Interview with The West Coast Trauma Project

"The body remembers, the bones remember, the joints remember, even the little finger remembers. Memory is lodged in pictures and feelings in the cells themselves. Like a sponge filled with water, anywhere the flesh is pressed, wrung, even touched lightly, a memory may flow out in a stream." -Clarissa Pinkola Estes

I was honored to be invited by Guy Macpherson, the Founder of The West Coast Trauma Project to participate in his Trauma Podcast. In our conversation we explore what lead me to embark on the work of addressing and healing sexual violence and various layers of personal and professional evolution in being part of the anti-sexual violence movement and the healing arts field. We also discusses how my yoga practice was impacted by sexual trauma and its evolution, working in the advocacy field and balancing personal sustainability, how Somatic Experiencing has been a resource, and we talk in depth about the vision for The Breathe Network and the people - survivors, supporters, clinicians and healers. 

You can listen to my interview here and I encourage you to explore The West Coast Trauma Project's website to listen to interviews with national experts in the fields of trauma and resilience.

 

 

    Travel and the Inner Compass of Healing Trauma

    I spent a few years of my life working abroad and while that time held some of the most exhilarating experiences I’ve known, it also contained long phases of loneliness, confusion and an overwhelming doubt about where my path would lead. I became accustomed to the highs and the lows of my day to day, and when I was in the space between – not entirely inspired, not totally lost, I was in a bit of a dull fog. It was during those plateaus in my experience that I would long for then familiarity of home – but where was home? My mind would be restless, unable to fully land in my body – leaving a sense of disconnect from myself and the surrounding environment. Everything and everyone would become strange, and I would begin to feel a rising vulnerability much like a still open wound.

    The new world perspective I was catalyzed into after sexual violence, the recovery and re-organization of the pieces of my life afterwards, reminds me of the roller coaster ride of my voyages abroad. Of course, the impact of trauma itself can stir up such a sense of foreignness both with yourself and the world around you – language escapes you, memory is out of order, things are not as they seemed. You sit on life’s periphery looking from the outside in, never finding connection through the images and faces around you and no longer sensing it on your own.

    For someone who hasn’t both traveled extensively (or who hasn’t felt themselves a outsider in a world where others seemingly feel at home) and survived sexual violence, my sense that the two experiences are in some ways quite parallel may feel like an exaggeration. Yet, as a survivor, I look to any revelations I gain, however slight – on my yoga mat, in the woods, while playing a keyboard, from my dreams – and seek to weave them into the bigger picture of how I can experience and understand the fullness of my Self. I believe that my daily, seasonal and annual witnessing of the ongoing cycles of love and loss can teach me humility, compassion and strengthen my courage to keep going. When a metaphor for healing emerges, I fully dive in.

    Read more here.

    Tapping the Intrinsic Power of the Mind in Healing

    Since surviving sexual violence, my body has long been my anchor, even with the unpredictable volatility of its tremendous feeling and sensation – it is the only place I call home. I can orient myself to the moment by simply following its natural rhythms and filling up on the flow of adrenaline, endorphin and ecstasy. Yet, sometimes I wonder why I have chosen to rely so heavily on my body for grounding when it also presents such intensity with its flooding of hormones, racing of the heart and prickling of the skin? Why would I risk living from such a delicate edge of pain and pleasure not knowing when either will evolve towards or devolve back away from balance? And why now this new desire to investigate my mind, when contemporary trauma research urges modalities that focus on survivors befriending their bodies through physical movement? Is my recent curiosity around searching my mind for equanimity an unconscious attempt to avoid all that still stirs beneath my skin? Is the flow of my healing running counter to the current? Or, am I re-learning all over again, that I have to drop everything I am told externally about the path of healing and endeavor to trust what makes sense in my being in this very moment?

    I’ve relied upon my body to stabilize myself when moods and situations became unsettling and in a sense, to slow down the speedy, dark thoughts of my mind. Many survivors are directed to psychological support after rape, and it might be years or decades later that they discover their own desire for healing through their physical body and the underutilized power within their own shape. The day I was raped I made a last minute choice to lace up my running shoes instead of stepping onto my already unrolled yoga mat – so connecting through my body and breath was already consistent within my regular self-care practice. Working with the body would be my starting point in healing. When I finally thawed the first layer of shock after the event, I knew that I needed to move and re-learn to feel into my body if I was going to swim across to the other side of this ocean of grief. With that as my intention, my body has been an amazing outlet for the build up of tension – physical, mental and energetic. This capability to move freely was a privilege I was born with and whose preciousness is gold to me. My gratitude for my body and its ability to run, stretch and breathe with a certain level of ease is something I once took for granted – now I humbly recognize my tremendous fortune.

    Read more here.

    Contemplating Forgiveness After Sexual Abuse

    Can we remain wounded and simultaneously extend genuine forgiveness? Is forgiveness something we offer outwards or something that we cultivate for ourselves inside? From what part of our mind, our heart, our unconscious knowing – does that sentiment arise? How do we distinguish the degree to which our inability to forgive, our insistence that we cannot forgive, or our simple lack of impulse to forgive, is impacting our possibilities for healing? What is the practice and what is the process that mentors us along this difficult inquiry to define what it means to forgive? Who is it we need to forgive, are drawn to forgive, and why? 

    I have had a difficult time, tangibly experienced in the immediate escalation of my heart rate, with the casual concept of forgiving the person(s) that committed such pervasive atrocity/ies against and upon our bodies, our mind and our souls. I tread cautiously into this realm as questions, upset, and confusion start to stir inside. Since we all operate with our own definition of forgiveness, we are not necessarily sharing in an equivalent inquiry into its meaning and relevance in our healing and in this setting, miscommunication, along with unnecessary hurt can abound. I am still working this out slowly and contemplating whether and if forgiveness, which feels still so very hard for me to grasp, and compassion, something I more naturally touch into, will eventually collide.

    Read more here.

    Orienting Towards a New Relationship with Time After Sexual Trauma

    How does sexual violence change you? Can we actually quantify an impact that is ongoing? How do you measure injuries that move and change like tides, ebbing and flowing nearer and further from the shoreline of your pain? Does time truly heal all wounds and how does trauma change time? What part of our pain is born in the past, shadows our present and trails us into our future? What, if any, part of our human spirit transcends time after trauma?

    Our society constantly quantifies the movement of time, always forward on the clock, the inevitable turning of the pages on our calendar – dates, anniversaries, appointments, beginnings and endings – always relating to time. As survivors of sexual violence, times and dates can concurrently be intensely significant – looming ahead and overwhelming our thinking, while at other times, lost in our attempt to outrun the immediacy of the moment with our past tracking not too far behind – the idea of time is irrelevant, intangible and inconvenient. Ultimately, however, our nature as humans causes us and those involved with us before, and particularly, those who remain involved after sexual violence, to look to time as an indicator of where we should be in our recovery.

    Read more here.