Over-used, over-familiar expressions can lose their meaning. Let’s take a fresh look at grounding.

In North American healing and spiritual practice circles, people often use the expression “grounding,” as in “I need some grounding” or, “I wish I was more grounded.”

What is Grounding, Anyway?

To be grounded is to be in direct relationship with your aliveness, including your body’s sensations. This aliveness, rooted in the earth’s aliveness, is innately congruent. Truthful.

This direct relationship should come naturally to us: Our bodies are built to be in constant relationship with the earth. Instead of wings or flippers, we have feet.

Our bodies are built to be in and of the earth, with butterflies and dragonflies, spiders and ants bustling all around us. We are meant to live among the flowers and herbs, bushes and trees.

Gravity’s steady embrace anchors us to the ground. We are part of this earth. Immersed in it.

Just sit outside anywhere, even in the heart of the city. Sitting quietly, you begin to notice insects, birds, squirrels, and insistent weeds. 

The earth’s aliveness includes all of us, even if we live in green-less concrete. Life happily crawls all over us and through us as microbes and bacteria. As embodied beings, we cannot not be part of the living, breathing earth.

Yet we get cut off from direct intimacy. Collectively and individually, we numb and distract. As we disconnect from our sensations, we lose our direct relationship to truth, vitality and other beings.

Collective Lack of Ground

Collectively we exist in a culture of dis-embodiment and dissociation.

North American nations are founded on the denial of First Nation genocide, the denial of the enslaved-African holocaust, and paved over with generations of dishonest rhetoric.
It’s standard practice. 

Just listen to the words of politicians, and then observe their actions.

James Baldwin illuminated these connections in The Fire Next Time:

“To be sensual, I think, is to respect and rejoice in the force of life, of life itself, and to be present in all that one does, from the effort of loving to the breaking of bread…Something very sinister happens to the people of a country when they begin to distrust their own reactions as deeply as they do here, and become as joyless as they have become. It is this individual uncertainty on the part of white American men and women, this inability to renew themselves at the fountain of their own lives, that makes the discussion…of…any reality — so supremely difficult. The person who distrusts himself has no touchstone for reality — for this touchstone can be only oneself.”

In this environment of collective-delusion, even those of us who hold ideals of non-violence, inclusive, community-based accountability, and social justice can lose our taste and stamina for truth. 

It is all too easy for our muscles of courage, integrity, follow-through and responsibility, to atrophy.

Individual Lack of Ground

Individual fakeness, flaky-ness, and phony-ness all begin with self-delusion.

When we disconnect from what our senses are telling us, we miss the moment when we let someone down; we sleepwalk through actions that are incongruent with our values. We compartmentalize.

Our left hand—literally–does not know what our right hand is doing.

This fog of disconnection makes it almost impossible to feel our impact on others. To acknowledge harm, and make amends.

Finding Integrity in the Ground

What does it take to notice when you fail to embody micro-non-violence, micro-accountability, micro-compassion in your day to day?

What does it take to say, “I messed up; I’m sorry.” What does it take to say, “I am sorry I harmed you.” “I’m sorry I spread gossip.” “I am sorry I judged you for no good reason.”

What does it take? You may say it takes humility. To me, humility means living close to the ground, immersed in the living earth. Our senses rooted in vitality, wide-awake to ourselves and others.

Grounding Within Discomfort

Facing our integrity-lapses is not fun. Staying in direct contact with our “what is” takes courage, and humor. But it does not have to be an ordeal or a big deal.

Grounding can be painful. Recently on retreat I was blessed with an intimate, microscopic view of my habitual defenses and self-obsessed thought patterns. Ouch. 

It was pretty clear that melting my entrenched defendedness would take patience and persistence. At the same time, I felt closer to the ground than ever before; unencumbered and sublimely alive.

Like any other skill, alignment with living truth can grow through repeated practice—in our bodies.

So we have plenty of reasons to cultivate—collectively and individually–a direct relationship with “what is” –with truth!—for the sake of all beings. What else is grounding for, if not this?


Here are some reminders and practices for connecting us directly to vitality:

Reminder 1: Aliveness is Here and Now

The raw immediacy of sensations, emotions is always present; you just need to open the door that is in front of you. Vitality arrives through many different doors–myriad emotions and all kinds of sensations and body states.

Whatever the door appears, open it. Acknowledge the fear, the anger, the familiar chronic-pain.

Is your head buzzing? Are your legs leaden? Is your chest warm? Are you enraged, despairing, or delighted? 

Listen underneath the stories you are telling yourself about this moment. Beneath the story, beneath the sensation or emotion is pure aliveness. Straight-up vitality, with no agenda.

Reminder 1 Practices:

  • Say “yes” to whatever presents itself.
  • Saying “yes” is a way to collaborate with what your body-mind is doing. Here is how it works:  When you find areas of contraction or tension in your body, say “yes” to them. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, tell them you trust they are working hard to take care of you. Tell them they are doing a good job! While you affirm them, gently increase the tension or holding for a few seconds. Act like you and your body are a team, doing something important together. Notice what happens when instead of fighting your body, you join appreciatively with it…the body always feels safer when we appreciate and support its efforts. Often with safety comes softening.

Reminder 2: You Can Trust Your Aliveness

Many of us have learned to fear our unstoppered vitality. Here’s where Machig Labdron’s advice, “Go to the places that scare you” applies.

Using a gradual approach, you can acclimatize to being anchored in your raw aliveness. Just like starting a new exercise that builds unused muscles, or getting used to spicy food, you can increase your tolerance for aliveness little by little. 

As your fear begins to melt, you start to enjoy the inflow of the earth’s vitality, and the flow of your vitality.

Reminder 2 Practices:

Reminder 3: Aliveness is Simple, Small, and Local

Modest, easy practices are enough to reconnect us with our source/Source. Try out some micro body movements; make sounds that match your feelings. 

Again, work with whatever is present. Simple, small, gentle approaches gradually build your fluidity and robustness, and help you sustain your grounding in aliveness.

Reminder 3 Practices:

  • When you feel stuck, don’t try to get unstuck. Just sing about how “stuuuuuhckk I feeeeeel! Oh, nooo, I am so stuck!” etc. Or journal about what is happening (sensations/feelings/thoughts) right NOW. Do not pause or censor yourself. After a few minutes, check in with your body sensations. Notice if anything has shifted. Whether it has or has not, continue singing or writing for awhile, and be curious.
  • If you are feeling physically or emotionally contracted or rigid, allow yourself to stand (or sit) and sway back and forth or side to side. Pretend your trunk and limbs are seaweed swaying on the ocean floor. Remember how it feels to watch someone doing Tai Chi. Make sure you sway several times, and then notice how you feel. If it feels good, repeat it!
  • Try out some micro-movements: wiggle your fingers elegantly, or frantically. Wiggling your fingers consciously can be powerful. Blink gently, with awareness. Speed up and slow down your blinking. Find that Goldilocks pace that brings all of you into the present. Any movement can be transformative. Focus on your breath and breathe with curiosity or passion; changing how you breathe can wake up your aliveness.

Safe Ground

The prerequisite to being able to trust and ground in your aliveness is to first establish a steady sense of feeling safely held.

Those of us who have had that steadiness robbed from us by trauma or oppression need to go back and rebuild that foundation.
Some tools to help you establish safety can be found here and here.

Grounding in Shifting Ground

True grounding is not static. For example:

  • Babies do need to be held snugly. And also, rocked. Happy babies like to be bounced, or thrown (safely!) up in the air to laugh with delight;
  • “Secure attachment” does not mean motionless clinging. It means having a reliable, loving reference point so a child (or adult) can move fluidly between home/family and larger social spheres;
  • Our “solid” bones are–on a cellular level–brimming with movement and activity. Bone marrow generates blood cells, while bone tissues cyclically shed and rebuild;
  • Even concrete vibrates and dances on a molecular level.

In these times of upheaval and possibility, we need to be able to find and re-find our ground in the middle of earthquakes. To blend—metaphorically and literally–with the earth’s cycles of quaking and stillness.

Familiarity with our own body’s shake-ups and resolutions primes this resilience. Small and large movements constantly unfold in our bodies. We can tune in to the rhythms of digestion and elimination, of breathing and sensing in our organs.

When we are relaxed with our own internal movements and can enjoy being a body in motion, it is easier to dance with life’s unpredictability. When Life undulates, we can, too.

We can return, again and again to that raw, direct aliveness.

It turns out that being deeply grounded in our bodies is earth-shaking. The more you embody your aliveness, the less predictable you become—especially to yourself!

That is just what is needed in these urgent, unpredictable times. It is the collective awakening of our deep, fluid being-ness that will heal the earth.

Would you like to experience Dr. Vanissar Tarakali’s somatic coaching? You can contact her by email at, or you can go to her website


You, you in particular were made for this time.

We need your helplessness & your broken heart.

On the Zee Rollercoaster

My parrot friend Zee had a rough couple of months: she lost her toenail in a traumatic accident, laid an unprecedented 2 eggs (sore, swollen butt!), began a major moult, then collapsed. 

Zee in limbo for 27 days, slowly recovering or slowly deteriorating. I could not tell. The vet didn’t know, and exploratory tests can stress small birds to death. Prayers are safer.

My familiar Zee sings in the shower with me.  Assists me with somatic work. Meditates with me. 

Her linnie parrot quirks keep me laughing: walking forward instead of sideways, burrowing under my clothing, hiding in my sleeve.

This Zee was mostly absent. Withdrawn from the world, sleeping like the dead in her warm retreat cave. Eating less and less. Some days she was better, other days much worse.

Me on the Zee rollercoaster.

Me by myself, with plenty of time to write.

I wrote to friends. “Zee is okay with this. She rests in her cage, content to nuzzle her turtle. But I am not so gracious.”

“How Are You Going to Embrace Helplessness?”

I wrote to the universe.

“Everyday Zee drags me into my scariest places. Into the unknown, where her health goes mysteriously up and down.

She insists I confront helplessness and uncertainty, that I face dire loneliness.

Either face it or numb and shut down to me–and Zee. I refuse to abandon her.

So I tremble and holler. Shake with terror and rage: it’s not fair!”

Death is certain, but she is too young. It’s too soon, it hurts too much.

Two weeks into limbo, my brother asks falling-apart-me, “How are you going to embrace helplessness? When you do, how will the peace that follows affect Zee?”

This koan and I grappled reverently. Violently.

I made an appointment for Zee to get $800 worth of tests, and tried to summon the emotional energy to crowdfund. A few hours later I cancelled the appointment. I wrote to the avian vet,

“I watched Zee get a lot worse today after I started gearing up for the Friday vet visit and obsessing about possible outcomes.

That instant feedback was sobering, a great contrast to yesterday’s mutual spaciousness and presence after I decided to trust her and her journey.

I see my efforts to control Zee’s health and conquer the unknown create distance between us. I have decided not to pursue these tests (with their potential chain of interventions).

I am committed to staying present with her. Surrendering to whatever unfolds is the only way I know to do that. Thank you.”

And so I stepped into the abyss

Helplessness, a Flint Sparking New Awareness

Soon after I wrote,

“Beginning to make room in my mind and heart for Zee to die if that is what she decides to do. Making room for her to continue in her strange limbo (this is the hardest). Making room for her to turn a corner and heal.

Determined to respect and trust her agency.

‘He (sic) that I love I wish to be free, even from me’ (Anne Morrow Lindberg).”
Our private drama unfolds while the news breaks in wave after sickening wave: refugee children ripped from their parents, never to be reunited. Toddlers alone in courtrooms, in cages, on concrete floors. Siblings forbidden to hug.
This helpless trauma-healer witnessing trauma in-the-making wreaked upon little ones.

I cannot bear it. Those children. My Zee so far away.

Is there any difference between helplessness and despair?

I don’t know but I cannot get out of bed.

I’m no use to anyone like this.                                                                                                                  So I do all the trauma healing things.

Healing trauma is a movement from contraction to fluidity. Releasing into fluidity means sweating, sighing, yawning. Or moving the whole body. 

Swimming has been a life-saver, as has singing and spiritual practice. My soft critter body, so afraid to lose one small bird, seeks comfort. Cries.
Cries and cries some more.

Somewhere in the crying, love shines up and out, reconnects me with Zee.
Readies me for action.

Not strategic action. Just my heart moving toward her heart.

We create the way forward. Wherever that is.

I’ve stopped fighting and straining for answers. I’ve finished screaming NO!

I am dropped, gently, into Zee’s zone. Into the moment. Into love 

Wake Up and Feel

This anguished heart, these burning eyes turn to face the unspeakable. 
I write:

“Realizing now how fully my animal body understood the significance of the 2016 election: for 4 days after, my urine stank of fear, my dreams were relentless torture scenes. 
My body knew a nightmare had invaded that would try to infect us all.

It took weeks of self-healing practices for me to move from terror-paralysis to creative, fluid action. To shake off the nightmare.

It is time to wake up and comfort one another, to awaken our fierce love, a love that will not permit merciless nightmares to come to life. 
45 is trying to bring his hideous inauguration speech to life, to inflict his American Nightmare lineage (MAGA) on the whole country, the whole planet.

This is an opportunity to say NO to the atrocities of the past: genocide, residential schools, slavery, internment, lynching, persecution. 

To say NO to the recent and current forms of genocide, slavery, internment, lynching and persecution: 

incarceration, detention, torture, family rupture, surveillance and deadly policing inflicted on refugees, immigrants, and people marginalized because of their class, race, ability, gender…

If you have forgotten, or if you never knew these truths, I invite you to remember.  
In remembering, you reclaim your own history, your own back. Your backbone. 
Wake up, remember.

This is an opportunity to wake up and feel what such atrocities have always felt like, have always meant for tender children and bonded families. 
This is an opportunity to say NO to the revival, celebration and amplification of America’s cruelest deeds and attitudes.

Trauma ruptures safety and connection. 
But you can thaw out and reconnect to the ancestors. Yours and theirs.

Let’s take this opportunity to thaw out, to wake up, to feel, to grieve, to love and to CREATE the compassionate world we long for.

We can re-do this country, we can ground it in truth telling, fierce love and action.”

Comfort One Another

We need to comfort one another. 

Are we still critiquing “call out culture”?                                                                                        Pleading for our movements to “call each other in?”

It’s way too late for that.
This threshold is dire.

Your beloved is dying right in front of you.
“Call in”?!
We need to COMFORT one another!

We are to be healing contexts for one another.
Nothing less makes any sense.

Collective abuse, collective trauma is rending our steadiness and connection right now. It intends to dishearten and debilitate us.

Callous fascism gloats while we cringe and snap at each other over petty differences.

Can we not find a way to love each other? Even now?

Unstoppable Love

A little bird–literally! told me: when we love, our creativity is unstoppable.

What have we got to lose by loving together?
We are already suffering together!

We are suffering collectively and oh-so-intimately:

“Just as the 2016 election plunged many domestic violence and child sexual abuse survivors into PTSD paralysis for months, the plight of immigrant children at the border is throwing many of us with attachment and other childhood traumas into an ancient despair and helplessness. 
I have observed this in myself. And it calls up my ancestors’ trauma as well. 
Both inner healing work and outer action are necessary to sustain this marathon of resistance.”

When child abduction and detention is carried out in my name, my suffering is instantaneous and personal.

I remember how
My beloved grandfather and his brother were swept up in the Home Children movement, a series of mass abductions of British 12 and 13 year old boys by British fostering institutions.

Their destitute mom had placed them in *temporary* care. Britain shipped them and hundreds of other boys to Ontario, Canada without parental knowledge or consent, where they became indentured farm laborers until the age of 18. 
My grandfather was a kind but often mute doormat; my granduncle never shook his depression or made any friends.

That wounded grandfather was my only ally when I was a child. If I cannot now turn my eyes away from the suffering of asylum-seeking families, perhaps it is my ancestor looking through my eyes.

When you see child abduction and detention carried out in your name, what do you remember? Who remembers their suffering through you?

When I go back and make these personal connections, it links me to those families and children being torn apart at the border. 

As I feel into my grandfather’s suffering, and remember his love holding my heart, I stop freezing. I start breathing. Who knows what I will do?

When you make your own personal connections, when you start breathing again, who knows what you will do?

Resilience is not the absence of trauma. It’s feeling and fluidity. The ability to create.

When we respond to scary fascist stories with thawed-out, spontaneous hearts, 
Who knows what we will do? 
Who knows what collaborations will arise?

Like Laura Bush and the Methodist Church and psychologists and national guards and breastfeeding moms and sidewalk cleaning services declaring their unstoppable love for immigrant children. 
Like political opponents joining together to say no!

Beyond the Known, Beyond Hope & Fear

Are we still trying to be rational?
Drawing familiar lines of us and them?                                                                                          Drop it.
We are all sitting ducks unless we love, love outside the lines, love ceaselessly.

Are we still looking for hope?
Stop it.
Remember T.S. Eliot said 
“Wait without hope, for hope would be hope for the wrong thing.”

We don’t know what the right thing looks like!

[I don’t know what Zee’s path looks like. I can only follow her.]

Beyond the known, beyond hope and fear, is love. 
Love for ourselves, for each other, for people we disagree with, within and without our movements.

Zee–who after the full moon, who after 27 days in shadow, mysteriously began to recover; who as I write this is healing rapidly—Zee and I are here to tell you:

After feeling it all (you must feel);

eventually, after comfort, after containment;

after expressing unbearable helplessness, grief, rage, dread, confusion;

after collapsing in exhaustion;

a new kind of doing arises. Doing from being.

Once you land, you will be led, as Zee has led me, to your next move. 
You may find yourself protesting at a detention tent camp for children. Or calling your representative. Comforting your despairing friends. Or writing to folks. You may find yourself praying, tears shuddering out of your chest. Or sending money to RAICES.

Your fluid, creative body responds to the moment.
Who knows what you will do

You don’t have to figure it out. Follow your critter body; watch yourself unfold.

Your particular suffering contains the same potent magic as mine.

Your particular contraction can, in any moment, dissolve into a we;
a soft fractal unfurling of connection and momentum.

Resilience is not the absence of trauma. 

It is feeling and fluidity. Creativity that transforms trauma.

Our resilience is awakening fresh responses to stodgy-cruelty, institutional permafrost. 
Together we create the merciful world.


Would you like to be coached by Dr. Vanissar Tarakali?                                                             You can make a remote or in-person appointment here




Session after session, as the table holds your body; Zee and I hold you with our presence.

Today your bones sink onto the table. Your eyes close. A big sigh.

Perhaps you rest a little.

Aliveness trickles into legs and arms and
you are back in your body. (Welcome back).


It hurts to come back.Your body a frozen limb unthawing—ow! ow! Pins and needles as forgotten flesh re-animates.

Crying, shaking, sweating.
No override. Your body is in charge now.

Such grief.
Wrench-throwing, gear-stopping grief.

The table and Zee and I continue to hold you. Stay with you.

Now tears roll. Tremors. Your diaphragm clenches, unclenches, pushes up hunger:

“I need this time, this touch.
Stay with me. Stay long enough for me to find myself, feel myself, hear myself.
I hurt, I’m tired. I can’t hold up my neck. Hold it for me.

I can’t hold myself by myself. You hold me. my chest is sore. I do not have the heart to hold myself.”

I hold your neck. I witness your body.
As the storm cools, your body discovers, “Oh, I do have a heart. I can hold my neck.”



Another day,

Another bodywork session. You arrive thready, vacant.

Gradually you fill up with yourself. You are back.
It’s scary to come back.

Your body stiffens–
—“Wait!” it says.
“I already know there is nothing I can ever do to make people see me and love me so—

–Why show up?
Why let people see me?
No one will care.
No one will respond.”

(Your jaw shivers; shudders in your shoulders.)
“I’ll be left in the cold with all the other discarded ones.”

The table and I hold this you, too. Steady.

“Anyway, I don’t know how to come back from the dead.
Why should I come back?

“I am good at my disappearing act.” (Yes, you are.) “I am the ether; I leave no trace.”

(While you are being ether, may I hold your feet? Hold your abandoned feet, your floppy feet, your deadwood feet? I hold them and hold them.

Your feet tell me they deserve to be held for a long, long time.
Your matter deserves infinite wooing, infinite patience.)

As your mind quiets; your body whispers its terms:

“I refuse to come back unless someone shows up to meet me. Unless I hear, over and over: I see you. I hear you. I want you. I am glad you are here.” (I am nodding, yes.)

Ghost bodies are insatiable, inconsolable.
Unable to absorb what they need. Still, a little sinks in.

I hold your feet in my hands, no agenda. Take your time, feet. Do your disappear thing.

I squeeze your leg bones. Take your time, legs.

Your feet warm up. Your legs plump up with presence. Safer now to inhabit them.

I stay with you as you begin to see, feel, find yourself.

I ask you, “can you feel this pressure, this contact? Can you feel the size, the weight, the shape of your muscles in my hands?”

(Welcome. Come now, into this life.
Do you feel these bones? They are yours. Fill them up.  Fill them out. It’s time to claim your life.)

You sigh, you arrive. Your feet are dense, your legs laden with matter. You matter.



Another bodywork session.

We affirm your body’s boundaries.
We practice Touch me; Stop Touching me.To give your body an experience of
declining touch, requesting touch, receiving touch.
Chosen, boundaried touch.

First, you choose a neutral place on your body where you are comfortable being touched. Perhaps your forearm, or your foot.

We find out exactly how you want to be touched: “I want you to hold my foot with one hand on top and the other underneath. Use this much pressure.”
I practice holding your foot this way until I’ve got it right.

Then, I ask you to command me thus: “Hold my foot! Stop holding my foot!” (or, “Touch my arm! Stop touching my arm!” etc.).

We begin. You tell me to touch your foot, and I do.

You tell me to stop touching your foot, and I do—immediately.

I pay attention, stay present.
Following your body’s timing, we go back and forth between touch and no-touch.

We repeat this sequence several times.
I ask you to notice your sensations and feelings.

Sometimes your body says,

“It’s scary to say “stop touching me!” I am hungry for touch. If I tell you to go away you might never come back! How dare I tell you when you can and cannot touch me?”

Sometimes your body says,

“Hey, it’s confusing to be obeyed, for my body to be listened to. I feel disoriented, nauseous.”

Sometimes it’s,

“Who do I think I am to tell you to come and go? I am afraid you are angry at me now.”

Sometimes you just giggle, at turns nervous, delighted, gleeful.

Sometimes your body sighs,

“Oh, wow, you did exactly what I told you to do. And you stuck around. I feel…cared for.”

Sometimes it’s,

“You mean I can say “no” and you’ll stop and stay with me? I can say “yes” and you’ll continue and stay with me….wtf? I feel dizzy…I feel relief.”

You can schedule a somatic and intuitive coaching appointment (video or in-person) or find out more about Dr. Vanissar Tarakali at

Implicit Bias & Self-Ignorance

In the gnostic Gospel According to Thomas, Jesus says:

“If you bring forth what is within you, what is within you will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what is within you will destroy you.”


If you do not bring forth what is within you, what is within you can be dangerous and even deadly. This holds true for communities as well as individuals.

I will speak of my own white community/communities.
The majority of white people in North America live racially segregated lives.

This segregation prevents most white communities from witnessing firsthand the predictable, brutal treatment by police of Black and brown people. “Business as usual” policing of Black and brown people looks like habitual disrespect and disruption,torture and murder.

Police “business as usual” for white people looks very different. My experience is typical for a white woman. While I do not feel at ease with the police, my lived experience has not led me to expect that the police will gun me down if I reach for my wallet or run away. There is a vast gulf between white and Black (and Native American and Latino) communities’ direct experience with police departments.

This combination of structural segregation and starkly different treatment by police disconnects white communities from communities of color. This double disconnect feeds the collective white self-ignorance about how our own privileged treatment co-arises with the mistreatment of Black people and people of color.

As James Baldwin wrote in 1963 in The Fire Next Time:   “Whatever white people do not know about Negroes reveals, precisely and inexorably, what they do not know about themselves.”

Thus we see the white consensus mind throughout North America has been expressing outrage over (a minority of) protesters’ vandalism and property damage, instead of outrage over the severing of a Black man’s spine, or the taking of a Black life.

If you are invested in seeing yourself as a good person at all costs, you tend to disavow or forget your unkind actions. If we are invested in seeing the justice system that serves the white community as benevolent at all costs, we tend to overlook the casual cruelty inflicted by police on communities of color. Instead, we blame the victim. White folks like me habitually turn our backs on what is being done in our name, and allow brutality to carry on in our collective shadow.

If you bring forth what is within you, what is within you will save you.

Black activists and their allies in Ferguson, Baltimore, Oakland and other places are bringing forth what is within the North American policing system.

These activists are bringing into the light the hidden (hidden only to white people) everyday police attitudes-in-action that demean and destroy people of African descent. This consciousness raising is a profound gift to all of us. Bringing forth what is within our communities will save us.

Implicit Bias

Implicit bias is another aspect of self-ignorance. Implicit bias means unconsciously harboring bias and stereotypes against a stigmatized group, such as women, Black people, people with disabilities, etc.

I find implicit racial bias in myself. It pops out of me at the slightest stimulus—for example, if I am in public, and I see a Black person I do not know, I often catch myself checking to see if my wallet is zipped.

Implicit bias is inculcated in childhood. When I was around age seven my father told me that my Ugandan friend Aggie, who was staying with my family, was a liar and a cheat.

As adults we have the power to act out implicit bias in harmful ways, some of us by how we teach students or treat patients, and some of us by how we wield a badge, taser and gun. Some of us present biased news stories.

Bringing forth the implicit racial bias that is within white communities is a life and death matter. What can we do about it?

My Buddhist teacher, Anam Thubten describes something similar to implicit bias: “There is a whole ocean of thoughts and intentions below our awareness that influences our actions and words. In the Mahayana Buddhist tradition, this “ocean” is called Alaya, or storehouse consciousness.

According to Anam Thubten, the remedy for these hidden motivations is meditation. Indeed, the whole purpose of meditation is to become aware of our concealed, deeply rooted tendencies.

As Anam Thubten says, we need to “Invite our hidden thoughts to tea.”

There is some scientific evidence that mindfulness can transform implicit racial bias.

Dealing with that ocean of hidden tendencies is a lifelong, perhaps many lifetimes long process. We cannot expect to catch all of it.

Anam Thubten explains that the “storehouse consciousness” is vast, like an iceberg of unconscious kleshas (mental states that cloud the mind) that are individual, ancestral and collective. Kleshas are meant to be unearthed, acknowledged and digested.

This long-term process of inquiry and purification requires enormous compassion, patience and humor. But we can do our best, and begin now. The stakes are too high not to.

You can schedule a somatic and intuitive coaching appointment (video or in-person) or find out more about Dr. Vanissar Tarakali at


Remote Coaching with Vanissar

Dear Far Flung Friends:

Did you know that I am a seasoned practitioner of remote work?

These are my live video & phone services:

1) Somatic & Intuitive Coaching

For trauma healing, spiritual growth, social justice support, vocation support, finding agency within chronic pain/illness.

You will:

* receive “body-whisperer” & intuitive insights from me;

* learn how to track & interpret your sensations;

* collaborate with your body;

* experience generative somatics practices & interventions;

* take away practical, pleasurable homework.

2) Intuitive Readings

Receive a download of information read from your energy field.  Options to record your session &/or include Bird Essences are available.

3) Curriculum Consults

4) Vocation Mentoring for Healers, Teachers & Activists

5) Spiritual Mentoring & Guidance

Consulting & mentoring by mutual arrangement.

6) Trauma Survivors in Love (TSIL) Relationship Coaching

All sessions (except TSIL session) run 50-60 minutes & cost $140.
A package of 4 sessions is $525.


To schedule a free 20 minute consultation, email or text Vanissar at or (510) 908-0936


Welcome back.

Help yourself to some water.


Today we honor your Survival Strategies.
How did you survive Neglect? Being invisibilized/genocided, etc.?

Which of the brainstem’s fight, flight, freeze, appease and dissociate, reactions became automatic for you?


We fought. With everything we had.
To be seen, to be heard, to live.
It’s called courage it’s called truthforce its called social justice.
We fought and fought and became fight.
Sometimes we fought each other.


We fled when we could.
Disappeared into bush, caves, swamp.
We went underground.
Built new towns of our own, far away.
Sometimes envy and hate came to burn us down.


We froze, still as rabbits.
Bland as deer.
A good plan when no one has your back.
We mastered small-silent, eyes down, quiet feet, slo-mo movements.


We pleased. Family servants, existing only for others.
So many appeasings.
Always appealing.
Our smiles mirrored your importance.

We made you laugh. Asked you about yourselves.
Anticipated your every need.
Bought alone time, unmolested time. Bought our lives.

but most of all,

Numbed. Forgot. Severed thought from feeling, flesh from mind.

Erased and neglected, we erased ourselves in turn. For ghosts, dissociation is lifeblood, antidote, wraparound friend.

Praise & Befriend Your Survival Strategies
Thank you for your stories. So glad you found a way to survive. So moved that you are here today.
Now, let us honor your survival strategies;
With words. With touch.



Let us acknowledge where you’ve come from, what you endured. How brave, how ingeniously you survived. How loving, how persistent you’ve been!

And look closely at what your ancestors did, what you did, to get you here.
Praise the creativity, the ferocity of survival.
Affirm its precise genius.

Gratitude for Your Ancestors’ Survival Strategies


First, gratitude To Your Ancestors:

Dr. Joy DeGruy shows us how to thank one’s ancestors.

“DeGruy (points out that) It’s customary for black parents to denigrate their children when they’re complimented as a defense mechanism. In the past, when a slave owner showed interest in the skill of a child, the parent made the child seem unappealing or unintelligent to prevent them from being sold or raped.”

Thank you ancestors who camouflaged your beloved children. Thank you for making them seem unworthy of notice, protecting them from atrocity.

Thank you for passing that wisdom through the generations.

I thank my mother and my female lineage. Thank you Sylvia, for teaching me to forget. Thank you grandmothers, great grandmothers, for showing me how to step aside, to fade.

I used to only see the damage this caused, to me and our relationships. But you gave me the best vaccine you had for abuse, misogyny and ableism.

To all the ancestors, who kept us alive. (Entombed, dormant. But alive.)

Thanks to you, these acorn shells are intact. Ready to land in soft soil. To plant themselves. Burst, give birth to saplings and trees.


Gratitude for Your Personal Survival Strategies

Second, gratitude to your wise animal soma.

Let’s remember your history, your body;
How you survived neglect, erasure;

How ghosting away protected you:

The more I made myself invisible, the less I got hit.

If I wasn’t a bother, maybe they would love me.

I learned to do without. To need so little, I could survive anything.

Thank you, wise body. Still here. You got yourself here.


Now, on the bodywork table, while your bones rest;

I praise the survival in your body.

Witness your resistance and resilience, with hands, eyes and presence.

My hands, my gaze speak:

Thank you, flashing eye and clenched jaw.
Thank you for fighting so long, so hard. Bless you.

Thank you pounding heart and restless feet.
Thank you for running…to live on. Bless you.

Thank you held breath and poker face.
Thank you for drawing no attention. Bless you.

Thank you, automatic smile, dropped gaze.
Thank you for lulling your enemies into harmlessness.  Bless you.

Thank you, floating soul, vacated limbs.
Thank you for finding refuge from suffering. Bless you.

Thank you for fiercefiercefierce self-love.


Befriend Your Disembodied Body

Because it saved you;

Because it is most difficult of all strategies to sense, to name, to identify;

Let us especially thank your dissociation survival strategy.

When your disappearing trick reveals itself in your body; I thank it.

While it comes, while it goes, ever elusive;
I wait quietly.

When it shows up, I keep it company. Physically support it.

I welcome your voice, ghost-body. I listen.

When back says, “if no one has my back, if it’s all on me, why bother?”
My hands say, “Yes, back, thank you for saving your energy. So smart.”

When the body says, “No one loves me, no one even knows I exist! Why not just melt away?”

My heart says, “yes, such a good idea! Why not?”

My voice, my hands say,

“May I hold you, phantom back?
Will you let me support you a little?”

“I invite you, oh back, to let the table have some of your weight. Just as much, just as little as you want.”

We take our time. We let your back try it out. Bit by bit.

‘Til your back discovers trust.
‘Til it’s safe to be a back again.

My hands feel your lungs gasp,; “Why bother to breathe, to do, to live?” Your heart groans, “Why bother? Nothing I do matters.”

I hold your heart, cradle your shoulder blades. My heart says, let me help you hold that give-up shape. You don’t have to do it all yourself.”

With hands, with voice, I say,
“Wow, you are so smart to hibernate. You survived the long winter!”

My flesh listens as muscles and nerves tell their story.

Fibromyalgia? Yes.
Rheumatoid arthritis? Of course.

Disheartened immune system?  In the wake of neglect, you make perfect sense. Perfect sensations.

My body murmurs to yours, “You deserve to be warm. You deserve to be held. You deserve to rest for a thousand years.”

Your arms mutter, “Why should I extend?”
Hands hiss, “Why lift a finger?

No one cares. I make no difference; always more-more-more dishes, housework, demands, bills to pay. Nothing I do makes any matter.”

My heart reaches to support your arms with mine.
My palms hug each finger, one by one.

I admire your superhero-(disem)-body powers.

Once upon a time, you learned to be unfindable, undetectable. To live without texture, without voice, without needs.


How did you learn, at such a young age, to hide desire? To strike down your arms, extended in longing?

My eyes, hands, and heart honor your heroic resilience.


Your aggressive “I quit;”
your volcanic “fuck you” implosion;
your black hole despair collapse defiance;
your persistent refusal to exist.

I say, “Yes, arms. Yes. Rest.
Rest for a thousand years.
I lift you up. Hold your burden with you.

Ah. Your arms begin to sink. Surrender to gravity.
Ah. Your always-watchful eyes close.

Rest now.

Next session: Part III.
We will make space to melt your armor and repair your boundaries

Would you like to be coached by Dr. Vanissar Tarakali?
You can make a Somatic & Intuitive Coaching appointment via


Greetings, teachers, healers, activists, changemakers!

You who have studied your craft for years or decades.


Greetings, wounded healers, your wisdom forged in the crucible of suffering.

I have something to say to you:

So many have called you into being.

Your plant and animal friends;
The wind, the moon, the stars;
Blood or foster families raised you, kept you alive for years.

So many have invested in you.

Mentors have invested in you, shared their finite time and energy [Have you told them how much they mean to you? Best to do that soon.].

Who else invested in you?
Who else called you into your power?

Your community (communities), your precious, precarious, ever-morphing, far-flung team, your crew, your chosen family-

Those folks who bailed you out, cried and laughed with you. Held you to your integrity.

[Have you told them how much they mean to you? Best to do that soon.]

Your learning communities. Generating wisdom, gathering and dispersing,
[Have you told them how much they mean to you? Best to do that soon.]

Your activist communities. Conspiring for freedom, shifting and rifting.
(So much rifting! <Sigh>)
[Have you told them what they mean to you? Best to do that soon.]


–Speaking of Rifting…

Did you hear the one about, “Every being has been your mother?” or, 

“Every being has been your child, over countless lifetimes”?

“Impartiality (tang nyom in Tibetan) means giving up (tang) our hatred for enemies and infatuation with friends, and having an even-minded (nyom) attitude towards all beings, free of attachment to those close to us and aversion for those who are distant…

…In former lives, those whom we now consider our enemies have surely been close to us…giving us unimaginable help and support. Conversely, many of those whom we now call friends have certainly been against us and done us harm.”

~ Patrul Rinpoche

Even in one lifetime, our enemies can suddenly become our friends, and our friends can become our enemies!

Given all this relational shifting and rifting, rifting and shifting, can we expand our sense of “community”?

Greetings, healers, teachers and changemakers!

I have more to say to you:

Many individuals and groups have shaped, challenged and midwived you (yes, and also harmed and betrayed you);

Family, communities, teachers, opponents
(chosen and unchosen);

Each one who acknowledged your existence;
Everyone who hoped you would thrive;

They are with you still.

So what you embody does not “belong” only to you.

“You” are composed of many lineages…



…Part of many generations:

“The generations we are sworn to protect and revere are the seven we are most immediately connected to…

…many of us have known or will know our great-grandparents, grandparents, parents, our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren…

(or we) have stories, songs, and photos that have been shared so that we feel a connection. We also want to make sure our kids and grandkids are healthy, safe and aware of where they come from.

So, counting our own generation—ourselves, siblings, and cousins—we are accountable to those seven generations, not some imagined futuristic peoples two hundred years down the road.”

~ Vine Deloria, Jr.

Greetings, healers and teachers and changemakers!

You who appear now, midstream between ancestors and descendants.
This is your moment to be the movement.

Thank you for showing up. For offering your time, skills and wisdom. For uplifting and grounding the world. We need you.

I ask you, for the sake of all, to steward the hard-won resources you embody.

You are the steward of your resources;
The best one for the job:

You know your temperament and limits better than anyone.
You know the resource and wisdom you embody.
(If you don’t yet know your strengths and limits, you are in the best position to observe and find out.)

I urge you to study stewardship, to take it on.

Stewardship is “the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.”

You are entrusted to your own care!

Stewardship is the responsible use (including conservation) of natural resources in a way that takes full and balanced account of the interests of society, future generations, and other species, as well as of private needs.”

You are a natural resource!

As steward, you choose how to share and value your gifts, your spoons, your lifeforce.

As steward, you set the tone. Your boundaries cue others to respect you-as-resource.

Beloved healers, artists, organizers….I urge you to think about this!

While we still live within capitalism,
How will you share your gifts sustainably?

Many exciting experiments, local and global, are remaking how we worklive and exchange.

Yet many of us who strive to create a sustainable way of working and living find ourselves on our own.

The new economy is a work in progress; work innovations are not yet inclusive and accessible to all.

In the meantime, how will you care for you? [Best to think about this now.]

Steward yourself, for your  sake. For your joy.

Sustain yourself, for the sake of all who taught and supported you to become the creator and change maker that you are.

For the sake of the youth who will inherit this beautiful mess.

In honor of them all, it’s time to steward the teaching, healing and organizing resources that you embody:

Learn how to take care of your money.

Ask folks to pay you what you are worth. Ask folks to pay you in a way that honors all the elders who invested in you, all the future generations that you seed and nourish.

Learn how to take care of your body.

Make friends with your mysterious, finite body. Learn it’s natural pace.

Learn how to take care of your heart-mind.

Turn off your phone and go outside.
Sit down and stare into space.
Cuddle a human or furry or feathered friend.

Healers, teachers, activists, remember!

You are our work in progress.
You carry history and hope.

Take good care of us: Take good care of you.

Vanissar Tarakali offers Somatic & Intuitive Coaching over Zoom, Skype, phone, or in person in Sebastopol, CA. You can schedule a free 20 minute consultation by going to



(For the ancestors)

no-one from no-where whispers, ‘what does it mean to matter?’



Welcome, You Who Were Not Allowed to Matter

Welcome, neglected children. Ghost children.

Welcome, you who knew no limbic rapport with mom. No steady eye contact to nourish your constancy, nurture your: “I exist. I matter.”

Welcome, precious Black Lives.

Welcome, survivors of neglect, of abuse, of attachment trauma.

Welcome to the ghost people, slipping by unnoticed.

Welcome, you who were marginalized, invisible-ized, genocided, institutionalized. Welcome, you who were enslaved.

Welcome, you without a home; welcome, you who are not home in your body.

Welcome, autistic people, borderline people, dissociated people.

Welcome, communities that never knew collective limbic rapport, warm eye contact from outsider-oppressors. Your humanity, unacknowledged.

Welcome, children of parents too pressed by life and death struggles to give their babies limbic rapport, nourishing eye contact.

Welcome, disembodied ones; forever denied your matter.

Welcome, all. Let us begin.


What Would You Like Me to Know About You?

I am quick to despair.

It seems I do not leave a trace:

I phone and my call is not returned;
I text into a void;
I email but my no one responds.

Long, pervasive silences.
People are busy, overloaded, overwhelmed, forgetful– I know that.
Still the silence erases me.

Without frequent contact, without memory cues;
I forget who I like;
who likes me.

When my voice is not heard;
my eyes are not met;
my touch meets no resistance;
I leave no trace.

I forget myself, my accomplishments.
The sounds I make, the words I write, the work I do.

No legacy is built.
No home, no security.

Nothing sticks.


Nothing sticks.

Our actions leave no impression, not even on us.

We forget our history, forget what we won;
Forget what we lost.
Forget how we shaped the world.

We stand on the rooftops, holding handwritten signs. Waiting for mercy. Or death.

Our voices are not heard, our eyes not met, our touch meets no resistance; We leave no trace.

Why bother?
Why not give up,
settle for less than nothing?

Thank you for telling me your truth, your struggles;
your *What.*

Next, let’s look at your *Now, what?*

What Do You Want To Take Away From Our Work Together? 

What Do You Want to Feel, to Be, to Do That You Cannot Yet?

What I Want to Be:

“I want to be real.
I want to exist.
I want to matter.”

What We Want to Do:

Complete something

Love and be loved
Meet and be met
See and be seen.

What I Want:

I want to want. I want to know what I want.
I want vision. I want eyes alight with vision.

Welcome! Hooray!
Such good things to want!

I am here to be your ally.
I want you to have all this–become all this.

The first step is to visit your story/stories of origin.

Beloved Ghosts, Tell Me How You Began  
Tell Me Your Ghost Stories/Stories of Origin


We were the disembodied hands, attending your every need. 

Oldest daughter, family drudge, I existed to serve.

We were kidnapped, taken to residential “schools,” where they erased our words, our selves.

I cried, but no one picked me up. 

We called 911, but they never came to our neighborhood.

I did not bother them, hoping for some crumbs of love.

We were put away in camps, far from anyone’s eyes. 

They never saw my gender. No matter how clearly I revealed myself.

We were put away in reservations, far from anyone’s eyes. 

My father wouldn’t meet my eyes. Unseen, I did not exist.

We were put away in prisons, far from anyone’s eyes. 

I stopped breastfeeding; I could taste her resentment. 

We were put away in institutions, far from anyone’s eyes. 

They told me I was a burden. So I made myself small, transparent, silent.

They could not see the unique beauty of our minds.

My mother could not reflect me back to me. 

Everyone saw the video, but it did not matter. Not one cop was convicted.
Did no one see him or hear his cries? 

[Those uniforms contained bodies, bodies that bruised his body, stopped his breath. Why didn’t those bodies perceive his flesh–his matter?
How did they lose their senses? What makes an ear, an eye, a nose disregard another being’s matter?

My father could not reflect me back to me. 

Economic refugees, climate refugees, we sought mercy. The only refuge you allowed us was to hide for the rest of our lives.

When I made myself invisible, I didn’t get hit.

Colonizers could not reflect ourselves back to us.
(The land they colonized was “uninhabited.”)

A whisp of myself, I make no matter.

Immaterial ghosts, we do not matter.

And now, here we are (here we are not).

Thank you. Thank you for letting me witness your truth.

Now it’s time to name the adaptations, the survival strategies your ancestors developed. Claim the superpowers you birthed in your personal hell.



How Did Trauma Shape You?

How Did Neglect/ Attachment Trauma/ Exile/ Solitary Confinement/ Cultural Genocide/ Existing-only-to-serve-others Shape Your Body/Behavior?

I learned to serve, to appease, to erase my self.

We answered to the names you thrust on us.

I learned to pretend, to pass, to blend in.

We learned to perform, to entertain, produce.

I learned to ask for nothing;
to ask most gently, charmingly, most patiently for food-air-water-space—

–We never asked for space;
we learned to do without.

We met our needs with sawdust and imagination;
We dreamed other worlds.

I learned to wait ‘til my mom got home; wait for scraps of food and attention.

We taught our own babies to wait.

I taught myself not to cry.

We mourned, we honored, we buried our dead far from your desecrating eyes.

How we made it.

How I survived.

How our children came to be.

Thank you for telling me your stories.

Thank you for letting me see you.
I see you. I hear you.

I sense your body asking, “What does it mean to matter?”
Such a good question, body! We will set about finding out.

Next month, Part 2: Honoring & Befriending Our Survival Strategies.

You can schedule an in-person or video Somatic Coaching session with Dr. Vanissar Tarakali through



(written in October 2017, during the Northern California fires.)

Are you living, ever more intimately, with uncertainty?

As the climate crisis hits my home, I write with lungs aching from wildfire smoke.
With fear for my parrot-in-a-coalmine.

Grief as I witness Sonoma County, my future home, gasp and reel with unspeakable conflagration and loss.

There have been many days of helplessness and confusion. Many nights of soul and internet searching.

You, too?

As more of us join the ranks of house-less folks, climate change refugees, economic refugees, housing refugees, healthcare refugees;

As more of us lose the abundance that we were accustomed to: reliable shelter, possessions, healthcare;

As order gives way to chaos;

Uncertainty is our collective dance partner.
[She always was.]

Who knows what her next move will be, in a minute, in an hour, in a week?

What can we hold onto, how do we dance this ever-shifting, emerging dance?
I have more questions than answers.

Here and there, answers show up, some written by a wiser, calmer me.
Answers in the form of Resources, Practices and Mood-Mindsets.

My Heart asks,

What can we do in these times?
How can we trust ourselves and the universe?


Question: What Can We Do in These Times?


Befriend Uncertainty 

Living with “I Don’t Know”

Embracing a Vast Perspective

Prepare to Lose Everything

Become a Nomad

It’s time to get skilled at fold-up-my tent, pack-up-my-stuff and go. On a moment’s notice.

Shed the Unnecessary

In synch with this time, it feels urgent to shed what is unnecessary, including:

  • Any non-essential possessions that possess me;
  • The need to be right. The need to let everyone know I am right.

For example, I am weaning myself from the subtle/unsubtle bickering on social media about who is right, who is the most correct, who is the kindest, most thoughtful, most inclusive, most sensitive person or group of people.


Let Go

Take Good Care of You

Emotional First Aid

Get Unstuck

Love Yourself (& Your Body)

Offer Refuge; Be a Refuge

Offer Refuge to Others

It is urgent now, and will continue to be necessary to provide refuge.

A place for folks to rest, and eat, and be clothed.

To tremble and unwind from trauma.

It’s not just time to offer a place of refuge.
It is time to BE a refuge, wherever you are, whatever your circumstances.

Each of us can be a refuge of kindness and patience and generosity.

What can you share?

Do you have an extra respirator mask?

Can you listen kindly and patiently to someone who is distraught, confused?

Someone who has less composure, less serenity than you have (at the moment!—you may be distraught tomorrow!)

You can provide clothes or shelter if you have them to share.

But if you don’t, you can provide prayers, eye contact, a steady voice.

Any of us be an expression of generosity and kindness, wherever we find ourselves.

If you find yourself in hell, look to your left, to your right.

Who is here with you? Are they scared, like you?

You can be a loving presence that says, “we are in this together.”

Question: How Can We Trust Ourselves & the Universe?

Trust Ourselves

Finding Home in Our Bones

You Are a Force Of Nature

Trust the Universe

Welcome Triggers as Your Spiritual Practice

View Disruptions as Sacred

Can we live, ever more intimately, every more tenderly, with Uncertainty, our ancient, brand new dance partner?

Can we follow and lead, lead and follow?
Can we create beautiful new forms and ways of being?

I believe we can.
I believe we are.

May fire, air, earth and water transform and heal us all.

If you would like to experience Somatic & Intuitive Coaching with Dr. Vanissar Tarakali, email to


This article is a repeat. Two repeats, actually.

With a twist.

The twist is that I am offering two articles together to highlight a compelling

The articles are:

You Are Worth Fighting For: Autoimmune Disorders and Self-Love


10 Ways Shame and Blame Hurts Social Justice Efforts.

As I re-read them both, a metaphoric question arose:

Are social justice movements suffering from collective autoimmune disorders?

Autoimmune diseases are characterized by the body attacking its own cells, tissues and organs.

Are we attacking ourselves?

Is “calling out” culture a symptom of a social justice autoimmune disorder?

Do we mistake activist community members for the enemy, and ruthlessly dispose of them?

Is a hostile internal atmosphere alienating precious community members?

I believe social justice projects and movements are at risk for all of this.

From Micro to Macro, Love is the Antidote

When I struggle personally with autoimmune conditions, the antidote that best supports my wellness is the consistent practice of self-gentleness and self-love.

I am inspired–and relieved–to witness several social justice projects embrace collective versions of this antidote:

Movement Strategy Center chooses to Lead With Love:

Black Lives Matter embraces self-loving Guiding Principles:

“We are committed to embodying and practicing justice, liberation, and peace in our engagements with with one another.”

Sins Invalid commits to Principles of Disability Justice, such as

Commitments to Cross Disability SolidarityInterdependenceCollective Access, and

“Collective Liberation…where no body/mind is left behind.”

We can nourish our social justice community members, and call in our allies.

We can cut ourselves some slack and give up perfection.

Alexis Shotwell endorses this in her book Against Purity: Living Ethically in Compromised Times.

For Shotwell, letting go of personal purity means cultivating “an attitude of self-forgiveness” and liberation “from feeling like we have to do everything ourselves.”

In this moment of political and environmental crisis and dis-ease, I find both my blog articles to be timely and relevant:

Our bodies are being stressed and pressed like never before.

The need for sustainable, love-based social justice movements has never been greater.

But if one of these paths to healing calls you especially today, trust that.
Take care of it.

We need you. We need us.

Wishing us all ever-growing love and wisdom,


You can schedule Somatic and Intuitive Coaching appointments with Vanissar through