to experience this.

As if out of a deep slumber

What I’m describing is not something rare. In my experience, most human beings are functioning or have functioned in this way in overt or covert ways. Even if we lived in somewhat healthy households, our culture expects and pushes people towards numbing out, and caters to people who are in various states of disconnect. Generally speaking we are a species that is starving for connection, living in a culture that by its very nature functions through disconnection. It’s no wonder that we often feel like hamsters on a hamster wheel.  

Many will live their lives continuing to adapt to this numbed out state. But for others, a sense of internal oppression grows in such a way that the numbness itself becomes confronting. This may happen when one is quite young, or much later in life. 

Thoughts such as: “Something seems to be missing,” “There’s got to be more than this,” “It feels like I’m suffocating,” and others, may start to weigh in, while at the same time a sense of restlessness and dissatisfaction with life may arise, perhaps accompanied by feelings of emptiness, or hopelessness. We may start to realize that we’re dumbed down, or numbed out, and all of a sudden life may start to feel really shitty. It’s as if that numbed out state stops being “ok” and instead it becomes distressing. Feelings of depression or anxiety may begin, get worse, or become unmanageable. We may try (more) things to increase our highs to overcome this state of dis-ease. “Drugs, sex and rock and roll” may be a few favorites, although all sorts of behaviors to boost pleasure brain chemistry might be experimented with to help us feel better. 

We’re not designed to be perpetually frozen

Humans are designed to cope with stress, but we are not designed to have a constant input of stress. After a while, our bodies – having been reservoirs for repressed energies and experiences – can’t keep at it. 

We want to feel good, comfortable, and loved. We can only endure the lack of these things for so long, and we can only sustain dysfunctional modes of trying to achieve this for so long.  Our systems eventually start to crumble – psychologically, emotionally, physically, and/or spiritually. 

People are often in this predicament when they reach out to me.  Together, we gently, and slowly connect to what’s going on, and in the process people start to become more familiar and safe with their bodies. 

Peace and stillness, not what you think it is

As one starts to come into their body, they often experience what I call a “melting” phase. The body starts to “come alive”, as the frozenness starts to melt. It may sound great, and sometimes it is! And sometimes it’s uncomfortable or even a little painful. 

Think of a time when your hands or feet were so cold that when you put them in hot water they burned. When the body starts to defrost it can feel a little like that. The heart, for example, may start to burn as it opens, as it melts. My “therapist self” thinks of this as a good sign, but when it was happening to me I had a very different perspective! As with most of the healing process, it is useful to go slowly and gently, with accessibility to loving support. 

When the discomfort and pain start to become safely familiar, another challenge can be a sense of boredom. Again, I think of this as good news, as it’s another step on the journey. But when it was happening to me the boredom felt like I was doing it wrong, or it would usher in restlessness or agitation that was really uncomfortable, and felt counterintuitive to what I thought I should be experiencing.  

When we’re used to highs and lows, and/or when we’re used to being numb, being with what’s here feels so unfamiliar that the personality or ego mind can get rattled. 

The personality or ego mind often does not like unfamiliar, newness, or ‘different’- so this process can bevery counterintuitive, and we will talk ourselves out of it any chance we get.  

It was important for me to learn how to gently, patiently and compassionately explore the restlessness and boredom, rather than act out because of the restlessness and boredom. Again, this is why it can be useful to have guidance, so that the mind does not sabotage the evolution that is taking place.

As we “hang in there”, we may be faced with a variety of challenges based on the concepts we have about what is supposed to happen when we “wake up” or experience healing. Personally, I was so used to highs and lows that I often had concepts and expectations of “big bang” moments, or “abiding peace”.

I limited myself immensely by holding onto grandiose and false ideas. I even drove away expressions of stillness and peace as I held onto ideas of what I should be experiencing. It was important for me to slowly and gently wade through the various ideas and expectations, supposed to’s, and shouldsas I connected with the thoughts I was having and the sensations I was experiencing.  As those concepts shifted, so did my allowance and experiences of stillness and peace. 

Getting to know ourselves

There often comes a time in the healing and waking up journey where, as self-awareness grows, we begin to have the ability to consciously interact with our brain chemistry. For me this was a huge movement into self-empowerment, and radically shifted my relationship with life itself. Prior to this I often felt swept away by states of being – particularly fear states. Learning about my brain chemistry was a big part in shifting out of powerlessness and into resourced agency. 

We all respond to strong emotions differently as adults but the initial response originates in the amygdala. Some of us freeze, some people go into fight, some go into flee, and some go into feign/fawn. Regardless, that amygdala response causes the prefrontal cortex to be impacted in such a way that it temporarily stops functioning at full capacity. Long story short, this means that when we’re in a fear state, for example, we’re not thinking clearly. This is why, when in fight, flight, freeze or feign, we don’t make “good” decisions. This often leads us to do things we later regret. The sooner we detect that we are in a “amygdala response”, the faster we can “re-set” our brains and resume full functionality. 

We each have different strategies that come with different physiological responses, and it is helpful to notice how we individually react. As I was speaking about this with a couple last week we discovered that he went into fight mode. He was able to identify that he feels heat through his body as this is happening. She was able to identify that she goes into freeze, which is accompanied by a sense of “getting small.” It can be a powerful step in being able to identify our signature physiologicalresponses. Now he knows that when he gets hot, to pause. Now she knows when she starts to feel small, to pause. They are learning to communicate with each other when they notice physiological stress or amygdala responses happening. This allows them to avoid harmful behaviors and support each other.

As they identify that need to “pause,” they can turn towards activities that will help their brains to re-set so their prefrontal cortexes can come back on line. We spoke about different things each person could do to help this re-set take place. Sue, for example, finds it useful to connect to slow, gentle breathing, while Mark finds it useful to get a breath of fresh air, or walk around in his yard. 

Pausing is a vital step in changing patterning, and it becomes possible to make this choice as we become intimate and familiar with ourselves. This increased awareness provides fertile ground for experiencing deeper expressions of stillness and peace. 

Including our bodies, slowly and safely, with conscious attention

This understanding our physiology/ brain chemistry is particularly relevant as we start to “melt.” Prior, we’d been disconnected from our bodies in such a way that we weren’t aware of a lot of the feelings or sensations throughout our body. After the “melting” starts, we start to feel more, sometimes for the first time in our lives. This can be uncomfortable, not because anything bad is happening, but because something new is happening, and we humans don’t always like new. 

There’s reasons why many of us disconnected from our bodies, so it can take time for us to learn that it’s safe for us to include them now. Until we experience that safety, we may feel overwhelmed when we feel our bodies. It may remind us, subconsciously, of how we felt when we were very young and didn’t have the emotional support we needed to process big sensations and feelings.

The difference is that now we’re in adult bodies, in our safe homes, with far more resources and agency than we had as children. Part of this resourcing can come through learning about our brain chemistry, and in discovering how we can help ourselveswhen we are experiencing certain kinds of brain chemistry – mainly overwhelm, fear, or anger. 

Getting to know stillness and peace through neutrality

An intricate part of my journey has been making friends with neutrality. Because I’ve been drawn to highs and lows, and because I have had so many false ideas about waking up and healing, I had to learn how to make friends with what I call neutrality – the space in between “good” and “bad.”

This has been profound for many of my clients as well. One shared:

“First I thought neutrality was nothing, and the place where I felt the trigger (in my body) was everything. And now I see the neutrality as something full, and “strong.” 

I will be writing more about this topic in the future as it has been revelatory in my journey.

We can learn to experience sustainable peace

A lot is covered in this post.  Here is a summary: 

1. Frozenness and playing dead are trauma responses. 

2. Our culture often plays into these trauma responses, in ways that further limit our well-being, by pushing us to feel good by numbing. 

3. Safely exploring trauma responses with support can help us to sustainably include our bodily experiences and expressions, instead of having to constantly disconnect and numb.

4. Learning about our patterning and developing the awareness to slow down leads us to being able to make empowering choices.

5. Peace and stillness can be experienced in increasing amounts as intimacy with self is practiced, as we learn that our bodies are safe to be with.   

6. True stillness and peace does not come from exclusion, shutting down, or escaping, but from allowance and inclusion. 

7. As the embodied journey deepens, stillness and peace can be known with increased sustainability. 

In my journey, growing intimacy with self has allows me to know support and love in such a way that stillness and peace are deeply and sustainably known in a way I could have never imagined. 

There’s much left to be said as trauma, the psyche, and our culture weave an intricate web. I hope what I’ve shared will be helpful in a practical yet profound way on your journey of waking up and healing trauma. I would be honored to hear about your journey as you explore.

Tag words:  Trauma, Healing, Stillness, Peace, Awareness, Anxiety 


[1]Frozen is one of the 4 stress “F responses”; Fight, Flight, Freeze, and the lesser known Faint/Fawn; that are normal parts of our physiology under certain circumstances. Unfortunately, they often become part of our everyday life due to less than ideal environmental circumstances. 

[2]Over time, we may find that we find more familiarity and comfort in extreme highs and extreme lows, and angst comes in when we are experiencing a state of peace or stillness (or their mimicked frozenness). I’ll write more on this shortly.

Freedom in Honoring Our Stories


This was published on the Living Inquiries web site, titled “Our Stories are Sacred.

“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”  Rumi

Image: Helena Weaver. https://www.facebook.com/helenaweaverart/
Image: Helena Weaver. https://www.facebook.com/helenaweaverart/

I gently breathe in this quote. It has taken me a long time to know Rumi’s words. Most of my life I hid and denied my wounds, concealing them not only from others but also from myself. I repeatedly and systematically attempted to suppress, re-write, and/or rebuff the stories of my life experiences. This started when I was young.  I made excuses for and reframed others’ unhealthy and abusive behaviors. I learned to keep secrets to keep the peace.  Over time, I innocently abandoned myself as I learned to pretend that “all was well.”

I know I’m not alone in this. The majority of people express that they’ve had a great childhood. And yet, after a few questions, it is clear that what they are choosing to remember is coming from an act of self-preservation: it can be difficult to face the reality of our lived stories when we’ve denied them our whole lives.  We often prefer the story of “all was well”, even when it means we have to splinter ourselves to maintain that story.

While many of us always had a roof over our heads, food to eat, and clothing to wear, our more basic and fundamental needs such as emotional guidance and heart connection may not have been tended to. From the outside, I had an ideal childhood. And yet no one in my family was emotionally available or willing to really hear my stories, and after a while I disconnected from my experiences, from my stories, and made myself invisible as a way to cope. Maybe you too were a caretaker of others’ stories, as it was too hard to be with your own?

As I grew older I was bombarded with various social, political and spiritual messages that encouraged me to further forget about the past, and focus on the positive. Common phrases used in our culture include: “don’t dwell on the past”, “let bygones be bygones”, “look to the bright side”, and “be here now.”  Don’t get me wrong – it’s not that those phrases don’t have some wisdom sprinkled through them. But when we hold onto those mottos so fiercely that we aren’t allowed to be with our experiences, we violate ourselves. Over, and over, and over.

Would it be an act of loving kindness to tell a young toddler who has scraped their knee to “get over it”, or “just focus on the present!”, or look to the bright side of the experience? No. A kind heart would console, support, love, and guide a toddler through their pain, through their accident, all the way to the “other side”- however that may look.  A loving approach would ideally allow for the child to retell the story as many times as necessary, until it felt complete for them. We’d empathize. We’d listen. We’d help tend to the wound. We’d support them until they were ready to return to the playground. And they likely would. We’ve probably all seen that when a child is held and heard, they quickly resume playing, their needs having been met.

And yet what we often do with ourselves is pretend our scraped knees aren’t scraped (or that our hearts aren’t breaking). We often pretend that everything is just fine, and then to add insult to injury we judge ourselves when our hearts continue to be broken – which we then take as proof that “we’re broken.”

In my direct experience, it is never that we are truly broken[1]. I have never met a client who is broken. Rather, it is the way that we’ve learned to connect ourselves that is broken (and we can see how this is a cultural imprint, as culture does not connect with the wellbeing of mind/body/spirit, and instead often does the opposite).

Of course the way we’ve learned to connect with ourselves is broken! Most of us didn’t live in households that provided the level of emotional care, nurturance and guidance that we needed, so we never learned directly, or indirectly what true love and care was.

Even though we’re adults now, the need for a kind and loving response, the space to tell our story, and our needs to be heard and supported, haven’t gone away. They may have gone underground, or been buried, but our biological need for connection and love remain.

Shame kept my stories hidden, from myself and from others, and I see this with almost all my clients.  What I also see is immense freedom when people feel safe enough to honestly connect to their stories – to their actual lived experiences instead of the pretend life they held onto in their minds. This freedom multiplies when they feel safe to share their stories out loud in a safe container.

Repression is oppressive, and oppression is traumatizing. Telling our stories has the opposite effect. Telling our stories, first to ourselves, and then to another, has a liberating influence that leaves one feeling a sense of real empowerment – maybe for the first time in our lives.

Naming our stories to ourselves is deep work. It takes time, because it’s counter-intuitive based on all the strategies we’ve learned to keep silent. Naming and then believing our own stories takes courage. It takes time to develop the safety to be in our truth, after giving it away for so long.  For me, being heard by someone I trusted was an immensely important part of that. I was so used to doubting myself, that I needed a trusted guide to support me as the stories met the light of day, outside of the realms of my mind.

This is why we know it is crucial that as we heal from our wounds, we find safe spaces and safe people who listen to and believe in our stories – to our sacred, lived experiences. This produces a beautiful fertile ground “for the Light to come in.”

Find safe spaces. Find safe people. Your stories are the hallowed ground of your being.  When you find a safe person or group to share in, consider honoring your stories by connecting with what you need as your story is shared.[2] Our sacredness doesn’t need to be fixed, and yet a fixing paradigm is very common in our culture.  You may want to let your listener know that you don’t want your story to be treated as something to be fixed or changed, and instead received, as if your listener is being given a gift – because they are.

When stories are free to live in the light of day, something unanticipated often happens. As we release what we had been resisting all our lives, as we allow the stories to live and breathe, the stories themselves start to disintegrate. But this time it is from Love, not from denial.  This will happen on its own, although it’s often counterintuitive. I’ve found that the process can be supported and then integrated  through the guidance of an embodied somatic therapist, facilitator or guide.

I have experienced – directly and in my relationships with my clients – the immense freedom that comes when stories and wounds are allowed, named, spoken, expressed, and felt.  It is something far beyond what the linear mind understands, and births a sense of empowerment that is known from  being. Neuropathways shift, one’s sense of safety in the world changes, and relationships with life are transformed. Possibilities we couldn’t even imagine reveal themselves.[3]

It has taken my whole life to fully understand that that wounds and their corresponding stories are truly sacred. These days I experience wounds, and the stories of wounds, as sacred, grace filled, and also as the way Home.  I will be leading a deepening course this spring that will provide safety to explore our sacred stories. Please contact me to learn more.

I leave you with a poem I wrote after being given a prompt “If we could write a tomorrow which is wider than wounds we have worn”. Much love to you, as you share your sacred stories, on your way Home.

Stories Return Us Home

If I could write a tomorrow,
it would be wider than but include the wounds we have worn…
it would include my wounds,
it would announce my wounds,
it would put my wounds on display so that others too
could include, announce and
display their wounds,
as we move into tomorrow.

If I could write of a tomorrow,
it would have less denial, less hiding, less pretending…
By naming and sharing our wounds,
we would weave something so bountifully amazing,
taking us wider than the wounds we have ever worn.

If I could write a tomorrow,
I would use my wounds
and all that I have learned,
to springboard into creating a world where
community and connection is paramount,
from birth to death,
woven into the very ways we value the
ways we spend our days
and deeper into the way we view
our very selves.

If I could write a tomorrow,
humans would not be commodities
or things.
Worth would not be earned but known.
Sharing would be common place and
love would be given,
not bought or sold in the guise of
consumerism and exploitive capitalism.

This may be my soap box, but it doesn’t feel like an
impossible dream.
When I
slow down
and
take a look
towards pain and suffering.

I look at it in the eye,
feel pain burrow into the
caverns of my heart.
As I do
something widens
and deepens.
Something called Love

takes it all,
filling me with a sweetness of now that
exists at the very same time as
sorrow, sometimes in the very same place.
Reminding me another way is
indeed possible.

I write of another way…
where we know and
live knowing that,
in our shared plight of
being human,
there is Love.
The joy, mystery, pain, and
beauty of
being human.

I write of
lessons
being learned from the
wounds of yesterday.
Creating an amazing
tomorrow to be a part of.
I commit

to staying with
these wounds, honoring these wounds,
taking responsibility for these wounds,
and the wounds that my foremothers and forefathers
were born from,
have created,
which birthed me
and which I have birthed.

I write of a now,
inviting all to share
unique dreams and unique pains.
To share without needing to fix or problem solve
but to celebrate.
A recognition that each
story is sacred and powerful
in its very essence,
as we return Home.

[1] And yet, I honor the phrase “broken hearted”.  The sense of the heart being broken references the wound of which Rumi writes, and is, in my experience, our ticket home in the telling of our stories.

[2] You might, for example, ask your listener;  “please just listen,” or “please validate what you’ve heard,” or “please say you believe me,” or “please hug me when I’m done.”

[3] “Every time you tell your story and someone else who cares bears witness to it, you turn off the body’s stress responses, flipping off toxic stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine and flipping on relaxation responses that release healing hormones like oxytocindopamine, nitric oxide, and endorphins. When we tell our stories and others bear witness, the notion that we are disconnected beings suffering alone dissolves under the weight of evidence that this whole concept is merely an illusion.” – Lissa Rankin