Rest and Digest: Celebrating a new Thanksgiving

Rest and Digest: Celebrating a new Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving holiday was emotionally the safest and neurologically the longest parasympathetic stretch of my entire life.  I am the calmest and most grounded in my body I have ever been following this particular holiday.  The people that were allowed to gather near me this week created love sharing similar values.  Mostly, my time was spent with my son and my husband that I adore so deeply it goes beyond any written words.  I allowed myself to be cared for by myself and others.  Yesterday, I napped hard and would occasionally awaken and watch my husband clean our home as we prepared together for emerging from our nest back into the wide world.  I left last night and went to soak alone for 30 minutes in hot water and did not even consider taking my phone with me.  This is new.  So much is new as I close this holiday weekend that writing felt necessary for true integration.  This was not the adrenal-addled Thanksgiving of years past due to my own HARD decisions and emotional growth.

As a child of abuse my synapses were wired from infancy in fight or flight.  My biological father used a shotgun inside our house in rage.  Later he tried to kill my mother by cutting her brake lines and I lived through his violent presence in our home and my brain/body remembered. My mother was the child of an alcoholic and her transgenerational programming of neglect and abuse instructed my nervous system as well. My birth was her failed 16 year old escape plan from her family of origin. The repetition of abusive relationships shifted and changed over the years for both my mother and myself but only this year was I finally able to find clarity and truly cut from the web of the abuse of my childhood.  

I came into utter clarity this year and was forced to let go of both of my parents after I witnessed the abuse of my mother in my home.   

The patterns of abuse within my mother and step father’s relationship were less obvious than a shotgun being fired in the house and yet, the patterns and neurological impact were still there.  My clarity is this, the patterns of abuse ends with me. This cycle ends with me, mostly for the health and well-being of my own child and now I realize for the health of my of own neurology. Since distancing myself from both of my parents, living in my body feels very different and there has been so so much grief. Because of my growing clarity I bravely stood up immediately to witnessed abuse this past September and asked my step dad to leave my home. What ensued was scary and hurtful AND predictable behavior from an abusive person. AND, I stood strong in my clarity despite many attempts by my mother to smooth this over.

You can do all the work on yourself imaginable and if you still allow persons utilizing abuse in your presence, the cycle will continue. It gets extremely tricky when an abusive person is your parent or step parent.  I miss my mom every single day.  We were extremely close and talked daily AND I now see how her adult decisions are continuing to support this pattern of abuse.  Now we share only a few words once a week as I do not want to continue to enable her.  I do not miss my step father.  Over the past few months, I have been able to see more clearly the impact his unchecked abuse has had on our family over the past 30 years.  This week I received my last text from him and I finally blocked him from my cell phone.  Prior to making this choice I was able to tell him in utter clarity that I was afraid of him and no longer desired a relationship with him. 

Writing this blog is terrifying and cathartic as I have spent so much energy covering up for my family over the years.  It has been my job to pretend everything was ok when it never really was.  I was asked to call this man Dad when he never actually was a father to me.  I tried desperately as a teen to create something out of absolutely nothing because it was what I was given.  Today I consciously call that energy home.  I no longer need a father like I once did.  I am no longer the scared and lonely child I once was.  

I am whole. I am loved unconditionally and deeply. I consciously create my own safety and care.

I write today because I know with certainty that others spent the holidays with folks who may not be good for their nervous systems.  I write this because I want to continue to remind MYSELF that as grown ADULTS, we have a choice, always in who we stand closest to.  As children we have none and this helplessness can spread unconsciously into adulthood if we do not examine our choices.  

Nothing has been particularly easy about the choices I have made this year AND like many of the hard choices in life, the results are worth it. I choose to love my parents deeply from a distance that reflects their actual behaviors rather than an idealized child’s dream of an intact family. I embrace my clarity consciously again and again until it become habitual. And, in this choice I can come home, truly home within myself.

Screen Time Boundaries

Screen Time Boundaries

For those parenting older children, you are putting the finishing touches on Generation Z.  Those of us with younger children are parenting what is now known to cultural scientists as Generation Alpha.  Generation Z was the first group of children to be raised their entire lifetimes with access to both the internet and handheld technology.  This generation’s brains have codeveloped immersed within technology.  Humans are adaptive and our brains are quite dynamic for shaping to any given environment.  There are folks that argue this technological reality has been to our cultural and mental benefit (Scientific America). Certainly the isolation of COVID would have looked entirely different without virtual connection. However, beyond this debate of whether tech is inherently good or bad for us, what I am most interested in as a parent and as a pediatrician is this:  How do I teach and model for my child the internal boundaries required for maintaining a healthy relationship with screen time? 

As a concierge pediatrician, I am oncall nearly 365 days a year and have been for five years now.  This requires that my phone be available to me at all times, particularly during the daytime hours when my child is awake and witnessing my behavior.  Though this is a work requirement, needing to check my phone for texts and calls sets me up for a dangerous relationship with my phone. Moreover with more addictive phone apps that have been programmed to grab my attention, I can become entirely lost to those around me. I had to remove both the Facebook and TikTok app from my phone.  From my child’s perspective, I am on my phone constantly.  This is what I have been modeling for years and there are consequences to this modeling. Over the past few months I have begun to make radical shifts.  I now have clinical help that affords me three to four day stints in the mountains without my phone in my hand.  I check my phone less habitually due to this new clinical support system.  I am still very present for my clients and more so for myself and my own family. This change has happened over years and represents my mature internal boundary systems at work, SLOWLY over time.  Internal boundaries have to be nurtured and respected in ourselves and then we can begin to teach our children.  They take patience and time to develop.  Children are not born mature.  To expect their brains to be and act like ours is fallacy.  J frequently likes to point out, Mom I am a kid!  I truly forget sometimes that he is only nine years old. 

So what are internal boundaries?  At the simplest definition this is the resulting clarity of our internal yes and no.  For MANY people this part of themselves either never had the chance to fully form and/or due to trauma was lost or muddled with the help of the dysfunctional adults around us. Any toddler knows a true yes and a true no.  This is part of what makes them such a tough crowd!  The loss of our embodied yes and no is the flag that marks the spots of transgenerational trauma.  Say what now?  I know.  This may feel like a HUGE jump for some of you but for those of you that have done boundary work, you are nodding with me. 

Screen time comes down to boundaries.  Ideally for your child these will be cultivated from the inside out.   Turning screen time into a war zone and a battle of wills is exhausting for all involved.  It also has a tendency to hurt rather than nurture the parent-child relationship.  Now, does this mean that I hand a seven year old a tablet and walk away? No, not at all.  I mention this because how much of our children’s screen time are we actually present for?  How many times have I thought, ok I can meet with this client and my kiddo can just watch a show.  The screen has become a babysitter, a break, a moment to catch our breaths as mothers living in a patriarchal society in which frankly we aren’t afforded the support that we need for our own work.  As mothers we have to fight for a moment to breathe and have two consecutive uninterrupted thoughts.  It was 5:30a when I got up to write this article.  It is the ONLY waking quiet I have during the day.  I am certain I am not alone in this and so, the screen becomes our maternal relief. This investigation has revealed the tip of the iceberg and the deeper issues such as our continued cultural lack of maternal support have become visible. This “screen time” issue is so beyond at how many minutes do I set the screen locks.

So what do we do for now?  I get to embrace my child’s journey into embodiment and to help him find his true yes and true no, his internal compass.  And yep, as a mature, embodied parent I do get to act as guide.  I love Shanti Zimmerman’s boundary work and she says that as a parent I provide reference points.  This is very differently than swooping in and imposing a view on someone.  Yes, I have lived longer and have some hard-earned wisdom and maturity to convey.  And most importantly, I get to model my internal boundaries again, and again for Julien to come to a true understanding of how to be a healthy, embodied and present human being.  Whether it is screen time, driving a car, relationships, nutrition, sleep behaviors it will always be more of what we are actually modeling than what is coming out of our mouths.  And what I love about an embodied, boundaried kid is…he isn’t afraid to tell me when I am living/being/acting outside of my own boundaries.

So the first questions I ask myself when my kiddo and I begin to argue about screen time are these:  

  1. How present have I been to him today?  
  2. Is there a need he is attempting to fill through the screen that I can help with, ie missing his friends, feeling lonely, feeling bored?

Typically these questions are enough to get us started down a healthy path of collaborative communication.  

If you’re interested in our screen time specifics currently (this is absolutely dynamic) and likely will have nothing to do with what your particular kid needs…and you can get a feel for what we are doing:

He currently plays video games only on the weekend unless traveling into the mountains which the lack of wifi/signal will mess this sacred time up and so we adjust to travel.  The weekend play is dependent on friends being virtually available as this is his only social life as we are living in a different state homeschooling currently.  The weekend play is far more screen time than he has ever been allowed in his entire life but we monitor it closely and watch for the place where the play starts to lose it luster and he mentally shifts. This requires us to stay present.  If Dad is available he will often play as well to help monitor behaviors and for comradery. My kiddo can’t see all of this internally yet as he’s nine years old.  There is a slow and steady neurological process/awareness at work.  At this point when we see him start to break down (externally visible through speech, movements) we begin coaching and offering alternatives and recommending the end of screen time.  Saying out loud what we are physically noticing in him we help him notice.  There is an off ramp to the video game time that is often ugly and not a lot of fun that lasts for 30min to 1 hr (neurology resetting to real life) AND requires my FULL PRESENCE.  I used to panic in this phase thinking he was going to have permanent damage but now I get that it is a natural transition phase from the intense neurological effects of gaming.  It passes.  Then he’s fine and ready for a real life adventure.  Clearly, this is a LOT of work on our end and I truly believe this is what it takes for him to really get it. 

He earns his daytime/weekday shows through his homeschool work.  Savvy folks recognize this as an external motivator/validation AND it works too and helps me have the energy to remain present after a full day of homeschool!!!!  Internal boundaries/motivation will always win in the end AND it is ok to use external motivation as well as a parent.  The most important thing is that your kid learns the difference between these motivators and knows when they are acting upon them. 

None of this is easy really. It takes my presence and a lot of my time for him to utilize screen time in a healthy way. He’s awake now! And watching The Simpsons and so I better wrap this up.

Love and tenderness to you as you journey with screen use in your own life and that of your kiddos.

-Heather Kim, DO

Let’s Talk about Sex (before it’s too late)

Let’s Talk about Sex (before it’s too late)

As many of you know reproductive rights have moved from the quiet shadows of conversations out into the wide open these past weeks, especially in Texas. I am grateful to see the attempts at repression resulting in a sisterhood of backlash in which women are beginning to drop the decades of shame that have saddled their lives and bodies. In telling their stories out loud, healing is happening at a profound level. My passion for women’s rights has been ignited and burns with such an intensity, my heart now glows visible from miles away. As a pediatrician it has been hard to figure out where my energy will be best utilized in this fight against patriarchy as I am not an obstetrician nor a lawyer and so my “frontline” is going to look more like a flank. My responsibility today is family education and preventative care.

Sex education in Texas schools at this time is extremely restrictive (abstinence curriculum only) and leaves the responsibility of actual sex education on the parents of these children. This is wonderful in some ways as I don’t want an anti LGBTQ nut in the Texas school system teaching my child a single thing about sex. The problem is this, not all kids have a parent around to feed and supervise them let alone sit down and have an awkward sex conversation. Not all parents know how a menstrual cycle works, their own fertility windows etc. Also, denial is an all too common coping strategy when it comes to teens and sexual activity and when utilized it is dangerous for all involved.

Average age for onset of sexual intercourse in the United States is 17 years. Firstly as 17 years is the reported average, mathematically it means some of these kids younger than 17 are sexually active. Ask your teacher friends if you want to really be horrified. I also want to be crystal clear, as a wise woman I don’t think a 14 year old has the spiritual capacity for intercourse nor its consequences. I am not pro young kids doing MANY of the things that they get up to and yet as a pediatrician and a trusted mother I get to be a real and a safe place for them to land when they get off course. In the state of Texas right now sexual education is paramount and could truly be life saving. It is critical for parents of children 14 years and up to create a reproductive sexuality box and GIVE it to their child.* You want the child to have the box and to store it where they choose. It is none of your business once teaching is complete and handed over UNLESS your child comes to you. Some children will, and some will not. Children need that privacy and autonomy to use this box correctly. Understand, owning a hammer doesn’t mean I need to immediately go out and build a house. However before I do build a house I need to practice swinging a hammer, yes? This is about having the tools. This is about opening the conversations and showing your kids what is out there to PROTECT them and their friends. Abstinence is great. Waiting until marriage is also a great recommendation. Just know reality is this, 95% of Americans have sex before marriage. Raising a child without a partner is hard AF. If you are the mother of a daughter right now, the reality of patriarchy is this, the majority of this responsibility financially and emotionally will fall on you and your daughter’s shoulders. It is not fair nor right AND we get to be REAL about what things are like currently as we work toward change.

Teen Sexuality Preparedness Box

  1. Tampons/pads
  2. Condoms
  3. Water based lubricant
  4. Plan B
  5. Pregnancy Tests

Now the hard part. You cannot just give this stuff to a 14 year old without discussing what each tool is and how to use them. If this conversation is horrifying to you or you don’t feel like your understanding of the menstrual cycle and human reproduction are the strongest then I highly recommend the Unitarian Universalist OWL program. What I like about OWL is that they have classes for all ages and are inclusive and open. There are many other resources online and local sex educators will be free to comment and add links to what they offer. Also I am happy to help anyone with this topic for FREE. Please just reach out directly via the contact link.

These five are for ALL genders. This box does NOT change for boys, girls or other folx. So why tampons and pads? This is a gateway to talking about the menstrual cycle. Giving guys tampons helps demystify them and makes them that guy that is willing to go to the store to buy them for his girlfriend. Understanding the menstrual cycle empowers kids to know when they or their partner is most fertile. Condoms are a no brainer. It is the teen chosen tool of protection, wisely preventing both pregnancy and minimizing spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Put large amount of different brands of condoms. Share and trade with Mom/Dad friends. I would love to see teen parents getting together, sipping wine and joyfully building these boxes as a village. Give kids enough condoms that they can play and practice with them. Again swinging the hammer so that when it comes time to build, I know what I’m doing. These boxes are gender neutral. As much as young men need tampons and pads women need condoms. They get to know how to use them. Condom play is a phenomenal way to keep your teen healthy. The famous banana demonstration is great and there is nothing like giving a kid extra condoms and letting them work out the best way for them to get it on and off. Grasping the base of condom as one exits a sexual encounter is a skill and an important part of the discussion so that they don’t simply dump the contents into their partner. Water based lubricant is crucial in this kit. They can use this for healthy masturbation and water based lube is critical to keeping a condom intact. Oil based lubricants destroy condoms are often the easiest household type item kids will grab mistakenly. Make sure your kids know the difference between oils and water based lubricant and how to read labels. These same kids will leave for college soon and you want them ready! Plan B is a must in the teen box because condoms break, they can be slid off incorrectly especially with a newer user, and in a moment of passion, they can be forgotten all together. Plan B is available OTC and can also be found on Amazon. Check your expiration dates when they arrive. Make a note of the expiration date in your phone calendar/reminder and if your child hasn’t asked for another, just replace when expires. Plan B is a large dose of progesterone that blocks ovulation/implantation and works much like oral birth control. It will not abort a pregnancy that is already there. This is why it is critical that it be given immediately following a condom failure. This is why it is important to have the medication on hand as timing is key to the success of it use. The later it is given, the less efficacy this medication has. The package will say up to 72 hours but again every minute counts towards better efficacy. Pregnancy tests can be purchased at the Dollar Tree and help children know when they need immediate help. Teach kids WHEN to start testing. I would place at least 3-4 in the kit. And make sure that your child knows what a positive pregnancy test looks like and that it means you need trusted adult help immediately.

I hope this helps you get started and gives you ideas on how to help advocate for the continued health of your kids. Please reach out through the contact portion of the website with any private questions or in the comments if you think it will help others!

*see OWL link for age appropriate resources for younger children education ie naming body parts etc. Also know your child and their friends. Peers are a powerful influence. If you get wind through your 13yro of sexual activity in their class, give them the box!

Top 5 Ways to Co Exist with a Viral Load

Top 5 Ways to Co Exist with a Viral Load

****This article is not intended as medical advice. I am happy to schedule a telemed for anyone who needs personalized preventative care at this time. Most supplements in pregnancy are to be avoided. Please discuss their use with your midwife/physician

I have very limited time to write today but I woke up in Texas during the Delta wave with utter clarity that I need to teach folks how to find harmony with viruses. I am not sure that the general public knows that there are critical portions of our health that need to be considered beyond simply the vaccine available to us. Although Pfizer tech is moving in my body, I STILL have more work to do to stay healthy in the surge.

How many times have you been to the doctor and they say it’s just a virus and there is nothing we can do? From their perspective this is true. AND, developing immunity to viruses in our environment is key to us living in harmony with the smallest creatures among us. However, as most of you reading my blog know there are actually loads of options open to us to help the body navigate and prevent full on take over.

  1. Nutrition status
  2. Rest
  3. Supplements
  4. Inflammation status
  5. Listen to your body

For some of you wise ones, just reading this list will gently remind you, ok yes I know what to do. For some of you, you will read this list and think F I have let things slide a bit. It’s ok. I slide too. It is part of ease! As awareness arrives again, we begin again!

1. Nutrition Status

This will look unique for every single body. There is not one particular diet that I recommend. HOWEVER, simple carbs (white carbs/processed foods) and simple sugars are the devil to the immune system. The way they act on the body is related to our inflammation status. They cause oxidative stress on our systems. Basically this means that they cause small fires in the body. COVID can cause a forest fire in certain immune systems. You do not want little fires already burning when it arrives. Vit C, D and Zinc are critical to healthy immune function. If your diet is not rich in these or your digestion isn’t strong, I highly recommend supplementing these.

2. Rest

My prayer is that each of us have learned the value of rest. In my mind this is what COVID came to teach us. No more working ourselves to death for nothing. To put an end to the over scheduling of both ourselves and our children. There is NO healing without ease. Our immune system only functions optimally when it has the space and resources to do so. If you are continuing to give yourself away and hold nothing back for yourself, this will be a more difficult illness. If you get away with it this time, another lesson will come. As a society, we must learn how to create more ease in us and around us. It is the only path to healing our bodies and the planet that supports us.

3. Supplements

For each of you this category will look unique! For my body I use both olive leaf extract and Ban Lan Gen (Hawaii Pharmacy brand). The reason I use these two particular antivirals is that they are both have anti inflammatory effects as well. My body has a tendency toward the small stress fires I described above. There are many more out there. Each virus requires distinct antivirals. There are ongoing studies on both of these supplements for their effectiveness in supporting the immune system during COVID. I discovered olive leaf research when I was in residency as it was being studied in the treatment of HIV. Ban Lan Gen came to me later as a T cell balancing herb from TCM and later I discovered the MANY viral illnesses that it has been found effective against. It is an herb that must be given early as it effects viral replication. Where as olive leaf is actually being studied in COVID ICU patients that are already deathly ill. Most likely this stems from the powerful anti-inflammatory effects of olive leaf.

4. Inflammation Status

So if you’re a person that knows they shouldn’t be eating bread or dairy, now is the time to tighten up the reins a bit. Our baseline inflammation status is related to both our nutritional status/gut health, our genetics and our lived trauma. Our nervous system and our immune system are tightly woven together. You may have thought this was going to be a paragraph on NSAIDs… maybe just for a moment. Remember initially when COVID broke and there was that strange relationship between increased death and ibuprofen usage? NSAIDs overly used are actually immunosuppressive. Delicate use of NSAIDs is a beautiful thing but overuse is what I most typically see. Parents afraid of fever, discomfort end up overloading themselves or their children with unnecessary medications. COVID has been a wonderful entry point for teaching the value of fever! This to say, if you know you may be coming down with COVID do NOT be tempted to take fistfuls of Advil. As an adult a baby aspirin may be a better choice (still not for kids!) to help take the edge off the discomfort. Very few children run high fevers with COVID and I do not recommend the use of ibuprofen for them either.

Instead again olive leaf, quercetin, turmeric, ginger, garlic, green juices (if you have the digestive strength), bone broth, alkaline water, avoid dairy/gluten, avoid simple carbs, avoid processed foods

I would not take all of these at once. I live on some of these because of baseline autoimmune issues. I swear by food. Yes supplements are fast and easy but a yummy turmeric ginger soup made with love will both nourish you and provide you the biochemical support you need! Cooking slows us down as well. This is particularly true when we stop to make food from scratch. Obviously if you have COVID you won’t feel much like cooking for a few days but DO ALLOW OTHERS TO COOK and drop off homemade foods FOR YOU!!!!!!

5. Listen to your body

I was initially so clear that the mRNA vaccine wasn’t for me due to my health issues. And I waited 6 months and held a clear NO, against so much cultural pressure as a physician. In June something changed. It was clear as day. Like a bell went off. My body asked for a booster (I had already had very mild native disease ~a year prior). I had been following what was happening in India, knew the required travel that was coming for my family this year and it became clear I was going to need some western magic to support me as the next surge hit. I am so happy I listened. For some of you the vaccine is still a heck no for your body. I support this. I will always support embodied awareness and medical choice. Unlike the media thinks, I know we are not all immunologically the same. It may not be for you. If it isn’t, please do all the things you know how to do to be ready to be with this virus. There will be no hiding this time and we CAN be READY!!!!!!

I love each of you and pray for your continued vibrant health in this surge.

Gratitude is a Radical Act

Gratitude is a Radical Act

Life and people can take certain things away from you, and a lot of that is out of your control — but no one can take away a grateful heart and mindset of abundance. -Thomas Oppong

Human beings are currently culturally programmed into fear-based thought and action.  If you doubt the validity of this sentence look at the reality of the world we are living in currently.  Resources are being grabbed and seized from one another and our Earth with such rapidity that we are beginning to secure our own demise.  Gratitude is not a natural state for an adrenalized human.  Gratitude is a radical act and requires cultivated skills to hold against the tide of I’m gonna get mine.  Also, what if what you already have is enough to fill your heart?  What kind of consumer would you become? With utter clarity, I say that capitalism doesn’t love a grateful heart. 

Gratitude is a radical act. Today I have sat myself down and made time to explore this critical subject.  In an attempt to understand the way gratitude moves in my body and being I am creating a gratitude wheel.  Slowly as I form the words of this wheel, gratitude is growing within me and I am beginning to feel my entire being shift from my baseline sympathetic to a more relaxed parasympathetic state.  I’ve noticed today that for true gratitude to arise, a decent size pause is required.  In the busy to-do list machinations within my mind, gratitude has insufficient space for its long languid legs.  Very interesting to me there were some tears that came when I allowed myself to truly embody my gratitude.  Grief moved within me as some of the things I am most grateful for I am preparing to move physically away from.  This makes sense when I remember that grief is praise as Matín Prechtel teaches. Praise and gratitude place me in a space of deeper vulnerability than I usually inhabit in my day to day.

When I am in my baseline critical mind there is a nice porcupine shell of antipathy that forms all around my heart that helps keep me safe from anyone getting to close or hurting me.  It also cuts me off from any chance of meaningful relating.  It’s a choice at some level and I would love to have a bit more conscious awareness around this decision.  Over the past year, I have had to develop the skills/be coached into learning how to celebrate the wins in my life.  There is plenty to celebrate in my life. Yet, in my German protestant upbringing celebrating others and God forbid, celebrating myself is utter heresy.  I have found clear evidence that without the ability to celebrate self, the likelihood of being able to celebrate others slides to a near zero.  In my growing ability to self celebrate, I react and act differently with others I am relating to and have become markedly less critical.

Cultivating gratitude is a conscious choice.  What I am recommending isn’t a spiritual bypass.  I can fully embrace the value of my porcupine critical voice and create a gratitude wheel in the same moment.  In fact, I am grateful for my critical mind. That same sharp mind is what allows me to communicate in a meaningful way. What I am working towards in my life is greater balance.  Can I soften into gratitude as easily as I can identify what is not working in a situation?  This conscious awareness, this mindfulness, is what it is all about for me.  

I hope you get a chance to create a gratitude wheel.  It has been an amazing journey this morning.

Justice as Instinct

Justice as Instinct


As I delve under the visible lens of speaking up, I have been bumping into my sense of justice.  For where else would spring an illogical desire to put myself into uncomfortable social situations, than a richer and more valuable tool of self guidance?  Instincts are like that. They can purposely place us directly in the way for a valid reason.  In my body, this guide in speaking up, this particular instinct stems from a felt sense of justice.  This instinct I am describing is old and has no ties to my rational mind.  I have actually carefully trained my rational mind to take a backseat to the way I sense instinct.  When my body has tracked injustice and asks of me to stand up, I know she has my back.  When I act from this grounded instinct there is lightening clarity in my words.  Despite my rational mind offering me a host of valuable reason to keep my mouth shut, I eventually speak because I know this Lady Justice that lives in me is trustworthy.  She has proven herself and her value to me repeatedly over these 44 years.

Often when this justice instinct happens, I feel connected to something invariably bigger than my little body. As I breathe into this sense and ground down, it expands again and I further anchor myself in my connection to others and eventually to the biggest what is… This my grounded instinct of justice and I both belonging to Nature simultaneously is more powerful than rational narratives. From this experience of Mother, I learned about a type of justice that works in my body. The narratives I was taught of justice in America seem plastic as compared to my own deeper native truth. I am lucky this Lady Justice thrives in me and that I have honed my ability to hear and recognize her voice in my body.

Despite this initial powerful instinctive impulse towards justice, sometimes speaking up looks like a week long investigation into my own reactions before I utter another word about the situation.  I have no interest in adding damage to damage. Lady Justice doesn’t abandon me when I ask for time to be with my human reactions. This is mindfulness.  Sometimes speaking up looks like a deep and lengthy personal investigation that may have no end because who I am is dynamic.  Speaking up can be nuanced and clear all at once.  What I know is this, when justice comes from a grounded, instinctual type of knowing, it works in accordance to my body and my life and my relationships evidence this.  

There is a caveat I need to mention before I close this short blog.  There are people that do not like me.  Working from a inner sense of justice may piss some folks off.  Particularly, it angers those that want to hold power over others. Within me there is a joyful integrity flowing as a direct result of living in accordance to my own instinctual wisdom and THIS now serves as my beacon. My inner sense of justice guides me and my choices and attracts others who share the value of intact intuitive instincts.

Thanks to the skillsets I have learned, I am able to face the injustices of this world with greater clarity. Free from blaming and shaming myself for my privileges, I am better able to navigate and include them in my awareness as I work to create a more justice in this world. This is still my practice. When I look at the horrific disparity, I do still cringe and wonder how I got so lucky to be on the winning side of the divide this time. In my journey as I move toward elderhood, I work on knowing when and where socially I am included. As this place is as critical to powering social change as knowing when I am excluded.

How does justice move in your body? 

How do I better hold space for others to express their felt sense of justice?

For more on inclusion/exclusion in social change consider reading

Mindful of Race: Transforming Racism from the Inside Out

Book by Ruth King

For more information on developing skillsets to navigate boundaries and maturity follow Shanti on Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/shanti.zimmermannBeingShanti

If you’d like to read a gorgeous treatise on this topic and more, read Jean Jacque Rosseau’s Émile

The Art of Speaking Up

The Art of Speaking Up

Speaking up is a crucial art form. 

This year speaking up forced me to step away from a beloved spiritual community.  The irony of this is not lost on me and it is important to remember that mindfulness communities are not immune to human abuse of power. In fact, there are reasons that these abuses of power are even more likely to plague communities where non confrontation is a core value.  

Challenging any belief system where a particular group holds power or are given greater value over others makes speaking up more difficult and at the same time, this EXACT social formulation makes the art of speaking up even more critical to the health of ourselves and our societies. 

As a parent, I want my child to speak up.  As the reality of bully culture has become more mainstream, there are countless articles on how to bolster our children up to the task of standing up for themselves yet NONE of these articles address the root cost of speaking up.  Nowhere in these parenting articles does it ask the parent, how comfortable are you with being really sweaty uncomfortable and still speaking up?  Julien has come home crying more than once about something that has happened at school and my first question is often, “Did you tell anyone?”  Usually he has not for a host of reasons that I did not fully, compassionately understand.  I had never given thought to how HARD the task of speaking up actually is, until now. 

The heartbreak of my initial sense of loss of my meditation community and becoming intimately aware of my vulnerability in needing to belong started me into a 3 month investigation exploring the art of speaking up with a trusted movement teacher.  This investigation is still underway and I now realize that developing my art of speaking up will stay with me much, much longer.

I sat in a culture of silence around an abuse of power that I knew was unhealthy for months.  Interestingly, my discernment was never an issue.  The deeper trouble was my unconscious fear of losing my dear community, thereby losing the value that I had placed and cultivated in the space. This was shadowed as well with likely a wise unconscious fear of confronting this person in power.  Losing our belonging is a HUGE and important vulnerability for a human being.  Our need to belong is ancient and real and tied to our survival.  Wildly and courageously we have to be willing to risk this primal need to whisper into our evolution.  It would be wonderful if it weren’t the case but all too often this is the real risk we face, and experienced predators know how to utilize this fear to manipulate.  Also, behind every single human abusing power is a well of anger that can be truly intimidating.  It is meant to be. This is part of how we hold power over others.  And the knowledge of this threat begins in our parenting, the playground and is perpetuated by our cultural narratives of power and value. 

I am a 44 year old feminist and yet I witnessed unwanted sexual advances from a male leader and I failed to speak up immediately.  I let a seemingly small transgression go that I knew represented an abuse of power and more pronounced issues followed months later.  This time, in the now glaringly obvious, I spoke up directly.  I was met with anger and I was initially kicked out of the group by the individual.  When we spoke, mindfulness was out the window.  There was no productive conversation around power dynamics, no agreement to a code of conduct. I was screamed at.  Called a judgmental bitch.  I was in awe of the incredible well of anger I had tapped in this person.  I am now aware that patriarchy persists because it has been ruthlessly defended.  

Now I am left wondering how is an 8 year child supposed to speak up and face an angry and defensive bullying threat like this?  Even a child’s version of defensive anger can sting and do damage if the receiving child is not fully boundaried.  How is a young child going to be ready to navigate a primal fear like belonging?  Clearly the playground is a more PG version but the suffering is relative and the fears are too.  The need to belong to my 8 year old is as powerful a driving force as it is in my own life.

My own bravery is encrypted in my DNA.  I come from a long line of “crazy bitches” that fought patriarchy openly, loudly.  And yet, my need to belong can still make me vulnerable to silence.  When we recognize our vulnerability, we ironically become more resilient.  I feel strongly that all beings deserve a safe spot at any table.  I believe as a woman, I deserve a place where I can let down my guard and come to presence without combating someone else’s unwanted sexual desires.  What I want anyone reading this to realize is, we are not there yet.  If we cannot have the conversations openly, then we are clearly not there yet.  My writing today is still a courageous part of this standing up.  As my own compassion grows for how hard it is to stand up, may my own ability to hold space for my learning child grow.  May we all find our bravery and our voice.  May we recognize the greater risk.  In the end, the sexual and emotional safety of women (and myself) was more important to me than my need to belong to this group.  And developing this type of awareness is a beautiful entry point for teaching my child, by my example, the value of speaking up.  

More will always benefit from the clarity of our own voice than our silence.   

Photo of Audre Lorde

Robert Alexander/Getty Images

Mindful Breathing and the Pelvic Floor

Mindful Breathing and the Pelvic Floor

It begins with the breath…

Healing the pelvic floor and breath awareness are intimately related. All mindfulness practices begin with the simple return to conscious breath awareness for a VERY good reason. Breathing is one of the most affordable healing modalities that we have available and it is always there waiting for us when we need it. No appointment necessary! Until this year, I had NEVER been taught how my pelvic floor could move in relation to my breath. I understood my respiratory diaphragm and its movement beautifully in relation to inhale and exhale but I never knew how each breath I took could contribute to a healthy relaxed and responsive pelvic floor.

I have practiced yoga since 1998 and taught since 2003 and I have never witnessed the natural movement of a relaxed pelvic floor taught. In fact, through yoga I had learned how to squeeze, lifting my already too tight pelvic floor into mula bandha choking off unruly sexual energy? If I had a penny for every cultural lie I’ve been sold… Thanks to trauma, autoimmune disease (IC pelvic pain) and a fine type A personality, I had cultivated one of the tightest pelvic floors in the world and squeezing my pelvic floor each yoga practice only worsened my pelvic floor discomfort. I further exacerbated this issue for years in Pilates. I studied with a highly regarded/expensive teacher and developed beautiful core strength and NEVER ONCE did she talk to me about the relaxation of my pelvic floor and how it could contribute to my overall core power. Nope it was zip UP the lines of the leg and an ENGAGE the pelvic floor constantly for an hour of practice. One crazy ass type A leading another will only lead to more tension. I am here to save you all from a world of mess. This is simply, wrong, horrible bad uninformed teaching. If you are seeking help for your pelvic floor it is CRUCIAL to find a practitioner that understands the importance of pelvic floor relaxation and responsiveness.

Understanding the theory of sliding filaments of muscle contraction may help the analytical mind understand what I’m getting at here…the ability to relax is also our ability to fire up the muscles of the pelvic floor!

If you have a muscle in a constant state of contraction (i.e. a hyper contracted pelvic floor) there is no further path to shorten the muscle filaments and no further power available to squeeze! Another great example for my kinesthetic learners is flex your bicep, (make like your showing your guns) and just hold that flexed state for awhile and watch what happens to your power. In that flexed state you are eating up the energy needed to contract the muscle AND your ability to move anything, your moving power becomes relatively limited in that continued contracted state. And lets say you stood there showing your guns for a decade? maybe two decades? Guess what would happen to your ability to lengthen those same bicep muscles back out? The same is true for your pelvic floor basket. If we walk around with our pelvic floor constantly contracted, we lose power for when that big sneeze or cough comes to call.

So easy enough right? Just relax your pelvic floor and the let the breath massage your pelvic organs and everything will be unicorns and rainbows and the best orgasms of your life! If you haven’t been promised these things then you haven’t been advertised to like I have. Here’s the hard and ugly truth, it can take years. YEARS to soften a pelvic floor. Who wants to hear this? How many of us want a quick fix, to be done with pain, suffering immediately? I did. Now though, by route of real and lasting healing, I’ve learned what the road to healthy looks like. Healing looks like a lot of slow steady changes and occasionally beautiful leaps forward and then some back pedaling. Pelvic floor relaxation is my ongoing daily investigation. I cannot force my pelvic floor to relax. Nor can you. I can however create a mindfully lived experience in which my body feels safe enough to consider a completely different way of being. I promise that even the tiniest shifts in the pelvic floor can have incredible effects on our day to day lived experience of being in our bodies. I am not out of the woods yet myself. I write and teach from the woods!

Anahatasana

So what I’m going to describe today is a sip from my own practice this morning! We are journeying together. Teaching pelvic floor healing has made me 90% more accountable to my own healing. So I thank you for your interest in this journey! Lets begin with a simple exploration in the yin posture Anahatasana. This posture was designed as a heart/chest opener and it is an excellent pelvic floor stretch and places your body in an a perfect position to sense the breath moving through the pelvic floor. For the purpose of pelvic floor exploration you can put a bolster under your chest or cross you arms into a basket to support your head. Most important for our exploration is that the hips are above the knees. Make sure the area under the knees is very well padded with a blanket. To find this position without the help of a mirror, you can rock your rear back to a child’s pose type position and then raise the hips slowly back up above the knees. As you do this keep your breath and attention on the pelvic floor. Like the animation above as I breathe in I look for a feeling of my pelvic floor filling. As I exhale I look for a feeling of my pelvic floor emptying. This exploration is best experienced for 2-3 minutes. Set an Insight Timer and wiggle as your body needs to and keep returning to sensation in the pelvic floor. Rest anytime you need to. As you transition to your day and begin to move and walk, occasionally drop back to that awareness and see if you can sense your pelvic floor respond to your breath!

As a trauma-informed teacher, I want to provide additional awareness on what can possibly arise in this position. For many women this position can feel extremely vulnerable. If you notice this and need to come down out of the posture into child’s pose, please do. Any gained awareness can become an incredible key stone to our healing. Please know that forcing the body into any position it doesn’t want to be in will result in tension rather than relaxation.

Quality of Movement

Quality of Movement

Recently my personal healing journey returned me to the study of the Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement practice.  This gentle practice frequently asks the student this beautiful question, “What is my felt sense of the quality of this movement?”  The clear purpose of the Feldenkrais method is a more relaxed and a more connected neuro-somatic system. When we are able to explore ourselves and the quality of our movement in this way we begin to deepen our intuitive sense of the quality of not only somatic movement, but also our lived experiences.

This morning’s walk offered me a potent insight into real life application of the Feldenrkrais quality exploration.  I am a daily list maker because like many women, I wake up in the morning with ~400 tasks available to me.  In years past, I would spend my days fruitlessly attempting to do all the things.  I spent most days resentful and exhausted and frankly, I was miserable to be around.  Over the years, I have deconstructed some of the cultural and personal stories that landed me in that awful wrung out way of being.  With my Clarity of Boundaries, I can now compassionately limit myself daily to what my body/emotional reserve tanks are capable on any given day.  And, this morning another piece of the puzzle landed.  I was walking the dog and making my Tuesday list mentally.  I have habitually likely done this for years.  Today however I heard the internal machinations of my busy mind come to a screeching halt because I asked myself this question:

What quality of movement would I like to cultivate today? 

As a yoga teacher, I always invite students to set an intention prior to moving on the mat.  The Feldenkrais question is a slightly different lens in that the question isn’t what I want to bring to my yoga mat.  The question is specifically what quality do I want to bring to the my movement or in my case the doing of this list of stuff that needs to be done.  I am a householder.  I do not live in a quiet monastery.  Yet, I find I often have vast access to Zen moments if I can slow down enough to allow them to arrive. 

The final beauty I have for you is this great fact. Today I didn’t immediately know/have the answer to my question.  But like a Zen koan, sometimes a question is simply enough to drop us more deeply into the moment of our lives.

What quality of movement would you like to cultivate today? 

May these words serve our hearts and minds,

Heather