Who Am I?

Welcome to this healing blog.  This site focuses on writing; the content related to my professional healing practice has its own space.  Click here to enter that space. 

I practice as a Feldenkrais teacher, TARA Approach practitioner, and counselor who is trained in EMDR. I teach various forms of shamatha meditation as I learned them under the instruction of my teacher, Thrangu Rinpoche. In August of 2014 I began shamanic initiation and training.  Essentially, I'm an indigenous American healer, born and raised in Austin, Texas, with many healing threads that weave together into a tapestry as unique and complex as the people I help

I dance with Julie Nathanielsz and Heloise Gold, both recipients of Austin Critics' Table awards for their work.  In addition to dance, I studied percussion for a number of years, and have recently come back to the study of music and drumming under the tutelage of Hossam Ramzy.

I hope that your visit here finds you something to laugh about, something to think about, something to dream about. 

You can subscribe to the blog through the boxes on the right. 

Peace to all, and thanks for visiting.

Black Land, Black Birds/She Stands In Emptiness

I look into her lined face and kind eyes when the door opens. And immediately I know: I'm going to be doing some work with this woman. It feels right immediately. Her home is beautiful, peaceful, full of ritual objects, art, wood tones. Garden in back.

She serves me tea and asks what brings me. I tell her about my search for a teacher who can guide me in my shamanic development. I go over the events of the last year, what I've done so far, what I feel is needed. She listens carefully, asks questions. Finally she says, "Yes. I think the place to start is with the ancestors. That feels right, and it's needed given the story of both your mother and father and the presence of war in your background. A lot of healing needed there."

I lie down. She sprinkles herbs and medicinal water. She asks me to call in gyrfalcon. Immediately she's there; I didn't even need to call her, she was waiting for me. She sweeps me up, the drum begins, the journey is on. 

The power and clarity of image is what tells me that the healer helping me is very experienced and also very clear. 

Three images: black land, black birds. Military striping and a man who becomes naked as his uniform falls away. A rose that is both opening and dying at the same time. The images are crystalline, perfect, fluid. I understand them and yet I don't. The shaman explains to me that it won't make the usual everyday kind of sense; true, I knew that. Things to take with me and let them unfold.

I ask her if she's willing to work with me ongoingly. Her face lights up--a warm, wonderful smile. She says, "Of course!" We go into her garden and offer cornmeal and tobacco together. I know she is the right one for me, along with the others. I need that feminine influence now, that old wisdom, that empty and yet fully warm presence. I continue to value and treasure my male teachers. I am also a woman, and I need this support and unfolding as well.

Much to contemplate and allow to develop. The rest of the day was deeply peaceful. Interestingly, I also had no physical pain at all, which has been an issue over the last several weeks. I contemplate ancestor. I understand more things after today: about the function and purpose of gyrfalcon, about ancestral healing, about what will be happening next. I get it. I'm on track now. 

She offered ways to study with others through online or book methods. I told her no. I said, "I need this journey and face to face process with you. That is how I'm really going to get it." I know, and she knows I know, and it's a delight on both sides.  

The elder, the wise woman. Lots of good stuff there. 

This came on the tail end of unexpectedly spending several hours with Elhadji Koumama, whose work I've been wearing for many years. It feels right to me; innate. Through a fortunate series of circumstances, I was able to go to Dallas yesterday and spend time with this magnificent man and his teenage son. He presented me with a pair of bracelets made just for me, special bracelets containing grains of Saharan sand to fend off the djinn--very appropriate wear for a healer. There was much talk of art, vision, magic and healing. At the end, he invited me to attend the December festivals in Agadez, his home, in some upcoming year and he will introduce me to a Tuareg shaman, a friend of his, who can teach me and work with me. 

I said, "You are serious?" I couldn't believe it. The two peoples I have been fascinated by since childhood: the Kalahari peoples and the Tuareg; is it possible I could come to study with shamans from both cultures? But yes, at this point I have been invited to the Kalahari, and now, Agadez, the Tuareg ancestral home.

He looked at me gravely, so tall and regal in his traditional white and black clothing. Elhadji is inaden, a handler of fire. He stands, speaks and moves like desert royalty; careful with his words, honest, direct, strong. He spoke to me about the djinn, about how his friend works with energy. He said, "Of course I am serious. You will stay with my family when you come. I will teach you how to wear the traditional tagelmust and you can have a traditional dress made. The Wodaabe come to the festival, it's very beautiful. We will stay in touch about it."

A world of wonder. Gifts. Blessings.
I accept, and bow to this beauty.

Pure Love, Y'all

Alright. I give up.

I'm tired. 
I have a post surgical complication that's making my life miserable. 
I got a ticket the other day, a dumb traffic move on my part that I wouldn't have made if I wasn't tired and in pain from a post surgical complication. 
I can't figure out this "Mobile Website" stuff right now. It's making my head hurt.

But it's all fixable with a little vintage Crystal Waters.
Pure love, y'all. 
Here it is. 

The Builder. The Writing. The Puzzle.

Oh man. So, I'm finally tackling the what-feels-gigantic task of rewriting and relinking large portions of my professional website. It's been a long time since I spent this much time reviewing and reading and surfing through it from the thing that controls it from the inside, the "builder" as it's called. 

So I'm inside the builder, and reading stuff I wrote five or seven years ago (ack!), and honestly groaning a bit as I realize how clunky it all is. I see what I was trying to do with that writing, but I don't think it really got there. In some instances, the miss is so wide that it feels like trying to jump a skateboard over the Ganges. However, it was a good first (or 47th) pass at describing some things that are pretty hard to describe. It's hard to describe Feldenkrais. It's hard to describe EMDR. It's hard to describe TARA Approach. It's hard to describe shamanic journeying. There's just a lot there, a lot of experiential stuff that doesn't loan itself easily to the linearity of words or written expression. 

More and more people are asking me to write from one perspective, that perspective being that of being a multicultural, multimodal healer. My friend Megan said, "Whatever you do, it's all coming from you, the way you see things. Write about that." Others have asked the same, because there is something in my perspective that resonates or enriches them. So I am thinking about that too--about what it would mean to stop compartmentalizing into "this" and "that" and to simply write from one voice, a voice that happens to contain many "notes." It feels like a perspective shift that is quite significant, rather huge, something that takes time to process, integrate, describe. As usual, I went into this not knowing how much work it was really going to take, and discovered that it would take a lot, at least if it's going to feel anything like "right" all these years later.

Then there's the puzzlement and fun of adding a "Mobile Website" option, which I did tonight, which basically means that when you look at my site on a phone, it won't look like total crap. I figured out about half of what I probably need to know in order to make this work, which isn't bad for the first pass. Still, there's just a lot I don't understand about the whole thing, top to bottom. I did manage to create something that does look alright on most phones, if the "preview site" thing isn't lying to me, which it may well be. It does look alright on my phone, right this minute. 

Ahh, the virtual world. You never know what the truth really is. Right?

Only $5.95 a month to get totally confused about what the hell I'm doing! I'll take it!

Patiently Sensing, Feeling, Fun Stuff

Feldenkrais client. Shoulder with long term chronic issue--she retracts it back into her body when she feels unsafe, to the point that over time it developed a large calcification underneath the shoulder blade that locked it into that position. That's now been dealt with due to the magnificent skills of Jonathan Riley; the shoulder is physically free to move now, but the habit remains.

So, we work gently with a segment of a Feldy lesson that has to do with the precursor to crawling. Palm on floor. Elbow raises then lowers. Move hand from under face to standing next to shoulder. Over and over again, sensing the places where there is hesitation, going more deeply into the impulse to retract, playing and creating options until something changes. Memories come up, the feelings come up, it gets hot for a moment, then--suddenly, there's a shift, the top of the shoulder drops toward her face, and a new pattern of being is born.

I was reflecting on what Bruno said the other day and realizing that I'm already doing what he's been suggesting. In fact, it happens all the time in Feldenkrais that memories, emotions, deep personal wounds, and realizations surface and change. The reason I went to grad school was to help me find better language to talk to people about what already happens. But the process has been going on the whole time. You can't touch people so gently and thoughtfully, or pay so much attention to them, without bringing forth the core of what they really need. So maybe it doesn't matter so much how a person enters the door, whether it's through Feldenkrais or Tara or Buddhism or counseling or EMDR. I don't feel much need to develop any kind of new synthesis; maybe because the same things are happening in all of the arenas, the difference being the way we begin, perhaps.

What I love about Feldenkrais, in particular, is how open ended it is, how it focuses on people's happiness, ease, and development instead of only being about solving problems. Life is about more than solving problems. That's something you have to do, of course, but that's only the beginning. Feldenkrais is really about feeling good, about inhabiting your body in a loving and lovely way, about being a full person, about being present and aware and awake in your body and in the world. It's about far more than treatment or problem solving. That stuff is only maybe a third of a person's healing journey. The rest is the fun stuff. 

Feldenkrais is really good at the fun stuff. It's pretty awesome. 

I Can't Leave My People Behind

Interesting discussions lately with colleagues--both coaches and therapists. Discussions about money, in particular. About how maybe I "should" be charging more for what I do.

I said, in all cases, "I just don't see how I can justify leaving my people behind. I see what happens as people raise their rates. As their prices go up and up, their clientele becomes increasingly white and affluent. The services increasingly get offered to people who already have all of the choices, which is the whole problem with our country right now. Probably 85% of my clients are people of color or people of mixed ethnicity. There's a class and race scale inherent here that few people in our field address. I also know from my own experience that it's nearly impossible to find really good clinicians who offer a reasonable sliding scale and can work with you long term on deep healing. It would just feel like betrayal."

So there they are again--those same persistent questions about class, race, social justice. It's easy to make the assumption (wrongly) that if you get too expensive for your clients, they can just go somewhere else and find a slew of quality people to work with. I know from my own personal experience that this is not the case. I gave a cluster of numbers to a friend the other day. He called all of them, then called me back and said, "All of these people are $130 for 50 minutes. I'm in school, I can't do it, I could go maybe only a few times and I need more help than that." A woefully common story. I did find him someone else in that case.

Another argument is, "If you have high paying clients you can give a certain number of reduced fee sessions to a few people." What I know is that this feels like accepting charity to clients, a handout, on top of the things they're already dealing with that make them (me too) unable to pay over $100 for a 50 minute session. (I still don't believe in the 50 minute session, by the way. Hate it. Never have done it except in school where I had to.)

I understand the arguments from the other side. You deserve X. You worked hard and went to school. You have to take care of yourself Elaine. Yes. I know. I hear all of that. I just don't feel so sure that continually raising one's fee is the way to do that. There is a non-linear, non-material, powerful currency called love that is part of all of this. When someone working as a waitress comes to see me and hands me all her $5 bills she collected that day on her shift to pay me, what I see and feel is the strength of the love that is healing her, why she comes all the way across town for sessions in Austin traffic. When a mom with a little special needs baby gives me her payment, I wonder at her strength and her resilience and how it is that she can find a way to pay me at all with all the things she faces every day.

Those things are important. They are the core of what heals. Money has no intrinsic value other than its assignation culturally to being an agent of exchange. The artists, other healers, multicultural people I see don't have a lot of money; a lot of them still don't have health insurance because even with the ACA, they can't afford it, or they have a situation where they couldn't get enrolled or keep up with the premium, etc. etc. etc. And what about my grad students; and my old people; my single moms and dads whose partners left; my young people working their first (low paid) job, or trying to save to get married, or raise their new baby? We're not talking about a spa treatment or new nails; we're talking about mental health, the thing that lets a person get up every day and go to work, face crises, care for their aging mother or father, get through the death of a child or a friend, without falling apart. Ya know? 

So, in the end, I decided not to change a single thing. I'm going to think about all this outside the box.

Because that's kind of what I do here.

Norman Doidge, Feldenkrais, Bacon Doughnut Syndrome

So yeah--a nice, big, beautiful expansion going on around Norman Doidge's book, The Brain's Way Of Healing, which has two lovely chapters on Feldenkrais. Any number of people have told me how life changing this book was for them. I really appreciate the attention he gives Feldenkrais in this book--he really gets what we do, and it's nice to read words from someone who does understand the deeper layers of this beautiful work.

I had a too-long-in-coming coffee with the one and only Bruno Lepore yesterday. We had a laugh about the fact that when you're good at what you do, your clients get well and leave, which happened so much recently that I'm almost back where I started nearly two years ago in terms of building a business. He asked if, in the last year, I've brought Feldy and counseling together in my practice, something he'd talked to me about before.

I said to him, "Honestly, no, though I've certainly thought about it. Feldenkrais is something I've been doing so long it's like breathing. The counseling relationship feels so much more formal, though I think I'm far less formal than many clinicians with my clients. Feldenkrais is a fun, intimate, gentle, sweet, friendly relationship. It's not 'clinical.' It doesn't feel quite the same. I guess I'm puzzled about how those two things interface. Clearly, the reason I haven't done what you're suggesting is that I'm not sure how to do it internally. I like the idea, but they still feel like different worlds to me."

So that generated a great, in-depth talk, which always happens with Bruno anyway, and I left the coffee buzzing with ideas for exploration. I get where he's going with that--the Feldenkrais Method is a huge, potent skill set that outstrips many other modalities in terms of its applicability and sophistication. 

I guess I'm just afraid of the "bacon on a donut" syndrome. There's a place near me that sells a giant doughnut with bacon on it. I love bacon and like doughnuts, but I also find that when you put two things together that are super excellent on their own, what you end up with is often something that detracts from both. In other words, a bacon doughnut is not automatically better than bacon standing alone or a doughnut standing alone. That's why a lot of fusion cuisine doesn't necessarily work for me. On the other hand, sometimes you hit on an amazing combination and then you have a thing, which is what he was suggesting. He said, "You have a base in both the Feldenkrais work, which is so deep, and also a base as a clinician that's really deep. Very few people have that. I really think you could create something new."

So I'm pondering that. Just opening the space to consider it is the start, right? Somebody, at some point, looked at bacon, and a doughnut, and thought, 'what if I put them together?' Judging by the lines at the bacon doughnut place, their idea worked, though it isn't necessarily for me. He told me not to be afraid of trying. I'm clear that it would have to be in service of my clients, not just because I wanted to do something cool. Right?

But maybe he has a point.

Love Is An Action Verb

Today, I finally did it: I went to Charlotte's house and got my Feldenkrais things. It's taken me two months to get to this point. And it was hard, really hard, at first. 

But it was also really peaceful to be in her house again. It's all the same as it was when she was alive. The radio on the classical channel, the lit lamps, the angels everywhere. Despite my sadness I felt such a deep sense of comfort descend over me, sitting there, talking to her. All this is about to change--the family is coming and starting the process of clearing the house for sale. So it's the end of an era, an end to the years they all spent in that house, all the holidays and birthdays and so forth. It's a huge transition. I wrote to her daughter and expressed that I want to both give them their space and be available for anything they want and need, talking, hugs, Feldenkrais sessions. Whatever they need I've got, I'll give. I'll let them make the decisions they need to make. It feels right.

It felt relieving to touch her things for the final time and thank her for all she gave to me during the course of all our years together. That, I guess, is what I had really wanted in wanting to hold her ashes: to thank her. I've done that now, and am at peace with it.

I was reflecting, sitting in her living room, on how Charlotte really taught me, more than anyone, that love is an action verb: not only something you feel, but something you do, a living process that engages others and includes acts of service and care from small to large. She not only expressed love but lived it through her actions toward others every day. 

I reflected, too, on the importance of purpose and faith in holding a family together through the things families go through. I just got John Gottman's book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, which is an amazing book and could really be titled, The Seven Principles For Making Any Relationship Work. And in starting to read it, and learn about what his long term research shows, I realize how all of those things were demonstrated and are demonstrated in Charlotte's family. It's just how they operate, the standard M.O. A sense of purpose is very important. I don't know that families or relationships can last without it.

On a sweet, poignant note, the Writer asked me to be his girlfriend. I don't know why, but at first I thought he was just joking. He later repeated himself and I finally realized he was serious. I said yes. It's been a long time since I've been anyone's girlfriend. I'm happy I just bought this book so that I can see what I need to do to warm my skills up. You don't really need many skills to date other than being pleasant, engaging and attractive; you need a lot of skills for relationships.  They're different animals and it's been so long since I've been any kind of partner to anyone that my skills are not where I would like them to be. It's a good fortune that this occurs at the same time, and somehow, I feel like Charlotte has something to do with it. 

Because, of course, being her, she would be doing something with all of it. I learned. Her legacy continues. It's what she would have wanted. I can feel her smile.

Two Lions Face Each Other

So. A trip out to the lake to hang out with my friend Katy Adams, also a wonderful therapist I send people to, a fellow shamaness. 

The Writer was supposed to go with me. Of course, things had been tense for days. I finally said it was his decision, he needed to make his own choice--I wasn't going to do it for him. I was being as available to connect as I could, which wasn't much. He needed to not look to me to decide what to do. So he decided he wanted to come.

The drive out there is about an hour. After he got into the car and we took off, I said, "If the best solution to our issues is for us to stop banging each other and just be friends, I'm cool with that." I was ready to front end all that and put it out there. I can handle selfish or passive behavior in a male friend. I can't handle it in a partner. That's my stuff and I own it. I'm not asking anyone else to change. I know what my deal is. So I wanted to put that out there as an option.

"I'm OK with that too," he said. I nodded. I drove for a while. Then he said, "I want you to know that's not my preference. It's not what I want."

I digested that. Finally I said, "Well, alright."

There wasn't a lot of talking. But through the afternoon things got less tense, and we both had a nice time at the lake and hanging out with Katy. We did end up talking more on the way back. He was much more personable, and much more open, and he apologized to me for all the fallout he caused with his actions and responses. So that felt good, to hear that he is sorry, that he does care, that he does want to help. 

It's those simple things that really make a difference when things are tough. I told him that in addition to his sophisticated intellectual language, I need him to master another language, the simple language of love and helping. I care. I'm here for you. How can I help? How is your day going? How are you? What can I do? Tell me how I can help/what I can do. I want to know how you're doing. Those kinds of words make a lot of difference in the everyday of human relationships. I know they make a world of difference to me personally, and to the people I help. We all need to know when to switch off our highfalutin crap and just be a person for another person.

He said he's perfectly alright with it. Which is cool. 

I also said to him that when a Scottish-Sicilian and a Vietnamese-Irish face each other, you have a recipe for an epic conflict. He said that he hoped we can not get into that place again. I told him it'd be a lot easier if he'd just admit that he's a pugnacious, stubborn shit sometimes. He didn't really admit it (because he's a pugnacious, stubborn shit), but he did laugh.

That's peace between two lions, I guess. For now.

The Rain, Another Day, Courtesy

This week has been that, eh: rain, and a day, and another day. I really want to go to the EMDR consult group this morning, but, sitting here, I don't know if I can do it. I am so tired and have had so little time to attend to things this week. I may just need to attend to those things--laundry, emails and so forth--and try for the one next month. I'm going out of town this afternoon for half a day so it might not be a bad idea to take that space this morning before heading to the office.

I'm thinking about the whole situation with the Writer. I guess it's in about as decent a shape as it can be all things considered. I don't like this conflict and fighting either, on the other hand, I'm not the one who made the choices that brought this split between us about. The thing that really blew me out was the discovery that he did not get STI tested between "Jennifer" and me, and that he didn't tell me he was sleeping with someone who apparently had also been sleeping with other people.  In fact, when I asked him if he was sleeping with anyone else, he made it sound like he wasn't. That was really the thing that shut me down and made me want to bail out. He has since gotten tested and all is good, but damn, man, that just about did it for me. 

He said he wanted empathy for the fact that he felt like shit about all this, too, and I told him bluntly that I'm not feeling that. I don't go to people I've hurt and ask them to feel sorry for me when I'm the one who hurt them. What the hell is that? It's not the job of people you've hurt to empathize with you. It's really asking for way too much when they are already dealing with the fallout of your actions on them. Get your empathy from somewhere else. Maybe from someone you weren't a dick to who has the room to give it. He's a writer; how would he feel if I did something that threatened his ability to use his hands?

What really infuriated me was his response when I said how violated I felt by all this and he said something like, "I'm sure it's fine." That sent me over the top. I don't know what the hell is wrong with a person who thinks that somehow they belong to a protected class of people who magically are not subject to the same rules of life that govern the rest of us. Of course, in his case, he *does* belong to a protected class--he's male, white, and educated. But so what? Do you think germs check your credentials and think, "Oh, not him"? I mean what makes you so invulnerable? Being male? Being white? Having a doctorate degree? None of those things make you magically immune to disease. Did they give you some kind of little special magic umbrella for your wanker along with your degree? 

I told him, "It's not alright to put my body on the line with your magical thinking." I have health issues, which he knows, and struggles with my immune system, and it's not OK. I'm a dancer and my body is the center of my art and also the center of being a Feldenkrais practitioner. The level of thoughtlessness around all this was appalling and it really hurt me deeply. It dropped a bomb into the core of trust I'd started to rebuild a bit. 

So, as it turns out, physically, all is OK. Emotionally, I just don't know yet. I did feel better after our talk yesterday. That talk had tough moments. I talked to him about courtesy, and he said something snarky like, "Courtesy is a convention and we get to define conventions..." 

I cut him off right there. If you want to be rude, that's fine, go ahead, you do that and please leave and find someone who will put up with that shit. I am not your woman and I'm not putting up with it. I have a wide circle of sweet, gracious, really wonderful friends and I'm not bringing someone who feels entitled to act like a dick based on purely intellectual masturbation into that world. Courtesy is not just a convention. It shows respect and care for other people. It shows that you are aware that other people have needs in the situation. It shows that you are paying attention, that you are aware of how your behavior affects others, and that you give enough of a shit to try to be polite. 

And when you aren't have problems in life. In your friendships, in your job, in your intimate relationships, everywhere. How do I know this? I help people every day with how to revise their conduct to get better results. People who aren't courteous or polite have to learn it in order to be more mature and socially fluid in life. Being rude does nothing except alienate people and make them want to walk away from you because they don't feel respected, heard, or seen, or like their needs are being weighed. 

I come from an extremely rude family, and I have seen firsthand how that plays out over time. I have also seen what happened when I dated men with social problems and tried to integrate them into my life and circle of friends; they became resentful, snarky, and ultimately controlling, jealous of the love and attention that I got by being...duh...courteous to people and which they never got because they were just too frickin rude and self centered to try harder, or somehow thought that people should just tolerate their rudeness because they were men and used to being able to roll over people, especially women, without getting any pushback.

So, I'd hope that everyone would place some value on courtesy as a thing that is worthwhile of attention and work.