Experiencing Choice through Awareness and Practice
Updated: Dec 17, 2020
Choice is not something we have or don’t have; choice is something we experience or don’t experience.
Trigger Warning: consent practice, choice in healing, spiritual violations, mention of childhood and adult relationship trauma, mention of sexual assault, mention of kink practices, privilege to heal, anger about systemic oppression
Consent Practice- This piece is long, so I’m offering a brief outline of this piece so that you can skip around if you wish. This piece has the structure of trauma healing trauma through Ritual:
Creating a safe container - Grounding/cleansing, calling in the Spirits, Land Acknowledgment, trigger warning and consent reminder.
Embodiment Practice- Creating awareness about the trauma, calling forth the trauma.
Experiencing Choice- Grappling with the trauma. Naming what wants to be healed, learning about it at it from many sides.
Trauma Healing Practice- Identifying the ways I can bring what has become seen (awareness) into my life as practice. Commitment to healing the wound.
Ritual on Choice- Release of Practice/Healing. Surrender.
I suggest taking this piece in in little bits, one or sections at a time. I also suggest giving the practices time before and after. The more space you create around the practices, the more you let your body do the work without using your mind/mental energy. For me, it's less energy to allow my body to process throughout the day than it is to do emotional work with my mind.
Creating a Vessel
I begin with acknowledging the Land where my feet rest, the Plants that live here, and the People who have tended this Land for generations, the Anishinaabe of Lake Superior. I acknowledge that my privilege to call this Land home is a complex relationship that includes genocide, theft of Land, People and Culture, and white privilege that comes from exploitation of Land, Plants, Minerals, and People.
I ask my Guides to help me speak Truth, while reducing the harm that may come from truth.
I wish that my New Moon message were sexier. I wish that my New Moon message were easier. I wish that my New Moon message could be “done”- (it is to “be”)
This New Moon calls for deep, deep Peace.
This Moon calls for Pause.
This Moon calls for Rest.
This Moon calls for Choice.
Until the time of Naudiz* (end of November), I didn’t think that Rest was a choice I could access. I didn’t think that Rest was possible. And I honor that for my experience in my body “Rest” is not that which I most fear and cannot do- laying on the coach reading books, ordering take out and lots of sleep.
For me, Rest is active. Rest is cleaning my house, Rest is waking up early and going to bed early. Rest is taking walks and eating half meals. Rest is drinking a lot of water. Rest is dreaming about the coming growing season. Rest is connecting with loved ones. Rest is putting down the work that I’ve been doing. Rest is replenishing myself before I crash- stopping my trauma cycle before it begins.
How does Choice fit into this picture? That is the key to this Moon.
I digress to share some words about the technologies of the Moon, Lunar Calendars, the Astrological Calendar, and Runes. All of these elements are inspiring and supporting me in channeling these words.
The Moon cycle begins again and is completed at the New Moon. The New Moon is the beginning of the cycle. While some people try to capture the very moment of the New Moon for their Rituals, I know that for me, living in this world in this body, the New Moon time is fluid. I have found that as I allow myself to align more closely with the natural rhythms, I become aligned with the New Moon. I find myself being in ritual, setting intentions without any grandiose ceremony. And sometimes, I need the Ceremony. These are the times when I feel like I need to witness myself, to ask myself to be accountable to my intentions. These are the New Moons that feel hard. The ones that offer the most healing, growth or trauma completion**.
The Celtic Tree Calendar has one tree for each Moon of the Year, as does the Anishinaabe Mudjekeewis. As I honor them, the time of each of these Moons begins at the New Moon, culminates at the Full Moon and is integrated in the time before the next New Moon.
The Celtic Tree Calendar shifts depending on where someone is living and how they experience connection with the trees around them. Some calendars say it is the Rowan Moon, others say it is the Elder. The Rowan tree is a protective tree. I see it growing around Lake Superior, in rocks where the waves and winds beat on it. It is the energy of flame and life force. It is used for astral travel. The Elder is the time of endings and beginnings, renewal and creativity. In the garden, the Elder is the home of Faeries, the keeper of wisdom. Elder asks us to pull all of our parts back together, to become whole. It is the time of Chiron, the wounded healer who gives us information about our emotional/spiritual wounds through physical symptoms.
The Anishinaabe Moon, the Little Spirit Moon or Long Snows Moon is the time of healing. This is not the spiritual lineage of my blood, it is the lineage of the Land I call home. It feels important to Honor this Moon, because I know that whether or not I have the teachings of this time, I believe that my body experiences this teaching that is known by the Soil, Trees, Plants and Animals.
In western Astrology, we set an intention at the New Moon time, which happens in a specific sign, six months later this intention culminates at the Full Moon in that same sign, and we integrate that work for the subsequent six months.
This is the season of Sagittarius, the Centaur who points their Bow toward their goal. A time for visioning into the next year. A time for seeking and speaking and becoming aligned with Liberation via Truth.
The Norse Runes each have their own corresponding time of calendar year. There are 24 Norse runes, these roughly correspond with half of an astrological sign.
This Moon time comes on the heels of Isa- ice. Isa is the rune for stop, rest, caution. It is active rest, engaged rest. Isa invites us to seek comfort in the present moment, because for now we are not moving.
Jera, following Isa, opens this Moon time and Eihwaz falls in the later half of this Moon phase. Jera- year- is the time of taking inventory to plan for the winter ahead. Is there anything that needs to be rationed, like your emotional energy? It’s also the time to integrate the lessons from the previous growing season and plan ahead for the next. Jera reminds us that we don’t have to do it alone. Jera is about the acquisition of tools/allies and the activation of one’s self as the Dream Time guide.
Eihwaz - death- is the reality that while we can have allies and tools, movement forward has to come from ourselves. It reminds us that we have diverse components of ourselves that can be called on at any time to support us. Eihwaz brings initiation and dictates that we see it through (trauma completion**). Eihwaz is the point of power we want to attain without realizing we are at its’ center. Yew, the tree of this time, was used to make the long bow. It reminds that while planting our roots deep we can hit our mark, bend without breaking.
This Moon welcomes us to astral travel, to healing, to rest, to choice. We are invited to work with the Elements of this season to set the next year in motion by making the powerful statement: “I choose.” “I experience choice.” “I have agency.” “I am sovereign.”
I invite you to this practice.
I invite you to settle into your body for a few moments, using whatever tools you use for grounding. Noticing your breath, or the weight of your body on your bones. Noticing any sounds or smells or visuals in your field. Noticing any feelings, comfort or discomfort. Noticing a restless and need to sway. Noticing resistance to settling. Whatever it is, begin there.
What word would you like to embody?
I have Choice. Or I have Agency.
I have Choice
I have Choice
Feel the space in your body that ignites with this phrase. Feel any shadows that come up. Is anything ready to be integrated?
I have Choice
I have Choice
I have Choice
I have Choice
Now take some time to let that settle in your body. Noticing where or how it moves. Noticing how you feel different than you did before you began. Any sensations in your body or on your skin. Any shadows that still need integrating.
If you need to rest before moving on, please trust your body. Now is time for integration and self-care.
I reject the Spiritual belief that all humans are able to choose to heal. I believe that all humans are able to heal, but not in this moment. In this moment not every human experiences the privilege of being able to practice choice. One could argue that all humans have choice in any moment, but I do not believe that all humans experience choice in any moment. From my experience, it is only after blindly trusting in the path of healing, for me it was 3 years, before I was able to experience choice and practice fully present choice/consent in my path.
Anyone who has experienced self-abusive addiction (substance, emotional, exercise, eating, etc abuse) because of trauma, knows the feeling of not experiencing choice. Even when we surrender, or turn our lives over, it may not feel like a choice. For many of us we experience it as an imperative. For me, this was not a choice to live, it was a choice to not die (and not hurt those I love), which feels less like a choice, as our bodies are wired to do whatever it takes to not die.
When I surrendered to healing my self-abuse addiction, to re-wire my trauma patterns, it felt like a false choice. My choices were either “continue on this road of abusing myself and those I love, and possibly choose to leave this world because of suffering” or “do whatever it takes to really heal my wounds.”
False choice indeed. And yet not at all. And this was my life for 3 years, living in the reality that the trauma healing journey is more challenging for me than the self-abusive addiction cycles that preceded it.
False choice because I could only see two paths- healing and abuse-as death is not a path.
And not because I believed that there was only two paths.
False choice because when I chose to surrender I felt a surrender of my experience and understanding of choice.
And not because since the trauma of losing my Faith at 16, I was living a life that went against everything I felt in my body, which was no Life at all.
I invite you to take some time now to journal or meditate or move on how Faith has been a part of or absent in your life and how Faith and Choice work together in your life.
When we experience trauma, which is too much, too fast, either or both, our bodies and brains disconnect from certain experiences. For me, most of these experiences were related to relationships with people, caregivers, friends, lovers, siblings, teachers and mentors. For my Empathic body, Spiritual traumas have also been significant. These include Spiritual violations by the living and unliving, by Spirits of the past and present and future. These include memories of ancestral traumas because of gender, class, Indigeneity and Spirituality.
I was raised to remain disconnected from these traumas, and yet, I raised myself to be connected to the present-day traumas of racism, sexism, classism, and homo/transphobia in justice and movement work. And these connections were both balm and irritant for my other wounds. I could feel the wounds of trauma happening in real time, they caused the other wounds to flare up- I live with an auto-immune skin condition that flares up. This skin condition has also reminded me physically and spiritually of the burning of witches and soothsayers in my lineage, the burning sensations on my skin.
As a child, Mass and Spiritual exploration was the balm that really soothed my wounds. It was where I experienced Sanctuary. It was quiet and beautiful, full of smoke and song, bells and spells. And then, when the foundation for my Spiritual Practice was broken at 16, I had nothing but justice work and an aching hole.
After 2 decades of trying to fill the aching hole with white saviorism, and continuing to harm myself and others, I landed on an Island in Lake Superior. I didn’t know anything about this Island, but I was being called there by a new friend and by Spirit. Madeline Island is most Sacred to the Anishinaabe people who have largely been removed from it. It is a place of deep Medicine, a Sanctuary in multiple ways.
It was the place that I needed to recover from childhood and adulthood relationship trauma, the source of my addictive behaviors. At that time I was also addicted to indulging in relationships and social activities as a way to distract from my trauma, so I literally needed to move to an Island where I didn’t know anyone to heal.
When I opened up to healing, I was choosing to love my loved ones, I was not doing it for me. I remember deciding to do whatever it takes to stop hurting people I love. I didn’t know that in order to do so, I would have to stop hurting myself. I didn’t know any of what I was committing to, I didn’t see anything in front of me. I wasn’t choosing my steps, I was following my body. I gave up experiencing choice to experience healing.
Until this summer. When I was in a trauma cycle because of romance. I had been working on empowerment and self-acceptance with my counselor since hitting rock bottom (Dark Night of the Soul) in February. These two practices go hand-in-hand. Accepting myself and the embodiment of that acceptance- empowerment.
This summer romance had me in my trauma cycle of self abusive thoughts and intense hormone floods in my body. The Lake was no longer cold, so I couldn’t use cold water submersion to regulate my body/hormones. It took me several days to realize what was going on, and once I did, I committed to being present with it. I noticed that I had agency, I was experiencing choice. Not in my physiological or psychological response to the trauma triggers, but whether or not I would choose to heal this trauma. My awareness of the fact that I was in a trauma cycle coincided with an awareness about what trauma was being triggered. And I felt the calling in my body to heal the trauma. I chose to be present with healing the trauma, not knowing whether it would be healed. It was not about the outcome, but about the journey, about presence and commitment to tending myself in each moment. I was able to complete this trauma.
I know that every time I have entered into a trauma cycle it was because of a calling to heal the wound, not to re-create the wound and feel/experience victimization. However, for me, conscious awareness and choice to complete the trauma cycle and thus, to heal the wound, is a healing process that heals more layers of trauma than healing without consciousness.
Since this summer, when I have felt triggered by something, after I am able to move the stress hormones through my body (often with cold water submersion, with intense physical activity or with breath work or gardening or ceremony, often using a specific herb blend), I have been able to ask myself and my Guides- “what is it that I am being called to heal?” Sometimes it is very clear what trauma is being irritated. Sometimes it is something that is Ancestral, this can be difficult to discern.
Discerning between traumas that have been created in my lifetime and traumas that are ancestral and being presented again requires being able to deeply listen to the body. These are the traumas that make us feel “crazy”. For me, it is a deep fear/mistrust of people in authority aggravating the wound of the witch being snared by the priest and being burned. I have a loved one who has a deep fear of western mental health system, aggravating the fear of being institutionalized for experiencing suicidal ideations. Both of these fears are based on deep wounds that we are carrying at the DNA level and/or are from past lived experience. While neither of these wounds are actually life-threatening today, witches and people experiencing suicidal ideation are still being oppressed by people in authority, and the reality of these threats for people who are deep empaths, have history of relationship trauma, and are experiencing real time oppression, can be both life threatening and impacts quality of life.
For me to discern whether the wounds were ancestral or from this lifetime was important. This is part of need for consciousness to be part of the rewire process. For me, these ancient and ancestral wounds are very real because they have real impacts on my life today, from me being able to feel them on my skin, to a deep visceral distrust of some people in positions of power, to triggering trauma cycles that impact me for weeks.
The practice of understanding the source of trauma, especially if it’s ancestral requires space. When our body is flooded with stress hormones, our brain’s job is to find the source of the physical threat. When the threat is emotional not physical, it is rarely true that our life is being threatened. For people who experience suicidal ideation, this can feel like an imminent physical threat. The practice requires you to set down the thoughts/stories that your brain is creating to protect you. This is why co-regulation with a safe body, cold water submersion, intense physical activity can be helpful.
Trauma Healing Practice
Practice with small traumas, but ones that don’t happen very often, with people who are not in your support system. If it’s with someone who you rely on, it can feel really vulnerable or disempowering, so I suggest doing this practice with someone who is not part of your support system.
Notice when you are feeling triggered. When you have processed the stress hormones from your body and your mind is quiet, ask yourself or your guides the question “What wound is being called to heal through this?” You can use cards, divination, a V-Steam, a ritual, to help you receive this answer. Allow an answer to arise and don’t question it when it does. If you go into trauma-brain, set the question down again and come back to it, or let the practice go for now. You might not get an answer.
It is very important for your safety to have someone you can co-regulate with. Someone who will listen and NOT try to solve this problem for you. Someone who will hold you without needing you to hold them. Or write in a journal. You can use consent practices to have a conversation. You can work with a counselor or spiritual guide.
I noticed that it was more difficult for me to identify violations that happened in the spiritual realm, ancestral and present. These wounds are subtle and over culture teaches us that we are crazy if we believe in these kinds of things. I have a friend who can read people’s thoughts, she experiences spiritual violations because of this. I experienced a vision in which I was sexually assaulted, this experience was a spiritual violation by the person who came into my trance, but this wound was ancestral. Spiritual violations happen all the time, and I believe it’s the source of a lot of the suffering that empathic people experience.
If it’s not clear what wound is being called to be healed, you can ask for more information with prayer, taking a v-steam, dancing, song, meditation, however you are able to drop into a state where answers arise. And when it does, trust it. Gaslighting our inner wisdom is a tool that the patriarchy has taught us to control us, keep us wounded, and keep us from stepping into our power.
When you know what trauma is being called to heal, notice how you feel, emotionally and physically. Notice if you feel like you have a choice to lean in and heal this trauma. Notice if you can detach from the result and lean into the journey. Notice if you can ground into your body and your knowing. Notice if there is something else coming up that needs to be addressed, spoken or experienced.
Notice if there are needs or wants that you are feeling. Can you meet them or do you need support? If you need support, here is where consent practice is helpful.
Consent practice- can you ask for the other person to witness your process. Do you need anything from them, or can you meet your own needs? Is there something you want them to do or say, ask them if you can tell them what you need or want them to say or do. Ask them if you can tell them what you want to do or say. Tell them how you want to feel. Tell them that they can tell you how they feel, or not. And have an idea about post-care***.
In my journey with this practice, I notice feeling empowered by the choice and I’ve had the spoons**** to be able to be vulnerable and lean in to complete the trauma cycles. I’ve practiced this only with people who I have co-trained in consent practice or people who are not in my support network. I have received after-care from my partners (house-mates, co-parent, spiritual and life partners), but mostly from myself. I allow myself to take the time that I need to re-integrate, because post-care is the place where the healing happens.*****
I am amazed by the feeling of Liberation attained by completing these trauma cycles. Realizing that I have regained a sense of choice in my trauma recovery journey makes me feel deep humility. It also brings up anger.
Anger because there are so many people who are struggling on their healing journey who aren’t experiencing choice. Who are experiencing loss and disorientation. Who are experiencing exhaustion. And there are those who are unable to take another step.
Humility. Because reaching this point is a privilege. I didn’t get here just because of hard work. I got here because I have skin privilege, able-bodied/minded privilege, CIS-passing privilege, hetero-passing privilege, economic privilege, water and soil privilege, and social privilege. Yes, I have worked damn hard to get here. But everyone I know who is struggling to survive and/or still suffering, is working as hard as I have.
Anger because of “pick yourself up by your bootstraps”. You don’t even have to say those words. You know that empathic friend of yours who is disabled by chronic anxiety, illness or pain? They can feel those thoughts. How might it be different if we say “I believe in you.” “I am here for you.” “I trust in your ability to heal.”
The Deepest Humility. Because, as my wise sister-in-law counselor spoke in her brother’s Eulogy, “the story of addiction can be tempting to not identify with. I urge you to see that [he] did not have a drug problem. Drugs were the solution to the problem, to the pain - his way of coping. We need you to identify with [him], not separate yourself….we all have our ways of avoiding facing pain: Netflix binges, judging others, drinking too much, compulsive busyness, not adequately attending to our mental health, cutting off from people, thrill-seeking, I could go on and on.”
As I write this, I feel the pain of my sister-in-law celebrating her first Holiday without her brother. I feel the pain of knowing that my partner is in the deep throws of suffering. That a dear friend’s partner is in hypomania. That today some people will choose to leave their bodies here, so that they can experience the Liberation that we all dream of. That folx have lost so many beloveds to COVID, and there are more losses to come.
I feel the grief of having the taste of Liberation, of experiencing choice to heal trauma, while so many others are in the thick of it without knowing if they will ever get there or here or somewhere that feels safe.
My prayer for this piece of writing is that people will come to know the Sanctuary of their own Body, because it is the only Sanctuary that we are able to be in any time.
Ritual on Choice
For this New Moon notice where you are being called to go. This New Moon is about setting the intentions for the next lunar cycle. This is where you can practice Choice.
Make some space to sit, dance, create or be with your deepest desires and fears (what you learned in the season of Scorpio). This time of year I like to create a storyboard from old calendars and magazines.
~Clear the space, call in your Ancestors, Guides. Call the Directions. Do whatever you do to create a space for Ritual.
~Set your Intention for this time. How do you want to feel during the ritual? What do you want to experience? How do you want to feel when it is complete?
~Bring into your Heart and Body your deepest desires and fears. Notice how your body feels. Is there opening or tension. Notice any thoughts and let them go.
~Does your body want to move, if so move however your body wants to move.
~Use whatever grounding technique works for you. (Breath, movement, sound, sensation)
~Allow the fear and desire to integrate into your body. You are not releasing them, you are acknowledging them, releasing attachment. Notice how they move? Together or separate? Do they integrate somewhere? Do they go into the Earth or Sky? How does your body respond? Allow your body to rest for some moments. Can you allow for a few extra moments of rest?
~Take some time to do something creative with yourself. Move, dance, sing, write, draw, craft, create, love your body. Notice where you want to go, who you want to be, where you want to be. And allow yourself to be there. How does it feel? And allow yourself to let those sensations sink into your body. How can you connect the present moment with those feelings? How can you experience those feelings on the journey toward where you want to be? How can you release attachment of the goal and lean into the process?
~Re-integrate. How can you choose to allow this practice to have a little more space to integrate into your body? Can you choose self care now? Drink more water today? Take one thing off your to-do list? Do something for yourself that you wouldn’t normally do? Can you choose to follow your body’s cues or choose to be a little more aware of them (awareness is the first step toward healing)? Can you ask someone to support you with post-care?
I honor that this was/is a lot to take in. It was/is a lot for me. Remember that some of this was channeled, and ultimately, I cannot distinguish between what was channeled and what is me.
No matter how this sits with you, remember to take it easy after reading this. Please do something to support yourself.
And, please reach out if you need to share what’s going on with me. If you reach out, please use consent practice. “Hey Monarda, I read your piece and I’d like to share something that I’m thinking about or experiencing with you.”
I appreciate you. I appreciate your commitment to healing. I appreciate your inquiry into Magick and trauma recovery.
If you are interested in learning more, check out my youtube channel: Monarda Thrasher.
In the New Year I will be offering a Trauma Recovery Practice Group, stay tuned and message me if you are interested.
I am seeking apprentices next summer to help me with my herbal work. This will give you the opportunity to do trauma practice in community.
If you want to support me and my work, please consider offering a donation to honor my time and resources. You can paypal.me/dancingmonarda
You can also send me a gift.
Stay in touch:
Sign up for links to my New Moon Blog in your inbox, quarterly emails about herbal offerings, apprenticeships, classes. email@example.com
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*Naudiz- Norse Rune which corresponds with the end of November. For more info on Norse Runes, check out Kari Taurig’s “The Runes- A Deeper Journey” and S. Kelley Harrell’s “Runic Book of Days”. The latter book is “a guide to living the annual cycle of rune magick.”
**Trauma completion is a technology that I am learning about and working on. It is the practice of completing traumas (traumas are body cycles that were never completed, and come up again and again with an opportunity to heal). See Post Care below.
**After trauma happens or is triggered is the time when trauma is completed or not completed. This is why Post Care is so important. Trauma is embedded in the body because something that was too much, too soon was never resolved. Post care is the time when we can meet the needs that need to be met. Post care crisis plans can be created using WRAP technology (https://mentalhealthrecovery.com/wrap-is/). Post care can be as simple (not simple) as supporting the body in detoxing stress hormones- drinking water, cold water submersion, bathing, V-steaming, intense physical activity, co-regulation with another body (hugs), physical pain/pleasure (needles, marijuanna, alcohol, pressure, biting/spanking, kink-cetera). Post care can involve emotional first aid- checking in with beloveds, journaling, meditating, distraction, grounding the energy into the Earth via prayer/ritual or being in nature. Post care involves disrupting the normal trauma cycle and being present with what your body needs/wants in the moment. Post care is the time when we integrate the trauma rather than re-embedding it into our body. When we choose to nourish ourselves in post-truama time we are choosing to disrupt the normal crisis cycle, therefore freeing up the trauma from where it embeds in the body. It is this most simple act of resistance that breaks the trauma cycle, choosing nourishment rather than what feels familiar and safe. Getting to this point of awareness takes practice.
*****https://youtu.be/9ZKjwbj0XNc Video on Reintegration
Monarda is a qweer plant medicine worker, trauma-healing worker and witch. Their work centers around Liberation for all- People, Plants, Land. Guided by their Spiritual traditions- Buddhism, Paganism, and Catholicism- they see their life as practice and full of opportunities for growth. Monarda offers Spiritual Guidance around creating trauma-healing rituals, embodied somatic trauma recovery, and connecting with Plants for Emotional and Spiritual Healing. www.dancingmonarda.com
The Womb Centered Healing Temple is an online space for those of us practicing and learning about Womb Centered Healing to gather, connect, and share about our process. It is also a place where we can foster collaboration and co-creation of offerings and events and announce them to the community. Join us for an introductory online Womb Dance Yoga class.