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In Honor of International Women’s Day

March 9, 2009

…which was actually yesterday.

This goes out to all of the women in the Democratic Republic of Congo who are being literally torn apart by rape in war.

This goes out to all of the women in the United States and across the world who are beaten by their husbands and boyfriends.

This goes out to all of the children in the United States and across the world who are targets for sexual abuse within their own families. Studies indicate that more than one in four children are sexually abused, a number that doesn’t change based on country, race, or income.

This goes out to the millions of us who have had to take time out of our lives to heal and deal with the repercussions of sexual assault, rape, and molestation.

And this goes out to those of us who are working for change. Please consider a donation to the Nobel Women’s Initiative, to Generation Five, and to V-Day.

This is Ben Lee paying tribute to John Lennon, Yoko Ono, and all women who are still fighting for equal rights.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Ben Lee – Woman Is The Nigger Of The …“, posted with vodpod

Too controversial? Here’s what Lennon himself had to say about the lyrics:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “John Lennon – Woman is the “N” of the…“, posted with vodpod
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movement and empowerment

March 5, 2009

I’ve been strength training at BodyTribe Fitness for over a year now, and like any regular physical activity, it has changed my life.  Chip Conrad, the owner, has created a space without the usual commercial gym focus on aesthetics. The entrance is surrounded by plants, two cats live in residence, and the gym is the gathering place for a progressive tribe of people who are focused on physical empowerment as a spiritual experience. Training here focuses on compound movements in which you move a lot of weight…the only way to buld true strength.

I started max lift training this week, which is where you train to lift as much weight as you can, all at once, rather than doing several sets and reps of a lower weight. I discovered I can deadlift more than my bodyweight, without any previous max lift training. This feel amazing, especially after completing my first unassisted pull-up a couple of weeks ago!

Chip says that max lift training is training your central nervous system to fire all out, all at once. If we don’t challenge our bodies to do this, there’s no reason for the central nervous system to ever build these types of connections.

“You’re training your fight response,” he said.

Yes! This is exactly where I am, and exactly what I need.  My default response is to freeze, to dissociate and separate from my body, which was an incredibly adaptive and creative response when I was growing up, but as an adult it severely limits my life.

When we train our bodies to do anything that’s outside of our usual range of comfort, we create abilities within ourselves that apply to all areas of our lives.

I began training at BodyTribe last January, after a devastating year in which I lost my job, ended a prolonged abusive relationship, and was acquaintance-raped. Twice. I was pathologically dissociated and completely shut down. I had no access to my body…and everything we do in life requires us to be in our bodies, since they are the vehicle for our spirit to interact in this world.  I started training with the intent to experience my body, to build connections.

My entire life experience was one of a dissociative wall, like a thick glass plate separating my heart from my throat and cutting off all access to awareness of my body below.  Regular strength training in this safe, nurturing and empowering environment, along with the deep therapy work I’ve been doing, has dissolved this wall. I felt it move down in my body, giving me access to sensing my torso, then my hips, then my thighs and legs.  I deeply believe this has played a major part in changing the course of my life.

What a different experience of working out! I used to run regularly, but out of a sense of hating my body and the twenty pounds I gained my first semester of college.  Now I am in deep relationship with my body, and the aesthetic changes have been secondary.

After school today, I’m going to find my max squat. It’s exciting to see what I can do, and to know it’s just the starting point!

Be sure to check out Chip’s amazing book, Lift with Your Head, his blog Physical SubCulture, and his DVD which will be coming out later this month. If you’re in the Sacramento area, check out the Winter Strength Camp coming up March 14-15. It’s a crash course on what we do here.  If you’re not in Sacramento, ask him about e-training!

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reclaiming voice

February 20, 2009

As new evidence comes in that contradicts previous cognitions and beliefs about myself, inherited from abusers and internalized, I struggle to find my voice.

The old, abuse-driven belief?

That my speaking up somehow burdens others. Somehow harms others.

That no one wants to hear my truth, that my truth will hurt them.

This is why I haven’t been writing here.

Of course, there was truth to this, when I learned the belief.

My voice was a huge threat to my father, who sexually abused from the time I was smaller than small nearly until I managed to leave home for college. He did all he could to choke my words off, to undermine me and my trust in myself so that I would never speak and reveal the atrocities being committed on me nightly. I had to choose between predictable, chronic sexual abuse at the hands of my father, an unpredictable life with my paranoid schizophrenic mother, or the completely unknown and threatening foster care system (where the chances of being further abused are high).

My speaking up at that time would have torn my family apart, would have ripped my twin brother and I out of our school district (the only safe constant in our lives), and into the hands of chaos.

Speaking up also would have meant admitting to myself that I was under constant assault.

I finally did tell this truth to my then-boyfriend, during my first semester in college. This truth was met by his rage at my father, and I felt so alone. I had never spoken it out loud, even to myself, before, and the weight of it paralyzed me. I could not function. I failed that first semester, losing scholarships and belief in my abilities. This was five years ago.

I’m back in school full time now, for the first time since then, after years of deep recovery work. My love of learning is my greatest strength, and school is home.

Yet more recently, the words of someone important to me ring in my head every time I raise my hand to speak up in school….words about me being “that” student; the one that everyone hates because she’s smart and is constantly engaged and likes to ask and answer questions all the time. That it’s not good to “lecture” others, as if intellectual humility requires my silence.

This hits on being a smart girl growing up, with messages that it’s not okay to be smarter than boys, or it was okay to be smart, as long as I don’t flaunt it by letting anyone know. This is on top of the silencing of the anger, the betrayal, the invasion that stems from incest.

Every time I raise my hand now, my heart races and I beat myself up…am I saying too much? Am I someone encroaching on the teacher’s territory? Did I talk for too long? Was I on-topic enough? Did I speak too frequently today? Did I say something too stupid? Something too smart?

The line repeats in my head: I shouldn’t speak I shouldn’t speak I shouldn’t speak I shouldn’t speak.

But…the feedback I’m getting from classmates directly contradicts this, and I am forced to reevaluate these cognitions; forced to decide if they serve me or not.

Yesterday, a classmate told me she takes notes whenever I speak up.

Last week, another classmate told me that he could tell I was educated, that I knew what I was talking about, that my contributions benefitted him.

A couple of weeks ago, as I chatted with fellow students before my Psychology of Peace & Conflict class, I mentioned I was interested in transferring to UC Berkeley, and was wondering if I could manage a Cognitive Science (concentration in Society, Culture & Cognition)/Peace & Conflict Studies double major.

The woman I was talking with, a stranger, said I was the right kind of person for Berkeley, that she always appreciated what I had to say in class, that I always said something interesting and relevant, and that I sounded like I should already be making $20/hour just for speaking.

Within the dissonance this creates, I am shown the right path.

I don’t have to live under the shadow of silence anymore.

It is my responsibility to tell the truth.

I choose the truth, I choose my ability to speak up, I choose to contribute what I know, what I have learned, and what I am learning about sexual abuse, trauma, society, healing, peace, courage, shame, beauty….all of it.

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one of mine

January 28, 2009

mosaic3070864

[ image credit: feel free ]

you gave her more/it was already beautiful

there’s no suggestion
the way your broken glance
spills her heart across the floor
slipping in inconsistencies
keeps her locked in backward past
let her tell you she never meant to
confabulate reality just to bring (keep) you in
but still: perhaps you pinned her right
she is not the river that runs through her
she is not the dreams that keep her bound
she is not the crumbling walls she built
that no longer offer shelter
what she is is transparant and undefinable
she is, quite simply,
adrift and wandering bewilderment

this work is copyrighted

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defining power

January 23, 2009

[ image credit: staring ]

Our society is founded on a very limited definition of power, namely wealth, professional success, fame, physical strength, military might, and political control. My dear friends, I suggest that there is another kind of power, a greater power: the power to be happy right in the present moment, free from addiction, fear, despair, discrimination, anger, and ignorance. This power is the birthright of every human being, whether celebrated or unknown, rich or poor, strong or weak.

Thich Nhat Hanh; The Art of Power

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one, one, one

January 16, 2009

The lamps are different,
But the Light is the same.
So many garish lamps in the dying brain’s lamp shop,
Forget about them.
Concentrate on essence, concentrate on Light.
In lucid bliss, calmly smoking off its own holy fire,
The Light streams toward you from all things,
All people, all possible permutations of good, evil, thought, passion.
The lamps are different,
But the Light is the same.
One matter, one energy, one Light, one Light-mind,
Endlessly emanating all things.
One turning and burning diamond,
One, one, one.
Ground yourself, strip yourself down,
To blind loving silence.
Stay there, until you see
You are gazing at the Light
With its own ageless eyes.

Rumi | (translated by Andrew Harvey)

Some flickr favorites: 1. yukata, 2. Light into the Dark, 3. Untitled, 4. Untitled

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16 things about me

January 14, 2009

16 things about me

1. I’m a twin. I have a twin brother (fraternal, since I’m a girl) who lives in Washington.

2. I was voted “Studies for Fun” by my high school class. The yearbook generously changed this to “Most Likely To Succeed.”

3. I’m extremely near-sighted and have worn glasses since kindergarten.

4. I’ve known my life direction lay in neuroscience since a 7th grade science report on the human nervous system. This led me to cognitive science (the interdisciplinary study of the mind), post-traumatic stress disorder, and looking at interpersonal trauma’s role in shaping society.

5. I’m a Unitarian Universalist with Buddhist leanings.

6. I don’t currently have a favorite color, but I love deep jewel tones, especially paired with shades of grey and silver.

7. I have always felt safest when nestled up in tree branches, ever since reading books in magnolia trees as a six-year-old.

8. I like to pretend that Joseph Campbell is my dad. If I’m in need of parental advice, I imagine what he’d say.

9. I believe in trying most everything at least twice. Sometimes first experiences don’t give me an accurate idea of whether I like something or not.

10. I haven’t owned a TV in five years. I can watch Netflix DVDs on my laptop, and am rewarded with a lot of free time and minimal advertisements in my life.

11. I haven’t owned a car in five years, either. The money I save on car payments, insurance, gas, and parking goes towards living in an adorable neighborhood where I can walk or ride my bike most places, and I ride public transit in winter.

12. I can’t stand the texture of some foods: sushi, raw onions, water chestnuts.

13. I’m an autodidact (although I recently returned to school), and I love the process of learning (see #2). I am fueled by incredible curiosity about the world and how everything is interrelated and interconnected.

14. Emotional Alchemy: How the Mind Can Heal the Heart by Tara Bennett-Goleman catalyzed my recovery and changed the course of my life and relationships. It’s the one book I keep going back to when I find myself off track. The author combines Buddhist mindfulness meditation with schema therapy (a branch of cognitive therapy) and explains how to make your ingrained emotional patterns and reactions the subject of meditation. “Mindfulness means seeing things as they are without trying to change them,” she writes. “The point is to dissolve our reactions to disturbing emotions, being careful not to reject the emotion itself.”

15. I journal daily. Writing several pages of longhand journal entries each day helps me stay honest and compassionate with myself, and I find that following the tip of the pen on the page is very meditative.

16. My favorite exercise is tire slamming at BodyTribe. See video below. That’s me at 0:29.