Body of Truth. The Current State of #Metoo and #Timesup in Embodiment Communities. 

Recently, I was contacted by someone in the #metoomovement about #metoo experiences I might’ve had or witnessed in embodiment communities over the years.

First, I just want to say this subject has been on my mind for much longer, since puberty I guess, and in the last few years it has chased me. I have wanted to speak out, but wasn’t sure where to begin.

So, I’ll begin with the conversation, the questions I was asked / answers I gave.

Q: First, an obvious one. Have you ever been assaulted by someone in your community or been threatened with assault?

A: Like most of us, I have been under threat more times than I can recall. Fortunately, in most cases I either saw it coming or sensed something wasn’t right and found a way to avoid it.

One of the worst experiences was from a massage. He was a colleague and a massage therapist who no longer ran a business. He just “gave massages for the love of it.” He caught me one day when I was under stress, noticed me rubbing my shoulders and neck and began massaging my shoulders, which felt great. Until it didn’t and I ended the “massage”.

Q: You say you “either saw it coming or sensed something wasn’t right and found a way to avoid it.” Can you tell me more about the signs or what you sensed?

A: I was raised solely by my father from about 7 years old on. He was pretty straightforward about me learning of the need to protect myself and as I began to mature, he started talking to me.

I’ll never forget the first conversation. After coming home from a restaurant, he sat me down and said, “Okay, are you aware that you are now turning heads as you walk through a room of people?”

He helped me understand the difference between the kind of attention that’s complementary and the kind that’s dangerous. The wisdom was so powerful coming from a man, one who was speaking totally out of love and wanting nothing but the best for me. Those talks with my dad laid an effective foundation that still anchors me today.

I “saw it coming” means I saw actual signs in the external environment– behaviors, words, red flags. “Sensing” refers to internal feelings around a particular person– discomfort in my body, tight gut and throat.

Q: You speak of a former massage therapist, what about the yoga and Buddhist communities you belong to? 

A: My experience in Buddhist communities has been less social, so I wasn’t privy to the behind the scenes action. I only ever heard stories. I’ve had numerous experiences in the yoga community, where the body is often on display and touching is part of the practice for many.

Q: To what extent did you confront any of those the situations? And did you confront during the episode or after?

A: Oh, I’ve confronted people. I tend toward flight over fight though. In the past, I didn’t have the communication skills to confront inappropriate behavior in the moment.

I once left an expensive monthlong training and forfeited all the money I’d invested after just a few days in. From the first day, I felt the discomfort in my body that I describe above. By the third day the discomfort was so strong that I felt distracted by it. So, on the fourth day I didn’t show up. The teacher left me repeated voicemails using forceful language and guilt, totally validating my decision.

Interestingly, confrontation and other forms of assertiveness flows more naturally when I’m not the target. Calling out abuses of power is so much easier in defense of someone else, you know? Why is that?

Q; Have these confrontations and actions of steering clear of potentially threatening situations ever caused you to miss out on a career opportunity?

A: Of course. In big and small ways. These assaults are about power, not sex.  I can think of two different occasions where I chose to leave a thriving, tightly knit community of inspiring, supportive people instead of being abused by the leader.

__________

 

I was also asked for advice to help teachers create a safe environment in their classes and how students can maintain healthy boundaries with their teachers.

I could have opined forever and also realized I needed more time to reflect on those last two questions. The answers are quite involved. A whole book could be written about each.

After a few days of research I realized there isn’t a lot of discussion of this topic out there, which needs to change.

So I shared my reactions on Instagram along with a self portrait I hope is a meaningful accompaniment.

And I started this post to you.

Learning how to spot threatening situations and listening to our instincts isn’t enough. Proof:  we still have way to many heartbreaking stories, and are afraid to tell too many of them.

I’m a “well seasoned” woman, teacher and leader who can be very outspoken. Especially in the face of abuse of power and injustice. Still, I have a lot of learning, listening and looking inward to do.

I intend to share more, though I’m not at all sure what any of it will look like.

I feel change in the air, not just in the embodiment community but pretty much everywhere.

There’s so much to be gained from getting out from under this veil. 

Now is the time. We have countless individual + collective wounds to heal.

My suspicion is that many of you out there see and sense the same.

However you feel, I’m listening. As always, my inbox is open. Stories, resource recommendations, feedback, whatever. Communication is a great start.

And here are links to the best conversations happening so far in the yoga community around #metoo and #timesup:

— Rachel Brathen used Instagram to gather “me too” stories from women in the yoga community. She shares 300 of those stories here. One of them is from one of my mentees, a young teacher who really needed to tell her story and felt so much better afterwards.

— Yoga Journal article “Ending Sexual Abuse in the Yoga Community”

Thoughtful podcast interview with Senior Teachers Judith Lasater and Mary Freeman

RAINN (Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network) Nation’s largest anti- sexual violence organization

I’m likely to say more or about this or even create an offering around this work in the future. Stay close. And again, as always, I’d love to hear form you.