Trusting the process


In meditation practice we work to create the posture, learning to align with gravity and allowing that alignment to support us almost effortlessly. Then we can “trust in the process that it allows to emerge. Like a twig that falls into a river with a strong current, you will unfailingly be conveyed in the direction of the goal of your practice.” [excerpted from the book The Posture of Meditation.]

I have found this true in life as well, having quite literally thrown myself into the arms of a divine Love and hoping that I would be safely held. I have worked hard at “aligning” myself with love, wisdom, and compassion — desiring and seeking healing and connection with my deepest, truest Self. I have come to believe, through hard-won experience, that when we seek first and foremost that deeper connection and love, it opens up a universe of possibilities to us, and allows healing to emerge.

In the healing of deep, long-festering wounds we are indeed like a twig that has fallen into a river with a strong current. We are tossed about relentlessly, going under at times, crashing into boulders, and racing along at great speed feeling completely out of control.  While being tossed about in the rapids you can’t see where you’re going and it can be hard, if not impossible, to retain any kind of perspective. Healing is a frightening journey and takes great courage.

The best and bravest thing to do is to relax into and trust the process. You will — unfailingly — “be conveyed in the direction of the goal of your practice.” You will, at some point, find yourself coming ashore on the solid ground of your own true Self, discovering the arms of Love wide open just waiting to scoop you up and embrace you. You will discover a fire within where you can warm yourself, and a deep Wisdom seated there waiting patiently to greet you with all you will ever need.

May you have the courage to leap into the river and to trust the process. May you come up for air often enough to keep your courage, and may you come safely ashore to the Love that is waiting for you.

On resilience and trauma


I was surprised, in my meditation studies, to see the word resilience applied to the sitting position. Well, at first I wasn’t surprised because I thought of resilience as a stoic strength, which was precisely what I thought it would take to make myself sit still and just breathe for half an hour. Like many people, I thought formal meditation meant sitting still as a stone statue of the Buddha.

However, the way it was applied here was that resilience implies movement — being resilient means to be constantly adapting to the ever-changing shifts in our bodies and minds, making the necessary subtle movements that keep us in alignment on the meditation cushion.

I love that image in terms of healing from trauma — just as we learned to fight, flee, or freeze in order to survive (and that was brilliant and resilient at the time), as we heal we learn to adapt to and allow the ever-changing shifts in moods, emotions, triggers, flashbacks, and physical sensations as they come up. Being resilient in healing means we’re allowing whatever arises to just be, without judgment, and we’re learning to let it flow through us and on out. It’s constant change and movement, taking us deeper and deeper into healing and wholeness as different layers arise.

It’s not fun and it’s not easy, especially if “freezing” was your mode of surviving. But the more movement of energy we allow and engage with the more resilient we become. And the more resilient we become, the more we’re able to handle whatever life throws at us. The one certainty about life is its uncertainty — there is no arriving in some mysterious, unchanging place called Stability. I guess I’ve come to see resilience itself as stability — by learning to allow and flow with whatever arises I’ve developed a deep inner strength that no one can take away or destroy.

May you, too, find the movement you need for healing. May you learn to be comfortable with change and uncertainty. May you be resilient.

Listening to the heart


When I moved to Washington almost two years ago I applied to and got wait-listed for training to become a Certified Peer Counselor. Shortly thereafter, the move itself and ensuing uncertainty around housing and employment triggered major flashbacks to the chaos and dangers of my childhood and I fell apart. I became consumed with anxiety, fear oozing out of every pore of my body, and began losing weight. Lots of weight. And I wasn’t the least bit overweight to begin with.

I’ve shared in earlier posts some of the journey toward deeper healing through EMDR, work with a Certified Peer Counselor, therapy, yoga, meditation, and community. I had completely forgotten about my application to the peer counselor program and then suddenly…

I lost my job, and I was fine — able to trust that things would be ok. Then my therapist with whom I’d been doing the EMDR told me she was leaving the practice, and I was fine — again, able to trust that things would be ok. And then I got an email informing me that there was to be a training in the next month to become a Certified Peer Counselor and I’d been accepted to the program, which is paid for by the state. I got to spend two weeks with a roomful of amazing, incredible peers who had overcome tremendous odds to experience recovery in their mental health journeys.

I had no concrete idea of where I was headed with the combination of everything I was doing — yoga teacher training, meditation instructor training, and now the peer counselor program. I only knew that each of them felt like the right thing to do. I was simply listening to and following my heart. On the last day of the peer training we were addressed by three people from three different mental health providers in the community, each of them telling us about their organization and the work they do. All of them were hiring peer counselors. The first two definitely didn’t feel “right” for me, but when the third person walked to the front, right away my heart felt lighter and I knew, “There. That’s the place.”

I applied over that weekend and got an interview, even though I hadn’t taken/passed the exam yet. My interview was scheduled for the day after the exam (which I can now say I passed with flying colors), and was actually enjoyable due to the unique way in which it was conducted. At the same time I “graduated” from therapy and working with my own peer counselor.

But here’s the cool part: two of the questions were “What’s your favorite magazine?” and “If you could choose to be an animal, what would it be and why?” My answers were National Geographic, and a dolphin. The next day I was called for a second interview with the CEO. Then I had the weekend to wait before learning whether I would be offered a position. On Tuesday, when I got my mail, I was excited to see what had arrived: this month’s issue of National Geographic. The cover photo was a dolphin, and the lead story was about dolphins. I stood there looking at that magazine and thought to myself, “They’re going to call me today and offer me a position.” A few hours later, that’s exactly what happened.

Oh. And the position will include the opportunity to teach yoga and meditation in their Wellness and Empowerment Center. So here’s to listening to and following the leading and wisdom of your heart. It knows what you need, it knows where the world needs you, and it knows how to get you there.

May you have the courage and strength to listen to and follow your own heart.

Wild, wise woman emerging


When the Universe relieved me of my job in January, I decided to explore new possibilities and listen to the inner yearnings of my heart rather than frantically look for a job. Fortunately, for the time being, I have the means to do that.

For years I have longed to be part of a community of women unafraid of exploring their inner worlds and supporting each other in that process. By listening to and following my intuition I have come to a place filled with such women, and am finding myself lovingly supported in my own journey toward freedom and autonomy.

It’s amazing the effect it has on a person’s soul and psyche when the eyes you look into reflect back love, admiration, respect, faith and belief in you, and encouragement. Things I thought were long-dead within me are coming back to life, and while I’m still unemployed there is a path unfolding before me. I don’t know precisely where it’s going to lead but I know I have to follow it — and trust that something beautiful is happening.

Many women, and especially victims of trauma, have suffered serious injury to their ability to trust themselves and rely on intuition. I love this quote from Women Who Run With the Wolves:

The cure for instinct-injured women: “Practice listening to your intuition, your inner voice; ask questions; be curious; see what you see; hear what you hear; and then act upon what you know to be true. These intuitive powers were given to your soul at birth. They have been covered over, perhaps by years and years of ashes and excrement. This is not the end of the world, for these can be washed away. With some chipping and scraping and practice, your perceptive powers can be brought back to their pristine state again.” (Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D.)

May you begin to uncover and restore to beauty the treasure within your own Soul.

Uncertainty and change

Sometimes the way forward is not the least bit obvious. Sometimes you have to step back and look at the big picture, and sometimes that just makes it more difficult. When in doubt close your eyes, listen to your heart, and feel your way forward. You can look and look and look with your rational mind, and all you’ll see is confusion and chaos. By feeling your way intuitively, you build your inner strength and slowly the way opens up before you. Sometimes you discover a door in what appeared to be a solid wall. Trust your heart, and trust the process.

I was laid off (without pay) over the holidays, and decided that instead of freaking out I would look at this as an opportunity to get some much-needed rest and spend more time meditating and practicing yoga. Quite unexpectedly I fell in love with formal meditation (I generally loathe sitting). I was gradually experiencing more and more deep peace and calm, and decided to enroll in a course to become a meditation instructor.

When I returned to work, I knew a new path was unfolding before me. I had (and still have) no idea precisely where it’s going to lead or what it’s going to look like, but I went back to work knowing that ultimately I did not belong there. At the end of my first week back my boss told me that the VP over him had decided to give my position to a former long-time employee (I was classified as a temp, but I’d been assured that my position was secure for two to three years). And just like that I was, and am, unemployed.

Six months ago I would have been completely and utterly undone, overcome with abject terror. But between my EMDR sessions and my very active yoga and meditation practice, I have found solid ground deep within my own soul and am able to be at peace. I am learning to trust the process of an unfolding life and to live beautifully with uncertainty and change (American Buddhist nun Pema Chodron).

May you, too, find the courage you need to face each day as it unfolds before you, and not be overcome by fear. May you be safe and free. May you be well.

Patience with the healing process

Sometimes the winter of the healing process is a long one with vast expanses of seemingly nothing happening. At least nothing “good.” It can be very tempting to run — as fast and hard and in whatever way you can — from the harsh, unrelenting, unforgiving pain you’ve been living for so long. But if you can find the courage to stand and face it, you can learn to embrace it and let it do its work. Winter’s work is a deep, slow, hidden process. And it’s necessary.

Scattered across the ice
like the stars in the night sky
tiny pieces of pain
glitter cruelly
with a terrible beauty
crusted together
in a winter that never
seems to let go
The wind-swept expanse
contains a lifetime of woes
hidden beneath layers
of ice and

It requires trust and faith, to believe that underneath all this frozen pain some kind of healing and growth is taking place. But if you’re sincerely seeking and desiring to be whole, then know that it is happening. The Universe has a way of meeting the heart that reaches toward love and wholeness. And when the time is right, the warm sun of spring will begin to melt what is frozen within you, revealing tiny, beautiful buds of new life.

May you have the patience to wait.

A priceless treasure

Today is the birthday of a most beloved friend of mine and I’d like to dedicate this post to her. Her unfailing love and faithful support throughout the last several decades has not only changed my life, but also saved it. When we met almost 30 years ago she saw value and beauty in me where no one else did. Being a survivor of severe childhood trauma herself, she recognized an agonizing history embedded within my soul and psyche — trauma I had yet to realize myself, let alone work through.

We share the same first name, were devoted to our faith, were both married to abusive men in right-wing churches, and each had four children. It was she who first found the courage to take her children and leave her husband. And then it was she who first found the courage to begin questioning her faith and the teachings we’d so devotedly embraced. Of the two of us, it was she who first decided she could be so much more, and deserved so much better.

We only had about eight years of living in close proximity and then our paths took us in opposite geographic directions — she’s now on the East Coast and I’m on the West. In the ensuing 21 years we have physically seen each other just two times. But our friendship has remained rock solid and unshakable. We talk regularly and have seen each other through countless heartbreaks, trauma, crises, upheavals, spiritual changes, and joy.

It is she who has believed in me, encouraged me, admired me, cried with me, prodded me, questioned me, and never lost faith in me. It is she who has mothered me unconditionally, holding space for me to face and explore the depths of cruelty and betrayal in my past — wounds that left me isolated and a bit “prickly” on the outside. She never gave up on me.

It was she who awakened with a start in the middle of the night in her home in Boston and began praying for me with wrenching sobs, having seen me lying on my bed in Louisiana blue and dead. At that same time, in Louisiana, I was in the throes of a miscarriage. I was hemorrhaging and didn’t know it. My three children were all sleeping and around midnight my husband went to bed because “there was no point in both of us being up.” We didn’t have health care (he was giving all our extra money to the church), and so didn’t want me to go to the emergency room because of what it would cost. There was blood all over the bathroom and I was rapidly weakening and losing the ability to think clearly.

After a bit I decided that the church elders were right and I just needed to “trust God” and go to bed. This fear I was feeling was “of the devil” and I shouldn’t “dishonor the name of God” by listening to it. I went to my room and sat on the edge of my side of the bed but when I went to lie down something stopped me. A very small voice inside was saying “Go call the emergency room” while another voice was saying to “have faith in God.” Back and forth it went for a minute or so, with the first voice growing louder. And so I got up, went out to the kitchen, and called the emergency room. I had difficulty speaking clearly and tried to describe to the nurse what was happening — at which point she told me I was hemorrhaging and that it was urgent I come in immediately. Long story short, we did go in and my life was saved. But make no mistake, had I listened to that other “voice” and gone to sleep, I would not have awakened.

It is this dear soul-friend whose unwavering friendship and love has provided the ground in which I could heal and grow and come alive. It is she who remained at my side through years of darkness and isolation and fear — even when she went on to remarry and it would have been easy and understandable to gradually let go of our friendship. It is she who has taught me what it is to love and to be a friend. Most importantly, her love has enabled me to see and know the incredible beauty within my own soul, and embrace myself with love. She has taught me how to be my own friend, and that is priceless.

Priceless because love of and for ourselves is the only foundation from which we can reach out to and love the world around us. According to the Buddha, “You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” With this kind of loving-friendliness or loving-kindness toward yourself, you can then truly love others. And isn’t that, more than anything else, what is needed in this world?

It is because of this amazing human being that I’ve learned “I am larger and better than I thought. I did not think I held so much goodness” (Walt Whitman). It is my hope and prayer that this love and goodness, which has been nurtured by my dear friend, will radiate outward to more and more people — people who are caught in darkness, loneliness, and isolation — and that one day she will know that in loving me she loved many into the light.

And so I wish the happiest of birthdays to my dearest soul-friend, Lori:

Like the joy of the sea coming home to shore,
May the relief of laughter rinse through your soul.

As the wind loves to call things to dance,
May your gravity be lightened by grace.

Like the dignity of moonlight restoring the earth,
May your thoughts incline with reverence and respect.

As water takes whatever shape it is in,
So free may you be about who you become.

As silence smiles on the other side of what’s said,
May your sense of irony bring perspective.

As time remains free of all that it frames,
May your mind stay clear of all it names.

May your prayer of listening deepen enough
to hear in the depths the laughter of god.”

(John O’Donohue, “Equilibrium, A Blessing” from To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings)

Some lovely awards


Thank you to Heather at Donning the Crescent for nominating me for these two awards. She writes beautifully of her own journey, which happens to be on the path of the Craft. Yes — a real, live witch! (This is my miniscule contribution to demystifying and de-stigmatizing that word and that way of life. Plus, her writing and photos are beautiful.)


I’m supposed to recommend 15 other lovely and/or inspirational blogs but I have to confess that the intensity of my healing journey of late hasn’t afforded the time to explore other blogs. That’s something I hope to be able to rectify in the near future.

In the meantime: I wish you all healing, along with clarity of vision and purpose in the coming new year. May you find deep peace and meaningful relationships to buoy your soul.

Letting go of rotten fruit

Rotten-FruitIt is officially winter today, and yet this tree in my yard still clings to this apple — to rotten fruit. I get it, from the standpoint of trauma. In many areas of our lives we are stuck or frozen, holding on to behaviors or ways of thinking — rotten fruit — that no longer serve us. Letting go, for a person with CPTSD, is a terrifying prospect. It means being vulnerable, and in the past vulnerability meant some pretty horrible things, and was likely even life-threatening.

But in order to heal and grow we do, eventually, have to start letting go of the rotten fruit in our lives. Much of that fruit — whether extreme anger, overpowering fear, defensive armor, social isolation, abusive self-talk — comes from seeds planted by abusers. We didn’t get ourselves into this mess, we never intended to grow this fruit in the first place, but in the end we’re the only ones who can get ourselves out of this mess and work toward healing.

And the thing is, it’s only when the rotten fruit is released that something new and healthy can grow in its place. Whatever rotten thing is hanging heavy in your life right now, may you have the courage and the strength to release it. May you be free from that suffering, and may something beautiful and life-giving begin to grow in its place.

May you be comforted, supported, protected, cared for, healed. May you become the love you need.

Breaking up the ice of trauma

Lake Michigan
Lake Michigan

Healing childhood trauma is damn hard work. The survival tactics that saved us then do not  serve us now, and can even become a source of imprisonment. For me, the freeze response and dissociation were what kept me alive. But decades of freezing and dissociating took their toll both physically and emotionally, and as my children came along I became determined to heal no matter the cost.

In the winters on the island where I lived for 15 years, the ferry passage from the island to the mainland often became frozen over or jammed with ice floes pushed in by the cold north wind. The winter ferry was an icebreaker and twice daily would break open a path for those who needed to travel over and back again. I loved to bundle up and stand out on the deck, listening to the cracking ice and swooshing water, and watching the broken pieces either submerge in the icy depths or go skittering off across the fields of unbroken ice.

I breathed deeply, knowing that I was doing the same work in my heart. Years of frozen trauma had encased my mind and heart, but not my spirit. With determination and great effort I was breaking up that ice to set myself free. Sometimes it seemed to close right back in again as soon as I took a step forward, much as it did with the ferry after it had passed through. But it would be that much easier to break it up again, for having been plowed through once already.

There were icy chunks of thought patterns and beliefs that cracked and split wide open, skittering across the surface of my heart and away from the depths. It was terrifying to look into the icy deep of my woundedness — it threatened to swallow me whole and take me down to a dark and hidden death. But there was also great beauty in the work and the process. The smaller pieces of fractured ice glittered and sparkled in the sunlight, creating a dance of light that the solid, unbroken ice never could. The larger chunks and shoves gathered up deep shades of greens and blues and wove them into otherworldly hues.

And then there was the water itself, once the ice was broken open. At the edges it was a deep  and light-filled green, but the middle and depths where the light didn’t penetrate were such a dark green as to look black. It’s a terrifying yet sacred act to look into the depths of a wounded soul — there’s no knowing what monsters may be coiled and ready to spring forth from that blackness. I knew if I fell in I would sink slowly and be devoured completely.

I clung tightly to the edges of sanity as I carefully, slowly worked at breaking up the ice in my heart, exposing the depths to the light of day. Moment by painstaking moment, year after year, I worked. As more and more sunlight was able to penetrate the darkness it brought warmth. The light and the warmth brought healing and new life.

The passage the island ferry crosses daily is known as Death’s Door. For those of us recovering from complex trauma, we have to make that journey — crossing Death’s Door and going back again — many, many times in order to bring forth the healing that is our birthright. May each of you have the strength and courage it takes to carry on, and continue breaking up the ice in your life.