My Journey

When my brother was 17 years old he was diagnosed with a very serious form of cancer in his brain and spinal fluid.  At the time I was 15 years old.  It was a poignant time for our whole family as we were faced with the possibility that he could die.  I remember the doctors saying he had a 50 % chance.  I wasn’t ready to lose my brother, and it was frightening.  Suddenly I was in a strange dream.  We were doing our very best as a family to help him through the chemotherapy, radiation treatments and spinal taps, which were repeatedly traumatizing.  He had to confront his fears of death, at 17 years old.  It was an intense transformative time for all of us, an existential initiation.  We surrounded my brother with supportive loving energy.  All of our friends showed up to lend support in whatever way they could.  It is to his inner strength and to this circle of love that I attribute my brothers quick and recovery to health.

It was during this time of my brother’s illness that my interest in trauma healing and the mind-body connection first began.  I remember him listening to a visualization cassette to help the healing. We would help him imagine that Pac-Man was eating up and destroying all the cancer in his body.  This idea that thoughts or images that we create in our minds could effect our body’s healing process was fascinating to me, and intuitively made sense.  It was at that time that I began reading books about esoteric forms of healing with light and chakra visualizations*.

It was during this time that I had my first exposure to eastern spirituality and healing.  A Kundalini Yoga teacher came to our home to teach a yoga class for my brother as part of his healing protocol.  I really liked the class, but it wasn’t until 3 years later that I re-discovered my love of Yoga.  India then began calling to me.  I knew I had to answer.  This calling was from within, a calling to return to my depths.  A wish began to grow inside me to visit the land that held the collective vibrations of millions of healing prayers, and thousands of years of devotion to the expansion of consciousness and Self-realization.   I knew I wanted to give back to this place, who’s mysticism and healing had intrigued me for so long, and for which I had such deep reverence.  Because of my love of India, it felt like an appropriate place to do my field study for my major in Community Studies.

It was the end of 1999, and at the time I was deeply into my yoga practice after having just completed a yoga teacher training.  My experiences with my brother’s illness and healing process, and my own yoga practice, inspired my curiosity as to the effectiveness of alternative ways of healing trauma, which are often somatized.

My interests lie in understanding how the ancient wisdom might be echoed in the modern adaptations of holistic healing.   This lead me to India, where for 6 months I worked in a charitable hospital’s Naturopathic and Yogic Sciences Clinic with the intention of getting to the root of their ancient system of holistic healing practices as they were applied in free community healthcare.  This hospital was providing health care to under-served communities in Pune, India using nature’s cures.  I learned about herbs, homeopathic remedies, hands on healing, therapeutic massage, and yogic breathing practices and postures that were prescribed to the patients.  I was exposed to a good overview of what encompassed the traditional holistic healing of east Asia.

It was a deeply rich experience to live in India, who’s culture was rooted in spirituality and enlightenment.  My burning quest for Self-knowledge was further ignited by all my encounters with yogis, wise fellow seekers, and especially by seeing the amount of poverty and suffering that exists in India.  I was particularly inspired by the work of Amma, otherwise known as the “hugging saint”, and her teaching of self-less service and Love.  My constant prayer to Her was “please show me how I can serve others in need.”  The problems and suffering of the world seemed so widespread, never ending and overwhelming.  I knew I had a lot of Love to give, but I wanted to know where was my place in all of this?  What was my unique gift to give?  I knew over time it would be revealed.

I continued to follow my heart toward my interests in sacred dance, yoga, meditation, and healing.  India lit my inner fire to know more about all ancient wisdom as it applied to healing.   I left my field placement with a great ongoing interest in developing a deeper experiential understanding of the connection between my own mind, body and soul.  I prayed that I become a clear instrument of healing to support other in need on our planet.  I instinctually knew that my own inner healing was the place to begin my journey of developing myself as a healer.  A transformation inside myself was underway, preparing me for the outward forms of service that I knew would manifest when the time was right.

As a result of this heartfelt wish, I’ve spent the last 12 years delving into the healing arts.  I have honed my interests and practice around the study of Somatic Experiencing (S.E.), which is a body-awareness approach to trauma that works with nervous system regulation.

I enrolled in the Somatic Experience training in trauma healing in 2006.   This three year process of the training was a “coming home” for me.  In this supportive group setting we all got to know ourselves in a fuller way, and gently confronted our wounds caused by past traumas.  My Somatic Experience teacher Steve Hoskinson would use Robert Bly’s analogy of the “big black bag” to describe where we stuff all the painful events of our life.   Eventually one day comes around when you decide you’re ready to take a look inside “the big black bag” and realize there resides years and years worth of experiences.  In the Somatic Experience training we learned about how these experiences in our lives make imprints on our body’s nervous system. In the therapeutic held container of this training, the places inside me that felt wound up inside my nervous system began to unwind and loosen their grip on me, and the other places that felt fragmented in parts started to rejoin.  Out of that processing I witnessed a true aliveness spring forward.

Being in a community of like-minded and like-hearted people who were committed to healing themselves and others in this integrated way was how I instinctively knew life should be.   It’s not that I necessarily would have chosen all the people in the Somatic Experience training to be my best friends if I had met them out in the world, but through this collective process we bonded and got to deeply know and love each other beyond our superficial judgments and projections.   Supported, protected, accepted, and seen, are some words that come to mind when I recall the profound experience over that precious three-year process.   In this safe environment I learned once again to trust in the organic intelligence within me that has an innate capacity to heal.  I saw movements within myself from grief to wholeness, disconnection to connectedness, and I felt my capacity increase to be able “hold” in a different way the intensity that each changing moment of life brings.

One of the biggest gift of this training was how I developed an ability to “get out of my head”, and into the true instinctual part of myself that “knows”.  This process was a non-linear unfolding into deeply trusting my own body’s wisdom and the source that gives light and life to everything.  Again and again I got to see the powerful impact of one person’s simple loving attention toward another, especially when going through a difficult time.  And as every mother intrinsically knows, we’re biologically rigged to resonate with one another and provide support when in need. It’s simple, but sometimes overlooked, our capacity we have to “be there” for another with our total presence and the beauty and transformation that come out of that.

I can only comment on this from what I’m able to observe, and from what I see, the success of the healing session can be attributed to the practitioners quality of awareness and their true and innocent intention for the other’s well being.  This at times can look like magic, though I think it’s much simpler than that.  I experience it as our nature finding alignment, when given a supportive enough environment. For me, the “art” in the healing arts, is in letting go of preconceptions and protocol into true presence. Showing up to each moment with creativity and abiding in spontaneity.   With that said, my practice in Somatic Experiencing is based in practices I have experimented with, embodied, and with which I am in a constant somatic dialogue.