What's the F***ing Point episode 02: Sarah Rodgers on Drama Therapy, Everything, and Nothing

For episode 2 of the podcast, I had a wonderful free-flowing conversation with fellow Nashville psychotherapist, Sarah Rodgers

I'm lucky to call Sarah a friend, and she's a kindred spirit in that she's unapologetically into all kinds of holistic (is "new age" still a thing?) stuff, with plenty of science and healthy skepticism to balance it out.

In this episode, Sarah and I chat about:

  • why our companion animals can be our best spiritual guides
  • how we each think of and approach tarot and divination
  • what drama therapy is and the relationship to psychodrama and other expressive therapies
  • the magic of intuition, tele, and neuroception — how we know things to be true

To listen to today's episode, you can stream or download from the embedded player below, or find and subscribe in your fave podcast listening app. (And just a note, Apple is being slow AF with getting my new podcast art updated in iTunes, so if you're finding the pod that way, you'll still see art for WholeYou, a former mini podcast venture I did.)

Thanks for listening, and if you dig, please share it with a friend and review the podcast on iTunes

About Sarah Rodgers (MA, LMFT, RDT)

Sarah holds a Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology with a concentration in Drama Therapy from California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. She received her Bachelor's in Theatre and Community Outreach from Skidmore College.

Sarah has a background as an actor and theater educator. It was her passion for the cathartic power of self-expression that led her to psychology and to studying the application of creative forms for therapeutic means. We could all use little more fun and playfulness in our lives, and healing is only enhanced by creative thinking and a touch of humor.

When not attending to her clients or furthering her clinical education, Sarah enjoys hikes and yoga, cooking, taking acting classes, making crafty things, and quality time with her friends and family. Sarah has called both New York City and San Francisco home, and she is now at home in Nashville with her husband, stepdaughter, and their dog Dennis.

You can learn more about Sarah and her work at www.creativecounselingnashville and follow her on Instagram @creativecounselingnashville.

Mentioned in Today's Show:

introduction to the chakras for mind + body + spirit wellness

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Over the past few months, I've been studying the chakra system and have become completely enamored with it. I firmly believe that to heal from any sort of trauma or to achieve meaningful personal growth, we have to approach mind, body, and spirit in an integrated way. This is why pure "talk therapy" is not very effective, and why making changes to physical lifestyle (like exercise and diet) is rarely sustainable without also addressing underlying psychological and emotional issues. The chakras offer an ideal framework in which to map out and assess every facet of the human experience, both individually and as a whole, interdependent system.

Anodea Judith and the "Rainbow Bridge"

The majority of my education on the chakra system thus far has come via Anodea Judith, PhD, a therapist, yogi, spiritual teacher, writer, and founder of Sacred Centers teaching organization. Anodea is an expert in mind + body integration and has been working with the chakra system for over 40 years. In addition to soaking up her incredibly comprehensive book, Eastern Body, Western Mind: Psychology and the Chakra System as a Path to the Self, I have the privilege of calling Anodea a teacher, having attended her Mind Body Integration course at Kripalu last month. (I'm also planning to attend her Chakra Therapy course in 2015 and CANNOT. WAIT.) After initially getting my feet wet with other writers and teachers of energy and the chakras (like Caroline Myss), I have found Anodea to be the best fit for me. She gracefully blends mysticism with grounded psychological science and real-world experience, and is not about to tell you "All you have to do to balance your chakras and heal your life is to meditate!" Anodea introduces the system beautifully:

Chakras are not physical entities in and of themselves. Like feelings or ideas, they cannot be held like a physical object, yet they have a strong effect upon the body as they express the embodiment of spiritual energy on the physical plane… Just as emotions can and do affect our breathing, heart rate, and metabolism, the activities in the various chakras influence our glandular processes, body shape, chronic physical ailments, thoughts, and behavior. By using techniques such as yoga, breathing, bioenergetics, physical exercises, meditation and visualization, we can, in turn, influence our chakras, our health, and our lives. This is one of the essential values of the system—that it maps onto both the body and the mind, and can be accessed through either.

She often refers to chakra work as "crossing the Rainbow Bridge," as each chakra is represented by a color of the rainbow (see chart above): “The seven colors of the rainbow represent an alternative to our binary black-and-white consciousness, offering us a world of multiple opportunities ... To restore the Rainbow Bridge is to reconnect to our own divinity, anchoring it in the world around us and healing the rifts that so plague our world.”

History and Focus of the Chakras

Chakras were originally referenced in the Vedas, an ancient Hindu spiritual text dating back more than 4,000 years. The 16th-century text Sat-Chakra Nirupana, written by an Indian yogi, thoroughly described the chakra system, and in the 1920s, Arthur Avalon introduced the Western world to the Chakras in his book, The Serpent Power. The chakras have garnered more attention in recent years with the explosion of yoga in in the West, and more widespread acceptance of an integrated "East + West" approach to physical and mental health.

As you can see on the chart, each chakra,  an energy center located in a particular area of the body, is associated with different elements and psychological constructs. Generally speaking, the lower chakras (1-3), closest to the earth, are associated with physical matters: survival, experiences of the body, physical health, and the ego or individual self-concept. The upper chakras (5-7) are associated with cognitive and spiritual matters via symbolism, language, and imagination, and the heart chakra at the center mediates between the physical and spiritual, the individual and universal.

Currents of Liberation and Manifestation

Another important concept is the flow between consciousness and matter as energy travels up and down the chakras. Until recent years, the primary focus has been on ascension through the upper chakras, also known as the current of liberation. The goal was thought to be nirvana, enlightenment, total non-attachment and  "freedom" from the limitations of the physical world. Little attention was paid to the current of manifestation, or the downward flow of energy from the upper to the lower chakras.

However, as Anodea Judith suggests, "without the current of manifestation we become aimless and empty -- dreamers flying into vast realms but unable to land, full of ideas but unable to make commitments or completions." We're unable to turn our dreams and ideas into action and creation. And without the current of liberation, we become stuck in routine, going through the motions of daily life, isolated from our dreams, visions, and connection to the universal web of life. Whole-hearted living requires the flow of both currents, and each can be impacted or blocked by trauma, social programming, and oppressive environments.

Unlocking My Path and Passion

I certainly still have much to learn and experience both in my own chakra work and the healing work I do with my clients -- but finding the chakra system has felt like unlocking the door to my future, personally and professionally. All my favorite psychotherapy approaches (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, experiential and somatic therapy, etc.) dovetail seamlessly into chakra work, as do many of the mind + body approaches I'm currently exploring and learning about, like aromatherapy with essential oils, flower essences, and crystal healing. Being at Kripalu recently also made me eager to complete a 200-hour yoga teacher training (which I plan to start in September 2015) followed by Anodea Judith's Chakra Yoga training. (Phew!) Can you tell I'm excited?!

I'm planning a series of posts that will go deeper into each chakra, how it gets wounded and blocked, and how to work toward balance. I also have a vision for leading workshops on the chakras and crafting an eBook focused on practical guidance through the chakras and how to use this framework to live your best life physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

What are you most interested in learning about the chakras? What kind of format would be most helpful and accessible for you?

my first kripalu experience + training with chakras expert Anodea Judith

rock message by an anonymous lovely soul in the Kripalu meditation garden I feel like I've been away from the blog much longer than I actually have been. I suppose it's a positive sign that this has become so much a part of my life and routine, but I had to respectfully disagree with some guilt demons earlier this week about not staying consistent with my at-least-once-a-week schedule. (At some point I would love to have a supply of posts ready for the times when it's not convenient for me to write -- but for now, it is what it is!) I'm also so glad that I took the opportunity to unplug as much as I did. It certainly wasn't *completely* unplugged, as there were some work things I had to tend to, and I snuck in a few texts and social media posts in there along with brief nightly calls to the beau. But I was *way* more disconnected from technology than I am in my day-to-day life, and it was a welcome break.

All that aside, I need to say that I am completely head-over-heels in love with Kripalu. HOLY. CRAP. I really had no idea what I was getting into -- I just knew that I wanted to do this training with Anodea Judith, and that it was held at a place that vaguely registered on my radar as something I'd heard of in passing. It was unlike any other training I'd been to before, and the environment of yoga, spirituality, whole foods, and self-care was as soothing as melting into a bathtub of dark chocolate. (Minus the messy clean-up.) I was actually in the minority of first-timers, because Kripalu is not a place you go just once.

For peeps who are unfamiliar, Kripalu (kri-PAH-loo) Center for Yoga & Health is "a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to empowering people and communities to realize their full potential through the transformative wisdom and practice of yoga." Located in Stockbridge, Massachusetts since the early 1980s, Kripalu is largest and most established retreat center for yoga, health, and holistic living in North America. The facility hosts year-round retreats, workshops, and trainings "to support optimal living through education for the whole person: body, mind, and spirit."

To spare you from a play-by-play of my experience, I wanted to share a few of the significant takeaways from my week.

Working with the energy in the human body is just as critical as working with emotions and thoughts, because they are all inextricably linked.

This training with Anodea was my first formal foray into working with energy (or chi, qi, life force, charge -- it goes by many names). The first step in working with your own energy is to get familiar with tuning into the charge present into your own body -- to track it and notice when you are in high-charge and low charge states. Then, you can learn to intentionally charge or discharge when you need to work toward balance and equilibrium. You can also take note of the ways you have been unconsciously charging or discharging in your life, and consciously decide which ways work well for you and which you may need to adjust. Charge in the body is affected by many factors including body type, personality type, past trauma, energetic "blocks" at certain chakras, and the present situation you're facing. This topic is too much to go in depth on in this post, but now that I have a stronger foundation of knowledge and experience working with energy, I'm excited to write much more on about it on the blog. Oh, and if you're curious, the particular training I attended was Therapeutic Techniques of Mind-Body Integration for Somatic Trauma Healing, which is a prerequisite for the Chakra Therapy course. (Chakra Therapy!!!)

I cannot speak highly enough of Anodea Judith. I'm just halfway through her one of her books, Eastern Body, Western Mind: Psychology & the Chakra System as  a Path to Self  (it's a bit of a whopper at 450+ pages), and I have learned more clinically from this book than I did in most of my grad school classes combined. I feel incredibly grateful and excited that I have found a teacher who is so in alignment with my philosophy and the vision of my career path, and I can't wait for the next training I'll do with her. (Hoping to do another by next summer, and it's now my goal to eventually complete her Sacred Centers Healer Certification which includes about 6-7 trainings in addition to supervision and special project work.)

Dancing the primal, instinctual movements of the body is one of the most profound and spiritual things the human body can do.

Most days I was at Kriplau, I participated in "Noon Dance," which, as it sounds, is a dance class that happens everyday at noon. I was incredibly lucky to get to experience three different instructors who have all created their own methods of dance to integrate body, mind and spirit: Dan Leven with Shake Your Soul, Toni Bergens with JourneyDance, and Megha Nancy Buttenheim with Let Your Yoga Dance. Anyone who knows me well knows that I have always loved to dance, but lacking any sort of formal training, I just whirl myself around in whatever way the music moves me, and the result is some pretty ridiclous(ly awesome) interpretive dancing.

The instructors above both inspired with their own movements and suggestions, and ignited the creative fire in the 40+ of us in the room to allow our bodies to dance the unique prayers inside each of us. Of course, afterwards I immediately thought, I HAVE to train with one of them! I want to be able to catalyze this kind of movement with people. So, we'll see. I have so many trainings on my "dream list" right now that I'll have to prioritize, but I could definitely envision bringing this into my professional path. One of the training assistants also suggested that I read Gabrielle Roth's Sweat Your Prayersso I picked up a copy at the bookstore and can't wait to start it (but have to finish one of the other 5 books I'm reading right now first!)

Don't suppress your inner mystic.

I had my first tarot reading, and it was actually pretty awesome. As I've loosened up my skeptic side and woken up my mystic side over the past several months, I have gotten a couple of oracle decks and used them a few times. But I'm still a complete novice with them, and paying to get a tarot reading takes it to a whole different level: If I'm paying someone for this, does that mean that I really believe in it? Do I have to know whether or not I really believe it? Are they just going to tell me what I want to hear so I'll speak highly of it to others? Are some tarot readers "for real" and others are just in it for the quick cash, and if so, how do I know which this person is? How much weight do I give to what they say?

As I've I've grappled with some of these questions over the past few months, I've decided at this point in my life that I'm rather agnostic about much of the mystical world. I'm not sure if/what I believe, but I don't *not* believe. And if any of these practices or tools helps me connect to the deep wonders of myself, others, and the universe -- and deepen my own intuition and spiritual connection -- then why the hell not? My tarot reading was overwhelmingly affirming and optimistic, and even though the little skeptic voice on one shoulder tells me, "of course she'd say that!", in my heart and in my gut, it felt real -- and most importantly, validating.

The permission that I sometimes struggle to give myself -- "give yourself a break, acknowledge just how successful you already are and come from that place" -- was a very welcome message. The reader (I can't remember her name or find it online, but I'm pretty sure she had a masters degree in something) was obviously very intuitive, and I liked how she framed the importance of listening and trusting my own deep intuition, rather than just coming from the logical/cognitive perspective. In that way, it felt that I could both heed her "advice" and insights, but also deeply trust my own, so there was no power differential. I'm sure that just like in any other profession, not all tarot readers have this philosophy or the same level of skill, but I was glad that I choose to do it and surprised at how therapeutic it was.

I'd love to hear: what topics do you want more in-depth goodness about? What questions do you have about your energy, movement, your own internal battle of skeptic vs mystic? xx

what it means to be "spiritual"

what-is-spirituality-to-you "Spiritual" is one of those nebulous words whose meaning can dramatically shape-shift from one context and perspective to another. I am not interested in listing out others' definitions, or in convincing you to espouse my personal understanding of the concept.

Right now, I appeal not to your mind, but to your soul. 

You know the feeling:

For a brief moment, the veil is lifted.

You see behind the to-do lists and schedules and stop lights, and you remember.

Oh yeah, this. This is it.

In that moment, in your awareness is pure love. Or peace, connection, grace, aliveness.

Whatever it is -- for that fleeting moment, it is pure, undiluted.

It can happen when you least expect it:

A deep breath and stillness in the middle of your lunch break. A candy-colored sunset on your drive home. A song that wells your eyes up with tears. A kind stranger on a rough day.

Or you can seek it out:

Meditation, snuggles, purrs, prayers, stars, hymns, crystals, oh-my-GOD brownie sundaes, belly laughs, watching the dance of a single flame.

If you are alive, you have access to it. 

Call it whatever you want. Love, truth, life force, ~ing, spirituality, energy, qi.

There's a lot of great, fun, silly, scary, tedious, obnoxious stuff happening on this big rock of ours. And believe me, I enjoy a Netflix marathon or the satisfaction of a tidy inbox just as much as the next girl. We don't have to "transcend" that stuff to connect to what is most true.

But we do need reminders. So right now, this is mine, and yours.

With a cheers and a wink,

Valerie