Melting Chronic Pain & Illness

In a “how to” piece I wrote called Making Friends With Illness

I talked about how physical symptoms of discomfort and illness are not as concrete as they seem. Western medicine needs to catch up with modern physics! Quantum physics understands that all matter—including our bodies—consists of constantly interchanging particles.

In this essay, I will further explore this notion of the non-solid nature of body-symptoms, in hopes of opening up some options to readers who face chronic pain and illness.

I almost called this piece “When Mystics Get Sick,” because since childhood I have had a close relationship with visionary experiences and “non-ordinary states,” and have also experienced my fair share of chronic pain and illness.

I have found there is an interesting interplay between psycho-spiritual and physical states.

What is Chronic Pain/? Whatis Chronic Illness?

A big question for me has always been, “Whatis illness?” “What is pain?” I am actually asking two questions here: “Are illness and pain solid things?” and “Are illness and pain bad?”

Is Illness/Pain a Solid Thing?

What is a migraine? What is chronic intestinal pain? Are these solid things?

Western medicine sees illness as a thing. Allopathic medicine focuses on diagnosing, labeling and treating a “condition” or “disease.” It searches for organic causes of illness and pain. A disease is seen as a free-standing, static thing. It is “kidney disease,” or “a tumor.” “a virus.” A thing.

We look to doctors to tell us, “You have X, and we are going to treat X with (the treatment for X).” This approach is legitimate, just as legitimate as it is to describe light as a particle. Viruses certainly exist. Broken bones exist.

But light is not always a particle; sometimes light is a wave. Often our symptoms and conditions mystify doctors.

So, are chronic pain and illness solid things? Maybe. But that’s not all they are.

Illness was not a solid thing for For Hildegarde von Bingen, a 12th century German nun and mystic. The grave illness that kept her bedridden was her repressed visionary experiences resisting censorship.

Hildegard had internalized the male-dominated, hierarchical church norms that forbade women and common folk from communing directly with God. As Hildegard lay in bed, God instructed her to write down her visions and share them.

Once she did this, her illness disappeared.

Pain is not always a solid thing for my clients. I have witnessed many clients’ distressing symptoms dissolve once they were acknowledged and listened to with respect.

Sometimes body contractions simply need kind attention to unwind; other times the bound up energy melts after it is expressed through tears or laughter, burps or flatulence, sighs or yawns.

For chronic conditions, this process may need to be repeated again and again. With repeated practice, more symptom relief and spaciousness becomes available in the short and long term.

Illness is not a solid thing for me. I’ve experienced migraines for 15 years. At first they were monthly episodes that began with blinding optical distortions (called “auras”), followed by two days of opaque, inescapable agony. Migraines used to terrify and defeat me.

But as I have grown and changed, so have my migraines. They are more malleable. Now when a migraine starts flirting with me, I slow down and greet it. I can feel the contraction of energy and emotion gathering in my neck and head. It wants attention and expression. So I cry, or journal, or dance, or speak aloud the angry thoughts I have been holding back. Usually the migraine evaporates.

At other times, if I am too caught up to notice an impending migraine, it slams me, and I am incapacitated for awhile (rarely for two days). But even then, it retains a fluid quality; big watery emotions float within the migraine; When I relax and surrender to the pain, I often feel strangely peaceful, and grateful.

Illness and pain are not always solid.
 

Are Illness & Pain “Bad”?
Are illness and chronic pain inherently bad?

Can there be a purposeful intelligence within pain and illness? 
In my experience, there can be. There is.

Hildegard’s illness was certainly purposeful. And insistent!

How about for you? I encourage you to explore this possibility yourself. When you are having a troubling sensation or symptom, try asking your heart, your spirit, your body: “What is this symptom trying to express or protect?”

  • Is this illness a message from the Divine, or wisdom from another realm?
  • Is this symptom an opportunity for healing?
  • Is this pain an opportunity to unwind trauma in the body?
  • Is this contraction in my body trying to keep me safe?
  • Is my body frightened of a change I am making in my life? Is it trying to reinforce the old, familiar restrictions of my family or the dominant culture?
  • Is there a story within my illness that longs to be listened to? A story of my childhood? An ancient story, buried under shame? An untold story of how my lineage survived oppression?

You can ask yourself these questions, or come up with your own questions. Trust that answers will come. Allow your body to respond in its own way and time. Setting aside some quiet reflective time each day creates opportunities to hear the “still, small voice” of your wise body.

Over the years, I have received some interesting answers to the questions, “Is pain bad or unhealthy?” and, “What is illness?”
Pain is both concentration and contraction. But is pain a bad thing? (Am I bad if I have pain? Have I done something wrong?)

Contraction frequently accompanies a significant shift in someone’s identity. The body/mind often contracts in familiar, chronic pain just as we are starting to expand beyond our previous limits. Contraction puts on the brakes.

Sometimes this is fear talking; it is a sign that we need some reassurance. Sometimes this contraction slows down the expansion to a more sustainable pace. Sometimes contraction is the inhalation that prepares us for the exhalation of expansion.

It is true that pain is challenging. But as we know from the birth process, pain is not necessarily a bad thing.

What is illness? Sometimes illness is transformation. Usually when I am shifting how I relate to the world, my body struggles to re-orient itself in specific, sequential ways.

For example, at a certain point I was actively shedding my old survival strategy of keeping my voice small and withholding my opinions, and “trying on” a new practice of raising my voice and speaking my truth. Audacious stuff for a girl who survived child sexual abuse and neglect by being compliant and unnoticeable!

During this time, over a period of about ten days, I experienced—in this precise order:

1) pain in my tailbone;

2) menstrual cramps;

3) extreme heartburn;

4) shoulderblade and rib pain;

5) a mysterious sore throat and severe TMJ symptoms;

6) vertigo and visual distortions; and finally

7) a fierce migraine.

At the time, I was too miserable to do anything but endure. Later I realized that my radical shift had been making its way through the each of the areas/organs associated with the 1st through 7th chakras (energy centers). By the end of this process, my vocal behaviors were thoroughly established.

How solid is illness for you? Is your pain a particle? A wave? Or both?
What intelligent patterns have you noticed in your body’s experiences of pain and illness?

I invite you to share your challenging and liberating experiences, with me and others.

Next month:

Practices That Invite Pain & Illness to Melt

The Dance of Sensation & Story: PART II

Last month I wrote about how, five weeks after a bicycle accident, I began waking every day
to terrifying, overwhelming sensations. When I came up with an “I must be excavating and
healing childhood trauma” story to explain my sensations, I was reassured.


I told myself that the accident had re-awakened my familiar child sexual abuse dynamics; this story empowered me to stay with my experience. I now share Part II of how finding the right stories enabled me to collaborate with my post-accident sensations and find healing.


*Warning* if you are a trauma survivor, what follows may trigger you. I hope that it will inspire you.

CHILD & GODDESS STORY

In the days that follow, my trauma healing story anchors and motivates me to keep inquiring into my somatic experience. Each morning, fresh waves of sensation drag me under and spit me out.

One morning I scrabble for air, choke on screams. My heart staggers, collapses. I can’t do this. I can’t feel this, pass this, puke this. It’s too much. A child’s voice is in my throat, panting, howling, begging for mercy, whimpering with shame. My heart moves; I weep for her. I hold her hand in hell.

Another morning. Another excruciating journey from incoherent terror and skinless despair to vast warm tenderness. I do not want to be a survivor of early age torture and neglect. But I am.

And I am a loving goddess who holds that feral child-tornado in her arms. My enormous patience extends out infinitely to everyone, including me. May this grueling archeological dig benefit others.

Another day. Story and sensation join seamlessly into an experience of my 4 year old self. She shudders. I promise her I will not turn away. I sit with this petrified pillbug-child, feel her hummingbird gasps, bristling nerve endings, indigestible grief.

She wails her heartbreak and rage. “Your voice is powerful.” I say, “You are powerful. You did it, you survived! It’s safe to cry now. Go ahead and have a tantrum. It’s okay.”

I hold her. I don’t leave her alone. When she whispers, “Nothing matters.” I tell her, “Youmatter. To me.” I drop my morning plans and give her all my attention.

I draw a bath, let the warmth hold us. Make a cup of tea. I sit quietly, letting chair, tea and journal hold me as I hold her. I need all the help I can get.

Her bottomless terror is crushing me. I call up my lioness heart and tell my little one, “I’m right here! I will face the suffocation with you.” I hold her, in the morning light, in my arms. I let her flip out. I growl; I roar: “If we die, we die together!”

We do not die. Again we travel from clawing, gibbering horror to soft, warm ocean. Rest in tenderness.

A DEPRESSION STORY

In other moments, I tell myself a story about being depressed. One might as well call it depression. Although it is not so simple. It’s more like landing at the bottom of my personal sea, arriving at age 5.

My little one shows me when she resigned herself to terror, where she gave up hope. It’s cold on the ocean floor. I am empty, crying from a wordless place.

That was yesterday. Today the “depression” is milder, but present. The grit in me sculpts a new story: from now on, I refuse to ignore the grief and despair of my young self.

I choose to stay in steady communication with her, even if that means feeling “depressed” for the rest of my life. I will not abandon her. I welcome her into my daily life.

The next day I sink into “depression,” land softly at my beginning. My defenses melt like snowbanks, revealing stark charnel ground. Machig Lapdron dances nearby; I rest my head on the soil. My tears, slow-motion drops of fear and defeat, soak into this yard of bones.

My depression story morphs again. As the earth holds me, I wonder: what is depression, anyway? I never knew it was so rich (too busy running from it, I guess). Depression offers depth, slowness, space.

Is this depression even “mine?” Can it be separate from our collective mourning for this sweet planet? Even in depression, I am not alone.

A NYAM STORY

As I recall meditation retreat experiences, I find another story. While on retreat, many things arise. Odd obsessions, intense sensations. Powerful memories, tumultuous emotions.

Some dissolve immediately. Some persist for hours or days. My teacher describes these phenomena, these “nyams,” as opportunities to purify our hidden contractions.

So I try to welcome whatever appears during meditation. Often, stories emerge from my body—never the stories that I would expect. Dismayed or amazed, I watch and dialogue with them.

Sooner or later each nyam mysteriously digests, each story melts. When they’re gone, I let them go.

After my last retreat in March I kept reminding myself: “The retreat continues; nyams continue to arise and dissolve.” This retreat story has allowed me to view getting “doored” and its aftermath as a series of nyams.

I can engage each nyam with all my heart and mind and soul and strength. And I can let each one dissolve. My intention is to love whatever shows up, for the sake of all beings.

STORIES AS STEPPING STONES

I just shared some stories that helped me navigate my challenging post-accident sensations. I marvel that my mind and body can come up with such ingenious stories!

These stories have been stepping stones across the abyss.

Any stepping stone can be a rest spot, but no stone (no story, no nyam) is the destination. Like nyams, we leave stories in our wake.

When I leave a story behind, is it still true? Was it ever true? Was I re-living childhood trauma? Am I depressed? Will the next stepping stone be true?

How can I know? How can anyone?

But here’s another story: I do not face my scariest demons just for me. My commitment is to wake up to benefit all beings, so this journey from stone to stone is not mine alone.

And so I tell my five year old self a story she has not heard before: “We do not walk alone. We walk this path held, guided and befriended by all beings.”

POSTSCRIPT: GREAT DOUBT, GREAT ENLIGHTENMENT


My dark night lasted five weeks. Thirty-eight days of despair and inertia. I once read this Ch’an Buddhist adage, “Little doubt, little enlightenment; great doubt, great enlightenment.”

The morning it began to turn, I was sitting in meditation with my sangha and teacher. I wondered, was I allowed to love what I already was? Could I love my misery and utter stuckness, even if they never changed?

What if I decided to enjoy my self, like some interesting, twisted bonsai tree? Could I just decide to be happy? Yes. Wow.

The next day, I was lying on my bodyworker’s table. As she held my head and jaw, quietly, patiently, my body remembered and showed me my head, immobilized in the ambulance that April night. My head was straining to escape.

Now I let my head struggle and fight. I felt my cheek snarl and my jaw growl. My solar plexus was roaring. My body amazed that it could fight. I got my fight back.

How did I get my fight back? Living through those five weeks. Feeling it all, facing it all. That morning beside my teacher, accepting all of it, all of me.

Since then, a little more joy each day, a little more motivation.

I am learning to fight for my life–in a new way. I am discovering effort without anger, drive without fear. Fight full of lifeforce, empty of blame.

There are still obstacles, many of them. It’s Life, after all!

But me, I am unstoppable.

The Dance of Sensation & Story: PART I

SENSATION & STORY


Sensation and story are powerful tools–double edged tools–for healing and transformation.

Sensations are, on one hand, a direct path to our vitality. Body sensations include temperatures, such as hot or cool; movements, such as tingling, pulsing or streaming; and impressions of numbness, stillness, emptiness, pressure, contact, sharp-or-softness, thick-or-thinness.

Sensations also show up as body-moods or images. Since sensations speak directly to the hind brain, sensory awareness a key to shifting deeply embedded behavior patterns.

But sometimes sensations are overwhelming. We may mistrust or fear certain body sensations. We cannot use a tool if it’s “too hot” to pick up.

Stories are equally complex tools. We misuse story when we impose interpretations on our direct sensory experience. Sensation is neutral.

Let’s say we feel a fluttery feeling in our chest—pure sensation. If we respond by thinking “Oh, I must be scared,” we crystallize our experience into a story.

If we take this thought seriously and make “I am scared” into a real thing, suddenly we have a problem to solve. We interpret this “fear,” diagnose it, and try to fix it. We get caught up in the “I am scared” story and never get to know “fluttery.”

But when that fluttery sensation is too overwhelming to face, stories can be helpful. The right story can be just the anchor we need to stay with challenging sensations.

This principle of anchoring is valued in both spiritual and somatic traditions.  Meditation postures are designed to stabilize us so we can sustainably expand our consciousness.  Likewise, somatic containment practices support us to risk feeling and healing.

It’s a paradox: structure invites unwinding. Working with story and sensation is one way to tap into this interplay of holding and fluidity.

Sensation is all around us, but where do we find stories to work with?

BODY STORIES

If we make the time and space to listen deeply, our bodies will offer up stories as images, impressions, and memory. I have learned to trust these spontaneous stories. Body stories can hold intense sensations and emotions safely so we can witness them.

MIND STORIES

Our minds are built to concoct stories endlessly, so we might as well make use of the helpful ones. When choosing a story to work with, you can ask yourself, “What kind of story is this? Is it a scary story? Is it a reassuring story?”

Make sure the stories you tell yourself about your situation support where you want to be. Do you want to end up scared or discouraged? Or would you rather ground yourself so you can make good decisions? We need to choose our stories carefully.

AN OPPORTUNITY

In April, life presented me with a rich opportunity to dance with story and sensation. While riding my bike one afternoon, I got “doored.” The door of the car to my left suddenly opened, flinging me and my bike to the curb.

This trip through air was quickly followed by an ambulance ride and a six hour adventure at a trauma center that involved x-rays, tests, and encounters with over twenty-five hospital personnel.

I wore a collar for nine days, received daunting medical bills and faced physical pain and limitation. Next came visits to lawyers, physical therapists and more doctors. The practical and logistical concerns eventually settled into some predictable patterns and self-care routines.

Once my physical healing process was well underway, the difficult part of my healing journey began. Stories and sensations have been essential tools for navigating this journey safely.

If you would like to know how I used sensation and story to move through my “dark night,” read on.
 

*Warning* if you are a trauma survivor, what follows may trigger you. My hope is that it will inspire you.

 

MY DANCE WITH STORY AND SENSATION: PART I


MYSTERIOUS SENSATIONS

It began with mysterious, scary sensations. Five weeks after my accident, I wrote in my journal:

Waking up is a heroic struggle with intolerable sensation. At first I don’t know how I’m feeling.  I just know I don’t like it.  As if sleep has torn away my defenses, I wake up skinless. My nerve endings shudder with exposure.

All kinds of overwhelming and unpleasant sensations terrorize my stomach, my muscles, the entire surface of my body. Being alive is unendurable bombardment.

The next day I wrote:

For the last five mornings I have been grappling with overwhelming panic and despair. Every morning I struggle to gasp, to move. This sense of paralysis and deathly doom is bigger than me—it engulfs my cells.

An inconsolable grief-tornado rips through my torso, twisting my intestines. My esophagus clenches from stomach to throat; I’m choking on terror.

A HEALING TRAUMA STORY

At first, I had no idea what was going on. I couldn’t deal. I needed something to hold onto. After a few days of journal writing, crying and reflecting, I found a reassuring story. Or it found me. I told myself that I was “thawing out” from my accident and hospital experience.

I looked back and remembered that my head and body were immobilized for six hours. (I remembered that a paramedic aggressively pressured me to consent to a “precautionary” IV in my arm. His persistence caused me to have a panic attack). I had little control over my body, and never knew what the medical staff were going to do to me next.

In the peace and quiet of my home, my body and mind reminded me of how, in the middle of my panic attack, I decided I could not afford to “lose it.” I needed to advocate for myself and maintain some control over the situation. Somehow I shut my body down and quelled my panic.

This story reframed my alarming new sensations as a positive development: I was thawing out! I finally felt safe enough to feel what I dared not the night of my accident. As they say, “to feel is to heal.”

As I listened some more, my body told me how feeling trapped and at the mercy of medical staff that night echoed my childhood sexual abuse experiences. Now I could view my strong sensations as an opportunity to heal a deeper layer of my past.

Because I identify as a trauma healer, this story gave me extra courage to face my sensations. Anchored by this hopeful, compassionate story, I was able to start using somatic and spiritual tools to take care of myself.  I trusted that my symptoms would resolve over time.

Then I remembered my teachers telling me another trauma healing story, that true freedom is the ability to face and feel what we fear the most. If I can stand in my power and be intimate with the unbearable, I can do anything.

This familiar story also gave me courage. As it turned out, I needed all the bravery I could muster, as my unsettling sensations continued to show up every morning for weeks.

End of Part I. 

Somatic & Intuitive Small Group Coaching Series

When: Thursday, June 5th to July 25th 2014: 10-11:30 AM

The next 8 week series starts June 5, 2014 in Rockridge, North Oakland.
 
Thursdays, 10-11:30 AM

Here is what past group members said about their experience:

“My depression has shifted, I feel happier than I have in years. I feel able to notice….stop and feel my body and what I need, and make conscious choices. It is freeing.” ~Dave B.

“What I find most engaging is being personally coached by you, and to watch you gently coach others; I like being present for others’ journeys.” ~Catherine R.

“I love the way you hold the group process…I never feel left out or not held even when your attention is on others.” ~Ryan

“I’m more engaged with myself because I have tools to move through the pain and trauma/triggers. I feel confident and stronger with myself.” ~Kotori

“What a warm and open environment. I felt safe from the very first day. The practical tools to assist me in staying aware and engaged with life have been powerful.” ~Samsarah

Are you ready to join us and befriend your body?
 
Receive individual coaching from Dr. Tarakali in a welcoming group setting. Learn somatic and intuitive tools to support your personal and vocational goals.
 
In these intimate groups (limited to 4-5 people), a chemistry of mutual support emerges, allowing all to benefit from each person’s learning and insights.
 
Cost: $45 per session.
A commitment to all 8 sessions is required.

Contact vanissar@cs.com or (510) 594-6812 to reserve your spot.

www.vanissar.com           Facebook: Tarakali Education

DIY Heal Trauma in Your Body

DIY Heal Trauma & Oppression in Your Body

Trauma-healing principles & practices to support your personal healing process

Tuesday April 29: 7:00-9:30 pm
in Rockridge, North Oakland

Learn somatic & intuitive practices & theory that invite body & mind to collaborate.

Topics include:
* How to chart a realistic, sustainable healing journey

* Identifying the support and resources you need in place to heal

* Trauma healing principles & tools to sustain your healing journey

* Sustaining hope and motivation when the going gets tough

Space is limited

Workshop Cost: $55

To register: contact vanissar@cs.com or call (510) 594-6812

Vanissar Tarakali, Ph.D. is a somatic educator & intuitive who coaches healers and changemakers to collaborate wisely with the body to heal trauma & sustain social change. Current DiversityWorks Program Director, Vanissar passionately practices Generative Somatics, Intuitive Reading, Energy Bodywork & Tibetan Buddhism.

www.vanissar.com Facebook: Tarakali Education

DIY Heal Trauma & Oppression in Your Body Workshop

DIY Heal Trauma & Oppression in Your Body 

Trauma-healing principles & practices to support your personal healing process

Tuesday April 29: 7:00-9:30 pm
in Rockridge, North Oakland

Learn somatic & intuitive practices & theory that invite body & mind to collaborate.

Topics include: 

• How to chart a realistic, sustainable healing journey

• Identifying the support and resources you need in place to heal

• Trauma healing principles & tools to sustain your healing journey

• Sustaining hope and motivation when the going gets tough

Space is limited

Workshop Cost: $55

To register: contact vanissar@cs.com or call (510) 594-6812

Upcoming Tarakali Education Workshops

See http://www.vanissar.com/workshops.html for workshop descriptions.

Wednesday, May 28: De-Shaming Social Justice Work

Monday, June 30: Be Your Own Body Whisperer

Thursday, July 31: How Oppression Shows Up in Our Bodies

Wednesday August 27: Take Care of You and Sustain Your Organization

Monday Sept 29: Embody Your Allyship for White Racial Justice Allies

Thursday, October 30: Your Healing Hands Energy Healing

Monday, November 24: De-Shaming Social Justice Work

Vanissar Tarakali, Ph.D. is a somatic educator & intuitive who coaches healers and changemakers to collaborate wisely with the body to heal trauma & sustain social change. Current DiversityWorks Program Director, Vanissar passionately practices Generative Somatics, Intuitive Reading, Energy Bodywork & Tibetan Buddhism.

www.vanissar.com           Facebook: Tarakali Education

 

Love After Death (The Soul-building Work of Love)

You already know everything I am about to say (But reminders are always good):

Our loved ones gift us when they die.

My gentle, matter-of-fact bird-friend Snow Lion passed away in December. It was –for me–a traumatic parting. I knew she was ready to go—after 9 years of life, she was fed up with her creaky, painful body. I imagined her passing quietly in my presence. But—surprise!–she died while I was out of the house. I found her soft, warm body on the kitchen floor. She had been fleeing the roofers working next door. If only I had been home with her! If only I had kept her in the cage that day, she might not have died. Snow Lion vehemently preferred autonomy over safety. Still, I was paralyzed with guilt.

Cradling her precious body in my hands, I tried to feel her presence. I wanted to comfort her and help her on her journey, but I was too furious at myself for allowing her to die frightened and alone. I contracted with self-punishing guilt. My perceptions became narrow, two-dimensional. It was a long, terrible moment in a beautiful relationship. I called some friends, begging them to help me get out of my self-obsessed state so that I could be still and help Snow Lion on her way. It took many, many kind, wise words before I could loosen my violent grip on myself even slightly. It took many, many tears before I could look at her body and see the expression in her eyes and on her face: surprised joy.

And so grieving began.

Now it is April. I miss her terribly, but my amazing friend left me a message.

It was the first night of a weeklong meditation retreat in March. As I sank gratefully into the silence of sitting meditation, there was Snow Lion’s message, waiting for me. Like a voicemail, or a video. She showed me her death.

She was flying. Non-stop Snow Lion: afraid, purposeful, ferocious. Enormously curious. (She was like that in life, brave, always flying directly toward–and yelling at–whatever she was afraid of.)

As she flew, the components/elements that made up Snow Lion came apart with enormous force, softly, slowly exploding 360 degrees into everything, dissolving thoroughly into the ALL.

I felt Snow Lion liberating from her form, utterly amazed and joyful—her dissolution a freedom beyond all exploring, all flying. And she wanted me to see; she wanted me to know, she wanted me to share it with her. I felt her great love sweeping me with her, deliberately carrying me into her new adventure. Tears streamed down my face; I was so grateful for her emphatic message.

Quiet had finally enabled me to perceive what I could not the day she died.

And there was more.

As her form liberated, she liberated all the love I had focused on her, localized into her being:

Days, months and years of mundane, practical love (at least 2000 feedings, cage-cleanings, and bedtime songs; all our familiar games, the quiet companionship, the shared grief when our beloved Tigger died) were liberated with her. Her joyous exhalation took my heart with her in all directions, into the ALL.

Our love dissolved and expanded, becoming vast, unbounded.

My heart is forever changed.

When I tune into Snow Lion’s parting message, I can feel the space she flew into, the space she dissolved into, the Space she became.

Ordinary consciousness is dualistic. There is always a subject (me), and an object (you, the table, etc.). While I was receiving Snow Lion’s message, I stopped objectifying the love that “I” had for “her.” There was just Love. The love that Snow Lion and I created loosened that ordinary, subject-object consciousness in me, a little.

It takes enormous force to get a glimpse like that. Enormous love. Is such great love possible between a small parakeet and a human?

What is love?

I have no idea, but I know it is a greater mystery than I ever imagined.

What do we do when we love?

What did Snow Lion do, what did I do, what did we create by loving each other? What did Snow Lion do by loving me, and then dying?

Somehow she showed me that we are infinite, fractal love, opening out and out and out…..

What is love, liberated? Great love, liberated. Love expanding infinitely throughout space and time?

And what is grief?

I do not really know, but grief makes space and is Space.

It is difficult to surrender to the space of grief, the silence of grief. The silence and space that is the absence of your beloved. That terrible silence of no words, no songs filling the air.

But sometimes we can sink into this space and silence that the beloved has blessed us with. Sometimes we become quiet. Sometimes we can receive our beloved’s last gift to us, their final act of love.

There is a secret teaching hidden in the dissolution of a soft, bright, feathered body.

Or a furry body, with paws, cooling, melting into everything.

Or a human body. The body of your beloved, dissolving into space.

When someone we love dies, or after any significant loss, we feel powerful and complex emotions. They are precious. We need to feel all of them. A certain number of tears must be cried before we are ready for what is next. I don’t know how many, but sooner or later, every single one of these tears must come out.

Sometimes you must fall to your knees and wail. Sometimes you must rage at the beloved for leaving, rage at Life for taking them away. Feeling and expressing all this is the essential, wrenching, soul-building work of love.

Is there a death you still need to mourn? A divorce? Has your best friend moved away? Can you let yourself feel all the love and longing you poured into your beloved? Can you feel the gap they have left behind? It is okay to be afraid. It is disorienting to, out of habit, direct your love toward someone who is gone. Unsettling questions arise: “Who am I if you are gone?” “How can I exist without you?”

Are you mourning a lost part of yourself? An ill-fitting identity, an old, familiar way of life? Can you let yourself say goodbye, fully? Honor the old you, as fully as you can. Let it die. Let it take as long as it needs to take? And when you are ready, can you be with the space that remains? Let that space be space? It may be painful (or joyful). But it will not kill you.

We are more than our emotions and our habits. We are more than bodies, more than who we love. We are Mysteries. Once grief or guilt, anger or fear has been honored and expressed, there are messages and “aha”s waiting for us. There is love, infinite, inexpressible love. Whatever that is…

 Would you like to make a Somatic and Intuitive Coaching appointment with Dr. Vanissar Tarakali? You can email her at: vanissar@vanissar.com or check out her website: www.vanissar.com 

 

Small Group Somatic & Intuitive Coaching Series

Next Series begins April 2014

(8 weekly sessions)

Where: Rockridge, North Oakland

When: Wednesdays, 7:00-8:30 PM

or Thursdays, 10:00-11:30 AM

Are you ready to befriend your body?

Receive individual coaching from Dr. Tarakali in a welcoming group setting. Learn somatic and intuitive tools to support your personal and vocational goals.

In this intimate group (limited to 4 or 5 people), a chemistry of mutual support emerges, allowing everyone to benefit from each person’s learning and insights.

Cost: $45 per session.

Open to 5 participants, max.

A commitment to all 8 sessions is required.

**********************************************

TESTIMONIALS

Here is what group members are saying about their small group experience:

“What I find most engaging is being personally coached by you, and to watch you gently coach others; I like being present for others’ journeys.” ~Catherine

“My depression has shifted, I feel happier than I have in years. I feel able to notice….stop and feel my body and what I need, and make conscious choices. It is freeing.” ~Dave

“I love the way you hold the group process…I never feel left out or not held even when your attention is on others.” ~Ryan

“I’m more engaged with myself because I have tools to move through the pain and trauma/triggers. I feel confident and stronger with myself.” ~Kotori

Are you ready to join us? Contact Dr. Vanissar Tarakali to register: vanissar@cs.com

Why is “It’s Alright to Cry” So Healing?

Here is why I think this song is so wise.

The overall message of It’s Alright to Cry is that feelings are good things. The song encourages us to feel and express our feelings without fear or shame.

Each verse contains specific medicine for the fears and judgments that we may have internalized about our emotions:

Verse I.

It’s alright to cry/Crying gets the sad out of you

It’s all right to cry/It might make you feel better

Translation:

Here in this verse is permission to feel, permission to express.

It says, you are not bad to feel, and your feelings are not bad.
It’s safe to feel. It is safe to express feelings.

And it can be helpful to express them! It can give us relief in the moment.
Expressing our feelings can make us feel better in the long run, too. As we *gradually* [the gradually part is important!] allow ourselves to feel and express more and more feeling, our feelings seem less scary.

Verse II.

Raindrops from your eyes/Washing all the mad out of you

Raindrops from your eyes/It’s gonna make you feel better

Translation:

This verse reminds us that tears are as natural as the rain. As cleansing. Tears can restore flow, and move you out of feeling emotionally stuck or contracted.

Verse III.

It’s all right to feel things/Though the feelings may feel strange

Feelings are such real things/And they change and change and change

Translation:

The message here is that feelings are okay—nothing to be afraid or ashamed of. 
Feeling your feelings is good, and it’s safe. It may not feel that way sometimes, but even that unease is okay. At times your emotions may feel weird, overwhelming or out of control. These are all normal ways to feel. You are not doing it “wrong.”

This verse also tells us that feelings are important;  they deserve our attention and appreciation. They are key to our aliveness.

At the same time, feelings come and go. Thank goodness! We don’t need to hold on to them or make an identity out of them. We can enjoy them the way we feel the wind against our skin, or watching the water in a river.

We don’t have to be afraid that our feelings will stay forever, or define us. If we relax, our feelings will keep moving, and moving on.

This verse is a good reminder for those of us who tend to habitually feel only one or two specific emotions. These emotional “go-tos” developed from emotion states being repeated over time until they became our automatic, familiar “grooves.”

These grooves can become identities: “I’m a sad person.” “I am an angry person.” This song reminds us that these emotional identities are not solid–we have the capacity to feel all of our emotions.

Verse IV.

Sad and grumpy/Down-in-the dumpy

Snuggly, huggly/Mean and ugly

Sloppy, splappy/Hoppy, happy!

Change and change and change

Translation:

Here Rosey Grier lists many feelings, naming each one with affection, and expressing them with his shoulders, voice and eyes. He playfully shows us with his body how to feel our feelings fully, enjoying each one. And letting the next one come. His voice and body tell us: No feeling is bad. No feeling is the correct one. 

It is helpful to approach a feeling with–as Buddhists say– “neither attachment nor aversion.” There is no need to prefer, hold as superior, judge or reject any of our feelings. We can allow all feelings to arise and fall in their natural flow.

Verse V.

It’s all right to know/Feelings come and feelings go

It’s all right to cry/It might make you feel better

Translation:

This verse tells us to let our feelings follow their nature of arising and dissolving. Like water flowing. Let yourself fully express and befriend this feeling and the next one. Be like water. Let water come out of your eyes and move you to resolution and contentment. For a time. Until the next feeling arises. 

Would you like to make an appointment with Dr. Tarakali? Click here:  http://www.vanissar.com/contact.html

It’s Alright to Feel Things

I want to share a healing practice with you. I call it The Emotions Sutra, because it sums up how to work skillfully with our emotions.

Like most potent practices, it is simple. In fact, it is a children’s song! How appropriate, since our emotional nature shares the same direct vitality that we witness in small children and animals.

It’s Alright to Cry

Verse I.

It’s alright to cry/Crying gets the sad out of you

It’s all right to cry/It might make you feel better

Verse II.

Raindrops from your eyes/Washing all the mad out of you

Raindrops from your eyes/It’s gonna make you feel better

Verse III.

It’s all right to feel things/Though the feelings may feel strange

Feelings are such real things/And they change and change and change

Verse IV.

Sad and grumpy/Down-in-the dumpy

Snuggly, huggly/Mean and ugly

Sloppy, splappy/Hoppy, happy!

Change and change and change

Verse V.

It’s all right to know/Feelings come and feelings go

It’s all right to cry/It might make you feel better

**********************************

Here it is on YouTube, kindly sung by former NFL player Rosey Grier:

How did your body respond to this song?

Is this song a ‘yes’, ‘no’, or ‘maybe’ for you?

If your body likes it, then you can turn this song into your own somatic practice:

Listening to it or sing it and FEEL the sensations in your body. The more you practice this, the more you will embody the kindness, the relaxation, the fluidity of the message.

If you practice this often, you will find yourself responding to your feelings with less fear and judgment, more appreciation and friendliness.

You can sing this song to yourself when you are feeling emotionally “stuck.”

If you would like to make an appointment with Dr. Tarakali, click here: http://www.vanissar.com/contact.html