“Oh no! Your beautiful legs!” a voice inside screamed as the dog’s teeth ripped at my flesh. I could feel him hanging off my right hip for what was only a few seconds though it felt like forever. He released then hit again at my left inner thigh piercing the skin and muscle. I was terrified and screaming for help. Then more pain at the back of my right knee before I managed to get out of the fenced yard where a whole pack of dogs barked and yelped all around me. Turning to slam the gate closed my attacker launched five feet high, mouth wide open, to barely miss biting my face. I raced to safety back in the barn. Once there I paced nervously running my hands briskly up and down my legs. I affirmed out loud to myself, my body, and the frightened young woman who saw it all happen, “You’re OK. You’re OK. You’re OK. I’m OK. I’m OK. I’m OK” In those first moments after the incident fear faded and I was shocked at what I felt below it: shame. “SHAME?” I thought. “WTF!” Processing this trauma over the next few days I would realize the connection.
On Oct. 30 I was viciously attacked by a border collie at a small private horse farm I was helping at a few afternoons a week. I sustained four bites, three of which broke skin and one that required stitches. I am truly OK. It was indeed the scariest thing that’s ever happened to me. It also could have been a lot worse but there were many things that went right considering the circumstances. Strange as it sounds, I’m grateful for the experience. Many valuable lessons have come from it which is often the case with events that shake you to the core. I want to share about a few of them here in continued hopes that we all learn, heal and grow together.
So, the beautiful legs thing. This was my mother’s voice. When I was a kid my mom would say this anytime I hurt my legs. She would fret over my legs getting scars. This confused me. I remember thinking, “What’s the big deal? I’m having fun living life. Who cares if my body shows it!” Later working through recovery I would have to come to terms with the insidious pattern of painful body image that lived in my family’s maternal line. I would have to process the anger and grief from not getting the nurturing my child self needed in those scary times. Instead of comforting me, my mother’s concern was with appearance and for good reason: survival. My grandmother objectified her daughter’s body too. My mother was put on diets and given amphetamines at age 12 to keep up appearances in her family. She was also physically and verbally abused. Unable to feel safe, my mom adopted practices that aligned with the legacy of feminine oppression, like focusing on the external, to protect the sacred self within.
From an energetic perspective, it makes sense this memory emerged during the attack. Legs are part of the root chakra energy center relating to (among other things) early childhood development, safety, self-preservation, embodiment/body image, and first and foremost: survival. Though I’ve done tons of healing work, this goes to show how deeply embedded in our bodies formative experiences and conditioning (cultural, societal, familial, etc) can be. The shame thing (third chakra) ties right in here too. My inner child reacted to physical injury this way because of the pattern of body shame in my family. Furthermore, in a patriarchal culture women are often scapegoats, even when they’re the victims. “Got raped? Well, you shouldn’t have worn that short skirt…” This is also a trauma response. Taking undue responsibility for horrible things that happen, even due to the negligence of another such as in my case here, is an emotional survival technique. It’s a means of avoiding the myriad of painful emotions surrounding the event: fear, confusion, abandonment, grief, etc. It’s an attempt to control the inevitably uncontrollable human experience, something everyone’s ego struggles with.
These reactions simultaneously blew me away and didn’t surprise me at all. I can say the same for the way my yoga skills engaged. My higher mind caught on right away when the attack triggered lower vibe thinking and unprocessed emotion. Years ago I would have listened to the shame, minimized the event and took the blame. Instead, rational thought and self-compassion kicked in. I dove into deep self-care with extra body work, acupuncture and therapy sessions. These saved this new trauma from settling into my physical and subtle body while also releasing the old trauma the event shook loose. Finally, my practice guided me to glean as much wisdom as possible from this experience rather than wallow in victimhood. Beyond body image, it awakened fresh insights around self-worth, boundaries, intuition, receptivity and more. This poem emerged from my process:
“Oh no! Your beautiful legs!”
Is that all I am to you?
something that makes you matter
I am not
your china doll
My body is my own
I know your pain
It runs through me too
A child alone
confused by abuse
This Mother Wound
has lived long
it goes deep
As my flesh was torn
your voice rang
“Oh no! Your beautiful legs!”
I felt shame
Shame for being attacked?
This is no fault of mine
yet the tracks are etched in my psyche
Take on that which is not yours
Carry the cross
bear the burden woman
Surely you got what you deserved
Today I release
This body belongs to me
She is mine
Incarnate joy indeed
I will tend her
and love her
and be a Queen
Mother to All
but first, to myself
HUGE thanks to everyone that saw me through this experience. It was no fun missing classes, client sessions and my volunteering but everyone’s sincere concern, compassion and understanding was overwhelmingly supportive. Gratitude to my husband for always being there for me and not passing out when I got stitches. And to my mom (dad too) who broke the chain of physical abuse by never so much as spanking me or my sisters and who so bravely allowed me to share some of our story here.
One of the best things that came of this experience is my renewed inspiration in the Body Karma Healing work. While I still see private clients for this program, I’ve not done a workshop in a while. That’s changing this January! Join me for BKH Basics at Yoga 108 School of Yoga 1/12/20 to kick of the new year in body bliss. Register now to save your spot: Click HERE
In addition, I’m co-facilitating a new equine-assisted therapy program Women, Food and Horses at Hope Meadows beginning January 10th. Details HERE
And if you dig the poems I share, join me for Poems and Poses at the same venue 3/29/20: Learn more HEREFollow Us
That was awesome! I am so proud of you ❤️ You truly are wonderful. Love you ❤️
Thanks Mom:) Love you!
I’ll love you forever Julie and always be thankful for you. You helped me save myself long ago and continue to do so by sharing your beautiful soul with us all.
In peace and love-
Thank you Angela for this beautiful sharing. You are an amazing soul with resilience and grace. It is an honor to be a part of your story!