Monthly Archives: October 2015

Accepted Application Essay for Spiritual Emergence Coach Training

While I integrate the powerful experience of attending the Alternatives Conference in Memphis, visiting the National Civil Rights Museum and confronting my own internalized stigma and trauma as a peer in recovery from mental distress (whew!), I continue to pursue continuing education in my chosen field. Although my application for this extraordinary training was five days late – five days after the first class had already happened – my application was accepted and I am on my way to the training I envision as being the most deeply personal, the most fulfilling: exploring spirituality and the evolution of consciousness; spiritual emergence versus spiritual emergency; how to route individuals to supportive treatment rather than shutting them down in psychiatric facilities and jails with medication; how to view the common symptom of feeling Divine as actual divinity. I learned about this training from a new friend I met at the conference in Memphis. AltCon15 has forever changed me.

Follows is my essay which got me accepted to this training, to take place online and in Ojai, CA at Krisnamurti‘s pad.

Krishnamurti wrote, “The blade of grass was astonishingly green; that one blade of grass contained the whole spectrum of colour; it was intense, dazzling and such a small thing, so easy to destroy.”



As a person who identifies herself with having lived experience, I have a keen awareness of the magic and misunderstanding that come with mental distress and recovery. The conversation around physical, mental and spiritual health needs new vocabulary. Trauma related to experience in

psychiatric facilities, in public health systems and in society must be grieved and praised. Through my healing journey, I have been able to confront and process and integrate my experiences, and continue to do so. This lends compassion, tolerance and an open mind to the way that I relate to my self and to the world. I am able to relate to marginalized and conservative groups; individual and cultural stigma is understood and reframed by my experience and activism. People are drawn to me by a tacit understanding of my self-awareness and acceptance. I would benefit from the skills and conversation that this training will lend to promote fresh conversation around wellness.

I am active as a Behavioral Health Leader. My mentor, Allie Middleton, helps guide my work as a Yoga therapist to bring complementary, Yoga-based practices to agencies interfacing with those in mental crisis and distress. She serves on faculty at the Creative Education Foundation, the New York State Association of  Psychiatric Rehabilitation and is a member of the Leadership Committee and long term mentor to emerging behavioral health leaders through ACMHA, the American College of Behavioral Health Leadership. As Allie and I continue our advocacy, our influence grows exponentially. She educates and influences on an administrative level and shares her knowledge with me; I work “in the trenches” and bring glimpses of the recovery culture to her, from a peer and healer perspective. We work together as change agents.

I supported Joann Lutz in presenting Nervous System-Informed Yoga for Mental Health at a weekend-long workshop in my home town of Los Osos in February, 2015. Joann introduced me to The Spiritual Emergence Network and The Grof Foundation. I determined to seek training. As a presenter at The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency Alternatives Conference in Memphis, TN this month, I included The Grof Foundation in my PowerPoint presentation . An audience member shared this training’s information with me.

I have a deep, personal inspiration to explore the philosophies of the Spiritual Emergence Network. I need fellowship with whom I can share, intellectually and practically, thoughts on the theme of divinity in “madness” to inform our culture and promote harmless evolution; to understand and

celebrate the megalomania “symptom” that comes with psychosis that is so alluring as to keep people cycling in crisis and that is withheld by the psychiatric model.

The misunderstanding in the psychiatric world of this expansive, significantly intuitive and interiorized awareness of subtle energies becoming gross, all alluded to in Yogic philosophy, blur the horizon of human consciousness from an evolutionary standpoint. I would like to bring light to this, to continue to live in this Light safely and to help others to do the same. People are dying from the grief of not being able to express themselves spiritually in our distorted and perverted culture, men and women I have known, including my sister, D’Arcy. It is in her remembered name and in my own that I pursue soteria.

I am a Certified Ananda Yoga® Therapist, among the first six to be certified through the Ananda School of Yoga and Meditation. I have been teaching therapeutic Yoga and meditation since 2005. My specialties are Restorative Yoga, Yoga nidra and meditation settings designed to relieve anxiety and depression. I am in private practice as a Yoga therapist. Many of my clients are therapists themselves.

I teach at-risk 16- to 18-year olds at Grizzly Youth Academy, a quasi-military residential program on the local National Guard Post at Camp San Luis Obispo. I teach at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo to faculty, staff and students. I teach meditation and deep relaxation to staff at Transitions-Mental Health Association in Santa Barbara County. I offer free workshops to the Central Coast chapter of Marriage Family Therapists.

I am a certified Yoga of the Heart® teacher, adapting Yoga for cardiac and cancer patients.

I am a Warriors At Ease® Level 2 teacher. I credit Warriors At Ease for training me in a trauma sensitive way, to bring Yoga and meditation to military communities. All of my classes are presented in a trauma-informed format, which, I am certain, is why my classes are so popular and well-received across demographic groups.

I am a discourse leader on mental health and Yoga therapy for Yoga Bharati in the Bay area. Yoga Bharati is a non-profit Yoga Training school associated with S-VYASA in Bangalore, India, the world’s premier Yoga University and Research Facility.

I offer weekly, public classes and workshops locally, including special

workshops on anxiety relief; depression relief; Healthy Mind: Affirmations; Healthy Sleep; Healthy Lymph; Healthy Digestion; Healthy Bones; introductory Ayurvedic workshops and meditation classes and series.

I am the co-producer of The Central Coast Yoga Festival, planned for October, 2016 in Morro Bay, California.

I have taken multiple trainings, including Yoga of Recovery® and Relax and Renew® trainings.

I am a presenter at national and international conferences. I have received many scholarships based on my activism and writing. I hope to apply for a scholarship for this workshop.

I am developing web-based content for people to have access to my teachings.

I hope to create a trauma-informed teacher training for mental and emotional wellness.

I hope to begin to travel and teach trauma-informed Yoga-based practices in peer recovery centers around the country next year.

I have begun writing a manuscript for publication: part memoir and part how-to manual for mental health and wellness supported by the practices of Yoga.

I have accomplished all of this as a recipient of Social Security Disability Benefits. I am currently enrolled in the Ticket To Work Program, which assists beneficiaries to transition from Social Security to becoming stable wage-earners.

Discussions are happening in my circle to create an Association for Yoga Therapy and Mental Health, national or international has not been determined. I have my hopes of an international network.

People are coming to me in droves from all over the United States, including Puerto Rico – agencies and individuals. In my own community, in the past four months alone, I have had direct experience with at least three people in mental distress, in a spiritual crisis, not willing to seek conventional, Western, allopathic treatment for behavioral health issues. When their behavior became destructive, I recognized, in each circumstance, that I need more training. I hope to guide others and to interact with people in a way that keeps me safe and stable; to simultaneously model wellness, patience and hope while providing support.

  Anxiety and depression are epidemic. These are manifestations, I believe, of a society at odds with nature. This makes spiritual crisis sometimes the only 

recourse. We all need to look at our treatment of each other and the world in which we live with different eyes to maintain and improve the quality of our lives and communities, both locally and globally.

Legs-Up-The-Wall: Remedy for Jet Lag


Legs-Up-The-Wall is called “A Royal Pose” because of it’s holistic benefits and immediate relaxation to the cardiovascular system. It is a variation of Sarvangasana. This is a heart-relaxer and not a hamstring stretch. Restorative poses, if done correctly, are safe and comfortable.

Benefits include:

relief from fatigue, low energy, illness, jet lag and stress

calming and internalizing, preparing the body and mind for meditation

reduces swelling in feet, ankles and legs, draining venous blood and lymphatic fluids; prevents and relieves varicose veins

Revives feet, legs and back

Reduces systemic stress and can lower blood pressure

Refreshes the heart and lungs

It may be helpful to have someone read this to you or Google this pose for a better visual.

To set up, have two blankets, a blanket and a pillow, two pillows, a wall, bed, chair or couch, friend or pet to support the legs, or go freestyle – COMFORT is the name of the game.

Bring your hips about twelve inches from the wall. Place a blanket (or pillow) under the hips to support the natural curve in the lumbar (lower) spine. The sacrum – the fused part of the pelvis above the tailbone – teeter-totters off the folded edge of the blanket nearest the wall. The tailbone comes off of the edge to create the natural sway in the low spine that is most comfortable for your body. The buttocks do not necessarily have to meet the floor.

Gently elevate your legs. Avoid turning the head from this point on.

Support the neck with a pillow or blanket roll under the neck only. The skull should be resting flat on the floor, not stretching at the back or the front of the neck. The neck is neutral and comfortable.

Bend, rock, straighten, separate the your knees as is most comfortable and relaxing. Place your heels against the wall and release all effort. Distance of the hips from the wall will dictate leg comfort once elevated.

Use an eye pillow or close the eyes to calm the mind. Arms rotate open, palms up or hands can rest on the belly or gesture any appropriate mudra, such as tucking the thumbs toward the palms and curling the four fingers of each hand into a gentle fist, adhi mudra.

BREATHE. Start with one deep exhalation. Breathe out until there is no breath left. Relax the weight of the heart muscle as you exhale, back toward the spine and up toward the throat. Observe the stillness at the end of the out breath, before the following out breath. This is the moment of your deepest physiological relaxation. Return to that felt sense with your next breaths.

Hold up to ten minutes.

To exit, roll to your right side and rest there. Do not press up right away to avoid a head rush or a headache. Rest on your side, supporting your neck and shoulder and head for a few breaths.

Enjoy the effects.

Yoga poses should always be practiced mindfully and with caution. Check with your doctor before beginning a new fitness program.

Legs-Up-The-Wall is an inversion, meaning your head is below your heart or part of your spine is upside down.

Please refrain from practicing this pose or modify it for your safety  if any of the following apply to you

Contraindications include:

hiatal hernia


eye pressure issues

retinal problems

heart problems – mild hypertension controlled by medication can practice

neck problems

menstruating (avoid bringing hips above abdomen)

spinal injuries (some may condraindicate)

more than three months pregnant (avoid inverting hips and lying on back for long periods of time)



sinus infection or congestion (creates pressure in the head)

Practice at your own risk! Brooke West Yoga assumes no responsibility for practitioners who choose to elevate their legs in this pose.

Be safe, be well.


In Light of the Massive Oregon Tragedy, et al

I woke this morning thinking of the genius of this meme, and then, my next thought was
Please, PLEASE, BE RESPONSIBLE about weapon access.


When I came out of the hospital the second and last time, ten years ago, before my consistent and synergistic Yoga, medication and psychotherapy practices, I was required to sign a document promising that I would not purchase a gun for one year from my discharge. It hadn’t occurred to me ever to buy a gun before that, and this gesture planted a seed. I thought it was absurd – my temperament is so non-gunny. I remember my sister and I laughing about it on the car ride home. It was a striking and impressive ritual upon release. It furthered my understanding of the gravity of my situation, and I was further humiliated and stigmatized by the icing on the cake.

I would like people to integrate deeply into their understanding that in psychosis, one is not and cannot be held responsible for behaviors -one is not in executive-brain control over them, it’s all lizard-brain, brain stem haywire.

It would be nearly impossible and unbelievable to convey the impotence that psychosis leaves one with. The symptoms are behavioral, not always detectable, manageable or treatable like a rash. Symptoms are baffling to those close to them. The behaviors are destructive, both subtly and grossly, to individuals and to communities.

There is no culturally-acceptable way of reasoning with a person in this biological state; reason is neurologically impossible because of brain dysfunctioning and brain disorder. It is understood that certain brain disorders cause suicidal and homicidal ideation.

If gun laws worked backwards, for example if one with a history of mental health issues were screened and denied then denied access for a lifetime, would that be a good political compromise? Would that change the pattern of killing sprees? Would that be, at least, a start?

And, a dream further: if these folks had therapeutic, Restorative, Yoga-based, intensive stress-reduction programming options for rehabilitation, including environmental rehabilitation for our communities based on counsel, ecology and inclusion, could it be helpful?

I imagine that this would bring peace, conscientiousness, a sense of deep security and justice to this complex circumstance.
AUM Shanthi