Virtual Circle

Final Call for Virtual Circle Participants!

Summer Self-Compassion Camp: A Goddess Spirituality Ritual Circle Starts June 21st!

The purpose of this women’s circle is to create a supportive community experience in which trauma survivors can enhance their Goddess Spirituality walk through the application of compassion-centered ritual, artwork, poetry, essay and discussion.

Intended Audience

The invitation to circle is available to any woman age 18 and older who is open to Goddess Spirituality and who desires to participate in a community that is affirming, diverse, egalitarian and kind. Signups will be screened; circle participation is limited in order to build a close-knit group.

Benefits of Joining Circle

The content of the virtual circle will be available only to those who have signed up and been selected as circle members.

Circle will include a weekly post with topics such as:

  • deepening one’s understanding of thealogy (the study of Goddess Spirituality),
  • compassion rituals,
  • creativity with a spiritual purpose,
  • self-care for trauma survivors,
  • connecting with Goddess in nature,
  • sharing and reflecting on your Goddess Spirituality journey.

Commitment and Expectations

The circle is being offered as a stand-alone experience for my priestess practicum in the Practical Priestessing class I am completing; it is not a teaser to a paid program or book. To get the most from the experience, plan to involve yourself as fully as possible in the community experience. This includes engaging with the material provided through reading, listening to the audio recordings and commenting on posts in a supportive and community-minded manner.

Depending upon enrollment, the group may remain open for a short time after it starts, but participation will be closed by the second week in order to build a sense of safety and to deepen discussion. You are encouraged to openly discuss and attempt to resolve any concerns that arise during circle, but, if at any point you decide the circle is not a good fit for you, you will be able to leave it by unsubscribing.

Only a Few Seats Left Open…

The circle will launch on June 21st, so request enrollment now!

Virtual Circle

Free Goddess Spirituality Virtual Circle!

Summer Self-Compassion Camp: A Goddess Spirituality Ritual Circle

The purpose of this women’s circle is to create a supportive community experience in which trauma survivors can enhance their Goddess Spirituality walk through the application of compassion-centered ritual, artwork, poetry, essay and discussion.

Intended Audience

The invitation to circle is available to any woman age 18 and older who is open to Goddess Spirituality and who desires to participate in a community that is affirming, diverse, egalitarian and kind. Signups will be screened; circle participation is limited in order to build a close-knit group.

Benefits of Joining Circle

The content of the virtual circle will be available only to those who have signed up and been selected as circle members.

Circle will include a weekly post with topics such as:

  • deepening one’s understanding of thealogy (the study of Goddess Spirituality),
  • compassion rituals,
  • creativity with a spiritual purpose,
  • self-care for trauma survivors,
  • connecting with Goddess in nature,
  • sharing and reflecting on your Goddess Spirituality journey.

Commitment and Expectations

The circle is being offered as a stand-alone experience for my priestess practicum in the Practical Priestessing class I am completing; it is not a teaser to a paid program or book. To get the most from the experience, plan to involve yourself as fully as possible in the community experience. This includes engaging with the material provided through reading, listening to the audio recordings and commenting on posts in a supportive and community-minded manner.

Depending upon enrollment, the group may remain open for a short time after it starts, but participation will be closed by the second week in order to build a sense of safety and to deepen discussion. You are encouraged to openly discuss and attempt to resolve any concerns that arise during circle, but, if at any point you decide the circle is not a good fit for you, you will be able to leave it by unsubscribing.

The Circle Starts Soon…

The circle will launch on June 21st, so request enrollment now!

Surviving & Thriving

Vulnerability and Trauma

It has been difficult for me to get myself to write lately. I’ve felt like my walls are up. This experience has occurred in concert with working very hard in therapy to dig into my childhood trauma on a deeper level. I feel as though I can only muster so much vulnerability as an individual, and increasing it in one area has unfortunately decreased it in my writing. As I contemplated my experience for today’s #SurvivinggnThriving Tuesday, I pondered the discomfort I’ve had with the word vulnerability, and saw that it is because I associate it with threat. To be vulnerable means to open myself up to possible attack and harm.

What are we afraid will happen to us if we are vulnerable? By and large, I think one “attack” that we might fear is being invalidated. In terms of traumatic experiences, we might be discounted and told that we are remembering things incorrectly. If our memories are factual, we are exaggerating them. If things are really as bad as we say they were, we must have brought it on ourselves. If we were in fact innocent victims, we need to show signs of “healing” like forgiveness and love in order to have our experiences “count.”

While many factors influence the reasons that traumatic experiences—especially those of a sexual nature—tend to get discounted, one aspect that I think stands strong is the fact humans are exquisitely tuned in to each other as social animals. We may be expected to preserve the “tribe” at any and all personal costs. The pressure to conform to the idea that people get what they deserve and to believe that everyone is trying their best can outweigh our willingness to grapple with evil and with the nuance in the nature of human relationships. We may feel a need to trust in authorities such as political leaders, clergy and parents, even when some of the individuals in these places of authority betray their charge.

How can this focus on our place as highly social beings help us in being willing to risk vulnerability, especially when our trauma has come at the hands of other people? As hard as this truth is for me to accept, relationships are a major healing force, perhaps the major healing force from trauma. All of the evidence-based treatments of trauma include an aspect of witnessing, listening, processing, talking, displaying, feeling or in some way being with our past experience of trauma in the presence of a safe and caring individual. A refusal to be vulnerable is likely to serve as an impediment to healing in therapeutic relationships that are “good enough.”

Being vulnerable presents other risks. We may be rejected, judged, criticized, betrayed or humiliated. I’ve shared previously about strategies through which we might discern if another individual or group is worthy of risking vulnerability. There is no gain in allowing ourselves to be mistreated, even if we may sometimes think we can undo the original trauma by defeating it in an adult form. Nothing feels more like failure to me than realizing I’ve been “sucked in” to an adult relationship that mimics an aspect of my childhood trauma, having mistaken the familiar for the safe.

What, though, can we do if we know deep down that we are in a safe relational space, but our walls are still up? I’m still terrified of having unpleasant reactions to my blogs, but honestly thus far *knocks on wood* I’ve had really kind and supportive readers. In parallel, in many offline areas of my life where I’ve taken risks, I’ve expected to be attacked and instead found acceptance. I believe it takes a significantly greater number of experiences of trust to undo a hurt than it takes hurts to break trust. All I can do or any of us can do is to keep trying, knowing this reality. And I believe empathy is vital—for those who have managed to have a lot of safe and loving people in their lives, know that you are indeed privileged and consider offering support instead of incredulity to those of us who may shrink at the first sign of relational conflict.

How have you navigated the terrain of vulnerability? What behaviors do others do that allow you to lower your defenses? How do you find the motivation to open up again after a relational wound?

Embodied Heart

#MeToo As an Incest Survivor

For today’s #EmbodiedHeart post, I want to share a personal reflection on recent events related to bombshell after bombshell of accusations of sexual impropriety. I rarely comment on things in the news but I’ve been hit hard by both the hope of a tidal wave of change in this arena as well as the lingering doubts about whether anything will change for those of us who suffer abuse at the hands of family members rather than famous people.

As I’ve read numerous stories of women standing in their truth and being taken seriously, as well as some of the accused realizing the gig is up and admitting to their behaviors, I find myself simultaneously triggered and grounded. Triggered in bearing witness to accounts of the myriad of men who chose to exploit their power, often at the expense of those who were vulnerable and young. Grounded in a growing chorus of righteously angry people who are no longer willing to demand we apply the stringent expectations of a court of law in proclaiming that the person is “innocent until proven guilty” but instead allows a well-corroborated story to stand on its own and recognizes the courage it takes for women to find their voice.

I am an incest survivor, one who experienced sexual abuse at the hands of biological relatives. Yet, decades on with so much suffering and difficulty in everyday life, I doubt my story constantly. My recollection of what transpired in my childhood was implicit until I reached adulthood. A series of events unfolded, including my estrangement from my family, after which all the horrific details began to make themselves known to me. My family denied everything.

I doubt myself not because I doubt myself, but because I have no confession. If my family members admitted to their actions, I would have a sense of closure. Without that, I feel perpetually in a “as if” state, knowing what I know but unable to move on. I feel accused rather than being the accuser. That’s it, I feel as though my family members, those who destroyed so much in my life, get to stand in judgment of me for being a “bad daughter.” As I’ve shared previously, my mother could look at me after crying for days and tell me she was always happy. How does one define reality with a person like that? Someone who cannot see despite having perfect vision. All this time and distance, and I still can’t fully shake their grip on what is absolute and what is right. A tiny part of me wants to pursue a court case simply for the verdict. If it went in my favor, perhaps I could hold on to that as truth.

The larger controversy about delayed memory also weighs heavily on me. I was once on an interview only to have the individuals conducting it mock people like me because of this issue. My paranoia said one of my references had tipped them off as to my struggles while my spiritual being was washing with waves of gratitude for being granted the foreknowledge that allowed me to dodge the bullet of working with such heartless people. Needless to say, I declined the job offer.

I find it highly ironic that people with limited connection to their abusers are finding acceptance and are being believed, while those of us who have been betrayed in the most intimate of relationships are still by and large questioned on every front. My hope is that this is truly a tsunami, not a tidal wave. That what has started with the famous and the infamous, the wealthy and privileged, can grow to such heights and carry such intensity that all the walls of denial and basements of buried secrets are flooded and thrown asunder. That the resulting disorder and disarray can serve as a catalyst to finally hear and see the truth of the terror that strikes not only the choir boy and the swim team member and the actress, but also child after child in the privacy of their own homes.

Surviving & Thriving

Goddessing Through Our Bodies

I was in my mid-20’s when the accumulated stress of my experiences of childhood trauma finally broke through and nearly broke me. Along with the classic PTSD symptoms like flashbacks, emotional avoidance and heightened vigilance, I started to have a host of physical issues like migraines, digestive problems, and muscle pain. As you’ll discover on this #SurvivingnThriving Tuesday, the connection between traumatic experiences and our bodies helps to explain not only the outcomes of trauma but also the potential treatments for it.

Effects of Trauma on the Body

Aside from any physical injury or illness that results directly from traumatic events, these experiences can also leave their marks on our body when we develop conditions like PTSD. Several areas of the brain, including those used for reasoning, memory and emotional processing, can malfunction after trauma. People with PTSD also often experience disruptions in their stress hormones, which can lead to either reacting to minor triggers or failing to react to major issues.

Trauma, even a single event, can negatively affect almost every body system, including how our hearts work, how we digest food, how our reproductive system works, how much pain we can tolerate and how well we are able to fight off infections. Facts like these leave me frustrated when I hear people telling trauma survivors to “leave the past in the past” and “just let it go.” Although we can heal, recover and move onto healthier and happier lives, these experiences are etched in our bodies and minds.

Body-Centered Healing

Given the extent to which trauma can affect the body, it’s no surprise that treatment of PTSD and related conditions in survivors of trauma has expanded to include techniques that focus on the survivor’s relationship with his or her body. Mindfulness meditation, which can include awareness of body states in the present moment, has been used to reduce PTSD symptoms in a veteran population. Somatic experiencing therapies, which help the person work through blocked reactions to trauma, have limited but promising research.

Alternative healing practices such as yoga, acupuncture, massage and Reiki are used by many individuals recovering from a trauma history as an adjunct to psychotherapy and as a way to reconnect with their bodies. For instance, I’ve found that receiving a massage, especially from a practitioner skilled in bodywork, has released unexpected emotions and helped me process aspects of my experiences. I’ve also found that using hot stones during massage gives me focal points that help me stay grounded in my body.  For these types of approaches, don’t be shy in letting the person with whom you are working know what you need.

Incorporating Spirituality Into Healing

There has been some research on incorporating spiritual practice into the treatment of the effects of trauma, but, overall, I think this potential healing resource has been under-utilized. A search of Google Scholar revealed an especially parse landscape in the way of Goddess Spirituality and trauma treatment, although I did find a kickass dissertation by Karen Grijalva about including this type of spirituality in working with rape survivors. Those who center their spirituality on Goddess often focus on embodied spiritual practices that many, including myself, have found to be healing. I would love to see more researchers acknowledge the role Goddess Spirituality plays in the lives of some trauma survivors, in order to develop programs that tailor interventions to this population.

Our bodies can be affected both physically and mentally by traumatic experiences, sometimes with devastating consequences. There are both traditional psychotherapeutic as well as complementary approaches which focus on the body that can help with the healing process. More investigation is needed to determine the specific effects practicing Goddess Spirituality can have for trauma survivors in terms of their mental health functioning.