Illuminated By Death


The air was heavy and dense. Walking into her room felt like being enveloped by a drug that sedates your body and comatoses your brain. Earlier in the day I’d plugged in a diffuser and filled it with invigorating lavender oil, but it was masked by a scent much more powerful.

The scent of death is the smell of many things. If you can imagine halitosis, mixed with fungus and decomposing liver in a compost on a humid day, it smells like all of that.

My boyfriend’s Mom, Mrs. Ashley, had multiple strokes the week before. By the third stroke, she could no longer speak and the right side of her body was immobile. When she flicked the oxygen tube off with her left hand, she looked her son in the eyes with a penetrating stare, signaling him that she wished to let go of all medical intervention. She stopped eating, drinking and taking her medication. She was ready to go.

Without morphine and oxygen, all she had to get her through any pain was her breath and her voice. Her mouth was open, and the intervals of her moans became more and more frequent.

These moans were difficult to hear.

To take her thoughts elsewhere, my boyfriend played her favorite music on his iPhone.

And I massaged her feet to the sound of Mahalia Jackson, Nina Simone and Aretha Franklin, with cream from the hospice care package. Her toes were crusty, and hard. Her ankles were swollen and black with leathery like layer of skin. I massaged her feet imagining my touch could affirm the places her soul was traveling with Mahalia’s gospel. Perhaps I could make her feel like she was dancing, I thought.

“I don’t want her to be in pain,” my boyfriend said. He was uncomfortable with her discomfort. “But I also want to respect her wishes. Should I give her the morphine even though she pulled away?”

Seeing anyone suffer is hard enough, but seeing someone you love suffer is even harder. Especially when you want to do the right thing.

One thing I knew for sure is that being with someone who is afraid of the pain you’re experiencing isn’t helpful. It’s like when someone gives you pity, and what you really need is empathy. I also knew she clearly requested to move through her own pain in her own way, not in someone else’s way.

“Just pause for a moment.” I said. “Then you’ll know for sure if it’s an impulse to change something you have no control over or if your intuition tells you it will truly ease her struggle.”

This was truly a test of trusting our deeper instincts. We needed to let go of control of the things we had no control over. Just like Mrs. Ashley was letting go of control over her body. Respecting her wishes to let go on her own terms meant we needed to release what made us uncomfortable in the process.

We also had to let go of the conventional medical belief that morphine would be the thing to ease her pain. Perhaps feeling her pain would be the thing that would help her let go.

This 90 year old strong willed woman who’d raised two children single handedly, survived two husbands, grieved through the loss of her murdered daughter, been a pioneer in the civil rights movement, mobilized change for black women, been accepted in a PhD program, was an executive director at an Urban League affiliate, was a competitive Scrabble player and the Co-Founder of an AME Zion church deserved to have her strength met with dignity. Just as her leadership required strength, so did her journey in letting go of control of life on her own terms. And we needed to respect her terms for dignity.

Mrs. Ashley’s hands were still warm. There was so much love expressed in the way she held my hand, and it occurred to me this kind of presence is rare.

There are many ways people can hold your hand: There’s the kind of hand hold that feels as though the other person is trying to make you feel better. There’s the kind of hand hold that feels like someone is hanging onto you for dear life. There’s the kind of hand hold that feels socially or affectionately obligational.

And there’s the kind of hand hold that feels just present and loving. That’s how her hand felt. Present, with motherly and grandmotherly love.

Returning the way she held my hand with love and presence, no matter what pain she was feeling or facing in her final stages of life, was perhaps the most significant thing any of us could do. And we didn’t need to know each other to honor that exchange.

Afterall, I’d never met Mrs. Ashley before I met her in the hospital a few days earlier.

“This is my girlfriend Krista, ma. She flew all the way from California to be here.” My boyfriend said when we entered the hospital two days after her third stroke.

“I’m so happy to meet you.” I said. “I’m going to touch your hand so you can feel me.”

She reached out with her left hand and held my hand firmly.

Back in her apartment during the hospice phase, we continued to improvise all the ways we could make her feel loved. Roses, candles, and sage were the sacred essentials for moving through this ultimate human portal from life to death.

“Do what you need to do, ma. I’m here. You’re not alone,” my boyfriend said.

After several hours of moans and long spaces between her breaths, Mrs. Ashley opened her eyes wide and stared intently at the air in front of her. It was as if she was seeing a profound truth, and she was registering how it contradicted everything she’d believed.

The moan that followed wasn’t like any of the others. It was distinct and clear, not indiscernible discomfort or pain. If her moan had words, I imagined it would say, “Ohhhhh, I see”.

I couldn’t help but to think that as her body weakened, her spiritual life got stronger. Humans are so much more resilient than we could ever imagine, especially after four days with no food or water.

We’ll never know exactly what she saw or what she realized in the moment that she was staring into space, but over the next few hours we saw peacefulness and youth come back into her 90 year old face.

As Mrs. Ashley’s older best friend said, “When you go through life’s hardships, you learn to rely on yourself through them. And letting go of that control isn’t easy.” Yet, Mrs. Ashley seemed to have accomplished this ultimate surrender while she was still living.

According to hospice stats, only 10 percent of people die suddenly, and 90 percent die slowly. That means 90 percent of us have the chance to truly face our pain and let go of the struggle before we die.

To be part of this process was one of the most intimate, moving, beautiful and profound privileges in my life. It made me understand we all deserve nothing less than to be surrounded by love and to be witnessed for our pain and our potential for peace.

In her essay “A ‘Downwinder’ in Hiroshima, Japan” : “The Japanese have a word, aware, which speaks to both the beauty and pain of our lives, that sorrow is not a grief one forgets or recovers from but is a burning, searing illumination of love for the delicacy and strength of our relations.”

I realized this significant passage of life is when we all face our ability to give ourselves over to the unknown, no matter how much our human nature is to be in control. It affirmed to me the more we can face letting go of control in our own lives while we’re still living, the more chance we have to live our lives with joy, peace with grace.

I know the times I’ve released either physical or emotional pain through somatic modalities (therapeutic processes that work with the body to connect to spirit), I always reach deeper peace. And witnessing this gateway from life to death was exactly the same process. This made me think, why not surrender to what life has in store for us sooner rather than later? Why not face our pain sooner rather than later and let the peacefulness run through our veins and so we can release our struggles and enjoy life’s journey with grace….. before we die?


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Worth, Scarcity and 8 Days in A Jungle


Part I: On Money, Love & Being Enough

I came from a lineage of militant survival principles. Dad was born and raised in Germany, during World War II. Two years after my Dad was born, his Dad was decapitated by a bomb in Russia. So like many men steeped in a legacy of war, my Dad grew up fatherless. Growing up under a dictatorship that insists on fighting, oppressing, abusing and ultimately killing to find security is the same legacy of war that we see in our world today.

I grew up with many privileges. Aside from going on family ski trips and taking piano lessons, I grew up without having to worry about fighting for my survival. Dad loved to remind me of this often, as he’d tell me about his first job polishing shoes for the nuns when he was 6 years old. Or when he worked on a farm in exchange for his meals when he was 7 years old.

When I was 5 years old, I polished Dad’s Oxfords for 10 cents a pair. I was so proud to be earning my worth. If I missed a spot, Dad would say, “Do it right the first time, and you won’t have to do it again.” I imagined this is what he said to all of his employees at his cleaning business.

I wanted to be better than his employees to get Dad’s attention. Sometimes I’d spend an entire Saturday sitting on piles of newspapers in the back entry, polishing his shoes with old ratty t-shirts, wanting to get it right the first time, and impress him with the shiniest shoes he’d ever seen.

I diligently learned the value of 10 cents and perfecting tasks, not only to be paid, but to be loved.

Perfectionism was celebrated and rewarded.

Now, I’m learning to love that innocent part of me that mistook perfectionism for being worthy of love. Most importantly, I’m learning to love that broken wing, without forcing or pushing it to change or improve.

I’m also learning that healing the perfectionism in my family system goes far beyond being frustrated by not getting things quite ‘right’ the first time around.

Healing perfectionism is about healing inherited survival mechanisms.

My uncle was the most meticulous perfectionist I’ve ever known. He was also gay. I can’t image the fear he must have faced everyday when he went to Jungvolk school under Hitler’s regime.

Gay men during Hitler’s reign were targeted for persecution because they were viewed to be carriers of a “contagion” that weakened society and did not contribute to the desired growth of the “Aryan” population. An estimated 100,000 men were arrested for violating Nazi Germany’s law against homosexuality. Thousands were sentenced to prison, and thousands more were sent to concentration camps. Luckily my uncle masked himself enough with perfectionism that he wasn’t one of these thousands of men.

My partner is African American. He’s one of the smartest and most visionary people I know. He has three college degrees, has traveled to over fifty countries. Definitely Type A. And definitely a perfectionist. And definitely part of a lineage that had to fight for their survival during slavery and post-slavery in the Southern United States.

My partner’s tendency for perfectionism, made me also consider the generational survival mechanisms that he’s had to endure as product of his ancestor’s slavery. In his mind, he has to be perfect, or else, it could cost him his life.

You can imagine how perfectionism plays out in a relationship. When my partner requests something of me, I can default into thinking it’s because I haven’t done something ‘good enough’. And of course, the same can happen in reverse. If he hasn’t met my expectations in some way, he may feel he’s falling short.

When my partner is in uber-organizing mode, I may feel I’m not measuring up to his pace. Instead of saying I don’t want to rush, I’d push myself to catch-up. These pushes to ‘measure up’ easily led me to dishonor my own pace, rhythm, and integrity. This may seem like a small thing. But it’s a big thing when it can potentially snowball over time into resentment.

Understanding and healing the origin and the roots of my own perfectionism, has made me see how my relationship with my partner has a profound opportunity for healing for both of us.

By giving compassion to the part of myself that’s always striving to do more and achieve more, I’m also learning how to love him when he gets stressed and feels he’s falling short. Recognizing how we both came from lineages that were fighting for life and death has a profound impact on my ability to be more spacious and compassionate.

It also made me see that healing inherited perfectionism isn’t just for me, it’s for humanity.

It’s about healing the sickness of scarcity.

“We are one mind. One voice. One heart. One family.”  Our Kofan shaman recited this before he opened the door and let in some air into the sweat lodge. After our night long plant medicine ceremony, my partner and I along with sixteen others marinated in our sweat and prayers in a ‘inipi’ sweat lodge in the jungle for an hour. It’s in those moments I prayed to let go of this iron fist that’s manifested inside of me tying perfection to my worth.

Healing ourselves as individuals, means we heal each other.

If you can relate to the feeling of ‘not enough’, know that when you love the part of yourself that inherently feels you’re not measuring up, it’ll help you be  less demanding and expectant of other’s perfectionism too.

We’re all in this together.

Wishing you peace and harmony this holiday.


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The #metoo I Never Thought Mattered


I had a crush on one of my guy friends for three years in my early 20s.

I adored him. He was thoughtful, sensitive and made me laugh. We were both shy, but based on one episode of sneaking away for tequila induced kisses at a party, I thought there was a chance he liked me too.

One freezing cold night over Christmas break, I came back from University to my hometown Calgary, Canada. I was hanging out with the guy I had a crush on (let’s call him Wilbur) and four other friends. Wafts of boys socks, pizza, beer and dirty laundry lingered in the air, reinforcing  new-found independence.

In the 3am zone, after we’d played copious drinking games, I was delighted when Wilbur, told me I could sleep in his room with him while the others slept in the living room.

He shut the door. Wet sloppy drunk kisses followed. He slipped off my velvet top. The rough carpet rubbed against my bare skin.

I’d only had sex once in my life at that point. I wanted to tell him I was inexperienced. I wanted to tell him I was turned on but also nervous. I wanted to tell him I was happy to be alone with him. I wanted to tell him to go slower. But I couldn’t say any of it. I felt too naked on his carpet with him on top of me moving at a pace that was beyond my mental capacity. I was also terrified that if I admitted to any of the above, it would lead to rejection.

(more…)


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When Life Makes Love

The piercing serenade of crickets slides through one ear and out the other.

The high pitch is like dental floss passing through my brain, cleaning my thoughts.

The night is alive.

Mystery is afoot.

Drift wood, dry and decomposing, is washed up on the shore.

Dead things fester, before they can fertilize.

Flies feverishly feast.

Thunder roars through my bones, shaking my mortality to the core.

The rumble reaches me like the timbering voice of a man, or a God.

Steadfast and strong, it has the power to both provide and destroy.

I want to let it in. 

Come closer.

Penetrate me.

Blinding light slices through my dark dreams.

This precise incision shatters the storyboard of my life.

Light becomes my beacon.

Bluish grey clouds crouch in the twightlight sky.

They are all-seeing companions between light and dark.

The ocean over-turns, upheaves, hushes and soothes.

This great swelling body gives me solace.

It’s undying rhythm coaxes me towards my nature.

Breathe out. Release, release.

Breathe in. Renew, renew.

Life snakes it’s way into me.

A fierce nausea with jagged edges moves through my tender membranes.

I want it to stop.

I want to block it out.

I want to discard it with disgust.

Until I realize.

These are the parts of myself I’ve denied, disliked and disowned.

So instead, I say thank you.

Stay with me.

Let me know you better.

Heal me.

Euphoric calm spreads through my body, like a fountain taming a fire.

Pleasure dowses my heart.

Life makes love to me this way.

Again. And again.

Neither pain, nor pleasure is rushed.

Emerald green bursts through brown bark that once armored its vibrant beauty.

The old skin is too tight, too concealing, too limited.

I succumb to nature knowing me better than I know myself.

A crimson hibiscus flower lets her petals fold together, like a ballet dancer resting.

When the sun rises, she’ll be erect with perfection.

Awe cracks me open.

I want to delight this life in return.

Tell me, show me, chaperone me into loving you back.

Come, with your omnipotent prowess.

Make love to me again.

I need you.

Push yourself up against my pain.

Move me.

Dismantle my barricades.

Touch me.

Teach me your language of love.

Perform your mastery over my will.

I am yours.

 


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Boundaries, Disgust and Love

Have you noticed how people are talking more and more about boundaries?

I recently listened to a Facebook live stream with Danielle Laporte discussing boundaries with psychologist Terri Cole.

Terri recommended setting up boundaries without offering any explanations, for example saying “I can’t do that right now.”

Danielle Laporte then asked, “How do you get over the fear of being rejected or not being liked when you say that?” 

Terri replied, one way to get through the anxiety of saying no, is knowing that it’s at the expense of yourself.

While Terri’s suggestion is helpful for getting into the right frame of mind, I’ve found the problem is that, even when we know that we’re compromising ourselves, it doesn’t address fear physiologically. We all know fear in our bodies can stop us in our tracks, have us running for the hills or fighting back with a vengence.

I recently found myself in the position of knowing I needed to speak up for a boundary, but the hurt I felt in the moment literally froze my voice.

First I shut down. I could barely face the person who had stung me with their words, let alone speak. When I was no longer around them I cried.Then I was pissed. I knew I wanted to put up a boundary. But I wanted to do it in a healthy way, without being defensive, and still take ownership of my own feelings that this person happened to provoke.

First stop: I called my therapist.

“I want to speak up for my boundary in the moment” I tell her.

“Do you trust the feeling of something being off?” She asks.  “Sometimes we grow up in environments when something feeling off, was made ‘ok enough’ by those around us.”

I nod my head in deep recognition as she says this, and give myself a pat on the back knowing that years ago I wouldn’t have been able to even recognize that something was ‘off’.

“In this case I had no trouble knowing this person’s behavior was not okay with me, I just literally didn’t know what to say in the moment.”  

My therapist then gives me suggestions about what I might say the next time I find myself speechless, when I know something is off, such as: 

“How dare you?” or  “That’s not ok.”

“Do you understand how shaming me is hurtful?”  Was another suggestion.

At first these suggestions seem like the perfect tools – fair, clear, and direct. I was jazzed and ready to lay down my newfound communication skills.

But when I spoke to the person who’d hurt me, I was charged with fear…. again. 

Unlike those who easily errupt with anger, my tendency is to do almost anything to avoid conflict, sadly at the expense of myself.

The problem was the words my therapist gave me wouldn’t come out. My throat felt like a golf ball lodged inside. I had to cough and sputter and struggle to spit out the words.  And while the words eventually came out, I was left swimming in the feeling that nothing really got resolved. And, most importantly, I was still hurting.

And that’s the gap I’ve come to know where talk therapy just doesn’t fill. But luckily somatic work (work that allows you to release unconscious emotional blocks from your body) fills that gap.

Through somatic (somatic means “of the body”) work, I’ve learned, in order to express clear boundaries, it’s often about getting in touch with anger viscerally, without shutting it down or exploding into uncontrollable rage.

This kind of healthy aggression could be defined as an assertive expression of anger, rather than a defensive expression of anger – golden for creating clear boundaries and strengthening your integrity.

Next stop: My somatic practitioner.

I asked my somatic practitioner to help me work specifically on my jaw, where I felt I was holding my anger, preventing me from clearly expressing my boundaries. (As an aside, my pent up anger was also also affecting my sexual desire, no bueno!).

During my somatic session, before I could name any emotion, I felt heat surge through my neck and face.  A grimacing snarl moved into my mouth and I found myself baring both rows of my teeth and gums.  Relief washed over me as my grimace turn into a growl – this was exactly the physical catalyst I needed to unblock my healthy aggression.

When your body is subtly guided towards a satisfying release, like this feline snarl of mine that curled its way into my face, the body’s self-healing mechanism naturally kicks in and does it’s thing.

The next thing I know, I feel heat move into my legs and arms. I feel another release as my finger points distinctively in the air.

Before I had words for it, my practitioner says: “It looks like your finger is pointing in disgust.”

Ah yes! Disgust, exactly! When she named what she was seeing it validated what the thing I didn’t have the words for.

There’s nothing like disgust.

It’s a total and utter rejection of what you’ve swallowed, knowingly or unknowingly.

The thing is, I was taught… possibly like many of us, that expressing anger is “ugly”. I was often reminded that “people” will only want to be around me if I’m happy and pleasant.

Expressing anger somehow got translated as risking losing those who I love, and this block in my body was amputating my primal sense of sovereignty over my voice.

My body’s self-healing mechanism was in fact doing it’s thing. I was literally rejecting all the times I’d swallowed my anger.

As it turned out, disgust empowered me by helping me dislodge the fear I had with expressing my boundaries.

But the thing is, disgust isn’t always about the perpetrator, or the person who’s poking at the tender and ancient mollusk-like wound that’s already inside. Try as you might, trying to change the perpetrator is a tall order.

Our only option for real change is to change ourselves.

My experience has been over and over again that the answers are all inside of ourselves.  Practitioners and therapists are helpful in having an eye and ear outside of our own situation, but ultimately the answers we seek are inside.

Third Stop: Getting clear from the inside out.

To help my mind catch up with my body’s self-regulating, I did one of my favorite practices: vocalizing yes and no out loud for over an hour with my eyes closed. Suddenly all of the ways I wanted to set up boundaries for myself became crystal clear.

Yes, to my voice.

Yes, I will stand up to those who interrupt me, cut off or redirect the conversation when I haven’t finished speaking.

No, to those who are blind because they’re wrapped up in their own pain.

Yes, I will stand up to criticism.

No, to swallowing my shame in silence.

Yes, I will stand up to being bullied.

No, to explaining or trying to help the other person understand my pain.  “It’s not ok” is enough. 

The final hoo-haa:  Easy Breezy Boundaries 

What I realized in this final step about boundary-making was profound.  I kept on repeating yes and no outloud to myself, and something else became clear.

As I pictured the person whose behavior I was saying “no” to, my “no”: wasn’t angry at all. Instead, it was gentle. It was a “no” that was full of love for this person, who didn’t know how to be when they turned their shame onto me.

My “no” was no longer charged with rage or stunted by fear.  And this “no” was no longer contingent on a long list of changes that I was demanding from someone who quite possibly had no will to change.

It was a ‘no’ that had an grandmother’s voice, full of mothering love raining down on a child who didn’t know the difference between hot and cold, destructive or constructive, cruel or kind.  A loving “Ah child, no no no no no. Tsk tsk tsk tsk. No, no, no, no, no.”  was all that’s needed from me to ease both myself and the perpetrator out of pain and into clarity.

It made me see that harnessing rage to find clarity for righteous action needs a soothing love. We might say coeur (french for heart) + rage (healthy aggression) = a loving no.

So the next time you fumble and finagle for the ‘right’ words to set up your boundaries, you might also consider putting a dash of heart into your heated no to ease your fear of speaking up.

I’ve given this experiment a try already several times myself: no angst, no golf-balls in my throat and no push back from my boundaries.

And as Brene Brown says in her new book “Braving the Wilderness” :

“Opting out of speaking out because we may get criticized is the definition of privilege.”  And who wants to be speechless in the urgent times we’re in?

Would love to hear if you try this out.  And if you want to try some of the practices I’ve mentioned here, they’re available in my Passion Guide.


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What To Do When You Feel Triggered

What happens when you feel triggered?  Maybe something someone says or does, on the news, on the street, in your home, at work eeks it’s way into your psyche and your body threatening to replay the repugnant details of a traumatic or painful event…

What do you do?  Do you avoid it?  Or do you find yourself suddenly at the mercy of your mind and body spiraling out of control?

The problem is, we don’t always have fair warning when something or someone is going to trigger the emotional and physical reminder of a painful experience, or worse activate re-living a past trauma.

We know it’s not healthy to re-live trauma.  As one of my mentors Dr. Besser Van Der Kolk says, by re-living the trauma, your mind and body validates that there’s danger and a threat, even if there isn’t.

To some degree you may be able control what you take in on the media, but if someone shares their own traumatic event with you, it may inevitably stir up painful or uncomfortable memories or trauma of your own. 

Whether or not you identify with trauma, I want to share a powerful tool not only for getting through emotional pain when it’s been poked at, but for healing  trauma while you’re in it.

The common association to trauma is something that results from physical incidents, such as rape, sexual assault, physical abuse or other violations. But actually, trauma can be even more complex when it comes to emotional incidents that happen when we’re younger, which then get activated by things like a break-up that happens too fast and too soon, for you to be able to do anything about it.

With that in mind, you can use this tool for anytime you’re in a state of overwhelm, whether it’s post traumatic stress that’s been triggered, or an unresolved emotional wound that you may not be aware of.

The key is that you don’t stop or try to repress any uncomfortable sensations or emotions, but that you can off-set the overwhelm that comes with post traumatic stress with pleasant sensations in your body, to ground you.  By off-setting the sensation of threat in your body,  with a pleasant sensation in your body, the trauma can be releaseed in small, gentle increments without overwhelming you.

When you feel triggered, your body goes into a state of arousal, and your sympathetic nervous system becomes activiated.  This kind of arousal is associated with threat or danger, so your  body may react by shutting-down with numbness, or you may feel rage course through you, and want to fight, or you may be filled with adrenalin and want to get as far away from the situation as possible. 

In which ever way you find yourself reacting, here’s what you can do to move through the overwhelm, and

1. Breathe into the sensation in your body that feels the most activated while keeping your eyes open. Then describe the sensation to yourself out loud. 

2. Next, recall a time when you felt free, pleasant, happy or content. It can be as simple as recalling the last thing that went well for you that week, or something recent that made you feel grateful. 

3. After you recall that moment, scan your body and notice the sensations when you think of that moment.  Then breathe into that sensation in your body and describe the sensation out loud. 

4. After you express out loud what this new sensation is, scan your body again and see if the sensation changes.  Then describe out loud how you feel when you think of the pleasant moment.

5. Then scan your body to see if the part of your body that felt triggered, is still activated. Describe that sensation out loud.

6. Go back to recalling the pleasant experience. Continue to go back to the pleasant sensation and staying with that sensation by describing it out loud.

By going back and forth between the activated part of your body that signals danger or threat, and the pleasant sensations in your body, you get to release the activated part in small increments, so that it doesn’t overwhelm your nervous system. 

These small internal movements not only help you to ground yourself and prevent you from re-living trauma, but it helps you to heal from trauma.

In Somatic Experiencing Trauma Release, this process is called “titration”. The pleasant sensation, or grounded sensation in your body, helps to diffuse and off-set the sensation where your body senses a threat, when there isn’t actually a physical threat. 

This process also helps you to stay in the moment, so you don’t disassociate from your body.  Staying present with the sensations in your body, without going into overwhelm is the key to healing from any emotional or physical pain.

If you’d like guidance through this healing process, I’m a certified Somatic Experiencing Trauma Release practitioner and I’m available for one hour skype sessions.  Please feel free to contact me through my website.


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A Key You May Be Missing to Feeling Good in Your Body


Is pushing yourself to work-out a punishment or an act of love?

If your exercise jam isn’t pleasurable, here’s a download that can change not only how you exercise, but more importantly how kind you are to yourself in the process.

Unfortunately so many of the exercise options out there are championed by the slogan “no pain, no gain” coupled with a kind of discipline that’s crippled with self-loathing. Even in the mind-body-spirit arenas, there’s performance pressure to perfect yoga poses, instead of enjoy them.

While I know how important pleasurable movement is in my own life, last summer I opted to go hard and work out like a maniac to get rid of some stubborn rolls…..until my adrenals were totally fatigued. Not only did I not lose weight, I got sick.

So this summer, I’m changing my game plan…. not only because last year’s plan didn’t work but because I was reminded why pleasure is an essential part of feeling at home in my body without stressing it.

Earlier this spring, I had the chance to train with Jean Louis Rodrigue – a top coach for some big wig Hollywood actors and public speakers.

In short, Jean Louis helps people to connect to their bodies in a way that’s animalistic, so they feel fully, freely and completely themselves without pretense (similar to my work in Permission Sessions!).

I loved how Jean-Louis’s named three different ways of being in the body, and I want to share them with you so you can define for yourself if your work-outs are punishment or pleasurable:

1 – Punishing your body: This is forcing your body into compliance. (Hard core work outs anyone?)

2 – Body Beautiful:  When your body becomes an obsession. You create a mask and disappear behind it. (Remember the blog I wrote last month about smiling when you don’t feel like it?)

3 – Your Body is You: This is what animals are.  They are directly themselves and they don’t how to be anyone else.  They are the full version of themselves in their environment.

Just like animals, we were once all “full versions” of ourselves as babies.  But as humans, our rational minds socialize us and hold us back from being in our bodies.

Have you ever noticed how animals don’t judge themselves? Can you imagine a jaguar thinking she’s too slutty or too prude? Or how about an aardvark telling herself she needs to run laps all day long?

Funny how we humans are masters at judging ourselves and then punishing our bodies into compliance with hard core work-outs that can go against our nature.

While there’s no doubt movement is essential for physical health, obsessive work outs may actually be contributing to stress levels, preventing you from feeling good…. and peaceful.

Here’s the nitty gritty on why pushing your body doesn’t address anxiety or stress biochemically or on an emotional level:

Muscle spindles (sensory receptors within the belly of a muscle that primarily detect changes in the length of this muscle) are sending messages via neurons to the muscles to contract.

When you push your body to work out hard, and stretch your muscle tissue, the muscle spindal sends alpha-neurons to send messages to your brain for big actions – for a long stretch in the muscle tissue. The alpha-neurons however are not connected to your lymbic system (the part of you that feels emotions), and you by pass your ability to feel. So with extreme muscle actions, your feelings remain unexpressed in your body and anxiety continues.

But there’s good news, which can change the way you workout to reach both physical and emotional well being:

Other brain messengers, called gamma neurons, are the neurons that send messages for small actions/movements.  These neurons are activated with small muscle movements have a relationship with the lymbic system – your emotions!  So when we move our muscles with small movements, it allows us to feel our emotions. When we feel our emotions, we can release anxiety physically as well as emotionally.

Moral of the story?

Slow movement (go gamma neurons!).  Allow yourself to feel (go lymbic brain!).

And watch your stress and anxiety melt away while your body gets the pleasure of moving.

PS: if you apply the same principles to your sensual life, you’ll no doubt get heathly emotional satisfaction instead of just an endorphin rush.

Here’s to feeling free this summer!

REFERENCES: 
Some of the information in my blog is from the training I received in Peter’s Somatic Experiencing work (somatic meaning ‘of the body’). Peter’s work is based on the fact that humans are animals, and we prevent ourselves from our body’s natural ways of releasing emotional and physcial blocks because of our cognitive minds. His methods allow the body to come back to it’s natural self-healing mechanisms – the science of this is explained in his book, Waking the Tiger.

The other information was gleaned from experiential workshops I participated in with Jean-Louis Rodrigue who teaches another kind of somatic (body work) called Alexander Technique. He’s adapted the Alexander Technique to include the natural embodiment of wild animals.


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The Key To Releasing Anxiety With Ease

I’m so excited to have completed phase one of Peter Levine’s Somatic Experiencing Trauma ReleaseTraining earlier this month.  I can’t wait to bring what I’m learning into my work with Permission Sessions.

What I really love about this work is that it easily allows you to release unconscious blocks in your body that you may not even realize you had.

Somatic experiencing safely releases emotional and physical trauma in small increments without re-activating or re-living trauma.

Even though I’ve been practising this somatic work (working with the body for emotional well being) for my own healing for years, I’m always surprised by what comes up, and what I learn about myself.

In the training class, I volunteered to be a demo for the practitioner to conduct a session. I started by telling the practitioner I have chronic jaw tension and I was floored by what happened next.
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When Passion Fades……3 Questions You Can Ask Yourself

I was at a party recently and a friend asked,

“How do you get the passion back in your relationship, when you start getting bored of each other?”

It’s a question I’ve been asking myself – a lot actually.

What do you do when the sizzle fizzles?

What if you say you want more passionate kissing and he says he needs more passion before he can get to the kissing?

What keeps your relationship where you want it to be?

What are the ingredients? And how do you want to maintain them?

When you hear these questions, you might think:

“I don’t want to ‘work’ at having to have passion! I want passion to be effortless. I work at so many other things in life, why would I want to ‘work’ at passion?”

I get it. Maybe you even start to tally up all the ways you’ve already put effort into passion…

Planning a weekend getaway… Signing up for a course exploring your erotic nature…Talking to your partner about what you want in bed….Getting inspired with new ideas from a coach…Scheduling time together without the distraction of social media, texts, news, phone call, netflix, amazon etc…?

Maybe you’ve suggested all of these things, and done some of them, but your passion still isn’t jamming?

What next?
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Top 10 Keys for Living Shamelessly

shame, releasing shame,

Photo by Josef Kandoll

I’ve just returned from the Permission Retreat in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and the powerful and profound shifts from the group have settled in.

For context, the 5 days of the retreat were rooted in Permission Sessions – my signature somatic group workshops where each participant is guided toward the unique intuitive shifts that need to be expressed through movement, voice and breath to release any part of themselves that’s been hidden, denied or shamed.

The goal is to free any stubborn hang-ups in your body that may unconsciously be an obstacle for liberated joy, confidence and pleasure on any scale. My approach is to unearth these hidden pieces from the inside out, so you can free your psyche, body and heart from any internal conflict or struggle.

Photo by Josef Kandoll.

We laughed that the hashtag for the retreat should be #kristamademedoit… and it still makes me smile. I like to think whatever is inside of you, has been aching to get out all along, and sometimes all you need is a little extra permission.
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