Being With Brokenness: a New Workshop With Erin Miller Shrader

By Erin Miller Shrader of Sacred Grove Wellness, reprinted from her blog

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There is a story in the Jewish tradition about the beginning of the world. I am familiar with Rachel Naomi Remen’s telling of the story, as it was told to her by her grandfather. In the beginning, God created the world as light. He placed this light within vessels and sent them out into the world. Somewhere along the way, the vessels broke, scattering this perfect light in all directions. The work of creation, and of humans in particular, is to see this holy light throughout creation and to restore it to wholeness. This act of restoration is called Tikkun Olam. You can hear her telling of the story here: https://soundcloud.com/onbeing/rachel-naomi-remen-the-story-of-tikkun-olam

 This story deeply resonates with my experience of life on Earth. From my very earliest memories, I could sense that something was amiss. Something seemed broken. There was always a feeling of longing and exile for me, for as long as I can remember. This sense has been the seed of my path throughout life, and I consider it now to be a great gift. My longing to discover the root of this brokenness, and to heal within myself and the world, has lead me into some truly remarkable experiences and has guided my connection to many amazing people.

This brokenness manifests in our lives in many different ways. Some days we hardly notice the places where we are cracked or dented, while other days we feel utterly shattered. Most of us have experienced long periods, or seasons of our lives that are suffused with this energy of brokenness. While terribly painful, I have come to see that these seasons are some of the most precious and sacred of our lives. The Buddha called this state dukkha, which translates roughly as suffering or unsatisfactoriness. He believed that this was a prerequisite for awakening, and a universal condition for human life. One of my favorite teachers, Shree Rajneesh (or Osho as he is most commonly called), states that the movement toward Yoga, or union, is not possible without dukkha. It is this brokenness and the hopelessness that it engenders that makes wholeness possible.

What is beneath this brokenness? What is the root of the suffering? What is possible when we turn toward the suffering with compassion and gentleness? I am eager to explore these questions and to offer some fruit from my own practice. Please consider joining me at Firefly Hollow on August 19th from 2:00-5:00pm as we explore this turning toward brokenness both in ourselves, and in the world.

Registration is open to all and available through Firefly Hollow Wellness Center. 

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Body Talks Therapy Community Members Facilitate July’s New Moon Gathering

Temperatures finally heated up last month, and we’ve had few breaks since! Regardless of where we go to escape, the humidity is pervasive, pesky even indoors.

Something deep, down inside of me (a nagging gut feeling) has worked similarly. It has demanded my attention, followed me around, and gotten persistent by becoming physically and emotionally uncomfortable when I’ve tried ignoring it by staying busy. It has called me into deeper silence, stillness, a place you may have encountered if you’ve ever tried a sensory deprivation tank (which I highly recommend). Like the summer heat, my need to go deeper into this experience of personal transformation hasn’t yet broken.

Some members of the Body Talks Therapy (BTT) community have described similar experiences recently (more on that in a later post). Yet others have sent me text messages and e-mails expressing the need to stay connected to each other in-person.

I want you to know: I hear you. This is your community, after all, and as a BTT member pointed out: We need each other now more than ever to move forward in our collective mission to heal the planet. (I feel you on that; I’ve never sensed the urgency more than I do today.)

You don’t necessarily need me though to facilitate the connection. As I am a healer, so are you (even if you don’t get paid to be). While each of our journeys looks unique, we’re all heading to a similar destination. And there has never been a hierarchy here; you are my peers.

Thus, BTT community members will hold space while I get my fill of mine this month and possibly the next.

Join the BTT community on Sunday, July 23, for our next New Moon gathering. Registered Nurse and Penn State University Lecturer Whitney Nevins will lead the group around a fire pit at my home in rural Lititz, at 6:30pm to 9:00pm, rain or shine. (Bring bug spray and a blanket or lawn chair. I’ll provide free citronella bracelets! We’ll move inside if it rains.)

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Frankly, this was what I had envisioned when I created BTT: a community of artists, healers, and other Highly Sensitive People (HSPs) that would grow and become something greater than I. So if you have a special skill set or desire to be of service to like-minded and like-wired folks or to join forces with each other to serve humankind in the way you feel called, reach out to me and let’s chat.

Our newest member, Registered Nurse, Yoga Instructor-in-Training, Spiritual Director, and owner of Sacred Grove Wellness, Erin Miller Shrader, has already begun offering spiritual counseling at the BTT Lancaster office. I’ve discovered personally how intuitive, compassionate, and gifted she is. I’m confident as well as honored to recommend her services. Erin does not tell you what to believe; she witnesses your unfolding and assists you in accessing your truth.

Meanwhile, I hope that all of you are enjoying the season. Summer can be an HSP’s delight, with temperatures inspiring us to spend more time in nature and motivating us to dive into the creeks, lakes, and oceans that soothe our nervous systems so splendidly!

And I promise that when my personal retreat ends, I’ll share in future posts all of the gems I’ve discovered. For now, I look forward to sitting beside you on the New Moon!

Space for humans and cars is limited for the New Moon gathering, so please carpool with other members if you can. RSVP to receive the address, directions, and instructions on where and how to park your car. Cost is $5; please pay cash upon arrival.

Allison Brunner, LCSW, RM, Body Talks Therapy

 

Spiritual Director Erin Miller Shrader Now Offers Counseling at Body Talks Therapy in Lancaster

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Spiritual director, yoga teacher, Registered Nurse, mother, wife, and friend Erin Miller Schrader

“One of my first memories occurs around the age of 4. I am on the swing set in our backyard in the hour just before sunset. I feel the breeze on my sticky summer skin and watch the last golden rays of sun dancing on the treetops. Suddenly a sense of deep recognition fills me. It feels like home. Like belonging, and peace, and incredible joy. Like a deep exhilarating sigh through my whole being.

For the rest of my life, I have been finding ways to re-experience the magic of that moment and to help others have that experience. I have come to understand that I was resting in our true and eternal nature in those precious moments.

“As a spiritual director, yoga teacher, registered nurse, mother, wife and friend, I find ways to move in the world that help us all to experience the homecoming and the joy of our true nature. I have also had many experiences of feeling deeply exiled from this joy, what has been termed the Dark Night of the Soul, or Spiritual Crisis. Even in those times, when I had no felt sense of the Holiness of my nature, I blessedly carried the memory of my child self and drew hope from it like an amulet.

“It is my great joy in this world to aid others in accessing their own experience of deep joy, peace and belonging. My work is to help you create your amulet, something to hold when the darkness sweeps through, as it inevitably does in this Earth life. One of my favorite quotes from Ram Dass captures my work exceptionally well: “We are all just walking each other home.”

— Erin Miller Shrader, Sacred Grove Wellness

For more information or to schedule an appointment with Erin at the Body Talks Therapy office in The Lancaster Trophy House at 237 N. Prince St., Suite 303, Lancaster, PA, call (717) 870-4225 or e-mail onesacredgrove@gmail.com

From Dark Night to Rebirth: Psychotherapy and Counseling for Spiritual Awakening and for the Spiritually Awakened

“When I get through this, I will help others do the same,” I vowed on a chilly December afternoon as the winter-white light barely shone between thick raindrops pouring against my bedroom window. Huddled beneath blankets and feeling lost in mental darkness, I focused on my breath and tried to create space for the emotions that were arising. The future reality I’d just created with my heart and mind—that one day I’d offer others the comfort I longed for in that moment—brought me peace.

For this was my Dark Night of the Soul (also known as a spiritual depression), on the heels of the most profound spiritual experience (or kundalini awakening) of my life.

About a half-year prior, I’d awakened from the dream in which I’d played the role (as we all have) of someone who was unlovable or not enough, that I was a victim, and that I was unsafe. It was more than life-altering; it was lifetimes-altering. For weeks after, I wandered around as though I was watching a movie in which I’d once been an actor who didn’t know I was acting and mistook each scene for reality.

Upon realizing the truth of who I was (perfect, holy, divine, powerful, and so much more), I experienced a shift in my sense of Self. I’d broken through Abraham Maslow‘s apex ceiling of self-actualization and reached self-transcendence.

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Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

 

Everything beautiful outside of me I perceived as a reflection to my own beauty and an expansion of my Self. Peering into the eyes of a cottontail rabbit, hearing a coyote call at dawn, watching the moon rise at dusk, or gazing at bright-white clouds against sunlit-blue skies, I could easily cry or laugh with the kind of bliss we feel when in love!

I was in love with myself. Madly. Passionately. For the next several months, I was on a honeymoon with the All-That-Is.

Because I had allowed in so much light, literally and figuratively, by summer’s end I sensed my inner shadow elongating. What had remained unacknowledged or lay dormant in my subconscious, cells, energy field, and ancestry was illuminated, calling out to be healed.

My experience was more intense than it needed to be; I learned later that this had much to do with some deep-down beliefs I held regarding personal transformation and growth having to be painful (more on that a few paragraphs later). If you can relate, though, to some of what I describe following, please know that it is temporary. Seek the support of a spiritual healer, shaman, or a transpersonal psychotherapist trained in kundalini syndrome if your symptoms are similar. (They can be easily misdiagnosed.) [i]

I began to doubt my recent peak experience, wondered if I’d made it up or was tricked. I grew increasingly uncomfortable. I was ultra-sensitive to sounds, tastes, light, color, smells, texture, and other people’s emotions. I seemed to have sprouted antennae that sensed the subtle differences in the vibrations of people, places, and things. The grit, grime, and angst I once found endearing in the city where I lived for 16 years aggravated my nervous system. It mirrored what within me was releasing as I shed layers of who I was not.

Spoken words and even thoughts projected colors and images in my mind; those that were negative affected me physically and emotionally. I lost interest in my friends and in the activities that once inspired me.

Fortunately I’d read books, letters, and personal accounts by Thomas Moore, Adyashanti, St. Theresa of Calcutta, Pamela Kribbe, Eckhart Tolle, St. John of the Cross, and others during years prior, which described experiences similar to mine—so I understood that I was not crazy.

Yet I had expected miracles, a diploma for acing Earth School, a portal to exit the matrix of human existence (not yet understanding that my role was to anchor “heaven” on earth).

“The miracles you seek are in the mundane,” said a shaman who became my guide. She too had once traversed the Underworld and, like Persephone, emerged intact. “You want to see heaven? Look in a blade of grass.”

Her laughter and her calm certainty that I was going to be OK were the soothing balm for my soul and medicine for my heart. As the months wore on, she not only reminded me of sacred mysteries I felt I’d once known, she sat shiva by phone as I grieved my former self.

On Good Friday, the day collective awareness was on death and resurrection, she told me gently, “The belief that this has to be hard is just a belief.” No one expected me to carry a cross and be crucified, she pointed out. Light pierced through the darkness. I laughed. She laughed with me. And when we hung up the phone, I laughed myself to tears.

The spell was broken.

I’ve kept my promise to extend a welcoming hand to you too as you cross the bridge between harsher duality-based living and the world that together we are birthing. I understand that it can feel disorienting at times, but I also know that our intentions are powerful enough to navigate this transformation with grace and ease.

I write this now for two reasons:

1. To encourage you to put up lights in your Dark Night, to rename it Bright Night or whatever name you choose, and celebrate. We’re not Jesus. We’re not Persephone. We’re the co-creators of a new reality filled with peace, joy, unity, and unconditional love. And we can make this fun.

2.  You don’t have to “wake up” alone. Yogi, spiritual director, Registered Nurse, and awakened supermom, wife, and friend Erin Miller Shrader of Sacred Grove Wellness has begun offering counseling and energy healing part time at Body Talks Therapy‘s Lancaster office.

I too will continue to offer somatic, psychospiritual depth work and energy healing to assist you (whether awakened or awakening) in bringing compassion into your own shadows and fully embodying your Higher Self. I’ve found that the more healing work we do in preparation for our awakening, the easier it is to navigate the purification process when it occurs.

Meanwhile, know this: What you feel now is an indication of what’s leaving you because it no longer resonates with how bright you’ve become; the discomfort is not who you are. Breathe. Try not to think of how long it will last, for the mind can create more suffering. Stay in the present moment; it is a portal to healing past and future.

Sing. Cry. Take salt baths. Cook gourmet meals. Dance.

You are not alone. And you are so loved.

Allison Brunner, LCSW, RM, Body Talks Therapy

[i] Spiritual transformation impacts us physically, emotionally, and mentally, so trust your instincts, heed your inner wisdom, be kind to yourself, and use caution. Take good, physical care of yourself, because being human is divine. Safe and slow can be the most powerful way to accessing the ultimate love within.

 

A New Way to Love: Put Yourself First and Allow Others Their Journey

Allison Brunner, LCSW, RM, Body Talks Therapy

Rewire Your Brain for Pleasure Workshop Available for Purchase

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Couldn’t make it live to our Body Talks workshop Series in April? It’s not too late! If you’d like access to an edited recording of Rewire Your Brain for Pleasure, shoot me an e-mail at info@bodytalkstherapy.com, and I’ll send you a private link to the video on YouTube. You can send payment via Venmo to @Allison Brunner or simply look for the PayPal button and pay $15 here in advance. You can also mail a personal check or money order to Body Talks Therapy, 237 N. Prince St., Suite 303, Lancaster, PA 17603. (By next month, I’ll have created a storefront where you can find additional workshops and guided meditations. Stay tuned for that.)

Those who attended live may request free access to the recording. In fact, I’ve added a couple of segments we didn’t have time to include last week due to our limited time together.

I’ve discounted the cost for purchase significantly for a few reasons: your experience will vary greatly from those of the in-person participants. The vibe is quite different when you’re working solo. You’ll also need to acquire some items to appeal to your five senses in order to engage in the exercises as they were intended. (These include flowers or other beautiful objects, a candle, something delicious to taste, some essential oils, fresh ground coffee or tea leaves, a soft blanket or something that feels pleasurable to touch, and some of your favorite music tracks.)

If you afford yourself the time (about 90 minutes) and space (either alone or with a fried) to engage in the experiments fully, I guarantee you’ll enjoy yourself.

Allison Brunner, LCSW, RM, Body Talks Therapy

Invite Your Anxiety to Tea

Much of this article by Allison Brunner, LCSW, is reprinted from Natural Awakenings magazine’s (Lancaster/Berks edition) November 2016 issue.

Many of us know it well: a gnawing in the pit of the stomach, an ache in the chest, shallow breathing, rapid heartbeat or a lump in the throat. Roughly 40 million Americans (or 18 percent of the population above the age of 18), according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, experience anxiety as a full-blown disorder.

Most of us encounter the symptoms from time to time. Hardwired to avoid pain, we do everything we can to self-distract or problem-solve our way out. We try to convince ourselves we’re “worrying about nothing”. In cognitive approaches to psychotherapy, too, we examine the validity of the thoughts that create suffering and attempt to assuage our fears by labeling them irrational.

But how effective has that been for you?

Running and thinking (or arguing with our thoughts) exacerbate angst. The worse we feel, the more afraid we tend to become, wondering how long the discomfort will last or whether it may worsen and turn us crazy. Our minds are adept at tricking us into believing that what’s really a mouse in the closet is a six-foot monster with fangs.

What if we tuned into our bodies when the symptoms, like little lights on an automobile dashboard, indicated distress? What if we pulled up a chair and invited our anxiety to tea, so to speak? When we take the opportunity to face it, feel it and get to know it a little better, it calms. We can drop beneath it and find that where it was trying to turn our attention is an emotion that is far more tolerable than panic or fear. There may be sadness, grief, disappointment or anger—only a mouse when compared to the anxiety monster.

Try the following next time the body-mind gets noisy.

Find a safe, quiet space where you can turn your attention inward. It’s best to sit on the floor and allow yourself to feel the support of the earth beneath you. Squeeze all of the breath out of your belly, if you can; then fill it first, before your lungs, with fresh air. Notice whether your body is holding tension and relax if you’d like.

Let go of thinking. There is no future, not even a few minutes from now. There is only this moment. Breathe.

Enhance your feeling of safety by focusing on an object in the room that gives you pleasure. Notice the quality of light where you’re seated. Feel the texture of your clothing against your skin. Notice any sounds, smells, the taste in your mouth.

Where in your body are you feeling anxious? What are the physical sensations that accompany it? Place your awareness in that area. How much space does it take up? Does it have a shape; is it solid or diffuse; does it have a temperature?

Stay out of story. Remove the labels (good, bad, awful, terrified) from what you’re feeling. Simply allow yourself to feel what you feel.

What does your body want to do? Does it want to curl into a ball while wrapped in blankets? Do you need to cry into a pillow or scream? Do you need to shake, punch or kick? Allow the release.

Emotions move like waves; they don’t last forever. Give yourself 15 to 30 minutes to ride this one, rather than being pummeled by it, and know that the nervous system will calm again. When we resist, anxiety persists and either somaticizes or intensifies.

Once the waters still, ask your body what it needs. Reconnect to your five senses and where you’re situated in time and space. Soothe yourself with a warm bath, lit candles, low lights or relaxing music. Make yourself a warm cup of tea. After you’ve braved this storm, those in the future will feel more manageable.

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Body Talks Therapy owner, coach, healer, and facilitator of a community of Highly Sensitive People, Allison Brunner, LCSW, will facilitate a workshop on Thursday, May 11, 7:15pm to 8:45pm, at Mulberry Art Studios’ Mulberry on King, 253 W. King St., Lancaster (off-street parking is available against the side of the building, near the entrance. Join us for a combination of psychoeducation, hands-on learning, and experiential practice of tools for coping with and minimizing or even eliminating your symptoms of anxiety as a way of protecting yourself against the emotions that scare you.

Bring a pen and paper or journal. If you prefer to express yourself through art or music, bring the tools to do so. We’ll engage in body awareness and somatic work (grounding and resourcing), mindfulness practice and strategies, guided visualization, “parts work,” and journaling.

RSVP and pay here in advance. For questions, contact info@bodytalkstherapy.com.

Allison Brunner, LSCW, RM, Body Talks Therapy