My story is one of transformation….From the painful way that I lived, to the way I now can be present with myself and enjoy goodness each day. Emotional and physical pain overwhelmed me for much of my life. I was not aware of the harsh way I treated myself inside, and did not know how to escape the grip of severe migraine headaches.
I now believe that every experience in my life holds an opportunity for me to learn, grow, connect, and cultivate love. Whether the challenge initiates from within me such as body changes, illness, pain, negative thoughts and hard feelings, or from outside of me, such as an accident or injury, conflict with others, life changes, catastrophic events, or violence, I practice kindness toward myself, garner support and seek connection, allow my vulnerability, and take time to fill myself with love and silence.
By the time I was 10 years old, I had severe daily headaches. Despite TMJ surgeries, various medical treatments, pain killers, bio-feedback, psychotherapy, and physical therapy, the headaches continued.
I was angry that no one could help me and miserable that life was so hard for me every day. I expected someone to fix it for me. Slowly, I gained weight and developed further the depression and anxiety begun early in my childhood. Chronic pain is exhausting and made my daily life a struggle and strained my relationships with others. Over time, I experienced additional health problems including digestive problems, fibromyalgia, and addiction. I pushed myself through commitments of work, school and volunteerism, leaving very little space for play or rest. I felt my body was a liability and caused me great inconvenience as I determined to accomplish my goals.
Awareness of human suffering broadened my compassion at an early age. I’ve always been acutely aware of other peoples’ feelings and sought ways to ease others’ pain. I earned a degree in secondary education, hoping to work with teens at critical points in their lives. To earn money for my rent and tuition, I worked for families and individuals in their homes, offering cleaning services and personal care for elders. By the time I was on my own at age of 18, I had developed meaningful and long-term relationships with many of these employers. From these wonderful people, I learned about familial relationships, personal histories, and the experiences of growing older, loss and change. I learned that caring touch and being present with others could make a positive difference in people’s lives. My self-employment skills grew as did my capacity to balance my personal needs with the needs of others.
I completed training in massage therapy in 1993 and began a career giving bodywork to clients who trusted me with their vulnerable hearts and bodies. My sense of the sacred in all beings deepened. I explored spirituality and philosophy and continued to manage my headaches and health problems through diet and exercise, yoga and meditation. Family, friends, and motherhood sustained me. However, until I found Rosen Method Bodywork, I felt my external life did not fully match my internal self. I was still hard on myself and others emotionally, and still pushed myself until exhaustion most days.
After five years of training and personal therapy, I became a Rosen Method Bodywork Practitioner. Through my body I found authentic guidance for healing and transformation. I learned healthy emotional boundaries and began untwining the ways I was a caretaker in virtually every aspect of my life. I let others have their experience, and spent more time discovering my own truths. I learned that having someone present with me when I met pain within me healed unhelpful behaviors and uncomfortable feelings. I met my grief, then found my joy. And my body learned to relax…to let go of the core tension that I’d been unconsciously holding for years. As Mary Oliver says in her poem “Wild Geese”, I’ve learned to let the soft animal of my body love what it loves.
During those 5 years, I healed two ruptured discs in my spine that had caused me relentless pain and limited function. Along with physical therapy, Rosen Method’s psycho-emotional-spiritual work through the body helped reframe my structure and build my inner resources. It also opened me to trust others and allow myself to ask for and receive support. My back healed, my headaches stopped, my metabolism changed and I lost 65 pounds.
As with any human being, I am not immune to hurting, confusion, fears or outrage. I am, however, more willing to allow myself the space to experience my physical sensations and emotions, to be curious about what they mean and how I can be guided by them. I am more comfortable not knowing answers, and more willing to walk with questions. My heart and body are included in every equation of my life. I know now that when my body has an ache or an illness, there is something important going on directly related to my emotions, unconscious and life purpose. If I go toward my bodyBeing with tender curiosity, I can attend to it’s message and let it guide me.
Initially, each component of my healing was discovered from within as responsive and accepting touch was given to me by skilled Rosen Method students or practitioners. Now, I have an integrated way of tuning in toward myself to handle stress and emotions much better on my own.
Though I have been free from chronic pain for years, have excellent health, and much healthier relationships, I continue the practice of discovering more about myself and how to live life fully.
Resources such as regular bodywork, self-awareness practice, loving support, and my willingness to engage with myself with compassion and curiosity no matter what is going on, are now interwoven in my life. I love the outdoors, my dog, my family and friends, moving my body through workouts and dance, gardening and cooking, soul-searching, art and music. Enjoying my life balances the inevitable suffering in and around me. As I grow my capacity for love and presence, I believe I add something of goodness to the world.
I continue to learn about how our bodies speaks to us. After three years of training with Dr. Peter Levine’s Somatic Experiencing Trauma Institute, I became a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner to help clients understand the language of their bodies, be able to regulate their nervous systems, and recover from unresolved painful experiences (trauma). As an Integral Somatic Psychology Practitioner, trained by Dr. Raja Selvam, I help clients embody unexpressed emotion to heal deep-seated trauma. In 2021, I completed a two-year course training in holistic spiritual direction through Wisdom Ways Center in St Paul. I continue to deeply listen to the stories and perspectives of others, build community connections, and invite the mystery of life and loving into each day.
Since the beginning of Covid-19 and the social uprisings following George Floyd’s murder in June 2020, I continue to renew my commitment to face personal and communal fears and injustice, to educate myself on the suffering that white-bodies have perpetuated onto to brown, black and indigenous bodies, and to be a catalyst within my community for justice, healing and love during these times of tremendous transformation. In the words of angel Kyodo Williams, “Without inner change, there can be no outer change. Without collective change, no change matters.”
I’ve learned to trust the natural wisdom of my body, and come to understand that my body is my guide and my friend. Through meeting myself, I can meet others and the wider interconnected world with more intention, less reactivity and greater love. Responding well to what life brings has everything to do with tuning in and caring for my body, mind, heart and spirit. I didn’t discover this alone. Let me be there for you on your path.
“We can find one another in our vulnerability and in our tenderness. Together we can go forward in shaping our minds and making a different world to the best of our ability through loving kindness and connection.
Sharon Salzburg on The Moth Podcast, June 16, 2020