TRAUMA SURVIVORS & SPIRITUAL AWAKENING PART II: SHEDDING TRAUMA IDENTITIES

Last month I discussed the importance of making spiritual guidance accessible to trauma survivors, and the relevance of the trauma survivor’s spiritual journey for us all.

This month I continue the inquiry into trauma survivors and spiritual awakening with a look at how we shed our traumatized identities.

All spiritual awakenings involve the shedding of old identities. This is both good and bad news for trauma survivors.

On one hand, trauma survivors tend to suffer so much that we are eager to discard the old “me.” On the other hand, identity shifts can be uncomfortable and disorienting.

People who have somatic bodywork often emerge with an altered sense of their body’s size, shape, or density: “I feel much taller/wider!” or “I feel denser/lighter.”

Their experience of standing or walking is different. Even micro identity shifts such as these can be unsettling.

A certain amount of unsettledness is unavoidable. The whole point of healing is to heal, right? This means going beyond our victimized identities to live with more freedom and fluidity.

Still, those miserable identities are cozy, like a worn out sock. As your healing process unfolds, you will lose old familiar “yous” and once-/essential survival strategies.

This can feel scary and sad. You may need reassurance. You may need to grieve.

What Helps Us Shed Old Identities?

Relationships

Relationships can be catalysts. Long or short–term relationships with friends, mentors/therapists/spiritual teachers, animal companions, children, lovers, and chosen family.

Learning communities and spiritual communities can catalyze identity shifts.

Practice

Practice is a powerful way to shift our identities. Anything we do again and again is a practice, whether it is brushing our teeth, creating art, meditating or exercising.

Repeatedly practicing the same things over months or years eventually, inevitably changes our sense of self. If there is something new that you want to feel, be or do, you can set it in motion now.

Grace (The Uninvited Guest)

Grace is the queen of catalysts! By Grace I mean the unexpected, out of the ordinary disruptions that show up in our lives. Grace is not always fun, but she is always transformative.

All these catalysts are illustrated in the following stories of my own trauma-identity shifts.

Shedding Old Identities: Two Personal Stories

Old Identity: Fragile, Isolated Victim-Body

Identity-Shift Catalyst: My Animal Companion

For me, early childhood attachment trauma, neglect and violence/violation all shaped my body to identity as fragile and always-in-danger from others.

My body’s default mode became a constant anticipation of assault or invasion, without expectation of physical protection or kindness.

As a result, my body has often experienced touch initiated by others as a threat.

I have worked a long time to overcome an automatic flinching or withdrawal response when people touch my back or hug me without permission.

Over the years, I have learned to recover more quickly from unexpected touch.

But my bird companion catalyzed a quantum leap.

Notes from my journal:

My body has been claimed by a bird. A bird who does not know this body was invaded and tortured.

She walks deliberately up my arm, without hesitation or reverence. She claims my shoulder as her home and tree.

A parrot wriggles into my shirt cuff. Her muscular, velvet body massages my arm, burrows into my sleeve.

Hidden now, she chortles, creeps further; a gleeful green face pops out of the top of my shirt.

Zee doesn’t fear the trauma memories in my belly; she is blasé about my “private parts.”

When I nap, She clambers up and slides down my pants ‘til I wake up, giggling. I am her personal sandbox/teeter-totter/blanket fort. The perfect playmate for hide and seek.

What mothers of small children find out: this body is no longer my own. This body is not its history. It is safe haven, playground, reference point.

After her shower, she dives inside my bathrobe sleeve to preen herself dry. Appearing at my armpit, she offers her head for a scratch, mutters contentedly.

This new body, claimed by a bird.

My feather friend wants my company: near, very near or at some distance when she needs solo time, exploring time. But always wanted.

When I walk, she hangs from my sleeve, watching the world upside down .

When she naps in the cave of my shirt, my chest is her happy place.

My new body is beloved, not appropriated. Needed, but not exploited. Wow.

I begin to see myself through her eyes, feel myself through her senses. To her, this body is not a site of trauma. Her body leans against me, insisting: I am her refuge.

And this body is no longer fragile–

–Not when she flies at me ferociously. Not when she growls and charges like a dragon defending her hoard. Her beak is sharp! But she chuckles. It is all in fun, Klingon-style fun!

This body can handle boisterous play. This body can take a joke.

This body can do and be new things, because a small, green body has changed my body. Changed its meaning, mood, and purpose.

This bird knows me as flock and kin. She has transformed me into mother, protector, sparring partner.

She does not care about my history. I belong to her now.

Old Identity: Urgent Hypervigilance

Identity-Shift Catalyst: Chronic Exhaustion

When I was a child, peace and safety were fleeting and unreliable. Unpredictable menace set a physiological tone of low grade terror; produced a habitual state of vigilance and heightened adrenaline/cortisol.

I first noticed how anxious I was at fifteen. I could not “let down.”

I got student massages at a massage school, and learned “relaxation response” techniques. I pursued this path for decades, and grew skilled at relaxing.

But Grace asked me to go deeper. Grace showed up as a debilitating fatigue that arose over the past two years.

I was forced to go to the very root of my bone-deep habit of urgency.

Perhaps the bike accident and the extended bug infestation in my building wore me out. Perhaps it was peri-menopause.

It got so I needed two naps to get through the day. I tried to get a diagnosis. I got my blood tested. I inquired into adrenal fatigue. I learned how to manage my low blood pressure.

But it did not shift. This mystery was not ready to be solved. And now I was too tired to worry about it.

At the same time, my new landlord brought in tenants with seven dogs and two toddlers.

My sleep was disrupted like never before. I faced exhaustion every day.

And then sugar and caffeine stopped working for me.

Thanks but no thanks, Grace!

So there we were; me and fatigue. I had no other choice; I decided to befriend it.

I let myself be curious. I wondered, what is this fatigue? Is it really “fatigue,” or is my body trying to teach me a new way of being?

Surrender started with a decision to trust my body’s fatigue instead of trying to fix it.

I followed my body’s lead: sleeping when I could, laying down or doing restorative yoga when I couldn’t.

I allowed my body to be supported by the mattress or props, by earth and by gravity.

I felt glimmers of gratitude. I knew that whatever we repeatedly practice, we start to embody.

Having to rest quietly and free up my schedule was a blessed opportunity to embody rest.

To be honest, this shift in attitude was neither instant nor easy.

Being tired terrified me; all my life I fought it off as hard as I could.
But now I was too worn out to fight.

As fatigue and rest permeated my daily life, my identity shifted:

I learned to sit while tired, meditate while tired, walk while tired, even work with clients while tired. And…nobody died. Nothing bad happened.

One day, after a short, sweet nap, I was engulfed in unshakeable slowness. I was dismayed.

I got up anyway. Exhausted. I took Zee out for a walk anyway.

It was sunny, and besides, why not?
With this thought came the exhilaration of a rebel breaking a stuffy rule.

We got as far as a nearby park, where I found a sunlit bench. I felt a delicious heaviness, a fatigue that I rather…enjoyed?!? What?

The thought came, “I have been waiting all my life to surrender to fatigue.”

One sleepy morning I remembered that the me that I used to be (the me subjected to random nighttime assaults) was afraid to fall asleep.

Now, as Zee dozed in my lap, I wondered. Could tiredness be a friend, a warm lap to doze in?

This emerging me asked interesting questions, like “Why shouldn’t I feel tired and lazy and nap intermittently throughout the day?

Why does that have to be a problem? Why can’t I just enjoy it?”

With these questions came a sense of permission and ease. The tightly coiled wires in my solar plexus unwound; my breath softened.

This re-tooling of my identity from hypervigilant/hyper-worried to being able to rest deeply is a work in progress.

The old habit of terror and vigilance still kicks in. When it does I scan my surroundings, use my senses to verify my safety in this moment.

I make a point of noticing, with my eyes, my ears, my nose, my nerve endings, that I am not starving, not being assaulted. I can close my apartment door and be alone, safe and warm.

In this moment–the only one there is—there is no danger. I am doing fine.

This identity shift is still underway.
But it is well underway.

I am pleased. Deep rest and relaxation is my birthright.
I reclaim it.

Recap: What Helps Us Shed Old Identities?

Identity shifts vary. Some identity shifts seem effortless, like my bird-friend’s influence on my body. Some are knock-down, drag-out fights, like my wrestle with fatigue.

Identity shifts can be quick, but most are gradual, and some seem to take forever.

What helps us shift old traumatized identities?

Relationships Help.

  • Loving Relationships Help.

Before I loved Zee, I loved other birds. Before I loved birds, I loved animals. The animals that I knew as a kid were sources of resilience and allyship.

I have loved birds since I was thirteen, and before I loved birds I loved my grandpa.
My grandpa, who loved birds, loved me.

  • Trusting Relationships Help. 

My restorative yoga teacher has earned my trust over the years.

Her no-nonsense authority holds the class space. She stands in between me and the door so I can let down my guard.

Her pose-adjustments are respectful, matter-of-fact. She offers support with no strings attached.

Her deep, steady drawl comforts me. Her very presence permits me to rest.

Repeated Practice Over Time Helps.

Repeated practice.

Attending restorative yoga classes for eleven years has strengthened my ability to rest.

Loving and trusting birds for thirty years has made bird-love almost effortless.

Grace Helps.

Experiences I would never ask for. Unwanted, unexpected allies took me places I never dreamed of.

Grace wears us down until we can let those tired, old reactions go.

And now, Gentle Reader,

What in your life needs to die?

Who will you love?
What will you practice?
What will you do when Grace arrives, uninvited?

TRAUMA SURVIVORS & SPIRITUAL AWAKENING PART I

This piece begins a series of inquiries about trauma survivors and the spiritual awakening process. In this series I will be asking questions such as,

How is the spiritual awakening process different for a trauma survivor?  and, What unique wisdom can trauma survivors offer to quicken our collective spiritual awakening?

By trauma survivors, I mean folks who develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after life-threatening experiences.

This includes accidents, medical emergencies, chronic illness, domestic violence, hate violence, sexual assault, oppression (racism, ableism, classism, etc.), attachment disruptions, neglect or abuse (sexual, emotional, physical or spiritual) war, incarceration, torture, displacement, etc.

What do I mean by spiritual awakening? Spiritual awakening is a process that transforms our bodies, hearts and minds from a “me” perspective to “all beings” (including “me!”) or “all that is” perspective.

Awakening is usually gradual, although there may be dramatic milestones.

The most important thing about spiritual awakenings is their viral impact.

As we gradually embody more kindness, wisdom and courage, we become contagious and inspire kindness, wisdom and courage in others.

I have a two-fold purpose in exploring the relationship between trauma survivors and spiritual awakening:

1) I want spiritual guidance to be more accessible to trauma survivors;

2) I believe that the trauma survivor’s spiritual journey is relevant to us all.

  1. Making Spiritual Guidance More Accessible to Trauma Survivors

Humans have developed countless spiritual technologies to suit the particular contexts and temperaments of diverse individuals and cultures.

We need to build on these traditions.

As a trauma survivor and a spiritually inclined person, I find traditional spiritual instructions usually need to be tweaked for us trauma survivors.

* For example, the common introductory meditation practice of “following the breath” is challenging for those of us who hold our breath to keep overwhelming feelings at bay;

Or those whose traumatic experiences involved our airways being cut off. For us, focusing on the breath is an advanced practice.
An alternate “way in” is needed.

* Another issue is meditation instructions that reinforce a trauma-induced tendency to space out or “leave” our bodies.

Accommodations may be needed, such as heavy doses of grounding practice, or gentle somatic practices that help us gradually tolerate and re-inhabit our body sensations.

* Finally, some of us cannot bear to sit still with our thoughts, sensations, and undigested trauma memories waiting to emerge.

Sitting meditation may be counterproductive during the early stages of trauma healing. Movement meditations may be more appropriate.

A relationship to Spirit (something larger than us) is everyone’s birthright. Trauma survivors deserve to have accessible doorways into spiritual practice.

I have learned much about “what works” for me and other trauma survivors, and am eager to share my discoveries.

  1. The Trauma Survivor’s Spiritual Path is Relevant to Us All

Most importantly, the trauma survivor’s journey of awakening is everyone’s journey.

We have entered a time where just about everybody is–or soon will be—immersed in collective socio-political and ecological trauma.

The trauma survivor’s story is now, more than ever, the human story.

Our present context is and will be for the foreseeable future, traumatic. We need to quicken spiritually to muster all the kindness, wisdom and courage we can.

We need to wake up!

Now is the time to learn from trauma survivors, become trauma-savvy, and cultivate spiritual awakening.

Learn from Trauma Survivors

It’s a good time to learn from the people and communities who have survived and thrived during and after individual and collective trauma.

We can study the biographies of trauma survivor-spiritual leaders. There are famous survivor/spiritual teachers, such as the Dalai Lama, Maya Angelou, Hildegard of Bingen, and Thich Nhat Hanh. We can study their lives.

We can learn from our trauma survivor ancestors. People who were able to access love, courage and determination in dire and hopeless situations such as fascism, apartheid or war can teach us about resistance and resilience.

We can learn from communities that have survived genocide, slavery, witchhunts, pogroms and other forms of systemic oppression.

We can look to the people who found the spiritual strength within ongoing trauma to turn things around.


We can learn from the trauma healing/spiritual awakening stories of ordinary trauma survivors. Many ordinary trauma survivors have stories of spiritual awakening to share. We are community resources.

The journey from trauma to spiritual awakening breathes in our cells and tissues. We are living maps.

One principle that this trauma survivor has discovered is, whatever helps heal trauma also builds your spiritual muscles.

Practices that soothe your fight-or-flight reptilian brain, such as bodywork, acupuncture, authentic movement, restorative yoga, tai chi, somatic healing, resting in space and silence, being in nature or with animals, and making music are all excellent preparation for spiritual awakening.

Follow the lead of trauma survivor-activists. Refugees of climate change and global capitalism, island peoples and people with disabilities or chronic illness are the canaries urging us to wake up.

Water Protectors. Dreamers. Black Bodhisattvas who insist their lives matter. These trauma veterans are our spiritual warriors and guides.

Become Trauma-savvy
In times of sweeping socio-political trauma, the collective body is frequently swept away by terror, rage, despair, hunger, cruelty, and our own fight, flight or freeze psychobiology.

Instead of transforming our situations together, we often perish or barely survive.

How did our more resilient ancestors avoid that? Now is a good time to find out!

This time ‘round, many of us are awake to the pitfalls of our survival biology.

We have the precious opportunity to respond creatively and powerfully to the collective triggers, instead of being hijacked by our reptilian brains.

Each of us can learn how to witness ourselves with compassionate eyes when our animal bodies react to protect us from threats.

We can grow our awareness of how we get stuck in those reactions. We can practice shifting our resilient bodies from victimhood to grounded power.

Trauma has always been part of the human story; now it’s been brought into language, and into the light. We are more trauma-savvy than ever before.

We are discovering the neuroscience of trauma. We know, more than ever before, how to empower traumatized individuals and communities. The wisdom is available, so let’s get trauma-savvy!

Cultivate Spiritual Awakening

Spiritual awakening is integral to this moment. Kindness, wisdom and courage enable us to respond to injustice and collective trauma from a creative, non-reactive place.

Spiritual practice and spiritual narratives re-wire our brains over time so that we can access an ever-expanding view of peripheral vision and choice.

Conclusion
The trauma survivor’s path of awakening has become our story. Our story to inhabit and co-shape.

The stakes are the highest–life on earth.
It’s time to activate our collective immune system. Time to unearth our joy and our purpose.

Trauma survivors who have worked deeply with their trauma(s) can teach us how to use trauma to wake up spiritually.

The essential wisdom of the trauma survivor is the certainty that we can visit the terrain of our personal hell and emerge with new tenderness, substance, and grit.

In the writings to come, I will share some personal stories of how I navigate spiritual awakening as a trauma survivor, and how trauma healing and spiritual awakening are reciprocal.

I invite you to share your stories with me, and each other.

I will also share tips and tools for integrating spiritual practice into your daily life, and for befriending your personal trauma story to deepen your awakening.

Remember:
Your whole life has prepared you for this time.
You are ready, and we need you.

TARAKALI EDUCATION SERVICES 2017

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YOU ARE WORTH FIGHTING FOR: AUTOIMMUNE DISORDERS & SELF-LOVE

Learn to forgive, set free the bones;
Touch with your flesh, take off the rubber gloves;

Love like your life depends on it, because it does.

~Michael Franti, Speaking of Tongues


According to a study cited by Bessel van der Kolk, incest survivors such as myself are at risk for autoimmune problems.

Learning this after being diagnosed with two autoimmune disorders led me into a dual, outer/inner inquiry into the psycho-biology of invasive trauma. Here are my reflections.

OUTER INQUIRY

Inflammation and Autoimmune Disorders


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

Autoimmune disorders include vitiligo, pityriasis alba, lichen sclerosus, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, celiac sprue disease, pernicious anemia, scleroderma, inflammatory bowel diseases, Hashimoto’s disease, Addison’s disease, Graves’ disease, Sjögren’s syndrome, type 1 diabetes and possibly multiple sclerosis.

Autoimmune conditions manifest as overwrought immune systems and chronic inflammation. Inflammation is the body’s “fight” response to infection or invasion. Chronic inflammation is like being in perpetual fight mode.

You could say that autoimmune disease is a state of perpetual self-fight where the body treats itself as an enemy. This metaphor of self-attack or self-hate is congruent with psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) studies (summarized by PNI doctor Mario Martinez) that connect shame with inflammation.

According to Martinez’ Biocognitive Model of Immunology, human biology is shaped by our cultural beliefs. One example of this is how the varying cultural beliefs and language associated with menopause produce different perimenopause experiences for women.

Martinez notes that the Chinese term for menopause is “second spring.” In Japanese it is “the turn of life.” In these Asian countries, menopause is viewed as a natural season of life.

In Peru and other South American countries, the term for hot flashes is bochorno, or “shame.”

Interestingly, Chinese and Japanese women experience far less pain and inflammation (which PNI associates with shame) during perimenopause then Peruvian and other South American women do.

Dr. Martinez recommends that we be aware of our inherited cultural messages, and consciously affirm language and beliefs that encourage wellness.

Dr. Martinez’ Biocognitive Model is aligned with the Tibetan Buddhist perspective that says “Everything is a projection of our own mind.”

Inflamed Boundaries; Inflamed Immune System

Child sexual abuse survivors and other PTSD survivors tend to over-defend (or under-defend) against violation long after a traumatic invasion.

I have written previously about how we respond somatically and inter-relationally to situations and people that remind us of the initial trauma.

The traumatized body recreates traumatic experiences by projecting them onto the present, and interpreting low-stakes situations as threats. Our system becomes “inflamed” with reactivity.

Trauma also generates interpersonal boundary problems. This shows up as porous energy boundaries and difficulties with clearly communicating “yes,” “no” or “maybe.”

Trauma survivors’ boundaries are often too rigid or too permeable. We may respond to everything with “no” (consciously or unconsciously), or be unable to say “no” at all. Neither extreme supports the safety and connection that we need to thrive.

With allergies and other immune imbalances, our biology is doing something analogous to “saying no to everything”. Again, inflammation is the body’s response to infection or invasion.

In the case of allergies, our body interprets foreign bodies like pollen, foods, fragrances, etc. as hostile attacks on the body. Our hypervigilant immune system over-reacts and over-protects us with the huge somatic “No!” of inflammation.

We know that incest survivors are vulnerable to systemic inflammation and autoimmune diseases. I wonder, are survivors also prone to allergies?

Does the violated body superimpose its history of traumatic invasion onto benign substances, and then stimulate allergic “No!” reactions?

And what about survivors of other violating traumas, such sexual assault, “stop and frisk,” immigrant detentions, and other invasive forms of oppression?

Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) studies and Lifetime Exposure to Violence and Abuse studies add richness to this inquiry.

These studies link cumulative child and adult experiences of neglect, violence and abuse to increased incidence of illness.

We can extrapolate from these studies to include the social traumas of racism, ableism, classism, sexism and other oppressions.

Since oppressive micro and macro aggressions are also forms of violence and abuse, they must impact the immune systems of targeted children and adults.

It seems that abuse, violence and oppression can become internalized as low self-esteem and shame in our psyches, and as inflammation and autoimmune disease in our bodies.

“White Raven’s Moonlit Flight” blanket by April White
INNER INQUIRY

If My Body is Attacking Itself, What is My Mind Doing?


I have been pursuing a parallel, internal inquiry: If everything is a projection of my own mind, and my body is producing autoimmune problems, what is my mind projecting?

This is not a New Age-y, “You create your own reality” question. It is a curious question arising from both mind and body.
.
Remembering Mario Martinez, I explore this question by paying attention to my habitual self-attacking thoughts and beliefs.

When I am still inside, I can “overhear” a self-punishing undercurrent. It’s a ceaseless critique of my failings, my unfinished to do lists, my physical pain and life challenges.

If I listen closely, this ruthless voice reminds me of my father’s infamous lecture-interrogation marathons. We couldn’t leave, not even to go to the bathroom. Hours of this left my siblings and I fainting with fatigue. No wonder my inner critic has such stamina!

Other times I hear my mother’s sharp, guilt-inducing tones, or my sister’s accusations. Although I have not heard these voices for years, my mind recreates them.

Other self-attacks take the form of thoughts that frighten and discourage me, such as “I will never get out from under this (problem),” or “What a strange pain!—it must be cancer!”

How insidiously these thoughts tear me down. How exhausting it is to worry, worry, worry. My mind fusses like a badgering micromanager, an inconsolable baby.

It fusses over my housework backlog, predicting the dire consequences of unwashed dishes or dusty shelves: (“Dust collects toxins! How can you ignore it!”)

My mind fusses over my perimenopausal fatigue and inertia (“This cannot be normal!”), and my uneven exercise routine (“Why are you so lazy?”). It fusses over every imperfection. Wow.

How can I expect my immune system to protect me, to recognize me as friend while my mind habitually attacks me? I am setting a bad example.

It’s time to find new ways of talking to myself.

A Declaration of Peace

Recently I blamed and shamed myself for being in a difficult situation. Then I heaped on more self-criticism for my reactions. Finally, I was fed up.

I told myself and my inner child, “It stops here…I absolutely refuse to make myself miserable about my situation or my response to it.”

I declared an end to the war on myself.

Hey body, let’s stop attacking me.
Hey cells, can we be loveable?
Adorable, even?

Since this declaration, something is shifting. This shift is subtle and slow. Easy to miss. Yet things are different. For instance, sometimes I find myself surprisingly likeable.

The self-hating attacks subside. In the quiet, my nature is revealed.

More often now,
I savor what I used to dismiss in myself:

  • I compose ditties on the spot, sing them to my parrot, with my whole heart. And instantly forget them. There’s always more.
  • I invent nourishing meals and nurturing herbal concoctions.
  • I am good company. I find myself funny and warm. How strange to enjoy me! Like a door opened and I stepped through.
  • It thrills me to make beautiful, useful and healing things: 
  • Yummy food and drink, songs, essays, parrot obstacle courses, outdoor adventures. Ramps and carriers for disabled birds, workshops for activists and lovers, self-care interventions, authentic movements…each creation conjured with care.

I see my nature.
I am a creator. A sower of life.

I am inclined to rest in stillness and write slowly, reflectively, or angrily, passionately;

I am inclined to meditate. To walk in the wind and sun and rain. To love what I see, and share it with Zee.

It’s my Nature.

More often now,
I savor what I used to disparage in myself:

  • I look in the mirror and I see sensitive eyes. Wisdom and humor. Hey, I am kinda cute. How strange! This perimenopausal femme usually sees fatigue, wrinkles and gravity in the mirror.
  • Cuteness!?!  Wow. Truly, “everything is a projection of our own mind.”
  • My appetite for life spawns messy messes all around me. Bits of paper from spontaneous projects. Piles of dishes from cooking sprees.
  • Parrots are prolifically messy, spreading seeds and pollen to locations near and far. I am always discovering carrot crumbs and kale shreds on my furniture, in my clothes. Gory pomegranate stains in my shower. 
  • I find parrot messes acceptable, adorable, even.
  • What about my generative chaos? Why aren’t my messes adorable?
  • It’s a life changing question.
  • Now I see my messiness is a by-product of my creativity and passion for diversity; a product of my aspirations. I want to do ALL the things.
  • Lately I can view my flaws fondly instead of tragically. I gaze where I used to scrutinize.

As old mental habits fall away,
I see my behaviors and their consequences differently.

I see the consequences that are off-shoots of my nature:
The consequences of my tsunami nature crashing into my PTSD-shaped body.

The consequences that I used to self-surveil, self-terrorize, obsessively analyze are amusing, endearing.

I have declared peace on myself.

A Body That Loves Itself
This armored body melts.
Behaviors and consequences soften into “the music of what happens.”

Even my bird companion is more relaxed. Hmmmm.

How on earth did this happen?

I know that practice is key–
–Is it decades of being a bird-mom to quirky, unfathomable feather people?
Is it years of providing space for their safety and self-expression?

Now the bird-mom mothers me! I provide space for this quirky, unknowable me.

Oh self-attacking immune system, this body, this me is NOT a problem. Not a threat. (My parents misperceived me. It was a mistake.) I am a forgiveable human.

More than forgiveable, I am lovely and amazing.
My presence is as precious as any flower or bird. Any cloud.

Immune system, protect me, all of me, from disdain and worry!

Immune system, I grant you permission to cherish me, ALL of me:

The pain, the fatigue, the works in progress, the despair, the creakiness, the default distrust, the spiritual epiphanies and awakenings, the piles of unwashed dishes, my art, my mistakes, myhealing at my own damn pace.

All of it, worthy of love.

Immune system, I am worth fighting for, not against.

Fight for me!


Resources:

The Mind Body Code by Dr. Mario Martinez
The Body Keeps the Score by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk
Embracing Each Moment by Anam Thubten

You can book somatic coaching appointments with Dr. Vanissar Tarakali through www.vanissar.com

“The Pure Potentiality for All Possible (Wo)Manifestations”

On the morning of election day, since I cannot vote, I did some intensive “feeding the demons” practice, to feed any and all demons associated with this election, so that they would be satiated, at peace, and release their hold on folks.

Sometimes when I do this practice for people who are ill or facing surgery or obstacles, I receive intuitions or visions about them.

During this practice focused on the election, I saw many mischievous dakinis dancing around, well….mischievously.

 

[From Wikipedia: In Tibetan Buddhism. The khandroma (dakini), generally of volatile or wrathful temperament, acts somewhat as spiritual muse for spiritual practice. Dakinis are energetic beings in female form, evocative of the movement of energy in space. In this context, the sky or space indicates śūnyatā, the insubstantiality of all phenomena, which is, at the same time, the pure potentiality for all possible manifestations.]

 

These dakinis were delightedly trashing everything. Tearing *everything* down.  And raising hell.

They let me know, rather casually, that they were ushering in the feminine principle, bringing about the ascendance of feminine energy to guide the world. Their mood was playful, powerful and comforting. But also, rowdy. Messy.

I confess: I quickly jumped to, “Okay, Hillary Clinton is going to win.” Wrong.

But I trust dakinis.

It certainly has been a mischievous time so far.

I sense many twists and turns up ahead, We cannot know all the possibilities, we cannot see what will unfold. We might be surprised. We might be the surprise!

We have a precious opportunity to co-shape the “music of what happens” moment by moment. The universe is an unpredictable dance partner, and so are we, Who knows what we will do?!

Your Triggers Are Your Spiritual Practice

 
“The most beautiful music is the music of what happens.” Fionn MacCumhaill
Have you ever heard spiritual teachers say, “Take what is in front of you as the path” or, “Whatever shows up in your life is exactly what you need”?

I’ve always found this advice rather vague, especially during difficult times. As a trauma survivor who gets triggered, I need more specific guidance.

When things happen that trigger my deepest wounds, what am I supposed to do with that? I used to focus on finding relief as soon as possible: “I cannot bear this–I want to feel better!”

When things are intolerable, that is still my go-to response.
In fact, learning how to consistently change our triggered states and “feel better” is the foundation of trauma healing work.

But more often these days I realize that my triggers are here to help me wake up. I am less concerned with “feeling better” or “getting what I want.”

Instead, I want to deepen my trust in Life and practice co-shaping each moment. It’s a bigger container from which to work, and a permission-granting approach to life.

This is well and good, but still not specific enough! Not when I am dealing with an in-your-face, painful trigger.

I had time to reflect on what is specific enough while on retreat. As any good retreat will do, it presented me with situations that triggered me profoundly. <Sigh>

One of them was an invasion of bugs in my room at night. To me they looked a lot like the cockroaches I had lived with decades before.

Cockroaches are not the worst thing. But I have a history with persistent, invasive bug infestations.

These experiences were amplified by landlords and neighbors whose negligence caused the infestations, and who refused to take responsibility for them.

I was left to suffer and struggle on my own for weeks or months.

In one case, I lived with 30-90 fiery-itchy new bites each day and little sleep each night, for six weeks.

In the other case, I endured 7 months of bites, sleeplessness, expensive and exhausting treatment protocols, and the loss of beloved and useful possessions.

In both cases, I had to research, gather samples and repeatedly consult with my county’s vector scientists to identify the source of the problem.

Finally I was able to compel my landlords to act like grown-ups and protect me, their tenant. All this while I was itchy, paranoid and sleep-deprived.

So, cockroaches in my retreat room? Compared to bedbugs or rat mites, not a big deal! Smaller scale and less worrisome in every way.

Yet I slept badly that night. In the morning, I felt undone, defenseless.
Bugs were invading my space again–the kind of bugs I could take home with me!

While my heart pounded, I worried and strategized: would the caretaker believe me? Would she act like a responsible grown-up and protect me from bringing them home? An all-too-raw, familiar dilemma.

Indeed, she did not believe me at first, and refused to let me use the washer/dryer or give me garbage bags to protect my stuff. She compared the one (squashed) sample I was able to show her with internet photos and confidently told me “that is not a cockroach.”

I was not convinced.

But it was my birthday, during a much-anticipated silent retreat. I decided to let it go and accept her verdict for now.

I devoted the day to doing what I love: spiritual practice, cooking, hiking, journaling, hanging out with trees, critters and the music of what happens. I gently made room for my highly triggered state.

My body felt over-the-top scared, isolated and trapped. I walked the trails on the land, sobbing my heart out. The bottom fell out, and I was taken back again, but deeper this time–

-Back to the time my caregivers would not pick me up at night for three months straight, dismissing my cries of distress until my ear infection was diagnosed (that ear has been fragile ever since).

Back to when I was a toddler being physically and sexually misused, and never rescued.

Back to those early lessons of how futile it was to ask for help from all-powerful, oblivious adults.

I listened to my younger self and held her as she/I wept. I witnessed the despair my body carries.

There on those sunny, dusty pathways, I made a resolution. I refused, absolutely refused to make myself worried, scared or miserable about the current situation or my response to it. No more blame or shame. It stops here.

Instead, I moved swiftly to soothe the dread and contraction in my body. “Things are scary, and I don’t know what’s next, but you are going to be okay, and you are doing fine.”

Now I was the responsible grown-up. When that young one cried and asked for comfort, I simply gave it.  I wandered the straw-gold trails and sat in the sun-dappled forest, singing to my little one. I immersed us in green beauty until we were saturated.

The day became a sweet journey, a rebirth-day brimming with love. As night fell, I rested in ease and stillness.

(And I caught some bugs in a jar which I gave to the caretaker the next morning. She called an exterminator and allowed me to take the necessary precautions.)

Out of this experience I found language that helps me accept my triggered states as the perfect path, as exactly what I need.
This work in progress is how I am expressing it so far:
  • When I get triggered, it’s time to matter-of-factly accept the triggered state as my work to do, the work at hand, the path in front of me. It is here, and it is mine. I will treat it as a sacred text to study, as my personal spiritual practice.
  • I will not waste this opportunity. I won’t scold myself or tell myself I am overreacting. I will not try to distract myself from the pain.
  • Actually, I probably will do all that. If I do, I will try to be kind to myself. And then, as soon as I can, I will do my work. Start unwinding the knot.
  • I will try to remember that once I stop being incredulous that I am so triggered, and accept this opportunity to heal, all kinds of inner and outer support will show up. (Perhaps the perfect song will play on the radio to give me comfort or help me`express my dilemma.)

The outer support that showed up on my birthday came from the land and the animals. Everyone gave my miserable little one friendly greetings. Mobs of quails appeared everywhere I went, warbling quizzically. Lizards sunned themselves close to me. A chipmunk popped out of a bush to eat her lunch with me. Sunlit trees swayed above; the oldest ones let me lean against them.

  • There are many practices that I can use to work with my triggers:
    • Solo practices, like Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), Internal Family Systems (IFS) work, authentic movement and journaling.
    • Guided/supported practices, like somatic psychotherapy, EMDR, Hakomi, craniosacral bodywork, Somatic Experiencing, and Internal Family Systems (IFS) work with a therapist.
  • I work with triggers to restore my creative power, and to deepen my trust in Life.
  • Here are two ways to describe what trigger work is all about:
    • 1. From a generative somatics perspective, I can view my triggers as moments when life grabs me and yanks me off balance.
    • The idea is to welcome the grab, to welcome my off-balance reactions, and to feel all of it, as vividly as I can, as pure sensation in my body. I can thank my body for her swift, protective reaction.
    • In other words, I do not need to resist my body’s involuntary fight, flight or freeze reactions. I can simply welcome them.
    • The next step–which becomes easier when I can experience thesensations of my reactivity—is to reclaim my body from the grab. I “take my body back.”
    • 2. Another way to describe trigger work is: 
    • “I imagine gathering up my scared or sad or angry little one. I embrace the places in my body (throat/chest/ legs, etc.) that hold my wounds.
    • I welcome the sensations of terror or grief wherever and however they show up.
    • I imagine I have vast, broad arms which scoop up all these wild emotions/sensations and cradle them. As I practice this, I can see my body, heart and mind unfolding and opening up.”
  • With practice, as trigger work becomes an embodied habit, I make some amazing discoveries:
    • I see how precisely the triggering incident mirrors the early life experiences that were my foundation.The present-day details are so perfect that I cannot help but re-experience that old familiar wound. How amazing!
    • I see that triggers are rare opportunities to unearth and reclaim a forgotten younger or previous me, and to finally give them the love and attention that they are hungry for.
    • I *sometimes* feel gratitude towards the incident/person that brought this buried trauma into my awareness so that it can be seen, known and purified. [Thanks, cockroaches!]

I get it now.

Whatever shows up in my life, *especially* things that trigger my early traumas are truly, exactly what I need. Each trigger is a precious opportunity.

When I can turn my body toward the discomfort and stay awake, old wounds begin transforming, slowly but surely, into beauty and potency.

Much gratitude to Phyllis Pay & Denise Benson
You can contact Dr. Vanissar Tarakali or schedule somatic/intuitive coaching appointments through www.vanissar.com

TRANSFORMING RACISM & OPPRESSION: A SELECTION OF READINGS

In this time of instant local and global video communication, the longstanding racial divide in North America is visible for all to see.

This is an opportunity for myself and other white people to ask ourselves how we passively or actively permit hate-mongering rhetoric, violence and brutality directed at Black people, Muslim people, Latinx people, First Nations people, Asian and Pacific Islander people, immigrants of color, and trans people of color.

If we believe that Black children should be able to play in public parks without being shot down; if we believe that Black women and men should be able to commit minor traffic/vehicle violations without being murdered;

If we believe Black and Brown and Muslim and immigrant and trans folks of color have the right to practice their religion, drive cars, use public restrooms, go to their jobs, raise their children, embody their authentic gender, breathe, and simply exist, then it’s time to do something.

What each of us does will depend on our resources, health, access and skills, but it is time to:

Do some self-education/self-reflection:

http://www.jardanapeacock.com/uploads/1/6/1/9/16192474/practice_showing_up.pdf

http://www.coming-together.org/what-can-we-do-to-dismantle-racism/take-other-actions/20-small-steps-for-white-people/

and/or

Take action.

We can work with other white folks:

http://collectiveliberation.org/

http://www.showingupforracialjustice.org/about

https://www.facebook.com/events/267794383612864/

We can support movements led by people of color:

https://policy.m4bl.org/

http://merinc.org/solidarity-against-islamophobia/

https://www.aclu.org/issues/immigrants-rights#act

http://www.narf.org/our-work/promotion-human-rights/

http://mashable.com/2016/06/12/transgender-women-of-color-ally/#2GtVBO22_aqB

As a white person, I believe it’s my job to support other white people to co-create a racially just world with people of color.

One way I do this is by coaching white anti-racist educators and activists, and supporting them to work through the traumas that undermine their effectiveness and joy in life.

I also do this by offering Healing Oppression workshops.

Finally, I support white people to co-create racial justice by sharing my research and writing.

Resources for Challenging and Dismantling Oppression

If you are exploring what it means to be an over-privileged person (ie. a white person or man or able-bodied person or citizen in this racist, sexist, ableist, anti-immigrant culture) then these resources are for you.

If you straddle both privileged and oppressed identities, these resources are also for you.

If you want insight into what stops you from integrating social justice activities into your daily life, if you want to practice new behaviors that support the liberation of oppressed people, then these writings are for you.

Finally, if you want somatic and psychological insight into how folks with privilege “tick,” these writings are for you.

Intro to the Two Lists of Articles

Oppression operates at institutional, cultural and individual levels. Healing oppression involves collective efforts to shift social and institutional structures. It cannot be a solo or merely psychological endeavor.

However, since my area of expertise is helping folks heal their bodies, spirits and psyches, my writings emphasize the somatic, psychological and trauma-informed aspects of healing oppression.

I prepare individuals and groups to access self-love, self-awareness, accountability, and resilience as they engage in collective, cross-difference collaborations to create structural changes (policies, laws, funding, reparations, etc.).

I believe that this approach complements other approaches to dismantling oppression, because we interact with institutions, culture and each other with our bodies and psyches. And it is our collective bodies and psyches that create social change.

Feel free to share this article and these lists with your communities. If you share excerpts of my writing, please credit me as the source. Thank you.

List # 1: Resources for White People Who Want to Challenge Racism 

These articles have specifically been written from my perspective as a white person speaking with other white people about our white privilege and racism.

  1. Towards A Psychology of Unlearning Racism: A Case Study of a Buddhist Unlearning Racism Course for White People

http://www.vanissar.com/blog/a-psychology-of-unlearning-racism/

This is my dissertation from 2006. It describes and makes theory from observations and pre and post participant interviews of a Buddhist Unlearning Racism course for white people that I created and co-facilitated in 2000.

Full of mistakes and lessons learned, with some useful tips for folks who want to educate and motivate white people to take anti-racist action. If you are looking for a specific topic, there is a detailed Table of Contents.

  1. Interview with Urusa Fahim, Ph.D.

http://www.vanissar.com/blog/2007-interview-with-vanissar-tarakali-by-urusa-fahim-diversity-coordinator-at-spirit-rock-meditation-center/

Urusa Fahim, a clinical psychologist and Transformative Learning professor, was the Diversity and Outreach Coordinator at Spirit Rock Meditation Center at the time of this interview.

She asked me about what I learned from my dissertation research about the psychology of how white people unlearn racism, and the role that Buddhist practices can play in facilitating that awakening.

  1. Signs and Symptoms of White Racial Shame (Otherwise Known as Shame Survival Strategies)

http://www.vanissar.com/blog/signs-and-symptoms-of-white-racial-shame-otherwise-known-as-shame-survival-strategies/

A cheat sheet taken from my dissertation research conclusions, about the predictable biology-based behaviors that white people employ to avoid feeling shame about our/our ancestors’ participation in racism and white supremacy. Useful for identifying what white racial shame looks like and how it reinforces racism.

  1. From White Racial Shame to Empathy for People of Color Part 1

http://www.vanissar.com/blog/from-white-racial-shame-to-empathy-for-people-of-color-part-i/

The relationship between shame and lack of empathy in all humans, and how shame reinforces oppression. I describe some methods for awakening cross-racial empathy in white people.

This article includes suggestions for communicating effectively with liberal white people about racism, and motivating them to take anti-racist action.

  1. From White Racial Shame to Empathy for People of Color Part 2

http://www.vanissar.com/blog/from-white-racial-shame-to-empathy-for-people-of-color-part-ii/

Theory and practical information on how white people can cultivate a virtuous cycle to increase both our self-compassion and our empathy for people of color.

  1. Awareness of Unfairness: Thawing Out From Internalized Dominance

http://www.vanissar.com/blog/awareness-of-unfairness-thawing-out-from-internalized-dominance/

How children are conditioned and numbed into accepting oppression and the oppressor role. The “thawing out” from numbness-to-injustice journey.  Practices to support that journey.

  1. Obstacles to Being an Ally

http://www.vanissar.com/blog/obstacles-to-being-an-ally/

A personal essay about how my own history of personal and social trauma kept me from being an effective ally/accomplice to people of color.

  1. Unraveling the Armor of Privilege

http://www.vanissar.com/blog/unraveling-the-armor-of-privilege/

How being conditioned into the privileged/oppressor role traumatizes us, and causes us to build up somatic armor to survive that trauma. A somatic explanation of why it is difficult to “give up” privilege.

How to unravel these layers of defensive armor in order to reclaim our humanity and sense of connection with all people.

List # 2: Resources for People Who Want to Transform Oppression 

This second list includes articles about oppression that are relevant for folks who inhabit privileged and/or targeted positions in society.

These articles apply somatic, spiritual and trauma-informed wisdom to support collective efforts to heal and transform oppression, and look at the individual, interpersonal and inter-group dynamics of folks who are healing from internalized dominance and/or internalized oppression.

Two of the articles from the first list are repeated here, since they straddle both categories.

  1. Surviving Oppression; Healing Oppression

http://www.vanissar.com/blog/surviving-oppression-healing-oppression/

A look at how ancestral, community-wide oppression survival strategies both take care of and limit those of us who have inherited them. How to honor and move beyond old survival strategies to create a just world.

  1. From Victim Body to Creative Body

http://www.vanissar.com/blog/from-victim-body-to-creative-body/

A somatic perspective on how oppression robs our bodily sense of agency, and how to reclaim that agency.

  1. For Occupy Oakland: Why Meet in Separate Groups?

http://www.vanissar.com/blog/for-occupy-decolonize-oakland-why-meet-in-separate-groups/

A brief essay on why it is important for white people and people of color to do their initial unlearning racism/recovering from racism work in separate spaces.

  1. Awareness of Unfairness: Thawing Out From Internalized Dominance

http://www.vanissar.com/blog/awareness-of-unfairness-thawing-out-from-internalized-dominance/

(described above)

  1. Unraveling the Armor of Privilege

http://www.vanissar.com/blog/unraveling-the-armor-of-privilege/

(described above)

  1. 10 Ways That Shame and Blame Hurts Social Justice Efforts

http://www.vanissar.com/blog/10-ways-shame-blame-hurts-social-justice-efforts/

The dangers of and antidotes to the shame and blame that shows up in social justice communities.

The last three articles bridge spiritual practice and social justice work. 

  1. Sacred Disruptions

http://www.vanissar.com/blog/sacred-disruptions/

An exploration of the role that shake-ups and disruptions play in spiritual awakening and social transformation.

  1. Bring Forth What Is Within You Part 1.

http://www.vanissar.com/blog/bring-forth-what-is-within-you-or-how-to-tame-your-evil-twin-part-i/

The importance of continually unearthing our blindspots and implicit biases, for the sake of spiritual growth and social justice.

  1. Working with Contraction: Practices to Sustain Social Change (with Buddhist Peace Fellowship)

http://www.turningwheelmedia.org/tag/vanissar-tarakali/

Individual and group body-based, trauma-savvy practices for sustaining resilience in Engaged Buddhist and social justice activist communities.

I hope you find something useful here.

Be well,

Vanissar

Feel free to share this article and these lists with your communities. If you share excerpts of my writing, please credit me as the source. Thank you.

Click here to book a Somatic & Intuitive coaching session with Dr. Vanissar Tarakali. 

Trauma Survivors in Love (TSIL) Learning Opportunities

Hi Friends,

Many of you have told me that my recent TSIL blogs and workshops are meeting an urgent need. I am thrilled and inspired to hear this!

I am currently creating a Trauma Survivors in Love online course to make this information more widely accessible. Would you like to know when it is up and running?

In the meantime, here are my current & upcoming TSIL offerings:

1) TSIL “Date Nights” (Q & A Sessions) on Periscope

2) TSIL Livestream Coaching Hours

3) TSIL Workshop in Oakland, CA

4) TSIL Blog, Parts 1-4: http://www.vanissar.com/blog/?s=trauma+survivors

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TRAUMA SURVIVORS IN LOVE (TSIL) on Periscope:

Visit Periscope.TV to watch on these 20 minute live broadcasts.

Dr. Tarakali will offer tips and answer questions for trauma survivors in love and their partners.

July’s TSIL “Date Nights” & “Brunch Dates” on Periscope TV:

TSIL Date Night Wednesday, July 13, 9 pm Pacific Time

TSIL Date Night Friday, July 22, 9 pm Pacific Time

TSIL Brunch Date Sunday July 31 11:30 am Pacific Time

Follow @VanissarTara on twitter for Periscope announcements

 

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


TRAUMA SURVIVORS IN LOVE COACHING HOURS

Nourishing Practices for Skittish Partners

*LIVESTREAM* COACHING DATES:

Wednesday, July 27, 11 am PST

Thursday, August 18, 11 am PST

Friday, September 23, 11 am PST

Intimate relationships are our birthright. But the neurobiology of relational trauma (neglect, attachment trauma, abuse & oppression) can hijack our hearts & derail mutual trust. 

Dr. Tarakali will offer the group somatic & intuitive tools to soothe hypervigilance and coach 1 or 2 participants on their TSIL issues.

 Cost: $25-$45 sliding scale

Register: vanissar@cs.com or (510) 594-6812

Feedback from recent TSIL workshop participants:

“What a relief to know I’m not the only one. I feel less alone.”

“When I hear other folks are going through this too, I realize nothing is wrong with me.”

**********************************************8
Coming in September:

Trauma Survivors in Love Workshop

Thursday September 29, 7-9 pm
in North Oakland

Vanissar’s mission is to teach as many people as possible how to befriend their bodies, for the sake of all beings.  If you support my mission, please tell your friends about Tarakali Education. Thank you! 

Somatic Education for Healing & Social Change

www.vanissar.com

On Facebook: Tarakali Education

You Are a Force of Nature

(FOR US WORRIER-WARRIORS)

 

Today I am writing to myself. It is what I most need to hear.

(You are welcome to eavesdrop.)

You are a force of nature.You. Are. A force of nature. Like a pea sprout, a flame, a windspiral. Like a geyser, a water spout.

You are a garter snake, a grizzly bear. A spider. A whale. Among other things.

Rise up, out of the earth. Don’t be a cowed critter, frozen to the spot.

Even prey animals relax and play, irrepressible forces of nature that they are.

That predator politician you fear? They are also a force of nature.

Life spores out of the soil, creates you, creates them, too. Life creates mischief!

Life is a shitstorm, a wildfire, a cataclysm. Among other things.

Do not fear that politician. That woman. That man. Do not suck in their narrowness and greed.

Remember? You are a force of nature. Nature is unruly, unpredictable. Dangerous. So are you.

Does every-one around you tell you to be afraid?
It’s time to listen to every-thing around you.

Did the scary words, the harsh voices, reach inside your lizard brain and set off the smoke alarm?

Now, every day is perma-panic.
Perma-panic means no peripheral vision.

It means you think you have some small something to lose, defend, concave around.

No, my friend. Pull off the racehorse blinkers.
You are a force of nature, remember?

Life shot you out of the earth, like a spore, exploding with hilarity. Awe.

You are a force of nature. A water lolling otter. A robo-feathered Bird of Paradise. Among other things.

The goodnews and badnews are the same:

The earth is groaning. Losing her cool, shedding pieces of herself. Losing her balance.

You feel her in your shocked adrenals, your grief-struck immune system.

She feels like droopy glaciers, methane plumes, burnt-tar sands, wilting forests, drowning islands.

It’s collapse time.
Transformation time.

Earth is finding and re-finding her feet.

You can feel her in your lake-swimming-arms, your ready-to-relax-back.

She feels like tick eating possums, resilient butterflies, resurrected parrots,
terrorized girls who refuse to terrorize, superhero fungi, community immune systems.

It’s transformation time. Roar-together time.

Time for us small forces of nature to demand kindness and care.

Online stories tell you, the news tells you, “Be afraid.” Some of us forces of nature carry grudges and guns. Have gone fearful.

Some of us forces of nature stoke that fear, fear of change,

Inexorable change;
change the destroyer;
life-giving change.

Animal brains seized by terror, animal bodies bleating, bodies squeak-speaking directly toyour animal brain!

Must you react? Freeze like a deer?

Must you plead and placate, attack and berate, stampede and hurry, disavow and worry, worry, worry?

Take a breath. Remember, each fearful one is a force of nature just like you.

Every one of us, Life’s little farts popping out of the earth.

(Life is a five-year-old. Among other things.)

Life is unruly, unpredictable. Dangerous. Tender and generous. Just like you.

Even you, oh force of nature, constantly air-kiss death’s cheek. You blanche like coral, frost like butterflies.

While Life, your not-so-subtle dance partner, shimmies her razor sequins, million arms vogueing, each flourish not-quite-killing-you.

And you, little force of nature, are Her chosen partner. Will you dance?

Will your eyes glow in audacious-intimate answer, like the purple one?

Do not worry about austerity, rigged elections, drones, oil-fires, bail-ins.

Do not worry. Stay awake, like a meadow mouse.
But do not worry.

Raise some hell. Adorn yourself. Yodel. Show up and be a proud spore. A spore on a mission.

Be the merry mouse, grazing the meadow. Tasting each bite as she watches the skies.

Be nectar-wired, humming bird boisterous.

Afraid of dying? You will.
Somehow, somewhen.
So what?

Be like the sparrow, nibbling grass seed.
Be the force of nature that you are.

Forces of nature do all kinds of stuff. They make up silly songs. Feel rage and grief. Among other things.

Forces of nature can put their bodies in front of what they love. You can, too.

Some forces fight like a girl-bird who never backs down. You can, too.

Fight and rest and play and pray as if you are as dead serious, as sacred, as substantial as

that undead coral reef;
those shivering monarchs;
the bees that lost their way.

It’s time, force of nature! Shake off your fur, fluff out your feathers. Yowl your Declaration.

C’mon.
Prince showed us how. Berta Caceres showed us.The ocean, the land shows us.

How to be forces of nature.

WHAT ABOUT FEAR?

Fear is okay. But don’t stop there.

Ask the small birds and fuzzy critters. Fear comes and says, “Run, hide, wait, hold your breath, flash your beak, show your claws.”

Good idea, fear!
Fear is just Life choosing to live.

When prey animals see the shadow in the sky, hear the rustling grass, they do the fear things. To live.

After danger passes, or passes through and consumes someone, it’s back to sip and munch, mate and nest, squabble and cuddle.

Back to savor sun and wind in fur on feathers. Joy awake. Being a force of nature.

You, too. You are a force of nature. Those human forces of nature cannot scare you to early death.

They cannot stop your movement.
Your Movements.

Be afraid.
Be everything else as well.

How? Listen to the creator-destroyer.

She is louder, more terrible, sweeter, more sublime, more deadly-insistent than any human force of nature could ever be.

Here is your practice:

Turn off those scary voices for an hour.  A day.

Sit, stand or lie where you are.
Plug into your spot.

Back to the spot you shot out of, when Life popped up as you.

Plug in and breathe the fire, the water, the nectar, the soil, the space.

Do not say, “Yeah, but…” to me! I know everyone of those 50 million hungry ghost “yeah, but”s.

“Yeah, but” can wait. It is time to shut up and listen.

You cannot talk yourself out of this mess. We cannot talk us out of this mess.

We cannot talk ourselves out of this messy, messy mess.

Drop into your spot—your sweet spore spot.

The spot where the earth waits for you. Rest down. Breathe down. Listen in, Listen out. Rest.

It’s urgent. Urgently slow down. Breathe.

Soon, very soon, you will not need this reminder.  Not you, a force of nature.

But for now, let the earth hold you.
Breathe you.

Dream you,
‘Til you remember what you are here for.
What are you here for?

You know what you are here for:

To burrow into your spot and pop out, right-on-time.

To sob-hiccup-croon these words out of your critter body; share them with the other forces of nature.

You are here to do all the daily things.

Make breakfast with a parrot hanging from your sleeve;

Mend that broken bike basket;

Dance your feelings;

Cuddle your over-wrought adrenals.

Do all the things, you force of nature.

You force of nature.

*****

You can contact Dr. Vanissar Tarakali or make a coaching appointment via www.vanissar.com or at Tarakali Education on Facebook