connective elements healing

honoring creativity - restoring balance - embracing wholeness

By observing nature, ancient traditions explained all of existence through five elements.  

Connective Elements Healing aims to restore you to your true nature through five healing offerings -

BodyTalk, Coaching, Meditation, Reiki and Yoga. 

Filtering by Category: Gratitude

100-100-100

  PC Life:  Mpumalanga Province, South Africa

PC Life: Mpumalanga Province, South Africa

“Draw a large circle on the piece of paper in front of you. Draw a smaller circle beside it. Label the smaller circle, ‘me.’ Label the larger circle ‘comfort’.” In March, 2017, a facilitator provided this exercise in an effort to depict the reality of Peace Corps and issued us a challenge to relinquish control in order to have a successful service in South Africa. Having now been in country for 20 months, the diagram of me existing outside my comfort zone accurately describes my life with control and autonomy sacrificed long ago. 

Today, I celebrate 100 days on my TB meds. As I glanced at my medication app earlier this week, I decided to honor today and my 100% compliance to my health regimen through reflection and writing. After my TB diagnosis several months ago, I discussed treatment options with the doctors. If I chose to forgo Peace Corps medical recommendations, including TB meds, I forfeited the right for medical coverage for TB-related issues that may arise post service, as well as potentially jeopardizing my ability to stay in country. Days before I started the medication, I made the conscious choice to balance the Western medicine approach with three new daily practices. I supplemented my morning routine with ACCESS, a BodyTalk technique that balances my brain and body, bolsters hydration and body chemistry and helps manage stress. In the evening, I stretch my toes and ankles in a technique I learned in Bali and fall asleep to an amazing guided meditation that is similar to what I imagine an Ambien to be like.

  Prompted:  Limpopo Province, South Africa

Prompted: Limpopo Province, South Africa

I’m incredibly grateful for my medication app. Its prompts have supported my medication adherence, increased my water consumption and highlighted serious side effects of my medication. I linked my mood tracker to a gratitude practice in which I paused three times a day to notice what I was thankful for. Last month, I noticed that my mood changed and realized I was marking “so-so” each of the three times per day. My affect had dulled and I was literally unable to feel joy. The colors of my life were muted. I cannot fully describe it, but it was a marked difference from my norm. I started to mindfully monitor this disconcerting occurrence. On vacation, amazing moments felt fragmented. Even when I was around children, I didn’t feel the joyful moments fully. It felt like there was an energetic block between me and happiness that I’d never felt before. I noted this and other symptoms in last month’s follow up appointments with the doctors.

Upon receipt of my blood test results from these visits, I was left with more questions than answers. Psychiatric side effects from my TB meds were discussed as common and the meds were reduced by half. 11 daily pills that include additional B and D vitamins, selenium and zinc, were added to my routine to protect my body from some of the effects the TB meds may be having. My blood tests came back negative for TB, positive for schistosomiasis, and my hormone levels were low. I’ve been told the negative TB result shows the medication is working (and my self care practices have surely assisted) and I have to continue on the medication. As I was just treated for schisto prior to starting my TB meds, the doctors decided I will await treatment at my Close of Service. It’s certainly challenging to wait six months for a treatment of a known parasite. I’m thankful to report that I have witnessed an elevation of my mood since the reduction of my TB medications and additional vitamins. Though I’m not quite back to my normal worldview, things are not quite as dulled as they were several weeks ago.

Through all of this, I’ve had the busiest period of my Peace Corps service to date. I hosted a graduation for my four Roots Tribe Yoga classes, distributed over 200 Mother Bears at 6 events, inspired a poultry project and gardening project to promote healthy living and economic empowerment to two groups of women in my village, facilitated workshops on safe sexual practices and pregnancy and HIV prevention and set boundaries on numerous occasions, including recently walking away from a particularly challenging meeting and saying “no” to a project. One of my goals for Peace Corps service was to acknowledge my ability to stand confidently on my own two feet in this world and recognize my own gifts.

 I now believe that I can not only confidently stand on these two feet of mine, but that I can venture forth through these last six months of service and into the next chapter of my life. This Peace Corps service has been one of the most challenging experiences of my life. Each time I barely got my head above water, another wave crashed upon me in the form of site changes, illness and trauma. You name it. I’ve faced it. I like to think that I’ve faced each situation with grace.

It is a huge relief that I have actually gleaned lessons from all of these trials.

It is in these last 100 days that I finally recognized my resilience. I recognize my strength, endurance and resilience and today, I celebrate them. ♥

Thank you for joining this chapter of my story. I aim to chronicle the journey of a Peace Corps Volunteer in South Africa and appreciate your support.


The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the South African Government.

To Ufafa, With Love

You welcomed me, tentatively, into your sweet embrace.

Hesitatingly, you let me in.

 

Your beauty captured me at first sight.

And you invited me to behold the beauty within.

I saw you for what you are.

I saw beneath the surface and felt your pain

and you invited me to release

pain

trauma

expectations

heartache

heartbreak.

 

You challenged me to stand my ground

to hold firm to my own Truth.

 

As you revealed more of yourself to me, 

the inevitable colonial powers that be

increasingly asserted their claim.

 

Our light was too bright

for their darkness

held too firmly.

I felt the end was nearing

and I dug my heels in.

One last grip.

I wasn't ready to let go.

 

Tightly.

So tightly

held.

 

In some ways, it felt like we embraced each other.

One final time.

Before we both had to release.

 

To let go.

To exhale.

 

And then I was ready to walk away.

 

Just like that.

 

It was time.

 

It was magic.

It was fate.

It was karma.

 

That brought us together. 

That tore us apart.

That allows us both to walk away.

 

More whole.

More healed. 

More fierce.

Stronger because our paths crossed.

 

I can't explain our connection

but I know it was meant to be.

I am better for it.

I have to believe you are, too.

 

As I walk away, know that

I will carry a piece of you

with me, always.

 

I believe in your promise.

I recognize your pain.

I see you.

And I love you, 

even as it's time to walk away.

 

As I reflect on the emotional and spiritual journey of my Peace Corps service here in South Africa, I am grateful and honored you’ve chosen to join me. ♥

The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the South African Government.

The Gift of the Breath

These last 27 days of the Journey of the Breath have been a wild ride! I started the month of May with the intention to explore the breath and share those learnings with you. I expected simple, straightforward facts, tips and techniques to foster improved lung capacity and deeper breathing. What I've received over the last several weeks has been nothing short of miraculous, expanding my heart and mind by the moment. 

As I explored the anatomy of the breath, I realized my own patterns. As I expanded my knowledge of the breath, I expanded my awareness of the breath, my body, my emotions, my limitations and, most importantly, my holding patterns. I've noticed, particularly over this past week, the tension that I hold in my body.

The Journey of the Breath issued an invitation for me to let go.

As I wrote this morning in my Morning Pages, I recognized the process of surrender that I've been undergoing. I've realized that I've struggled so long, that I've fought so long - with myself, the world, situations, entities, my past, the future, my decisions, other people.

"Arms Down, Arms Up" - Dalat, Vietnam

I surrender.

I finally lay down my arms.

As my arms surrender their weapons, I embrace the moment.

I surrender.

I pledge to continue to work with my breath to bring me into the present moment.

One of the most powerful learnings of the Journey of the Breath has been my recognition of the Gift of the Breath. One of Her greatest gifts is to bring us into the present moment.

The Gift of the Breath invites us into the present moment.

 

Over the last 27 days, I experienced many firsts. The breath ushered in awareness and invited me to enjoy these moments. I welcomed my first visitors to my new town. The joy we shared affirmed my decision to move to this beautiful part of the country. I visited Joshua Tree to attend ShaktiFest for breathwork and movement experiences that absolutely rocked my world, which I'm still processing and will likely share more about in the coming weeks. I recognized and released fears around one of the biggest decisions of my life - applying and accepting invitation for the Peace Corps.

Last weekend, I worked with the learnings from the Journey of the Breath to release fear and witness the importance of this long-held aspiration that has meant so much to me for so long. I awoke on Monday morning feeling an indescribable peace after dreaming of my grandmother. I then felt called to engage in a 2 hour breathwork, movement, meditation and writing session that illuminated my entire being. I set out to continue with my morning rituals, about to warm up my lemon water, and I thought to first check my email. As I scrolled down my inbox, the "Congratulations!" lept off the screen. Reflexively, I cried, sobbed, bawled, released. I don't remember feeling such strong emotion and excitement and release.

With the release of that moment and, I believe the work that I'd done over the last several days, came an invitation to serve as a Community HIV Volunteer with the Peace Corps in South Africa in January 2017. It's hard to put into words the rollercoaster I've experienced this week.

I used my breath to process the news, to share and to take a step back. I needed time to sit with my breath. I needed time to process my acceptance of the 27 month commitment and of all the life experiences that have brought me to this point.

I am elated. I am honored. I am humbled, not only by the invitation, but by the outpouring of love and support I've felt from my tribe.

As we we ease into the last 4 days of the Journey of the Breath, together, I welcome the continued expansion, awareness and connection I have to each of you. I know, in my heart, that the gifts of the Journey of the Breath will extend far beyond this month.

I'm grateful for all of you who have ventured with me on the Journey of the Breath! Please share your experiences, questions and revelations below or on Connective Elements' Facebook Page. If you've missed the Journey of the Breath, it's not too late! You've got 4 days of new Facebook posts and I encourage you to scroll up the page to discover a bevy of insights on the breath.

I am incredibly grateful for your love, support and understanding as I transition from my reflections into action, not only today as I answer the neglected texts, calls and messages from this past week, but as I prepare to serve in South Africa.

May this monthlong Journey of the Breath continue to open your heart, mind and body, allowing you to witness the beauty of the breath, explore the magic and mysteries that surround you and embody the wisdom of your inner voice

Growth, Love and Church

As I gaze out at the trees, I am serenaded by the songs of the birds in a small town in North Carolina and I am grateful. Having just completed the most difficult retreat of my life, I reflect on that experience and remind myself how lucky I am to practice, how lucky we all are to carve out time for our growth. 

Upon completion of my retreat, I made the drive from Maryland to North Carolina. When passing through Virginia, I was treated to an impromptu tour of my elementary and middle school. Roaming the halls and stepping into classrooms I hadn't been in in nearly 30 years can't help but conjure up nostalgia. Growing up Catholic, attending parochial school from preschool to 12th grade, I was raised with the doctrine. I went to church twice a week. I believed much of what I was taught. I've learned since then that church comes in many forms. 

When I went to college, everything changed for me. I changed - for me. I learned that the "other" was not to be feared. I stopped attending Mass, much to my mom's dismay. I studied the world. I studied the "other." Majoring in Social Work, I volunteered actively, I sought out the most diverse populations to serve, so I could stretch and grow. I learned to love the "other." Serving others was the closest I'd ever come to God.

18 long years ago, I selected a Yoga course to fulfill one of my college requirements. The class planted seeds that I unknowingly cultivated until my early twenties, when I found my way to spirituality. Spirituality drew me in in the form of a belly dancing class. Church comes in many forms. Illuminating my path since then, my most beloved teacher, RoseMa, has served as a beacon in both my darkest and brightest days. Her practices and unschooling educated me about the goddess that I am. 

This spiritual path has bolstered reflection, forgiveness and spaciousness. I've been open to the myriad of sacred manifestations in my life. Dancing invited community and sisterhood. Movement gave way to meditation. Meditation issued an invitation for self reflection. Heartbreak ushered in the pursuit of refuge in an ashram in Colorado where I fostered my knowledge and practice. I earned my Yoga teacher training and the opportunity to receive training in bodywork. Giving back to others in this kinesthetic way left upon me an indelible mark. 

"Set Free" - Butterfly Release in Monteverde, Costa Rica, 2009

 

 

From Colorado to Costa Rica to North Carolina to Portland, Oregon, I met the embrace of nature. She became my church. I spent time listening and gazing at the beauty around me. I learned to recognize Her as a reflection of the beauty within me.

"Love in the Mountains" - Hike with Indigenous Women in Sapa, Vietnam 2015

 

 

 

In Portland, church took the form of Sunday morning ecstatic dance classes which expanded my heart, mind and boundaries. Returning to dance as the form that first drew me into spirituality felt like a full circle evolution. Evolution gave way to finally stepping directly onto my path as a healer. I found my way to BodyTalk, started facilitating weekly meditation groups, became attuned as a Reiki practitioner and actively worked as a Coach.

Travel and starting over has also been, for me, a form of spiritual practice. I continue to work with the elements and connect with others in my travels. Each new place is an opportunity for a fresh start. Each new place is an opportunity for new connections. From Nashville to Asia and now remotely, healing has become my church, my spiritual practice, the way I see God in myself and others. 

I am awed as I witness the growth around me.

I am awed as I reflect on the growth within me.

I am awed by the love around me.

I am awed by the love within me.  

mending

I've had room to breathe

and vent 

and collect myself.

I am grateful to be able to pick up

the pieces.

By doing so, I am already

mending my heart.

I am full of grace and

gratitude. I am love.

I am love.

I am love.

 

 

mending is part of a collection of writings that chronicles my inner journey through Southeast Asia.

My Three Teachers in Luang Prabang

Written August 12, 2015

I stepped to the side to let him pass me on the sidewalk. He approached me and pointed to what I thought was the ground. As the rain steadily fell, my feet stood in a bit of flowing water. I thought, at first, that was what he was pointing to. His eyes met mine. I studied what few teeth he had left in his mouth. His skin was dirty. His clothes were tattered. He had a cloth bag draped over his body, attached was a plastic sack containing some fruit.

As he pointed his crooked finger again, he crouched, lowering his body until his hands made contact with the top of my flip-flopped feet. He touched my big toe, then my little toe, then flattened his hand over the entire top of my foot. I thought at first that the couple of walking meditation rounds I literally just completed a block away at the oldest stupa in Luang Prabang, Laos, had earned a blessing in a very direct way.

"Inspired" - Luang Prabang, Laos

I stood agog, just observing. Then, he started trying to pick my feet up, trying to turn my right foot over while still in my sandal. I wasn't sure what to think at that point. I was simply in the moment, knowing full well that I didn't understand what was happening. 

Things started to shift. All of a sudden, he lowered himself to the soaking wet ground with his back to my lower right leg. At that point, panic set in. I repeated, "no, no, no, no, no" in Laotian, but he didn't budge. Finally, I had to physically remove his fingers, then his right arm from my body. Leaving him on the soaking wet ground wouldn't have been my first option, but as fear set in, I wasn't sure what to do. Had I been able to communicate with him, I would have wanted to help him up. 

As I walked away from him, I noticed 3 young Laotian women standing in the doorway of the nearby shops, taking in the exchange and laughing. In that moment, I experienced shame and was embarrassed about the last five minutes. I kept walking slowly in the rain, turning back time and again to ensure I wasn't being followed. 

My fear dissipated as soon as the saffron robes entered my peripheral vision. As the young monk quickly passed me, I centered back to the present moment, focused on the rain's steady pitter patter on my umbrella and the ground beneath my feet, the monk up ahead and the Nam Khan River to my right.

My soaking wet feet beckoned me to find refuge in one of the nearby temples to process all that just happened. The first temple I reached was closed. The second welcomed me with an empty meditation hall. As I sat down, the message was clear, I was to sit with shame, my own shame, but more so collective shame.

As I sat with the collective shame, images quickly flooded my mind. First, of the man recently at my feet. Then visions of another begging man and a young child at a local Buddhist temple entered my awareness. Three days before, while attending a temple ceremony, an older man sought our attention, squinted one eye, "aimed" his cane to the sky, aligned his face with the rounded handle of the cane and proceeded to "shoot" down what I can only imagine was my likeness. 

"Soles" - Luang Prabang, Laos

Seated next to me during the Buddhist celebration was a young child. As he sat next to me on the ground with his legs folded underneath him and his delicate hands clasping one another resting on his lap, I could feel the tears welling in my eyes. His little three year old body sat incredibly still as he patiently awaited the monks' procession through the temple grounds. He wiggled only his tiny fingers every couple minutes. Something about this little boy immediately etched itself into my mind and heart. 

These three males, their similarities, their differences flashed through my mind as this collective shame settled heavily upon me. Tears again welled in my eyes as I sat alone in the temple. Then, the flick of a light switch, literally snapped me out of my mediation. At two minutes after 12, a monk entered my empty mediation hall to turn off the lights as a gentle sign for me to move on, as it was time for the monks' lunch.

As I exited the temple, the downpour that had started the night before, ceased to a light drizzle and the sun started to emerge from the clouds. I stepped away from the last two hours' events realizing that direct experience is all there is. I experienced all the emotions I utter in my daily metta mediation - fear, anger, guilt, sorrow, shame, anxiety and regret. As I walked the sidewalks of Luang Prabang, careful not splash in puddles, I experienced each of these emotions in my heart, mind and body. With each step, I felt unburdened by each.

I bless each of my three teachers, the man at my feet, the man with the cane and the sweet little soul with the wiggly fingers. I am grateful for their teachings and wish them happiness, health, wellbeing and metta in this moment, and always.

My Three Teachers in Luang Prabang is part of a collection of writings that chronicle my "inner journey" through Southeast Asia.

Layers Healed, Layers Revealed

A year ago today, I firmly believed I was scheduled to die. Leading up to that day, I'd had visions of myself courageously dancing into the OR.

It didn't quite go down like that.

Instead, every cell in my body quivered. I was a bundle of nerves and a puddle of tears shortly after arriving at the hospital. I couldn't stop shaking. After my name was called and I was ushered to the room to be prepped for surgery, I thought I was not going to make it. Much of the rest of what happened that day is a blur. 

My cells remembered, though, as I parked the car this morning and walked to the building for my physical therapy appointment. Scheduled on the same day, just a year ago, one floor down, I must have needed something radical, like the removal of enormous benign tumors and the relinquishment of ever birthing children, so that I could awaken to the beauty of my life, so that I could awaken from surgery and live

Living is about breaking open.

  Connect  with the photo: Sun, Moon, Nautilus Passage handcrafted by artist,  Corinna Sephora , located in the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. The Nautilus enlarges its shell to prepare it for its next stage of life. 

Connect with the photo: Sun, Moon, Nautilus Passage handcrafted by artist, Corinna Sephora, located in the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. The Nautilus enlarges its shell to prepare it for its next stage of life. 

By being broken open, I'm more whole than I've ever been.

Yet, honestly, I'm in a place of overwhelm.

I'm meeting a lifetime of stories that have been hidden. I've held back so much. I've withheld so much pain and trauma that needs to be shared. 

I've gripped so tightly to the notion that telling my story might be begging for assurance that I am enough - as a healer, as an entrepreneur, as a writer, as a partner, as a friend - as a human being. I question my worth on a continual basis. 

I've come face to face with the shadow within me. I've come face to face with the darkness of fear, anxiety and trauma. 

It's ok.

The deep, dark in me meets the deep, dark in you. By that encounter, we create light. By that encounter, we create connection. I've healed more than just my body this past year. 

I'm ready.

Ready to continue the unburdening, ready to continue the un-wounding. I'm ready to speak my truth. I'm ready to chronicle my journey. My stories have worth. My stories have value. I have worth. I have value. I can be out in the Universe and not be scared. It is safe. Prolonged fear does that to you, causes you to sell yourself short. Living under traumatic conditions does that to you, causes you to hide your story, hide your self. They've done that to me for far too long. 

I'm ready to own my journey.  

I am so grateful for the practices that ground me. I'm incredibly grateful for my tribe, connected beyond time and space. You are here, with me, in my heart. I know I can and will have an open place to live and love. I have the capacity for wide, open space, as I chase wide, open places. I know, in my heart, that all is well. As I sift through the distant memories of a year ago, I let go and know that I'm still healing, daily, and that as I peel back the layers, I have so much to learn. And so much to give. 

As I peel back the layers, I reveal layers of dark and light. All are welcome here. 

Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul….Let each new temple, nobler than the last, Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast, Till thou at length art free, Leaving thine outgrown shell by life’s unresting sea!
— ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes