I’m Having A Lot of Fun Working at Cal Poly Trauma-Informed Yoga Therapist

Thank you to Marta Block for reminding me of the miracle and genius of Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, professor of Psychiatry at Boston Medical School. She’s a psych teacher at Poly and has invited me to teach her class on Wednesday, February 15.

Listen to this to inform yourself.

 

I also got to speak with the gal who was possibly traumatized in my class that time, who I blogged about (“Each Mind Matters”). I was nervous to talk to her and she was, probably, too, to talk with me, but she looked happy. And then I left her a note and a sticker in that locker that she and I use.

 

Dr. Jane Lehr is helping me to promote Healing Voices, a documentary film.

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Being sweet with myself. Hope you, too. AUM

Resentment, Forgiveness and Absolution ~ with Loving Tolerance, One Day at a Time

My dad has said about his mother, “She has Italian Alzheimer’s: she forgets everything but the grudge.” My dad has strong Sicilian ancestral background – famous for it’s criminal, territorial, resent-full, vindictive mafia. I can be the same.

It is also said that the Welsh side of that family tree is “the crazy” side…

All this adds up to I’m a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll.

I hold grudges so hard because my communication skills frustrate me. There are people with whom I can speak and, where heart is concerned; it’s understood. There are people with whom I cannot speak – my sister who died; that boss, whose husband fired me; that ex-boyfriend. I cannot because someone chooses “can’t” – or won’t. Will not.

When I can’t talk to them, I can talk to God. I can imagine what this imaginary friend might bestow: gentleness and nurturing, kindness. I did this with myself naturally as a child, and then I forsaket/forsook the skill, and then I grasped it back – after torturous desperation, D’Arcy’s suicide and utter powerlessness over my life and my responses to it.

I had been to five therapists in the first two years after she died. Then my art therapist suggested Al-Anon.

That was the better part of twenty years ago. I still get totally lost. But we help each other in Al-Anon. We learn what boundaries are and how important it is to keep trying.

I feel the Mafia-proportion tension when I cannot connect with someone that feels like resentment. My brain starts to spin out. Negative self-talk and then I stop breathing, over a long period of time. My brain gets thirsty for air and hungry for fat absorption, my mood starts to change and then I start making weird and sometimes bad decisions based on this chain of events. It fucking wrecks me.

I get wrecked. So I keep hold of the line as it tows me along. I remember God, and serve everyone, and I love everyone. I go to Al-Anon. It got really ugly in here.

Since the New Year, absolution has come: loose ends meet. And what a relief because that bitter is poison.

My conscience and consciousness had to shift around forgiveness. It came from three sentences in the daily reader called One Day At A Time In Al-Anon, page 120, April 29:

“We are asked to forgive those who have injured us. Unless we have first judged and condemned them for what they did, there would be no reason for us to forgive them. Rather we would have to forgive ourselves for judging.”

I pray for loving tolerance for myself as I pull away, as you pull away. For you. For me and for you. If that happens, as that happens. Loving Tolerance.

I am friends with Krishna Das, the singer, on Facebook. He has livestreamed concerts and lectures a lot over the holidays, for free. His teacher’s motto was “Love everyone, serve everyone, remember God.” His teacher was Neem Karoli Baba.

 

Thank God.

 

AUM

 

 

 

 

 

Sound Healing and Restorative Yoga September 25, Yoga Village, Arroyo Grande, CA

Sound is identified as being one of the spiritual aspects of God or Source. Like an element, Sound is primordial (one of my new favorite words!): Sound is a pressure wave formed from pulses of alternating high and low air pressure. Sound comes from any places in a medium such as air where the particles are pushed out of a state of rest.

Practice returning and returning and returning to rest. Calmness, another aspect of Source, lies with you, as a person, always, waiting to be revealed. Strengthen your capacity to self-heal in a nurturing environment paved for your return to spiritual peace.

Be tucked in on your journey toward a state of Oneness with blankets and bolsters and calming meditation, gently stretching and resting your mind, body and consciousness. Return to the world renewed and realigned with Calmness, with Source and with Sound perceived from within and beyond.

It is an honor to collaborate with Sean Levahn, founder of www.originalfrequency.com.

AUM

YV 9:25:16 Sean

Each Mind Matters

I have been guerrilla-posting Each Mind Matters stickers all over the place.

Each Mind Matters : California’s Mental Health Movement

I learned of the Each Mind Matters campaign when I lived in Grass Valley, CA, a much more socially active community than San Luis Obispo. There are stacks of stickers, in English and in Spanish (“SantaMente”), at San Luis Obispo County Mental Health Services in Atascadero, where my psychiatrist practices. I always grab a stack, every three months, and work on this marketing side project as a hobby. I have posted stickers in Big Sur. I have put my car in park and handed stickers to bumper-sticker-driving van owners while at stop lights (and been given thumbs up!). There are stickers on metal at major intersections in this county. That’s me.

I teach Yoga and meditation at Cal Poly, which gives me access to the fitness facility, including an amazing, resort-like swimming pool where I spend free time.

I have stuck a sticker inside one of the lockers. Let’s call it locker 111. Locker 111 is in the row of lockers where I usually change, but in the corner of that row: not my first choice locker, because it’s kind of cramped in that corner, but I always acknowledge that locker. My locker of choice is locker, say, 115.

The first quarter I taught at Cal Poly, I had a student, whom I will never forget, who clearly had a panic attack and had to leave class. Class was crowded, it was in the first three weeks of a new school year, and tension was high. In my trauma-sensitive training, it is suggested that if a student wants to leave the room, we do whatever we can to encourage that person to stay, to stay present, to remain supportive, so the wave of emotion can pass and the person can integrate the experience in a continuous, relatively safe atmosphere.

This girl left and I could not stop her. I have never forgotten her. I always have felt that I did not serve her adequately. She is extremely tall, pretty, and with a noticeable behavioral affect: eye contact is extremely uncomfortable for her.

She uses locker 111.

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Earning a Living as a Yoga Therapist, Yoga Teacher and Meditation Teacher: Respecting the Need to Keep Yoga and Meditation a Sustainable Profession

12122831_914527201962729_5596186470575203712_nRecently, a woman came to me asking for free Yoga for a group of at-risk, home-schooled and emotionally distressed thirteen-year old girls. She was hired by the school district as the girls’ home hospital instructor. “I basically help them get through their assignments, tests etc. I also have a private practice as an educational therapist, but this is separate from my job with these students.” Like me, this woman is in private practice, earning a living as I do, one client, one relationship at a time.

Unlike her, I do not have a second profession.

After a wonderful, productive, relaxing and effective hour-long class with the girls and this woman – their teacher – they definitely wanted to continue free Yoga, which was personalized, trauma-sensitive, meditation-based, and included Restorative Yoga, Yoga nidra, meditation and adapted Yoga therapy.

“Thank you so much for such a wonderful yoga experience. The girls loved it!  All smiles leaving yesterday 🙂
Please let me know your thoughts on working with us again and/or inviting other instructors to create a rotation.
I am so touched by the tender care you demonstrated with my girls. Thank you again.”
(The teacher’s email.) Who wouldn’t want this – especially for free?

I have volunteered in county jail, in a mental health support center, at conferences, at home and in studios. Last week, I actually offered to pay to teach a class at a public event. I spend time in consultation with people before they choose to hire me for services. I write, research, present, post on social media, offer discounts and sliding scale payments. I have people over to my home and I meet them in the community. I am generous. Last month I taught thirty therapists for two hours, no charge. It was a pleasure. I am generous by nature, and I love what I do and I feel that Yoga is a birthright. I have given away a lot of Yoga in my day, and still do, often.

I must earn a living to continue offering this craft in a sustainable way. I remember the five years I spent teaching classes to retired people in Morro Bay through the community center for five dollars a student. At the time, I did not value my worth, because I was a trauma survivor, teaching to heal myself. Those years, like today, I survived on faith, grace and divine providence – teaching and surviving and having a healthy place to go everyday was its own reward. When I began offering classes on a donation-basis, I realized that people were really benefiting from the Yoga I offer, and it was reflected in my income.

Last week, I spent more time composing emails to the teacher of these highly sensitive girls, educating her on the value of Yoga, than I did guiding her and the girls through the actual class.

This aspect of teaching – teaching the value of Yoga, meditation and stress reduction – is as important as learning how to teach standing mountain pose. I encourage you to value your work in the world if you are a Yoga teacher. Especially if you are a new Yoga teacher, please uphold the integrity of this profession by kindly explaining to those who would have you give your services freely why services cost what they do. New teachers should receive a fair exchange, too.

A few key points:

  • Yoga is a valuable practice, a powerful, scientific and evidence-based therapeutic intervention and a profession with real expenses.

For me personally, teaching is my livelihood. Teaching is not my hobby. If you are a teacher who can afford to regularly offer classes for free, you might explain this to students, to differentiate between paid and unpaid opportunities. If my financial situation were different, I would be more than happy to offer even more free classes on a regular basis.

 

  • Yoga is a mutual exchange between teacher and student that provides inner peace, world peace and uplifts everyone.

 

  • Perhaps funds could be raised or could be donated to pay Yoga and meditation teachers…

…by kids, businesses or parents. Funding may be available through federal funding (NIH, NSF, DOD, CDC, DOE, NASA, http://www.grants.gov) or state funding, municipal funding,the Board of Education, foundations, associations and community service agencies such as The Elks or Rotary or OddFellows. Yoga is valuable enough to warrant the effort it takes to procure funding.

I also exchange services from time to time for classes. I got my custom bicycle by trading for Yoga! I trade classes with other teachers all the time!

 

  • Donations often work very nicely and are a gesture of exchange.

Donation-based giving is a powerful concept for people of all ages to put into practice: a donation can express respect and appreciation for self and for the recipient or service and show support of self-worth and empowerment. A realistic donation – even a simple thank you note or a handmade craft offered in gratitude, reflecting perceived benefit from the service, can help a person to express their own value in the world.

When I first began my practice, I. had. no. money. But I dug up ten bucks for the intro ten day special, and, thereafter, I created inspired floral arrangements for the studio lobby. I did this for two studios when the business expanded. I did this for six years. My exchange became a fixture and a part of the culture at the studios. I bloomed with self-esteem, being recognized for my contribution. Bringing flowers every week and keeping them fresh was bhakti: an act of devotion, an expression that I could afford, reflective of my internal spiritual experience. I revered the opportunity to practice because Yoga made my life better in so many ways. My flowers showed my gratitude when I had no cash to spare.

  • An un-informed yoga teacher might re-traumatize this population.

Great discernment and discrimination should be used when hiring or choosing teachers for groups as sensitive and delicate as this one: a very impressionable group of young women with profound and specific needs, individually and as a group, who clearly had special capacity for learning if in a trauma-free environment. Their home hospital teacher was referred to me by another local Yoga therapist, who earns her living not as a Yoga therapist but as a marriage and family therapist. Because my colleague knows the sensitivity and effectiveness with which I approach vulnerable and underserved populations, and because she does not offer Yoga therapy professionally, I was contacted.

My services are unique.

In an average public yoga class, I can almost guarantee that these girls would be re-traumatized by  pace, tone and atmosphere, which leads me to my next point:
  • Does the Yoga you offer have a special flavor, a uniqueness to it? Speak up! We need your unique life experience and expression of this science in our world! Someone out there wants your mentorship to guide them back to their sense of self.
I felt that I had to restate the value of the service that I offer to get my point across:
“I have over ten years of specialized Yoga therapy, meditation and Ayurveda teaching experience and training, including training in trauma-sensitive yoga. I offer a local trauma-sensitive yoga teacher training to other yoga teachers. I know of no other yoga instructors who have this training in San Luis Obispo besides the two in my training, which has not yet ended as of this post. The well-being of students is paramount so that they return to Yoga, feel secure and are able to relax enough to participate in a new situation.”
Therapeutic yoga strategies help people to find balance and ease through awareness and relaxation and personal, direct experience. Since the group appreciated and enjoyed the class, I hoped that they would consider continuing services with respect to the unique quality of instruction and collaboration that I offer.
I thanked this educational therapist for recognizing the value of Yoga as an appropriate intervention for these children, for supporting the wellness of these fabulous young ladies and for respecting the need to keep Yoga and meditation a sustainable profession by fair exchange.
  • The benefits of yoga are innumerable. (You might list some here.)

    I ended the email with “Hooray that you all left class yesterday with joy, ease and a transformed awareness!”, reminding her of the value that she expressed to me for all those involved, and that I had delivered what I had promised and that the experience was even better than she had hoped.

 

The teacher’s reply: “I want to thank you again for the time you gifted the girls last Friday. I know they are appreciative. They, along with their moms, have decided to forgo any future classes. We wish you the best in your efforts to promote health through yoga.”

 

You win some, you lose some. I feel really good about standing up for myself, restating my value with integrity, and without bullshit. I also feel great supporting the profession and my peers – all Yoga teachers everywhere who work from the heart, whether as volunteers or for their sole source of income. You shouldn’t have to be a Yoga superstar to survive as a Yoga teacher. What we do is powerful, therapeutic, precise and profoundly transformative and healing, if done well.

 

I know that those girls will return to Yoga one day having had a wonderful, safe, expansive experience in my class. When they pursue Yoga with sincerity, it will be made available to them.

 

Spiritual Emergence, Spiritual Emergency, Intentional Peer Support Groups and Shades of Awakening

lakshmi

aumahalakshmiyeinamahaum

“Thou are the essence of everything.”

-Paramhansa Yogananda

 

I spent the weekend in Ojai, California with Emma Bragdon, PhD, and nine other beautiful people, completing my training as a Spiritual Emergency Support Group Coach.

Please let me know if you are interested in participating in an online or in person support group. I am now permitted to lead groups! Please be in touch for more info and resources or referrals or anything that might inspire you.

Integrative Mental Health For You offers online training to support people experiencing spiritual emergency. Spiritual emergence has been defined as “the movement of an individual to a more expanded way of being that involves enhanced emotional and psychosomatic health, greater freedom of personal choices, and a sense of deeper connection with other people, nature, and the cosmos. An important part of this development is an increasing awareness of the spiritual dimension in one’s life and in the universal scheme of things.” (Grof & Grof, 1990).

 

The term “spirituality” is reserved for situations involving personal experiences of certain dimensions of reality that give one’s life and existence in general a numinous quality. C.G. Jung used the word “numinous” to describe an experience that feels sacred, holy, or out of the ordinary. (Grof & Grof, 1991)

 

When spiritual emergence is very rapid and dramatic, this natural process can become a crisis, and spiritual emergence becomes spiritual emergency. This has been called a transpersonal crisis, acute psychosis with a positive outcome, positive disintegration, and evolutionary crisis. The consciousness of a person in this crisis can be termed “an extreme state.”

 

Spiritual emergencies could also be defined as critical and experientially difficult stages of a profound psychological transformation that involve one’s entire being. These are crisis points within the transformational process of Emergence. The stages take the form of non-ordinary states of consciousness and involve intense emotions, visions and other sensory changes, and unusual thoughts, as well as various physical manifestations. These episodes will often revolve around spiritual themes.

We learned how to care for oneself and others in a crisis during our course. Emma articulated things that I have only sensed or thought. The empowerment of being with others – tribe – is indescribable. What a relief after all these years of being told I was crazy, when actually, I am supremely natural in an unnatural culture!

Again, a most beautiful aspect of this training was being with others who have experienced a similar, remarkable experience which was misunderstood and punished and stopped by conventional medicine, including doctors and society as a whole.

Confirmation was also permitted that those of us who have experienced these situations have extraordinary healing gifts, are uncommonly bright, creative, sensitive and compassionate.

There are Spiritual Emergence Networks growing in Australia, The UK, British Columbia and the US. This is a growing movement, as we move into Dwapara Yuga (The Age of Energy), as psychiatric medicine fails, and as the global awakening proceeds. It is up to each one of us to be tolerant, patient and to help one another. Certainly you know someone or have been in one of these two states yourself. Celebrate it! Have a team and guidelines. I can offer assistance should you request it.

Emma Bragdon takes groups to learn about Spiritist Psychiatric Hospitals and Spiritist Community Centers in Brazil.

The principles and lifestyle outlined in Vedanta philosophy support spiritual emergence. Being motivated to live by a strict set of universal ethics (like yama niyama and the ten commandments, for example) allows for spiritual emergence to evolve more readily.

There is no sharp division between Emergence and Emergency, however, the following criteria may be used to distinguish the two:

  1. An emergency is generally more dramatic and intense as depth of experience is immediately obvious, unexpected and can be abrupt;
  2. An emergence is more fluid and less overwhelming or traumatic. The depth reveals itself over time in a more gradual process.
  3. During an emergency, it is very difficult to function in everyday life.

Some hints for an easeful paradigm shift:

Stay connected. Work in groups. Do not take on too much on your own.

Appreciate a worldview: everyone has their own perspective, and experiences from which they draw.

Mutuality is paramount: egalitarian relationships are to be favored over hierarchy.

Move towards, not away from. Assist to uplift one another and live a balanced life.

Recognize habits of connection, disconnection and reconnection. I notice that I connect and disconnect easily, and have a very difficult time reconnecting, in certain circumstances. Shame is usually the force behind that.

Shades of Awakening is a resource online and on Facebook which supports this worldview, helping us to integrate and claim our gifts of spiritual emergence.

We are no longer isolated from one another.

Thank you, Emma and everyone.

More soon.

In AUM

Yoga Bharati – Global Movement for Peace

Yoga Bharati‘s Director of Yoga Therapy, Savita Joshi, and I met at IAYT SYTAR in June last year. We admired each other right away.

I attended the Fifth Annual International Kriya Yoga Congress this weekend, hosted by the The Center for Spiritual Enlightenment in San Jose. Spiritual Director and co-founder of Yoga Bharati, Yogashree N.V. Rughuram, addressed the Congress.

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Raghuram-ji on the right

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Swami Tattwamayananda, Vedanta Society

 

Yoga Bharati is the teaching center for Yoga Teachers and Yoga Therapists that originates at SVYASA: Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhan Samsthana in Bangalore, India. SVYASA is India’s first Yoga university. It is a research foundation and blends the best of the west’s medical innovation with the classical Yoga and ayurveda teachings of the east. The integrity of the work produced at SVYASA is of the highest caliber.

SVYASA is where I have always wanted to go to do research on Yoga therapy for mental health, specifically to refine the moods associated with bipolar disorder. Shirley Telles is a yoga researcher at SVYASA – the world’s foremost Yoga researcher. Yoga Bharati has associations with Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India, who declared International Day of Yoga June 21 last year, celebrated en masse peacefully around the globe.

I stayed with Savita during the Congress, which was beyond description. I was reinitiated into Kriya Yoga by Roy Eugene Davis, of The Center for Spiritual Awareness and Paramhansa Yogananda’s last teaching disciple. He told a funny story about Yoganandaji’s fixation on onion rings and how Master perfected his recipe.

I spent Sunday with Yoga Bharati in the therapy classes. They asked me to participate in the group discussion during the ayurveda course, welcomed me, admired me. I was so relieved to be able to talk about Yoga, philosophy, ayurveda, love and marketing in one statement with loving people!

Yoga Bharati means “Yoga of India.” It is the ancient wisdom, applying these principles to our modern world for peace.

Yogashree Raghuramji (“ji” is a term of endearment) is a professor of Yogic Sciences at SVYASA. He offered a lecture on Sunday at the Yoga Bharati Center in Cupertino and later that evening in Milpitas. I found him to be fascinating. I have been asked to transcribe his teachings from his current trip to the U.S.

An inauguration for the graduates of Yoga Bharati’s Yoga Teacher Training and Yoga Therapy Training on Sunday night included a performance with adults and children moving in formation, and a panel including Raghuramji, the Vedanta Society of Northern California’s Spiritual Director, Swami Tattwamayananda . (“The (Vedanta) Society’s high standard for spiritual service, set in motion by the earlier swamis, continues to flourish by spreading the universal principles and ideas of Vedanta in the Bay Area.” from the website.) and a gentleman who brings Yoga Management skills to Google and IBM, Dr. Prasad Kaipa.

Dr. Prased Kaipa, Center for Leadershio Innovation and Change

Dr. Prasad Kaipa is Executive Director, Center for Leadership Innovation and Change (CLIC), Hyderabad, India.

Topics included world peace through Yoga.

Then we went out to dinner together.

The next morning I said goodbye to my friends and drove back to San Luis Obispo.

I know now why India is called “Mother India.” It’s the love.

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