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Beautiful Legs

“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:

Beautiful Legs

“Oh no! Your beautiful legs!”
Is that all I am to you?
A body
a trophy
a prize
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
these lies
these beliefs

This body belongs to me
She is mine
The Divine

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 HERE

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California Dreaming’ (and Ohio too)

“Throw your dreams into space like a kite, and you do not know what it will bring back, a new life, a new friend, a new love, a new country.”
-Anais Nin

Dreams…what are yours? Which ones have come true? Which ones have fallen through. I love dreaming, just letting my heart expand into unbridled desire and my mind play with the ways things could manifest. In this post I share about some dreams of mine and their unique paths because this dream thing is not always cut and dry. Read on for my 3 main musings on dreams. I hope they inspire you to keep on dreaming. I’ve also added some resources to support your journey. Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

1. Dreams are anything but static. They evolve and may have several cycles of death and rebirth. 

To this day, my greatest dream come true was having a horse of my own. I always thought I’d have to wait till I could buy one myself but at just 18 the horse of my dreams showed up and was in my life for 20 years changing things for the better. That big dream evolved into wanting to bring others into the realm of equus where I’ve found so much joy, healing and self-empowerment. From 2013-2014 this manifested magically as Crystal Awakenings where Madison Graves and I led equine-assisted groups, individual sessions and a retreat for our local community. Life unfolded as it does which included Madison and our horses moving to Texas ending that phase of this dream. Just this summer our herd returned to Ohio (great!) but without Madison to co-facilitate (bummer…). THEN, seemingly out of nowhere, I was invited to collaborate with Hope Meadows, a local non-profit providing Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy and Learning to the community. I am over the moon! Check out the Yoga and Horses Group now offered there by clicking HERE. 

My point here is, don’t get attached to HOW your dreams will become reality and be patient. They are dynamic and multidimensional. They have seasons. They ebb and flow. You may think they are ending but sometimes they are just in transition. As long as the desire is there, allow it. Talk about it, share it, meditate on it but also surrender and trust the flow. 

2. Dreams often exceed expectations.

Not only did I get my own horse but he and I went on to compete successfully at the local and national level in show jumping. We literally FLEW together. And Hope Meadows, it was founded in part by colleagues I had worked with years ago in the eating disorders field. Two of my passions colliding (horses and recovery) and then a third (yoga) being a perfect fit. I’m in awe of how these dreams expanded!

Another example of this happened just this fall. Since the day my daughter Elle fell in love with my favorite band the Red Hot Chili Peppers I’ve dreamt of taking her to see them perform in Southern California. This fall we traveled west to cross this off our Bucket List. As we were waiting to get into the festival, I saw Captain Paul Watson, Elle’s  all-time greatest hero, was on the schedule to speak THAT DAY. We made our way to the Storyteller’s Stage early overjoyed that we would be anywhere near this eco-warrior. Then Mr. Watson walked right up behind Elle and she had the chance to directly share her gratitude for his work creating the Sea Shepherd’s Conservation Society. Also unbeknownst to me, my favorite artist of all time, Robert Wyland, was painting murals at this event and I got to meet him too! Learn  more about both of these amazing gentlemen by clicking on their names above. 

Dreams have a way of manifesting in ways we could have never imagined. This is because our minds simply can’t comprehend the infinite potential of the Universe. It seeks to co-create with us so surrender the control, enjoy the ride and watch what emerges from there. Be open to something better!

3. Dreams will make you WORK.

Before I met my husband I spent a year getting really clear on what I wanted in a partner. I dreamed of sharing not just the joys but the real struggles of this life with someone who would meet me as equal on the journey. I wanted someone who would value the soul work I believe we are all here to do. Five years into this relationship I am in the depths of my own personal growth again finding it hard to be vulnerable and trust the person I love to see me through to the other side. I catch myself in self-sabotage cycles when I feel insecure and trauma resurfaces. It is the dream of conscious partnership the gives me the courage to heal through the old pain below these destructive habits. 

The path of yoga offers us unparalleled support through this hard stuff. Currently I’m integrating Kundalini practices in the my personal sadhana and also revisiting the Goddess Wisdom cCourse. I’m using the Gaia app for the Kundalini (click HERE) and you can find it locally at Tracy Rhinehart’s Yoga 108 School (click HERE). Practice Goddess Wisdom with me and Kristy Leahy over on Udemy (click HERE)

Thanks for reading and please share if you like. And always, dream on!

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