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.
“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 ofJews 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. InChani 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.
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 OutFrontKalamazoo. 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.