Body as Fiction

I woke up this morning with a vision of the diffuse nature of our physiology.  We are full of holes.  Full of possibility.  I thought of oxygen diffusion through our capillary systems and alveoli, nutrient diffusion through the cilia systems of our guts, neurotransmitter exocytosis across synaptic clefts, continuous negotiation across cellular membranes of calcium and potassium…the alchemy of exchange in our bodies can be found everywhere, at every level of examination.  The closer the examination, for example from cellular to molecular to atomic, the more porous our boundaries appear.  Matter, upon inquiry, is not so solid.  

Ironically, our psychic composition may find itself to be stuck, and its bodily dressing, in all its pliability, would be bound to appear stuck as well.  But isn’t Pysche supposed to be fluid, and the body a lumbering, thunking, solid thing?  It’s been interesting for me to imagine that the opposite can take form, especially in cases of trauma; where Psyche chases her own tail into a tight ball, or many tight balls, and the Body flexes to accommodate its energetic skeleton, knotted and twisted as it may be.  This brings to mind Spinoza’s expression that “whatever increases, decreases, limits or extends the body’s power of action, also increases, decreases limits or extends the mind’s power of action.  And whatever increases, decreases, limits or extends the mind’s power of action, also increases, decreases limits or extends the body’s power of action.”  



Streaks of warpaint

Fleshy colored and faint

blush her face.

Wild hair carried by the air

flies atop long, strong legs.


Swords ninja flip fast making songs of defiance.

Unfuckablewith, this bitch

and she blows a kiss

before jumping up, stretching out and landing already at full speed.


Cheetah spine ripples with the ease of ocean waves.

My muscles were made for this

and this

and this.

Fluid pounding paws hitting the dirt

grow feathers now

And deep black Falcon eyes

Look at you.

Hearing Psyche’s voice, through image, through art and symbol, through the body, is one task.  The difficult task of weaving her messages into a clear expression is another matter.  Currently, perspectives on trauma in psychology include the neurocentric or intrapersonal perspectives of authors like Peter Levine and Stephen Porges, the relational or interpersonal perspectives like that of Stephen Johnson, and the transpersonal dimension described by Donald Kalsched in his book Trauma and the Soul (2013).  In layering these perspectives, one common quality emerges and stands out for me.  Namely, we are, on all of these levels, systems that can flex into a more or less porous state, and trauma has the paradoxical effect of dissociative opening (becoming more porous) on the transpersonal level, while simultaneously closing down (becoming less porous) on other levels in a shielding or protective effort. 

For me, the concept of dissociation is the psychological counterpart to the physical dynamic of diffusion.  The open space in between, the interstitial, becomes the central actor in such processes.  Molecules cannot diffuse without room to move, or sufficient inviting space.  And might this be similar in the case of dissociation?  In Revisioning Psychology James Hillman speaks of the importance of psychic space and pathology as functions of creating more psychic space (1975).  Dissociation, in this sense, seems not only to be useful in terms of escaping the intense terror and pain involved in traumatic situations, as Levine describes, but also as a pathway of making room for movement, for change, for the Gods, or mytho-poetic “mediators” as Kalsched refers to them (2013, p.51), to enter.

new doc 2017-07-11 10.55.12_1.jpg


It’s like when you let your eyes cross, ever so slightly, and things blur

into a patchy, soft veil.       

And you are somewhere in the egg of not knowing

pulled in like an anemone.

You’re body becomes a heavy bag of meat and bones. 

Packed solid like concrete, and functional, but hard to move

without the infusion of magic light --the infusion of fairy dust

that makes those massive ships float, 

so you can fly, you can fly, you can fly.


My being creates a force field 2 feet around me

soft and easy.  Like smoke.  Like mist.

When water is just too much, when your whole being is bruised

and a lighter touch is just necessary.

The web is expanded –stretched out like lungs letting in air.

And I realize now: the medicine, the oxygen, is coming in then;

Before I am drawn back into center, to solid, to sensate.


Can I be present in that expanded state as well?

Considering our “holey” natures, and the function of space as a place for exchange and movement to occur, if I consider ‘fiction’ to mean imaginary, I suppose it is the literary counterpart to the loose veins of open space that allow for movement in the Body.  When we are relating to fiction, our imagination gets the green light to believe.  We are open to possibility.  In psychotherapeutic work, I’ve noticed people are fairly willing to open themselves to “fiction”, to possibility, in working with Psyche and her cast.  This openness is key to creating movement and enough play (room) to begin untangling old or painful knotty narratives and relationships.  Character styles (Johnson, 1994) and other profiling tools are largely fictitious, or fluid, as well; useful patterns that can offer a frame of reference.  But as reliable as these profiles may be, my sense is that each organic being, especially when healthy, is dynamic.  Perhaps a static or rigid character strategy is in itself a clue that a knot in the system has taken hold.

 It seems that people are more or less open to “fiction” in terms of Psyche and relational dynamics, but when it comes to Body, it’s easy to get much more rigid in our understanding; an arm is an arm and a broken heart is just a metaphor.  When in fact, when you look closely, there is just as much holey, holy, room for possibility in the Body as anywhere else.  The physical body can be seen as a fantastic, perhaps the most fantastic, work of fiction; a dynamic quantum field of the most diverse treasures.  And it’s also the treasure map.  Kalsched explains that “past trauma and its defenses will be encoded in present physiological states such as breath, gestures, muscular tension, averted gaze, etc. and not in higher cortical regions where they could be recovered as explicit memories” (2013, p.115).  If only we knew, in our hearts and in our bones:  We are our own trail of bread crumbs leading back home, everywhere we go.



Coppin, J., & Nelson, E. (2005).  The art of inquiry: A depth psychological perspective. Putnam, CT: Spring.

Hillman, J. (1975). Revisioning psychology. New York, NY: Harper and Row.

Johnson, S. (1994). Character styles. New York, NY: Norton.

Kalsched, D. (2013). Trauma and the soul. New York, NY: Routledge.

Levine, P. A. (2010). In an unspoken voice: How the body releases trauma and restores goodness. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.


1. "Ayahuasca", Alex Grey, Retrieved at

2. “Vision Out of Ground”, Shara Brun, 1996

3. artist unknown. Retrieved at


Staying Soft in Hard Times

I’ve been considering how we (‘we’ here meaning beings of Earth) are literally the eyes, ears, lungs and kidneys –the filters and sensors, the processors, of the world. I imagine the work of our hands, our mouths and stomachs, our minds, our souls, as the work of change; of transmutation. We are, daily, in the practice of breaking things apart, and mixing things together.  Within us, our bodies never stop alchemically processing; diffusing oxygen, distilling salts, pulverizing food, infusing enzymes, extracting proteins, connecting neural pathways...Without a constant flow of these functions, we seize up.  Outside of us, we choose (consciously or not) how to engage with the world.  What things do we crush, mix, cook and consume?  What things or beings do we soften or solve (as in solvent) and connect with? How do we alchemically work on each other in every interaction?  

I’ve also been considering how we are impacted by the increasing amounts of pollution we process through the air we inhale, the water we drink, the food we eat, the environments we inhabit, the often harsh information and relationships (or lack of) we negotiate. Thinking of all of this, with our function as the world’s processors in mind, the notion that we are living in ‘hard times’ takes on another dimension.


The dominant story of “success” as financial excess, convenience, “comfort”, independence and even domination has hijacked our transmutational gifts and capabilities toward endless consumption; consumption of already processed and reprocessed things and relationships. In physical terms, we call the byproducts of processing “waste” (which is accurate only insofar as we don’t use or value what is actually the stuff of the alchemical nigredo—the fertilizer for new growth). With so many people-processors hard at work for “success” making byproduct “waste” to be thrown away, out of sight and mind, we are now faced with a gigantic pile-up of shit.  In other words, as many of us are aware, we have created and repressed our garbage (waste, pollution, toxicity, trauma, hatred –the things we’d rather not process) at a faster rate than we can filter or even sense.

So where does this leave us?  What is this situation asking of us as the processors of the world; as transmutation specialists?  In the face of such a task, it’s easy to tense up –to brace and get rigid.  But I’m realizing that instead I have to continue learning how to open and stretch out my capacity --to take in more, to burn more, to dissolve more, to forgive more, to love more, to let go more.  I’m also learning how important it is to not add to the collective waste pile. In terms of working as a psychotherapist, I attempt this by coming into proximity with people (with trust, emotional softness, solutio) and inviting their personal struggles and shadows with compassion and interest, rather than judgement or rejection.

This kind of stance requires openness and flexibility (softness), but also requires the safety of a container which requires boundaries and fidelity (hardness). Yoga, translating from Sanskrit as “union”, is one way I work my capacity for relating within a ‘union’, or balance, of softness and hardness in my work as a therapist.  Rob Loud*, a favorite yoga teacher of mine, reminds us in class from time to time to bring our attention to the balance between using effort and being relaxed. He’ll often bring this balancing point to attention when we are holding a pose that begins to make our muscles burn by saying something like “how can you stay soft in hard situations?” How can we gain strength in difficult positions by letting go of our tense thinking about how hard it is, and by finding the softness of a more detached way of witnessing what we are experiencing in the moment?

I think of this question when I consider the task I’ve imagined for myself of filtering and transmuting my garbage (and if we really are a ‘we’, then anyone’s garbage is, in a sense, my garbage…but that’s another topic). This image of filtering brings to mind something else Rob jokingly shared, which I can’t fully remember, but it had something to do with passing a kidney stone --and yes! This is what things feel like right now in the world.  How do we process and pass such hard, nasty things?  Fascism, endless war, environmental catastrophe, overwhelming greed and poverty—the list grows every day. 

If I think of a kidney, it has to be soft and flexible to let something hard pass through.  And as soft and flexible as it may be, it’s still going to hurt to pass the stone, but if we resist passing it and tense up, it just makes the agony worse. If I think of us as relational beings in the world processing our psychological garbage piles, we have to be soft and flexible, and as soft and flexible as we may be, it’s still going to hurt to process these things.  But as much as it’s going to hurt, it doesn’t help to hold them in.  These fears, regrets, frustrations, resentments, judgements, hurts (the stuff of garbage piles) need to be transmuted –dissolved, diffused, re-membered, re-worked.  To unclog ourselves of our shadowy but fertile messes; the messes in our relationships, in our bodies, in our politics, in our environments, we need to open wide and let things move.

There are, of course, many reasons someone might not want to open wide and let go.  It’s often painful and scary, and as mentioned already, the intuitive reaction to ‘painful and scary’ is many times to tense up and try to control.  But in a safe and contained environment, like a therapeutic session, we can approach opening up and looking at what is present little by little.  Paying more attention to what is present = more conscious awareness. More conscious awareness = less repression.  Less repression = smaller collective (and personal) shit-piles. Which brings my attention back to the importance of form-contained practices like yoga, where we are given constant opportunities to cultivate, as slowly as needed, an awareness of what is arising in the present moment (including our garbage piles) via attention to embodied experience and breath. 

So, what does this have to do with passing kidney stones?  If we are giving attention to our garbage as it arises in our experience, rather than projecting it outward in blame (for example) then we can do our part to manage the amount of “waste” that needs processing.  If we are tracking our relational experiences by staying in touch with how we feel rather than banishing our reactions to the oubliettes of sub-consciousness to be forgotten (and thereby unwittingly repeated, but that’s another topic), then we are not building up gigantic kidney stones (or shit-piles – whichever metaphor you prefer) which, if not dealt with, may get stuck, or infected, or infested, or Trump-tastic land, or pick-your-adventure...

By resisting the temptation to get hard and rigid, impervious, to our own feeling and those around us, perhaps we can avoid the resulting build up.  Like our internal physical systems require flex and softness in order to process and keep things in flow, our relational and emotional processing systems also need to maintain an alchemical flow of sorts.  It seems that especially in hard times, when we are charged with dealing with extra garbage of all kinds, our capacity to digest and transmute and keep things flowing is all the more important.  I’m dedicated to supporting this kind of softness and attention in and around me in all the ways I know how, and I’m thankful there are so many loving people who are devoted to actively doing the same.  Together, and softly, we’ve got this.

For more information about Shara and Resonant Self Counseling click here

 *Rob’s approach to yoga and teaching is inspiring and methodical; he’s an excellent firestarter for anyone curious about trying yoga, and a wellspring for those wanting to deepen their work. To check out his classes visit

Why "Resonant Self"?

Why "Resonant Self"?

As a lover and student of music, I have spent my life listening.  Listening very closely.  Sound, as it turns out, resonates instruments in a way that resembles the way our own bodies resonate.  An old story about sympathetic resonance describes two violins sitting several feet from each other: when a string on one of the violins is played and begins to vibrate its pitch, the string of the same pitch on the other untouched violin will also begin to vibrate.  I believe this phenomenon, of sympathetic resonance, also happens between people