I have always been a student of the body, wellness, and self-development. There was an ever-present thirst to understand how the experience that a person has will impact how they understand the world, engage with others, and generally behave.
In 6th grade, I remember drinking “my two litters of prescribed water” per day and researching superfoods. I remember reading books about romantic relationship psychology, and rattling off the quote “all humans are inherently good, and all behavior comes from somewhere.”
At age 15- a bright, and angry youth who was horrified with the system- I stormed out of my high school and casually strolled into the local community college. The universe was smiling and I found myself in a very small honors program that explored systemic oppression. My professor R. Rosenthal saw me, and stewarded the spark in me that asked “why?”.
The reality-based perspective that my parents introduced me to deepened. The more I read, the more classes I took, the more discussions and talks I was exposed to, the more outraged I became. When I was 6, my father and I built homes for destitute families in southern Appalachia, and my mother would travel with me on buses in 3rd world countries. It was as if they were showing me “see this is how life is here. And this is how life is over there.”
The outrage I felt about the system I lived in quelled. I had given up, I felt as though I was a wheel in a giant cog, and my earnest fire could not impact change in the system I lived in.
At age 17 my aunt took me to Central America. I saw a society that was different- there were no billboards with subconscious psychological manipulation and people went home and ate lunch with their families. The value system and human life seemed different to me as an outsider.
Some people may have had dirt floors, but they had dignity, choice, community, nature. I brazenly announced to my parents that I was moving to Central America for three months…. And to my surprise, they agreed.
My three-month project evolved into three years. I grew a small company caring for children and learned invaluable lessons about team building and training, marketing and client recruitment, and how to run payroll.
I did quite a bit of volunteering with environmental efforts and children. I felt satisfied. As though my effort was impactful. My sense at the time was that to change a system we have to start with children.
I moved back to the States and returned to college. One day while writing a paper something came over me and I simply knew I needed to go to India. This knowing surprised me, as I had never been interested in India. I watched myself write an email to my family sharing my surprise news.
My two months in India turned into two years. While there I worked and lived at a yoga center in the Himalayas, volunteered with a local nonprofit, and dived deeply into self-inquiry. I was introduced to meditation. Mindfulness, presence, and the tools to change my life at the Buddhist Monastery next door.
Before leaving Asia, life had its way with me; I found mountaineering and crested 21,000 ft multiple times, rode a motorcycle across numerous dangerous passes to the border of China, spent 40 days trekking alone through remote mountain ranges, worked at a dive center and became a divemaster, lived in a Buddhist Monastery.
My last stop was Thailand, where something deep inside me that insisted I study Thai Massage. Which I hated. But I showed up, and showed up and showed up, every day because I was listening to a deeper knowing.
Back stateside I began working as an environmental educator for an incredible pilot program. Children with poor reading scores who lived in low socio-economic neighborhoods were accepted into the program. It was meaningful and yet sad work. I was exposed to a reality where children had never seen a dandelion and did not know that milk came from cows.
All the while continuing my journey into self. Learning to change patterns,
After that life is a blur.
Partner acrobatics found me, which was my first introduction to flow states, inhabiting my body and primary attachment relationships with that level of trust and attunement. One of my acrobatic partners is still with Cirque de soil. That gift of Thai Massage- safe attuned touch suddenly landed.
I taught extensively across the country and internationally using partner acrobatics as a platform to invite people to learn about themselves. In our intensives we explored our patterning:
- “Are you afraid to let someone else hold you up?” “Why?” “Where does that come from?”
- “Do you trust yourself to support someone else?”
- “If your partner’s foot is in the wrong spot, do you feel able to ask for what you need and move it?” “Why not?”
It was incredible to watch people get in their bodies and FEEL all the things they had repressed — to look under the behavior and learn.
I studied nutrition at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition.
A knowing in me took me to British Columbia. I remember my first night there: no work permit, no job, no place to stay my first night….. and again, life had its way with me. I was grown, developed, trained, and called up in exactly the right ways. My life flourished.
I developed a Thai Massage training and certified practitioners to attune to others, hold safe space, practice self-inquiry, and develop themselves so that they could offer a gentle invitation for others to feel.
Natural/ organic movement research took off and I jumped on board….. the way we move changes the shape of our bones, the neural pathways in our brain, and even how we pass on genetics. My home was set up to introduce natural movement (crawling, equating, hanging, balancing etc.) into everything I did: plates on the bottom shelf so I had to squat, balance beams from one room to the next, etc.
A soul whisper came again: I had never had a session in this modality, yet some part of me knew- and I said yes. I moved cross-continent to a new place, with new people, for more training. I found myself in Maine in a 1-year Keneis program and certified as a Board-Certified Structural Integrator. I was (and still am) blown away by how people held their life experiences and trauma in their body system.
We started but did not finish a research study where peoples’ physical systems were manipulated while hanging upside down. I was floored again by how when tension was released from the body traumatic memory often came with it. How protection habits laid down as movement patterns or physical structure.
I studied trauma informed yoga with the Trauma Center at the Justice Resource Center (Bessel and Emmerson) and became a Student of Somatic Experiencing (Dr. Peter Levine). I dedicated my life to studying trauma resolution through the body.
It truly is remarkable: changing our breath can rewrite the brain, increase heart rate variability, increase vagal tone, increase resiliency, down regulate the nervous system and even change the way our genes express themselves. Mindfulness, embodiment, and body scanning practices literally change the cortical thickness in the pre-frontal cortex and hippocampus. The list of benefits is extraordinary.
BodyWise Foundation came into the world through me to serve this purpose. Our nonprofit trains trauma workers, offers 8-week body-based programs in agencies and is aspiring to launch an international aid program. We also have our sights on furthering the research on trauma-informed yoga and related body-based practices.
I traveled across the country for several years offering trauma trainings before settling in Baltimore.
We opened our first BodyWise Center in Baltimore, where life uses me as a body-based and trauma informed practitioner. I see a full client load three weeks each month. And, I am still in training. I will always be in training, growing my capacity to be a more skillful servant of human potential.
I am a trauma survivor.
I am a human.
I am interested in partnering with the wound beneath your shadow.
I believe in you.
I know a new way of being in the world together is possible.
It is going to take every single one of us to change the system.
BodyWise Institute will launch in Baltimore next year (a post grad program for body based psychotherapy and a 1,200 hr trauma informed yoga therapy program).
We are currently franchising more centers and building our very first BodyWise Sanctuary. This retreat center is conducting research: what changes in the heart rate, vagal tone, or hormone level when someone breathes, or moves. We want to contribute to the growing body of research demonstrating that the body matters.
Our current system is unsustainable. We recently launched a BodyWise Consulting Company that envisions to change systems. We want to work with schools, hospitals, mental health care agencies, and large corporations. We know that this will yield greater productivity, aliveness, and innovation.