“Cancelling” and “Collecting” in Trauma Healing

I was moved as always by adrienne maree brown’s post last week about “canceling people,” and likewise by the the number of people reposting it. (Granted, I tend to follow pretty progressive people and folks who I look to for orientation and inspiration, so my social media feeds are definitely skewed waaaaaay left.)

But, it strikes me as extremely important just how much the ideas she puts forth are resonating with folks.

I am holding her ideas alongside many others, including what is still percolating within me from the first Somatic Experiencing (SE) training I completed about a week ago.

SE is all about metabolizing and processing trauma in the body, on the level of the nervous system (see a few of my recent Instagram posts from the last two weeks for more on the nervous system). It’s about recognizing the physiological needs that human animals have to discharge and reset, in a seemingly endless pulsation of activation and settling. (Think of a sine wave, rise and fall, ebb and flow.)

But some experiences stretch us beyond our natural capacity to settle and discharge. And even when we do have access to that capacity, so much of our social and cultural constructs prevent us from tapping into it for fear of retribution, shaming, othering, and violence.

To name a few.

Part of what makes SE work is the approach to healing that recognizes this natural pulsation (sine wave), and seeks to work with it, to shape the healing process in a way that syncs up with our natural tendency to engage and disengage (what SE calls pendulation). And which recognizes that we all get overwhelmed, and when that happens, will we shut down and/or lash out.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this pulsation of activation/discharge, along with lashing out /protective / defensive behaviors, in the context of healing from the trauma of racism and white supremacy. Specifically, about the ways in which, when we find ourselves stretched or thrust beyond our innate capacities to self-regulate and settle, it feels threatening to us. **By definition and design, in those moments we are perceiving that we’re in some sort of a danger zone in which our sense of safety and stability are threatened. Thus, we react instinctively to protect ourselves.**

This type of reaction can take many forms, and is a natural and sometimes instinctive / unconscious response to the conditions we perceive as threatening.

I am thinking about white folk who have been engaging in racial justice work for awhile, myself included, and the ways that we are often very quick to “cancel” – to other, distance ourselves from, call out, shame, or otherwise isolate ourselves from white folks who are aren’t as “woke,” who haven’t been in the work for as long, who do and say things which are 1000 percent a function of their/our whiteness and privilege, and which often leave us (me) shaking our heads.

We expect those newly politicized white folks to immediately “get it,” to show up with a level of humility and awareness that are themselves the very antithesis of whiteness, and that only come – in my experience – from doing the personal work in real and excruciating and ongoing ways. (Again, that self-work being in direct contrast to the conditioning of whiteness which seeks to make itself invisible and us unconscious.)

We leap at the first opportunity to overwhelm folks with citations and critique, to pile on facts and fear, to inundate with stats and shame. We feel powerful for having done so. We feel righteous and like “good white people” when we know our shit and try to collect our people.

And we wonder why folks retreat.

Withdraw. Disengage. Succumb and get stuck in white guilt.

Or worse (?).

Folks get defensive. Last out. Push back.

From a Nervous System perspective, this makes perfect sense. How could it be any other way?

Combining these ideas with those of adrienne maree brown, in the context of racial justice work, I think that “cancelling us” – acting out, rejecting, isolating from, punishing – as well as the resulting withdraw or pushback – are forms of self-protection. This makes sense on the physiological level. For everyone.

For those of us who are doing the “collecting” and/or “cancelling” of folks, it is a form of discharge for us. It is both self-protection and self-regulation. We (understandably) feel at our limit when it comes to navigating whiteness in all its violent entitlement and willful ignorance. We have given enough of ourselves to toxic whiteness and white supremacy, centered it enough, oriented ourselves around it for our whole lives (as we have to orient ourselves around any predatory and threatening force).

But if we are to believe that our capacity for survival and thrival lies in tapping into more than just our animal instincts, we’ve got to give ourselves a chance to allow more of our other skills and tools to “come online.” We’ve got to give ourselves a chance to breath deeply, to assess just how much threat we are truly in in this moment, and to draw on our capacity for resilience, for clear seeing and creativity.

For those who are newer to the work and who shut down and retreat or lash back when called out (or called in but in no less intense ways), it is also a form of self-protection and self-regulation. An attempt to handle what is overwhelming and deeply threatening and which is – for many – totally new information, a paradigm shift. Literally life threatening in the sense that it threatens the very foundations of their/our lives and identities. Earth (and illusion) shattering.

We can have feelings and judgments about why it is that folks are just now waking up to shit. We can have rage and reactions to what took folks so long. We definitely can. We have a right to that. [Folks of Color, in particular, have a right to that and more.]

But if we take all our pent up intensity, our rage at the System and how it harms us, our burning desires to be free…and unleash all that on white folks who are just waking up, just coming to, freshly unplugged from the Matrix and using their eyes for the first time…we will overwhelm them. They will shut down and act out of the threatened place that they are in. The human animal instinct for self-preservation will kick in. We are hard-wired for it.

I am not suggesting that we white folks should be coddled or protected from the intensity of the world, nor provided the shielding and titrated exposure that no one else gets under the grisly grip of supremacy systems. I am not here to tell us all to be nice and sweeter and kinder to well-intentioned white folks who are just now coming to consciousness.

But, I am saying that we cannot apply the same “logic” of trauma to try and undermine the systems of trauma we’re all suffering within. If trauma is too much too fast, trauma healing can be slower and more intentional (while still being rigorous). If trauma is what we didn’t choose, something we didn’t ask for, them trauma healing can be that which we are supremely choiceful about, that which we deeply desire and move towards of our own volition, feeling resourced and supported as we do so.

I’m not totally sure of the implications of all of this, but I think I am “saying it out loud” as a way to ground myself in this reminder. I am trying to both breath life into and hold myself accountable to a mandate that expects me to do my part in working to undermine white supremacy culture within myself and my relationships.

These are incomplete and unpolished thoughts. But I am still working on not letting perfect be the enemy of good. If I wait for perfection to shape these jumbled and trauma-influenced ideas, I might never share this publicly. So I’m doing it, despite my fear and doubts. I welcome your thoughts and feedback. Feel free to comment on my IG feed @liberate2heal.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What is trauma-informed practice?

my core belief

[Caption: an image with a quilted border and a piece of paper with the quote, “My core belief: in order to be ‘trauma-informed,’ yoga must include analysis and reflection around structural oppression.”]

Some of us might think this is obvious, but I can say from both recent and distant experience, that this is NOT a universal value.

Given that the history of yoga — and this country, and really most systems — is fraught with issues of colonization and co-optation, appropriation and assimilation, power and privilege…I firmly believe that to authentically and transparently offer “trauma-informed” or “trauma-sensitive” yoga, we must include some attention to the larger and varied contexts in which this work is happening.

And we must be willing to name that those contexts include genocide, annihilation, assimilation, and oppression – both historically AND in the present.

I am still working out all my thoughts on this, but for now I wanted to share this idea. The reality is this: there is not only a yoga-industrial complex, there is also a trauma-industrial complex. (I do hope that the idea of a “_____-industrial complex” is not a new one for you. But if so, look up what Eisenhower had to say about the military back in the early 60s, and what INCITE has to say more recently about the non-profit version.)

Yes, there are people making loads of money not only off of yoga but off of the idea and reality of trauma. Not everyone who is moving in these worlds is willing or able to face the reality that the conditions which propagate trauma are not incidental but utterly intentional. Trauma is more than a car accident or a “natural disaster.” The trauma of poverty and neglect, the trauma of racism and ableism, of Islamophobia and transphobia, these are but a few of the long litany of realities which cause, catalyze, and compound trauma.

From one trauma steward to another: if you are looking to offer yourself in the role of a trauma steward, you have a responsibility to do your work to acknowledge and grapple with this. And for those of us seeking learning and leadership around these issues, let us be vigilant in who we give our time, money and resources to.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Class: Blast It Out!

LiberationHealingArts.com5_45 - 7_

Blast It Out!

Fourth Wednesdays* – Add it to your calendar
7:30 – 9:00pm
Health Associates in Durham, 906 Broad St
As always: Donation-based and InQlusive

This just in!

I’m adding a monthly intermediate-level class to my roster. This is ideal for folks who want a playful, supportive space in which to explore some more challenging aspects of practice.

We’ll attend to alignment of the body heart and mind. We’ll play with stamina and resilience. We’ll dig deeper into some of the more elusive poses and support the journey through pranayama (breathwork) and sankalpa (wholehearted intention). “Practice class” means that I’ll be doing the yoga with you. Join me!

If you’re not sure whether this class is for you, why not try it out and see? We’ll still have a warm, welcoming, and friendly vibe going. You can still/always pause and chill and rest and modify. The main difference is that this class will be a bit longer (90 minutes) and will have a baseline more challenging amount and level of poses.
Let me know if you have questions!

Upcoming Blast It Out! Classes
April 25
May 23
June 27 – Full Moon Edition!

blast it out

Past dates
January 31
February 28
March 28


Posted in Uncategorized, Yoga Classes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Snowga Virtual Yoga Class

Wednesday January 17 from 6-7:15 Eastern.

Join now.

virtual yoga class.pngFor the first time (and hopefully not the last), I’m offering a virtual yoga class.

It’s been snowing all day here in Durham, and I’m afraid I cannot host my regularly weekly Yoga for Queers and Misfits / InQlusive Yoga class. So I’ve decided to offer this opportunity for folks to join remotely.

How it works

Hop on over to my Square store to buy a class, for $5, 7, 10, or 15. After you check out, I’ll send you a link to join over Zoom. That’s it! You can join with just audio or from your computer/with video. It’s experimental, but let’s see how it goes.

Join now.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

New Fall Series

IMG_5542The winds of change are settling in. Just when we got acclimated to the heat of summer, fall arises to remind us of the constancy of impermanence.

The transition to fall doesn’t have to be jarring, disruptive, or depressing.  If we learn to work with the seasonal shifts, we can welcome and even relish the opportunities that fall provides to slow down, turn in, and get grounded.

Instead of resisting fall or stumbling through, with the help of yoga and Ayurveda, we can Fall with Grace.

Fall with Grace

Skillfully navigate the transition to Fall by embracing the seasonal invitation to Slow Down, Turn In, Get Grounded

Thursdays 7:45 – 9pm at Durham Yoga
September 7 – October 26
8 Week Series $108 / Drop-in $15
*Sign up for the whole series by Monday, September 4th and receive two special offerings – a Fall Survival Kit and a specialized and detailed guide to managing your doshas.

fall grace kyt

Go here for full details.

Restorative Yoga | Ayurveda | Seasonal Support | Trauma Healing

An 8-week series combining mellow and restorative yoga, breathwork, and the wisdom of Ayurveda to support your seasonal transition and overall health.

Go here for complete details.


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Engaging With and Dismantling Hate: For White Folks


Inspired by the example above from Dr. Nayeli Chavez-Dueñas @NYChavez and Dr. Hector Y. Adames @HYAdames [Twitter handles], I offer a version for white folks. Love and struggle.

Engaging and Dismantling HateEngaging With and Dismantling Hate



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Embodied Grief Space

embodied grief space

Three people are dead, dozens more injured, and many of us are reeling from the events in #Charlottesville yesterday.  Yesterday’s violence, planned and executed by white nationalists, the KKK, white supremacists, alt-right, and others, in collusion with the cops and other authorities, is confirmation of what we already know. White supremacy is alive and well in this country, in our midst, inside of the hearts and minds and homes and bodies of white folks.

What I know for sure right now: I am scared, feeling isolated, and full of emotion. In the spirit of wanting to reduce isolation, foment connection, and increase collective capacity to hold grief and move towards right action, I’m offering an embodied grief space today.

Reflecting on yesterday’s events in Virginia, Adrienne Maree Brown said, “We have to grieve and feel and strategize in motion…”

I offer this space in that spirit, and in my capacity as a therapist, healing justice worker, trauma-informed yoga teacher, queer woman, anti-oppression trainer, and white anti-racist activist who is working in accountable relationship in my community.

I do not presume that this is what everyone needs right now, but I am feeling like its part of what I need, and what I can offer. I’ve reached out to folks I’m connected with here in community – both People of Color leaders and healers, as well as other white folks committed to the multi-racial work of ending white supremacy and racism – and the folks I’ve connected with are offering their support and encouragement to move forward with this space, though many are already committed to and present in their own spaces and formations.

This space will include:

  • reflection
  • gentle movement to connect with the body and move energy and emotion
  • opportunity for pair or small group sharing/listening (solo work is an option too)
  • invitation to commit to further action.


Sunday, August 13, 1-2:30pm <<TODAY>>
Durham Yoga Company, 502 Rigsbee, 2nd Floor (This space has an elevator)
Free/By donation – Proceeds will go to Charlottesville Medical Fund and to SONG’s Black August Bailout Action.

Bring with you:

  • A notebook/journal/paper and pen
  • Comfortable clothes for movement
  • Cash/card if you want to donate – no requirement to do so
  • Open heart and mind, willingness to be transformed


In love and struggle,



Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment