October 17, 2017

From Incest to Joy - Part 3

This week, we continue our series with the Donna Jenson, who explores the healing power of breath.

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Sometimes there’s a beckoning voice inside that can pull my mind away from worry, croon my fear out of its cage, or coax my ego off her pedestal and, instead, get me to pay attention to my breathing. Oh if I could only hear that calming hum every day, 24/7, asleep or awake. God, could I even stand it, that much peace? The breath can be like a well-varnished cherry wood canoe carrying me back to my very own best self. All it takes is attention – some days that’s the same as saying all it takes is a million dollars.

It seems to me my breathing was shallow in childhood. I don’t remember thinking about breathing back then. I did think about running away or at least hiding. I didn’t learn to breathe for health and well being until I was in my fifties. Breathing used to be the last thing on my mind, which is, come to think of it, lucky for me since my breathing didn’t need me to keep going.

It seems to me, back then, I held my breath more than let it out; each breath never went deeper than the top of my lungs before it turned around and left.


What changed my breathing? Dad dying, for starters. And writing. When I write about my childhood – the trauma years, the traumatic era, the fear infested decades – the deeper my breath travels into me. Writing has a pulse and it seems to me my lungs get exercised by the push and pull of the pen. Is that why I seem to write more about feelings when I write longhand? Tap, tap, tapping on a keyboard does nothing for my lungs.

It seems to me my fear of breathing is connected to all the times I had pleurisy – from age 10 to 17. I never had pleurisy after I left home.

Yoga changed my breathing. Every teacher has been hell bent on the breath. Last week Lisa told the class, “Send the breath to a tight place in your body.” I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing that 60 years ago. Thinking my breath was a thing to be directed somewhere. Lisa acts like the breath is some kind of miracle medicine. Maybe I do too, now.

I just stopped writing, closed my eyes and let my mind ride down with my breath, curving up my nostrils, twisting down the back of my skull, down the back of my neck, take a left turn at the top of the spine over to that sore muscle under my left shoulder blade. And the breath circles round and round the muscle like a stream of water shooting out of a faucet turned on full, I hold it there a little while then have the breath trace its tracks back out again.

It seems to me it would have been a comfort, maybe even a healing, if I had known how to do that when I was eight years old and nine and ten and, and, and...

I didn’t know then but I know now. Lucky me.

Thanks for reading,
Donna






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In 2009 Donna founded Time To Tell with a mission to spark stories from lives affected by incest and sexual abuse to be told and heard. She wrote and performs her one-woman play, What She Knows: One Woman’s Way Through Incest to Joy, which is based on her own experience of surviving incest and what she did to make her life worth living. 

Her book, Healing My Life from Incest to Joy, a narrative of the choices she made and experiences she had that helped her heal from her childhood trauma, will be released by Levellers Press in Fall of 2017. For more information go to www.timetotell.org




Get your copy of Healing My Life: From Incest to Joy today!



October 11, 2017

From Incest to Joy - Part 2

This week, we continue our series with the amazing Donna Jenson, who delves into the very real experiences of isolation and feeling like we just do belong and offers some ideas on how to reconnecting with our "belonging" in this world.

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Here’s a subject to tiptoe into: Being isolated. Feeling isolated. Isolation is a mighty big topic for this survivor. When I was a child, he needed to isolate me to have his way with me. What an old expression, having his way with me, so genteel yet plenty descriptive.

What do I mean by isolation? For the incest to happen there needed to be no one else in the room. Not Grandma Mable or cousin Jan. Each of them slept over every once in a while and always stayed in my room, on my single bed with me curled up in a nest of blankets on the floor next to them. Those were my most favorite nights in the apartment.

By isolation, I mean he made sure I would never let anyone else know it was happening by saying, “You tell anyone and I’ll kill you.”

It was like what the cheetah does to the youngest member of the heard – that wobbly legged antelope. Pick her out, scare all the other antelopes away and go
in for the kill. Now imagine this isolating goes on for five years, longer than it takes to earn a Master's degree in Social Work. Over and over you get isolated while the worst thing ever in your life is happening to you. What I carried with me into my teen years, my twenties – all the way to forty – was a deeply ingrained belief that when bad things happen I am alone, on my own.

God I want to go grab a big old handkerchief and have me a spell of tears just remembering that aloneness. 

What do I mean by aloneness? The absolute certainty that there was no one who could help me, no one who could be there for me, next to me. And I’m talking about all the years – not just in childhood but a lot of grownup years, too.

I knew I was healing when I could actually sense this retreat into isolating myself. I named it “going down the rabbit hole” – like Alice in Wonderland.

I had to just stop and take a breath. Maybe after I’m done writing this out and read it back to myself I’ll understand why a stream of tears is racing around my collarbone and shoulder blades as I write. Talking about isolation makes me remember and feel it. What I want to get to, the point I’m reaching to grab hold of is the enormous importance of gaining a sense of belonging, to feel I belong. Belong to a community, belong to a family of choice, belong in this world. It’s the absolute opposite of isolation.

The more I believe I belong here, that I belong to ME, to the world, that I’m a part of the world, the less I go down the rabbit hole. Or, if I do slip, then the less time I spend down there in that cold dark tunnel of despair once I remember I belong.

Why am I writing about this – this isolation vs. belonging? First, to get a better handle on it myself; a grip, a hold, a concrete understanding of what it is for me because I’m on a quest to keep my ass out of that rabbit hole more and more and more. I so want to be wide-eyed and open-hearted as many minutes of every day as possible. 

I’m trying to think of what helps me feel like I belong. The first thing that comes to mind is when I’m putting all my attention – eyes, ears, heart and mind – on someone or something I like or love, for instance, my grandson or the moon or Pachelbel Canon. Turn it upside down – when my attention is pulled to something or someone I fear – oops, gotta head for the rabbit hole, it’s the best place to ruminate on a teeth-grinding subject.

Hey sister and brother survivors – anybody out there ever feel isolated, like you don’t belong? Well, you do. 

You belong to this great sizzling world of ours – no matter how long they worked at making you believe you only belonged to them, to do whatever they wanted to do to you. They were wrong as 2+3=17. So I have a question: What would happen if you always, every minute of every day, believed you belonged in the world?

Thanks for reading,
Donna


Read Part 3!

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In 2009 Donna founded Time To Tell with a mission to spark stories from lives affected by incest and sexual abuse to be told and heard. She wrote and performs her one-woman play, What She Knows: One Woman’s Way Through Incest to Joy, which is based on her own experience of surviving incest and what she did to make her life worth living. 

Her book, Healing My Life from Incest to Joy, a narrative of the choices she made and experiences she had that helped her heal from her childhood trauma, will be released by Levellers Press in Fall of 2017. For more information go to www.timetotell.org




Get your copy of Healing My Life: From Incest to Joy today!


October 3, 2017

From Incest to Joy - Part 1

This week, we begin our series with the amazing Donna Jenson, who is a powerhouse of a woman, activist, and beyond survivor. I can't wait for you all to soak in all of the wisdom she has to offer!

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THREE WOMEN RISING on their journey to end childhood sexual abuse – that’s what you’ll see in this video https://youtu.be/b2BUCIAt5DI

Rythea Lee, Producer/Director/Writer, brought me and Filmmaker/Writer/Activist Aishah Shahidah Simmons into THREE WOMEN RISING, her 19th Episode of Advice from a Loving Bitch. What a privilege and delight to be included in Rythea’s groundbreaking work. We all survived childhood sexual abuse and we all spoke to the same questions about healing and activism.

Here are the questions we spoke to:
  • What is a glimpse into your story that you feel is worth sharing? 
  • What is your activism around the subject? 
  • What can you say about joy? 
  • Please talk about why engaging in a conscious healing process is worth it.
  • What do you think about self-love and healing from sexual abuse?


I encourage all the survivors reading this posting to ask your own self these questions, maybe not all of them, maybe only one or two – the ones that jump off the page to you. 

Go one step further – write out the answers and then read them back to yourself out loud. Hearing our own voices saying what is true for us is incredibly empowering.


I am deeply grateful to be connected to these two women. What a jungle of feelings I’ve macheted through to get to this clearing – this place of feeling my wholeness, my not-so-aloneness in a circle of survivor sisters. Hearing each other’s experience helps shed the shame. Witnessing each other breaking the silence adds up to a collective shattering.

The experience of making Episode #19 was a great one for me – to join with two sister survivors in breaking the silence. The months long process of making the video was a lesson in collaborative power – each one supporting and getting supported, all three becoming a chorus for justice. I hope you are as touched by viewing it as I was in the making of it.

Thank you for reading and watching,
Donna Jenson






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In 2009 Donna founded Time To Tell with a mission to spark stories from lives affected by incest and sexual abuse to be told and heard. She wrote and performs her one-woman play, What She Knows: One Woman’s Way Through Incest to Joy, which is based on her own experience of surviving incest and what she did to make her life worth living. 

Her book, Healing My Life from Incest to Joy, a narrative of the choices she made and experiences she had that helped her heal from her childhood trauma, will be released by Levellers Press in Fall of 2017. For more information go to www.timetotell.org




Get your copy of Healing My Life: From Incest to Joy today!




September 26, 2017

How I Overcame Abuse: Life Purpose

This week, we conclude our series with Greg Reese, who shares how healing from traumatic child abuse can be a universal method for a human being to discover their unique purpose in life.


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We human beings have the free will to choose our own path. And while some may have it harder than others, the fate of the individual is up to the individual alone. It is ultimately up to us whether we thrive, survive, or stagnate.

It is our choice to accept or ignore this unique personal responsibility. And while these modern times of convenience make it easy to shrug off the crucial task, our happiness may very well depend on us answering the call.

The organism that we are living within, known as a human being, is very complex. We have a physical body to maintain, emotional attachments and aversions to manage, and an unending stream of thought to oversee. As stewards, we are faced with a great deal of work. If we ignore this work then we decline into ruin, and if we rise up to the task then we can control our own fate.

"The word spirituality has acquired a certain loftiness to it. It conjures up images of the esoteric and the mystical when in fact it denotes something really quite simple. Spirituality is really nothing more than the art of self-management.

On the Spiritual path there are hundreds of traditions and thousands of practices we can study, but really, it's just one practice. The practice of controlling our own mind. If we don't control it, then it controls us. Or worse, someone else controls it for us.

This seems to be a part of the whole human experience. We are born, we are broken, and we fix ourselves. Or, we don’t. But if we do, then we become more human than we were at the start. We become fortified with self-knowledge."


~ Sex Drugs and Om: An Autobiography of an American Yogi

For those of us paying attention, we are constantly receiving valuable information about our state of mind.

As above, so below.

What we see in the world around us is a reflection of what exists within us. And so rather than wasting our efforts on futile attempts at changing the reflection, we must go within and change the source.

The changes we make within our self are then projected upon the world around us. And when we make peace within our self, then it reflects outwardly into every experience.

Just like everything else in our world, each one of us is made up of the same positive and negative charge. If we are feeling the desire for more balance in our life, then we must go within and take responsibility for the organism.

We can change the external world to a small degree, such as creating laws for people to conform to. But the level of power that we have to affect change over our self is beyond comparison. We can even change our own beliefs, which changes the way we see the world.

Adapting ourselves to the world around us is naturally humbling, and humility is a powerful key towards success.

Everything has its polar opposite. And so when we convince our self that "I am a good person", then we create a belief that the "bad people" live outside of us. 

This gives the ego all the fuel it needs to rise up and seize the fallacious moral high-ground, robbing us of our humility. The more we focus on problems out there in the world, the less we attend to our own flaws.

The spurious moral high-ground is yet another distraction the ego sells us to maintain its reigning power. There is no such thing.

Our responsibility is to take care of our own personal organisms, and we have the choice to beat our own paths or follow somebody else's. Managing the fate of the world is not our business, but if it is our purpose, then the most effective way to succeed would be to first become that change. 

By doing this we can effectively make our personal organism happier, thereby inspiring others to follow their own heart and do the same.

What we are talking about here is known in the spiritual tradition of Hermeticism as the Great Work.

"The Great Work is, before all things, the creation of man by himself, that is to say, the full and entire conquest of his faculties and his future; it is especially the perfect emancipation of his will."

~ Eliphas Levi

When we fail to follow our heart then the ego takes over, and usually drags us along the hard way. But when we find the courage to follow, then the path is laid out before us and we begin to resonate with life harmoniously. This great work leads us to knowing true and sustainable bliss.

We will start to notice which things make us suffer, and let them go. And we will begin to see what makes us happy, and start working towards cultivating more of it in our lives. We have an extraordinary opportunity in today’s world to pursue our happiness, follow our bliss, and manifest our own reality.

Another powerful key to success is Gratitude. Expressing gratitude somehow results in seeing more agreeable things in our life. And when we look hard enough, we find that everything warrants gratitude. Even our suffering brings great opportunity. Whenever the unexpected shows up in our life and derails us, we can stand up and face it and receive its golden knowledge. And when we express gratitude for this, we turn it into a blessing that brings forth abundance and good fortune. 

This Great Work provides a lifetime of meaningful purpose. It leads us to live our best lives, and grants us the liberation to find our own fate.






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Greg Reese was born in Vallejo, California, raised in Cleveland, Ohio and now lives in a yoga ashram in Virginia. Since leaving High School, Greg has been a carpenter, musician, filmmaker and writer, as well as a saw-gunner in the US Marines. At the present time, he works in the audio-video department of the yoga ashram.

Having been a writer of poems and essays all his life, and having had such a uniquely unusual life so far, Greg decided to write a book about his experiences. Sex Drugs and OM: An Autobiography of an American Yogi, is an enlightening, entertaining account of how he elevated himself beyond suffering with yoga and meditation, and found sustainable happiness.

Greg is busy writing his first novel, plans on moving to Hawaii, and writing several more to come.

His favorite quote comes from Robert Anton Wilson, and sums up his feeling about belief - “Only the madman is absolutely sure.”


September 19, 2017

How I Overcame Abuse: Self-Acceptance

This week, we continue our series with Greg Reese, who delves into what is means to accept ourselves and what we gain access to by doing so.



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In part 1, Dispelling the Victim, we looked at the trappings of ego identity, and at the vital importance of releasing blame so that we can become proactive in our own personal growth.

In part 2, Being the Witness, we learned an ancient art of self-observance. An art that we can practice in any and every moment to gain valuable self-knowledge. Once we begin seeing through the mind’s fanciful projections, we will start to see ourselves as we truly are. And when we do, we won’t like everything that we see. We will want to change our self, which is a healthy desire, but change takes time. This sort of work likely takes a lifetime. This is where we find the need for self-acceptance.

Here in part 3, we will look at the value of cultivating a strong practice of self-acceptance.

As we become more practiced in the art of being the witness, then we will better understand the workings of our own mind. After observing its different aspects, we may pronounce the ego to be the trouble maker, and come to see it as some sort of illness. Some even exclaim: “death to the ego”. This, however, is a common ruse perpetrated by the ego itself in an attempt to evade capture. It will be quite happy having us chase our own shadow, so long as we don’t quiet the mind and accept responsibility for our actions.

The ego is not the trouble maker. It is not bad, nor is it our enemy. It is a personal faculty of the self that we must operate lest we fall to its chaos.

"The ego is a lot like a dog. When you get a new puppy and take it home, it's all over the place. And if you neglect to train the puppy, it will piss and shit all over the floors of your home, and tear apart everything within its reach. By never establishing yourself as the boss, it will become the boss. And since a dog is not equipped to rule a human home, it will grow into a neurotic animal.

The dog is not bad, and it could be your new best friend. It just needs to be trained.

I needed to keep my ego on a tight leash, but I also needed to occasionally allow its indulgences. To completely refuse it would be extreme, and I needed to love and accept my entire self unconditionally."


~ Sex Drugs and Om: An Autobiography of an American Yogi

We often make the mistake of seeing the things that hurt us as being negative, and this type of thinking is short-sighted and divisive. If we come too close to fire, it will burn us. This does not mean that fire is a negative force, but rather, it is a force that we must respect.

The ego is also a force that we must respect. It is always calling us to formulate strong opinions of what is good and what is bad, and we can easily allow it to knock us into unhealthy extremes. It is all subjective, and finding a balance becomes paramount to having any control over our life.

Everything is made up of the same polarized stuff. Within each of us exists both the positive and the negative charge. This is called yin and yang iChinese philosophy. Two opposing forces that are inherently interdependent. One giving rise to the other which then gives rise back again in an endless symbiosis. It is perhaps the very motor which produces the spark of life.

As the Witness, we detach from taking things personally so that we can see our self as we truly are. This is precisely the same state of consciousness we want to ply in order to garner self-acceptance. Un-attached as the Witness, we can see past our expectations of how we think we should be, and accept ourselves as we truly are.

"The goal of Un-attachment is taught in most Eastern religions, and I began to better understand it when I replaced the word attachment, with the word expectation.

It wasn’t pursuing my desires that caused unhappiness, it was having an expectation of their outcome. Things would always turn out to be different than the way I expected, and this would invariably cause disappointment and a feeling of failure. Learning how to always keep an open mind, and expecting nothing, was vital to understanding sustained happiness.

There is another popular teaching in Eastern religions; Renunciation. I never liked the word because I used to think it was about ignoring our desires and saying no to all worldly things, which made no sense to me. But I learned that this understanding was incorrect.

Renunciation was not about turning away from worldly desires. It was about realizing that you don't own anything. Nothing is yours and nothing lasts. Renunciation was about not clinging to things. It was about learning to appreciate whatever comes your way, pain or pleasure. It was about taking things as they come, letting them go as they pass, and always being present.
I was ready to trust my higher-self, and that's what renunciation and giving up expectations was all about. The ego chases after things, clings to them, and expects a certain outcome. Whereas, the higher-self has them delivered by the divine, enjoys what is given, and releases what is taken."


~ Sex Drugs and Om: An Autobiography of an American Yogi


Self-acceptance is very much like forgiveness and surrender. It is letting go of our own resistance.


When we truly choose to accept something, then we experience the state of mind known as surrender. I have manifested strange magic with this. Aspects of my life that tormented me for years became immaterial when I let go, surrendered, and accepted them. It is a great power to wield.

This entire process could be described as love. To love something is to see the good in it, and thereby come to appreciate its form. This is what we want to do with everything we find within our self. We want to see the good in every part. 

This requires us to come to an understanding.

For example:

While being the witness, we may observe that we treat certain people unfairly. And we may begin to feel contempt for our self. But upon further self-analysis, we realize that we treat them unfairly because they remind us of someone who hurt us years ago. The behavior was initially created to protect our self from injury, but it has also become an unconscious prejudice. We don’t want to act unfairly, but we can now appreciate its causality.

Ignoring our flaws will make feral burdens of them, weighing us down like sickness. But with acceptance; we can calmly acknowledge them and bring them into accord with our conscious desires. Over time, we can begin to enjoy a rich life of purpose.

When I first began being the witness and seeing myself as I truly am, I felt as if I had wasted years of my life allowing my ego to drag me through unneeded suffering and sorrow. But upon further introspection, I could see its great purpose. The ego was teaching me as it led me along its dark tumultuous paths. It was not all for naught.

When I failed to choose the clear cut path, my ego would drag me through brambles and thorns. And through the bloody pricks and misery, I always came out the other side with more knowledge. I do believe that they are working together, both ego and higher-self taking me to the same place. One goes the easy way and the other goes the hard.

There is a voice within us that is quietly guiding us along our path. If we follow this path, we realize our true purpose and come to find contentment and joy. But a legion of temptation and distraction haunts our mind and longs to lead us astray. This is the game; to tame the wild ego and fearlessly follow the quiet voice within.





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Greg Reese was born in Vallejo, California, raised in Cleveland, Ohio and now lives in a yoga ashram in Virginia. Since leaving High School, Greg has been a carpenter, musician, filmmaker and writer, as well as a saw-gunner in the US Marines. At the present time, he works in the audio-video department of the yoga ashram.

Having been a writer of poems and essays all his life, and having had such a uniquely unusual life so far, Greg decided to write a book about his experiences. Sex Drugs and OM: An Autobiography of an American Yogi, is an enlightening, entertaining account of how he elevated himself beyond suffering with yoga and meditation, and found sustainable happiness.

Greg is busy writing his first novel, plans on moving to Hawaii, and writing several more to come.

His favorite quote comes from Robert Anton Wilson, and sums up his feeling about belief - “Only the madman is absolutely sure.”


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