Low and behold! I discovered that Krista Tippet interviewed Bessel van Der Kolk, MD for her podcast "On Being" that I've been listening to recently. I am currently reading his book The Body Keeps the Score.
In the interview, he makes the following statements. My personal responses follow.
At times, there are parts of me still engaged in resolving the moments of secondary traumas that stand out. I frequently discover that I am trying to solve the unsolvable problems of the toughest shifts that I faced, mostly as a shift leader. Part of me is still trying to determine how to simultaneously help a child realize that they’re holding themselves to an unrealistic expectation, answer a call from a cell phone, and respond to a person on walkie. I am aware that these interactions are not presently making demands of me. Yet, I can take myself back, with ease. I can yet again sense that state of palpable panic, nearing utter disbelief.
I didn’t see it until now.
Until she shared something, so gently, it might of burst like a warm bubble.
“It’s not your fault.”
To hear that and try to truly know it?
I could only retreat my hand upon my heart and cry.
Then I saw a glimpse, with eyes closed.
Myself amidst a planting, knees tucked, resting humbly upon earth.
Earth trenched by hand and shovel,
Wafting in the air.
As I notice, my breaths falls into ujjayi.
Tilling and caring were not enough though.
No amount of watering, or rain, nor warmth would abate.
To cultivate and yet yield not.
Pushing around in the dirt, searching for unseen fruits to no avail.
Sowing pain without restraint.
Seeding panic and hurt and strain.
On the brink of that next moment...
After her quieting words, and my crystalline halt,
I found it,
The ash, all around.
It lay thickly about.
Resting upon all, in sight and mind.
How was I to know?
I, Maek, would maek lye with just tears.
Wishing for rain, I yet tarnished my clay.
My maek has been burnt of late,
Stricken by a lacking,
Singed by deceit.
To be expected to generate,
When bone remains but the only support,
Erodes that source.
What stood could not, not for long.
Not in that state;
When fuel barely suffices a flame,
And most of the charge is lost to ashen waste.
I see it now, all about.
In breathing into that,
I sense shifting forces upon my heart.
Suddenly, I am drawn to novel wakes, and wands.
Words come up, and out.
Monoliths of transmission,
It was not your fault, love.
You, yourself barely known,
Could never bare such a burden alone,
With no willing guide to follow.
Cry now, but do not despair.
Hafiz, and Nesi, will take you.
To Temple Grand of Great Regard.
To Palace of Divine Mind
And the Flow of Life.
Their lead you to your Monument of Peace
But you know the way.
And your secret paths around it’s folds.
Wait not. Want more, love.
Dream. Aspire. Devote. Play. Practice.
Our brain is immobile, and yet it is capable of taking us millions of miles away from our present personal surroundings. The brain may not be able to loco-navigate on its own, but it is profoundly capable of captivating our bodies to obtain almost any requirement or request. The brain is adept at inspiring us to act, to move and accomplish its perceived means via its chemical effect upon every major system through hormones. What power.
Van Der Kolk, M.D. has the most resonant definition of mindfulness I’ve heard. He describes it as “being able to hover calmly and objectively over our thoughts, feelings, and emotions.” He says, “[t]his capacity is crucial for preserving our relationships with out fellow human beings.” And that it, “allows the executive brain to inhibit, organize, and modulate the hardwired automatic reactions preprogrammed into the emotional brain.”
As someone who identifies as an empath, I am absolutely fascinated with the particular structure of the human brain called ‘mirror neurons.’ Happily discovered by accident, their existence transformed our understanding of sympathy, empathy, and our capacity to ‘walk in another’s shoes.’ In a sense, we can feel and can understand by experiencing, with just our eyes. Throughout time, we as humans have had to look one another in the eye. In doing so, we attempted to share strength or determination. In those moments we’ve held hands and shoulders, steadied our mothers and brothers in the face of fear. And on the very brink of battle, we’ve counseled our leaders and caregivers. To truly know and trust one another, a part of every one of us had to be able to feel another’s experience. Mirror neurons satisfy this need. It’s also hypothesized that this structure is the origin of the phenomenon of ‘echoed’ yawning. In moments like these, we can imitate our peers because a part of us has seen and therefore intimately understands what our peer displayed before us.
I’ve just completed another chapter of Trauma Stewardship by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky about the different kinds of trauma exposure response.
In reflection, I am most often triggered in moments where I judge I have not achieved a personal expectation. Often, shame is the most arresting of emotions in response to this realization, that I have failed to best some unreachable bar. Frequently, I am sent through time to revisit every shame I’ve ever felt in succession after it. Some days, I can snap out of it. Others, I cannot and do not. Sometimes for hours. Rarely, for days. Once or twice, for weeks.
With respect to sympathetic nervous modes (i.e., fight, flight, freeze, or freak), I usually fall with the freezers, although I am historically a flighty flyer. I’ve fought on occasion too but I’m so emotional that I usually get bogged down quickly with my own shame and guilt that I quickly tap out of any verbal arguments. Physical fights? Not a chance in hell. Unless, I was actually threatened with my life. I often envision myself as I fighter, ferocious and deadly but the only thing I get ferocious about these days is breathwork.
I picked up The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D. again. I thought it would be nice to read it aloud, accompanied by the Classical Meditation station on Google Play for ambiance.
I learned a little...
He delivers a wonderfully succinct list of the most crucial functions of the brain. I paraphrased them as such:
The human brain’s five operative functions:
But we can’t do this alone. Humans and other mammals are wired to connect and depend on social interaction to meet the needs of survival. In seeking out our needs and wants, we may encounter danger.
When in a ‘threatened’ state, my gross being encompasses (and sometimes surpasses) the following:
“Being able to move and do something to protect oneself is a critical factor in determining whether or not a horrible experience will leave long-lasting scars.” Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D.
Van Der Kolk, M.D. suggests that an effective treatment for trauma must address one’s entire system, largely body but also mind and soul. We need to reinvigorate the areas of the brain that were de-prioritized in the response to trauma exposure to in order to recover from its seemingly endless grip.
Since childhood, I’ve been drawn to the process of learning. Unlike some, I enjoyed and thrived in a scholastic mindset. Some of the most influential moments and people in my life coincide with wisdom garnered through “pure imagination” that was incited by rare, brilliant conveyors. ‘Twas my senior high school Enlish teacher that the first of several that displayed the remarkable qualities of an excellent teacher I later strived to instill into my own perspective of pedagogy at the end of my training and certification in 2004-2009 (English Language Arts and Reading, grades 8-12, Texas). However, a timely opportunity provided me a chance for contrast and a window into a dream of teaching more than the particularities of the English language. In 2010-2011, I trained and became certified to teach Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan, and Radiant Child Yoga (the inspiring teacher and writer Shakta Kaur Khalsa).
In 2012, I seized the opportunity to teach yoga to toddlers and their caregivers, and in return found meaningful experience. After teaching children’s yoga for 4+ years in yoga studios and elementary after-school programs, I realized the value the techniques of yoga and mindfulness brought to developing children’s minds, spirits, and hearts. In 2013, while continuing to teach children’s yoga, I set out to find other impactful and specialized work with children of different and more intensive needs. That quest directed me to work in a residential treatment setting for the past 6 years. There, I trained and applied trauma theory to practice to help children heal from the effects of trauma and neglect. Throughout that experience, I endeavored to reflect and model yogic approaches to coping to the children. I’ve also began to teach yoga to the children who reside at the treatment center.
.. I want to share my journey and respond to the psycho-spiritual needs of those engaged in numerous avenues of meaningful work. I strive to help others create the space and practices that foster mindfulness, cooperation, community, and creativity.
Despite the rewarding and transformational aspects of working with children in great need, the sometimes grueling conditions proved to challenge my mental health, and what felt like my very make-up. After a point, it seemed I had nowhere else to turn but to practice, and eventually other therapy services. My attempt to cope with secondary trauma, burn-out, overwhelm, depression, anxiety, and more drove me deeper into the powerful techniques of restorative yoga, Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan, meditation, and mindfulness. Through my practice, research, and professional training and experience I have honed an intelligence for a trauma-informed perspective to teaching Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan and other mindfulness techniques to children of all ages as well as adults.
Breath in Life Yoga is the culmination of this story. The services I offer meet the needs of the other seekers and their families, friend groups, or professional organizations who are working to change the world. I understand the value of these technologies first hand and I have experience sharing them with many. I want to share my journey and respond to the psycho-spiritual needs of those engaged in numerous avenues of meaningful work. I strive to help others create the space and practices that foster mindfulness, cooperation, community, and creativity.