Book Practices for Feedback
Hi friends, thank you so much for helping me by trying out a few practices and reporting back on what you think. I am open to any and all feedback you have, including but not limited to:
-What general feedback or recommendations do you have?
-Did the wording make sense?
-Did you enjoy the practice?
-Is the practice helpful for you?
-Are there any typos, errors, or problems?
The sections are a little bit long, so I am making a menu at the top which will take you to any of the practices on separate pages. I am also including the introduction to give you a feel for the book.
The title is undecided right now! I was going to call it: Compassionate Fire: Recovering Our Voices and Healing Past Traumas. However, I discovered there is another book called Compassionate Fire. So that is why there is some discrepancy on titles and headers.
Introduction- See Below
Introduction: A Hero's Resilience
If your voice has ever been disrespected, you are a hero. Even if you have been tread upon, thrown around, and knocked down by tragedy or trauma, you are a hero. And especially in the most trying moments, when you are hunched on the floor and overcome with doubt, you are a hero.
Oh, I know. We are trained to think of heroes with rippling muscles and indomitable determination, who are only allowed one moment of doubt in the whole movie. We might not necessarily place ourselves in the category of those confident, idolized demi-gods of the ages.
We are a different breed all together: the real-life heroes and sheroes who are in the trenches of overcoming. We are overcoming the pain of the past and the dysfunction of the present. We are experienced at being knocked down and reaching out a hand for support as we rise again. We are choosing every day not to close our hearts off in this complex world, but to open up and spread more love from the fertile ground of gratitude.
The audacious act of choosing love in the face of pain and fear is not always the easy path. There may be thorny branches to duck under and tall grasses to wade through and people slinging anonymous insults to throw you off course. And that is why we need to seek out more loving heroes each day, and share our stories of hope.
I wrote this book as an offering of hope- a new version of the hero’s journey for everyone who is walking through the fire of transformation. On the surface, this story is about overcoming the trauma of sexual assault. Yet the healing journey is universal- every person who has felt undervalued, disrespected or heartbroken knows what it is like to carry pain inside. Most adults are functioning with a nervous system rooted in fear. Living in a trauma-induced state of hypervigilance has become so normal in our society we might not even recognize the patterns that have always been clouding our vision.
We may experience the effects of trauma as a tendency to disconnect when faced with pain, or collapse into depression, or lash out at others, or self-sabotage when we get scared. We may feel perpetually keyed up and anxious, or we may be always sliding down the slippery slope of despair. We may find ourselves running away from discomfort, needing to stay overly busy and distracted to avoid feeling what lies beneath the surface. Trying to control and micromanage people and situations in order to stay safe? Staying hyper-vigilant to other people’s approval? Yep, those could also be stemming from buried trauma.
The side effects of unresolved trauma can pop up in unexpected places. Yet there is profound power in acknowledging what we have gone through, and committing ourselves to healing. When it is time to resolve the past, let this story and healing exercises bring you companionship and solidarity.
If this book has landed in your hands, take a moment to reflect on what you hope to strengthen in your life. You may not resonate with the word “trauma” at all, yet still feel curious about the messages and practices offered. Regardless of your background, this book may feel relevant if you want to:
-Change your relationship to stress so you feel more balanced and grounded
-Increase your capacity to feel calm and present in your body
-Resolve unfinished business from the past
-Work with the subconscious patterns that guide your automatic emotional reactions
-Embrace and integrate the shadow and light sides of your emotions and experiences
-Feel more compassion toward yourself and others
-Move through patterns of feeling like a victim of life so you can embody an empowered, courageous stance
-Explore inner healing as a way to heal the world
Your trauma or stress may feel trivial, or it may feel severe. No matter what our stories may be, we can overcome the pain of the past. We can heal.
We heal by walking through the fire. We heal by facing what has been buried. But what guides us through is compassion. We shower ourselves with love and acceptance. We trust we will emerge into the light. We trust that our own unique hero’s journey will be worth it when we experience the beauty of healing. That is why the book is called Compassionate Fire- the journey is paradoxically one of being gentle with ourselves, and simultaneously awakening our courageous warrior’s strength.
From where I stand, I see you are already whole. Your spirit has never been broken. Your soul has always been intact and one with All That Is. Certainly, the pain of trauma can obscure our radiant wholeness, like a black cloud covering the sun. Trust that you are not the black cloud. That is not your true nature. As you heal with strength and self-love, the beautiful light of your soul will shine through.
How to Use this Book
If I had read my own book five or six years ago, I would have stopped reading when I got to the moments of trauma. I would have put the book down, and shoved it to the back of the bookshelf because I was afraid of triggering my own pain.
If you are in the same boat, know that I am looking out for you, my reader and fellow warrior. I will issue trigger warnings for the brief recounts of my traumatic experiences. Feel free to skip over them- you will still be able to make sense of the book. If you choose to dive into the difficult parts, know that I will not leave you in the darkness and pain. Hope and resilience guide the story and healing practices.
When we are healing, I find it important to acknowledge that there will be some discomfort involved. Though we often perceive anything unpleasant as a threat, comfort and safety are not the same thing. We can reassure ourselves that we are safe by looking around the room we are in. Is there anything here that wants to eat me or destroy me? If there are no immediate threats, we are safe right now.
That being said, we all have limits in the present moment for how much discomfort seems tolerable. Think of a continuum with your comfort zone being on one end. Your body may feel relatively settled and relaxed in your comfort zone. When you take a few steps outside to try something new or examine a fear, you may feel some discomfort. If the discomfort feels manageable and doable, you are in what I call the Zone of Growth. This is the sweet spot where you are not staying locked in your old patterns, but you are also not pushing yourself into your Zone of Overwhelm. You would know you are entering the Zone of Overwhelm if you are feeling anxious, distressed, out-of-control, numb, or completely shut-down. Throughout this book you will learn to notice and honor your Boundary, which is the transition between the Zone of Growth and the Zone of Overwhelm.
Keep in mind that we all have our own ever-evolving capacity for facing this productive discomfort. As much as possible, avoid comparing another person’s tolerance to the range of what feels manageable to you today. There is no universal measure of what constitutes the Comfort Zone and the Zone of Growth. There is only what feels right to you.
Anytime you feel you are nearing the Boundary and moving into too much discomfort, that is a signal to take a break and reground in your comfort zone. That also applies to how you work through this book. If you need to stop reading for a while, my wish is for you to honor your needs. Pay attention to how you feel in your body and let your breath settle into a comfortable rhythm.
Healing requires gentle patience; as soon as we try to force ourselves into a different emotional state it may slip out of reach. Pushing too hard may send us into fight, flight, or freeze mode. However, when we move slowly and honor the body, our nervous system will be invited to relax and heal at its natural pace.
Even with the intention of moving slowly and compassionately, you may hear a voice inside (or outside) urging you to push yourself to exhaustion. But healing trauma is not a marathon. We are not trying to beat our past into the ground through intense effort. Instead, we allow our bodies and our deep inner knowing to guide the process. We start to listen to the subtle internal nudges and rest when it is needed. We trust when it is time to take a break, or take some breaths, or take a walk. We may remind ourselves to drink extra water and nourish our bodies throughout the healing journey.
It is important to acknowledge that you may still find yourself rocketed into the Zone of Overwhelm at times. There is no failure in this, as trauma triggers can send our nervous system into threat response before our rational, conscious mind has time to evaluate the situation. If you need help to regain your balance, please refer to the Appendix A on Calming Down from Overwhelm. And if you are ever in crisis, please don’t hesitate to dial a local crisis line or the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.
The practices and information in this book are offered with the intention of building our inner strength. However, this book is not intended as a substitute for medical or psychological care. I am open about the pivotal role therapy and medication have played in healing my past traumas and I encourage all trauma survivors to seek professional support when it feels right.
What Lies Ahead
As I walked through the fire of transformation, I found methods to clear the dark clouds that obscure our wholeness. I have gathered the keys as eight exercises that close each chapter of this book, called “Compassionate Fire Practices.” The exercises are a synthesis of ideas from my own intuition, from my experiences in therapy, and from numerous books on healing trauma and building spiritual resilience. Some of my students have been the gracious testers of these practices throughout my 14 years of teaching yoga, music, and creativity.
Each Compassionate Fire Practice has the potential to help you cast off the burden of the old stories, the old pain, the old ways of being. Yet the practices are not necessarily a linear sequence. A book is a linear form, but my own healing journey has not been a straight line. Healing is cyclical, like a spiral moving upward. We circle back to the same wounds, but each time from a new place of greater self-compassion and connection to our unbounded spirit.
This also explains why we may find ourselves saying, “I thought I already dealt with my death-grip on control (or the incident when I was 12, or the wounds I inherited from my ancestors . . . any struggle can be inserted here.) The release you have experienced in the past has been real. You are not backtracking. You are moving up the spiral, and expanding your potential for self-acceptance and self-knowing as you revisit what comes up in the present moment.
Since it is not a linear journey, feel free to use the book and practices in any order that feels right to you. If you are feeling distressed, for example, you may wish to jump to chapter 4 which focuses on building positive resources to help you stay grounded. My wish is for you to deepen your own inner trust and intuition as you read.
Here is a lay of the land, a preview of each chapter and healing practice.
Chapter 1: Running Away from the Pain, explores my own experience of childhood and teenage trauma juxtaposed with the creativity and playfulness of youth. The chapter also touches upon why we are conditioned to believe the cultural lies about sexual trauma, and offers hope for healing and empowerment.
Compassionate Fire Practice No. 1: Diaphragmatic Breathing closes the first chapter. Building your fiery power through deep breathing and simple visualization, this practice can be grounding and calming. This section also gives suggestions on how to make healing practices part of your everyday life while staying rooted in self-compassion.
Chapter 2: Coming into the Body shows the possibility of re-integrating our bodily awareness when we have experienced dissociation, or a numbness and disconnection after trauma. My own story of reconnecting physically came through the crisis of injury as well as amazing nature experiences, yoga, movement, and sexual exploration.
Compassionate Fire Practice No. 2: Body Listening offers an open-ended, gentle exploration of movement as a way to build our inner trust and healing.
Chapter 3: Our Inner Knowing helps us unlearn harmful societal norms we may have internalized, especially regarding injustice, consent, and pleasing others. We begin learning how to follow our inner compass to shape our values and decisions.
Compassionate Fire Practice No. 3: Noticing the Sensations of Intuition guides us through one method of hearing the messages of our intuition or deeper knowing.
Chapter 4: Feeling Safety from Within is all about building our resources, or practices and support systems that help us feel secure, calm, and empowered. While our culture may encourage us to focus on what is going wrong, it is essential to all healing that we honor and cultivate positive resources that give us comfort and strength.
Compassionate Fire Practice No. 4: Core of Safety allows us to create a “safe place” through writing and visualization
Chapter 5: Shock and Recovery helps us understand how the energy of traumatic events can become stored in our bodies and minds. With the guidance of a professional we trust, we can reprocess painful memories and release stuck emotions so the trauma can stay in the past without constantly intruding upon the present.
Compassionate Fire Practice No. 5: Rituals for Emotional Release offers a practice for touching into intense emotions little by little. When we can safely release what has been trapped inside, we invite in more freedom and confidence.
Chapter 6: Becoming the Nurturer dives into what parenting can teach us about how to relate to ourselves with compassion and love. Whether or not we have children in our external lives, the lessons of Mother Earth can strengthen our wise, nurturing capacities within.
Compassionate Fire Practice No. 6: Inner Protectors helps us connect with our internal protectors, or the aspects of our psyche that give a sense of strength and security.
Chapter 7: The Dark Forest explores the way repressed childhood memories may resurface, viewed through the lens of my continued healing.
Compassionate Fire Practice No. 7: Embracing Your Younger Self builds heavily upon the sixth practice for developing a sense of safety through your nurturing protectors. This visualization can be practiced when your wounded inner parts feel safe enough to accept love and nourishment.
Part 8:Reclaiming Our Voices is a triumphant testament to the role creative expression can play in healing the past.
Compassionate Fire Practice No. 8: Creative Catharsis explains how to create for emotional release and empowerment, while softening our inner criticism and attachment to outcomes.
[Chapters 9and 10 are still in progress]
The pain of the past may seem a heavy burden at times. More than once I have angrily shaken my fist at the universe for all I have had to endure. And with good reason- many of us were thrown into the fire of pain at a young age. Yet little by little the heat can awaken our power. We begin to see we are no longer helpless. We begin to see that whatever stress, trauma or abuse we have endured is not holding us back. It is propelling us forward, through the flames. When we are willing to square our shoulders and walk forward, we are transformed. The act of facing our pain takes us to a new level of wisdom, strength, and compassion. We embody the hero’s power that has been inside all along. We are rebirthed by fire.