meet emily peterson
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Transcript is available for the 2-part episode at the bottom of this page
Emily Peterson is a certified 500-hour yoga instructor, Usui Reiki Master, and licensed TIMBo facilitator and trainer. TIMBo is \”Trauma Informed Mind Body\”, which has been instrumental in her personal healing process. Formerly a competitive athlete, she began practicing yoga to manage chronic pain from injuries more than 15 years ago.
For Emily, yoga offered an important meditative practice and the experience of a safe connection to her body, which were transformative and led to personal healing from an eating disorder, depression, and trauma.
Welcome to our special 2-part episode, hosted by me and my Executive Producer, Adam Leffert, an avid yoga practitioner who met Emily first and introduced her to me. We had the time to dive deep into Emily\’s personal stories, the good and not so good times of her life.
Storytelling has been a powerful tool for Emily\’s healing and teaching. I hope this episode opens up doors and possibilities for those who still live in the dark.
An unexpected experiment that took place in these episodes are these mini moments where Emily invited us to practice mindfulness meditation with her. Join us!
[06:00] Can you share a little bit about your origin story?
[09:00] What was the main driver you had to become such a powerful athlete?
[14:00] 1997 was a very big year for you. What was happening at the time that triggered many of your decisions back then?
[16:00] Can you recall any moments back then, that made you realize how special you were? That could have helped you?
[20:00] You’ve gone through plenty of really tough situations in your life, but you mentioned you get nervous in many smaller situations (like recording your podcast). How does your experience help you deal with that?
[6:00] I feel that you are sharing your stories with so many people. How does that make you feel, to share your story?
[9:00] Can you tell us about TIMBO? What is it and how can people discover it?
[13:00] When you travelled to other countries to talk to women groups, like your trip to Africa, how did you manage to do that?
[18:00] ‘To hold space’ is something that sounds funny in the beginning, but with time you gradually start figuring out what it means. Can you tell us what that means?
[22:00] How did you recover and reconcile with your life after being sexually abused?
[30:00] Adam commenting on why people tend to reject or underestimate the importance of mindfulness
[12:00] Here’s a space where I can renegotiate what that discomfort is, where it comes from, what I can do when I’m uncomfortable, and it has allowed me to find the other spectrum of joy and happiness that I never thought it was possible.
[18:00] It was a big street fight to try to live, there were lots of motivating factors [to think that way], plus all the suffering I’ve caused to my family.
[21:00] I had to start recognizing those thoughts as a way that if I believed I was bad, then I could never come into a room and be hurt. I was ensuring I was controlling my own rejection…
[27:00] We all grow up with this primitive system coding that a threat to our caregivers, either perceived or real, literally is a threat to survival, and then we start to adapt from there.
Lifepainting by Muciojad https://soundcloud.com/muciojad
Creative Commons — Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported— CC BY-SA 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/b…
Music provided by Audio Library https://youtu.be/3feCSMbSZQA
Fei: Yeah. Well, it\’s funny when I announce, \”Oh, Emily Peterson, welcome to the Feisworld Podcast,\” you know, where you\’re gonna freeze just a little bit hearing your full name announced. But well, today we have a co-host, Adam Leffert who is a .NET freelance developer and very passionate about Feisworld as well and contributed in many ways. So I think it will be for the 3 of us, I wish there\’s a little bit of tea or candy around, but consider at 3:00 it\’s like tea time and we\’re just having a chat.
Adam: Good to be here.
Emily: Good to be here also. Thanks to the water.
Fei: You\’re welcome. So Emily, I think we\’ll start with you obviously, questions all, you know, you can ask us questions too if you would like. So it goes two way. But I\’m really intrigued by your work, by the video that you recorded of yourself. I find that\’s such a vulnerable sort of way to kinda express yourself fully and really unveil a lot of things about who you are, including your childhood, including yourself as a very competitive athlete, and the struggles that you went through, which I think are certainly things that many people and especially women in this world can really resonate with. And not only you didn\’t decide to share your story, but you\’ve taken a really big step with yoga teaching, meditation and also TIMBo to really help people around you. So tell us a little bit about your origins stories of kind of where this began and trigger such development.
Emily: Sure. So I don\’t know. I grew up in Southern California and my parents were divorced when I was one. And so there was a lot of movements and a lot of stepparents coming in and out and things and a lot of moving around. And then I was an athlete, I started out as an athlete when I was like two or something, I started gymnastics for fun, you know, but became more competitive. And then switched to volleyball in 7th or 8th grade, I guess. And during that time I played for several teams, but one was a very competitive, a national championship winning team. And there were lots of issues, I mean, I don\’t know. I feel like a lot of my story is, you know, trauma and stuff, which it is, and I guess that\’s how I got to where I am. So I guess that\’s what\’s coming out now, but it was pretty abusive and I developed a pretty serious eating disorder. I mentioned in that documentary that they filmed, you know, there was physical and emotional abuse, some girls were sexually abused. And I had my own issues of sexual abuse during that time also. And then when I got a scholarship to college to play volleyball, a lot of things continued. I had another sort of big crisis around another sexual abuse and the eating disorder got worse and all of that. So I started becoming hospitalized, initially for the eating disorder and then, you know, I was pretty depressed, pretty suicidal, doing a lot of self-injurious behaviors.
So the struggle became just how to stay alive for many years. When I…after I had a huge suicide attempt which is referenced in the documentary, I think to which you\’re referring to, there\’s sort of two things out there about my story. One was a video from Kenya this year. I sort of had this figured out how I was going to stay alive just giving…I have like, I don\’t know how many years, TIMBo came into my world after I became a yoga teacher and I can go back and then look into why that happened. And TIMBo is really the thing that has given me, like, a full life back and it\’s my understanding of my purpose of being here on this planet is to serve, be of service to others, and I try to do that in various ways.
Fei: Yeah. Feel free to jump in.
Adam: I mean, doing your yoga class is kind of what brought us together, you in yoga class. And just to say among the reasons why I wanted you to be here was the extraordinary experience being in that class, and the warmth and really the subtlety that I think you always find with people may be a difference from… If I could ask you if there\’s a sort of explosiveness in this trial. I\’m gonna have too… I\’m kind of curious about that, like…of course, when you\’re two, you don\’t set yourself up to be a competitive athlete. But to get that far, there must have been some sort of an unusual, powerful driving you, and even the name of your yoga class, you know, New Yoga, it brings up images of, well, the yin and the yang and how those things come together.
Emily: Yeah, yeah. I think, you know, I was steered sort of into athletics when I was little. I grew up sort of wanting in my head to be…or in my heart to be a Broadway dancer, and that sort of steered because of what I could do, I guess, into athletics. I mean, there was a huge drive, I mean, and I think looking back, there was a sort of multiple reasons for that drive not only to… I mean, I loved being active and I loved what I did, but also there\’s some external pressure, I mean, to perform and I still is probably pretty quiet in that space anyway even though, you know, I was competing on a pretty serious level. And then when I got into doing yoga… I started doing yoga to try and heal from athletic injuries. I had heard that it was helpful for that. And that was like \’97 or something like that and that was sort of a year, sort of 2 years after my big suicide attempt. So when I started doing yoga, I was still doing it as a competitive athlete and while it did help my injuries, I was still sort of injuring myself in the process because I was still like, you know, I generally couldn\’t really take that out of my identity at that time.
When I was finding simultaneously was these set of practices or these set of practices of breathing has, you know, has a spiritual side that was trying to open up a new space for me and certainly about being in my body. And then when I did my yoga teacher training it was definitely, you know, alignment-based vinyasa, you know. I studied biomechanics and it was very much, like, almost me like coaching people through their practices in this sort \”Go, go, go\” kind of way and then I got hurt again. And I was sort of in and out of bed for like three days sort of teaching and going back in bed and teaching, going back in bed, and I have thought of certain powers inside the yoga book and it was about yin yoga and she\’s a Buddhist practitioner also. So I sat there reading it or lying there reading it, I was like, \”Oh, this is really interesting and speaks to the Buddhist practices that I do. I\’m gonna go take a class.\” And so the first yin class that I took I was like, \”What the hell is?\” Like, \”This sucks.\” You know, \”I actually wanna kill this teacher.\” You know, seriously.
Fei: Why, why is it? Because I didn\’t jive with you.
Emily: I have never been still, you know. I mean, I meditated in stillness which is a different thing. But yin yoga you actually feel sensations in your body, you have emotions, I have memories, my mind was going crazy and, you know, we\’re holding this pose, the dragon, for like five minutes and she\’s reading a poem or something. And I\’m like, \”Shut that mouth you have.\” Literally I was like…I mean, and I have all this rage and I was like, \”This is crazy.\” Like, \”What is this?\” This is something very interesting right now and then when I got done, I felt awesome. And I was like, \”Okay. There\’s something here.\” You know, so I just started practicing more yin and then I did a training with her. And it was sort of a new door of opening, a new door being opened for me in terms of like how I could, one, transform or to continue to transform myself into a more balanced person, but also really diving into my relationship with how I controlled my body, how I ignored all of my body\’s feedback, how to sort of plow through whatever it was, disregarding pain and things like that, and to create a space in these three to five minute shapes where it\’s like, \”Okay. I feel a sensation. What am I gonna… What do I do? I used to do things like self-injure and I have an eating disorder stuff, and like, you know, drugs and all of that kind of stuff to get rid of any discomfort that I had. Here is a space where I can renegotiate what that discomfort is, where it comes from, what I can do, sort of capacity-build when I\’m uncomfortable off the mat, and ultimately and certainly gonna be like directly proportional to how much sort of discomfort I can. And not in a suffering sort of way, but it allowed me to, like, find the other spectrum of joy and happiness and stuff like that which was never…I never thought possible.
Fei: So \’97 was a pretty big year?
Emily: Yes, that was a big year.
Fei: I remember that number, this year has come up multiple times and certainly there are many areas of struggles that we have covered to a certain extent, suicide, eating disorder. We also talked about postpartum depression, the pretty serious ones. And so, it seems like you are someone who have experienced a lot of them, possibly at the same time, but \’97 is the time where you said that there was an attempted suicide. Are you comfortable sharing what was happening at the time and what sort of triggered and, you know, drove you to that extreme?
Emily: \’97 was when I started yoga, \’96 was my big, big suicide attempt. So last year was my 20-year anniversary of my new life, I guess, living. I mean, I had tried once before and didn\’t succeed either on that attempt. And I just could not see that I was… I could not understand that there was anything about me that was worth continuing to live and the amount of suffering that I felt that I was causing those around me, which was being chronically in and out of the hospital, not being able to live past some of the things that had happened. And I just really believed that those around me would be better off without me there and I could not, I could not…you know, when people are chronically depressed it\’s not as if they\’re never happy, but I had just lost the complete ability to recognize any moments of happiness. And I felt like, \”Well, I\’m doing all of these things that are not good for me anyway.\” The only way out I could see for the people around me really and for myself was to take my own life.
Fei: So I have lost friends to suicide, and that\’s something that I could never reconcile and to really never get pass as an outsider. And it feels very much like one because oftentimes you don\’t see it coming at all. You know, those people are usually successful, beautiful, travel around the world. And I wonder, you know, there was that in between time, \’96, so you didn\’t succeed. I\’m very glad that that was the case. And well, coming out of that, was there any vivid memories of people or events or things that happened, you know, maybe in \’96 and \’97, that perhaps snuck you out of it and made you realize how special and loving, that you are and you are capable of? Do you recall any moments?
Emily: I mean, you know, the time, a long time after that it was a street fight. I mean, my doctor who I cared very much about told me and…you know, like they came to say to my family that I wasn\’t going to live. Like, I don\’t know how sort of now this way and I\’m just amazed by the human body, like what I did and I actually did live. But my psychiatrist, my doctor who I was very close to came and said to me, you know, and he was like, \”Emily, I can deal with the indirect, the eating…deal with like, things.\” He\’s like, \”You try again.\” You know, \”If you don\’t succeed, I can\’t work with you anymore.\” You know, so it was that one statement of like, what happens if I were to do this again and I lived and I lost him. That was not acceptable to me at all.
So that was the one thing for a while that sort of kept propelling me to work and I was like, \”Okay. I\’m going to live. So how are we gonna do this?\” But when I got out of the hospital, and I don\’t know how long I was in it, the weekend that I got out and I was playing something like a pro beach volleyball tournament. So when I left college, I started playing beach volleyball and my partner finally found out, like, where I was and when I got out. She\’s like, \”Emily, let\’s go. Let\’s go play a tournament in Michigan.\” Like, \”Let\’s go away where we normally were playing. No one there will know us. Whatever. Let\’s go play there.\” I mean, I was just, I don\’t know, a couple weeks out of this thing and, you know, this thing around and frail. And we got to the semifinals in that tournament and she had…you know, we had sort of gotten a little bit of…a group of people sort of watching. I think she had told them that I had just gotten out of the hospital. She didn\’t tell them why. So we have like this little cheering section, which was a very special, and I felt like actually I was going to die telling that because there was, no, you know, there was nothing. But that was certainly a moment of just like, \”Oh, okay.\” Like, people don\’t know me, but they\’re kind of getting behind what I\’m doing here. And that was just kind of a moment, you know, like, \”Okay.\” Well, there\’s a connection. There can be a connection out there. But still kind of that was the way in which I was like, well, if they truly knew who I was though, they would certainly not feel connected.
So it was really a…it was like really a big street fight to try to live. There was no sort of snapping out of it. There were just sort of motivating factors of like, why I…and plus, my family at that point, you know, the devastation that I put them through. There was no way I could do that again so I had to begin working pretty hard to live.
Adam: So this also…it seems like safe to say that it\’s come back around to where with all the pain and with all the things that we all struggle with, you are that person I\’m sure for a lot of people. That means other people forward, that people feel like they don\’t wanna disappoint you, they want you to be happy. So also I was wondering with the…you took up the yoga and I just have this like a visual image of you stepping through the layers of a person. So one of the things when I come to yoga, there\’s the, \”I hate this, I definitely hate this feeling,\” some of the teaching you can say, \”Now, put your block down and don\’t throw it at me.\” Someone projected on them for making you hold through dolphin, was there such a time? But for me there was that pain and there\’s a different kind. Now, there\’s a kind of like, \”Oh, I hate this now, but I\’m gonna like it later.\” And they\’re like, \”No, this is gonna injure me, and this one I\’m not sure yet.\”
But, you know, having you as a friend, having other friends who are really professional level, challenged with mental illness, like, go visit them and not getting the clients for, you know, months at a time, the will to live is there, the drive part, which was in your sports was there, the connection to other people, the feeling of disappointment. But what I don\’t hear in you, and I wonder whether it\’s there or whether it shifted or got sort of mushed down, is the…just the wrong idea. It\’s like I have friends who…we all have the feelings, the will to live and the will to die and the fear and the love. But some of my friends who I\’m close to won\’t let you know that they use their intelligence, but it\’s crazy and the crazy argues with the same. And after some number of years, the crazy doesn\’t win, even with all the therapy and the pills and, you know, the talking and stuff. So I can appreciate the events and looking into it and being drawn in. I\’m just wondering, like, do you fear, like, sitting to the podcast with kind of a little butterfly flutter or being vulnerable in front of people? But do you look like, in any of your thoughts you\’d be like, \”Oh, that was very…\” or is it all just, you know, physical, emotional…do you see life and you make your way?
Emily: Yeah, that\’s a really interesting question. And I, you know, though… First of all, you know, in terms of…one of my stretches in my mentality was that everything, right, that I had gone through now became an asset to me. So that was one sort of overarching shift, and the mentality that I can move sort of from shame to, like, be of service because of what I had gone through not in spite of. And then concurrent to all of this has been sort of the work that I\’ve done in the trauma program and the studying that I\’ve done around the nervous system, and the understanding that even all of the behaviors and behaviors and thoughts and all that, there is this bidirectional way that it\’s connected to the nervous system of the body. And whether it\’s a podcast or whether it\’s getting up and teaching yoga or whether it\’s feeling that I just am not worthy of love and connection, it\’s the same nervous system running.
So how could I begin to then hear the crazy thoughts in my head, which these were not been gone, right? I mean, they\’re still there because they\’re coming from the sensations in my body to start that way which I could pause, create space and be like, \”Okay. This is actually serving me or has served me in the past.\” So if I walked into any given room thinking, which I used to, that I was a horrible, terrible person unworthy of love and connection, and even going to the crazy thought of like if there was an earthquake in China, that was somehow, that my made badness caused that to happen, like therapists used to call it negative grandiosity, that I had to start, like, recognizing those thoughts as a way that if I believed I was bad, then I could never come into a room and be hurt. I was ensuring I was controlling my own rejection.
Adam: Get it over with.
Emily: Right. So if I walk around feeling, like, or sitting in those thoughts, which are, again, are coming from sensations in my body which I linked back into my nervous system where I…where we have a nervous system where getting kicked out of the cave equals a threat to survival, right? I mean, Maslow\’s hierarchy of needs, right? There\’s food and all that, but connection is number one. So how do we all, we all do it, adapt in our lives to ensure connection? And at some point it works for us like, you know, I was told when I was playing volleyball that I had to keep losing weight even though I was like, whatever, how many pounds, and then some coach don\’t do that anymore. But I was way on my way of being like, \”Oh, I can control my own pain by not eating.\” Right? So I started off the eating disorder in order to be connected to my coaches, and then over time that becomes maladaptive because it\’s not, it\’s not good. Right? So if I could start to begin to see the crazy thoughts or hear the crazy thoughts, pause, come back into my body, what\’s happening in my body right now. And then as, you know, with the PTSD, is the body telling me something that is true in this moment? No, if I walk into a podcast and see people that I know, I\’m not actually going to die even though my nervous system was literally telling me that. And all of the thoughts of going, \”Well, oh, I\’m comparing myself to x, y, z, guest. I don\’t even know why they\’re bringing me here.\” Right? All of those thoughts are in surface of one thing, which is to protect me from being vulnerable.
So through all the practices that I\’ve had in yin yoga and the trauma program, the recognition of those crazy thoughts are actually trying to protect me, and then coming back and then creating the space in the body through the process, through the other things I do. There\’s a way to renegotiate with the nervous system and over time rewire. And so now when the crazy thoughts come, right? On a good day I can be like, \”Oh, I\’m just gonna breathe because it\’s my system telling me something that\’s very real, but not actually true. And I think that one of the reasons why I do what I do with yin yoga and then the energy healing practice and on the trauma work, it\’s like the triangle of the somatic-based healing when having therapy [inaudible 00:24:24] which is great, like you need that for the mind. But the stuff lives in the body, there\’s no argument to that now, also it\’s a good resources and stuff and that.
So for me the healing is back through the body and renegotiating the space in the body, but for a long time, I did everything I could to stay out of the body, so the crazy, in quotes, crazy thoughts, I lived in that space, right? So that\’s where I lose hope and that\’s where I feel like I\’m not connected to anyone, and in fact, who will look out, who in their right mind would ever want to be connected to me. Does that answer your question, Adam?
Adam: Yeah, definitely. That\’s one of the, there\’s so many, but that\’s one of the reasons I really wanted to make sure, make certain that you\’re here because not I\’ve been to talk therapy, I have a lot of friends who have done that, but there\’s something you can\’t reach. I think there\’s a level where talk sometimes can\’t reach, but everybody has a body. And even from what you\’re saying, there\’s a pleasure, but then there\’s also the pain, that people have the pain. If you try to just turn off the faucet, it\’s just gonna back up. So whichever medicinal modality you subscribe to, whether it\’s gonna give you pimples, or give you a headache or, you know, stomachache or odd behavior, just trying to lock block that down, all the energy, is not gonna do it. So like when I hear you sharing with us that you can let the energy keep going and that words about it are, \”This will serve me because I\’ll be able to connect to other people who have the same drive, or the same pressure on them,\” or, \”I can inform myself,\” or… You know, we\’ve heard from other guests, even the…it was BJ Miller, right?
Adam: Who said that when people see him, this guy has gone through some very, very difficult physical challenges, he doesn\’t have to explain himself because they know this person is for real, they know what they\’re talking about, I can share with them. And I assume it\’s the same with you. It doesn\’t take a lot of chatting. You know, you give somebody one of your, like, signature hugs and they know, it\’s like, yeah, this is for real.
Emily: Yeah. Thank you. And I, you know, the one reason I think that there\’s only so much that talk therapy can do, right? Again it\’s because this stuff was in the body, but in utero, so by the time we even form any cognitive capacity, you know, pre-language, we\’re running on a nervous system where, again, the threat of survival or the perceived or real threat of disconnection from your caregivers is a threat to one\’s survival. So, I was, you know, doing a training in DC last week and a friend of mine, she\’s got a new grandchild and the grandchild is six-months-old, and she has this app on her phone and it says it\’s six months, right? That if a baby is looking at you and you leave the room, let\’s say to put it down for a nap, you\’re the most loving parents in the world, it needs to take a nap, you set it down and you turn around and walk out and the baby is, like, the codes or has a moment of like, \”I am being left.\” It has no cognitive capacity, right?
Adam: Game over.
Emily: No language. But if you walk out, apparently, this is what this app says, whatever, but if you walk out backwards looking the baby in the eyes until the baby looks away, the chances of the baby neurologically feeling a threat diminished greatly. So we\’ve all had that, we\’ve all had it. So we all have trauma. Some people have traumatic events, right? But being a human being which is why I feel like, you know, I can sort of hopefully connect to people, right, is because it\’s not about the story, it\’s not about what we say and, you know… I mean, the story is actually in a lot of ways sometimes connect, but also can very much disconnect, you know, from like, \”Oh, I didn\’t experience that.\” Like, \”I don\’t know what that\’s like.\”
Adam: Or different religions, like, I think there\’s a difference.
Emily: No. Right. But I know what it feels like to be afraid, I know what it feels like to feel guilt, I know what it feels like to feel shame. And as a little person, we all grow up with this primitive system coding that a threat to our connection to our caregivers, perceived or real, literally is a threat to survival and then we start to adapt from there. Right? When my mom has a bad day, she comes home and yells. Let\’s say I\’m crying and she comes home and yells. Well, my little person brain, that everything is about me, might come up with the conclusion that crying is not good, crying ensures my disconnection from my mother and or in fact anger. I work with a lot of people who come in and they\’re like, \”I never had a big \”T\” trauma, but I can\’t feel emotions, I can\’t allow myself to feel emotions.\” Whatever reason, this stuff gets coded in our bodies and then we adapt. And when we\’re little, it\’s ingenious. It\’s ingenious for a little person to stop crying to make sure they\’re not yelled at. But what happens over time, right? We grow to be an adult and we can\’t access our emotions or we can\’t feel our emotions, we\’re gonna ensure our own disconnection now and, you know, as I said in the body, right? We\’re gonna start having…become, well, actually lead to physical issues in the body, right?
Fei: I think that not until I was in my 20s, maybe mid-20s, and after I… well, now, I just remember, that\’s when my dad was diagnosed with cancer. It was a very slow, painful death of 2 years, and losing him at 26, and 1st ever in my lifetime to pursue psychotherapy. And I thought it was such a joke, I had five sessions only done, and I ended up staying over a year and spending very little time talking about my dad and turning the topic into talking about my mom, which is a huge realization altogether. But there are things that I remember, this woman was coaching me was asking myself how am I feeling right now, you know, how does it feel in my heart, on my body? You know, do I feel cold or do I feel hot or do I… I was like, \”These are such stupid questions.\” I thought to myself like, \”Why? It\’s such basic questions. Just even the structure of the sentences, it\’s like a three-year-old would know.\” And I realized I never actually asked myself those questions. So instead of… So these days when I get into a situation, as I\’m driving to the pool at 3 in the afternoon to think, my life is really good right now. I\’m feeling happiness, as in when I get into an argument, I ask myself, \”Wait a minute, I\’m feeling tensed and uncomfortable and maybe not so much of worthlessness.\” But I said, \”Do I give that person the power to make me feel that way? Is that person even thinking about me that way? Is he even doing this intentionally? Maybe he\’s having a terrible time. Why are we…\”
So that was so helpful for me to realize that and to be able to, \”Am I over that right away?\” Probably not, but I\’m able to set aside, go for a walk or something and to revisit that, whereas I see my parents over time, without a lot of knowledge of whether reading a book or actually seeing someone practicing yoga, they tend to escalate very quickly, as in we\’re in this room and let\’s resolve it. I\’ve never seen anybody step away from a fight and to come back to it more peacefully. So I just kinda got going and feeling you\’re sharing your stories with so many people, I wonder, how does it make you feel to share your stories especially at the beginning versus now? You seem very comfortable with doing what you do.
Emily: Thanks. Sometimes looks can be deceiving.
Fei: Sometimes. A lot, I hear.
Emily: And I also worked into this capacity of videos, to be present while this was going on, you know, inside the storm. But, you know, I think as I have sort of tried to figure out what my purpose is here, you know, and people have come into my life concurrently and given me the practices or, you know, open the space for the practices, you know, I just have to…I have to just keep renegotiating with my own system. I don\’t know how to say it in any other way. It\’s gotten easier because what happens in these practices is that you actually rewire, right? So going from disassociating, to yoga, to just noticing my heart beating faster, and being able to take a breath, and like you said, which is so important, to just pause. I mean, you go for a walk and be like, \”Okay. I\’m actually feeling what\’s happening in my body right now.\” You just talked about how you\’re noticing the thoughts that are in conjunction with those feelings and then pause, kind of removed myself from this, whatever\’s happening, take some space and put into whatever practice, whatever that practice may be for you, and then you can kinda open up a space going back from a different nervous system, right?
Emily: And the thing that you said is also so incredibly important was recognizing when you\’re happy. Right? I mean, that in and of itself is a huge, a huge thing. I mean, you know, it\’s my understanding with panic attacks and things like that, right? It\’s not the actual thing that promotes the, you know, sort of pushes for the panic attack is the fear of the sensations and the elevation of the panic attack that tends to be…it\’s like the system and then the panic attack consumes, right? And so, kind of understanding the sensation in the body and then also from a huge, what you\’ve said have been huge, I was like, \”Oh, wait. I have an absence I feel right now.\” I\’m actually happy. What does that feel like in my body, and recognizing those moments, and then renegotiating from there. So like, I mean, the more I teach, the more I talk, and the more I keep sort of… Right? I mean, there\’s still an element for me honestly of disbelief of like, you know, do they really want me to come on and talk about this one? And I guess I\’m just going to, you know, because… I don\’t know. However I can be of help.
Fei: Yeah. I wanna talk about TIMBo actually. I know it\’s such a huge part of your career and your life, and then to have worked certainly and drink life. And tell us a bit about TIMBo. I only learned about it because of you and at the same time I\’m thinking, \”Oh, my gosh.\” Like, \”What an incredible resource.\” Only more people discovered it earlier, now.
Emily: Yeah, yeah. Well, it\’s not that old. First of all, the program in and of itself has not been in existence for that long. And yes, I wish everyone had access to it and that certainly I hope, you know. But TIMBo is it stands for Trauma Informed Mind Body program, and it\’s a mindfulness-based trauma recovery program. And again I\’m gonna say that trauma applies to every single person on the planet. So you don\’t have to have the big T trauma to come into the program, but it\’s a program that sort of works with what I\’m talking about, this awareness that we all have a primitive system that\’s still running the show to some degree to create space around the sensations that we feel in the body that normally sort of like, you said, Adam, of like maybe you try to get rid of or we kind of go into the thoughts around them, and how we can drive a wedge between the sensations in the body and the actions and the thoughts and the behaviors. And we do that through a curriculum-based program. So it\’s not group therapy. We… It\’s very much around present moment awareness of the body\’s sensations. And we do that thing, like reading a quote, and you\’d be surprised how many sensations you both can have, including myself, by just reading a quote.
And then we do a lot of breathing, a lot of, again, sort of what\’s happening in my body right now. You\’re choosing a tool to create that space so that we can begin to start having a new reference point, \”Oh, I felt like…\” and it becomes then an addiction program, an eating disorder program, a parenting program, a relationship program, right? What happens partners when I\’m with my partner and I wanna just unleash? Can I just pause for one moment and turn back into my body and be like, \”Okay.\” Like, \”I feel these sensations. Can I breathe?\” Driving that wedge in between what\’s happening in here, and what\’s gonna about to come out of my mouth that could just really disrupt the next 24 to 48 hours for us, that I don\’t really wanna say anyway. You know, that\’s not…again, that the sensation is not accurate to the present moment. Some might be, but it\’s not all.
So we practice creating space. Awareness, acceptance and space are the principles of the program. And then we do trauma sensitive yoga and guided meditation in each session. And so it\’s a curriculum-based session that\’s 8 weeks or 16 weeks long. And we work off, again, sort of the emotional anatomy pyramid of fear being the foundation for all other proceeding emotional anatomy disruption stages of guilt, shame, how these things…how fear turns or like kind of adds on to guilt and to shame as we sort of grow up, kind of like the fundamental survival of needing that connection to stay alive, to guilt. I\’m making a mistake, right? I\’m crying, my mom is angry, or I can adapt, I can change my behavior so that we stay connected. Well, maybe something else is going on with mom or dad. That\’s not gonna change their…that\’s not gonna change your environment, right? So then, \”I\’m making a mistake,\” becomes like, \”I\’m a mistake,\” something fundamentally about me, that these things are happening, and so I was pretty young, and then up and up and up and up.
So we connect around those sorts of things, which is why I can go to Kenya and run the program and be in a group with women whose survival needs are, you know, if their cow get stolen or something, I can\’t relate to that on…you know, in everyday life, and JP in Brooklyn, Massachusetts, like what\’s that gonna feel like if my cow sget stolen. I don\’t have a cow. But I certainly do know what it feels like to feel like I\’m being…like survival is being threatened. So then that enables us to connect with people in Haiti and people in homeless shelters in the VA. You know, we have groups running in Tehran, where our circumstances and our experiences are not the same, but then they come up and be like, \”Well, we didn\’t know white women could build a [inaudible 00:39:38]. We didn\’t know white women could laugh.\” But here we are doing this all together because it\’s a human experience. The situations change, the environment changes, but we all know these fundamental emotional states of being, and can we track them back into these sensations in the body, which is why the program is working now for, like, treatment resistant PTSD, you know, our kids in children\’s hospital because they\’re getting actual tools. And we\’re not the only program out there, you know. It\’s just the one that I do so it\’s the one that I talk about where, again, it\’s like, how can I not do that thing that I always do to make my discomfort go away, which is the bottom line of we don\’t ever wanna feel unhappy or like any of those things, to I can actually…I have the capacity to feel sad, to feel uncomfortable, to choose the tool to breathe, to create a new space, and then to do something different which might be to take a walk, or read a book, or practice yoga, or sing, or whatever it is, or re-engage with my partner in an empathetic way versus like in a blame or like a resenting sort of like…
Fei: Yeah. You know, when you\’re thinking back and you think you\’re worst, \”You\’re the worse,\” you know. It\’s too…it\’s very…I think really just educating people in the cultural and so many levels. But I\’m intrigued because you, right before we started recording, you had mentioned that you listened to a little bit of Bisila Bokoko\’s episode where she also shared with me for her, you know, she\’s from…her heritage, also from Africa. But when she went back to Africa and tried to speak in front of women who have real life struggles where…she was born and raised in Spain and now she lives in New York. Some women said, \”Wait a minute, how are you qualified to talk to us? You don\’t know our struggles.\” And she was able to relate to them in a very strategic, in a very authentic way. I wonder what was it like for you being Caucasian to be in Africa and trying to relate to these women? How did you do that?
Emily: Well, first I freaked out.
Adam: Step one.
Fei: Step one.
Emily: Right. Step one, to freak out and do a lot of breathing because, again, when I went over there, I was like, \”How are they gonna relate to this girl?\” You know, with my story. And then I remember, I\’ll never forget it and it\’s such a visceral thing, that when we got to the training the first morning we got…we showed up and all of the women that we were working with, together with, came out of the dining hall. And they were singing and they were dancing and they just formed a circle around us, and we tried to chime in and, you know, get involved. And it was like, goose bumps, right? Because it was just like, crystal [SP] just cut out everything. So it was such an incredible gift, it was such an incredible gift that they were just like, \”We\’re just gonna envelope you guys and take you in.\” And I don\’t know what they were experiencing before that moment either, but it was a show of like an openness and generosity and it was beautiful.
And then it didn\’t happen right away, right? Where I just showed up and could relate. I mean, we create a space to offer, and one of the things that\’s different about TIMBo is that we share as facilitators or trainers, we share personal insights. And they\’re very strategic and we do it in a very specific way. But it\’s a program based in mutuality and empathy. So I\’m not sitting there ever saying that I\’m fixed or I have the answer for you. There will be a moment in time where I can relate somehow, and again it may not be on the cow story, but it can certainly be my own personal experience of a moment which I\’ve had where I wasn\’t sure that I was going to live, you know. And to just open up my own space of being vulnerable, which in those moments there looked like tears, right, So that they could see that I wasn\’t any different on that level.
So it\’s about showing vulnerability or being vulnerable and then opening up yourself. And then, you know, invulnerability connection, Brené Brown says that all the time, you know. Yeah. So… And then also opening… You know, I have…it is shy of a master\’s in government and I studied the human rights side, so I studied a lot of different African countries from the human rights side, so I had all sorts of textbook and knowledge and like visual images of what I studied, right? And then also opening the space for them to walk into that should bring their own rejoicing and to teach us about, like, living in the present moment. I mean, that\’s my job and that\’s what I do is to try to help people do that. We can\’t just tell you one thing… Like, we went through our first day, you know, doing the program, the first phase, that when we were over there, working with an organization that works with widows and talk about trauma that I can understand, I mean, you know.
And we were doing a one-word check-in the next morning, and we were going on a very large circle, it was like 50 people or something like that, 40 people, and the words were like, \”healed\” and \”joy\” and all of the stuff. And then we were hearing women saying like, \”Well, I\’m gonna stop taking my blood pressure medication. I did yoga one time.\” We were like, \”No, no, no. You have to take your medication.\” Like, \”We\’re not telling you, you know…\” But I was sitting there thinking like, \”Clearly they don\’t understand the program if they\’re staying second day in.\” They\’re like, \”We\’re healed.\” And then as I was with them, right…
And it\’s not that we want us all everywhere in the world to have such intense survival struggles, like that\’s the way into being in the present moment. That\’s not ideal, right? But because of their situations and with their situations, they have to live in the present moment. So if they\’re sad, they\’re fully sad. If they\’re happy, they\’re fully happy. In those moments they feel healed. And I was like, \”Oh, my gosh.\” Like, \”This is such a gift to me and such a space of learning.\” So I could go over there and being like, \”I have everything to give to you, I\’m gonna teach you how to recover from your trauma.\” That\’s not gonna work and I can\’t do it if I tried. But to create an empathetic open space of like, \”Here\’s some practices that I can sort of, you know, support you in doing.\” And like, \”Here are some practices that you\’re supporting me in doing,\” and like dancing and singing. I\’m like, \”Oh, I get it. I can grieve fully. I can be fully happy.\” And the more I sort of I\’m able to hold all of that, then the more capacity, like the more I can do it, but it kind of cuts through. And yes, at the beginning, I think everyone was looking at each other like, \”How are we gonna do this? Because I\’ve never actually been sat next to a white woman before and you\’re coming all this way to fix me, I don\’t think so.\” You know? However, once they started to see that we were not actually very different, then that was, like, that empathetic mutual space from which we could then move, you know.
I\’ve worked with the best, I\’m not a not a combat veteran. My stepfather is, my dad is a veteran. But again, I know what it\’s like to feel like I was gonna die, even if it\’s getting in front of a yoga class and my nervous system is telling me I\’m literally going to die if I open my mouth because I coded, over the years in my nervous system, that if I was seen and heard, I would be hurt. That\’s how I grew up. So showing up, using my voice, being seen and heard literally, my nervous system was like, \”Hey, wait a minute. Would we do this? You\’ll end up getting hurt.\” So I had to relearn how to do that. And the story may be silly in the face of, like, what other people might be going through, but when you kind of cut that through and then, again, open yourself to allow other people to see being vulnerable, then like, \”Oh, right.\” And then a combat veteran can be like, \”Oh, that\’s why, you know, when I was over in Iraq, I had no fear in the battle, on the battlefield, but when I get up and play music in a jazz club,\” because he\’s a jazz musician, \”I\’m having panic attacks.\”
Adam: Because the switch is the switch.
Emily: The switch is the switch. And over there, the nervous system was doing everything humanly possible to keep you safe and alive and it did it because there you are. But now it\’s misappropriated, right? It\’s things like getting up and playing jazz is a literal threat to your survival. And now it\’s kinda, like, now the sensations are gonna be there. So how do you retrain the body? Oh, by which we all can do. What do you feel in your body? \”I\’m feeling my heart racing. I\’m sweating.\” You know, \”My breath is shortened.\” Okay. Let\’s just pause there and let\’s take some rest, let\’s take some space, so your body starts to understand things, \”You\’re trying to keep me safe, but I don\’t need it right now.\”
Adam: I could see how the jazz performance could be more frightening than the other things with, you know, presupposition because in the moments that I have had is that, like, complete terror is actually a peace, not the gonna die peace, but the kind of like, no time for anxiety, it just burns off for those moments and it\’s almost kinda beautiful. But when you win, you literally are not gonna die, and then that\’s your chattering and thinking can kinda come back. And speaking to people… So back to the yoga community, there\’s this beauty of just like everybody smiling, get a hug and there\’s like a within the bubble feelings, to be frank.
And so to point to some of the things you said and kind of offer them to somebody who might be sceptical, as you said, people can be when they approach something, I think that break, a few things that break that kind of putting away, there\’s a little crack of air coming into the window, a little bit of light coming through the open door is two things, one is to say to somebody, you know, \”Could you do that?\” You say, you were completely nonfunctional, don\’t wanna live, can\’t be in society, can\’t be with people, and now you\’re gonna be, not happy all the time, but you\’re gonna be functional and might even be a leader at some situations or a follower or a true friend or a love. But I think that moment is something that people could imagine themselves. They\’re like, \”Can you just give it one heartbeat?\” You know, \”Can you close your breath to that moment?\” Somebody, even if their thought pattern is encrusted and not productive, can you take a beat?
And that, you know, could define what it means to have a free will, but there\’s at least two parts I\’ve been thinking. One is that pause between the cause and the effect beause, you know, reading a lot of books and setting in the \’80s, it was like sociology in Harvard and your genetics to everything. And I was like, \”No, we don\’t like that, we like environment.\” And if you… And there\’s truth to all those different modalities, but if you read, well, a genius caused this sort of behavior in exposure to light and sound, the way people talk to you because this sort of behavior, one can end up just feeling like that little ping pong ball. So my mom said this to me and I ate this carbohydrate and then this fell on me. And if, you know, people have tried to connect with their doctor or maybe even help, if all they think about is those causes and the effects, then nobody is gonna cope. If all we are is that ball being padded around, then you\’re just crutching, you know, you\’re just bouncing around. So if there was some things to point to in one\’s self, that kind of joy and the pain, you know, this true somatic, you know, physical emotions, but also the fact that means to all, \”I saw myself or I told myself,\” what this is gonna be this, you know… It\’s certainly not my insight. There\’s gotta be these two people in there. If I saw myself having a panic attack, if I said to myself, \”Maybe there\’s a way out of this,\” then there has to be at least one more person.
And that progression you talk about from an infant to a child to an adult almost kind of seems like a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person. It\’s like 1st, \”I\’m feeling joy and I\’m feeling pain.\” And then it\’s like the 2nd person, \”You\” or, \”You\’re gonna give me milk,\” or, you\’re gonna yell at the baby. So you go to the 2nd person, but then mommy said, \”You\’ve got to go to school, we\’ve got to go to the nursery school.\” Now, all of a sudden, it\’s the 3rd person, it\’s \”he,\” \”she,\” and \”they.\” And then you\’re like, \”Am I a funny person? Am I a good-looking person? Am I a smart person?\” Like, \”How am I gonna fit into this group world?\” And those ideas kinda pile up from there, you know, self-vision, \”I\’m an athlete.\” You know, \”If you\’re gonna love me because I\’m gonna win this game, but you can see me express myself physically.\”
And that\’s just the same with yoga, you see the vulnerability of people\’s openness and the hugs and the smiles, but then also, for me it\’s also aspirational. You\’re like, \”Wow. I can\’t do that.\” But you just did that thing. And, you know, I come from a martial arts background, there\’s that part of it, too. There\’s a thing that you go, \”Wow, I wanna…\” or even with the Cirque du Soleil athletes we\’ve met and coaches and talked to, what\’s that leadership you look like and like, \”I can do that,\” or, \”I can do that for a moment,\” to sort of bring that back around for somebody who looks and says, \”Well, yeah. No, that\’s you.\” People do that sort of splitting, without yoga or for me. You certainly can\’t say, but sort of like this yoga class would be offering is, the offer would be to just take that one beat. It\’s not what Emily says to do or faces, you just have to take that beat for yourself.
Fei: So I have something to say that. I mean, Adam has just really broken down, which we\’ll record that as an audio book. So, but I noticed some transitions in me, not to say that I have somehow, like, elevated myself to a different degree, but…and since my dad\’s passing though is an awakening moment. But how long did that last, right? Or maybe the TPS report isn\’t all that important. Well, I have that feeling for a few months and all of a sudden my anxiety kinda went back to the old place. But in recent years, I\’m 34, turned 34 on my birthday not so long ago, is that I noticed I recognized myself no longer as the person with the ping pong ball having bounced around. When I see myself, just imagining myself, I become a very abstract turn. I no longer imagine myself as, \”Oh, how does my hair look like? What was that shirt I was wearing?\” Right? \”Was I in pain?\” But I feel like myself as an abstract concept. I was just like, almost like in a way that me no longer exists, you know. I\’m here for the moment. I mean, literally, we\’re lucky a hundred years, the space that we have, the time that we have on the planet. And the happiest moment, when I feel like the proudest, the moment I feel like I\’m myself is when I\’m able to, like you said, influence other people and still hope, you know. Like, Johnny B.A.N.G. Reilly said, \”Hope is a drug that\’s home grown and for free.\” Right? And it\’s so powerful to hear that. So I don\’t know. I just felt like…
Emily: Well, I wonder if I talk to right now and ask you to, like, check in with your body and what are you noticing while you speak right now, if you just got quiet for a second and just felt into your body and just notice what you\’re feeling.
Fei: I just feel so calm and connected. You know, I just feel like I don\’t have to be anybody else right now but me. But that me is not the, \”Oh, I have so…\” I am the me using a MacBook Pro, I\’m the me who\’s hydrated and I\’m pretty fit these days. I just dropped five pounds. I\’m just being me.
Emily: Exactly. So far, you know, for doing something right now, hey, just notice this, and that\’s what it feels like to be you in this moment.
Fei: Yeah. I feel like my heartbeat is very, very powerful and, like, just very even-rhythmed, you know. Like, something feels…it just feels right in your body.
Emily: Yeah. That\’s awesome. And you have a giant smile and your eyes are looking pretty. Retraining. But I think what you guys are supposed to is search it, right? You, you know…it\’s authentic…it\’s our authentic self. Who am I authentically? Can I show up to a situation and be present with who I am without all the crazy, without all the other stuff and show up as myself? And the dude with the jazz, right? The nervous system… And it\’s coming from where we want them to kinda believe it or not, it\’s getting up in front of people, showing your authentic self, your authenticity, and when we showed our authenticity when we were younger, it didn\’t always work out so well, right? So we started to move away from that, move away from that and move away from that.
So allowing ourselves to come back in, in my work right now anyways, really training in the nervous system and training somatically to come back and feel the sensations where I can actually, you know, now be authentic and I\’ve had enough people and I found in a couple of places most important to this interview, with the TIMBo community, where I actually did show up as myself or with the woman in Africa, I actually told them something and I cried. And they were like, \”Me too,\” where I found connection in my authenticity. And so I started to take more risks, right? But what you were talking about, sort of 1st person, 2nd person, 3rd person, right? We\’re all like this one little person, right? And it\’s still the person that it\’s like adaptation one, adaptation two, adaptation three and we keep adapting and then we sort of look for people that hold up to those adaptations, right? And so on and so forth.
So for me it\’s peeling back those adaptations, peeling back, peeling back. I mean, like, \”Oh, wait. What am I feeling right now? Who am I right now?\” And, you know, in terms of the yoga community, yes, there\’s a little bit of a bubble, you know. And there\’s a lot of… And I think the aspiration, like you\’re saying, whether or not somebody is more sort of able to sit in their own discomfort is the aspirations sort of coming from an authentic self or from a perceived, \”I\’m a yoga teacher. Here\’s my construct. This is where I\’m supposed to fit in.\” Which is problematic, for me anyway, and sometimes, it\’s something I don\’t think about it, but I do realize like as yoga teacher, right? And so then I\’m suffering in that moment, but anyway I digress. But like, now having been able to more and more and more and more, and then not, and then more and then not, then more and not because I\’m human sitting in my authenticity, right? My scope of attention, my scope of focus has gone from daily surviving to like opening up the space, to then trying to be of service and trying to connect to what my understanding of the divine of light and of the sources. You know, and I talk to angels and stuff like that where before, I always told myself I was actually crazy, you know.
But the other day I was teaching and, you know, oftentimes, you know, I talk about sensations in my class. I teach in this way because I feel like if I can do one thing for people, is give them a space to start renegotiating their own ability to sit in discomfort so that they can have joy. Again, you can\’t select out emotions. You can\’t just only be happy, I can\’t always strive to be happy. It doesn\’t work. You have to allow in the sadness and the difficulty so we can create a space. But I think some people don\’t come back to my class. One, yin is wicked hard. And two, you know, it might be depressing, you know. Some people want that message of just like the kind of happiness and all that kind of stuff. But for me, this is the way I found it. So I can only teach through what I know and that might change later on. But after my class lass week… And I didn\’t even remember mentioning self-compassion, I know I mentioned compassion, but I don\’t think I mentioned self-compassion, I may have forgotten. But this is sort of running through someone else\’s nervous system. A yogi came up ripshit. She was so pissed and she was like, \”Oh, it was great though.\”
And she was like, \”Every time I hear the word \’self-compassion,\’ I get enraged\” because she\’s like, \”I don\’t know how to do it. I don\’t know what it is.\” And I have this almost thing in me that freaks out and I get so pissed. And I sort of looked at her and I was just like, \”Just take a breath.\” That is a self-compassionate act. You don\’t need… Self-compassion isn\’t about being gooey or \”I love myself,\” or, \”I like myself,\” all these things, right? It\’s really about like this is a moment of human suffering, \”I\’m suffering. Can I just be kind to myself?\” and then the kindness is the breath.
So you were talking about the most simple thing one could do, breathe, pause, take a walk, feel your feet on the ground, drive that wedge and that is, that\’s why TIMBo does work because it\’s so simple and people resist and I resist and we do that because we wanna make everything much more difficult than it is. But it\’s so simple yet so difficult when I\’m activated to just be like, \”This shouldn\’t be this way. I do yoga so I shouldn\’t be angry when somebody talks about self-compassion. But I have the balls to,\” excuse me, you don\’t have to put that word [crosstalk 01:01:33]
Adam: We have a whole episode of balls.
Emily: The disclaimer on about life. Yeah. You have to listen to this [crosstalk 01:01:38]
Adam: Yeah. No, you have no idea.
Emily: [crosstalk 01:01:39] case children or not.
Fei: You can change, like, [inaudible 01:01:43] notes. We have plenty to explore on that stuff.
Emily: Well, then she had the vulnerability. She allowed herself to be that vulnerable to come up to me and be like, \”I\’m so pissed right now that you were talking about self-compassion.\” And me saying, like, \”Great.\” Like, \”I\’m so grateful that you came up and said. If I were to say one thing to you, not to change your experience because that\’s not what I\’m trying to do, but just take a breath. Start with just taking a breath, that is a self-compassionate act and that\’s where it all begins.\”
Adam: I think there\’s a subtext there, too. So yes to all of that and I think…but, you know, like, I even [inaudible 01:02:18] Well, my mom would say there\’s words and there\’s the music, right? So to completely warp to a different space is a very well-known scene in \”Star Trek\” where Worf goes to attend for in a bar. So he\’s moping. And Guinan, who\’s a very deep spiritual a woman who happens to be 800 years old, played by Whoopi Goldberg, comes up to Worf and says, \”What\’s going on, Worf?\” He was like, \”Get away from me. I don\’t wanna talk to you.\” She\’s like, \”You know, you could have gotten away from people in your quarters when you come all the way to this bar, like everybody needs, and sit there with your drink and moping, to then tell me that you don\’t wanna talk to me. You kind of do.\” So you didn\’t call her out on that because that would have been rude. But just sort of with all anonymity protected, I kind of want to say yes to everything you said, and by coming and walking over to you and saying, \”I don\’t know how to do self-compassion,\” what I kinda hear is she almost does. She\’s like this close and wants something, wants either to be told to take a breath or you just be there for her and she, like, gets pulled over to the finish line.
So, you know, the words are, \”I can\’t do it.\” Now, I think I also hear like this yin and yang, there\’s a little fish tail of the black and the white, and the white and the black. Maybe it\’s a projection, maybe I\’m reading it, but I hear her saying to you, \”You made me angry and I wanna say that and I wanna show that.\” And even that\’s a little bit of a wonderful thing, right? To be able to be in a class and to say to the teacher, \”Blah-blah-blah.\” You know, scream at the teacher in 3rd grade, you know, not where I grew up, and to have you kind of help her…
Emily: Measure your value [crosstalk 01:03:56]
Adam: …or finish line or be there while she almost gets there, something like that. So there\’s a positive in that, too.
Fei: She connected with herself and with that voice and with that disconnect, that there\’s a gap, you know. She\’s trying to say, [inaudible 01:04:10] and she\’s gonna come out and say, \”Hey, how the hell did that happen?\” You know.
Emily: Yeah. I mean, you know, that might have been the first time that she\’s ever come up to somebody and express displeasure. It\’s not… I don\’t feel it\’s my job to figure out the why of what they say or to kind of go and, you know, to sort of…because everything you said could be true, but… and all I know is that every single person on this planet has the same mechanisms in play and how they had adapt, to disassociate so they won\’t be [inaudible 01:04:39] still wants to be connected, right? But can\’t get out of his own way, doesn\’t have a space, doesn\’t know how, whatever. You know, I hurt myself in yoga class forever because I could not, right? I was beaten, I was beaten literally, beaten into me as an athlete that I had to perform in a certain way. So a yoga teacher telling me to do something, even if I were aware that I was feeling pain, I wasn\’t for a long time, but then when I got to the place where I was like, \”That actually feels bad,\” there was no way that I could actually do something other than what this teacher wanted me to do because again to my system, it would feel like a rejection, I\’m at risk of rejection which means a threat to my survival, coded as a baby. So to have someone come up and be like, \”You did this thing.\” And I used to, I had to work over the last couple of years because when somebody would do that or when somebody would cry like in an energy healing session, I would get happy like, \”Yes.\”
Adam: We won.
Emily: Like we\’re making…you come to me and then I\’m like, you know.
Adam: [crosstalk 01:05:40]
Emily: Just like the thing from \”The Bird Cage\” with the like, \”You can do faci faci faci.\” And here…
Adam: Martha Graham.
Emily: Martha Graham, right. But here you have to stand like this, what you can do like aura inside, right? But like all…just giving her a space to share her experience and then the one thing… I don\’t know what\’s right for her, I don\’t know where she\’s come from. But I do know that the first thing that one can do is just put in that breath. And you\’re right, maybe she is that close to understanding for herself and then she needs the space to just have the breath or the space to come up and be like, \”Oh, okay. I get it.\”
Adam: And not be rejected.
Emily: And not be rejected.
Adam: Not have you go…get the, \”You know what? Out of my class and don\’t come back ever,\” and to cover off from that source of joy.
Emily: Right. And that\’s where I feel like my life circumstance, you know, no, it\’s not comfortable for me to come in and talk about like, you know. And I can talk like a literal day and I said, you know, I tried to kill myself and things. But it\’s not comfortable and like, it\’s me, like, it\’s what happened, it\’s what I did. The circumstances in my life led me to this moment, very much led me to this moment, to this moment, to this moment, to keep working. You know, my partner says to me, sometimes to me like, \”You do all this sort for people of holding space, of holding space, of holding space.\” I mean, that is my job if I were to put something on my card because I\’m like a professional space holder because, A, like I get it, like I can now look at people and be like, \”Oh, their adaptations are running.\” It\’s not their authentic self. So I\’m not gonna take what they\’re saying personally because they\’re not running from the present moment. And even if they are, and even if they do literally hate my class and never wanna come back, I know in my own system that I\’m actually not gonna die from rejection. So that\’s the work on my part to also like hold the space for them. But my partner all the time is like, or he was one in the past and working really hard on it, he\’s like, \”You hold space for everyone, and you come home and you snap.\” I\’m like, \”Yeah.\”
Fei: I already have a follow-up question.
Adam: Yeah. So would you [inaudible 01:07:45] So that\’s a phrase that, you know, coming from just a regular world or school of martial arts world to the yoga world, that\’s a phrase that…
Emily: And I used to do martial arts.
Adam: Yeah. We can give you that then you\’d go back. That\’s a phrase that kinda hit me funny the first time, and then I heard a bunch and I think I sort of figured out, you know…
Emily: Which phrase?
Adam: Holding space. So for the non-yogis in the audience. Like it\’s just…because we hear it\’s esoteric and deep and high level. Just in a simply like, \”What is that?\” Someone is like, \”What the heck does that even mean?\”
Emily: Because that\’s what I just did with Fei when she was telling her experience in that moment and I could see, you know, and she almost…it was almost even her own words were coming out differently. She had, not tears in her eyes, but she was having an experience talking from that place. All I did was say, \”What does it feel? What are you noticing in your body right now?\” So I just created a moment of holding space of her heart, a whole space to turn inward. So holding space is just taking a pause and just sort of… It\’s hard to talk about, right? It\’s more about what I can…doing it than talking about it, right? I\’m holding space for myself, right? I\’m sitting here noticing the sensations in my body and doing nothing. I\’m just pausing and in that pause I can feel my heart beating, I can feel I\’m getting like ramped up, I can hear the voice going, \”Wait, they told you to talk at a certain level and certain voices,\” right? That\’s the nervous system running. But I can pause, I put my hands on my chest and there\’s this space. In that space I can breathe and then I can come back here and not let all the other stuff dictate how this is gonna go for me. And what I\’m doing with my partner when he\’s ranting, I just hold the space, I\’ll just be there and then maybe saying, you know, \”You wanna take a breath? That\’s been a long time coming.\” Like he will do it to me now.
So it\’s really offering someone their attention and just pausing with them and maybe, you know, depending on what they\’re saying, maybe it\’s a \”Me too,\” or maybe you\’re just like, \”Oh, I really feel bad.\” You know, but again we\’re so far away from like how we feel in our bodies. We\’re so up here, we\’re so distracted, we start doing all this out here. But for me, the basic space holding is that we have to do to ourselves, again, just pausing, feeling into the body and like, \”What am I feeling right now?\” Oh, I\’m noticing this like calmness, I\’m noticing is my heart is doing this and feeling.\” Like, \”I\’m right here in this moment.\”
Fei: I think I\’m visualizing it for me, too, like I\’m just this sponge. Not a pretty one or a fancy one from somewhere. I\’m just a regular sponge. Like I can be, you know, like, dried up, puffy and happy, but I can absorb a lot of water, be heavy and be…but I can hold it, working that out is an option. I just feel like, you know, what are those silly sumo wrestling team building thing where you get into this huge sumo suit and you just bounce around. Like, nobody got hurt before. That\’s kind of like the visualization I have when I have space or, you know, it\’s not like I\’m so armored of these heavy metals around me like, like not even an inch away from my skin, but I\’m standing in…I think of space, I\’m standing in front of the force, and it doesn\’t have…it could be the garden right behind you. Then I\’m sitting in this room, I have space. I can run around and I don\’t feel suffocated. I have time and space to make that decision, you know.
So I remember personally I\’ve been very lucky to not have really either witness so much of discrimination, racism, or perhaps there are times that maybe I have overlooked them. You know, maybe they were, you know, not related to me, but I remember when I was 19, I got out of my building, I was in college and then a guy, you know, kinda sloppy looking riding the bicycle and say, you know, \”Fuck you, you Chinese.\” You know, literally hearing that word, I\’ve never met this person and he was screaming. And it actually scared me because he was kind of a big man and I thought I was being attacked, and he was just on his way. He was even gonna get off and beat me up. And I\’m just very nervous for that moment. But I think that that was the most impact I have. But I think about women who have…I heard from my close friends, women would have been attacked, you know, sexually multiple times. And I, you know, sometime in the middle of dinner, and they\’re able to talk about it now, and I just remember just I have to hold myself from crying out loud and, you know. How… I mean, I\’m kind of just one thing I wanna kind of ask is how do women overcome sexual abuse, whether they\’re including the time that they didn\’t even know that was happening, they weren\’t even aware of what was happening, to later on they have to acknowledge? How do you recover, reconcile and move on with your life? Because it feels like always a part of you.
Emily: Yeah. I mean, that\’s a really good question. And, you know, I can only speak from personal experience and my own recovery from it. And it takes being able to feel excruciating sensations in the body. And then, two, like you said before, to sort of let that energy move. I had something a couple of months ago and I think it was working for a long time and sort of, you know, because a couple of things. One, the body really actually only gives you what it can handle. Its number one job is to stay alive. So even though it feels like something is going to perhaps kill us or be too much stress, the body only gives us what it can…what we can handle. So at some level, it knows if we were to kinda like step up to the plate, that we could do it, right?
So now I know that things are coming forward from my past to be healed in a way where, you know, a lot of my sexual abuse stuff I disassociated through, something like, well, that\’s my process here and how much I might have to live and all that, but… So the situation came up that it didn\’t dawn on me until like I was going to go do this thing in that morning. And I was put into like a full-fledged, I couldn\’t breathe, I couldn\’t…you know, I was like, \”What the hell is happening?\” And then I was like, \”Oh, right.\” This situation very much resembles to my body like a past situation. So what I had to do in the moment again was to stop, to be like, I\’m feeling these excruciating sensations, and similar, my guess is to the sensations I experienced even though I was just associating had I been present in the actual attack. And then have to sit in that and breathe and do different things like reach out to people and whatever who could…knows, you know, to rely on my partner. But it has to be being able little bit by little by little bit, like sticking the toe, backtracking, sticking the toe in the same situations, to sit in the discomfort. And that\’s how personally I have recovered.
And I have a partner. I have a sexual abuse history of being able to, over a 10-year period of time, to be like getting to the place of being able to say, \”No, I don\’t feel like this right now.\” And being able to use my voice, again, even though that goes against a lot of stuff that\’s happening in my body, and being able to breathe, and being able to keep telling me, and this sort of goes back to something that you said earlier that I would just like to say one thing about, but to be able to tell myself now that this is not actually happening. And right, I disassociated through a lot of it. So if I go back into therapy, and I might at some point, I don\’t know, it\’s been very helpful to me, but it doesn\’t…it didn\’t serve me necessarily in that moment to call someone up and say, \”This is what happened,\” or, \”This is what I remember happening and da-da\” because in the moment my body thought it was happening again.
So how can I reinforce to the body that it\’s not actually happening? But to do that, I have to let that energy or whatever, I have to let the body move it. And so I need to stay with it and be able to breathe. And that is excruciating and I didn\’t wanna do that for a long time. So I did all these things to keep myself from feeling. So how do we recover from anything is like for me…and you know, that\’s, again, sort of creating that own space, you know, like…and the space can just be in anybody who\’s listening to this can just pause in this moment and be like, \”What am I feeling in my body?\” \”Oh, I don\’t know. I feel numb.\” But that\’s a feeling, that\’s a something, you noticing something. That\’s taking space.
And so it\’s what the yoga practices do, right? Whether it\’s yogic or mindfulness, secular or otherwise, praying, whatever it is, but breathing and movement. So even taking a breath in and lifting your arms up, or however you wanna do it, up to the sky, breathing out and drawing your hands down, that is starting over time to repair the brain. In trauma, right, the neurons, the synapses, all of that stuff kind of goes offline, right? So that our amygdala, our primitive systems start to run the show.
Adam: I get it. Yeah.
Emily: The communication lines are down between the less primitive system and really the, you know, the emotional content of the brain, the midbrain…the name is escaping me right now.
Emily: The limbic brain. Thank you. And then the cortex, right, the prefrontal cortex within our higher executive functioning is, like all of that stuff, those telephone lines are down. So breathing, movement of any sort, tai chi, like qigong is like yoga, right? It means standing here, taking photographs, start to repair those lines, so that eventually, like you said, sort of like the 1st person, the 2nd person, the 3rd person, that we just have access to the prefrontal cortex, we have access to the decision-making, we have access to the contextual pieces of the brain that can run…that have enough… I mean, it took me a long time to be repair. I\’m still repairing. There\’s a lot of traumatic, like, things that I still do that, you know, like stutter and like lose track of words and things like that. It used to be much, much worse, but I have worked up over years to the ability of being like, \”Okay.\” There\’s a piece of me still in the present moment coming from here that\’s aware enough to be like, \”I\’m not back in that sexual abuse situation. I\’m not back in that situation right now. I\’m actually in my living room, but my body thinks I am. But I can be aware of all this is happening, and choose to breathe versus make a different choice, which I would have in the past.\” So the practices start to build up, the materials for the relearning to repair, you know, to build, the being athletic, all of these things in the brain so that again we can have the executive functioning come back on line.
Fei: I feel like we\’re the most complicated systems out there, probably the most complicated.
Emily: Yeah. Because when a cat gets in a fight, whatever, it gets in the fight, it does its thing, its systems are running, and then they go away from the fight, right? It doesn\’t go…the cat doesn\’t say, \”Well, listen, I just got a Time Magazine, like what do animals think?\” I love animals, right? My guess is they spend less time reading like, \”Well, is she mad at me?\”
Adam: What is that? A cat thing to go like [crosstalk 01:20:06]
Emily: Right, exactly. She\’s definitely, gonna definitely gonna kick me out of the house because…or they\’re gonna…you know, whatever. They don\’t necessarily do that, right? But we do so, we\’re more complicated and that adds another level. But if I can also get to the space for where I\’m like, \”Oh, well, I can recognize that, too, as another survival system, like we have the primitive system. We have then, you know, sort of our behavioral systems that come online, if I can change my behavior, then I can stay connected or I\’ll be connected to other people, to then the more advanced thing which becomes a cognitive piece of, like, if I think Adam doesn\’t like me, then, which isn\’t the truth, but you know what I mean? But if I think that they\’re gonna think I\’m stupid, then that\’s actually protecting me from them thinking I\’m actually stupid.
Adam: Right. Creating a different kind of space in a non-protected world.
Emily: Right. It\’s a protective mechanism, and that\’s what\’s been huge for me to get, not only to decrease my own, like, amounts of shame or being ashamed about everything that I\’ve done or gone through, but now a sort of markers of, like, that thought is there, something\’s going on inside, \”Wait, can I take that space?\” i.e., \”Can I pause? Can I turn my awareness back into the body?\” And then you take a breath. And doing that over and over and over again, right, has given me the ability when somebody comes angry after yoga, when my nervous system is like, \”Whoa,\” then I can be with the sensation in my body simultaneously while being with the person in front of me. So that\’s my holding space for that person, so I\’m not driven out of my sensation by responding like whatever it might be.
Adam: But just to say, so you\’re just acting angry that it\’s a fight or an argument or that you\’re creating a new thing?
Emily: Right. I\’ve created enough space where my brain comes back in to say, \”Just tell her she just needs to take a breath,\” and that\’s really all I can offer at this moment. I\’m not trying to fix her, I\’m not trying to change anything better. I can maybe offer one practice, again, that drives a wedge that starts to rebuild and really, you know, come back to health and the brain so that that frontal piece can come back in and be like, \”Well, this is not actually happening right now.\”
Fei: You know, I\’ve got in sort of a go right to the resolution mode, right? People where your [inaudible 01:22:16] alarm goes off, somebody\’s screaming at me or somebody\’s telling me something that I shouldn\’t be doing, and how am I gonna tell her that? How do I can fix her right now? How do I tell her that she\’s wrong? Or, you know, even as a project manager, I tend to see myself in certain situations where it\’s always about triaging and finding solutions, resolving things. But so much of our lives outside of work and, you know, maybe in relationships is completely opposite of that. It\’s just about being there, you know. Somebody just need a shoulder to lean on, to cry on and they don\’t… I noticed this is why women can be so powerful together that I invite a lot of women onto the show is, you know, I noticed with women sometimes, they just…they know that you just need someone who\’d listen. You don\’t…especially when, you know, some of my friends are going through trauma with, you know, losing their husbands still at a young age, success with young kids and then, you know…or have young kids and go through breast cancer and, you know, it\’s just it somehow is hearing women like, \”Who are we? Why are we here? And, you know, what can we do for each other? Can we just bring food over and just be there and talk about whatever they want talk to talk about.\” And so it\’s so powerful to be in that, just to… I don\’t even know the word…
Emily: I mean and that\’s what TIMBo does because, you know, I mean, in how we run the program. Again, some of our…my job as a facilitator of that program is to create space, to create mutuality and empathy, and to reinforce this biology and stuff and some different things. But, you know, we don\’t…we ask at the very beginning, you know, it\’s trauma sensitive so we make sure when, you know, the three universal triggers of stress are lack of information, lack of control and uncertainty. So that\’s the world we live in, right? So how do we learn new mechanisms to cope with these things that are part of our life? But we ask that people don\’t even pass each other tissues. If somebody needed a tissue, we set up a lot of tissue boxes, if somebody needs a tissue, they can either ask for it or they can reach for it themselves because how do you grow up in environments, it\’s either we\’re like, \”Don\’t cry or I\’ll give you something to cry about.\” When I\’m passing you the tissue, if I see that you\’re in tears, when I\’m passing you the tissues, even if I have the best intentions, if something going on in me, typically, not all the time, but there\’s something that I\’m uncomfortable with with what\’s happening in here, that I need this to go away.
So how do we create a space where women or people come in, cry as much as they need to. Sometimes we\’ll keep group going. It doesn\’t mean, you know, the thing stops. But we believe fundamentally that you have everything inside of you that you need to be healthy, you are healthy. It\’s just we\’re gonna give you this space, this structure, practices. You know, somebody had to do it for me for a long time, pause me and be like, \”What are you feeling? Let\’s take a breath.\” Not like, \”I\’m gonna fix you. Here\’s the answer to your problem, here\’s your advice.\” But, \”Here\’s a space that you can come in and you will be unconditionally loved.\” And it\’s super hard for people because like for me, I push back and like, \”Bullshit.\” Like, \”I\’m gonna do this and this and this thing because I don\’t believe you.\” And it took me a long time to get it, and that\’s what we do in that program and people will push and push and, you know, if you stay in it, and some people don\’t, then, you know, it\’s the group holding the space of like, \”You can come in, you can be angry, you can cry, you can be quiet, you can never say a word, and you are still welcome in this space.\” And there might even be someone, and most likely there will be, when you share something of your story that\’s gonna be like, \”Me too.\” You know.
Adam: I think there\’s also the distrust of the kind of bunch of smiley people, just to say, and also being, you know, born in the mid-\’60s, growing up in the \’70s, just to say it, just like there\’s a sort of cultiness that… You know, I remember when I was a kid, we knew this guy and he was happy all the time. And I asked somebody, \”What\’s his deal? What\’s Bruce\’s deal?\” You know, \”That guy, he\’s probably nuts.\” And then I realized 30 years later, \”Maybe Bruce was right all along, maybe there\’s something that we didn\’t.\” And maybe just historically what happened with all those various cults and a bunch of smiley people being smiley and offering people, I mean without calling out a specific, you know, religious or cultural groups, offering people that unconditional positive regard when we don\’t have the money and time for them to decide mentally seek a shrink and pills and this and that, you know, it brings them in. So from an over intellectual, over industrialized, like, forcing customer service representative kind of like, \”Oh, this person\’s cranky. Let\’s get them the new toaster.\” And then, you know, we\’ll kinda send them on their way or whatever with a new fancy version of toasters. So I think that\’s another thing that can keep people who think of themselves as intelligent or educated or even maybe enlightened from accepting that love because a group of people, whether it\’s yoga teachers or, you know, some social group or even a chorus or something, that it\’s like, you know, it\’s almost too good to be true. Like I say like, deserving love, like they\’ll, \”Can it just be that easy?\”
Emily: Well, you have to make yourself vulnerable to some extent to accept and receive love.
Adam: And you have to believe that those people are healthy. We have to not think they are so-called drinking the Kool-Aid.
Emily: Right. And some of them are, and some of that is coming from a nervous system who had to pan for threat and not believe because at some point, that person believed when they were younger that what was in front of them was the truth, and it wasn\’t, so we had to start adapting to scan for threat, and whatever that means. So it could be that that person has drunk the Kool-Aid and that\’s their own such a way of situation adaptation. But what also is someone bringing to the table of being like, \”I\’m not gonna trust that this person is who they say they are, or that their action meets their words,\” or whatever it is.
Adam: Their happiness or their joy.
Emily: Right. Because it\’s not safe inside to do that. So that\’s why again, like, I always keep pointing back to the body and to the renegotiating the space, but it takes some amount of awareness, it takes some amount of awareness that that this is how one adapted in order to stay safe, right? Like I said, I figured out fairly young that if I didn\’t talk, if I wasn\’t seen, of course it was not actually accurate because I still got quite hurt. But in my brain or whatever, my system growing up, that the more I actually was seen, and the more I was heard then the more attention would be there, and then I would be hurt more. So my response to that was to stop talking, you know, stop using my voice, get small as humanly possible and that sort of thing. But everyone adapts differently, so that my adaptation might be like, why can\’t…
I get this all the time, \”I can\’t trust being happy because something bad always happens,\” or, \”I can\’t trust that person at face value because it\’s, one, we\’re vulnerable, right, and usually authentic, vulnerable and authentic, that something happens that we get hurt,\” and that\’s the moment that something changes. So how do we get back to the place where I can actually receive what\’s in front of me regardless of whether she\’s drunk the Kool-Aid or not.
Adam: It\’s not, it\’s not, it\’s not good at all.
Emily: It\’s not gonna affect…like, I can still be a strong and healthy person and not hurt, being hurt. Like the external world says that it is, that I can\’t control it. I can only control how I am to this person. And we need… You know, trauma happens in relationships so we can recover and be, you know… Sort of like back to your question about sexual abuse, like it took a person. I had to find…I found the person also. I mean, I did a lot, a lot, a lot of internal work to get me to a place, but I also have this partner, this guy, who respected and, like, did his best to understand and be a safe person and do all these things. So I\’ve found somebody that could, like, meet me where I was at and have an honest dialogue. And I didn\’t for a long time tell him, you know what I mean? But like once I…
Emily: Right. But then I could, and then he didn\’t break up with me. And then I was like, \”Okay.\” Like, \”Here\’s a person that\’s trustworthy.\” And you know, when I mentioned this… I\’m going off again, I\’m sorry.
Adam: That\’s why we\’re here.
Emily: Yeah, okay. You know, then a couple of months ago, when that thing happened and I was, you know…and the founder of the organization… I was in a training too, right? So we\’re in a training, I have seen her, but this has going on, I was really like…I mean, my eating disorder was punching back like, \”I can help you with this,\” right? \”Let\’s just cut all this angst away, let\’s just do some stuff.\” You know, I\’m like, \”No, I have enough tools now that I can breathe.\” I\’m in the middle of the training and giving a presentation. She said something, I go into like a trauma activation on those language, on those thought. I\’m looking at her and I get out enough of like, \”Can you take over?\” She does, I stand there and brave, until like I get my brain back online so I can pick up and finish the presentation, right?
Adam: And that\’s the self, there\’s the child self, there\’s the parent self, the good parent.
Emily: Right. So when…
Adam: And then to bring them back, back from the tantrum.
Emily: Right. Exactly. But when I went home, because I know about the brain, right? But when I looked at my partner, I was already in a trauma response, so everything about my partner looked dangerous to me. He didn\’t even look like myself.
Adam: Yeah. Vigilant, hypervigilance.
Emily: And he would say to me… Exactly. \”You\’re looking at me like you don\’t know who I am.\” And I\’m like…because in those moments I don\’t. And, you know, we can set up things to do together to get me back to the present moment. Like, again, I have enough awareness now, enough awareness that I can be like, \”Okay. I know that this is happening, it\’s not true, but it\’s very real right now. I\’m gonna go do something, do some yoga, do some breathing. I\’m gonna sit down and cry.\” Like, \”I\’m okay with you holding my hand right now or being in the same room or whatever.\” And again, he\’s a compassionate person who, like, has been putting up with it. But everything about that situation changes, it makes it dangerous because he\’s trying to protect me. So that\’s why these practices are so crucial in interrupting those things. And you\’re right.
Adam: That\’s what matters.
Emily: And then when that little person comes up, you know, this is like internal family systems, right? But like me saying to you like, \”Do you know that I\’m here? What do you need? Hey, I might even check back in with you when you\’re not upset.\” And then I better do it, right? But to kind of what you just said, reparent ourselves through these tools and through these awarenesses, but I can\’t tell somebody who\’s like in a heightened state of PTSD, being aware of something or like, you know, that second thing, what you were sort of talking about, was like my brain, now I\’m using…repurposing my brain to say that to myself, \”We\’re actually safe. I\’m going calm…I\’m going to breathe and we\’re going to be calm,\” right? Gotta take a breath.
Adam: To sort that. You know, I can\’t really sit if I\’m at that stage. You can\’t start it.
Emily: But I can\’t start off with something like that, right? I have to be like, \”What do you feel in your body? Let\’s take a breath. Let\’s pause. What are you feeling? Let\’s take a breath.\” I\’m just gonna pause right now, let\’s take some breath. So we\’re inserting the tool, tool, tool, tool, tool, and then finally or hopefully at some point, and the person, and you hear at the time the person comes in and be like, \”Oh, well, I was, you know…and despite of my boyfriend, I could feel the sensations in my body,\” and I just said to myself like, \”Oh, okay. I\’m just gonna be calm and breathe.\”
Fei: It\’s so incredible to have this tool to access to. When I remember, if you grow up in a traditional family or from my parent\’s generation, they pick up a book, whether it\’s something, you know, it\’s TIMBo or Tony Robbins, they say, \”Oh, that\’s trivial. I already know that, but do you?\” You know, \”Should I quiz you?\” You know, there\’s a period of time where my mom and I didn\’t get along, but now we\’re great. During that period, I never saw…I did not see the light at the end of the funnel. I never thought this relationship now we have could possibly exist. I remember going to see Frank that time here after my dad passed away and I said, \”I don\’t feel like, you know…\” I said, \”I live in an apartment, one bedroom apartment, my mom is staying with me, space is limited, and she not only yells at me, she follows me around.\” And I said… She\’s like, \”Why don\’t you get out?\” I said, \”Well, you have no idea what it\’s like to be an Asian child. I cannot get out of the house. My mom threatened me and just off the building.\” I mean, literally, she\’s like, \”Oh, okay.\” She\’s like, \”That\’s interesting. How about you open the window a little bit? And why don\’t you just go to the refrigerator and just open up the refrigerator door?\” And when she told me about like that, \”Okay. Why don\’t I give it a shot?\” The day I went back home, she started yelling.
Adam: I remember this.
Fei: I literally went and like and I said… Oh, and she also called me, \”Just pretend you\’re gonna get a drink or something.\” So literally, I remember just holding that door open and just let that sensation, that coldness hit me, like, as I was sweating. I was like, \”My goodness, who doesn\’t have a refrigerator at home?\” Nobody knows how to use that at that moment. It sounded as silly, as childish, as vulnerable as it is, but by the time I go over she\’s like, \”You know how real I put you down?\” You know.
Adam: Sorry. Did l break your concentration?
Fei: I didn\’t know and believed it was to create space.
Emily: Like there are so many examples, either creating like actual physical space by opening up a window and having, you know, either the air, the perception that the room is bigger or whatever, exit strategy. Or light, you know, opening the refrigerator, you\’re still sort of making an active choice to pause and kind of go inside and like do something there to create a wedge, as Viktor Frankl would say, between the stimulus and the response.
Fei: Yeah, yeah. Yes.
Emily: Right? And like you said, how do you describe the space? I don\’t know, tough, it\’s experiential. The first time that, you know, you stopped and placed your hands on your body and be like, \”What am I feeling right now?\” you know, that\’s experiencing along the space. What you find in that space might be incredibly uncomfortable, where you might find peace and a little bit of freedom. And then, right, what happened is you didn\’t change anything about the surroundings because you still are close to the refrigerator and the stimulus is right there.
Adam: Mom is still there.
Emily: But you changed something about yourself inside. You gave yourself enough space that you could be like, \”Okay.\” Like, \”I can reenter the situation and not [inaudible 01:37:15] with that,\” you know?
Fei: Yeah. It\’s really powerful. That\’s why Chinese people have…they hold onto this thing of, \”Oh, language is so sophisticated, it\’s so beautiful.\” And it\’s true, but it\’s just the inside. I try to tell a lot of my friends in a nice way that English is a language that\’s incredibly rich and sophisticated, you know. As simple as a phrase, \”It takes two to tango,\” there are no such phrase, and it\’s just a very different form. And I try to imagine, I just imagined two rose, you know, getting tightened up. But I imagine the middle one is completely straight. It doesn\’t matter how the 2nd would try to wrap around and try to choke it to death, there\’s no power from the 2nd piece to the 1st one. So I think of myself like in a very…in a situation that I cannot get out, I cannot walk out, I just imagine myself like kinda floating in the universe in kind of a…the shavasana, just that kind of like be…be straight and just be your completely relaxed. None of these things could possible attack me. They have no power over me, right? So be gone.
Emily: So be gone. I mean, that\’s so awesome.
Adam: [crosstalk 01:38:21] They have no power over you.
Emily: What works for one person doesn\’t work for the next, right?
Fei: Yeah. True.
Emily: I mean to sort of give…like if you\’re in my position, I can try to give as many tools as possible, and they can be…some based in spirituality and some based in just like breathing, or whatever it is or like… And the cool thing about TIMBo is that you appear in a circle of women talking is that you might bring that up, and then to be like, \”Oh, yeah. That\’s so awesome. I\’m gonna try that.\” You know, so you have the voices there, but it\’s not a one size fits all thing. I mean, you can start in this particular thing and then it\’s like you just keep trying, and trying and trying, and then something might work, and you kinda add that into the toolbox and you keep trying and trying and trying, you know. I mean, it\’s like the one, the…how these people like at argument [inaudible 01:39:01], right? It\’s his holiness, the Dalai Lama, were clearly things…you know, I know that he gets angry. He does these things, right? And whenever he\’s talking about suffering, he\’s smiling and he\’s laughing, right, when he talks about the yoga thing, but what did he… Like he\’s done so much meditation, you know, he\’s done so many internal practices that that\’s… I mean I don\’t really know. I\’m talking kinda out of my ass, like it\’s something that I don\’t know, but like my guess is, right, that he\’s just got this space of like this out of world, and I\’m gonna have emotions like anger and things like that, but I cannot…I can separate them for myself enough that they\’re not gonna drive my actions and behaviors and all of the other things. Like, he has his own, probably, version of his, like, you know, his safe space, and that\’s his meditative place or whatever. We just all have to find our own version of that. I just happen to know that the breath and movement actually found some physiologically from a scientific perspective to work, you know.
Adam: It goes back to something you said a long time ago about things with…you said it quickly, but I will say it a little slower. It\’s simple, but it\’s not easy. So in so many different ways, you know, quickly that, you know, things like a certain this was turned that, but there has been a movement, you know, set for, you know, Einstein [SP] towards more complexity. Even just in education, you\’re in 1st grade, you\’re in high school, you\’re in college, you\’re a PhD and your PhD is usually about something very precise and detailed. But breath is simple and then easy and accessible and always there. And that easy part being maybe that kind of warms us pretty big, you know. People don\’t want to do it. But from either yoga practice or Buddhist study or from the dialogue being that and holding to that in culture, kind of in himself, as that place sort of with all the other Tibetan Buddhists can look to him and be like, \”Okay, this thing still exists. It\’s a lot of responsibility.\” You know, and I\’ve heard him speak, he\’s like, \”I\’m not magic. I can\’t fix your knee.\” You know, \”As a matter of fact, you know, go to an orthopedist. Let me know.\” So, you know, Fei and I have both been, you know, you mentioned martial arts, we\’ve been involved in that, too, and one of the things you learn pretty quickly is it\’s the simple stuff. Like, it\’s not the big flying and flipping, you know, jazz hands, that [inaudible 01:41:19] It\’s that one precise strike that\’s gonna do it for you, the one little subtle move. So I think that\’s one of the things I\’ve learned in yoga, that\’s one thing I\’ve learned even more in yoga, like, that come back to lessons and more that it doesn\’t have to be something with a lot of parts. It can be something that\’s incredibly simple and then you have that choice. You say that, each person has a choice, you can pick it up or you don\’t.
Emily: Right, right. And then in that moment that\’s where I found my agency. You know, if I were to say that like, you know, I did all these things for control, which isn\’t actually true, I think, you know, I did them all for connection and somewhere…in some ways you perform. But if I…you know, like in that moment that I just had a room, you know, I was really like moving or processing a trauma and my eating disorder is, like, coming in me like, \”Hey, I can fix this pretty easy.\” You know, and that would something that would have controlled me in codes in the past, but just pausing and taking that breath or whatever it is. Like, open the window or, you know, for me it\’s breathing gives me that much space to make a different choice. But I\’ll tell you in the moment, like you\’re saying, in terms of how big that kind of stimulus is or the issue, it would have been the easier choice and not in the long run but, right, if that was the way that I stick it away to relieve from pain to go do that thing that got me away from pain…
Adam: Those can be cigarettes, drugs, that crazy behavior.
Emily: Right. Workaholic, whatever it is. That that is the…that\’s, in some ways, easier. So the choice to sit and breathe is excruciating and super difficult. And sometimes I\’m like I don\’t wanna breathe, you know? And you know, I also, like I said, committed to staying alive and like how can I actually do this in some effective way and have a life.
Fei: Yeah. So I\’m gonna say, because Emily\’s too nice, I say I booked 45 minutes, and we\’ve been talking close to 2 hours.
Emily: Have we really?
Fei: Yeah. Never mind. [crosstalk 01:43:44]
Adam: Two good hours.
Fei: Yeah. Two good hours.
Adam: It\’s like a two-part episode with a cliffhanger.