Our Collective Dreams

“I have come to the conclusion that human beings are born with an innate capacity to triumph over trauma.

I believe not only that trauma is curable, but that the healing process can be a catalyst for profound awakening - a portal opening to emotional and genuine spiritual transformation.

I have little doubt that as individuals, families, communities, and even nations, we have the capacity to learn how to heal and prevent much of the damage done by trauma.

In so doing, we will significantly increase our ability to achieve both our individual and collective dreams.”

-Dr. Peter Levine, creator of Somatic Experiencing and author of incredible books like “In An Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness” and “Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma”

 
blog 8/21/19

What If Your Body Hurts

Be the silent watcher of your thoughts and behavior. You are beneath the thinker. You are the stillness beneath the mental noise. You are the love and joy beneath the pain.
— Eckhart Tolle
 

The last few blog posts have been about stages of inner healing work. While this process is valuable, it can be challenging to do when we’re distracted by physical pain. That’s the immediate concern of many of my clients who seek craniosacral therapy.

 

My experience with pain is that it’s a sign that something needs to change. It may require attention from a healthcare provider. The area experiencing pain may also want attention and comfort from us.

 

This may seem bizarre, but one approach I use is to talk to this part of my body like it’s a sweet little kid. Something along the lines of “I’m sorry you don’t feel good. I’ll take care of you. Is there anything in particular you need from me?”

 

In his “The Book of Awakening,” Mark Nepo describes the importance of this process:

 

“Our hearts and bodies often give us messages we fail to pay attention to. Ironically, we are all so aware of pain, can hardly ignore it, but we rarely hear what it has to say. It is true that we may need to withstand great pain, great heartache, great disappointment and loss in order to unfold into the rest of our lives. But our pain may also be showing us exactly where we need to change.”

 

Sometimes it can be challenging to figure out what this painful area needs from us, especially with chronic pain where we’ve seen specialists are our symptoms continue.

 

In his book “The Power of Now,” Eckhart Tolle recommends these steps:

“Focus attention on the feeling inside you. Know that it is the pain-body. Accept that it is there. Don't think about it - don't let the feeling turn into thinking. Don't judge or analyze. Don't make an identity for yourself out of it. Stay present, and continue to be the observer of what is happening inside you. Become aware not only of the emotional pain but also of "the one who observes," the silent watcher. This is the power of the Now, the power of your own conscious presence. Then see what happens.”

Pain can thus be an invitation to turn inward. First to our body, and then to deeper parts of ourselves that are less physical in nature. Pain can be the entry-point to transforming not only our body, and our relationship with our body, but it can open us to emotional, energetic and spiritual dimensions as well. Particularly when we accept and allow the pain to be present.

 

If you’d like support with this process, craniosacral therapy can support this practice of listening to the body’s pain as a way to help it unwind. Feel free to reach out to learn more.

 
When the body is finally listened to, it becomes eloquent. It’s like changing a fiddle into a Stradivarius.
— Marion Woodman
 
blog 8/15/19

Third Step in Healing

Be gentle. Pay attention. Offer purposeful healing. Seek Equilibrium. Unfreeze, slowly. Stretch yourself out into the world. Let your eyes calibrate to this new light and notice how it caresses the lines and curves and soft and hard of you. Allow your mouth to twist and stumble around new shapes.

Be so very sensory. Notice everything. From every angle. The way your bones feel. The way you orient to space and time. Invite your whole being into this new way of living, into the totality and wholeness of it.

Let it be strange and uncomfortable and painful and stiff. Let it be magical and novel and unfamiliar and entirely wonderful.

Follow the whispers where they lead.
— Jeanette LeBlanc

The third step in healing is to recognize that this process of turning inward, as described in steps one and two, changes how we move through life.

 

The more steps one and two are explored, regularly over time, the more we connect to our inner experience. While this is valuable for our wellbeing, it also allows us to move through life differently. We can get clarity on our values, the deeper emotions that motivate our decisions, our calling, and wise action.

 

As Jeanette LeBlanc says above, we can “follow the whispers where they lead” and let this embodied intelligence guide our steps forward.

And so while this process of healing involves turning inward, it also facilitates us turning outward and acting differently in the world – with more mindfulness, compassion, and wisdom. This is the behavior we expect for ourselves and our leaders, who have the responsibility to model these values.  

 

In her book “Dare to Lead,” Brene Brown says this is what leaders need to change in order to be successful in the complexity and pressures of today’s workplace: “We need braver leaders and more courageous cultures.”

 

We can most easily access this bravery and courage once we’ve turned inward, started healing old wounds that keep us stuck, and found our inner strength. That’s when we become empowered to take the risks needed to become brave leaders promoting courageous cultures.

 
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Second Step in Healing

You have a unique body and mind, with a particular history and conditioning. No one can offer you a formula for navigating all situations and all states of mind. Only by listening inwardly in a fresh and open way will you discern at any given time what most serves your healing and freedom.
— Tara Brach

After the first step in healing, where we re-framed how we think about the body, step 2 of the healing process involves getting curious about what sensations exist in our body.

 

This stage of healing can be explored in a regular practice of embodied mindfulness, as described in this post. As a minimum, I recommend 10 minutes a day where you sit or lie down and just feel what arises in your body.

 

You can start by noticing the sensation that feels strongest, noticing its texture, quality, and whether it shifts or not. After a while, you can explore the next sensation that feels strongest in your body.

 

After noticing the sensations that arise, the key here is to accept them, whether they’re comfortable or not.

 

The more this practice becomes routine, the more these physical sensations shift to have emotional and energetic qualities as well.

This signifies a transition into the inner sheathes of the self, as described by BKS Iyengar in his book “Light on Life.” He says that encompassed within the physical body are subtle layers of our being. Like layers of an onion, the sheathes within the physical body are are the energetic, mental, intellectual and at the core the soul body.

Eckhart Tolle describes this process:

“So give your complete attention to what you feel, and refrain from mentally labeling it. As you go into the feeling, be intensely alert. At first, it may seem like a dark and terrifying place, and when the urge to turn away from it comes, observe it but don’t act on it. Keep putting your attention on the pain, keep feeling the grief, the fear, the dread, the loneliness, whatever it is. Stay alert, stay present - present with your whole Being, with every cell of your body. As you do so, you are bringing a light into this darkness. This is the flame of your consciousness.

 

Sometimes I equate this process of embodied mindfulness and deepening into the body’s inner sheathes as similar to an extreme sport. It requires bravery and sense of adventure to travel into the uncharted territory of our inner landscape.

 

So why do this? And how does it relate to healing?

 

This second step of healing cultivates awareness of deeper parts of ourselves, unwinding old patterns that no longer serve us, and in the words of Eckart Tolle, “[brings] light to the darkness.” This also becomes a portal to the third step in the healing process.

 
blog 8/1/19

First Step in Healing

When the human mind-emotion-body continuum comes into alignment with life’s intrinsic order, there is an avenue for the release of an immensity of power.
— Michael Burghley

In my opinion, the first step in healing is to rethink our relationship to the body.

 

Most people have an orientation to their body as an object. Especially for women, we’re used to focusing on how our body looks and perhaps how others may be judging us. We also understand our body as an object comprised of physical structures like bones, muscles, organs, etc.

 

Somatics, however, invites us to shift this orientation from our body as an object. In his book “Light on Life,” BKS Iyengar describes the body as having 5 sheathes or layers.

 

The outermost sheath is the anatomical body. Inward from there, like layers of an onion, is the energetic, mental, intellectual, and at the core is the blissful or soul body.

 

Somatics recognizes that the body plays a fundamental role in healing and transformational work. We’re encouraged to be in our body in a 3-dimensional way, to feel the structures of our physical form because this provides a gateway to the inner sheathes of our being.

This process reconnects us to the depths, mysteries, and healing energies that wait for us to access and unlock them.

 

In the words of Elizabeth Gilbert, “the universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.”

 
blog 7/25/19

Cultivating Leadership

Leadership… remains the most studied and least understood topic in all the social sciences. Like beauty, or love, we know it when we see it but cannot easily define or produce it on demand.
— Warren Bennis

I believe the easiest and most transformative approach to cultivating leadership can be found through your body.

There’s a two-way connection between the body and brain.

 

When you shift your body, your brain changes. You can experiment with shifting your posture as you’re reading this and notice how your thoughts and moods change too. Likewise, your body responds to your thoughts and feelings via the nervous system.

 

This interconnectedness means that you can alter your brain, your emotional states, and your presence – all fundamental aspects of leadership – by changing your body.

 

You’ve also heard the advice to trust your gut.

 

The enteric nervous system in your digestive system, known as the second brain, has 500 million neurons. This neural activity provides scientific evidence as to why you feel those butterflies or that pit in your stomach. These sensations arise from the neurons in your second brain and are worth listening to.

 

The gut is just one of many places in your body that holds wisdom. This wisdom is important for leaders to connect to their inner truth and from there, lead from a place of being centered, authentic, and insightful.

 

If you’d like to expand your presence and impact as a leader, explore the role of your body in the context of leadership. Stay tuned for upcoming posts exploring this topic in more detail.

 

In the meantime, here are a few suggestions to start experimenting with this body-based or somatic approach to leadership:

 

·      Cultivate a daily 10-minute embodied mindfulness practice

·      Schedule a massage or bodywork session such as craniosacral therapy

·      Get personalized guidance with somatic coaching focused on embodied leadership

 

 
7/17 blog

Elizabeth’s Story

It is through your body that you realize you are a spark of divinity.
— BKS Iyengar
 

I used to be skeptical when people talked about the body holding emotions, trauma, or wisdom. When an acquaintance suggested that perhaps my chronic illness was connected to stress and unprocessed emotions, I thought she was crazy.

 

After trying every conventional medicine treatment available for my decade-long illness though, I was willing to try anything. And so I went to see a somatic therapist and other mind-body healers. While I wasn’t sure these treatments would help, my curiosity was intrigued and I went back every week.

 

At the time, I was working in academic medicine and held closely to a western understanding of the body. After a couple of years of weekly mind-body sessions though, my skepticism had melted and I could feel the emotional and energetic dimensions of my body.

 

After sessions with these healers who my friends lovingly called “the witches,” I’d tell them over wine the crazy things that happened.

 

They’d hear about my chakras lighting up in sound healing sessions and about emotional releases after bodywork. This healing world had been foreign to my friends and me; we thought it was crazy and fascinating and we wanted more of it.  

 

While my curiosity was engaged at this point, it up-leveled after a particularly bewildering experience. 

 

I had an important decision to make and was losing sleep for weeks. After finally making up my mind, I lost my appetite, and felt nauseous and weak. A few days later, I shared the news with my best friend. She asked me to imagine making the other decision just to see how it felt in my body. Reluctantly, I obliged.

 

In that moment of imagining that I’d changed my mind, my appetite came roaring up from the depths of my being. I was ravenous. At the time I was at a park near my house, so I ran home with strength and energy that had been missing for weeks. When I got home and satiated my appetite, I thought how weird this all was. Why was my body reacting so strongly to a thought in my head?

 

As an experiment, I imagined that I was returning to my original decision. This time, I became nauseous and weak once again. While I was perplexed by this whole situation, I also recognized that my body had a clear opinion of what I should do.

 

After studying the mind-body connection for years by now, I knew conceptually there was wisdom in the body. But this was my first experience feeling it and basing a life-changing decision on it.

 

After this experience, I went on a quest to understand the mind-body connection. I read every book in the library on the topic, signed up for classes, studied with more healers and mentors. All the while, I kept this fascination on the down-low because by day I was now a director for a medical school. I didn’t want my interest in alternative healing and this more mystical understanding of the body to jeopardize my reputation or career surrounded by physicians and researchers.

 

As time went on though, my body started giving me signs that it was time to explore a new career path. My ego was stubborn – I didn’t want to quit my job, leave colleagues, and move into the unknown – yet my belief in the body’s wisdom could no longer be ignored. My back started hurting, my stomach would clench, and I would feel exhausted throughout the workday. And when I left, these sensations would quiet down and I’d feel like myself again.

 

I mustered the courage to move on and start graduate school in a mind-body psychology program. After one day there, my body once again communicated this wasn’t the right fit either. While I was shocked and sure people would judge me as flaky, I knew at this point there was no turning back. I now trusted my body’s signals and realized this embodiment was intertwined with my intuition.

 

While my ego was mortified by this change of events – walking away from a successful career, quitting grad school after one day, now being unemployed – I also knew there was nothing to lose. At the encouragement of my somatic therapist, I gave myself one year to let my body call the shots.

 

I’d let my body decide how I’d spend my time and what career path I’d pursue. Much to my surprise, my body was delighted at the prospect of going to massage school to explore through my hands this mind-body connection. Studying anatomy and physiology grounded my curiosity and understanding of the body in a scientific way.

 

At the same time, I went to a coaching program grounded in somatics and based, unsurprisingly, in Boulder. During this yearlong experiment of letting my body call the shots, Sound Somatics came to being, I started teaching workshops connecting people to the wisdom in their bodies, and I discovered the incredible healing art and science of craniosacral therapy.

 

This yearlong adventure became the most transformative time of my life. It served as the foundation for many more years of study and letting my body’s wisdom guide me through life. Through Sound Somatics, I now support others in connecting to the wisdom in their bodies so they too can heal, flourish, and lead from this embodied way of being.

 
Blog 7/10/19

Embodied Mindfulness

Why sit in meditation? I don’t know, except that a part of us has to. We don’t sit because it is holy, or because it is good for us, or to impress people. We sit because we love it and hate it and because we must. We have to sit for our sanity, our deep sanity.
— Hugh Milne

In our busy lives, why set aside precious time to cultivate a mindfulness practice – particularly one focused on our body?

 

Most of us are familiar with the benefits of mindfulness or meditation practice. Dr. Dan Siegel, a psychiatrist at UCLA who researches the topic, says:

 

“Recent studies of mindfulness practices reveal that they can result in profound improvements in a range of physiological, mental, and interpersonal domains in our lives.

Cardiac, endocrine, and immune functions are improved with mindfulness practices. Empathy, compassion, and interpersonal sensitivity seem to be improved.

People who come to develop the capacity to pay attention in the present moment without grasping on to their inevitable judgments also develop a deeper sense of well-being and what can be considered a form of mental coherence.”

Many types of mindfulness practices invite people to focus on the breath. While this is powerful, in my experience, there’s particular potency when our practice is grounded in the felt sense of the body.

For example, you may spend one session focused on your breath, but another day you may spend 10 minutes exploring the sensations in the soles of your feet, or around the base of your spine.

 

This practice can generate the results that Dr. Seigel describes, while also shifting us towards a more embodied orientation to life outside of our mindfulness sessions.

 

Dr. Richard Strozzi Heckler, a renowned somatic coach, says that, “The greatest cost of the specialization of technological life - and out of which all other damages are birthed - is arguably our separation from the practical and enriching sense of ourselves as embodied beings. When we’re alienated from the wisdom of the body, our lives become theoretical and abstract, and we are distanced from the direct, felt sense of living.”

 

Embodied mindfulness practices connect us to the wisdom in our bodies and our “direct, felt sense of living.”

 

For many, this way of connecting with the body can also provide access to a more spiritual sense of ourselves.

 

“We sit because this is when we discover how things really are, who we really are. Meditation is a source of vitality for our essence; it gives us ground and source, and opens us to the light.” - Hugh Milne, The Heart of Listening Volume 1

 

We may feel energy, glistening sensations, a light that radiates through the body. These sensations can become a portal to deeper dimensions of ourselves and the mysteries held within our bodies.

 

If you’re new to this type of practice, you can start with a simple experiment of spending 10 minutes every day. Find a comfortable position sitting or lying down. Start with a body scan and notice if there’s a sensation that feels strongest. Spend the next few minutes exploring that area of your body, staying curious to what may unfold.

My recommendation is to have low expectations for each session, while trusting that the abundance from this practice becomes apparent over time.

Reach out to Elizabeth if you’d like support with your mindfulness practice.

 
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Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

 

Imagine letting the “soft animal of your body love what it loves.” How would you feel? How might your life be different, or similar, even just for today?

This practice of listening to the body is an important aspect of somatics and shifting to a more embodied way of being.

 
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Types of Craniosacral Therapy

You have the energy of the sun in you,
but you keep knotting it up at the base of your spine.
— Rumi

Many of my clients are curious how craniosacral therapy works. Here’s an overview of the two main types of craniosacral therapy to provide context to that exploration.  

The two types are biodynamic and biomechanical.

 

The biodynamic branch of craniosacral therapy focuses on the flow of energy in the body which influences the physical form. For example, if there’s stagnation of energy around the low back, this can manifest as tension and pain in the muscles, fascia, and fluids around the lumbar spine.

 

Meanwhile the biomechanical branch of craniosacral therapy focuses on the physical level of the body. Techniques are used to enhance the functioning of tissues and fluids, which in turn impacts the underlying flow of energy.

 

In his book “Wisdom in the Body: The Craniosacral Approach to Essential Health,” Dr. Michael Kern states, “we could say that biomechanic treatment works more the outside-in, whereas biodynamic treatment works more from the inside-out.”

 

Given that craniosacral therapy addresses the energetic and physical dimensions of the body, this work supports people with a wide range of conditions. Some seek this work for physical ailments, while others seek relief from emotional and psychological challenges.

Regardless, this work seeks to optimize the body’s innate wisdom and healing abilities.

Feel free to reach out if you’re curious to learn more about craniosacral therapy or to schedule an appointment.

 
blog 6/20/19

Intro to Somatics

My belief is in the blood and flesh as being wiser than the intellect. The body-unconscious is where life bubbles up in us. It is how we know that we are alive, alive to the depths of our souls and in touch somewhere with the vivid reaches of the cosmos.
— D.H. Lawrence

Most people have heard the term somatics but aren’t sure what it means. The root of the word, soma, refers to the body.

Somatics serves as an overarching category for therapies grounded in the body. Certain styles of coaching, bodywork, meditation, psychotherapy, and movement practices aim to align the body, mind, and emotions for the sake of healing. This healing can relate to anything from physical injuries, trauma, psychological conditions, and spiritual emptiness to many other conditions.  

The word somatics is also used in another manner. In her book “Awakening Somatic Intelligence: The Art and Practice of Embodied Mindfulness,” Risa Kaparo uses the term to “imply a first-person, here-now, all-at-once, embodied intelligence – how we sense, feel, and know ourselves on a process level – from the inside out.”

Through somatics, we connect to an intelligence in the body that has wisdom not only in regards to keeping our heart pumping and lungs breathing. But wisdom that relates to how we can heal and live in a manner aligned with our innermost self and values.

For many people, somatics provides an entry point to shift from their hyper-rational way of understanding the world to an emotional and spiritual perspective as well.

In his book “The Awakening Body: Somatic Meditation for Discovering Our Deepest Life,” Dr. Reginald Ray says,

“We find in the body an objective witness to our life that has no investment whatsoever in our skewed ego-versions of things. In addition, our soma not only knows the truth of how it is with us, others, and the world, but it appreciates and, in a strange way, delights in everything. Even more, it wants to communicate this to us and provide mentoring. Our soma is literally an infinite ocean of practical wisdom.”

At Sound Somatics, our offerings intend to connect people to this “infinite ocean of practical wisdom” held in the body.

Through craniosacral therapy, we offer a hands-on approach to connecting to this wisdom for the sake of healing. Many clients seek this work for relief from physical ailments, and in the process notice shifts on other levels of their being – emotional, psychological, or perhaps energetic levels.

Meanwhile somatic coaching occurs though online sessions and connects people to the wisdom in their bodies to improve their everyday lives. Sessions focus on personal and/or leadership coaching. Trainings are also available for teams interested in applying somatics to improve their culture and organization.

The foundation of all our offerings is to reconnect us to the forgotten, mysterious, and delightful world of the body. And through this connection, to reclaim our birthright for healthy, joyful and meaningful lives.         

 
blog6/7/19