Resiliency begins with inner work. Before we can pick up the fabulous habits that make for an inspired life, we first need to discharge unresolved trauma and stress, which we can do using a combination of kinesthetic and cognitive strategies.
Whatever crossroads you find yourself at in your personal journey, resiliency is something you can learn and build. I’m honored to be able to share what I’ve gleaned and practiced with people just like you — forearm deep in the rich compost of our lives.
Scientific and medical research in the past 25 years has confirmed what healers have known for millennia: that our physical, psychological and spiritual well-being are intrinsically connected. We know now that trauma, chronic stress, and even relatively benign daily toxicity can change our DNA, zap our synaptic connections, bathe our tissues in a cortisol cocktail, and cause systemic inflammation — in short, make us feel on edge or inconsolably sad or unsuccessful despite our many good efforts.
Had we known then what we know now about how chronic stress and trauma work, perhaps my own family would have had more access to the kind of healing practices that could have eased their lifelong anguish and early deaths.
My parents were genocide survivors who witnessed things they could never forget, lost everything and everyone they loved, and were geographically and spiritually displaced while still young.
They would both find ways to create a modest and decent life; at the same time, they dealt with a never-ending stream of physiological and psychological challenges, as did many of the adults I grew up around. Perhaps it was their inner demons that killed them both by the time I was 15, but I’m more prone to believe their deaths were at least as much a result of the medicalization of their trauma — the way their various illnesses were treated as distinct from their overall state of being, their repeated hospitalizations in environments that mimicked the persecution they experienced.
Many of us who come from long legacies of trauma and oppression, or who have faced adversity from an early age, can experience long-term effects on our well-being, and resilience can be even tougher to maintain.
We can learn a lot from the field of epigenetics, which holds clues at how our gene expression can turn on — and off — and be modified by our environment and practices. Dr. Rachel Yehuda, a neuroscientist who currently directs the Center for Psychedelic Psychotherapy and Trauma Research at Mount Sinai Hospital in NYC, found that cortisol levels in children of Holocaust survivors are as high as in their parents’ generation, and their DNA methylation highly affected by intergenerational transfer of trauma. (Methylation is a biochemical process that is essential for the proper function of almost all of your body’s systems. It occurs billions of times every second; it helps repair your DNA; it helps recycle molecules needed for detoxification; it helps you process hormones, neurotransmitters and toxins, and it helps maintain mood and keep inflammation in check. If you have issues with this fundamental process, you’re at much higher risk for all sorts of diseases, from cancer to chemical sensitivities to addiction to any number of autoimmune disorders.)
My own life includes all the consequences of intense loss and absence that you could imagine. Some wounds are visible, and some — like, in fact, a shitty methylation profile — are only accessible now thanks to advances in genetic testing.
This doesn’t mean you’re screwed by ancestral or early imprinting! I am abundantly hopeful. Neither your genetics nor your early environment is entirely predictive of how well you’ll deal with the curveballs that life is guaranteed to throw you. What is does suggest is that you will benefit greatly by including modalities that integrate who you were and where you come from into your healing. It also means that since the trauma didn’t begin with you, you alone cannot resolve it. We heal in community.
My own life is a good example. I never thought I’d make it to 30, but thanks to discovering both yoga and writing in my late 20s, and continuing to immerse myself in many creative and healing modalities (including Biofeedback, Coaching, Reiki, Polarity Therapy, and Shamanism), I’ve become more and more resilient with each year. It hasn’t always been an easy ride, but I’ve been able to create a meaningful life that makes me feel fulfilled and grateful – and energizes me to share what I’ve learned with others.
All the practices that I offer are integrative — that is, they speak to our whole being — from how we feel inside our own skin, to how we perceive ourselves and our possibilities for growth within our chosen families and communities, to how connected we feel to the natural world and our creative essence. They let you be who you are, rather than just be with any one physical condition you face or any one situation you’re wrestling with. If you’re looking to be more resilient in the face of a transition in your life, let’s work together so that your life — and God willing your neural pathways — will begin to shift.