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Possibilities and Limits Part 2: Healing and Practice as a Path to Liberation

I came to know Staci Haines as a powerful teacher and guide when I became a student in the Somatics and Trauma Practitioner Training offered by Staci and Generative Somatics. Coming from a background as both a meditation practitioner and a radical mental health activist with a trauma-based analysis, I was deeply moved by Staci’s work. Her approach locates healing from trauma and oppression as an embodied practice of transformation, deeply embedded in social and political context. In my first year of training, I met David Treleaven, a fellow practitioner who is also a doctoral student at the California Institute of Integral Studies. His research focuses on the limitations of North American Vipassana practice through the lens of Somatic Experiencing, a modality developed by Peter Levine.  Update: David recently successfully defended his dissertation. You can watch the video, which is quite interesting, here.

This is an edited version of the second of two conversations I had with Staci and David.

To read the first part of these conversations, click here.

Jacks: David, I was wondering if you could tell us a little bit specifically about what your current work is, your dissertation, and what you’re researching.

David: I am doing a comparative theoretical study of the Western Vipassana movement, which is basically Spirit Rock, IMS [Insight Meditation Society]. I’m looking at this particular thread of Theravadan Buddhism as it’s been expressed in the West, and comparing that with somatic experiencing—Peter Levine’s work around healing from trauma. I’m trying to use one as an expression of Buddhism as it’s happening in North America and Europe, and the other as a contemporary form of somatic therapy. I’m trying to use that within a more general conversation of: “how does one heal trauma through meditation?” What I’m specifically doing is looking at having a trauma analysis of meditation and meditation retreats through the lens of somatic experiencing.

Why don’t I start by saying what I mean by trauma? The definition I’m using of trauma is a hybrid of Peter Levine’s definition, and also the DSM IV [Diagnostic and Statistcal Manual of Mental Disorders IV]. Basically the definition I’m using is any circumstance or event where it’s an overwhelming experience for the nervous system and there is a survival response—it could be fight or flight—and that response is thwarted with a freeze. That becomes paired with an intensive negative emotion, such as terror. That is what begets trauma. That starts a cycle in motion that is very difficult to untangle from.

Jacks: It sounds like you are basing your definition on the results it produces in a person who has lived through it, rather than the experience that produced those results.

David: My understanding historically of the diagnostic and statistical manual is that we’re looking at specific events. There’s a context—we’re usually looking at war or rape. Peter Levine is shifting this to look at how the nervous system is responding to a particular event. So we’re taking it outside of the context. It could be familial, it could be a fender bender under this definition. Were not looking at the actual event as much as the person’s innate response through their nervous system to the event.

Staci: You know, everything is political. If we look historically at the definitions of trauma, the only things that were given validity in the US through the DSM were survivors of war. Really coming out of World War I, shellshock, and in World War II we start looking at postwar fatigue, different things like that. Eventually with a lot of hard fighting from feminists it got generalized that there are traumatic experiences that happen outside the war context, especially intimate violence. That is getting more and more validated as a trauma inducing experience. So what I also appreciate about the shift that’s happening with somatics in general, Peter Levine being one [leader?], and Bessel Van der Kolk being on the committee who is writing the definitions of trauma in the DSM. He’s being very influenced by somatics at this point; it’s where his research is focused. Naming what is a valid experience that should be traumatizing is very culturally and politically defined. To me what’s powerful about this transition is it doesn’t predefine what experiences can be traumatizing but actually re-centers it in what are the long-term impacts and effects that start limiting and making much more difficult people’s or community’s lives. The other thing I want to throw in while we are talking about a trauma definition is that because most of the defining happens inside a psychological framework, most of it gets defined for individuals. And there are definitely some people who are looking at collectives and communities with historical trauma. Looking at groups where there’s been a massacre, or groups where there’s been genocide, and looking at the collective response of the group. But that’s more rare. The definitions that end up in the DSM are really viewed as individual experiences of trauma, even though the sources of that might be social oppression. I think all those pieces are important to tease out as we talk about what is trauma.

Many Hands, Light Work silkscreen by Erik Ruin

David: I knew that trauma has been politicized but I didn’t realize just how politicized it’s been. The book that has been really helpful for me has been [Bessel Van der Kolk’s] Traumatic Stress. It’s a seminal text. I’m still learning a lot about how politicized trauma is. I’m trying to hold the approaches to trauma that are more collective in this analysis, but it’s difficult because there is so much momentum towards looking at trauma as something that needs to be healed individually. We’re not looking at the systemic impacts of trauma. All this literature that I’m reading is so focused on Western models of psychotherapy. I’d just like to hold that in this conversation—I want to keep expanding it out.

Jacks: It’s also really interesting how that mirrors the way that we were talking in our previous interview about Western Buddhism being practiced here. Buddhism is not being practiced for collective liberation, it’s being taught as a path to individual transformation or liberation. And then trauma is not being looked at as collective trauma that is healed collectively. It’s this individual “go-to-your-psychotherapist” model.

David: It is my understanding of the traditions where Western teachers were taught that meditation was taught far down the road. The first steps were ethics and connection to community, before you would ever be asked to sit on a cushion. We Westerners took these things and then we started doing long-term meditation practice individually, and you said it last time Staci: how of course it got translated into a Western individualistic context through these particular teachers who are predominantly white and male.

Staci: I was just thinking that same thing about the interface of the translation. One of the things I’m interested in about your research, David, is what are you seeing about meditation or Buddhism taught in a cultural context where it’s a collective. There are just so many things that can’t translate over into an individualistic society, that we don’t even know that we are excluding them. It’s not even in the framework. It does make me think that I am sure that there are many, many examples of collective healing processes of trauma in collective-based societies that the DSM is not going to point to or articulate.

David: That totally dovetails with my research. At first I used a hermeneutic analysis—looking at Buddhism through the lens of somatic experiencing. What emerged were two major critiques. One named in Peter’s work, and I think it’s present in many other modalities, is what he calls the Medusa problem. He uses the myth of Medusa. Basically, don’t go right at trauma. We can’t look directly at it or we turn to stone. We freeze, literally. That’s one piece, but the other is the question of the environment. The question of a meditative environment, a contemplative environment, that is set up where the typical container is: you go there, you have a half day of talking, and then you have silence for X number of days. When you come out, there’s generally not a lot of conversation. So here are the questions that come up for me. In somatic experiencing, and I think in Generative Somatics too [Staci Haines’ lineage], one of the first steps is that we have to generate safety. For those of us who have been hurt relationally, a way to regain safety, or we could bring in attachment here, would be to see people’s faces, to literally feel attuned to, and feel safe within the collective. At the heart of the meditation retreat we are not making non-verbal contact with each other. We are in a collective field, and people talk about that as something that can be deeply healing, and at the same time I would argue that some part of our nervous system isn’t getting to fully settle into safety. The second part to this would be for us to move through the initial stages of healing from trauma. We have to learn to self-regulate our arousal. We can’t go too directly into sensations attached to what we call trauma.

Jacks: Can you say what you mean by arousal?

Staci: And self-regulation?

David: In sensory motor psychotherapy there is a lot of talk about a window of tolerance that needs to be developed for someone to be able to heal from trauma. The practitioner is trying to help a client find this optimum window, which is between forms of hyper-arousal and hypo-arousal. Hyper-arousal is when our systems are just so stirred up by tuning into sensation that we can’t actually be in our bodies. Hypo-arousal is the opposite; we are basically checked out. People falling asleep for example. It’s proposed in sensorimotor psychotherapy that there is a particular window where people can do effective work to unhook from trauma. To basically let trauma run through their bodies without a) getting re-traumatized or b) spinning into these different zones. There is an optimal zone. The proposal of sensorimotor psychotherapy is we need someone to help us learn to regulate ourselves because at some point in the experience of trauma this skill might have gotten lost for us. When we end up being with a practitioner who can help us attune, it’s basically monitoring our nervous system to help us find this window. One critique of a typical retreat is that every two or three days you have an interview with someone for 15 to 20 minutes. But is that enough? Are you getting enough contact with someone who is well-versed in trauma theory? Or are you getting enough contact with the collective? If it’s true that we need to tap into a certain amount of safety, contact, and emotional arousal, is the need for that window to heal from trauma being met on a meditation retreat?

Jacks: And should it be, in the context of a meditation retreat?

David: That’s a good question. Do schools have an ethical responsibility, when people are coming in with unresolved trauma, to have individual support? If a participant is working through trauma on the course of a retreat is there a responsibility or an obligation to provide these people with access to a therapist? Or a teacher who’s actually competent in trauma? These are all questions that I don’t have answers to, just opinions.

Staci: But you have been studying this for a long time. Will you just say what some of your assessments or opinions are at this point?

David: Having been through this work, my recommendation would be if the Western Vipassana movement, and if certain schools—Goenka is a perfect example to me—are willing to offer to offer long-term retreats, the teachers should be trained in certain approaches to trauma so that they can at least identify when someone is dissociating or hurting themselves. Meditation can be hurtful for people that are just sitting on a cushion, paying attention to sensations, but are not getting any kind of support around that. If they end up dissociated, I don’t think that’s very helpful. I don’t know if I would go so far as to say you need to have a registered psychotherapist on every retreat, but I think there’s a certain degree of competency that I think meditation teachers would want to have, given that contemplative work unearths trauma. I think people are flipping out on retreat and ending up either re-traumatized or at least not getting helped. Paying attention to your sensations unearths not just individual trauma but systemic forms of trauma. It’s going to happen. I think what’s happening is that you’re sitting down to pay attention in these great collectives that have so much potential for healing. But the way it is structured, I think, is just not conducive to deep individual or collective healing. We are paying attention in a particular way which is great—we need that—but I think there’s so much more potential, and I think that a trauma analysis of contemplative work here in the West could be profound. There’s a big conversation to have about what degree of competence is necessary? And how would teachers work with people uncovering trauma? There are a lot of questions that I still have around this issue, but the main thrust is a recommendation that we have a trauma analysis of what we are doing. We are paying attention to our bodies, but some of our best writers are suggesting that were not meditating in our bodies—we’re thinking about our bodies. If we are going to be in our bodies, we need to be ready for what comes up and we need people who are trained to deal with that.

And then there’s the part I haven’t talked about— the Medusa problem. We need to give people skills to attend to sensations without necessarily going directly to the source of the contraction. This is my experience; to be transparent, I kept going into this one spot, and my brain thought, “it’s happening again,” and I would check out. I never learned how to unhook that until I met you [Staci]. Or until I actually encountered trauma theory.

Staci: I think you made a very big statement, looking at the way Western meditation retreats, especially long-term retreats as they’re structured now, have severe limitations, and that it could be so much better for this gathering of folks to practice and pay attention to the body. What would that look like? How could it be restructured so that it could better predict the kinds of things that may get unearthed if people are practicing attending within the body?

David: That’s a great question, and I don’t have the answer to that. But my first thought is that we need more contact with each other. My understanding of this lineage of Western Buddhism is that Jack Kornfield and Sylvia Boorstein brought these teachings back. Supposedly five to eight years ago younger folks, the next wave, started saying we need to talk to each other. We actually need to turn and face each other for this to be effective. And there was resistance, and a conversation, and now there are more components of retreats where we are turning in and facing each other. I would say that where we are hurt is relationally. If that is held in a deep way…and again that’s where I still have questions: How can we use each other on the retreat and not make it such an individual solitary experience? What if we paid attention and then went into connection with each other, either as dyads or collectively, and used the collective to extend towards something?

That’s my first thought, using each other more effectively, and I think that teachers could be used much more effectively also. Ten minutes for every two days of instruction was practical in Asia when people were reporting without talking about “me.” They weren’t saying “I’m experiencing this…” In my understanding of traditional Southeast Asian Buddhism practitioners would report, “There is sensation in my foot.” The interviews would never be about personal history—that’s where this lineage comes from. But at the same time, at places like Spirit Rock, people go into interviews and start to unpack what’s coming up. But there’s not the space for it. It gets cut off after 10 or 15 minutes and then two days later the ocean has come and washed back over that sand. I think there could be more effective use of the interpersonal time. I would love to be seeing clients who are on retreat; to me it is so fertile, and it would be an amazing time to do deep work. But this is the inherent tension between Buddhism and psychotherapy. I would love now to hear what you guys think. What would it look like?

Jacks: One thing that arose for me when you said that you would love to work with clients who are on retreat, and how fertile that would be, I thought, “Wow, imagine if you’re on retreat and then you could go see a skilled somatic practitioner/therapist…” but then this other thing came up for me. I’m a very verbal person and one of the real benefits of meditation and noticing your sensations can be connecting with yourself in a space that is not verbal. So I feel a tension between being given the opportunity to spew your story to someone can be both an incredibly amazing experience, and at the same time, a way to reinforce what we already want to do: think and talk about ourselves. So I put that out as a question, not as a conclusion.

Staci: I have two thoughts. I imaginge the tension between Vipassana brought to the West and psychotherapy is that in some way psychotherapy is really about building, discovering, and in some ways reifying the self. And the fundamental orientation inside of Vipassana is disappearing the self. It is such a deep contradiction inside of what we are talking about and I think this is one of the contradictions too that I see inside of trauma healing. Often, especially if a person has experienced a lot of trauma at a young age, often that person can, through the processes prescribed by developmental theory or psychological theory or even the path we might call spiritual growth, often the people who reach for a spiritual path as a kind of resilience can actually bypass building the self. And then what we have is a lot of spiritual bypass. Something’s missing in a person who has achieved a certain level of spiritual practice without fully developing the personality, the actual development of what a human being is. I’m very interested in exploring how we move forward and embody a spiritual path where the endpoint is… In the evolutionary process of somatics, I think the self dissipates. I think the same thing happens in the evolutionary process of Vipassana practice. But if the self never got developed because this self was so traumatized, that it was never met, I don’t actually think it’s possible to get to the place where you dissipate the self in an embodied, whole way. I think we just do spiritual bypass, and then it’s a mess.

Jacks: I wonder if we could use this as an opportunity to segue into your work, Staci, and where it comes from.

Staci: Sure. David has been mentioning Peter Levine’s and Pat Ogden’s work. There is a whole field of somatics. The lineage that I come from is the Lomi School and the Strozzi Institute. What’s a little unique about that particular lineage is it deeply integrates both the philosophy and practice of aikido into standing practices. A lot of the body-based somatic work out of Eastern and Western Europe is the same as other lineages. As well as the meditation influences. Robert Hall, who is one of the Western Vipassana teachers, was the cofounder of Lomi school with Richard [Staci’s teacher]. Generative somatics, which is the next generation or evolution in this lineage, is specifically a politicized somatics. What that means is we are actually trying to bring back into this analysis that we are living inside of social conditions in the social context and are shaped by it all the time. The other thing that we are specifically forwarding is the intersection between personal, community, and systemic transformation. It’s a false separation to think of them as separate, which is definitely kind of a bump into the more individualistic thinking inside psychology.

Jacks: So when you say that generative somatics is a somatics that is situating itself within a political and social context, still the question remains for me: What is somatics? What is that thing that is positioning itself within a social and political context?

Staci: Somatics is a radically different paradigm of understanding the self, or the collective self. I say it’s radically different because in the West we have mostly learned either a very mechanistic view of the body, like it is made of parts and you can replace the parts, or we have learned a very objectified view of the body. You know, the cover of a magazine, or you dress it up, paint it up, whatever. Or, through other religious influences, we have learned that the body is a site of sin. And what somatics is saying is no, we’ve got it all wrong about the body. The body is a biological, emotional, psychological, cognitive, spiritual system or organism. So somatics sees the body, this living organism, as a biological, emotional, psychological, cognitive, spiritual organism that is completely interdependent, and further that the self and the body are interdependent. We have so often learned to think about the self as separate from the body—the body carries around some self, or some thinking. The other important piece is that the body is a social body. We are social animals. So somatics is saying, “Wait there is a whole different frame that holds the human organism.” This leads us to re-examine how the human organism actually changes or transforms. So somatics is not the body added on to psychotherapy. Somatics isn’t any body basic exercise. Somatics is really a path of embodied transformation. Somatics is a whole methodology that works with a holistic interpretation of the body.

Jacks: I can imagine the critic out there saying “that sounds like anything that anyone is calling mind/body medicine.” So could you speak a little bit to not just the philosophical inclusion of the body within the whole organism but to the practices of somatics that distinguish it from mind/body stress reduction at Kaiser Hospital?

Staci: First, there might be overlaps with mind/body stress reduction at Kaiser. [Lots of laughter] We have to acknowledge, especially in this conversation, that so many of the things that are called mind/body practices are highly influenced from the East and are in Western culture right now. And then we give them our own names, and we make shit up, but so many of the holistic medical practices are Chinese medicine done a little bit differently or osteopathy, which has been around for a long time but now there is a different view on it. Or they literally come from meditation practice, now framed as relaxation practice. I just want to acknowledge that.

So, somatics as distinct from some of those mind/body exercises…

Fundamentally, somatics asks the question: what’s embodied in you? Somatics asks us to look at our habits, our habitual behaviors, our habitual moods. Once we practice something long enough, or when something has been planted in us through traumatic experiences, we embody it and we can’t stop continuing to do it, even if we understand it differently cognitively. So somatics is asking, “What’s embodied?”

And then we want to work on transforming what’s embodied, processing it, and then embodying or practicing or becoming more aligned with what we want—good relationships, good contributive work, good parents, all of that. Somatics does four things. First, it increases somatic awareness. That’s one of the foundational sets of practices we do: What is it like to live down inside your body and to feel your sensations and understand that they have meaning. There’s a lot of meaning and information coming through sensations and dropping down and living inside our own skin. Second, somatics teaches purposeful practice—becoming aware of our default practices. An example could be something as simple as noticing that you are only breathing in the top third of your lungs, and that has an entire cascading effect on the whole psychobiology and our relational space. And it isn’t just breathing differently, there is a certain history that has created that habit. After you study that, then you can switch into purposeful practices—practicing boundaries and declines, practicing mutual connection from a different space, learning to talk openly about what you care about, discovering how to listen more deeply. Skills building, almost, but in an embodied way.

Jacks: Could you tell us more about what those practices would look like? You could sit with the therapist and talk about boundaries or safety or blah blah blah… Could you give an example of what it looks like to build up an embodied skill of declines for example, or something else?

Staci: So in somatics, talking is really thought of as one modality of communication that should take up about 20% of what we’re doing. It has limited capacity. It’s a very strong pole in the West, where we see talking and thinking as everything. That’s not grounded. So let’s take the practice of declines. Instead of sitting and talking about boundaries—and somatics does that, too—but then we shift. One of the practices we do is stand up and practice a push away.

So as a practitioner I walk toward my client. They would be standing. They would already have done a centering practice so that they are now dropped into their sensations and their body, so they’re clear about what they are saying no to. Then they put their hands up in front of their chest and I walk towards them, and touch their hands, and from a centered place they push me away and say, “No.” It’s a very simple practice, but profound, because what we are doing is actually retraining the nervous system. It’s not like we are talking about it with our Neo cortex. We are retraining the nervous system. And over and over again what I’ve seen is that usually for the first eight times we practice, what washes up through the body are all of the times that a person didn’t get to say no. It actually accesses traumatic experiences where there was no possibility of protecting themselves by saying no. Then often what for processing through psychobiology are all those emotions, all those chemicals shifting, sweating, all the things that happen as the body shifts. Then it starts to become a way of building a muscle. “Oh, I can feel ‘No,’ and I don’t have a big reaction. I can say, ‘No,’ and it’s starting to become an embodied experience.” Then, later, all of a sudden they realize “I just naturally said ‘No’ four times and didn’t even think of it. I didn’t even notice I was doing it.” It becomes an embodied skill. All of those components are a part of it.

Standing practices are really essential inside of somatics as is somatic bodywork. This is another component of what you’ll see in somatics, hands-on somatic bodywork where what we are doing is accessing the places in the body that have in some ways been holding our history, or holding the hyper-arousal, or holding the hypo-arousal. The person is living around it. In some ways a traumatized body has less and less and less room to live in because it’s living around all the traumatic experiences and the symptoms of those experiences. Until many people are reporting, “I don’t feel anything.” Actually there’s simply no room to live inside their body anymore. But what we’re really looking for is any muscle or fascia or connective tissue that has been contracted, unable to process through some level of a survival reaction or hyper arousal. It will stay in the contracted state. With the somatic bodywork, both through increasing breath in the body and literally working with the tissues around that connection, it’s almost like what you are saying to the body is “it’s okay now to start moving this through. It’s okay to take that story and finish that story. From the point where it got frozen or stopped let’s finish it.” In many ways you can imagine it as a Western version of acupressure, where you put certain pressure points on the body. The practitioner brings their focused attention there, and the client does the same. It’s a way of softening, opening the body, not pulling it apart, but much more like asking to bring some life back into this part of the body and shift the tissue some.

Jacks: One last question about the specifics of somatics. How does somatic practice help people to develop somatic awareness in a way that is different from the awareness of sensations that we have talked about in Vipassana, for example, that can be really problematic?

Staci: I am so fascinated with this because I feel like in many ways if we took someone who is either pre-healing their trauma, or who’s in the emergency stage of healing, or perhaps someone farther along on the path of embodied healing, someone who’s more advanced. For each of these people, the answers to all of our questions are actually different. When I look at my first Vipassana retreat, it was pre-healing, it was also a very bad experience. When I look at the retreat I did just a month and a half ago, it was awesome. The structures were exactly the same. Well, not quite exactly—in the retreat we did three months ago we actually did standing, aikido based contact practices with each other, but with no conversation. It’s interesting because when I think about what could we do differently there was a high level of contact and feeling each other because we were touching through the basis of aikido practices but with no conversation so I still got to keep the silence. I really love the silence on retreats… But, nonetheless, I think one of the major differences was me. At these two retreats, I was in two different stages of trauma healing.

Getting back to your question, I think one of the biggest differences is that somatic awareness is built for healing, the self is inherently invited and assumed. We say, “You are a self. We want yourself. And we are going to transform the self.” In one way to do that is to actually come into a kind of deep acceptance or home with the self through the body, through all this work.

I think often in meditation settings the teachings are going toward no self. Attention is built toward tracking the sensations in the body but becoming at best equanimous to them, and at worst dissociated and numb and unaffected by the sensations. The self is located in a very different way. And while the goal of both is liberation, an objectifying of self as object can happen inside of meditation, especially for people with a trauma history, especially in an objectifying culture. In that context, I think the risk is high. I think people can walk out thinking “I can feel all of my sensations. I am totally distant from them, and I’m going to be nonreactive to them.”

But in somatics where I am actually attempting to live deep inside the aliveness of the organism that I am, listening to the guidance of that and being able to become equanimous and notice, “There’s that reaction I recognize. It’s not the truth.” But I am not objectifying myself. In some ways I actually have self-compassion.

David: That’s where bodywork can be so helpful. When I mentioned that at first, with the therapists, and you, Jacks, brought up the problem with all the talking—but you know, if you have people steeped, and they just knew: “I’m going in, I’m having my bodywork,” that would change my sitting, I’m sure. It would have to. It would open things up.

Staci: I was thinking about that at my last retreat. If I could have a silent somatic bodywork session right now, it would be awesome. Because enough was unraveling and I needed it to unravel, and I knew it would be much faster if I could just get worked on.

But I didn’t want to talk. Maybe if I needed to say something during the session, but I didn’t want to converse with the practitioner, I just didn’t want to talk at all. Just be like, “Uh.” “Uh.” [Laughter] My back please…

Jacks: That’s a really interesting idea.

Stacie: It is. It brings up the question: “If liberation and healing are our goals during sitting meditation, what other supports can be there? I want us also to keep breaking up the individualistic support. I like the integration strung up in the collective space, and not just: “this troubled individual needs some support,” because it’s just not true. Everyone’s walking in with something because of the social conditions we live in. And it could be the contraction of privilege, but everyone’s walking in with something, because of our conditions. So let’s just acknowledge that collectively and move with it, and then also have other resources for folks to move with, whether it’s talking or somatic body work or whatever.

David: My understanding of one of the last things to go, the sankaras that leave us, the difficulties, is comparing mind. We walk in and think, “How am I doing compared to someone else?” I’ve heard that said a couple of times, and it’s difficult on retreat not to think, “Wow! That person’s attractive… or They look like they’re a good meditator, blah, blah, blah…” [Laughter] That’s a hard thing…You know? We’re in this together. To have that centered at the beginning, would be deep.

Staci: Two retreats ago there was a woman who’s husband had just died, and we all either knew them, or one or two people knew, but it was very clear. And what was so interesting is it became this beautiful time together, because she sobbed through almost every day. She ended up sitting behind me a lot, and I had a moment where my impulse, I could feel her so profoundly because we were still, and I had this moment where I just wanted to touch her, and I had to go through all my rules about: “am I allowed to reach out and touch her in a retreat center, blah, blah, blah,” and then … I realized, “Please.” And I reached out and touched her because it’s my human impulse, and she’ll let me know if she doesn’t want that. And I probably did that three times during the week. And at the end of the retreat she said, “Oh my God, thank God, you touched me. I needed contact, I’m in a freefall.”

David: “I’m not alone…”

Staci: Totally. With losing the love of her life, basically.

Anyway. Just holding this.

Jacks: I’m just trying to imagine being touched in the zendo. That would be such a different experience.

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Staci Haines is the developer of Generative Somatics and the Somatics and Trauma courses. Her work emerges from the Somatics tradition of Richard Strozzi Heckler integrating Polarity Therapy, Gestalt, Vipassana meditation and Aikido. Staci integrates her extensive study in personal and social change, trauma and recovery and Neuro-Linguistic Programming into this unique and powerful work. She is a senior teacher in the field of Somatics and leads courses in Somatics and Leadership, Somatics and Trauma, and Social Leadership. She has been working and teaching in the field of Somatics for the last 15 years. Staci is the author of The Survivor’s Guide to Sex (Cleis 1999), a how-to book offering a somatic approach to recovery from sexual trauma and developing healthy sexual and intimate relationships. Her book has been nationally recognized and translated into German, Japanese and Spanish. Lastly, Staci is also a founder of Generation Five, a social justice organization whose mission is to end the sexual abuse of children within 5 generations through survivor leadership, community organizing, transformative justice approaches and movement building.[/author_info] [/author]

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]David Treleaven is a somatic coach and PhD candidate in East-West Psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. His writing on the relationship between meditation and trauma has appeared in Somatics and the US Association for Body Psychotherapy Journal. You can contact David at[/author_info] [/author]

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Jacks McNamara is co-editor of Turning Wheel Media. She is an artist, activist, writer, and healer based out of Oakland, Ca. Jacks is a practitioner of Zen Buddhism and a student of Generative Somatics. You can find out more about her on her website. [/author_info] [/author]

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