If you haven’t noticed yet, I’m a voracious reader. I generally have four books on the go simultaneously and read strictly two genres: self-help books and biographies (autobiographies are my favourite). I recently wrote a piece which highlights some of my favourites which include reviews you can check out if you enjoy these sorts of books as well. The book I’m about to share with you became a must-have-in-my-library when I listened to the author, James Gordon, MD, being interviewed by Tara Brach and you know I’m a huge fan of hers. If you want to watch or listen to this extraordinary interview, click here.
The following two paragraphs are from Dr. Gordon’s website– his bio and overview of the book I highly suggest you get and read too:
James S. Gordon, MD, a Harvard-educated psychiatrist, is internationally recognized for using self-awareness, self-care, and group support to heal population-wide psychological trauma. He is the founder and executive director of the non-profit Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Washington, D.C., a clinical professor at Georgetown Medical School, and was chairman (under Presidents Clinton and GW Bush) of the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy.
Dr. Gordon’s latest book, The Transformation: Discovering Wholeness and Healing After Trauma, helps us understand that trauma will come sooner or later to all of us. Trauma, he explains, is a human experience, not a pathological anomaly. In The Transformation, he guides us step by step in a comprehensive evidence-based program to reverse the psychological and biological damage that trauma causes. He shows us, drawing on the latest scientific research, 50 years of clinical experience, timeless wisdom, and inspiring life stories, how we can, as we meet the challenges that trauma brings, discover the ordinary joys as well as the meaning and purpose of our lives. We come to know that our broken hearts can open with greater compassion and love.
As you can see from his bio, this man knows his stuff when it comes to healing trauma. He truly is a gift to this world as he has dedicated his entire career to researching and disseminating simple, straightforward and incredibly transformative tools for healing trauma of every imaginable kind.
As a therapist with over two decades of experience and training, I have seen many trends in psychotherapy circles- most of which were flash-in-the-pan. They came on with a huge explosion and then quickly faded away as they were ineffective in sustaining long-term change and healing. I have experienced and trained in a number of methodologies and techniques to heal trauma; most of which were highly scripted, artificial and seemed to make very little difference. I became quite disenchanted with all of these supposed ‘cures’ for trauma and moved into more somatic, mindfulness-based philosophies and practises. Since immersing myself fully into this way of working with trauma over the past decade, I have been thrilled with the transformations I have personally experienced and professionally witnessed in my practice.
Dr. Gordon presents techniques which he learned from many aboriginal communities worldwide which help people release trauma from their bodies and learn how to be present and to feel safely ‘in-bodied’ afterward. You can get detailed information on learning these tools and practising them
Here are a few of these simple yet highly effective practises to heal from trauma which have helped me and my clients tremendously. You can find them all on this webpage from The Centre for Mind-Body Medicine and watch videos showing how to do them:
Meditation: Creating Relaxed, Moment to Moment Awareness: Shaking and Dancing
Meditation is fundamental to The Transformation. It is the antidote to trauma.
Soft Belly, a “concentrative meditation,” quiets the stress response, making it easier for us to accept and put our emotions in perspective. It enhances activity in the hippocampus and frontal cortex, which allow us to gain perspective on our emotions, to integrate them more easily with our memories and our ongoing experience. When our brain function is restored by Soft Belly, we are able, little by little, to quiet the flood of painful memories and fearful anticipation. We react less and respond more.
Shaking and Dancing, an “expressive meditation,” uses intense, disruptive effort and free movement to help us shed stress and tension and bring up and release emotion. Shaking and Dancing uses activity to bring us to a place of relaxation, balance, and acceptance that is similar to the one we find when we do Soft Belly.
Both meditations help us discover that emotions, even those that seem overwhelming, really do come and go.
Drawings: Mobilizing Our Imagination
This experiment with drawings builds on the relaxed awareness that concentrative meditations – like Soft Belly – help to cultivate. Drawings are one of the simplest, most reliable ways to bypass the fears that arise from our amygdala and the hope- limiting doubts of our “rational” left hemisphere. They give us immediate access to the right brain’s intuitive wisdom.
Drawings are easy for everyone to do and are a safe, playful way to express and share what’s going on inside us. Drawings invoke our imagination, our intuition, and empower them to play a creative, guiding role in our life. As you do them, you’ll see what’s possible, that even when you may feel empty of ideas or in despair, you have the capacity to imagine change.
Guided Imagery: Accessing Our Inner Knowing
Imagery is the language of our unconscious mind. When we create mental images, the areas of our brain associated with that sense light up with activity, just as if we were actually seeing, feeling, tasting, hearing, or smelling something in the outside world.
The brain centers where images are formed are intimately connected with the limbic or emotional brain, which includes the amygdala and hippocampus, and with the hypothalamus, which controls the autonomic nervous system and its fight- or- flight and freeze responses, as well as the endocrine and immune systems. These connections make possible imagery’s remarkable power to improve physical and mental functioning, reverse the damage done by trauma, and help us chart a path to ongoing healing and happiness.
Imagery reawakens right-brain activity that trauma has turned down or off, and allows us to use our imagination to become aware of concerns that had eluded our conscious mind, and to solve problems that had resisted purely rational thought.
In this module, we’ll do two experiments with imagery. This first experiment with imagery (Lemon Imagery) will give you a direct experience of how images can affect your autonomic nervous system and, through this, your physiological functioning. Lemon Imagery is a good place to start if you’re new to Guided Imagery: it gets you comfortable with using imagery and gives you an immediate felt sense of imagery’s power.
Safe Place and Wise Guide imagery
Safe Place imagery can be particularly important in giving you relief when troubling memories are surfacing, when you’re facing an experience that evokes previous trauma, or when you’re just living through a stressful time. When you create a Safe Place, you draw on happy memories— or the imagined end of distress— to create a place and a feeling of calm and peace.
Once you’ve cultivated a sense of calm and peace in your Safe Place, you’re ready to meet your Wise Guide to access your intuitive wisdom.
For aboriginal healers, the Wise Guide’s words are a communication from the Spirit World. Some people are sure, when they meet their Guides, that they are contacting a Higher Power. Most scientific researchers believe the Wise Guide is an Inner Guide, a manifestation of our own unconscious wisdom, the creative right hemisphere of our brain, our intuition.