Heal Sexual Trauma

My friend and neighbor Krisztina Samu wrote a book on natural healing techniques for sexual trauma.

Ways of Renewal: A Guidebook for Women – Natural Methods for Clearing Sexual Trauma, Balancing the Emotions and Resurrecting the Spirit approaches rape trauma from a fresh perspective—as a treatable injury.

A broken bone will heal correctly with a cast. The trauma suffered by rape or sexual assault survivors requires intervention, too.

Her concise book provides a basic understanding of the ancient art of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, offering specific acupuncture point prescriptions to use with detailed explanations. It also describes other effective healing modalities for treating this “invisible injury.”

Best of all, she is offering the ebook for FREE. Please download a copy and spread the word via Project AcuHope.

Here’s to the healing process!

Photo by Jennifer Murray on Pexels.com

Quitting the Blame Game

“We rely on blame—by others and of ourselves—to avoid the truth that our lives and the lives of our loved ones are fragile.” ~Virginia Buckingham

May I notice when I’m placing blame.

May I let go of the habit of blaming.

May I take responsibility for my attitudes, words, and actions.

Life is fragile. Be present, kind, and compassionate.

Vaxxination Station

Are you vaxxed?

(And when did spelling vaccine with two Xs become the accepted norm?)

The question of to vaccinate or not to vaccinate oneself against covid-19 is THE hot button topic of the nanosecond.

Full disclosure: I got vaxxed in mid-May in Texas; the J&J one-shot, right in the heart of the Buddha tattoo on my right shoulder.

Full disclosure: I believe everyone has the right to choose what is best for their body.

Honestly, when the vaccines first became available, I was not planning to get one. I live in rural Guatemala as a relatively isolated (albeit friendly) hermit.

The ‘rona’ as its affectionately known to jokesters and “nonbelievers” in the virus (of whom there are many in these parts, mostly from the international expat community) affected my life last year, in that there were lockdowns, border closures, and even the lanchas (public boats) that taxi people daily from 6am to 6pm across Lake Atitlan were suspended. There were weekend lockdowns, and I celebrated my 40th birthday quietly at home, we were all basically on house arrest. It wasn’t so bad. Looking back, it was magical how tranquil and silent those days were.

These were preventative measures, and here in my neck of the woods, they worked. Cases of the virus in these parts have been few and isolated.

I, like every media-connected human last year who got sick, think I might’ve had covid. Right after Xmas, I fell ill for about 3 days. Feverish, exhausted, nauseous. Didn’t lose my sense of taste or smell but did lose my appetite and energy. Or maybe it was just the flu.

Anyway, I went to Texas for an overdue visit in May and promptly got vaccinated at an independent pharmacy a few miles from my folks’ house. The pregnant practitioner gently warned that the shot might cause a burning sensation. In fact, the shot was painless and I had no side effects whatsoever.

Why did I get vaccinated? Unspoken peer pressure. From social media and news media? From sensible, smart relatives and friends who’d gotten vaxxed and shared about it? Moreover, it was easy. The way of the white cloud. The jab of least resistance.

I could go in for a hug with all the old friends I was visiting (in Texas, California, and Oregon) and they would say “I’m fully vaccinated,” and I would reply, “Me, too!”. What if I weren’t? No hugs?

Getting back into Guatemala was also facilitated by having been fully vaccinated at least two weeks prior to my return. There was no need to take a covid test since I was vaxxed. (Honestly, the nasal swab was a lot more uncomfortable than the vaccination shot.)

And yet, I am not saying everyone should get vaccinated or laying blame on the “anti-vaxxers.” This topic has become so polarized but there are many shades of opinion. I think it’s discriminatory to deny job opportunities and tables at a restaurant to the unvaccinated. I believe everyone should educate themselves on the vaccination situation and make their own choices. Vaccines should not be mandated by governments or corporations.

But how do we educate ourselves when overwhelm, confusion, and misinformation are so rampant? The internet is full of lies, truths, and everything in between. You can find evidence-based scientific studies and pseudoscientific blog posts supporting just about any viewpoint.

No sé. I don’t know. So let’s end with a random Spanish vocabulary lesson!

La vacuna – vaccine
La vaca – cow
Las vacaciones – vacation
Vacunarse – to vaccinate oneself
¿Sí o no? – yes or no?

A Blast from the Past—and Forgiveness

On a recent afternoon, I received an email with the subject line: Blast from the past. The sender’s name caused my mind to go blank for a few moments. I then calmly put down the phone and pretended that hadn’t just happened.

The correspondent was Christopher Denton, a romantic interest of mine from no less than 17 years ago, and a conservative Christian man with whom I spent the summer of 2004. (I’ve written extensively about that experience.)

A convicted child molester, Christopher has spent the last 13 years imprisoned by the State of California. He just got out recently. And that’s why he was able to email me. Inmates cannot email, only write letters by hand, speak on the phone, and perhaps have video calls.

I googled him and discovered that he has a website with hundreds of letters he’d written home, initially to his family and gradually his mailing list expanded to include friends and friends-of-friends. I started reading his letters and found myself laughing at his humorous statements about prison life—and occasionally tearing up at his show of emotion and stories of poignant interactions with other prisoners or prison staff.

I also quickly realized that he’s every bit as conservative Christian as he was back when our paths first crossed—or actually more so due to his circumstances. My ears were burning as I read the one reference to me the appears on his site. He wrote about a cellmate of his who…

“…studies books by various Buddhist Lamas, such as Becoming Your Own Therapist and various publications by the Jehovah’s Witness Watchtower Society, such as What the Bible Really Means. He’s supposedly always on a quest for knowledge—of any kind—and he’s tried to convince me that Buddhism isn’t about religion. (“Then why, on the back of your book, does that Lama refer to him as ‘Lord Buddha?’ ”) Unfortunately for him, I’m fairly well versed in that topic, thanks to seven weeks of my life I spent trying to convert a young lady I was interested in.” 

I was a bit dismayed to read that description of myself from his point-of-view, but of course that’s what was happening, back in 2004. And (non-spoiler alert for anyone who knows me at all!), I was not one to be converted.

But back to his brief yet shocking blast-from-the-past email. Christopher simply expressed an interest in hearing how I’m doing and sent positive energy. My first reaction was not to reply. After all, he’d pretty much ruined my life (briefly) and blew me off once he’d met (and gotten engaged to) his next girlfriend.

In the most bizarre twist, she called me two years later and let me know that Christopher was on trial for 8 counts of child molestation. They’d broken up. I hadn’t heard anything more about Christopher since then (2007).

I was just in California at the end of May and spent my 41st birthday in Santa Cruz. I hadn’t been there for 17 years. The place brought back fond memories. I had gone once or twice with Christopher. There, out of sight of his friends and family (who view any kind of physical contact prior to marriage as a sin), we were blissfully free to publicly display affection. Prior to him, I’d been involved with a handful of thoughtless losers and despite our drastic differences in belief systems, I’d fallen hard for Christopher.

Anyway, I did email him back the following day. I feigned ignorance, let him know the basics of my life (happy, healthy, married, mom to an 8 year old, living in Guatemala for the past 12 years, freelance writing) and asked how he’s doing.

That’s when he gave me his website link (changedinside.org) and bluntly admitted that he’d just gotten out of prison for child molestation.

So, I wrote him back and admitted that I knew he’d been imprisoned. I also mentioned that I’d had a nervous breakdown/manic episode several months after we broke up which was triggered by my spiritual confusion and heartbreak after having been with him. I expressed gratitude as well. In retrospect, I realize that our short-lived summer of love and lust—which triggered my bipolar disorder, which triggered my brief but terrible stint in the psych ward—ultimately led to me leaving the U.S. and creating a much happier and more stable life for myself here in Guatemala.

He expressed genuine regret, saying he was “stunned and saddened and mortified and profoundly sorry” for how his: needy, self-centered and unbalanced life” negatively affected mine. He asked for my forgiveness.

I gave it to him.

He said: “You have come through so much. You have triumphed and thrived and become everything and more that you had ever planned and hoped.”

And that is true. And I appreciate his recognition of that.

In another shocking twist, Christopher “was told the week before I got out that I have been accused of something I didn’t do in Mississippi. Because I cannot risk the life sentence it carries, I’m having to make a plea deal, which looks like it is a firm 8-year sentence in Mississippi.” He has to turn himself in to begin serving the sentence in August.

I questioned him about this in one email, and apparently there’s no statute of limitations and no evidence needed. A “victim” can simply claim they were victimized, and their statement is considered to be all that is needed as evidence. ‎That leaves him with the impossible task of trying to prove that an allegation from 21 years ago never happened. So, off he will go, this time as a seasoned professional inmate and one who is serving time for a crime of which he claims innocence. I believe him. I feel compassion for him.

And, in spite of everything and because of everything, I am grateful to call him a friend.

The happy couple – circa July 2004
Christopher in prison (and his twin brother, Michael Denton, a pastor)

Daydream Catchers

It’s the last day of June. We’re halfway through the 2021 calendar year. Here, the sky has turned cloudy after a glorious blue morning and the wind is rustling the leaves. A black dog and a black cat laze on the patio, two feet away from one another.

I am looking back and looking forward, yet rooted in the present. Reflecting on the year so far, the moves and changes, journeys and vicissitudes. Looking forward to the rest of the year: summer, fall, winter in my mind, but spring eternal here. Rain and then dryness, but always primavera.

And toward the end of the year, hoping to host a small group retreat. One woman is registered at the moment. She had booked it pre-COVID. Postponement, isolation, delay, fear, separation, confusion, and not-knowing seem to have been some key themes of 2020 and beyond. We’re settling into post-pandemic life and people are getting vaccinated and feeling the travel bug.

My auntie and her friend, who came on retreat with me in August 2019, are considering joining the circle in December. I’m daydreaming of other friends and relatives making their way here. A family reunion in this magical place I call home.

Family and friends who are family and strangers who will become friends, you are all invited with open arms.

My life is a mental health day.

In retrospect, I was ejected.

Rejected, committed, constrained, restrained, drained. Stressed, depressed, undressed. Panicking at a picnic. Life was difficult, confusing, and tumultuous in my twenties. The decade was mainly spent in Austin, with a brief interlude in the San Francisco Bay area in 2003 and ’04. In the middle of my twenties, I had a manic episode/nervous breakdown/wild break with reality/rock bottom moment and spent 10 days in the Austin State Hospital.

But that was just the technicolor climax of several episodes of clinical depression and depressive anxiety, which I’d experienced every summer starting when I was 20 or so. It was the culmination of a crazy situation that began in June 2004 (falling in love with a fundamentalist Christian man who ultimately turned out to be a pedophile and was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in San Quentin prison) and ended around September, just a few months later, but disrupted my entire being at the deepest level and led to my leaving California and moving back to Texas. Moving back felt like it was against my will, but it was what I was choosing to do.

Austin was freedom was home was parties was beer was dive bars was dating. Wild, fun and chaotic. And a little too much apparently, for my mind to handle, that spring of 2005. I lost my shit. I was floating outside myself. I was another person. I was totally high on nothing but brain chemicals. Textbook mania.

And thus I was captured and tranquilized.

But I broke free once again, in slow motion, to Guatemala, four years and four months later, chasing a dream (to speak better Spanish, to have a unique experience, to be immersed in an exotic culture), for a job (at an international school).

Mind you, this was only after having become an alternatively certified school teacher (bilingual elementary) in Austin, having taught a couple classrooms full of brown third-graders at a low income public school in south Austin and worked one-on-one or in small groups with bilingual special ed students, having bought a house (a 900-square-foot 1955 cottage with hardwood floors) as a single unmarried 26-year-old woman, having found success but no love in my home society and culture.

Moving to Guatemala was a rebirth. I was starting from scratch, in completely new and unknown territory. I was a clean slate, practicing presence, patience and embodiment. I quit being busy in the span of a three-hour flight from Houston to Guate. I started over, a beginner, clueless, open, curious, confused. I did a lot of learning and growing, still am. And still am here, only now (and for the past 9 years), at the lake as opposed to the city, which is obviously a world of difference.

And it’s a beautiful afternoon with a soft rain tapping on the roof and all is well and good in this moment. I saw reference to something earlier today about normalizing mental health days, and I thought “yeah, my life is a mental health day!”

Because I have made it so. I have tailored my life to me. I have designed it to where I live in the woods (but close to the road and close-ish to town) with a view of a lake and three volcanoes. I stay home a lot of the time because I love it here. I am generally balanced, emotionally spiritually physically mentally, day to day and moment to moment. I haven’t been medicated, nor had a recurrence of any mental illnesses, in well over a decade. For me, nature, learning through reading, writing, and a slow-paced lifestyle are what make daily life cheerful, meaningful and special. I’m grateful for this moment, each moment, and each day. I bow my head in awe and gratitude.

Texas Reflections

I used to love to drive; now I prefer being driven
I used to be a teacher, but now I prefer being taught
I used to be full time but now I’m freelance
I used to go shopping for fun; now I avoid it
I used to be cotton-candy pink but now I’m emerald green
I used to eat all manner of processed foods; now I prefer real food
I used to be monolingual pero ahora soy bilingüe
I used to be jam bands but now I am jazz
I used to be the ocean but now I am a wave
I used to be wings but now I am fins
I used to watch too much TV; now I observe nature’s endless bounty
I used to be Louis Armstrong but now I am Nina Simone
I used to be a street dog, but now I’m a Cheshire cat
I used to do yoga; now yoga does me
I used to love, and I still do
I used to be depressed and manic and now I am balanced
My life has gotten an awful lot better than it used to be, y’all

Photo by Jess Vide on Pexels.com

Letting Go of Stress as a Way of Being

Please read the full article on Elephant Journal.

Are you perpetually stressed out? A perfectionist? A workaholic?

Perhaps stress is so intertwined into your daily life that you hardly notice it anymore. Maybe when there’s not enough “natural” stress, you go about creating dramas or situations to up the stress level back to your “discomfort zone.”

While stress is a part of life, it doesn’t need to be the foundation of our way of being, which it surely is for many of us in modern society. I know it was true for me as a young adult. My stress blossomed into clinical depression and later anxiety and bipolar disorder. My stress stemmed from simply living in a culture that tells you to study hard, work hard, play hard, and buy lots of stuff.

For the past decade and then some, I’ve lived in a different culture, a slower-paced, more heart-centered than head-centered one. This sometimes means things are not logical and take forever to get done.

There is still stress in my life, but my stress level is way lower than it was 15 years ago. I can cope with the stresses in my life today. The fact that I was locked up in a psych ward 16 years ago this month seems like an alternate reality from a different lifetime.

So, I’m no longer maniacally stressed, just dealing with the everyday, typical stresses of midlife—aging parents, raising a child, working for a living, maintaining a healthy marriage, the grocery list. A utopian state of constant bliss and a total lack of stress would actually be rather dull, if it were even possible.

How does chronic stress manifest in our lives?

It’s true that chronic stress wreaks havoc on the body on many levels. Stress even kills by causing anxiety, insomnia, exhaustion, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, depression, weight gain, and more.

The good news is that our human bodies are quite capable of handling everyday stressors. With a low to moderate stress level, our well-being actually improves. In fact, moderate stress (as opposed to chronic) is said to enhance cognitive function, boost our immune system, and cultivate resiliency.

3 Simple Ways to Reduce Stress:

How do we let go of chronic stress—stress as a way of being—and embrace a more sustainable, relaxing, healthy, and happy alternative?

Keep reading!

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