Whoa! The end of 2017 snuck up on me! I guess it really is true that time flies by as we get older. This past year has been an important one for me on many levels, but I want to share one key learning I've gained during 2017.
Every year, in January, I choose a theme for the year. This year, my word was "cushiony"! I wanted to focus on creating more space in my daily routines, work with clients, social activities, and create more time for just "being". (By the way, one of my clients shared with me a great little book along these lines.)
One day, I was l lounging in my backyard enjoying my garden (when did I become a gardener! how did that happen!). Needless to say, I have come to enjoy this time outside and began to treasure more and more the quiet pleasure of standing in my garden tending to living things.
As some time passed, I found myself thinking about how many hours were left in the day? Wasn't it nice to have nothing on the calendar for the rest of the day, so I could laze about and do nothing?
And then I wondered, "What if the nothing was actually everything! What if this time of just being, soaking in the sounds, the wind, the breeze, the smell of the flowers from the garden -- what if that was actually everything?!"
Our lives become so busy that we seek this "nothingness" as a way to reprieve ourselves from the day-to-day pressures and stresses and ups and downs and often think of the "nothing time" as a time to tune out, to escape.
That day, I realized that this frame needs to shift. There's an opportunity to experience everything, to transform what was once "nothing". These moments hold the opportunity to pause and take note of all there is to gain. I was able to tune into the experience of "being" instead of "doing".
I also realized that as I sat there calling this time "nothing", there was this part of me that would push back and say, "Well you better get up to something then! Be productive, get busy, get something done" andimmediately all of the peace and ease that I was experiencing in that moment of everything was made bad and wrong and taken away.
As I practiced what I teach my clients -- pay attention to your thoughts, pay attention to the language you use, to pay attention to what you are out to prove -- I decided to change my language and my focus, and this moment of nothing became a moment of everything!
I treasure this year of cushion and have so much to celebrate, because even while I made more time for myself, this year:
Over 50 people completed the Beyond Surviving Program and are now doing wonderful things like starting a family, stepping out as speakers and advocates for survivors, building new businesses, starting graduate school, and developing deeper relationships.
I expanded my Healing from Sexual Abuse Facebook Group(now more than 3700 members) and built a great team to support me in making this (I think!) one of the best groups for survivors on Facebook today! www.facebook.com/groups/realtalkwithrachel
With the help of my amazing team, I delivered 4 Master Classeson various topics such as shame, fear, anxiety, abandonment and more!
Looking to 2018, I am branching out and taking on some new projects! Here’s what I’ve got in mind for the New Year:
Continue development of programs for medical professionals about screening for abuse;
Expand my impact through partnering with various non-profits;
Add peer support as a new component for my group programs;
… and even more!
Most importantly, I want you to know thatI couldn't have done any of it without your amazing and ongoing support. I’m in an incredible community and hope that you have been touched, inspired, and healed by something we shared this year.
So, with deep gratitude, my wish for you is that your holiday and 2018 are filled with joy, love, laughter, and strength.
With much love,
* post dunk in 410' waterfall!
* march against unlawful deportation
of immigrants with my honey
I know as we turn the corner into the final months of 2017, I am first of all astounded by how quickly this year flew by. I'm also very much aware of how this time of year begins to bring up so much for people as the holidays approach and navigating family relationships during this time can be a huge strain, particularly for survivors of abuse who not only have to deal with the usual stressors but are often trying to navigate gatherings where an abuser might be present.
This is no small feat to tackle and one of the many reminders that those of us who have experienced trauma must continute to generate courage, groundedness, and positivity in the midst of some really challenging situations.
Today, I wanted to share with you an interview I did with Anne Cuthbert on how to end emotional eating and survive the holidays. Finding positive coping strategies is so key during this time.
And as always, if there is anything I can do to support you during this time -- I'm here!
WatchKati Morton discuss how to overcome the fear of intimacy.
Read about three quick tests you can do right now to assess your level of anxiety, depression and PTSD.
What are some positive things you can do as the holidays approach to nurture and comfort yourself?
BOOK OF THE MONTH
Healing My Life: From Incest to Joy by Donna Jenson
In chronicling the physical and spiritual steps she took to reclaim her life and peel away the layers of damage done by incest, Jenson has written a powerful narrative of one person’s healing journey. And though the subject matter is deeply serious, Jenson writes with her sense of humor firmly intact, reminding us that joy is possible in the face of great pain. Poignant, brave, and helpful, Healing My Life offers a much-needed testimony for anyone affected by or concerned about childhood sexual abuse.
You can also check out the guest blog series Donna did last month here.
November's Theme: Re-Enactment
This is an issue we all need to be aware of as survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Re-enactment is about the unconscious drive in all of us to master our traumatic experiences and triumph over the past. And it is possible to become caught up in behaviors that re-enact the experiences we had as children of dysfunction, poor care, exploitation, and shame.
NOTE: We will meet on Tuesday, November 28th instead of Monday for this month
If so, you can still get the mp3 in which I share with you the keys to unlocking the cage of fear and anxiety so that you can finally do the things you love and obtain the things you want in your life.
William Edward Hartpole Lecky, a historian, once said, "There are times in the lives of most of us when we would have given all the world to be as we were but yesterday, though that yesterday had passed over us unappreciated and unenjoyed." This he noted in his book, The Map of Life in 1904!
Back to the quote though - I love Lecky's not so subtle reminder that this day we are living may seem bland, uneventful, repetitious, and, yet, with one shift tomorrow, would instead be longed for.
We often hear admonitions to live "now" - in the present - it's even one of my 12 Commandments ("Don't miss this moment"), but Lecky's statement brings a reason as to why into high relief for me.
Beyond the usual points that you'll miss out on what you could otherwise experience, lose out on opportunities to connect with others or learn something ... Lecky's thought on the matter causes me to reconsider my repetitive, boring days to be something altogether different. Namely - peace, ease, and comfort. Days to be appreciated and enjoyed - even in their monotony.
In other words, it's very easy to connect with "now" when I'm standing on the beach inhaling a beautiful sunset. These sorts of experiences call on us to pause, to just be.
But what about when I'm at the sink washing the dishes, maybe feeling annoyed at the repetition of this chore and that it's keeping me from something I really want to be doing. And yet, if tomorrow I were in an accident and lost my arms (I know, a touch morbid!), how I might long to be able to wash the dishes again!
And to bring the point even more home, when I think back to a time in my life when I couldn't even get up to wash the dishes because I was so consumed by depression -- how easily now I take for granted and even resent this task that is in some ways a powerful representation of my healing!
So, for today (and hopefully days to come), I'll take comfort in the repetitions of my day, enjoy the stability of routines, and look for the little moments that distinguish this day from the others.
In celebration of all facets of life,
WatchJill Tolles talk about the courage to have conversations about sexual abuse.
Read this article to learn how yoga can help you improve your sex life.
What are some ways you can practice being present and appreciate even those things that seem mundane this week?
BOOK OF THE MONTH
Boys Cry Too: A Story of Hope, Forgiveness, Redemption and Change by John Mark Clubb
As a boy growing up in Louisville, Kentucky, John endured years of sexual abuse by his father, a former Baptist minister. John tried to find refuge in the regimentation of a military career and in multiple marriages, but his efforts to deal with the trauma of his experiences led him on a self-destructive path that left a trail of broken people and dreams. His life continued its downward spiral until he reached the ultimate bottom. . .and began his journey toward forgiveness of his abusers and, finally, himself. This memoir is a groundbreaking account, from a man's perspective, of the effects of sexual abuse on all aspects of the victim's life. John speaks out about the details of his abuse and the family culture that enabled generations of abusers to victimize its children. His searing openness throws a spotlight on the darkly kept secrets of childhood sexual abuse, and his story will serve as an inspiration to everyone who longs to embrace their own healing journeys.
Triggers are something we’ve all had to deal with as survivors of childhood sexual abuse and can occur anytime something in our current environment reminds us of the past. As survivors, it’s important when we’re feeling “crazy” to ask if we may have been triggered and by what.
Gretchen Rubin, in her book The Happiness Project, sets out to discover ways to be happier. As she begins thinking about what sorts of resolutions she'll make to improve different areas of her life, she notices some "overarching principles" that play a significant part in her "happiness quotient"- and names these principles her "Twelve Commandments."
I was intrigued by this idea - and so set about writing my own list - here they are:
1. Be good to myself and others 2. Love outrageously 3. Stop holding my breath 4. Smile at strangers 5. Say it out loud 6. Be hardcore 7. Stay in touch 8. Don’t miss this moment 9. Have great adventures 10. Don’t wait for things to be perfect 11. Laugh deep belly laughs 12. Relish being wrong
Coming up with this list wasn't a complete breeze. I had to pause often to decide whether a commandment was really something I believed in or was inspired by or whether it was based on some external expectation. I loved doing it though.
Sometimes, the fastest path to happiness is to first define what it actually looks like for you!
To more happiness,
WatchDr. Vincent Felitti share about his journey developing the Adverse Childhood Effects study.
Read this tribute to the sexual abuse survivor depicted in the movie Spotlight.
What are your 12 Commandments - what principles underpin your life - hold you, guide you, inspire you and increase your happiness!??
BOOK OF THE MONTH
The Ancestral Mind by Gregg Jacobs
"A significant cause of our current condition is our over-reliance on the Thinking Mind and our disconnection from the Ancestral Mind. The Thinking Mind-the rational, self-conscious mind-is responsible for our great technological achievements, but is also the root cause of the unhealthy stresses of modern life and excessive negative emotions. The Ancestral Mind-our older, more unconscious, emotional mind-represents a deeper, wiser guide to well-being and is the source of a more integrated concept of self, an expanded sense of daily awareness, powerful positive emotions, and healthy mind/body interactions."
One of the best times in my life was when I was a member of Freeplay Dance Crew – a fabulous group of men and women who loved to dance for the sake of dancing. We often described ourselves as “professionals who dance” rather than professional dancers!
I had been with the company for about four years when we decided to take on creating a full-length show complete with costumes, lighting, and collaboration with another great dance company, Prince On Point.
Little did we know what we had in store!!
One day, the director called us all to circle up before rehearsal and gave us some news – we would be dancing the entire show barefooted.
Um, say what? We’re a hip hop crew – ya know, chucks, sneakers – that barefoot stuff is for those contemporary dancer type folks!
There were immediate protests (yes, yes I was one of the loudest to voice my objections). How can we do that? Our feet are going to bleed! I have ugly toes – I don’t want the world to see them! (yes, we also had grandiose ideas as to how many people would see our performance).
I wonder if our director knew the storm that he’d face in asking us to make this change? Did he anticipate all of the emotions that would rise from him asking us to try on this approach to dancing that was new, uncomfortable, scary, and felt really risky?
In the end, he won – I mean, he was the director, the leader, our guide – and so we gave up our protests and trusted in him and his vision, knowing he must be able to see something that we couldn't yet.
Now that doesn’t mean we didn’t whine during rehearsals from time to time, or sneakily make faces at him when his back was turned – but we worked together, we supported and encouraged each other, and the end result was – well, beautiful.
It’s not lost on me the significance that the title of the show was Re/Genesis – a new beginning!
To this day, that performance is one that I hold most dear to my heart, because it taught me something that I try to keep in mind every day when I work with my clients as their guide – sometimes, what I’m asking them to do feels like dancing with no shoes on. Some days, when I say, “Trust me, this will work, just try” – I know there are doubts and fears that immediately come up.
Change can be uncomfortable. Change can seem like a daunting task or even a trick. A risk. An exposure.
But remember – on the other side of change and discomfort is something beautiful, a new creation, a new life – knowing something about yourself that you never thought, doing something that you imagined to be impossible, a life you might have thought unattainable.
Today – even if it feels uncomfortable – I invite you to dance with your shoes off and see what happens!
If you're in the San Francisco Bay Area, you don't want to miss this!
I believe that as women we are born to create the waves of change that are so needed right now ... and you deserve full support to do this work you so love.
So, we have co-created a fantastic urban retreat to Nourish you, and YOU are invited to join us for this very special event:
RISE UP PRIESTESS CONFERENCE, 2 Day Women's Spirituality Gathering for women healers, leaders, priestesses, facilitators, and coaches. August 19th-20th (Berkeley, CA).
Now more than ever, our feminine culture is at a profound crossroads. These past many years have skewed our sense of connection with our divine feminine and women’s community as the passports to our deepest collective dreams.
Women are RE-emerging to Claim our roles as matriarchs and visionary leaders of our communities, and our culture. As this emergence continues, there is a growing need for women healers and leaders to receive support - so that we can fully share our wisdom and gifts AND live fulfilling and prosperous lives.
I'm so excited to be presenting at workshop at the retreat and hope to see you there!