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Words from the Womb…

This is the post excerpt.

Welcome to my blog. It is a compilation of personal experience, observations and questions relating to embodiment and womb healing- what does it mean to be embodied? How does trauma affect our ability to be embodied and what is its impact on our womb health? What is ancestral/intergenerational trauma? What is the Sacred Feminine? How does oppression and social conditioning affect our relationship with our body? What about past lives? What does it mean to have ‘our issues in our tissues?’  Exploring the relationship between ourselves, our body and nature. The Sacred Feminine. Mother Earth and Patriarchy. My perspectives come from awareness of the interplay of mind, body, emotions, spirit, cosmos, society, oppression and The Great Mystery. Love and respect to All Our Relations.
Thanks for reading!

 

Ancestral trauma, gifts & wisdom: Healing our tree

My Memere passed away this past fall, just shy of her 99th birthday. She was my last living grandparent. Born in October 1919 in St.Leon, Manitoba, she gave birth to 6 children, one of which died as a baby. Her and my Pepere worked hard, making a life out of a stubborn plot of land through the harsh prairie winters. They hunted, fished, trapped and farmed more or less their whole lives, raised their kids, made the best life they could with what they had. They faced life’s challenges with a buoyant sense of humour, and devoted spiritual faith. They gave my mom life, and therefore made it possible for me to be here, and therefore my daughter, and so on.

When my grandma passed, I got a bunch of her old photographs, genealogical records, and some funny collages she put together. She was quite the scrap-booker. She was very thorough with recording every birth and important life details of her life, her ancestors and her descendants. On top of that, the church also has kept excellent records so I have a lot of info about my mother’s lineage. More on that later.

One of her writings I came upon made me think about a subject that is often on my mind, part of my own healing journey and the work I do. Intergenerational trauma, healing- and the sacred feminine.

I am not the best at french-english translation, but roughly, she speaks about how important recording our geneaology is. Because how else would we be able to know about our ancestors’ accomplishments, or their struggles? It also keeps us accountable. Once we have children, our name is remembered, and with that so are our faults and good qualities. Our actions have repercussions; You never know how your bad behaviours can manifest or what repercussions they may have; and equally, you never know just how far the good work you do will reach down the generations- all the work you did to make the leaves on the family tree beautiful to be enjoyed by those down the line.

You may have read the articles floating around about how on a biological level, we hold imprints of the memories of our grandmother simply from living in her womb. Our mother carried us as an egg in her ovaries while developing in grandma’s womb, and so, we were in grandma’s womb too. Our genes can mutate based on our foremothers’ experiences.

And so, we must ask ourselves, what are those imprints? What traumas and gifts are being passed down to us? And, are we making the family tree more beautiful and healthy with our actions in this life? Or are we weakening it?

The legacy of our ancestors includes traumas, but it also brings us gifts, and wisdom. We need to use the gifts we were passed down and the ones we cultivated ourselves, to heal ourselves and our line.

I have seen spiritual healers about my endometriosis and done my own spiritual investigations on it. For me, it’s a lot of past life imprinting and generational stuff passed down, rather than events from this life. There are studies that show that women with endometriosis often have a history of sexual abuse or assault.  One could argue that most women have this in their history- either their own or in their lineage, yet they don’t all have endo.  Endo also begins in utero, long before birth. There’s more to it than what happened to us in childhood. 

There are many health issues that are more likely to manifest when there is trauma history. As the ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) test scores show, common illnesses we experience today are traced back to how many of these childhood traumas are in your background. My ACE score is fortunately, pretty low. But ACE tests don’t factor in past life stuff, nor intergenerational or collective wounds.

Most women struggle with their relationship with their femininity, or their reproductive organs in general, so perhaps not only personal trauma, but the collective feminine wound can manifest through illness in many of us.

To be clear: I don’t support the mindset of there being a spiritual cause of disease- because it does more damage than good to a lot of us- it negates the very structural, biological nature of the disease which is laid down in utero. We do not choose, or cause disease to happen. It happens to us, but our work is to heal it through whatever means we choose or have available.

Some schools of thought in our victim-blaming culture like to take these resonances between trauma and disease- which aren’t our fault, and assign them as emotional or spiritual causes which then puts shame and pressure on individual women to fix their ‘issues’ and ‘emotional problems’ because that’s the root of why they are sick. But blaming young women (endo shows up at puberty for many) for the personal traumas or collective wounds they may carry, or for simply having a physical disease does not help anything, in fact it does more harm. It gives the already patriarchal medical system an excuse to not take our disease seriously enough to invest in it, and feeds into the archaic yet common ‘female hysteria’ notions that I do not support in any way.

Trauma and illness are often connected, and I believe past lives and heritage can also be involved. But sometimes they aren’t and self-blame doesn’t do any good.  Personal responsibility for taking steps towards healing ourselves, and social & governmental responsibility for doing the research, funding, and giving us the supports and medicines required is key. We’re all in this together.

 Trauma and illness are things we must accept, and work through for those we leave the planet to after us- whether they are our blood descendants or the next generation. Because what we don’t heal, we pass down. And, if you believe in re-incarnation, you just might end up paying for your mistakes in your next life as your own great-granddaughter!

Healing ourselves heals those who came before and those who come after us.

Collectively, women are suffering. But they are also healing and shaking things up. Women are working together, now and through time, working on our own healing, and that of our foremothers.  We are collectively nourishing our trees by waking up to our own self-worth. We can’t spend our time blaming others, or blaming trauma as something outside ourselves. We need to take what we are given and work through it. We can only do our best with what we have at any given time. We need to be compassionate to ourselves, find the right supports and remember that our foremothers were resilient as f*ck and that’s why we are here!

I think about my great-grandmother- my memere’s mom- who had 16 children and several did not make it to adulthood. I think about the losses she felt and how that was imprinted on her womb, and on my memere’s, my mom’s, mine.

I think about her grandmother, who was of Ojibway-Scottish descent, born in Michigan, first married a Metis man and then a voyageur, and moved to LaFontaine on Georgian Bay, Ontario. She and her husband were part of a Metis settlement there. She later in old age picked up her life and moved to St.Leon Manitoba with one of her sons and died there in her 80s. She spoke french, english, cree and michif.  Her son continued to raise his children in Manitoba, a devout catholic, musician, a man with hope for the future.  I think about colonisation, and how it lives in my blood. Cultural and spiritual suppression and erasure, white-passing, internalised guilt and shame. My settler history- Scottish, English and French, their struggles, their ignorance, their racism (internalised and externalised), the things they did to survive. I have so many questions for them.

I think about the mothers fleeing war-torn countries while pregnant, and grandmothers who survived the Holocaust. Mothers who took their own lives, mothers and grandmothers’ silent struggles that we now can put a name to, and recognise.

I think about my Scottish great-grandma (pic below) on my dad’s side, born in Glengarry, ON. who died of Spanish flu at the age of 24, the very day her husband came back from the war, leaving their two young sons motherless. Her husband put his sons in an orphanage, because that’s what fathers did. He too, was raised in an orphanage with his brother because he lost his mother. Suspiciously, both his mother and his stepmother mysteriously disappeared. They have no death certificates. What kind of imprints did that leave on our tree?

Paternal great-grandparents Charles William Oakley and Sarah McGillivray

Nobody’s family tree is all light and love and thriving. We’ve all got some nasties eating away at the leaves, rotten roots, old, broken branches and maybe a parasite or two. Whatever tree we are part of, we can only do our best with the branches and roots we are given. How much energy we give is up to us. Some of us may feel the weight of a sick tree more than others. But we must remember that we are all connected- here and through time. And all our trees eventually connect, somewhere.

As for the Sacred Feminine, I feel that my body, my womb and my heart, holds grief that isn’t even mine. I feel the lost babies and supressed dreams of my foremothers- who were creative, wild, and spiritual, having to make the necessary sacrifices to survive in a patriarchal world and make it possible for me to be here. They obeyed their husbands, accepted their limitations, paid homage to God, the priest, the church, the establishment. They did what they had to do, and their faith got them through. They found things that brought them joy, levity, laughter and strength. I am grateful to their sacrifices which brought me life, and for their resourcefulness, independence, devotion and resilience too.

But my healing lies in reclaiming the wild, creative and spiritual lifeline that they left un-tended. Moving through the constricting pain, guilt, and shame that was passed down helped me very clearly know and appreciate my freedom, my sensuality and my shamanic, direct-to-source spiritual inclinations.  I am pruning the tree, to create pathways of freedom where there weren’t before. And I don’t do this alone. My whole generation does this with me.

 

There are roots I need to tend and cut, re-direct, water, and nourish. Over time, the tree may, hopefully change, so it’s healthier for my daughter, my nephews and all those of the generations to come.

 

 

 

I don’t get my period anymore and I love it…

I don’t get my period anymore and I love it…

That’s all I wanted to say.

Just joking. But really, it’s heavenly.

And no, I haven’t gone through natural menopause yet.

I am on continuous, very low estrogen birth control. And, it works for me right now. For my body, and all it’s been through, this was the best choice. No more flooding, clots, excruciating pain or passing-out. No more gut-wrenching elimination issues, painful cysts, etc.

Thanks to this medication, I was able to complete a 2-year, full time,            8-courses-per-semester college diploma. Something I wouldn’t have dreamed of getting through before. Sitting in an chair all day and eve, being that tired and that stressed out would never have been possible for me on top of everything else. But I did it, and did very well. I am tired and recovering now. But, with a sense of accomplishment.

I also finally got my full G drivers licence. I am not a fan of driving in Toronto, and prefer to walk when possible. But again, I would never have made it through that, with all the pain before. Another accomplishment.

I can lift weights again, and challenge my body more with intense workouts, sometimes.

I’ve been able to think about other things than my diet, my pain, my hot packs and my beloved Advil.

Without the overlapping rhythm of my hormonal cycle I am now more able to be more in tune with the lunar rhythms. I also feel more connected to my inner Wise Woman- a deep, stable inner strength and infinite power that only felt fleeting before.

I cherished moving through the phases of Maiden, Mother, Enchantress & Crone through each month. But, it was tumultuous and damaging to my body. So now, I enjoy it mainly on the psycho-spiritual level, through the moon phases from a more stable, reflective place within myself.

Most importantly, I can be a better mom and partner now. I can listen more intently to my daughter and be more present for her through her tween and teen years. My partner and I can be active and travel now. I hiked around Machu Picchu and trudged through the amazon jungle with him. We can be more spontaneous, and I feel much more free.

Yes, there are side effects and risks like with any medication. For me, they are manageable and worth the benefit right now. If I died of an extremely rare blood clot tomorrow, I would have died with no regrets. For some, this may not be the case. And it is every woman’s right to decide what’s best for her. Everyone is unique. And can change their mind, and know that what they feel they need now may change one day and that’s ok.

I will never shame anyone for the choices they make for their own health and well-being.

We all have our own healing journey.

As an advocate for living in tune with nature’s cycles, for womb-love, womb-health and being in touch our natural rhythms- it took me a long time to feel ok about getting back on the pill. My doctor recommended it when I was suffering but I politely declined as I pursued the all-natural route, determined to heal my disease this way. After all, there were a bunch of naturopaths and herbal product creators I found online that insisted it was doable, and preferable. I tried the diets- eating specific foods for each phase of my cycle, the endo diet, anti-inflammatory, vegan-low-, glycemic, paleo-ish. I followed each diligently for many months over several years.

I did herbal infusions and tinctures, homeopathy, bodywork, shamanic healing, energy healing, prayer, etc. All part of my healing path, and helped in their various ways. But my disease was quite advanced. And the root of the problem was still structural. Cells laid down in the wrong spot when I was forming as a fetus. Excess uterine-like tissue in places it didn’t belong, responding as it should to a healthy immune system attacking a foreign invader. My tissues were fighting a losing battle, and required the big guns.

Every menstrual cycle became a traumatsing roller-coaster ride. Like those old rickety ones that don’t feel safe. And it was constantly on the go, gradually wearing away at the tracks, the wheels, the cars, and falling apart.

The best thing for my body was to stop the menstrual roller coaster altogether. My expert surgeon performed an excision, the gold standard treatment to date for endometriosis. Afterward, he told me I had stage 4, very severe disease, and removed all he could. He strongly suggested I suppress my periods or the endo will likely grow back and I will be in another surgery in 5 years or less.

I tried a progestin-only medication which caused constant spotting and other issues, so I needed that bit of estrogen to stop it. Got a new prescription and success! And here I am almost 4 years later, and still pain free. My physio is happy with where my tissues are at, too.

I don’t have endo pain to talk about anymore. But, my relationship with my body is still a dynamic, ever-challenging thing. It is still my path of learning and growth.

But now I am more capable of helping others.

So I am here to help you too, if you need it.

My mission with Willowroot Healing Arts is to take all of my lessons and learning and help you navigate your unique journey. Supporting you with all I know, continue to learn, with fierce compassion and devotion.

I will continue to call out pill-shaming that I continue to encounter in the holistic health community. Capitalism and health don’t mix well, and while many practitioners point out the evils of ‘big pharma’- and yes, there’s lots to complain about- but there’s a lot of capitalistic lies and greed in holistic health business as well. On top of that, a general stance of shaming towards people who take pharmaceutical medication for their mental health, womb health, or just in general. How is this any better than being shamed for taking the natural route?

This attitude doesn’t uphold true wholism- if our mind, body, emotions and spirit are all integral aspects of our health and we are social beings- we need to take all of this into account- such as physical limitatons, social limitations, financial limitations, trauma history, privilege and equity issues, and focus on the most important thing to the client at this time. The more options, the better.

Also, I’m just not into shaming. Nor taking sides.

Sometimes people need something natural. Sometimes people need something pharmaceutical. Sometimes both, or different things at different times. Often, we don’t really even have a choice because of financial limitations, or other accessibility issues.

My wish would be that we could see the necessity of all branches of medicine and respect each other’s sincere desire to be well and make our own decisions based on our own experiences.

My path is not your path. But if your goal is to be well,  I will support you in that goal, taking whatever path you wish to take.

 

 

Being an empath- Illness, boundaries and the dark side…

I am an Empath. I am also a Highly Sensitive Person, and an Introvert. I had never heard of these terms growing up, and in this time now where labels and identity seem to have taken on much larger importance than ever, I was at first reluctant about calling myself what I am.

As though by labeling it, it either implies my essential nature is a like a disease, or that I am being self-important by implying I am a ‘victim’ of my spiritual gifts- thanks to how some people throw the term ‘empath’ around, it can sound like sort of a spiritual ego kind of label. Something that justifies me feeling sorry for myself because I attract selfish narcissists and there’s nothing to do about it but wallow in my lonely little room, crying for myself and for the world. Whatever.

Being me is none of those things, although having a cryfest every now and then is super healthy and I recommend it. And I have attracted people with narcissistic or selfish tendencies, but I have learned a lot from them. They are my greatest teachers. More on them later.

From my experience being sensitive, empathic, emotional, introverted and intuitive in a patriarchal society that values extroversion, superficiality, facts and rationality, emotional dissociation and competitive individualism, its hard for folks like us to feel like we belong, or have a place in this world.

My ‘gifts’ can also make me sick. Living in a big city, sometimes just taking public transit can sap every last bit of energy and sanity I have left. All it takes is one fight between strangers or being wedged in on a streetcar during rush hour on a hot summer day, picking up on all the emotions, thoughts, and smells around me to give me a headache, nausea or backache.

I have also had anger, jealousy and energetic vampirism all directed towards me by other people—and physical symptoms often arise shortly after.

20181019_140937It is hard being an empath, a highly sensitive person, and an introvert. It really is. Not only can it be hard to be accepted or function in society, we struggle on a daily basis carrying much more than our share of the emotional and energetic pain load- silently, invisibly. Some of us may even struggle with chronic pain, or our own trauma history, and never be quite sure if the pain we are carrying is ours, others’ or the collective’s. Perhaps its all three. 

I know that when in the throes of severe endometriosis pain I have had strong feelings of rage and grief stemming from what felt like hundreds of thousands of women through the generations, all over the world. Images of dead babies, women being raped and beaten, and of war came up, all trapped, living inside of me, begging to be heard. I could feel all of this inter-generational pain, anguish, grief, all this painful blood, inside of me– in a womb that’s had enough, that’s so done, yet screams because there isn’t enough screaming going on. Talk about overwhelm on all levels..

Being an empath can be hard but we are not victims! Being this way comes with responsibility- learning how to use it constructively rather than letting it destroy us.

We are gifted with a 6th sense- other than just feeling what others feel and knowing what they need- we can also get intuitive impressions of who wants to hurt us, and why. We can sense danger way ahead of time and avoid it.

I can feel when someone is angry with me. I also feel and ‘see’ their old childhood wound it stems from- I feel them and their pain- it’s crystal clear.  I find compassion for this person, for their wounds, and forgive. The next step then is to LET GO. That last part is the hardest for me- because the energy may have latched onto one of my existing wounds, or a physical weak spot. And shaking it requires some extra effort after forgiving and mentally letting go. Suggestions on this, to come..

The point is: We don’t need to carry others’ pain load on top of our own. Even if their stuff reminds us of our own, we must recognize that it’s not.  Just because I empathize with them does not mean I need to carry their troubles for them.

That’s right- we don’t need to rescue. Just because we can sense what someone needs, doesn’t mean we always need to fulfill those needs. We are only responsible for ourselves. We are responsible for creating our own life to the best of our ability. 

Sometimes the most kind, loving and helpful thing to do is to allow people to deal with 23632498_10159431570100212_3594777028949179900_otheir own issues. That’s their path of growth. We need to focus on our own stuff. That’s why I appreciate the ‘selfish’ people I’ve attracted in my life. They showed me that I needed to be a bit more like them. That my energy is my own and I choose how I want to spend it in this one precious life. Narcissists are ill and hurtful but they reflect back to us that if we focus on ourselves once in a while we can avoid being weighed down by others’ pain. And then, we will have more energy to pursue our dreams, passions and help people in more effective ways.

I spent my entire life carrying other people’s pain because I thought it was somehow my job, my responsibility, something I did since I was young to survive. Self-sacrifice is highly valued on my catholic side of the family. It is a virtue to be lovingly resentful. You’ll go to heaven if you suffer for others. Feel perpetually guilty and you’re a good person.

Truthfully, thanks to colonization, our society is built on these old, oppressive religious values. But, even the modern and ‘woke’ among us can fall into a judgmental, pontificating trap- if you aren’t vegan, eco-conscious, politically correct 100% of the time and super ethical, shame on you. You are a bad person. If you bottle-feed, raise your voice, or go to work all day, then you’re a bad mom.

The path of ‘compassion’ has a dark side. Caring deeply is fine, but carrying pain hurts and can make you resentful. Perhaps you want others to suffer along with you. You may wish to pull others down when they are happy, or judge and punish those who, in your eyes, have too much good or appear to live ‘selfishly’. But that’s not responsible or kind. It creates a negative spiral, and perpetuates pain. But pain can feel more comfortable than taking care of ourselves and being happy.

There’s someone suffering more than you, so how dare you be happy?

Look out for this underlying message- in your own mind, or in your environment.

For empaths, and for many moms, we often don’t need to be more ‘informed’ to feel the pains of the world. We feel the pain of the world deeply and self-sacrifice on a daily basis. We need to focus on healing our own wounds and protecting ourselves, so that we can give more to our family, and create a richer, happier life for our loved ones, friends, and clients without resentment.

For a long time I’d prefer to carry extra pain than to stand up for myself and draw boundaries, because that was way too scary. I feared total rejection and exile. Then slowly, since about age 30, I awakened to reality. My physical pain was getting terrible and emotionally I was very low.

I started asking myself: Why do I carry this resentment? Does this kindness and generosity go both ways? What am I getting out of this relationship? Where does this ‘need to be needed’ stem from? How come I feel drained after helping people, and how can I be a healer and mother without resentment?

20181019_145638

In this culture that doesn’t value emotional awareness, maturity, or self regulation, and rewards women for being self-sacrificing, those of us with the empathy tend to take on too much. Because we can. Because others sense that we can and are willing to. But we don’t have to suffer, we can choose not to take stuff on.

We can be happy and free while still being our genuine, sensitive selves. It just takes some work. And we will have to confront our fears about setting boundaries- remember, it’s often the kinder thing to do for others as well as yourself. When you are happy, you make it more possible for others to be.  

Here’s some stuff that helps me deal:

Be honest about how you feel with others, and set boundaries. Practice ahead of time how you will say ‘no’. This takes time and patience. Reward and encourage yourself when you face your fears and stand up for yourself. It is hard when you are the caretaker in a relationship. The other may get pissed off. But if they are meant to stick around, they will get over it, understand and respect you. If not, they never cared about you to begin with and aren’t worth the energy.

Invest in reciprocal, balanced relationships. Cut out or transmute unbalanced ones. Your energy is precious, don’t waste it.

Time alone in your own space– I do this daily to help me process and unwind.

Salt baths and showers– I find water very therapeutic. I add intention and visualization of all the gunk that isn’t mine being washed away and going down the drain.

Smudging/smoke clearing. I burn sage mostly, but other herbs such as juniper, rosemary or Palo Santo wood. Smoke clearing can help remove excess energy and static picked up from your environment. I have my own prayers that I do along with this.

Visualization: This can be used for cleansing and protection.

For cleansing: I often imagine standing in a flowing stream or river under a full moon. The light flows down through my head all the way to my feet and the water takes it away.

For protection: I like to imagine a bubble of light surrounding me. The color varies- sometimes I imagine black swirls of smoke to ward off really negative vibes. Some people may resonate with a wall, or stronger boundary.

Wearing protective crystal& symbols – such as smoky quartz, jet, a quartz programmed for protection, or any other crystal you resonate with as protective to you. You may also resonate with other symbols of strength and power, such as a sword, arrowhead, hammer, shell, shield, anchor, pentacle, Eye of Horus, Hamsa hand or spiritual symbol you resonate with.

-Cultivate and prioritize your own spiritual practice

Creative expression– write, draw, sing, dance, channel all those feelings!

Honor your uniqueness. Don’t feel guilty about being who you are, even though you are in the minority in a world that doesn’t celebrate you, see you, or understand you. You aren’t alone, and you have a well of inspiration, beauty and love inside you that is worth nurturing, and creatively manifesting. Don’t give up and keep doing you!

If you are not an empath yourself, but have a friend or loved one who seems to be, who listens intently to all your stories- show this person gratitude. Hold space for them to share with you, and make sure to reciprocate.

It may take time, and gentle prodding to get them to open up to you because they are so used to listening and may feel extra vulnerable when sharing. But they wish to be heard too. Be patient, and let them know you care, won’t judge and their words are safe with you.

Be well, and stay true my sensitive friends!

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Ok to Sit This One Out. Choosing Your Battles..

For Type A’s, and those with chronic illness or mental health struggles: It’s ok to sit this one out. It’s ok to just walk away sometimes.

We don’t have to be all out, all the time. We don’t have to fight every battle we are invited to. We don’t have to prove ourselves to everyone who demands it, especially our own shadow. Sometimes we just need to be with our pain for a bit, or let it go. Do what we need to take care of our self.  

One of the most repeated lessons that comes up for me, is knowing when to fight and when to put down the sword.  Sometimes, we have no choice- for some people, especially those more oppressed and marginalised, battle is necessary for survival on a daily basis. And that can be exhausting. For some people, maybe the more Type B personality, or relatively healthy people who struggle with procrastination and lethargy-  good kick in the pants is the right thing.

But, often for those with chronic illness or mental health struggles- self-care is a matter of conserving much needed energy- and sometimes choosing not to fight is the best option.

It may not even be a fight or a battle- just something that requires a lot of our energy- and we need to check whether it is worth it or not. In the last few years, probably thanks to my chronic pain, and innate perfectionist, Type A nature, I am much more keenly aware of how I am spending my energy and whether it is worth it. My body usually tells me the answer through pain, fatigue, or just feeling ‘not myself’. For someone like me- who likes to be active, participate, experience life in as many ways possible, having chronic pain is a real bummer. And so is being an introvert, and a Highly Sensitive Person. Different parts of me are often at cross-purposes, and I need to make a lot of quick micro decisions to keep myself healthy and well. I am sure some of you can relate.

Asian woman with samurai sword on the nature

I find as I get older and wiser about myself, I note the things that use up a lot of energy, and the things that aren’t worth it. Perhaps you’ve heard of the ‘Spoon Theory‘…

The ‘Spoon Theory’ is an analogy those with chronic illness and mental health struggles use to describe to others the limited energy they have, and how going through the motions of simple daily tasks may exhaust and deplete them compared to an average person. It’s pretty simple- ‘spoons’ are a measurement of energy. Some people have more spoons than others. Each task throughout the day requires a certain number of spoons. Some of us run out earlier than others. Some tasks require more spoons for us than others. For one person, taking a shower and going grocery shopping takes up half the day’s spoons. For someone else, it barely makes a dent in the number of spoons for the day. They have plenty more spoons to spare.

Another example, someone may find 6 hours of sleep a night enough to replenish all their spoons. Often those of us with chronic illness/mental health struggles need at least 8 and often more.

Even if we don’t have a chronic illness, I think it is wise to be aware of where our energy goes on a regular basis and honor our own limitations. For instance, lately I have been paying more attention to the nature of my thoughts- I notice my mind has been very busy running around in all directions and how draining that is on my energy. I notice that when I dwell on negative thoughts- past, present or future oriented- it takes up a lot of spoons. So, I am experimenting with catching those negative/fearful thoughts early on- and if they are unproductive for me, I try to move that energy into a productive course of expression. I might do a breathing exercise or do calming visualisations if I am in public.  if I am home, beat my drum, write it out on paper. I also like to use aromatherapy or physical exercise to calm and ground myself. Often, I find my spoons get saved by doing these things.

What about political/social/spiritual/interpersonal conflicts? What about those battles we fight- for ourselves, for loved ones, for those people and causes we care about? Sometimes, it can be extremely draining to try to explain or educate someone on your point of view when you don’t have many spoons left. Especially if that person is highly unlikely to see things from a point of view other than their own and/or simply wants to fight with you for some personal reason. It can also be very depleting if something someone says triggers us, and we go into a deeply wounded place inside of us or have trauma flashbacks.

This can happen anytime, with anyone. It an happen in person with family or friends, or with friends or strangers online. Online is where things can get dicey- because we don’t have the nuances of face to face contact. For me, online conversations take way more spoons than face to face conversations. Because, trying to convey a thing in writing, in a way that is clear, takes more energy for me- and I value the physical and emotional impressions and connection that we glean in person or even through a phone conversation.

With family and loved ones, there are deeper, older strands of emotional baggage to move through, and that can take a whole day of spoons if we don’t know where our line is.

So, I try to check in and see if this activity or battle is worth engaging in. We can ask ourselves:

How many spoons do I have left right now?

Is this battle/activity worth it?

Is it a productive use of my energy?

Will saving some spoons now leave me more for a future time when I can deal with this more effectively?

Is now the best time to handle this?

Is there another option here I haven’t considered?

What would happen if this time I just walked away?

What would happen if I said that while I care deeply about this issue, or this person, right now I just don’t have the energy and that’s ok?

Give yourself permission to be strong yet passive. To care, but rest. To take care of it all by doing nothing.

To hide so you can replenish and emerge anew.

We don’t have to be all out, all the time. We don’t have to fight every battle we are invited to. We don’t have to prove ourselves to everyone who demands it, especially our own shadow. Sometimes we just need to be with our pain for a bit, or let it go. Do what we need to take care of our self.  

My mantra is to be kind to myself. Its simple but it saves me spoons.

Dancing with Issues in our Tissues- Embodiment, Pleasure & Pain

We all struggle living in our body- at least from time to time. I’d be willing to say that most of us, if not all of us find this ‘meat suit’ we carry around at odds with our human desires at many points throughout our day.

The topic of embodiment (consciousness & body as one) is endlessly interesting and personal to me. Living with chronic pain as a mover & dancer, having an uneasy relationship with my own sexuality due to sexual assault & harassment, societal messages, inter-generational trauma, being in a female body in this world- all ad up to a complex relationship with body. What am I embodying, exactly? If it is my soul, or the Sacred Feminine, and my body is flawed, my womb is flawed, how can I embody the vastness and beauty I feel inside?

Our minds are powerful. We can separate our consciousness from our body by placing it solely into our mind and imagination. We can choose to focus on one important task at the expense of all others. We can astral travel, we can meditate, we can focus all our will into actions that are at odds with our bodily needs to help us achieve specific goals through our day. It may be what distinguishes us from animals, but I am not sure where that line really is. Perhaps it is a uniquely human thing to dissociate from our body willfully?

We can slip into more serious forms of dissociation as a protective survival mechanism against trauma. It is a way to escape the full impact of our feelings, enabling us to survive. For example, we may develop addictions or other coping mechanisms to help us live life after trauma. Sometimes our coping mechanisms outlive their purpose and can be destructive.

Many of us are familiar with common manifestations of not being embodied: Repetitive strain, athletic injury, dissociation, addiction, bad dietary habits, lack of sleep, overwork, stress/burnout, etc. Some of us may also have experience with slightly less common manifestations such as eating disorders, body dysmorphia, gender dysphoria, cutting, suicide.

Living in a body is hard. Harder for some of us than others. Yet, we can distinguish an aspect of ourselves as separate from the body, an essence that inhabits it. We have a saying that we are ‘Spiritual beings having a human experience’ and all religions have some form of belief that we have a soul or spirit that is living in our body. When we refer to ‘embodiment’ in the holistic health community and the conscious dance community, we are speaking about the tangible body and intangible spirit harmonising into this deeply present, grounded and yet transcendent state of being. It can feel truly ecstatic, euphoric, natural and grounded, yet blissfully otherworldly all at the same time.

When it comes to these sort of what I’ll call ‘embodiment practices’, such as conscious dance, pagan rituals, tantra, hatha yoga- practices that bring us into our body, we may find they also tend to bring us into our pain, into our limitations, because when Spirit meets body, it goes through layers of complexity- emotional, mental, psychological.

If we are accessing Spirit through the body, we are going to have to go through the ‘muck’ of repressed emotions, desires and fears, possibly lifetimes of trauma, karmic imprints, inherited trauma through DNA, environmental toxins, coping mechanisms, societal pressures and expectations and more.

Amazing Yoga

Our issues live in our tissues, as they say. And, naturally we work to transcend them- by working through them, being in relationship with them. Sometimes it seems they don’t really go away- we just learn to live with them instead of fighting them. Sometimes they dissolve. It’s a bit mysterious sometimes. It is ongoing self-awareness, really. Those new levels of self-awareness sometimes lead to freedom, joy and self-acceptance.

Speaking from a chronic pain point of view, I find it extremely inspiring to watch professional dancers, as they move in ways I cannot. Dance is my favourite art form, and I think it is because they seem to have figured it out- how to transcend the limitations of the body while also accepting them. How to push beyond comfort zone after comfort zone, without breaking. How to create something beautiful, something that expresses the freedom of spirit while still in form. I strive to do the same. In my own body, in my own way.

I am one of those people who processes all my emotions (and often, those of others) physically. Its like everything must get funnelled through my tissues. I sometimes wonder if I am making up for lifetimes when I neglected my body. Or, it could just be that my healing path requires that I focus on this relationship with my body as the primary way to feel whole, to feel my Spirit.  It draws me in again and again, so that no matter how hard it feels sometimes, when my body just won’t do what I wish- I must come back into a patient, loving relationship with it, and must face the totality of my emotions.

Chronic pain gives us an opportunity to keep refreshing our relationship with ourselves. We don’t have the luxury of ‘checking out’ as much as others do, as our body screams for our attention like a newborn baby. We must tend to our wounds. Now. Our body often does not do what we ask, when we ask. Its like having a much more ‘spirited’ child who requires special attention. Others with well-behaved children look on, perhaps thinking it is us that is the problem. We need to pick our battles. Accept the wild child we were given and do our best to not compare ourselves to others.

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For 17 years, I have been practicing yoga and for 12 years now, I have been bellydancing. And I have gained perhaps a deeper insight into the healing impact of the ripples and sacred shapes we make in the dance that only someone with chronic pelvic pain can appreciate. I may also have more experience with dissociation while dancing than most, due the pleasure/pain combo that comes with it. For me, it is a healing art and mind-body practice, and that is how I teach it, combined with yoga and meditation.

For my path, as a dancer, a mover, ecstatic dancer, yogini- My most favourite feeling in the world is how I feel when I dance, move and stretch. The feeling of not being in pain is blissful. Movement releases endorphins and the circulation helps me feel better. It releases tension and emotions and layers of accumulated energetic gunk. But its more complex than that.

Sometimes, after a fun, vigourous dance class or practice, I’ve been in pain for days after. This is why I was not able to continue in one of my beloved dance troupes. This was the case before my excision surgery. I would feel fine during the dancing itself but afterwards would pay a hefty price. Eventually, I wasn’t able to dance at all. I was restricted to very basic gentle movements prescribed by my pelvic physio. It felt like starting from the bottom all over again, like all my years of mind-body practice went in the garbage. It was incredibly humbling and frustrating. But it was just a hurdle I had to work through. For me, my practice evolves in a circular fashion- one step forward, two steps back, around and around again. But I am moving forward, up a spiral of healing, in my own way.

I am inspired by people who do what they love against the odds. An example that having a physical disability or limitation is not always a red light on living their passion. However, I also understand that sometimes our limitations are a way of showing us new things to engage in and new ways of expressing ourselves. Either way, there are lessons and hard work that should be recognised.

Even though I don’t aspire to anything Hollywood, I am glad to know there are strong, successful women out there with endometriosis, including Whoopi Goldberg, Susan Sarandon, Hilary Clinton, Julianna Hough from Dancing with the Stars and more.

And there are amazing painters who are blind. 

And not just one but several  famous composers who were deaf. 

So, maybe a body with limitations is given to those with the strongest will & passion to accomplish their dreams. Maybe it is a lesson in refinement, patience and self-love.

Either way, embodiment keeps me endlessly inspired and motivated.

“I’m fine.” And other crap I told myself and others. My story in a nutshell.

It took about 10 years to get a proper diagnosis and treatment of my disease. That’s because it is not taken seriously enough. It’s been around since Ancient Egypt and affects 1 in 10 women. There are records of women (and even a few men) having this life-eating disease for thousands of years, and yet because it is a ‘women’s disease’- it doesn’t warrant too much investment.

I find it interesting in hindsight how the lack of seriousness and attention Endometriosis and Adenomyosis are given has made me think I was crazy. I thought I was just over-sensitive, or just deeply flawed and needed to just ‘suck it up’ and be quiet about the intense pain I was in. At first it was just during my period. I thought it was ‘normal’ to faint, to scream, cry and writhe through the night, to feel like a a man with steel toe boots was kicking my womb and back repeatedly for 2 days with 3 days of burning afterward, like a forest fire had just ravaged my insides. After pregnancy and lactation with my daughter was over, things got much worse. This is where the suspected adenomyosis kicked in, and the endo spread. Those few days extended into 3-5 more days of pain during ovulation, then 2-3 more days leading up to my period, then I had about 1 pain-free week a month. During my period I passed huge amounts of blood and clots, I could not leave the house for 2 days a month. Many times I was writhe in pain worse than childbirth and consider calling an ambulance but held back because I thought I was being ‘too dramatic’. Later I found out, many people go to emergency for much less.

My mantra to myself was always ‘I am fine’, ‘I am fine’, ‘I am fine’. Lies I told myself to get through that maybe helped in the short term but became harmful in the long term.

I was a yoga instructor for goodness sake. I thought ‘I know my body. I can handle this. I can breathe through it… calm thoughts. Affirmations: ‘I embrace my feminine nature’ ‘My womb is a sacred space of light and wellness’. Visualise the color blue. White light. The ocean.’ I drank raspberry leaf tea every day. Ate a low-glycemic-vegan-gluten free diet for a year, got regular massages, took a shit ton of supplements, castor oil packs, meditation, shamanic healing, therapy, homeopathy, naturopaths, did all the natural stuff- you name it, I did it. And I did it with commitment and faith for 7 years.

But that bull shit only goes so far.

I know, it’s not bull shit. I work in the holistic field, and i know a lot of this stuff works for a lot of things. But I had a severe, structural disease, that this stuff was like a drop of water on a forest fire. So, while I am an advocate for holistic health, and know about the miracle stories, I am also keenly aware of its limitations. I am not one of the miracle stories.

I basically feel like an idiot for having unrealisitc beliefs and ideals about natural medicine. For believing a lot of false information from holistic health prophets.  From not being taken seriously enough by them or by mainstream medicine. For having too much pride to admit I needed mainstream medicine, and that surgery and birth control pills are the things I needed to give me my life back. And to admit that I am flawed. My womb is flawed. Mental health is fragile. NATURE IS NOT PERFECT. Evolution has had only half as much time to perfect our reproductive organs as it has the rest of them. And for women, this complex system will take a long time to adapt and figure out how to keep the human race going. One would think that would warrant a further investment on the part of medicine. But I digress…

Back to my story…

Eventually my organs became so contorted and stuck together that I could not urinate or go to the bathroom without intense cramping and shooting pain, could not have intercourse without pain, could not even sit or walk or carry groceries anymore without pain. My relationship with my daughter and husband suffered, because I could not be my best self. My mental health was suffering. I could no longer do my favourite activities, one of which is bellydancing. I pushed through it sometimes, because I loved it so much. But at one point, I realised I had to stop, and finally take my body’s troubles seriously.

I was seeing my family doctor for ovarian cysts, which she was monitoring. She suspected endometriosis, but did not refer me to a specialist until it got really bad. I didn’t really like to complain about all I was going though. She offered me birth control pills, but I refused because the holistic health community I was a part of would unleash typical fear-mongering of all things unnatural and tell me it was a bad idea. Luckily, my family doctor referred me to an endo excision specialist (currently excision surgery is the most effective treatment, however, not a cure). He also referred me to a pelvic physiotherapist- who was amazing! I was finally in good hands, compassionate hands. I had success from the physio and the surgery. Stage 4 endometriosis and suspected adenomyosis were found. I was put on a medication to suppress my periods. My body didn’t handle it well, so I went on a low dose birth control pill. I am now well enough to actually LIVE my life and tell my story from a perspective outside of constant pain.

Basically, for 10 years, my pain and anguish was minimised, normalised, thought to be all in my head. Part of this is lack of information, lack of understanding and society’s perception of women. Part of this stems from women and the christian concept ‘original sin’. Women are meant to suffer. This belief pervades our culture and also the religion my family was brought up in, and therefore I internalised the message that

Womanhood=Suffering.

And we make it ok by saying “I am fine”.

To ourselves, to others. So much that we believe it when it just isn’t so.

This is what I want to abolish. The message that patriarchy has given us- that we must suffer because we are women.

This messages has pervaded so much of the fabric of our lives that it has become completely normal. Invisible. Unnamed.

Welcome to my blog. It will be a compilation of personal experience, observations and questions relating to feminine embodiment- what does it mean to be embodied? What is the Sacred Feminine and how does it apply to me? What does my womb have to do with it? How does the experience of childbirth, motherhood, and pelvic/reproductive disease change my experience of being a woman in this world? What about sexual assault and trauma? My perspectives come from awareness of the interplay of mind, body, emotions, spirit, cosmos, society, oppression and The Great Mystery.

Thanks for reading!