Seeds of Inspiration
I went to a Trauma and Embodiment conference last weekend at Lesley University in Cambridge. I admit I wasn’t thrilled to give up a precious early spring Saturday, but I had already arranged to drive down with one of the Sea Change Yoga teachers- so I set my alarm Friday night for an early start on Saturday morning. We left Portland, in a steady rain, with the lingering smell of a coffee catastrophe ever present in the car. The GPS had us driving around in circles once we got to Cambridge until we finally deserted the technology and just followed our noses to find the conference. By the time we parked, the sun was coming out and we were just in time to run into the auditorium, pick up our badges and grab our seats for the keynote speaker.
I was not surprised, once we got into the conference hall, to recognize several faces in the room; I spied many people who have been at other trainings with me. After all, I have been to dozens of trainings, conferences and workshops in the past 5 years, and although the yoga service sector is definitely growing, there are not so many of us doing this work in New England. Seeing those familiar faces confirmed what I had expected: this conference would probably be like so many others that I have attended. I settled in to hear about the latest research that has been done in the field of trauma using yoga as adjunctive therapy. I hoped to come away with a nugget or two that might help me to make a better case for grantors to fund our work. Maybe I would have time to network and catch up with some people I had not seen recently. Frankly, however, I didn’t have high expectations about coming away with new insights. I was silently wishing I could be outside in the sunshine instead of trapped inside all day, but I took out my notebook and prepared to take notes. Sometimes, happily, expectations are exceeded.
Dr. Thema Bryant-Davis, our first presenter, a brilliant psychologist and minister with tremendous energy, immediately had us on our feet, clapping in rhythm and singing “This little light of mine.” Clapping and singing instead of the usual guided meditation or mindfully moving through cautiously scripted shapes? I sat up straighter and listened more attentively. I was intrigued and delighted to hear more about how singing and dancing can also be effective somatic tools to heal trauma. What a concept- using Joy! When she finished her presentation by calling all of the “dancers” up on stage and then moving through a dance with at least 20 self -identified “dancers” to illustrate a story of redemption- I was firing on all cylinders. I have long wanted to bring dance to the women we work with in the prisons and jails, and I know several local yoga teachers who teach dance as mindful movement. Moving energy in this way is instinctual for so many of us. Talk about increasing interoceptive awareness! I was so reinvigorated to think about new ways in which Sea Change Yoga could expand our impact and better serve the people in our programs.
I attended a lot of other interesting break out sessions that day. I listened to an important presentation about yoga and the cultic dynamic and power structure abuses- including sexual abuse - within so many of the lineages taught in studios today. I learned about ways in which to work with more thoughtfulness and dignity while working with trans- gender people. I was really impressed by a panel of four researchers (all women, by the way) presenting their ground-breaking studies in the field of mindfulness. The afternoon key-note speaker was Dr. Jared Kass, a psychotherapist and educator who has been using mind-body techniques to help people with trauma for decades. He has made huge contributions in the field. He is a fantastic lecturer and has me, once again, thinking about bio-markers, high vagal tone and heart rate variability. But even with all of that to think about and consider, I was still left resonating- positively vibrating- from Dr. Bryant-Davis and her message of joy. Moving through sadness and trauma and the resulting shut downs of the body’s systems using dance and song- that concept had me truly and deeply inspired.
We drove home to Maine in the sunshine, with the windows rolled down for part of the ride, and admired the blooming magnolia trees and flowers. We didn’t talk that much about the day or what we had learned. We were reflecting on the glory of spring all around us- blue sky, warm breeze, blossoms and buds. We were thinking about having our first barbeques of the season. It occurred to me, on that drive home to Maine, that spring is a great analogy for trauma and healing from it. People can become “frozen” after trauma. The way in which they can heal is like the arrival of spring; a softening of the ground until something eventually grows where there was once just a cold, hard environment. I was really glad that I went to that conference, and that I heard the inspirational message from Dr. Bryant-Davis. There are many ways that we can be inspired, and inspire others. There are so many ways that seeds for new ideas and innovations can be planted, nurtured and grown. There were many seeds planted that spring day. Now it will be my job to tend and nurture them until they blossom.