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.
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.
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.
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.
There are various ways to practice and work with me somatically if you feel called, whether it's private somatic coaching or trauma healing work, embodied 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.
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.
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 Shere, Sage Hayes, Tada 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.
“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.
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.
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 Movement- This 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.