I have added some new services to my practice to accommodate diverse needs and budgets.
- Body-Whispering Session
A laser-focus, non-verbal intuitive bodywork session that goes to the heart of the matter.
45 mins. $100. By appointment.
- Somatics & Spirit Meditations
Guided meditation followed by optional Somatic & Intuitive Coaching to support your spiritual journey & practice. Fridays, 7-8:30 pm. Suggested Donation: $25. NOTAFLOF
- Spiritual Guidance/Mentoring
By mutual arrangement & application process. Contact Dr. Tarakali to apply.
COMPLETE LIST OF 2017 SERVICES/FEES:
1) Somatic & Intuitive Coaching*
For trauma healing, spiritual growth, social justice support, vocational support, chronic pain/illness, etc. Sessions may include somatic & intuitive bodywork, generative somatics practices and interventions, intuitive guidance, and practical homework.
60 mins. $140. Or 4 sessions for $525.
*Optional: Avian Assisted Coaching
2) Intuitive Reading*
A download of information read from your energy field. Bring a recording device.
60 mins. $140.
*Optional: Avian Assisted
*Optional: Bird Essences
3) Intuitive-Energetic Bodywork
60 mins. $140.
4) Body-Whispering Session
Laser-focused, non-verbal intuitive bodywork session that goes to the heart of the matter.
45 mins. $100.
5) Monthly Workshops
120 mins. $55.
6) Small Group Somatic & Intuitive Coaching
Read the description
8 x 90 min sessions.
$400- $520 sliding scale.
7) Somatics & Spirit Meditations
Guided group meditations & optional somatic coaching to support your spiritual practice. Fridays, 7-8:30 pm.
Suggested Donation: $25. NOTAFLOF
8) Spiritual Guidance/Mentoring
By mutual arrangement & application.
Contact Dr. Tarakali to apply.
9) Monthly Newsletter/Blog
Free. Donations welcome.
Most services are available over the phone or skype or zoom as well as in person.
To make an appointment with Dr. Vanissar Tarakali, register for a workshop or find access information, click here.
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.
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.”
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?
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.
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.
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 cells, can we be loveable?
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.
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!
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
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?!
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.)
- 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:
- 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.
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:
We can work with other white folks:
We can support movements led by people of color:
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.
Towards A Psychology of Unlearning Racism: A Case Study of a Buddhist Unlearning Racism Course for White People
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.
Interview with Urusa Fahim, Ph.D.
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.
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.
From White Racial Shame to Empathy for People of Color Part 1
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.
From White Racial Shame to Empathy for People of Color Part 2
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
From Victim Body to Creative Body
A somatic perspective on how oppression robs our bodily sense of agency, and how to reclaim that agency.
For Occupy 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.
Awareness of Unfairness: Thawing Out From Internalized Dominance
Unraveling the Armor of Privilege
10 Ways That Shame and 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.
An exploration of the role that shake-ups and disruptions play in spiritual awakening and social transformation.
Bring Forth What Is Within You Part 1.
The importance of continually unearthing our blindspots and implicit biases, for the sake of spiritual growth and social justice.
Working with Contraction: Practices to Sustain Social Change (with Buddhist Peace Fellowship)
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.
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.
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
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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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.”
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
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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.
Earth is finding and re-finding her feet.
You can feel her in your lake-swimming-arms, your ready-to-relax-back.
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,
change the destroyer;
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.
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.
Prince showed us how. Berta Caceres showed us.The ocean, the land shows us.
How to be forces of nature.
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.
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.
‘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
I believe that relational trauma survivors who embark on romantic relationships are as
In this spirit, I offer the following Trauma Survivors in Love (TSIL) preparation guidelines:
1. Understand what you are embarking on;
2. Practice resilience & strength-building routines;
3. Build trust. Be each other’s allies;
4. Gather safety equipment, safety protocols & First Aid Kit;
5. Gather support teams.
This final part of the series covers the fifth guideline.
5) GATHER YOUR SUPPORT TEAMS (DON’T TRY TO BE EACH OTHER’S ONLY SUPPORT!)
Your support team is everything. They are your base camp. They help you prepare for a tough climb. They take care of you when you fall.
It is important for every TSIL to gather a support team that suits them.
This can look a lot of different ways.
Over the years I have gathered solid and trustworthy healing/teaching/support teams that at times have included clinical herbalists, somatic therapists, chiropractors, physical therapists, yoga teachers, psychotherapists, spiritual teachers, body workers, intuitives, Chinese medicine practitioners, plant and animal allies, business coaches, and various learning, healing, social justice and practice communities.
Your healing team may include doctors, naturopaths, psychiatrists, chiropractors, pastors, priestesses, rabbis, lamas, physical therapists, herbalists, personal trainers, energy workers, spiritual guides, massage therapists, doulas, psychics, etc. Whoever meets your particular needs.
I find it enormously helpful to work with practitioners from different disciplines and perspectives. I embody the same trauma dynamics and healing potentials wherever I go, so these practitioners may be seeing and telling me similar things.
But the combination of overlap, repetition and unique languaging helps me absorb the healing that I need. The varied interventions support holographic learning within my body, mind, emotions, and spirit.
You get to interview, hire and fire your practitioners as you see fit and as your needs change. This article offers a thoughtful, detailed breakdown of how to choose a therapist; you can apply the same approach when choosing other kinds of practitioners.
Sometimes it is crucial to work with practitioners who share your life experience, ethnicity, class background, or values.
If you need a practitioner who “gets” specific aspects of your or your community’s oppression, then look for them, and persist. If your body cannot relax in the presence of folks who have more privilege than you, then respect that.
At the same time, listen to your intuition and allow yourself to be surprised. The universe is mysterious, and sometimes we “click” and find deep healing with someone who we initially wouldn’t think we could trust.
As much as possible,* avoid overlapping with your partners’ practitioners and healing/learning communities. One reason is to make that space I talked about in part 3; giving each other space reduces reactivity.
Another reason is that you want your team to be your safe haven over the long haul. Break-ups happen. Can you handle running into your ex at every healing community gathering, or at your therapist’s office?
Let the prospective practitioner know what your life challenges and goals are, and ask them how they can support you to be your best self in your romantic relationship(s).
Make sure they are either trauma savvy, or that they see and deeply respect you, and are competent in their field.
Don’t try to see too many practitioners at once, or study with too many learning communities. I cannot give you a number.
How much is enough versus too much is up to you. Avoid running from appointment to appointment, or receiving too much input to put into practice.
Less is more.
Consider diving deeply into a handful of approaches and practices for a few years, so that your body feels at home and you can learn through repetition. Repetition is the key to embodied, sustained change.
Repetition + the right team = results.
You know you are working with the right team when get results. What do results look like?
Specific, goal-oriented results can take months or years to clearly manifest, but you might be able to notice the small steps you are taking towards your goals.
One result that should become obvious early on is a steady, gradual increase in your compassion and love for yourself.
Sustainable healing is an ever changing balance of challenge and nurture. A trustworthy healing practitioner will consistently treat you with compassion, while encouraging your body-mind to move beyond comfort zones and stagnant modes.
Not everyone on your team needs to fully embody both gentleness and challenge. Some practitioners will love you roughly; some will exude lovingkindness. You need to receive both, in the proportions that work for you.
These proportions may look different across the physical, emotional and spiritual levels.
To give a personal example, I am someone who thrives on emotional and spiritual challenges, such as intuitive reader trainings and rigorous meditation retreats.
The opposite is true for my mind and body: Engaging in very “heady” activities creates too much mental struggle. My body shuts down with harsh treatments such as allopathic drugs, painful bodywork or aerobics.
So my mind and body need more gentleness than my spirit or emotions do, although at all levels I respond best to compassionate presence.
Since I learned these things about myself, I have been able to choose my practitioners accordingly.
I allow myself to engage in fairly demanding spiritual and emotional disciplines, choose mental practices that soothe my chattering mind, and physical practices that are subtle and spacious, such as craniosacral bodywork, flower essences or acupuncture.
I encourage you to find out which combinations of effort and ease are most nourishing for your particular body/mind/emotions/spirit.
Overall, your team should challenge and nurture you, and give you plenty of examples of what challenging and nurturing yourself looks like.
Working with your team over time (and providing them with feedback and course corrections) will teach you when and how to shift between self-nurturing and self-challenging modes.
I introduced the Sandbox Approach to relationships in Part 2; establishing self-care routines and self-stewarding your trauma healing are essential preparation for applying this approach to relationships.
To recap, the Sandbox Approach is about taking full responsibility for yourself in your romantic relationships.
This means 100% of the time, no matter what is happening between you and your lover(s), you commit to play the role of parent or steward for those tender and resilient aspects of yourself that we sometimes call our “inner kid,” our animal body, or our psycho-biology.
Your healing team can help you master the Sandbox Approach. A competent therapist or somatic coach will model how to treat your inner kid by how they treat you.
The best practitioners will offer you opportunities to practice taking loving responsibility for your inner kid/animal body/psycho-biology.
Many of us trauma survivors long for the loving, attentive parenting that we never received as kids.
As grown-ups, when we “fall in love” and experience fierce intimacy with our lover, we may secretly expect them to step into that parent role and magically “redo” our childhood for us.
We may long to hand our wounded young self over to our lover and say, “You take care of them!”
There is nothing wrong with such longings. All of us deserved safe, loving stable parenting. It is natural and self-loving to still want that.
But! The re-parenting we need cannot come from our adult partners.
We are not children anymore; no one is going to parent us now. Let yourself grieve that fact as long as you need to.
Meanwhile, begin to re-parent yourself. This time, you are the responsible grown up. Re-parenting yourself is your job.
(Do you want to tantrum after reading the above? Go ahead. Stop reading and have a loud, arm-flailing, hoof-stomping, full-body tantrum. You have every right! It’s not fair. When you are done, come back and read some more.)
Instead, you commit to doing it differently. Which, by the way, will take alot of practice!
At first, you will abandon, forget and reject your miserable-scared-lonely-enraged kid over and over again. Just like your caregivers did.
But each time you doggedly return and show up for your inner kid, you get better at it. You learn to hold them steady. It gets easier as you discover how loveable they are.
Your team can help you with this self re-parenting journey. Competent practitioners will give you brief, contained tastes of being parented well.
Most facilitated healing happens simply because your healing practitioner is a steady, non-judgmental presence in your life.
A person with skills, certainly. But above all, a person who sees you and takes you seriously. A person who encourages you.
Or follow remote practitioners that speak to you. Read their teachings or listen to their podcasts. Try out their suggestions, by yourself or with friends.
You can also pray or holler to the universe, “Hey, I need help! Send me affordable help or send money!” Setting a clear intention opens up possibilities.
Once you have set that intention, take some time to rest and wait, breathe and trust.
I thank you all for reading and listening. I hope this series is useful to you. Feel free to send me your questions and comments.
*In small communities, including immigrant, trans, queer, sexual or ethnic minority ordisability communities, small towns, etc. this may be impossible. When I worked at the only LGBTQ domestic violence agency in town, we had strategies to safely support clients while maintaining confidentiality and trust. Ask your practitioners how they can help you navigate these situations.
TRAUMA SURVIVORS IN LOVE *online* WORKSHOP
Nourishing Practices for Skittish Partners
*ONLINE* WORKSHOP Wednesday, May 18
11 am-1 pm Pacific Standard Time
Intimate relationships are our birthright. But the neurobiology of relational trauma (neglect, attachment trauma, abuse & oppression) can hijack our hearts & derail mutual trust.
Learn about trauma neurobiology & practice somatic & intuitive tools to soothe hypervigilance. Practice supporting one another to stay open & connected over the long haul.
Singles, couples, triads, all welcome to attend.