Category Archives: Vanissar blog


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

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

Perhaps you rest a little.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Another day,

Another bodywork session. You arrive thready, vacant.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As your mind quiets; your body whispers its terms:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Another bodywork session.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sometimes your body says,

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

Sometimes your body says,

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

Sometimes it’s,

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

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

Sometimes your body sighs,

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

Sometimes it’s,

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

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

Implicit Bias & Self-Ignorance

In the gnostic Gospel According to Thomas, Jesus says:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Implicit Bias

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Remote Coaching with Vanissar

Dear Far Flung Friends:

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

These are my live video & phone services:

1) Somatic & Intuitive Coaching

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

You will:

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

* learn how to track & interpret your sensations;

* collaborate with your body;

* experience generative somatics practices & interventions;

* take away practical, pleasurable homework.

2) Intuitive Readings

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

3) Curriculum Consults

4) Vocation Mentoring for Healers, Teachers & Activists

5) Spiritual Mentoring & Guidance

Consulting & mentoring by mutual arrangement.

6) Trauma Survivors in Love (TSIL) Relationship Coaching

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


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


Welcome back.

Help yourself to some water.


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

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


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


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


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


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

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

but most of all,

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

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

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



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

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

Gratitude for Your Ancestors’ Survival Strategies


First, gratitude To Your Ancestors:

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

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

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

Thank you for passing that wisdom through the generations.

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

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

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

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


Gratitude for Your Personal Survival Strategies

Second, gratitude to your wise animal soma.

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

How ghosting away protected you:

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

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

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

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


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

I praise the survival in your body.

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

My hands, my gaze speak:

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for fiercefiercefierce self-love.


Befriend Your Disembodied Body

Because it saved you;

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

Let us especially thank your dissociation survival strategy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My voice, my hands say,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My flesh listens as muscles and nerves tell their story.

Fibromyalgia? Yes.
Rheumatoid arthritis? Of course.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

Rest now.

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

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


Greetings, teachers, healers, activists, changemakers!

You who have studied your craft for years or decades.


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

I have something to say to you:

So many have called you into being.

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

So many have invested in you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


–Speaking of Rifting…

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

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

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

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

~ Patrul Rinpoche

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

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

Greetings, healers, teachers and changemakers!

I have more to say to you:

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

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

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

They are with you still.

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

“You” are composed of many lineages…



…Part of many generations:

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

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

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

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

~ Vine Deloria, Jr.

Greetings, healers and teachers and changemakers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You are entrusted to your own care!

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

You are a natural resource!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steward yourself, for your  sake. For your joy.

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

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

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

Learn how to take care of your money.

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

Learn how to take care of your body.

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

Learn how to take care of your heart-mind.

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

Healers, teachers, activists, remember!

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

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

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



(For the ancestors)

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



Welcome, You Who Were Not Allowed to Matter

Welcome, neglected children. Ghost children.

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

Welcome, precious Black Lives.

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

Welcome to the ghost people, slipping by unnoticed.

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

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

Welcome, autistic people, borderline people, dissociated people.

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

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

Welcome, disembodied ones; forever denied your matter.

Welcome, all. Let us begin.


What Would You Like Me to Know About You?

I am quick to despair.

It seems I do not leave a trace:

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

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

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

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

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

No legacy is built.
No home, no security.

Nothing sticks.


Nothing sticks.

Our actions leave no impression, not even on us.

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

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

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

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

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

Next, let’s look at your *Now, what?*

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

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

What I Want to Be:

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

What We Want to Do:

Complete something

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

What I Want:

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

Welcome! Hooray!
Such good things to want!

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

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

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


We were the disembodied hands, attending your every need. 

Oldest daughter, family drudge, I existed to serve.

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

I cried, but no one picked me up. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I stopped breastfeeding; I could taste her resentment. 

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

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

They could not see the unique beauty of our minds.

My mother could not reflect me back to me. 

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

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

My father could not reflect me back to me. 

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

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

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

A whisp of myself, I make no matter.

Immaterial ghosts, we do not matter.

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

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

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



How Did Trauma Shape You?

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

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

We answered to the names you thrust on us.

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

We learned to perform, to entertain, produce.

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

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

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

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

We taught our own babies to wait.

I taught myself not to cry.

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

How we made it.

How I survived.

How our children came to be.

Thank you for telling me your stories.

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

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

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

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



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

Are you living, ever more intimately, with uncertainty?

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

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

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

You, too?

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

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

As order gives way to chaos;

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

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

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

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

My Heart asks,

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


Question: What Can We Do in These Times?


Befriend Uncertainty 

Living with “I Don’t Know”

Embracing a Vast Perspective

Prepare to Lose Everything

Become a Nomad

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

Shed the Unnecessary

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

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

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


Let Go

Take Good Care of You

Emotional First Aid

Get Unstuck

Love Yourself (& Your Body)

Offer Refuge; Be a Refuge

Offer Refuge to Others

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

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

To tremble and unwind from trauma.

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

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

What can you share?

Do you have an extra respirator mask?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Question: How Can We Trust Ourselves & the Universe?

Trust Ourselves

Finding Home in Our Bones

You Are a Force Of Nature

Trust the Universe

Welcome Triggers as Your Spiritual Practice

View Disruptions as Sacred

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

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

I believe we can.
I believe we are.

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

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


This article is a repeat. Two repeats, actually.

With a twist.

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

The articles are:

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


10 Ways Shame and Blame Hurts Social Justice Efforts.

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

Are social justice movements suffering from collective autoimmune disorders?

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

Are we attacking ourselves?

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

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

Is a hostile internal atmosphere alienating precious community members?

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

From Micro to Macro, Love is the Antidote

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

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

Movement Strategy Center chooses to Lead With Love:

Black Lives Matter embraces self-loving Guiding Principles:

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

Sins Invalid commits to Principles of Disability Justice, such as

Commitments to Cross Disability SolidarityInterdependenceCollective Access, and

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

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

We can cut ourselves some slack and give up perfection.

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

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

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

Our bodies are being stressed and pressed like never before.

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

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

We need you. We need us.

Wishing us all ever-growing love and wisdom,


You can schedule Somatic and Intuitive Coaching appointments with Vanissar through 


In the last installment of Trauma Survivor’s and Spiritual Awakening,


I wrote about how my old traumatized identities of Fragile, Isolated Victim-Body and Urgent Hypervigilance were shifted by the catalysts of my animal companion and chronic exhaustion.

One Last Trauma Identity Shift

I have one final traumatized identity shift to describe, and then I will take the discussion beyond trauma identities.

I will try to describe the spiritual possibilities that opened up once my body knew how to find its way back to safety.

Old Identity: I am a damaged victim.
Identity-Shift Catalyst: Long term trauma healing work.

This identity was so immersive that it took decades for me to acknowledge it.

Since childhood I had a default sense of myself as damaged and subject to endless suffering.

Frequent experiences of physical pain and discomfort have even led me to feel oppressed by my own body.

Identities co-arise with worldviews (“I am like this; the world is like that.”). My co-arising worldview was that life is merciless.

While many things have conspired to shift this identity, decades of trauma healing work have been key.

My trauma healing journey has involved establishing healing relationships with animals, somatic practitioners, therapists, spiritual teachers, herbalists, bodyworkers and acupuncturists, engaging with learning communities.

Discovering which healing practices work for me.

Grace—Life as trickster–has also been integral to this identity shift.

Upsets such as car accidents, deaths, loss, illness and unexpected difficulties of all kinds unearthed my hidden traumatized identities.

Grace has given me ample material to apply my practices to!


A Paradox of Trauma Healing Work

While every part of my journey has been valuable, identifying as a trauma survivor is limiting.

The paradox is that years of intensive focus on trauma healing subtly reinforced my victim identity, the sense that I am someone who needs rescuing or fixing.

A significant layer of victim identity dissolved when I declared that I would no longer victimize myself with self-criticism.

This declaration cleared some shame, and revealed inner spaces of energy and opportunity.

New worlds beckoned.

Identities co-arise with world views.
When worldviews appear, new identities arise:

I can now see myself as resilient and adventurous, more curious and contented. I am quick to notice the safety and goodness in my life, to feel joy and gratitude.

It’s possible to simply enjoy breathing, moving, playing with zee, taking a shower or reading a novel. I find myself letting go of effort and struggle.


What Lies Beyond Traumatized Identities?

Once we are confident that we can soothe our reptilian brain when it gets triggered*, the journey is not over. Our adventure has just begun.

New Identities

What lies beyond traumatized identities? More identities, of course! We humans perpetually reconstruct our sense of self.

One post-trauma identity which emerged for me was “I am attracted to silence and contemplation; meditation comes naturally to me.”

This new identity thrills me.
Yet the spiritual journey is all about releasing all identities, even this one.

To go from a victim identity to a healthier/happier identity certainly builds positive momentum.

But even the “best” identity must eventually yield to either (depending on your philosophical perspective), identification with the Divine or no identity at all.

Infinite Inner Adventures

We never arrive. We never stop. Identities are shed as we go.

The relaxation that comes with trauma healing yields to even deeper relaxation: a relaxing of the sense of self, a relaxing of worries and fears.

We rest more, ground more, expand more. No arrival. A deeper relaxation awaits; there is always more ease to embody.

The “enlightenment” that many seek could be described as bottomless, infinite relaxation.

What else lies beyond our traumatized identities? New possibilities.

For me, recent identity shifts have been accompanied by capacity shifts that support deeper dreams and inner adventures.

When I lie down to rest, when I sleep, inner vistas appear:


I am tiny enough to slip into a rough rose quartz crystal. Welcomed into its coarse softness, I enter its molecular structure. Further in I find an exquisite rose-pink cloud.

Within that lies an even finer essence. Then, how lovely! this innermost essence dissolves.


Emerging from an instructive dream about the translucent eye/gaze that has been “under construction” in my forehead for decades (but that is another story).

“Look,” whispers the dream, “whatever this gaze rests on—be it a thought, negative or positive, an object–wherever this gaze rests, within or without– it penetrates. Merely gazing at something dissolves it.”

I wake with a sense of simple, direct liberation.

Waking Adventures:

Lately, a waking phenomena. If I am quiet enough to pay attention, I inhabit a gaze that is kaleidoscopic, penetrative.

A hushed, inquisitive energy peers into the particulate structure of the objects of my gaze.

A soft tumble into these objects; they delightedly display their inner qualities, and…melt.

This relational gazing-dissolving is wonderfully quiet and quietly wonderful.

This tumbling in, falling in (love) also happens in the presence of other beings.

When I spend unhurried time with my parrot companion Zee, a peripheral awareness beckons, inviting me into Zee’s senses and her experience.

When I relax and answer this invitation, time slows, matter diffuses. I am a sensitive being, intimately relating with a subtler world.

Zee’s perception is rich, substantial. Sequential time unfolds within expanding moments.

As I join Zee in her space/time, her shoulders relax; she rests against me.
Wordless communion.

Often now, my eyelids close as I sit with clients. Ease. Restful gaze, seeing wholeness.

Mary Oliver’s poem, Wild Geese, says, “The world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–”

Inner worlds— wilder worlds than I ever imagined, call me in and in…

Catalysts for Trauma Identity Shifts

I suspect that none of this would have flowered without the–unasked for, unwanted (!)–free time and extreme fatigue that seized my attention.

Exhaustion forced me to give up my entrenched survival habits of external focus, struggle, hypervigilance, hyped up adrenaline-cortisol as a way of life.

There has been a development process, midwived by fatigue, Grace, etc., further nourished by sufficient space, time and stillness for me to *notice* opportunities for new capacities to fledge.

I look back on my life and see the enormous pain and difficulty I have carried, and my narrow, miserly worldview. Somehow this worldview has morphed into a surprisingly generous perception. How did this happen?

Wonder asks, “What is good? What is bad, what is misfortune when all that has come to pass has led to this sweet gaze?”

This multiply betrayed, heartbroke, freefall-of-a-woman has landed on clouds of trust.

Trust in the innate goodness of what is.

Trust in what unfolds, what I am drawn to, what my soft animal body loves.

Trusting vastness to hold me.

*The goal of Phase One of the trauma healing process is to become confident that we can soothe our reptilian brain when it gets triggered.

Would you like to receive 1:1 Somatic & Intuitive Coaching from Dr. Vanissar Tarakali, you can contact her through:



This unsettling time is a perfect opportunity to learn exactly how your body gets stuck; and to discover which “getting unstuck” tools work best for your particular temperament.

I call this process Befriending-Your-Body. I have broken it up into steps:

Befriend Your Body Steps

1. Befriend Your Triggers
2. Practice Safety

3. Befriend Your Somatic Temperament
4. Create Practice Routines

5. Embody Your Routines
6. Improvise!

In this final article, I cover steps 5. and 6.

  1. Embody Your Routines

Neuroplasticity is a thing! Repeatedly attending to something builds new neural pathways and abilities.

The good news about living in a time of crisis is, the more you turn to your self-care routines to get extra help, the more you embody their fruits.

This means that over time you will get unstuck faster.

Two Insomnia Routines

One thing that contributes to me getting stuck is insomnia or interrupted sleep. Fatigue renders me more vulnerable to being triggered in daily life.

With peri-menopause, I often wake too early in the morning (sometimes with heart palpitations) and cannot get back to sleep.

Insomnia has given me an opportunity to learn how my body finds safety and relaxation.  Applying steps 1. to 4. to this problem, I tried on various practices, and gathered my favorite getting unstuck tools.

From this experimentation I developed two helpful routines for insomnia. My routines include pelvic breathingrestorative yoga,  Trauma Release Exercises, and Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT).

Once you have your routines, practice them until they become embodied. “Embodied” means you are so familiar with something that it becomes automatic.

Here are the two insomnia routines that I call Turn it Down and Turn it Up.

Turn It Down

I have three favorite restorative yoga poses that I return to again and again, because my body loves them. They require pillows, blankets and a bolster. I keep these props near my bed so it is easy to set up my pose.

I combine these three restorative poses in a sequence that usually returns me to sleep within forty minutes or so.

During the first pose, which I do for twenty-forty minutes, my mind is quite active. I have learned to welcome it: “Hello, mind that gallops like a horse.” I let it wander around.

But sometimes I obsess about something so much that I get riled up. As soon as I notice this I tell myself, “Hmm, this line of thought is making me wakeful and agitated.” I try to observe this without fighting with myself.

I may take a few deep breaths; I may marvel at the power of my wild-horse mind. Most of all, I pay attention to how good it feels to have my body held by the props: “Here I am, resting, watching my wild mind run.”

Sensations Are Key

Sensations are the language of our brain stem, our fight-or-flight brain. To engage and influence it, to reassure it, we need to use its language.

So when I do child’s pose with a bolster, I notice the bolster beneath my belly, holding it firmly. I notice the comforting feeling this gives my belly.

When I do a supported upper back backbend, I notice the bolster under my neck, the blanket under my chest. I invite my body to sink into the support.

When I feel “done” with the first pose, I move the props to set up the second pose. I frequently fall asleep in the middle of the second pose.

If not, the third pose almost always works. Hooray! Even if I don’t get back to sleep, restorative poses are still restful.

When Turn It Down Doesn’t Work

Sometimes, depending on what I ate, where I am in my menstrual cycle, or who is president, restorative yoga doesn’t cut it. My body refuses to settle.

Self-observation has taught me that this signals an urgent communication from my body. In the quiet of the night, my mind is raw and open. My body insists: listen to me!

It is difficult to listen. I worry about being wide awake, dread that I will be unable to function in the morning.

This vicious cycle of sleeplessness plus panic about sleeplessness is not a recipe for going back to sleep.

After I fuss for a bit, eventually I remember my other insomnia strategy.

Instead of moving towards the five components of a restorative yoga pose (quiet, warmth, darkness, motionlessness and support), I move towards expression.

Instead of Turning it Down, I Turn it Up.

Turn It Up

This routine is the best choice when I am triggered or “stuck.” It is all about getting active and expressive.

I turn on the light and journal.  If I am too tired, I lie in the dark and talk or sing aloud, narrating my sensations and emotions.

With pen or voice, I complain, worry, rage, argue, philosophize or grieve.

Sometimes I do the TRE exercises, and let my body tremble and shake how/where it wants to.

If I am especially stuck, I may use EFT to “loosen the soil” so I can unearth what is bothering me.

With this process it is crucial that I not direct the movement or expression. I simply allow my body to tell its story.

Usually it turns out to be something I was too busy to catch during the daytime. Usually it is a big deal.

This process can lead to sobs or roars of terror, grief or rage as I uncover and utter truths I have been avoiding.

Again, sensations are key. When I journal or mutter to myself in the night, when I let my body tremor or howl, I participate in the sights, sounds, textures and vibrations.

I feel my aliveness. I take my animal body seriously and give it respectful attention.

Turning it Up is uncomfortable, but it deepens my relationship with myself.

This routine often takes longer than my restorative yoga sequence: somewhere between forty-five minutes to two and a half hours.

When it’s done, I am at peace. At this point I tend to fall asleep. If not, I can easily put myself to sleep with a simple practice such as fingerholds, deep breathing or a restorative pose.

Turning It Up doesn’t just get me back to sleep. It helps me reclaim my dignity and courage. It brings new energy, clarity and purpose. This more than compensates for any sleep I have lost.

After much curiosity, experimentation, and practice, I trust my Turn It Down and Turn it Up routines. I am confident that I can find my way back to sleep.


  1. Improvise! 

It is good to have two or three routines or sequences that are well-practiced and familiar. Then you can add or subtract practices as needed.

Even when you cannot access your favorite routine, you can use your knowledge of your triggers and your somatic temperament to create new routines on the spot.

While traveling recently, I had nothing on hand to serve as restorative yoga props.

Instead, I did two practices that did not require props: pelvic breathing and TRE. I practiced them one at a time, alternating between the two for about an hour.

Mixing things up can be effective. TRE is very active and expressive, while pelvic breathing involves slow, gentle movements.

Eventually my body settled. If it hadn’t, I could have added in EFT or fingerholds, two more practices that do not require props.


I hope this series inspires you to befriend your body, one step at a time. Just like making friends with humans or animals, befriending our bodies is a rich adventure.

When you practice the getting unstuck routines that work best for you, you expand your personal reservoir of resilience.

Above all, these times call for self-aware, resilient people.

For the sake of all, let’s make a commitment to replenish ourselves each day.

Let’s build robust psycho-spiritual individual and collective immune systems to get us through this long political flu-season.

Blessings to you.

Let me know how it goes.                               


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