What is Radical Embodiment?

April 17, 2019

Over the past year as I’ve been birthing my healing justice practice, the words "Radical Embodiment" have been at the fore. Since this combination of words is a bit abstract and open to interpretation, I thought I’d dedicate a blog post to offering a sense of what these words mean to me. Sometimes when we trying to define something, it’s helpful to start by getting clear on what it’s not. When it comes to Radical Embodiment, the clearest way I can describe its opposite is to reference some historical context by way of Richard Strozzi's book, The Art of Somatic Coaching, in which he writes, “the age of industrialization at the beginning of the last century radically altered how we live and work, and now at the beginning of the 21st century we are living disembodied lives in which instead of being engaged in the direct experience of our surroundings, we dwell in a world of symbols, ideologies, virtual realities, unexamined materialism, predigested information, and ten second sound bites.” Strozzi continues to unpack how in the industrial age the body was “socially organized” for efficient mass production.

I have a lot of grief about what this socially engineered hyper-focus on rationality and disembodiment has done to the emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being of our society. “When we're at a distance from our bodies we become confused about how to live our lives. This leads to fear, which produces violence, inequitable rights, and self-isolation," Strozzi writes. I would add that racial capitalism inherently requires disembodiment in order to maintain the false hierarchy of human value that undergirds our society -- from the physical infrastructure to the access and flow of money and resources of life (food, housing, education, healthcare, employment, etc.). Strozzi suggests the distance we live from our body is the distance we live from our self and from our very human emotional reality, including the emotions that would normally inhibit someone from inflicting pain onto another person or living being. “In the socially manufactured separation of spirit and biology, the capacity to feel and sense has been lost. Conscience, self-reflection, historical memory, imagination, compassion, intuition, energy, and a spiritual truing are less accessible to us when our ability to feel has been pruned from us," he claims.

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I recently re-watched the movie Avatar, which illustrates the stark and disturbing difference between a species of beings that's oriented toward their planet and its land as their mother, and one that's oriented toward their planet and its land as a commodity to be extracted from, exploited, and colonized. As someone who belongs to a settler colonial people who has been cut off from our European roots through the process of assimilation and socialization into U.S. white dominant culture, it is an on-going practice to mourn what’s been lost, confront the violence that’s been done in my/our name, and work to reclaim and reorient toward ways of being and relating to all living beings that are life-affirming, humanizing, and reparative.  Because violence both requires and creates disembodiment, Radical Embodiment is an important form of resistance. It is a radical and counter cultural act to FEEL one's own and another's tender humanity, and this requires being present in the here and now in one’s own body.

It’s understandable why so many people live outside their bodies. It’s both a result of our legacy of colonial violence and also a common trauma response to the dominant culture we live in. As one of my mentor/coaches, Vanissar Tarakali writes about in her blog, being able to dissociate, along with fight, flight, freeze, and appease, is a brilliant survival strategy that allows one to survive an overwhelmingly painful event or ongoing reality, while minimizing felt pain and suffering on a physical and emotional level. If we don’t dwell in our bodies, we don’t have to feel the pain of external and internalized oppression. And yet, the body, the “soma,” is a source of wisdom and intelligence and so finding or returning to a state of embodiment (if/as that is possible) is the medicine for much of what ails us. This is what Radical Embodiment is about for me. I feel strongly it’s a counter cultural act of resistance to come back to our bodies and FEEL. If we can’t feel, we can’t heal. Of course, many folks are understandably stuck in a pattern of dissociation in order to survive ongoing oppression and violence. This is part of why I fight for racial justice and healing justice, because I believe we all deserve to dwell in our full aliveness and our full dignity in our bodies, and in order for this to happen Black and Brown bodies need to not be under constant attack. In order for Black and Brown bodies to not be under constant threat, white bodies must heal the cycle of violence that is trapped in their/our nervous systems.

Body-based therapist, Tada Hozumi writes about whiteness itself as a form of complex cultural trauma -- that is, an energy of the larger cultural autonomic nervous system that is felt in all of the individual nervous systems that compose it. “[Whiteness] is a posture that is rigid and disembodied, showing up as the mind cut off from the body; an easily triggered/activated nervous system; disrupted parasympathetic nervous system function; and a hypervigilant need to dominate or control the bodies/soma of others,” writes Hozumi. This also aligns with the many manifestations of white fragility as described by Dr. Robin DiAngelo in her book, White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism. Resmaa Menakem, author of My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies, writes about how white-on-white violence in Europe is at the root of this cultural trauma and that until white people take responsibility for healing this ancient pain and trauma in their/our bodies, white folks will continue to try and displace their “dirty pain” onto the bodies of People of Color. For white folks to be radically embodied means to for us to learn to unweave our socialized, internalized, and deeply embodied racial fear, insecurity, and dominance. As Menakem writes about, how in order to heal whiteness, white people must learn to cultivate a felt sense of calm, safety, and support in the body through grounding, orienting to positive resource, and receiving mindful and loving presence from self and/or another. This is the work of building resilience where there has historically been socialized fragility rooted in the myth that white folks are inherently weak and vulnerable and therefore in need of insulation and protection from discomfort — hence the 1%ers who live with a chronic sense of never enough-ness despite possessing more wealth and resources than one can even comprehend.

As I have learned through my Somatic Experiencing (SE) Trauma Healing training and personal sessions with SE Practitioner, Sage Hayes, one of the quickest ways to come back to the body is to notice one’s environment through the senses. Noticing what sensory experiences feel either neutral or maybe even pleasant in any given setting and moment. This expands our awareness from only orienting toward perceived threat to becoming increasingly aware of a felt sense of positive resource and connection with one’s environment. From there we can cultivate somatic awareness by inviting our awareness deeper into the body by noticing sensations in the body. Sensations could show up as tingling, buzzing, pulsating, temperature, color, textures, movement, shape, pressure, vibrations, imagines, and a felt sense of our physiology and our energy within the body. Sensations are sources of bodily “data” and becoming intentionally aware of them is a direct way of (re)connecting with the body and coming back to the present moment. From this present moment awareness, we are able to discern real verses perceived danger rather than stay stuck in a conditioned pattern of hyper-arousal. When we become aware of our bodily experience we have more agency in the present moment around the ways we think, act, feel, sense, perceive, and behave. Through somatic awareness we have access to the ability to notice patterns of default habits and tendencies. These default habits and tendencies are brilliant survival strategies that were necessary for survival at one time, yet/and, when we recognize how, why, when, and where these tendencies and patterns show up in the body, whether they express themselves as flash points, unmet longings, or patterns of harmful behavior, and begin to resolve and shift them, we are able to engage in more profound internal and interpersonal, institutional, and cultural change. When we are aware of and take responsibility for our embodied reality, we are able to act more congruently with our values and authentically BE the change we want to see in the world, from the inside out.

In closing, Radical Embodiment is about countering the myriad reasons we have both had to leave the body and been taught to leave the body in order to survive and help maintain our current paradigm. As painful as it can be to be fully present in the body amidst so much trauma, I truly believe this is the work of true transformation and physically, energetically, and spiritually ushering in a new paradigm. I am so honored to support folks in learning how to come back to the body through my private Somatic Experiencing and Embodied Leadership Coaching sessions, as well as my Unweaving Embodied Racial Dominance workshops with Rachael Koeson. As I often tell my clients, our magical ability to leave the body will never go away, yet the work of Radical Embodiment to build the capacity to come back to the body as much and as often as it feels possible and beneficial, as an act of resisting and healing the traumatic cycles of oppression and dominance. To reclaim one’s body is to reclaim one’s humanity and felt sense of aliveness, which is all of our birthright. Here’s to Radical Embodiment for collective liberation. May it be so.

Practice as Honoring: Reflections of an Antiracist White Yogi

March 9th, 2019

One of the biggest take aways for me from the recent Honor {Don't Appropriate} Yoga Summit lead by Susanna Barkataki is that as a white person who has had the privilege of accessing Yoga and Ayurveda with the support of teachers like Libby Robold, Sandra Carden, Noah Mckenna, Karina Ayn Mirsky, Melissa Spamer, Kara Aubin, Rama Jyoti Vernon, and Behnje Masson, who engage with it in culturally respectful and reverent ways, AND as someone who is a antiracist Jewish white, queer, non-binary femme survivor with disabilities, it is my responsibility to continue to practice and teach this incredible system of healing and liberation. Not from a place of entitlement but rather from a place of leadership. To not do so is actually to dishonor the tradition, which has highly influenced who I am today as a radical change maker and politicized healing healer. When practiced with integrity, humility, and in alignment with the authentic teachings, yoga is transformative.

When I first started to apprentice to become a professional antiracism educator/facilitator in 2014, I started to learn about cultural appropriation and cultural racism as extensions of systemic racism and white supremacy. Because of where I was at the time in my own trauma (tendency toward guilt, shame, and low self-esteem) and my white identity development, I fairly quickly, without all that much reflection decided I had to stop practicing and teaching yoga. I felt I needed to sit with the grief and pain of not knowing what my ancestors practiced for healing and spiritual grounding. And though I co-wrote this piece encouraging white people to keep practicing while also learning about the history and racism and colonialism in India and the U.S., I still wasn’t leaning fully back into my own practice, perhaps out of guilt and shame, perhaps because when we practice we feel more and I was shutting down (the trauma response of freeze) out of overwhelm about the world and the amount of work there was to do. Fast forward to 2017 when I experienced severe burn-out and had to step away from institutional antiracism organizing and training leadership, in part due to the fact that my practice had built my capacity for this hard work and stopping my practice slowly diminished my capacity for resilience, clarity, and spiritual grounding. Herein lies the complexity of white folks engaging with yoga — it most definitely helps folks live into their best selves, yet it is not from our cultural lineage and practicing without this awareness and understanding of racism and cultural appropriate just perpetuates more racism and cultural appropriation, even if one’s intentions are good.

I have been recovering from burn-out and rebirthing myself as a politicized healer, over the past year, I have continued to reflect on my relationship with yoga. I have practiced on and off and have taught some gentle and restorative classes as I have had the bandwidth. and inspiration I have also engaged in healing my ancestral lineages and recovering the earth-based spiritual wisdom of my people over the past year with the support of Jewish Priestess and Ancestral Medicine Practitioner, Taya Shere. What I'm realizing more than ever before is that based on the reality of where we are as a species (teetering on the brink of an actual apocalypse), I need a spiritual practice that’s informed by the ancient sages of India (and Africa, where many claim Kemetic yoga was born), as well as by my own pre-colonial Jewish Lithuanian and other European ancestral roots. Deep gratitude to Dr. Daniel Foor of Ancestral Medicine for his leadership around and modeling of how to be in right relationship with the ancestors of blood and of tradition.

One of the toxic values of white dominant culture is either/or (binary) thinking. This is also a common trauma response, which makes sense culturally in addition to individually, as white culture is largely a trauma-based culture. Shout out to cultural somatics thought and praxis leaders, Tada Hozumi and Resmaa Menakem, who write about this. Within myself I can see how this has played out in my relationship with yoga over the last several years — I was looking at it as an either/or — either I was a good white person, which meant I didn’t practice or teach yoga, or I was a bad white person and I did. This is type of thinking is also rooted in white fragility because I could not until more recently hold the complexity and tension of it all, so I just tried to opt out. In reality, this did my own health and my work a disservice. Instead of modeling how to navigate these tricky terrain and how to engage with integrity, cultural respect, humility, and accountability, I absented myself all together. This is not the type of leader I want to be. Thankfully, it is always possible to begin again, in yoga, in leadership, and in being in compassionate and open-minded relationship with our incredible complex world.

If I am to fully live into the transformative, liberatory value of both/and thinking, I need and want to hold the tension, complexity, and messiness of all of this -- my grief around the cultural and spiritual stripping and assimilation of my people into white supremacy; my inherent complicity in a racial capitalistic system that has produced the multi-billion dollar "yoga industrial complex" that mostly serves white able-bodied cisgender, heteronormative people with class privilege without accountability to South Asian Indian people; and my own and others' need for an accessible and holistic wisdom tradition that facilitates healing and health in order to cultivate resilience for the long haul of collective healing and liberation work... Yes/and to all of this. Yes to practicing in a way that helps me live into my best self, yes to sitting with the grief and sorrow of cultural appropriation, yes to using my power, voice, and privilege within the yoga world to uplift teachers and students who hold marginalized identities, yes to recovering my colonized ancestral connections, yes to all of it.

In closing, I'd like to apologize to my teachers, my teachers' teachers, and to the ancestors, ascended masters, Gods and Goddesses of yoga for not taking more seriously their investment in this practice and in me, and not taking more seriously my investment in this practice and all is has facilitated in me and my students over the years. I'd also like to apologize for my inherent complicity in white supremacy and therefore in cultural appropriation of yoga. As an important piece of my healing justice work, I hereby humbly recommit first and foremost to my own yoga practice, and also to teaching in a way that is of most service to my community and in accountability to the well and benevolent ancestors of yoga, their descendents, and all people who feel that the healing practices of yoga aren't accessible to them. May I always remember and uplift the interconnectedness between yoga, social justice, and honoring the ancestors of blood and of tradition.

December 2018

I hope this finds you feeling well and resilient on this Winter Solstice. This time of year always feels so tender and ripe for me. I always feel a strong pull inward to intentionally rest, review and integrate the past year, and reflect on what seeds I wish to plant, incubate, and nurture over the coming months. In my experience, this takes a certain amount of courage and boundary magic in a culture that tends to overstimulate us during these darkest days of the year. 

Today, after sending this message, I will start a tech detox until the first of the year. I am looking forward to reorienting to nature and my surroundings after a fairly indoor and overly digital fall. Intentionally orienting to positive resource (in the real world vs via the electronic world) is a new resilience practice for me, which I have learned through my Somatic Experiencing training. It is one of the quickest ways to come back to the body and the present moment. Although this message is coming to you on a screen, I invite you to pause and intentionally notice what registers as a YES, or maybe even just a neutral OKAY, for your body in this moment in your current environment.  Maybe it's a plant, a color, a quality of light, a song, the touch of warm air on your skin, or your favorite food cooking. You can incorporate this as part of a meditation practice and/or return informally to it throughout your day, regardless of where you find yourself.  I hope your nervous system appreciates it as much as mine does. 
 
I am excited to have completed my beginning year of Somatic Experiencing (SE) training through the Somatic Experiencing Trauma Healing Institute in Yellow Springs, OH. This first year has already facilitated so much transformation in my body and how I relate to it. It's one thing to know you need to slow down and another thing for your nervous system to remember how to be calm and alert, rather than hypervigilant and/or dissociated (effective as those survival skills can be). I am grateful to be learning so much about trauma physiology and recovery, and for the honor of supporting my clients with transformative tools and practices of SE.   

Over the last two months I had the privilege of participating in a six-week small group somatic coaching session via zoom with politicized somatics coach, Vanissar Tarakali called, Unwinding Internalized Oppression and Dominance. We explored how oppression trauma manifests somatically as somatic contractions, implicit body memories, and survival strategies, and habitual reactions. Through individual and group coaching and mentoring, we learned somatic practices to unwind embodied oppression and dominance, which I am currently integrating into my personal and professional practices. 
 
Another dimension of my 2018 journey has been Jewish Lineage Repair work with Ancestral Medicine Practitioner, Taya Shere.  I have worked with Taya and my ancestor guides to heal my mother’s father’s and mother’s mother’s lines. This work has been so powerful and awe-inspiring. I've been actively tending my ancestor altar and aligning with ancient ancestral blessings and ways of being that feel deeply nourishing. If you are curious about this work, I recommend Dr. Daniel Foor’s book, Ancestral Medicine

As I look to the coming year, I am energized to continue facilitating Somatic Healing and Integrative Wellness Coaching, Embodied Transformative Leadership Coaching, and Somatic Organizational Resilience Practice.  I am also offering a Rest & Restore yoga class on Thursdays 5:30-6:45pm at Sanctuary Yoga starting January 3rd. This trauma-aware class is soothing and nurturing while facilitating conscious relaxation and deep healing. We will utilize various props to create a stable and safe source of support for the body/mind to release tension and stress.  I will also be facilitating weekly Movement for the Movement sessions on Sundays, which include accessible, exploratory somatic practices that cultivate somatic awareness, community connection, and resilience among social justice organizers, leaders, facilitators, healers, and caretakers.
 
My cultural somatics collaborator, Rachael Koeson and I are excited to bring ourUnweaving Embodied Racial Dominance workshop to Kalamazoo on January 26th from 1-5pm. This workshop is designed for white yoga instructors, massage therapists, social workers, therapists, healers, and helpers who wish to understand and begin to transform the ways white supremacy lives in our bodies. We will resource our nervous systems to grow our capacity to be resilient, self-aware, compassionate, accountable, and race conscious healing practitioners.

Wishing you and yours a peaceful solstice and resilient holiday season. Below are some Solstice / New Year reflection prompts in the event they resonate and feel generative for you... 

  • What are the highs and lows from your past year?

  • What parts of you were reborn anew in 2018?

  • What are you composting as you wrap up this year and look to new horizons?

  • What gives you hope, energy, and courage in these trying paradigm-shifting times?

  • What does the world you wish to live in look and feel like? What is your role in ushering it in? 

  • How do you desire to feel in body, mind, and spirit in 2019; and what will you put in place to help support this? 

I look forward to supporting your healing journey in the coming year as we collectively work toward liberation for all people and the planet.  Sending you big solstice love.

October 2018

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I hope this finds you feeling well and resilient, all things considered. I know this past week has been extra exhausting for survivors, women, femmes, and queer folk. While the Patriarchy grasps for power and control, and gasps for more stolen oxygen, the trees are still the trees and the earth is still the earth. Abundance just keeps giving, waiting for us to remember - remember our shared Divinity, remember how to live in harmony with all living beings, so that we may live at all.   

One of my beloved teachers, Taya Shere, recently shared in her Embodied Presence course, “How we do anything is how we do everything.” This struck a deep chord in me. Taya went on to propose that instead of thinking of pace as fast or slow, to frame pace in terms of internally or externally generated. She asked, if right pace is prayer, how and what do you pray? This was humbling for me to receive as someone who struggles to move at a sustainable pace. 


Over the past year, since reaching a major rock bottom in social justice burnout, I've been rebuilding and recovering my relationship with my body and with right pace. My tendency to override my body’s natural pace to get myself somewhere or to meet an imagined or real need is deeply embedded in my mental, physical, and energetic patterning. I'm aware this stems from my socialization within systems of oppression like capitalism, patriarchy, white supremacy, antisemitism, ableism, and an overall culture of rationalism and dominance. This is why slowing down is a courageous and often risky counter cultural act of resistance. 

In addition and connected to these systemic and cultural forces, my personal trauma history and related issues with shame and self-worth underlie my historic cycles of over-functioning and workaholism. As a student and practitioner of Somatic Experiencing, I'm learning to discharge or resolve the survival energy that's been trapped and accumulating in my nervous system throughout my life. I'm learning to tend a compassionate relationship with my body, rather than one that reflects and perpetuates dominance.

I'm grateful that in moments when I unconsciously slip back into a state of striving and pushing my body to keep up with an externally imposed pace, I have more and more access to somatic awareness. I'm more quickly able to notice the sensations in my body and hear what they're trying to tell me, whether it's the need for a break, a walk, a stretch, fresh air, food, water, rest, integration, connection, consensual touch, a slowing, and/or a shift in perspective.

Graphic by: On Being in the Body

Graphic by: On Being in the Body

Somatic awareness can be a first step toward remembering our innate connection with and expression of Abundance. If sublimating our bodily needs (aka somatic wisdom) is a symptom of oppression, trauma, and shame, then centering the body's messages can help us re-attune to the sacred flow always alive within us. I've noticed when I intentionally give myself permission to move at a body-led pace, my experience of life feels so much more vibrant, nourishing, and pleasureful. When I am in this state of consciousness, my chronic sense of scarcity/not enough-ness fades away and I feel more at home in my body and on this planet.This way of being feels new and ancient at once.In this spirit I offer you the following somatic practice. If you choose to engage it, I invite you to allow a few minutes for each segment. 

~ Without trying to change it, notice your breath. Feel the slight coolness of your inhale, and the subtle warmth of your exhale. What other characteristics of the breath are you aware of? 
~ Attune to your senses. What does your body most resonate with in your environment? What feels either neutral or maybe even pleasant? Is it the touch of fabric or air on your skin; or the smell of fresh air? Maybe the sound of birds, rain, or crickets; or the sight of a pleasing color or a tree line against the sky? 
~ Invite your awareness to travel deeper into your body and notice any heaviness and/or lightness. Scan for any warmth and/or coolness. Notice expansion and/or contraction. Is there a color and/or texture present in your awareness?
~ From a place of curiosity, notice if/where there has been strain or over-efforting. Compassionately presence any felt sense of fatigue or exhaustion. 
~ Bare witness to how miraculously your body is working for you, even if health challenges are present. Befriend and honor this amazing organism and its existing resilience by simply pausing to listen and integrate. 
~ Attune to any cues from your body as to what would help it feel a bit more comfortable and at ease. Make any adjustments and move on with your day in collaboration and solidarity with your body. Return to this practice any time you wish to re-attune to positive resource around and within you in the here and now. 

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I'm very excited to share that I'm collaborating with fellow radical somatics practitioner, Rachael Koeson of Making Space Hakomi to co-facilitate a series of offerings that live at the intersection of cultural trauma and somatic healing. Rachael and I are passionate about helping bridge the gap between social justice and healing arts, and are so grateful for the visionary cultural somatics work of Resmaa Menakem and Tada Hozumi. We are beginning with the following workshop for white healers and helpers in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

We developed this workshop for white yoga instructors, massage therapists, counselors, and other healers and helpers who wish to understand how the experience of white supremacy lives in our bodies. We will use mindfulness, somatic awareness, and an anti-oppression analysis as the frameworks, and hold the tension of compassion and responsibility. We will resource our nervous systems to uncover and begin to heal this pain, which will grow our capacity to be resilient, integrated, and transformative practitioners. You can learn more and register here.

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There are various ways to practice and work with me somatically if you feel called, whether it's private somatic coaching or trauma healing workembodied leadership coaching, organizational group practice sessions, or weekly community classes. Please feel free to schedule a free consultation to explore the possibility of working with me. Check out the resources page of my website where I've linked some of my favorite sources of healing justice support and inspiration from around the country. It's an honor to be in community and solidarity with you as we collectively heal and work toward liberation. Take good care and remember you are worthy of so much love, belonging, and radical embodiment. 

July 2018

Photo by Lillie

Photo by Lillie

I hope this finds you well post Full Moon Lunar Eclipse as the moon wanes and we settle into a period of mid-summer Mercury Retrograde. I am finding myself needing extra rest and permission to move slowly, in tune with my ever-changing bodily needs. In my experience, Mercury Retrogrades can feel challenging, especially if I try to "keep pace" with our culture's unsustainable expectation of productivity. If I yield, however, allowing this period to be one of tracing back, leaning out, integrating, gathering my energies, and knitting my parts back together, I find it to be a welcome reprieve from my conditioned tendency to over function (at the cost of presence and embodiment).  

Over the past moon cycle I've been integrating my first module of training with the Somatic Experiencing Trauma Institute (SETI). SETI is based in Denver, CO and offers trainings across the globe. I am training with them in Yellow Springs, OH (photo above is from a rainy woods hike there). At this first training I learned transformative somatic practices to regulate my own nervous system and experienced some powerful healing with the support of my peers and the SETI training team. Since my return I've started integrating Somatic Experiencing ("SE") work into my private sessions, with positive feedback from my clients.

I am finding my own on-going personal SE sessions to be so helpful in listening to and tending my animal body, and (re)attuning to the natural world. During these politically turbulent and triggering times, this is radical and transformative resistance. As systems of oppression crumble around us, stirring up conflict, fear, disorientation, and uncertainty, we have no shortage of opportunities to engage with the trauma and survival energy held within our bodies. Though it can be particularly difficult to self-regulate and heal these days, I believe part of our work here on this planet at this time is to cultivate greater physical, mental, and spiritual resilience (radical embodiment) as we co-create a new paradigm of collective healing and liberation. In this spirit, I share with you this poem I recently wrote. 
 

Body Whisper
 

I have learned to depend on this body,

befriend her signals, sensations, yearnings.

 

I ask her for forgiveness.

Together, we recover presence, 

yielding, coax it gently from the freezing.

 

I’m sorry, I say to this body, 

for not listening to your whispers, 

not tending your earthly rhythms.

I have learned to slow and be with this body,

sometimes awkwardly, sometimes gracefully, 

in restorative pauses, pregnant with possibility. 


What I love about somatic healing work is that it's all about creating the right conditions for something different to happen. It's about creating more choices and more felt sense of connection, safety, and aliveness. It's about restoring access to one's own power, agency, and capacity to center in a place of calm and alert awareness. I am grateful and honored to be facilitating this work and look forward to continuing to learn from my body, my professional practice, my colleagues, and my somatic healers and coaches - Taya ShereSage HayesTada Hozumi, and Vanissar Tarakali.   

Please visit lilliewolff.com for details on my offerings and feel free to schedule a free 20 minute consultation to explore the possibility of collaborating on your radical embodiment and healing journey. 

June 2018

Graphic by: On Being in the Body

Graphic by: On Being in the Body

“How we handle trauma (as individuals, communities, and societies) greatly influences the quality of our lives. It ultimately affects how or even whether we will survive as a species... Trauma begets trauma and will continue to do so, eventually crossing generations in families, communities, and countries until we take steps to contain its propagation.” - Dr. Peter Levine, Waking the Tiger

As I reflect on how to respond to the barbaric state-sanctioned misuses of power happening at the hands of our elected officials, I keep coming back to trauma - the need and desire to continue healing my own trauma, support others in healing their trauma, and help us all see the connections between all violence, trauma, and healing. This is why I have decided to pursue the three-year professional Practitioner training of Dr. Peter Levine’sSomatic Experiencing Trauma Institute (SETI). I am so honored to have been accepted into this world class training for therapists and bodyworkers dedicated to helping people heal from the debilitating effects of trauma.

The underlying theory behind Somatic Experiencing (SE) is that the human organism includes a deep biological knowing that, when given the opportunity, can guide the process of healing trauma. This resonates deeply with me and my own personal experience, as well as my approach as a practitioner of healing arts. Over the coming months and years, I will be gradually incorporating SE into my private practice, using it in conjunction with other modalities (ie: trauma-informed therapeutic yoga, meditation, and coaching).

Somatic Experiencing is grounded in an in-depth understanding of animal and human physiology, and specifically the ways in which wild animals instinctively discharge all their compressed energy and seldom develop adverse symptoms. Humans, on the other hand, find it difficult to free these powerful forces from the body. According to Dr. Levine, this trapping of survival energy is what causes the symptoms of trauma, such as fear, anxiety, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). “Fortunately, the same immense energies that create the symptoms of trauma, when properly engaged and mobilized, can transform the trauma and propel us into new heights of healing, mastery, and even wisdom,” writes Levine. “I believe we humans have the innate capacity to heal not only ourselves, but our world, from the debilitating effects of trauma,” he continues (Levine, p. 21).

The idea that healing trauma is a natural process that can be accessed through cultivating awareness of the body is not a new concept for many within the fields of yoga, somatics, and healing arts. My own path of healing through yoga over the past 15 years has taught me the transformative power of mindful movement and meditation practice. These tools and practices have helped me manage and heal from anxiety, depression, alopecia, narcissistic abuse, sexual assault, burn out, physical pain, and various autoimmune illnesses, for which I am eternally grateful. My attraction to Somatic Experiencing is an extension of my spiritual and somatic healing journey thus far, and my SE training will no doubt serve to enhance my personal and professional healing practices.

Graphic by: On Being in the Body

Graphic by: On Being in the Body

There is a prevailing attitude in the U.S. that strength means endurance and perseverance - that we must carry on and forge ahead regardless of the severity of our symptoms and suffering. Most of us aren't encouraged or taught how to listen closely to the internal wisdom of our body, and ask for external support when we need it. Our dominant culture and economic system values and rewards productivity over humanity, empathy, interdependence, nurturance, and sustainability. This plays a significant role in how trauma gets perpetuated - trauma that is not transformed is transmitted.

Disconnecting or dissociating from our body is a brilliant and necessary for survival, yet/and when we intentionally and compassionately invite our spirit and loving awareness back to our body, we cultivate the internal resourcing we need to move through the world in grounded, transformative, and resilient ways. Dr. Levine writes, “In a healthy human, instinct, emotion, and intellect work together to create the widest range of choices possible in any given situation.” This is resilience and we need resilience perhaps now more than ever before in our lifetimes. 

I invite you to join me in envisioning and co-creating a sustainable and life-affirming society in which we all receive permission, encouragement, and support to courageously heal and cultivate radical embodiment. Please visit my website: lilliewolff.com for information on my private sessions and weekly classes. Sending you

radical love and wishing you many blessings under this Strawberry Full Moon.  

May 2018

Photo by Lillie

Photo by Lillie

Did you know your greatest superpower is your ability to tune into the innate wisdom available to you in your body? We are taught to believe sensitivity is weakness, and that our rational capacities are more valuable and legitimate than our somatic experience. Today I invite you to see your body differently. Your somatic sensitivity is far from being a weakness. In fact, it's one of your greatest sources of resilience and connection. Here’s why.

We live in a world plagued with systemic and interpersonal violence. We are all affected by this reality, whether we consciously acknowledge it or not.  Let’s look through the lens of somatics and race, the topic of Resmaa Menakem's book, My Grandmother's Hands, which I highly recommend. Folks in the racial justice movement, perhaps especially those who also study the somatic and energetic functioning of the human body, agree that the ideology of the supremacy of whiteness requires disembodiment and dissociation of everyone involved. White folks cannot be present in their body, fully feeling all of the body's feelings and sensations, and also actively or even passively participate in the dehumanization of another human being. It goes without saying that for those surviving violence and oppression, in this case People of Color, the ability to

dis-embody (think fight, flight, freeze, appease, dissociate) is a brilliant built-in survival strategy. 

Radical embodiment is resistance to this cycle of violence because it counters the "mind's tyranny over the body," as body-based therapist, Tada Hozumi, puts it, which is arguably the root of all forms of dominance and violence. You can't oppress another person if you are wholeheartedly in touch with your own body and the humanity and wisdom it contains. When we take time to heal the cycle of oppression and trauma in our bodies, we can heal the cycle of oppression and trauma in our relationships, institutions, communities, and society.

When we don’t have the tools, time, or confidence to intentionally heal from the trauma and/or moral injury of systemic oppression and violence, we unconsciously embody and act out of this pain, which impacts the ways we show up in the world.  The movement for social change is not immune to this. I invite you to join me in resisting the belief that we don’t have time or don't deserve to be embodied because of all the urgent work there is to do. The urgency and desperation is real, so real, and, so is our humanity, tenderness, and vulnerability. As Director of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, Dove Kent, is known to say, “There is so much work to do, so we must go slow.”  When we slow down to notice our breath, commune with the elements, presence the sensation and emotional we feel under all our armor, we remember we are more than our wounds. 

When we practice radical embodiment - acknowledging the validity and wisdom of our bodies - we not only cultivate our own resiliency, but we tend the resiliency and transformation of our entire human race. When we reclaim our bodies and our inborn right to heal, we heal past, present, and future generations. In Chani Nicholas’s Full Moon Horoscopes, she writes, “The healing that happens here doesn’t just stop with you. Know that what you have been working through personally works through you generationally. What you heal in yourself you heal for your entire family line. No matter your relationship with relatives, what you do to heal the hurt passed down, for whatever reason, is the starting point to alleviate the pain held in your bones, blood, and being.” It is in this spirit that I share with you these upcoming opportunities to practice radical embodiment with my support.

  • Embodied Leadership Coaching Program - This is an exciting new three-month body-based leadership coaching program I am offering that includes four monthly 60-minute in-person, phone, or Skype sessions with additional text and phone support between.

  • Organizational Group Embodiment Sessions - I'm offering group sessions for 5-15 people, either on-site or in a yoga studio setting, aimed at countering burn-out, stress, and tension, and cultivating resilient and transformative collaboration.

  • Individualized Healing and Wellness Sessions - These private 60-minute sessions focus on embodiment tools for greater wellness, healing, empowerment, and liberation in all areas of your life. 

  • Joyful Movement for the MovementThis integrative movement mini-workshop (aka “dance church”) offers an accessible space to experience African dance led by Kama and joyful creative movement led by Lillie. We will gather together around music and movement to counter fatigue, somatic/energetic stagnation, and build our collective creativity and resilience! Offered weekly in June and July on Sundays 2-3:30pm at Rootead. Sliding scale: $5-20/session.  

  • Queer Yoga at Sanctuary Yoga This class will be offered to people who identify as LGBTQIA+ in partnership with OutFront Kalamazoo. The class will center the experiences of queer folks to create a safe space for practice and exploration without encountering heterosexism, misgendering, and transphobia. We will move, meditate, reflect, and build community through practice.  All people, bodies, genders, races, sizes, abilities, ages, and levels of experience with yoga are welcome. Thursdays 5:15-6:30pm starting June 14th. Sliding scale: $8-$22/class + one FREE class each month sponsored by Out Front! <3

  • Hatha Yoga at Down Dog Yoga Center - I’m honored to be teaching this Monday morning practice while Kara Aubin assists Dr. Vasant Lad at his Ayurvedic Clinic in Pune, India. Start your week with this dynamic and deep class to explore the physical and energetic body, release tension and stress, and enhance your overall well-being.

April 2018

Moon Thistle print by Lillie

Moon Thistle print by Lillie

Happy early spring Full Moon. As the soil warms, animals start moving around, and colorful tender life sprouts and buds, my prayer is for you to lovingly release what you're ready to compost, and seed what you're called to birth into this world during these paradigm shifting times. I offer the following words in the spirit of radical self and communal love and nurturance.  

I invite you to breathe into any areas of your body still holding tension or strain from the long cold, dark season. With your eyes closed or with a soft gaze, scan your body with your awareness, sending nourishing breath to any parts that feel tired, sore, and/or hungry for the light of the sun and the light of your loving attention. Once you feel more present with your body, more attuned to how it feels in this moment, make any adjustments so you are more comfortable as you read on. 

With this first post as a newly “out” radical bodyworker / politicized healer, I want to share an excerpt of a spell/prayer/incantation/poem I wrote near the winter solstice.  I hope it supports your journey of compassionately listening to and befriending the truths and wisdom of your body. Perhaps take a few deeper breaths, and drink some water before and after, giving yourself time and space to attune to what it stirs in you.

body roots

this body. this body knows. this body 

knows this body. knows what’s real. what’s 

real. what’s real. body knows ritual. knows 

melody. knows how to sway and mend 

back to whole again. body knows pulsing 

blood memory of prayer. of meal. of earth. 

body remembers. body just needs time. 

give it time. give it time. give it time. time.  

in time. it will come. it will come. it will 

come. it will come. i will come. the knowing. 

the knowing will return home. it’s already 

there. in your bones. there will be tears. 

let them come. let them out. let them breathe. 

let them fall. give them space to soak 

gratitude, reverence, relief into her lap. 

her. mother. grandmother. great 

grandmother. ancestor. witch. healer. 

weaver. priestess. midwife. earth. goddess. 

let the tears come. let her absorb them. 

she is here. listen for her voice as you tend 

the altar of your softening heart. receive 

her nourishment. receive her forgiveness. 

her collaboration. her conversation. receive 

her reorientation. receive her moonlight 

on the path home to the motherland of your 

body. receive her wildness. her spells. magic 

incantations. her potions. tinctures. the salve 

of her caress. medicine to knit you back, 

into your lineage. it needs you. you are 

not insignificant to these generations 

behind you. they are calling you to prayer. 

inviting you to attune to what was and what 

wants to become. invitation to shape. a 

welcome to full body experience of aliveness. 

invitation to dwell in this body. reclaim this 

body. thank this sacred body. this presence. 

this container for the pleasure of presence. 

divine vessel. inhabit this temple. dance in 

the grace of its knowing. this. here. body. 

welcome. this. home. here. body. roots. 
 

I offer you blessings for reclaiming your sovereign right to fully inhabit your body, with all your complex identities, needs, and desires alive and intact within you.  This is an act of resistance of all the unfair and unjust reasons we have to leave our bodies to survive. Our survival strategies are effective, and, when we cultivate compassionate awareness of our bodies, we gain integrated wholeness, sustainable resiliency, and a felt sense of empowerment.

May the energy of this tender Full Moon illuminate the somatic wisdom within you. Take loving care of yourself and your community, and reach out for a complimentary twenty minute consultation if you'd like to explore the possibility of collaborating on your radical embodiment journey.