Breathe. Live. Be. An Interview with Red Elephant Foundation

In this interview with Red Elephant Foundation, I was invited to share about what lead me to the work of anti-sexual violence advocacy, teaching yoga, the physiology of resilience and some of the risks and rewards of forming The Breathe Network. Here is a brief excerpt:

REF: Could you start by sharing your story, to the extent you are comfortable and deem relevant to the work you do?

MBH: I began exploring holistic healing modalities and trauma resilience theory in 2003 after being raped and sexual assaulted. It wasn’t the first time I had survived sexual violence, but for various personal reasons and the specific nature of the event, it was exponentially more traumatizing to me than past experiences. The rape created a total split and a sense of irreparable chaos within my physical body, my brain and my soul. It completely dismantled the view I had on the world and my sense of who I was in it, and it disrupted nearly every relationship in my life. At the same time, I started working with the trauma in a variety of ways, through yoga, holistic psychotherapy, acupuncture, massage and art therapy and within those sessions, I was uncovering not only my rage, my shame, my fear, and my grief, but also, tapping into resilience, power, beauty and a sense of inherent self-worth. I had not known those aspects of myself prior to the event of my rape, which made me incredibly curious about the process of addressing healing – and mental disturbance, physical pain, and psychic unrest in this holistic way, through all the various channels of the human system. How could it be that during the darkest time of my life I was beginning to tap into and cultivate a sense of compassion, purpose, love and faith?

Read the full interview here.

Freeze Leads to Survival

Over the last 12 years, billions of cells have cycled through my body – created, utilized and disintegrated – without any of my own intentional efforts. Most of my life I took these processes for granted. Yet, after I was raped, the mystery of this constant, internal process of birthing and dying happening inside my body became a fascination. It was a useful touchstone reminding me that on a cellular level, my body was shedding the residue of my perpetrator from the inside out. In a terrifying and also transcendent way, trauma ushered in a radical awakening to the brilliance of the human organism and its relentless pursuit to fulfill a single purpose: staying alive.

When my life was threatened, in an instant, all of my survival mechanisms came online. The shock of what was happening to me physically, mentally, and spiritually, drove me out of my own shape. I floated in a slow motion dream: sensations increasingly numb, language escaping my mouth with no thought, movements and gestures coming through my body with no control. If I was lucky, I would only be assaulted while stranded in the largest public park on the continent of South America. However, the anger from my attacker communicated something far more insidious. If I could survive this, what would he do next?

Unconditioned by ego, the primal responses of my body immediately conspired for my survival: I froze. My spirit exited my body. I watched my own undoing looking down from tree tops. Yet, a part of me was still trapped inside my shape. My body went numb. I don’t remember breathing. My tears stifled along the corners of my eyes. Everything was silent and slow, like a movie with no sound. My brain, though, picked up every detail of the forest, archiving this information for the future. The instinct of my nervous system memorizing all the ways I landed here so that it could attempt to ensure this doesn’t happen again. Meanwhile, this man is crushing every part of me – my body, mind and soul, with his violence. I am unbearably present though moving in and out of body. I remain frozen.

Suddenly, a stick breaking in the woods is enough to startle him. This attack will not end with death. Rather, this is the painful, yet precious re-birth into a post-rape reality where I escape. The story is just beginning.

Read the full post here.