Wednesday, September 26, 2018

What to do if You have Been Assaulted and are Triggered by the News

What to do if You Have Been Assaulted and are Triggered by The News
The Yoga Bag
Catherine Cook-Cottone

Why I am writing this:

While growing from a little girl to a woman, I was both sexually assaulted and physically assaulted. As I write, my stomach and heart ache and tears flood my eyes.

That said, it is part of who I am.

I think I am like many women out there. I care about what is happening in the news. However, the news is very triggering. I find myself torn between wanting to know the developments day-to-day and trying to get through my work and life tasks. I effort to get up every day and get my work done, engage in my relationships, and manage the resurgence of traumatizing memories and waves of emotions.

I find that I am at a place in which I need to gather together my coping strategies- so that they are here for me. I am writing to share them with you. So that WE have a plan.

To do this, I reached back to a post I wrote about coping shortly after my mother died. I am inspired by my 2015 self and her strength. I wrote the 2015 post less than three weeks after her passing. In my 2015 post, I spoke of the moment when my parents told me my baby brother was diagnosed with Down Syndrome. I spoke of the moment I heard my mom had, at-best, 3 years to live. There are these moments in our lives and they come in waves. 

When I wrote in 2015, I felt much like I do now. I was deep in one of those waves. I was going through the daily motions of life and wondering if I would ever feel okay again. Back then, I wrote about the hardships I had experienced in my life- a list. I wrote about how I was not special- that life is complicated, and messy, and sometimes really hurtful and that – I—like each one of us- was a bit bruised-up by it. still, despite the list, I did not refer to being physically or sexually assaulted-  I wrote this in the text—

"And, this is not all of it (some things simply must be kept private and sometimes those ones are the hardest)."

Today, I find it too hard to carry this burden silently. Life gives us these chances, again and again, to turn inward and heal the places where the wounds still ache.And so I take that chance.

It seems as though, the way out is still through and to heal I must feel. I know that this too shall pass and with my work, it will pass best after I have integrated, processed, and experienced it.

By leaning in, I will arise stronger.

I have decided to take what I learned in 2015 and expand the guidance for us. Here is our plan:

Rally your kindest and most compassionate self.
Research suggests that if you coach yourself with self-compassionate, caring encouragement using your own name, you providing self-support that can move you forward. This is how it works, “Catherine, I hear you saying that you are afraid that you will never feel okay again. I see your sadness. Remember, Catherine, you are strong. You have your breath and your practice. You have made it through hard times and learned and grown. Be present, feel, and breathe. You’ve got this.”

Take a news break.
Take a break. Instead of turning on the news in the car or in the morning while you get ready for your day, play songs that feed your soul. Listen to a podcast that reminds you why you love and can trust humans. Take time with your loved ones-- with no background noise- just the humming of your life as it pulses with the heartbeats of the safe people in your world. You can go back to the news whenever you are ready. It is never required. You can always choose.

Look for those who have made it and lock your eyes on them.
By the time my brother Stephen had grown a bit and was doing well in school, my mom went back to school to get her teaching degree. Sharing the writing gene, she wrote about our family experiences and the birth of Stephen. She wrote about Stephens’ birth and meeting a woman who also had a son with Down Syndrome. Her name was Eileen Hyslop. Mom reached out to her. Eileen generously talked to my mom at length and later became her dear friend. That first day on the phone, my mom could barely hear what Eileen was saying because she just heard her laugh, from the belly, from the soul, an authentic, happy laugh. The sound of that laugh gave my mom hope. My mom thought for the first time, in a long time, that maybe she would, in fact, feel okay again and maybe, in fact, she would laugh, a real laugh again.

There are women, heroes really, out there now, speaking of their rapes and assaults with mind-bending courage within the #metoo movement. There are community members and leaders who are feeling strong and supported enough to voice support. There are people who have built their entire careers on advocating for women and survivors. Like me, find those who have made it through and lock your eyes on them.

Let your friends and family be there.
The days after I told my partner of seven years that I was leaving were some of the hardest days of my life. I knew he deserved to be with someone who loved him completely and I knew I needed to leave. That did not mean that I didn’t love him very much. I did and leaving him was one of the hardest things I have even done. I was floored by the feelings that followed. One night, I felt as if I could not bear to exist. I didn’t want to die, but I didn’t know if I could handle being present in all I was feeling. My dear friend Lissa came over to my place with a novel in hand. The television was off, no music, just me curled up on the couch and Lissa sitting on the chair next to me reading. I didn’t know the story. To this day, I have no idea what she was reading. Still, the sound of her voice and knowing I was not alone, got me through one of the hardest nights of my life. I will be forever grateful.

These days, I am relying on my running group, good friends, and my husband. Jerry and I have a Netflix show we are watching, a gentle distraction. I am working with my friends on an event for this weekend in support of a veterans program. It is these close, trusting, and supportive moments that help you believe in humans again. Reach out to the people in your life, your sisters and brothers, family, good friends- those that won’t mind sitting and reading to you, running with you, planning events with you-- while you work on breathing.

Listen to the stories and perspectives of others.
This one was my daughter Chloe’s contribution. When I asked her what she does to get through the seemingly unbearable, she said she reaches out to others to get their perspective. She said that when she is too deep in something, she loses perspective and only sees one side. When she reaches out and listens, she hears other perspectives and possibilities. It has a balancing effect. She says it gets her closer to what is really happening and out of her reaction. I guess old souls can be 16 year-old girls.

With a similar intention, the year I turned 40 I re-storied my whole life in a series of journals. I interviewed my husband, my parents, my siblings, and my friends and got their stories of my life. I detailed things that made no sense to me when I was little and asked very specific questions. All the notes are in journals that I still hold precious today. This process was incredibly healing and “self”-organizing. I learned so much about my own perceptions as well as the sides of stories that perhaps I could never have known or understood as a kid. Not surprisingly, I was out-and-out wrong about more than a few things. The whole process made me stronger, deeper, more connected and integrated.

Read memoirs of survivors- The Hole in the World: An American Boyhood by Richard Rhodes is one of the bravest books I have ever read. You can purchase it it here.  Lucky by Alice Sebold tells the story of a young woman raped, only later to find out he had killed before and was told she was “lucky” to have survived. You can purchase Lucky here. Dig in, be inspired, and feel.

Routine is your friend.
When my Grandpa Cook died it hit me hard. He was the first of my grandparents to pass. He meant a lot to me. He was a teacher to me on topics ranging from how to recover from an eating disorder to maintenance of healthy daily routines. I somehow felt safe just thinking about him digging around his garden, making insane smoothies, and sitting and reading. To get through his death, I stuck to my routine. I went to school. I went to work. I ran (no yoga yet in my life at this time). My routine was my anchor. I said to myself, “Work is still here,”School is still here,” and “Daily runs are still here.”  Things had changed substantially and yet so much was going to stay the same. I still find great comfort in that.

Use your planner, calendar, or other scheduling support technology.
In the research world, these are called cognitive prosthetics (or neuro-prosthetics). Considered a tool for improved functioning, technologies can help you “think” just as a prosthetic leg can help someone who has lost a limb walk. For example, researchers are exploring ways that technological tools can help those with Alzheimer’s function day-to-day. How does this relate? When we are completely overwhelmed, we are at high risk for flaking out. Under stress, your brain is flooded with stress hormones and there is actual risk for cognitive impairment. Use your tools and give your brain a break so that it can process what you are experiencing. You can enhance the process by adding in reminders to do deep breathing exercises or reminders of positive affirmations (e.g., an auto-reminder pops up to say, “You are stronger than you think you are. Breathe”). Technology is a powerful tool for mental health.

Let your feelings move through you and breathe- breathe deeply.
You can’t think your way out of some things. It is simply not possible. When someone dies, you can’t fix it, think about it differently, nothing like that. It is loss, pure loss. It can’t be fixed. You can try to think your way out of it- that path takes you into loops of rumination- because it doesn’t really work. The feelings demand to be felt. As they wave in, allow them. Put one hand on your belly and one hand on your heart. Feel. Deepen your breath and stay present. These feelings are called emotions, e-motions- packets of energy and information (i.e., /e/) that move through you (i.e., /motion/). They tell us what matters. The remind us what is important. They move us. Allowing and presence is needed for integration and processing of what has happened. It’s a necessity. That said, take breaks. Alternate sessions of being totally and completely in it with periods of support, friends, and healthy distractions. When you are ready, allow again. That old saying is true, “In order to heal, we need to feel.”

Stay Sober.
There is another old saying (from Alcoholics Anonymous), “Nothing is so bad a drink won’t make it worse.” You don’t need to be an alcoholic to benefit from that wisdom. Your brain and soul need to be sober to process important things in your life. If you take yourself out with alcohol or drugs during the hard times, you rob yourself of the chance too honor the tragedy, loss, or important life event with pure, sober presence. Equally important, if you drink, or use, every time you start to feel, it is difficult, if not impossible to move forward. You get stuck. It bears repeating, that old saying is true, “In order to heal, we need to feel.”

Write, write, write.
Writing about hard times can help you heal (read a Psychology Today Piece here James Pennebaker, as researcher on the mental health benefits of writing found that when individuals write about difficult events in their lives, include specific details, and integrate their emotional experiences, they experience increased physical and emotional well-being (read about James Pennebaker here For me, writing in my journal, writing a blog, or any writing at all are ways for me to move thoughts and ideas through me. I love giving seemingly free-floating emotions a home on a page- whether it be a webpage or a hand-made journal page. My emotions seem to do better with a good home. Write, write, write.

Seek out nature.
Nature is medicine. Researchers are confirming what we all already know: getting into nature is grounding, spiritually uplifting, and healthy. I believe so strongly in this that I run to a local waterfall on a regular basis. If I don’t get there once a week, I feel it in my body. I love hearing the water rush over the rocks. I love seeing the trees grow and shed their leaves, hearing the snow crunch under my feet in the winter, and smelling the flowers in the spring. I love the birds, squirrels, and ducks that live there. Once when we were in the midst of moving, I ran to the falls in a state of exasperation with the unpacking. Sweaty, exhausted, I walked up to see the falls, and rested my hands and chin on the safety fence. At that moment, I saw the most beautiful thing. A blue heron was standing at the base of the falls dipping his bill in the water and then looking up to the sky. Somehow, I knew in that movement that everything was going to be okay. I didn’t take a picture. I hold the image of that heron clearly in my memories embedded with feelings of calm security.

The two weeks of my mom’s death, I ran or walked down to Lyon’s Falls, the actual falls. I watched the water fall over the rocks. I made wishing stone stacks. I noticed the roots on trees and the moss on rocks. I felt the sand on my fingers and the softness of the sides of the riverbed under my feed. I breathed in the fresh, snow-tinged spring air, and I cried. Yep, nature heals.

The next possible thing.
When I was an undergraduate, I did not love to clean my apartment. I would be busy on swim team, school, and work and get over my head with housekeeping. One Saturday morning I woke up knowing I had to get my apartment in order. It had gone too far and something had to be done. I felt frozen by the sheer magnitude of what I had to accomplish. I asked myself, “Catherine, what is the next possible thing you can do?” I answered, “You can put your feet on the floor and get out of bed.” I answered myself, “Yes, yes that seems possible.” And so it began. I asked myself if I could get this cup, this one cup, to the kitchen sink and I answered myself that I could, in fact, do that. One little, tiny thing at a time, I got my apartment clean. This strategy has come to serve me in postpartum after a spinal headache and complicated recovery. It came to serve me for many, many days when I was terrified that I would not get tenure (I did). It served me writing my last book (e.g., “I can write this section, just this section”). In Alcoholics Anonymous they talk about one day at a time. For me, on some days, that is too big. I ask, “What is the next possible thing you can do?” That’s it. Do that.

Schedule pleasant events.
Since the 1980s, researchers have been documenting the benefits of scheduling pleasant events. It is important that you see the two aspects of this tool: (a) schedule, and (b) pleasant event. Each component is important. In fact, planning the pleasant event (e.g., a vacation) may have as much, or more, of a benefit than the actual pleasant event. Read the New York Times piece on the benefits of planning vacation Next, the pleasant event is- well- pleasant. You don’t need to earn it or deserve it. It is just healthy to do fun and nourishing things. I love to go for a run in nature or hike. I love to go in our hot tub. I love to cuddle in by the fireplace and write blogs. I love teaching yoga. I love group runs with friends. I love yoga trainings (my brother said that I need to admit this is yoga camp for grown-ups- I say training makes it sound legit). I plan “trainings” and travel. I have been saving for and planning a trip to Italy for almost 5 years. I hope to go this year, completely paid-for, no credit card debt, and learn to cook authentic Italian meals in all different regions. Just thinking about it makes me happy. (Go here for a list of pleasant events

Practice and all is coming.
When I found out my mom had Pulmonary Fibrosis, I deepened my yoga practice. I recall sobbing in savasana with Susan Fain, the yoga teacher, playing “Awaken My Soul” as she gently pressed my shoulders to the floor (thank God for towels over the eyes). Practice yoga, run, swim, or whatever physical practice centers you. The act of being in your body and moving is essential and powerful. Recall the section on emotions needing to move?  You need to move too. You move, the emotions move, and integration of even the hardest of stuff happens. Unlike substance use, a practice that allows you to feel your body and your feelings allows the impact of hard times move through you. Warning: each of these physical practices, if done with the wrong intention- can work just like alcohol or drugs. You can use your yoga, your running, your swimming to numb out the feelings- and if you do- well- re-read the section on staying sober. It’s not a step forward. So move- YES- and move with the intention of feeling and processing. Now, that will serve you.

This one is not so simple as we talk about trauma. .

What I said before (2015), “Start meditating today so that when you need the skills you have them. During the last weeks of my mom’s life, we had the privilege of taking care of her. Thanks to Hospice and their wonderful care providers we were able to be at my parents’ home providing the care my mom needed. These times are so very important and hard. I was able to use the skills I have practiced for years- breathing, mantra, and focus- to stay present and experience all that there was to experience. You see, the more you meditate, the more you have a felt sense that everything really is going to be okay no matter what is happening. You have a felt sense that we are all one and that we all come from and go to the same place and that place is calm and full of love. Each day you practice you allow yourself to get a closer- not to believing this, but knowing it.”

With trauma, it can be a bit more complicated. Here is a great article on trauma and mindfulness, “The Science of Trauma, Mindfulness and PTSD” in Mindful: Healthy Mind, Healthy life.

Here are the conclusions of David Treheaven, author of Trauma-Sensitive Mindfulness as cited in his article, “Is Mindfulness Safe for Trauma Survivors?” In Applied NPT Magazine- here.

Many who suffer under the weight of traumatic stress respond favorably to mindfulness meditation. But others may have a different experience, where the practice unintentionally lands them in more pain. Mindfulness practice doesn’t need to work for everyone, but I’ve become convinced that certain modifications to meditation can support survivors, at the very least ensuring that they are not re-traumatizing themselves in practice. Mindfulness meditation isn’t bad: it’s powerful. And those of us offering it to others benefit when we continue exploring its risks and rewards.”

So- find supportive, guided meditations and do what feels safe and okay. I have created two series on Simple Habit for survivors of trauma and sexual assault here. Read more about our Simple Habit series on meditation for women on Medium here.

I am not about acceptance. Maybe for some things- for others- no. There are things I do not and will not accept. Physical and sexual assault- no.

For most of the rest--  I have found it to be good practice to allow. Allow others to be on their own path. Don’t let your judgment, your ideas, your concepts about where they should be and how they should be doing things to get in the way of love and presence. It has taken me a while to get to this and it is my practice. Allow. Allow. Allow. And then Love. Love. Love. I promise, you will not regret this.

Look for meaning.
This one takes a commitment to dharma- the concept that we were each born with a reason for being and it is our path to find our reason and express it. Seane Corn, a teacher of yoga, explains that the universe is our teacher- always. She says that our souls are placed here on Earth to learn and the life events that manifest as we move from day-to-day and year-to-year are there to be our teachers. In my life, I have a sense that the universe does not speak English, or any other human language for that matter. Rather, the universe speaks in symbols and energy. That means that the universe is not going to walk up to you and say, “Catherine, your brother Stephen was born to show you the beauty, love, and intelligence in all human beings.” Nope, I had to see, witness, share, experience, and value all of that. There were no words. Just Stephen.

I have yet to figure out the big picture for why I was assaulted. Maybe my heartaches and body aches were just collateral damage to other people’s inability to manage their own hurt, drives, and struggles. Maybe it’s a reminder of just how fragile we all are.

Maybe some things just happen.

For certain, I did not deserve these hurts. I also don’t deserve a life of ongoing replays of these horrible events either.

I deserve to move forward and live and love and laugh. And—that--  I will do.

Get professional help. I have. Getting help is one of the bravest, smartest, and deepest acts of self-care I have ever accomplished. It has made all the difference.

So there you are--  our plan.

The way out is through and getting through can be manageable. It is not easy, but it can be remarkably simple- some of the most powerful things are- stay present and process- and know you and your beautiful life are worth the effort. Your ability to stay present and move through the experience is a way of honoring your strength.

It is a way of honoring the journey of your own soul.

I hope you choose the path of presence. You are stronger than you think and life is more beautiful than we can remember in the hard times.

The way out is through.


Catherine Cook-Cottone
The Yoga Bag

Friday, July 27, 2018

A Cancun Resort Pool: A Complicated Poem

A Cancun Resort Pool: A Complicated Poem

Quiet softens her eyes to the pool floor as the anxious riser enters the water.
Anxiety welcomes him for a swim.
Each stroke a worry or a regret.

Striving has been awake for a while.
A girl and her father.
He sits, an unkind coach.
She pushes and pulls her way through through the pool- training.

Self-care stretches and gets ready for her swim.
A woman, two men work their way through laps.
Hearts pounding.
Quiet lifts her eyes to welcome them.

The Sun moves from the pool's edge to warm the waters more directly.

Routine’s alarm goes off.
Couples, with teens in bed,
or work-worries tucked tightly in their laptops,
bring coffee and stand in the pool.
Feet grounded.
Soft voices.

Fun begins to waken in the pool waves.
His soft morning giggles move through the water.
The Sun begins her dance on the pool water's peaks.

The children come.
Floaties because their feet don’t touch.
Fun looks up and smiles, laughs, climbs the stairs, and jumps into the water.
Teens check their cell phones.
The bartenders arrive.

Addiction and Party take a  turn in their sleep.
Their wake up call is next.
Quiet looks for her book and her towel.
Fun pretends Addiction won’t come to the pool today.

It’s Complicated- invites everyone for a Margarita.
Everyone but Safe and Sober join.
Quiet pretends to drink and watches.

The pool-side bar fills.
Addiction is telling Fun a joke.
He doesn’t get it right.
No one notices that Quiet and Safety went to swim with dolphins.

Love watches Drunk yell at her kids as they dive-

— you are not supposed to dive.

Love sends Drunk a prayer.
Avoidance moves her seat.
Judgement stays to watch.

The group tours return.
Centered invites them for a nice swim.
The afternoon sun lights the other side of the pool's waves.

Fun is getting tired.
Addiction gets him a cup of coffee and a shot of tequila.

Safety returns with Nourishment.
They say it’s time for dinner.
Before drinking his shot, Fun decides to go to dinner.
Connection and Joy join for dinner.
Leaving the pool, they eat and share and laugh.

The pool-side bar closes.

Addiction and Tension go bar hopping.
So does Celebration.
We just got married.
We just got engaged.
25 years for us.

The pool empties.

Quiet comes to swim as the shade makes her way across the pool.

Solitude joins.

The water stills and cools.
The moon.
The stars.

 And Quiet lifts her eyes to welcome them.

Catherine Cook-Cottone

Saturday, May 19, 2018

It’s not Hurt People who hurt people, it’s Hurting People

It’s not Hurt People who hurt people, it’s Hurting People

For some years, the phrase “Hurt people, hurt people” has helped me to understand the WHY of some of the experiences in my life and in this world. But, lately, somehow it seems too simple. 

Like this. I have met some amazing people who have been horribly hurt and they do not engage in consistent hurting of others. In fact, some of them live their lives teaching yoga in prisons, to victims of the sex trade, or to those suffering in other ways. They are thought-full, heart-full, safe and wonder-full to share time with. So, we know, for sure I know, that not all hurt people, hurt people. 

I think it is more nuanced. 

Hurt- is an adjective. It describes a state of a person- a hurt person. 

Hurting- can also be an adjective- but it’s verb-like. It is an active process- a hurting person. 

I think hurting people are more at risk for hurting others- it is an active process. Hurting happens when the hurt has trouble being-a-thing-that-has-happened and keeps being a-thing-that-is-happening.

Perhaps our most dangerous hurts are those we don’t even know are still hurting us. Those hurts create blind spots- the not-seeing-of-things that we erect grand defensive sculptures around. These defensive sculptures are built of rationalizations, righteousness, and reasons for why it is, or was, okay to behave the way we do. When we struggle like this- the hurt longs to speak- it wants to be heard and felt and processed. It’s a force. 

With an inherent drive to be expressed and no other options, the hurt lives in our behaviors. With no satisfying resolution or true validation, the hurts act themselves out over and over. And because we have erected great defensive walls around our hurts, we believe our behaviors are justified. 

And- that mess- is a self-perpetuating strategy for hurting over and over and over. 

The message -

(1) Feelings and hurts demand to be heard.
(2) The feelings and hurts that are not heard- demand voice in our actions.
(3) You will screw-up over and over and over until you listen.

To get beyond the hurting, we need to feel fully and openly. We need to sit with our feelings until we get to know them really well, intimately. We want to make friends with our feelings, seeing them as allies and messengers. We want be good listeners and holders of our own pain- so our feelings don’t demand voice in our actions.

When we do this, we get to know our hurts and our feelings. We learn the parts of feelings that are artifacts of our past, the parts that are right now and relevant to the current moment, the parts that are made of up our fears, and the parts that are concerns about the future. We listen. We learn. We see more clearly. Hurts and feelings that can be the messengers and allies they were meant to be, settle. With their job done, they rest.

The next time you hurt someone else or yourself, first, know you are lucky enough to be aware of what you are doing. Next, consider dropping the defenses and turn inward rather than blaming. Third, consider that the world does not need to be a certain way for you to not be hurting or hurtful—but maybe— just maybe-- you could be different in how you listen to and process your hurts and feelings, you can hold them, and you can effectively let them go. 

Maybe then you can stop being a hurting person and start being be one of those heart-full, hurt people who help people. And that is a badass way of being. 

Catherine Cook-Cottone, PhD, RYT-500
The Yoga Bag

Monday, March 26, 2018

The Importance of Setting Boundaries

The Importance of Setting Boundaries

I remember when I first took graduate work in the the field of mental health. I transitioned from memorizing psychology terms, classifications, and theories to learning the processes involved in mental illness, mental health, wellbeing, and healing.

A term I learned way back in the 1990s was boundaries. I had not considered such a thing-- that each person, entity, even agency has boundaries and the way that we co-exist without hurting each other or getting lost in each other is by knowing and keeping our boundaries.

The field of recovery in trauma and sexual abuse digs deep into boundaries. It is critical in re-setting or re-membering who you are after trauma and abuse. These boundaries are the edges of self. For some these edges have been betrayed, violated, or lost. For some, they never had a chance to establish themselves. In therapy, we work to re-discover and re-build them in the safety of a healthy relationship. It is really beautiful work.

Having and keeping healthy and functional boundaries is an ongoing process. It is required at home within the relationships we have with those we love and care for. It is required at work to make sure we work effectively and safely as a team. In each domain or your life, boundaries are an essential piece of living effectively in community—they are an essential aspect of connection.

As you work to set boundaries, it can become clear when a person or entity is not honoring boundaries. You can feel them push at your edges.

I always proceed with the assumption that the other does not, perhaps, know about boundaries as a concept (as I had not known years ago). Boundary conversations are not easy and often feel personal-- as in essence- we are talking about where each of us begins and ends. Still, it is good work to do and, like gardening, a constant work that is needed for us to flourish. Its also formative work- that is- as we work together to understand each others’ boundaries things might shift and move. When we work with each other and with love- those shifts and moves, like a lovely dance, can be creative beauty.

You can say, “Hey, I need to talk about x, y, and z and where my work (or self, or love) begins and ends and your work (or self, or love) begins and ends so we can work (or be and or engage) in harmony, safely, and effectively. Here are the places I feel our edges are unclear (add your edges stuff here).  When can you talk?”

Most people will honor this request. They will sit with you, connect and work to honor who you are-- and you will honor who they are-- and you will work together to honor the boundaries required for healthy wellbeing for both-- for all.

There will also be those who do not want to talk about boundaries for lots of reasons. Sometimes there will be those who do not hear you or want to hear you. There will be those who misunderstand you or misperceive your request. Some do not yet know. Some have no interest in boundaries. Some do not want to be bothered by boundaries or have the resources for keeping them. Some are too defensive, as they do not yet know who they are.

It is a process and we are all working on our own growth timeline. And so, we honor their path as we hold ours. No matter the response, remember-- it is always okay for you to do your boundary work. Always.

To you I say, hold good. Take time to figure out YOU. Find your edges- the healthy edges and work with those, the messy edges and clean up those, the not-yet-existing edges and build those—and your creative edges- those are the best and most beautiful—live those.  And know, in the process- your edges will bump up against others’ edges and with big loving-kindness-

… your boundary work.


Catherine Cook-Cottone

The Yoga Bag

Monday, February 5, 2018

The Risks of Contact

I have the flu. It’s spread by contact.

I caught something else. Inner conflict. It’s a bit like the flu- stuff comes in from the outside- through contact- and the fight, the somewhat invisible fight- goes on inside- the energies and ideas deemed as good waging war on the energies and ideas deemed as bad- like some kind of virus battling it all out.

I spent a week in contact.

Talking to people from around the world. Getting, owning, and sometimes abhorring my own privileges while at the same time angry at all I have had to work through for access. Embodying both the cause and effect of the problem.  

I made contact.

I spoke when it was hard and my voice was shaking. I exposed my self to the stuff that leads to inner conflict. I said things of which I was sure and unsure of in equal measure. I held hands and hearts and worked hard not to drop either or my own.

I worked hard to make contact.

I worked so hard to connect at one point someone had to hold me so I could reach and I did and I held on tight- my reach only possible through the support of others.

I got the flu. It is one of the risks of contact. 

I also got so much more I learned that if I put my hand out there someone will reach just as hard and we can connect. 

The flu was headed my way anyway. Probably got it on the plane or handing my passport over and taking it back. And I easily fall back into my privileged calling my doctor, using my insurance, and having access to my resources to get well.

But the other stuff- the other thing I caught- insight- the stuff of inner turmoil and growth. I don’t have doctors and insurance for that- this one is on me and I am letting it sink in and move me- move me to a better wiser place as a woman, mother, sister, and a sister in the sisterhood, and researcher. Eyes-wide, heart churning. The flu-I will recover. This other- bigger stuff- stay, please stay and make me better for it.

I made contact.

The Yoga Bag