My work as a bodyworker and educator began as the silver lining of exploring and transforming my own wounds.
As a dancer in a rigorous conservatory program in college, I developed a chronic injury so severe that I was unable to stand still without searing pain and spasms in both of my hips, and was brought over the course of 2 years to a complete physical crisis that forced me to stop dancing. MDs told me that they could find nothing structurally wrong to explain what was happening to me. Upon their recommendation, I worked briefly with a physical therapist and found that the repetitive exercises were a blunt instrument which, in the absence of understanding, made my condition worse.
The first true relief I experienced was in the sitting meditation practice I cultivated while studying Buddhist philosophy and practice in India and Nepal the following year. The teaching I was blessed to receive during that time from the immensely kind masters and translators I met turned my entire world toward an unprecedented era of rightness. As I trained my attention, my body began to calm down. It was a vital lesson in subtle awareness and control, in allowing and witnessing my mind amidst all the comings and goings of discomfort, and in our amazing malleability as ordinary human beings.
The second gift of that journey was to receive hands-on Feldenkrais for the first time from a friend and traveling companion who hipped me to the incredibly rich world of sensation to be discovered in the body’s tiniest movements. The hands-on meditation on micromovement and perception that Feldenkrais offers, and particularly what arose for me in the permissive presence of a loving witness, made a profound impact on my sense of the exponential deepening of healing that becomes possible in good company.
As soon as I could get my ass out of school, I enrolled in an accelerated massage therapy program with the idea that I intended ultimately to become an acupuncturist, and wanted to be able to perceive capably with my hands before working with tools. I loved entering into an altered state with people in sessions, both giving and receiving, and began to perceive the body’s structure as the layered material form of someone’s consciousness over time. For the first time I witnessed clients as they experienced shifts of perception which rippled instantly through their bodies, clearly discernible to my hands.
The next lightning bolt hit in the form of the titan who became my Core Energetics therapist and mentor. I had recently dropped to my knees in the middle of a sidewalk and received a stern talking-to by a council of Gods while under the influence of psychedelics at Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and as the gifts of massively expanded identity and hyperawareness I felt began to fade in the midst of everyday life, I hunted for a way to sustain myself and learn to live in that state of openness all the time. A trusted friend recommended me to the Institute for Core Energetics, and I was introduced to the work of Wilhelm Reich and his protege John Pierrakos via the fearless presence and teaching of Warren Moe. Reich and Pierrakos’s respective works with human (and global) bioenergetics remains the cornerstone of what I see as the true scope of the human capacity to heal. The total authority and unmistakeable honesty of the body’s knowledge is what makes Core Energetics, and other somatic or body-based forms of therapy, effective where I've found talk therapy inadequate. There was nothing to talk about except what the body revealed, and no amount of posturing, theorizing, explaining or intellectualizing was able to touch what a single instance of somatic recall achieved. I was completely changed by this experience.
Upon moving back to Los Angeles, I simultaneously began to study at the Shiatsu School, which was a hub for renegade geniuses like Dr. Vincent Medici and Ellen Heed, and to work at Play Mountain Place, the oldest free school in the United States and a sister school to Summerhill, the first democratic school for children in the world. At the Shiatsu School I was plunged into Traditional Chinese Medicine theory and practice. More centrally, Dr. Medici introduced us to his Rule of Four as a thorough, elegant working method for the assessment of dysfunction, and trained us in a hands-on approach to the high-charge psychoemotional centers of the human body. As a new Play Mountain teacher, I was led to study the work of Carl Rogers, and began to recognize the developmental basis of bioenergetic constrictions in the body. I also started to see an alternative to the culture of containment and suppression to which most people are entrained from birth. Play Mountain’s focus on nonviolent communication, parallel with its permissiveness toward and intelligent direction of violent emotions in all people through the same kind of technology I’d experienced in Core Energetics, was hugely eye-opening. I saw adults becoming healthy and treating children with the respect that they had themselves been deprived of as young people, and saw children who were able to be fully and exactly themselves. It was and is a place of enormous wisdom.
I began to study Visionary Craniosacral work with the wizardly Hugh Milne, who guided me to a level of self-trust and self-love that I had never encountered anywhere else. In addition to neuroanatomy and the subtle techniques which allow the body to unwind, much of his teaching focuses on cultivating the intuitive faculties of the healer, and on the tremendous impact of bodywork upon the unconscious aspects of the self when it is presented as a loving act of ritual. I also studied with and then began to teach beside Elizabeth Guilliams, an intensely talented energy worker and intuitive whose use of crystals as living tools for transformation became a pillar of my understanding of the human bioenergetic field and its expressions across the material plane. Liz and I have now taught children and adults together for nearly a decade, and our work is a continuously unfolding marvel in my life, a lens of unwavering clarity and an effortless invitation to play with the constant brilliance of Life.
I began to work as a volunteer sex educator for Planned Parenthood, teaching their curriculum on sexuality and anatomy and answering anonymous questions in 9th grade classrooms all over Los Angeles. The anatomy geek in me really bloomed when I began to delve into sexual anatomy. I discovered the radical literature of the Federation for Feminist Women’s Healthcare which began in the late 60s, when women began to teach themselves and their communities gynecological self-care in order to take control of their own sexual well being. That, and Ellen Heed’s then-nascent work with sacred female sexuality, inspired a deep inquiry into birth control methods that could be both female-controlled and non-disruptive to the delicate harmony of the neuroendocrine system. Despite my immense respect for Planned Parenthood's hard-won political clout and the adherence to mainstream medical practice that allows for their radical work, I quit when I couldn’t justify teaching 14 year old girls that their only good option is to take synthetic hormones to prevent pregnancy in lieu of a proper education about their bodies. As someone who champions the agency and intelligence of young people, I felt strongly that there had to be another way to move forward. The beginning of a new sex ed curriculum for teenagers began to form, one that proposed developmentally appropriate ways to discuss barrier methods, the cycle of fertility, the spectrum of gender, an exploration of consent, and pleasure as something that’s essential to human health.
I began to learn from friends about the politics of pregnancy and birth in the United States, and trained as an Orgasmic Birth doula with the amazing Debra Pascali-Bonaro, who showed me for the first time in my life that a peaceful, empowered, normal birth is actually within reach for the majority of women - and that it is far from the usual state of play in the US. She planted some essential seeds of revolution in my heart, handed me a set of effective tools for supporting birthing women and their families in both the hospital and home, and kicked me out the door to go see for myself and change the world.
Over the subsequent years I assisted with the births of my friends, all in hospital, and saw firsthand the limitations and boons of the kind of care MDs and hospitals have to offer to the huge majority of birthing women and families in the Western world. I also saw information withheld that could have prevented unnecessary interventions, and a general lack of interest in helping women who had experienced their birth as traumatic, or who had suffered birth injuries which set up patterns of dysfunction that would be with them, according to their doctors, for the rest of their lives. In particular, I witnessed a flavor of shaming around vaginal injuries, especially those that prevented pleasure, that provoked a really deep ire in me. The need for a feminist model of healthcare became all the more evident in the context of the banality of birthing practices that are violent towards women, and I committed myself to becoming an axis for accurate information and stalwart support for women across the spectrum of our changing needs and desires. I began to escort at abortion clinics on major church holidays when protesters would come out in force, and began to comprehend more completely the realities of a culture that has only recently begun to contemplate its emergence from a belief system in which women and people of color are the property of white men.
In a spontaneous ritual, I invoked what I would need in order to serve the needs of the women who were showing up in my practice and in my life, and the Gods disrupted my entire life by granting my wishes. I went to study Holistic Pelvic Care with the incredible edge-walker who is Tami Lynn Kent, and immediately afterwards immersed myself in the world of Rosita Arvigo’s Maya Abdominal Therapy. Within two weeks of my return home to my beloved partner, and having just been turned upside down by unexpectedly and unmistakably falling in love with a fellow Arvigo student, I got pregnant for the first time ever after 15 incident-free years of tracking my cycle as my primary method of birth control. During pregnancy, I enrolled in the California Sexological Bodywork certification program through the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality, and in my second trimester I traveled to San Fransisco for the intensive hands-on portion of the certificate course. I was the only pregnant person who had ever participated in the program, and became a state-certified Somatic Sex Educator (CSB) less than a month before our daughter was born.
Kora’s birth was the most insane and extraordinary experience I have ever had, and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience: fortune smiled upon us and we were able to go through the portal in the privacy and safety of our home. I was free of complications beyond my control, and handled the complications within my control with solid research and excellent help. And, maybe most importantly, I was cared for through the birth by my dearest beloveds, who acted as my capable and loving doulas, and was delivered by an indomitable mountain of a midwife. I had minimal tearing, received excellent scar tissue remediation care (and, more recently, essential formal training) from Ellen Heed and Kimberly Ann Johnson, and healed quickly. If you want to read a more detailed account of my pregnancy and birth, it can be found here.
There is much to say and a great difficulty in adequately expressing the transformations of the past 14 months. As a woman with an expanding identity, as a parent to a willful, clever daughter, as a sexual animal, as a partner to two spectacular and very different people, as an educator and practitioner and somatic researcher, it’s fair to say that the past couple of years has had the pace and wildness of travel on a rocketship, one which seems most of the time to be copiloted by angels. These days are filled with wonder. It's perhaps enough to say for now that the urgency I felt previous to pregnancy and birth, the desire to burn the patriarchy to the ground and bring this long age of fear and shame to an end, and my readiness to throw my weight behind creating a culture of power and pleasure and self-liberation, for everyone, here and now, and as the legacy we'll live out and hand to our kids - the force of that desire has drowned out my fears and hesitations, and it is the light I’m walking toward at the end of this crazy tunnel.
Please feel free to contact me if any of this resonates with something in you. I’m here to connect.