A Survivor’s Secret: from Shame to Freedom

 “I’m a survivor”. This was a new thought for me. “Serious sexual trauma”, she called it. The words rang in my ears and landed in my soul. Like rocks to the bottom of the ocean. “Survivor, me?!” I kept repeating to myself. Almost like she was informing me of a new reality. 

My back stiffened and I held my head high. “I’m a well adjusted business owner. I’m here to share my story and inspire them. Your ladies. These women who lived in hell.” A hell I was sure I knew nothing about. In that moment I realized, she was me. The woman in front of me. I am her. We, we’re sisters. Now I find my own past volcano erupting. Realizations happening like a pop up story book. 
You see, I’ve never written down my story. This is my pain. I mean, was my pain. Perhaps if I share it with you I’ll heal a little more. Maybe we’ll both heal a little bit more. It began at 9. I was little. I’ve tried not to remember. I can hardly say it above a whisper, that I was molested by a family member until 15 years old. I never talk about it. I didn’t realize until today how I daily make sure that I’m covered and nothing’s hanging out. That I don’t attract too much attention. I even tell people coming to my yoga classes about attire. I’ll say, “Wear whatever you like as long as you feel comfortable and covered.” I didn’t realize until now that comfortable and covered was my life. I’ve been trying desperately not to be seen. Even though I’m seen by hundreds of yoga students and life coaching clients weekly. This seeing is of an intimate nature. You are now seeing my past pain and that feels raw. 
I’ll let you into my life back then. After he’d be done with me I’d take the hottest shower possible. Trying to rinse the dirty feelings off. The dirtiness of being molested that is. It didn’t matter though, they subconsciously stuck to my soul long after the soap washed off. Now I know now why I love scarfs. They keep me comfortable and covered. I can wrap it around me and feel safe. Not used and exposed against my will. I learned early to control everything in my environment. I was and still am defensive if I see a man even look at a woman in a creepy way, because at one time I was her. 
You see I was little. I didn’t know. When I was old enough to know. I felt shame. Deep shame. It was a secret. Kept me silent. I felt dirty, a rag and worthless. My guard was up. Thought of myself as a target. Thinking that people were out to get me, especially men. You see I was little. Innocent. I didn’t even know what sex was. Molestation was foreign to me. Thank God for my sister! She woke my parents up to what was happening. I thought it was my fault, even though he was older than me. I didn’t know how to stop it. 

My shame was so deep that I even yelled at my sister for telling my parents. I was scared of something bad happening to her or even me. “Don’t swing your hands, wear long shorts and don’t be alone with him” they said. Which was hard, because he was at the house a lot. “Did he apologize? they asked. “Yes? Okay, then that’s all he can do.” My Mom, said I could yell for help. “How could I scream when his actions were my fault?,” I’d ask myself confused. 
Like I’d tempted a young man into using my body for his pleasure even though he knew it was wrong. The conversation left me feeling like a dirty secret. Like I was dirt. I was something to be hidden and silent. I’d been conditioned for silence and silent I stayed. Sitting on my hands. Mouth zipped by paralyzing fear. I grew into a young woman who knew how to sit down and shut up. I don’t remember all that was said in the whistleblowing conversation. I just remember walking out feeling like it was my fault. For not being a better girl or yelling or telling them. Or something! 
My parents did the best they could. I bet they didn’t even know what to do. They knew it was wrong. They didn’t know how to stop it. It didn’t stop. Once it was out, I felt worse. An even dirtier secret. I needed my parents to believe and comfort me. A hug. A friend. I needed protectors. I didn’t feel safe around him. I wanted to know I wasn’t alone. Maybe they told me that, I don’t remember.
My experience taught me, abuse occurs from people close to you. Family (like me), close friends and even partners. Shame secrets cannot grow when exposed to light. I’m placing my shame in the light. To parents and guardians of children, the best thing you can do it create an open loving relationship with your kids. So your sons and daughters knows they can come to you with their shame. Live in a way that they know they can talk to you, about anything.
Well, I’m grown now. A woman. I’m still healing. I’m not my past or my story, it doesn’t define me. I am who I choose to be. I chose to be brave and vulnerable. To live free! I hope my story empowers you. I hope it rings in your soul. Everyone needs respect. To feel safe at home. Stop sitting on your hands. Stand up. Speak up.

 Sarah Suero is a Certified Effectiveness Coach for women and Yoga Instructor. 

My passion is empowering women! On and off the yoga mat. I love co-creating fresh possibilities with women who dare greatly. Transforming the past stories into bold brilliance. I also latin dance, cook yummy food and enjoy coffee (all kinds of coffee). Reach out to me at ://sarahsuero.wordpress.com/ or email me sarahesuero@gmail.com

Even Wonder Woman Needed Saving

WonderWomanWonder woman had put down her cape. The rain poured. Life had knocked the wind out of her. Drenched, her eyes filled with tears. Focused on saving others she forgot to save herself. She threw her hands in the air. Who knew that even she needed a bit of saving herself?! “I don’t know how to do that,” she thinks as she stands looking at her war torn cape

Up to her knees in disappointment. Wonder Woman realized that even though she may not know how to save herself. She can try again. She can scrub out the dirt. Throw it in the wash. Toss it in the drier. She can grab a needle and thread. Stitch strength and courage back into her cape. She can ask for help. Even though her cape isn’t brand new it doesn’t matter.

She isn’t the super-hero the world told her she should be. She totally messed up and life socked in the stomach. Yet she is a brave woman who wakes up the next morning and tries again. That, ladies n’ gents sounds like Wonder Woman to me. She can still be proud of the cape in her hands. The stitches tell stories of pain and hurt, of winning some and losing some. The real story is about the woman underneath the cape and that makes her a super hero.

She is stronger now. Sliding the red cape proudly around her shoulders she stands tall. Her fingers carefully tie the string around her neck. Her cape is bright red from being washed in the rain. Complete with stains and stitches. This cape tells her story of resilience.

Standing in her house. She walks to the front door and throws it open. Her feet planted firmly into the ground, shoulders back and heart up. Experience laden red cape around her neck. She’s ready to face the world again. To save those willing to be saved and yes, perhaps even save herself.

 

3 Benefits of Yoga for Florida Autistic High Schoolers

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Autism affects many lives. It greatly impacted mine. I had the opportunity to teach six yoga, breathing and anger management workshops for autistic teens at Nathan B. Forrest and First Coast High Schools in Jacksonville FL. These 60 Florida autistic high schoolers and I experienced how effectively yoga works. In 45 minutes we noticed marked significant change in mood, behavior and cognitive abilities. Incredible!

3 Benefits of Yoga were easily observable. Each one was instant, tangible and experienced based.

1. Change in Mood – Increased Happiness. We laughed a lot! Celebrated our successes. It’s awe inspiring to see how celebration like clapping hands and high fives make a difference. Celebrating produced increased willingness and ability for the teens to learn faster while having fun. Together we invented the “high thumb” it’s like a high five except you give each other a thumbs up and push your thumb into theirs. As the yoga practice progressed we observed collective and instant innovation taking place among the students. Finishing a pose they were proud they’d lean forward give me a thumbs up and press their thumb into mine and smile. The smiles just melted my heart.

2. Change in Behavior – Calmer. Yoga helps you to calm you down. At one point we had a heighten sense of nervous energy in the room. One teen demonstrated his nerves by hopping around the room without noticing people or the desks in the room. I began to teach them to breath through their nose. He stop jumping, listened to the other teens breathing and he quietly sat down. His nerves were calmed by hearing the breath and soon he was joined the crew in breathing. Amazing! In fact they were all quiet. Soon they also were able to communicate clearly and help each other to follow along. The standing and balancing poses created a sense of calmness. You could feel it in the room. We all focused on one thing, balanced on one leg and took deep nostril breaths. Which for those of you who have and/or work with autistic high schoolers is a monumental task in and of itself. This is from only 45 minutes with a group! The longer we practiced their behavior became increasingly calmer with gentler body movements and softer voices. Some of these kids had severe range of motion limitations and were so calm they were able to focus enough to practice with us. If you think you cannot practice yoga because you’re not flexible enough. Think again!

3. Change in Cognitive Abilities –  Easily Able to Demonstrate. They learned to use yoga and breathing to help them feel better while in school. Some were able to tell me what they could do if they were having a bad day at school. One guy sat up tall when asked how to handle a bad day and said, “Take three breaths.” Touched his nose, closed his eyes and on his own demonstrated nostril breath. Remember this is new information. I’d only been working with them for 30 minutes at this point.  The kids were thrilled to show or tell me how their body felt after taking just three breaths in child’s pose. Their retention of new experienced based  information was groundbreaking. They remembered names of poses and easily demonstrated them. On their own they began to teach each other to breath through their nose!

In essence yoga works! In 45 minutes these kids now have a chance at being able to calm themselves down. We saw significant change in mood, behavior and cognitive abilities. These teens are smart! They each have their own way of seeing the world. Their own challenges to live with that are unique to them. Yet in the midst of all their living with, they smile. Willing to try new exercises like yoga. We worked together as a unit and cheered each other on. These kids are shining examples of pure spirited human beings. They are now empowered to create their own happiness, calm and shift their thinking. May we ever strive to smile no matter what. Give high thumbs. Try something new and take deep breaths.

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A Yogi’s Way of Dealing with Powerful Emotions: Happiness is Not at the Bottom of a Nutella Jar

NamieAmuroFeelIn one hand I had a mini chocolate chip cookie and in the other a glass of almond milk. On the counter was an open container of Nutella and I had a backup of red wine just in case. I had everything a girl could need to not feel anything for at least several hours. My arsenal of sweets and wine was gonna help me declare war on pushing down my feelings. Isn’t it the yogi way of dealing with emotions to eat Nutella and drink wine? Ha! I’d convinced myself the wine would make everything rosey by the time I hit the bottom of the glass. As I’m eating Nutella and already reaching for a mini cookie. My soul whispered, “This isn’t the way through and you know it. Let yourself feel it. Be vulnerable. Allow. Don’t you tell your yoga students that often”? I knew the sweets and wine would do nothing other make my tongue happy for a few seconds.

My soul kept whispering, “This isn’t the way to deal with powerful emotions. I packed up the cookies and put them back in the cabinet. I reluctantly screwed the lid onto the Nutella jar and closed the cabinet door. This was a moment to practice breathing with something that felt uncomfortable down to my core. I was squirming to get out of those feelings as fast as humanly possible. I knew how to grab for sweets and wine. I was reaching for instant comfort in a can. It helped for as long as it was on my tongue. Never mind that no amount of Nutella was going to heal me. Never mind that the wine may give me rosey cheeks and nothing more. All of the feelings I didn’t want to feel would still be there when I hit the bottom of the glass. My lesson from those brief moments was simple; happiness is not at the bottom of a Nutella jar.  

Just like any yoga pose. I’m practicing the pose of feeling. Repetition is the mother of mastery, so again and again I practice. Then I take action on working through those feelings. It’s usually a moment by moment practice. So far I’ve learned…

1) Powerful emotions can come rushing in like a freight train without brakes. They don’t care what your in the middle of or even who your talking to at the moment. They won’t go away just because you’re wishing them away. They go away just as fast as the come. They also shift when your focus shifts. Change what you’re focusing on.

2) Crying can happen easily and often times you don’t know what to do about it. I’ve cried in front of all kinds of people. Some know how to handle it and many don’t. Stop apologizing for it. Stop explaining the whole story around why. Ask for hugs. The neat thing is I get them, try it on.

3) Choose an empowering focus. Write down what you are going to focus on. Stick with it! It takes mental tenacity and a commitment that won’t quit. When an emotional train hits you in the face and puts you flat on your back. Feel the ground underneath you. Roll over and stand up. Push your feet into the ground like you mean business. Stand up, choose your focus spot again and go. One foot in front of the other.

4) Choose what something means to you. For instance if you lost your job. There’s tons of things you can make up it means about you. Unworthy, not good enough and just a slacker. You can’t control people or events. You can control what you what you choose to believe about those events. Perhaps you’re worthy, good enough and a dedicated worker.

5) Find something eternal inside of yourself. No matter what occurs on the surface you can go back to that. I like to think of it as the stillness at the bottom of the ocean. No matter how the ocean crashes  on the shore the deep ocean is calm. What is it that keeps you at peace no matter what.

Listen to the whispers of your soul. Allow yourself to feel whatever you’re feeling. The feelings will come and go. Make choices to move yourself forward. Choose an empowering focus that creates peace and joy. Realize that it’s okay to not have everything together all at once. You are not your past. It’s time for you to choose who you are now. Be creative and get going!

Be Here Now – Lessons in Being Present

ImageIt’s easy to be hard as a rock. It’s take guts to be vulnerable. To share your heart even if you get rejected again and again. It’s easy to create the most beautiful outfit and hair. It takes courage to create a beautiful soul. It’s easy to tell stories (believe me I’ve told many and so have you). It takes courage to tell the truth. There’s only a couple things in life worth laying it all out on the line for. I can count them all on one hand.

No, it’s not your cell phone. Quit treating it like your lover. Go kiss your lover! Hold him or her dearly, press them close to your heart. Let her feel you! No, it isn’t your flat screen t.v. Be mesmerized by the people you love. Look for their beauty, their smiles and laughs. No, it isn’t your iPod or radio. Listen to the music, the music is their voice. Hear the deep tones, the high pitches and breaths between words. Hear the silent pauses and hesitations. Their heart is in their words, whether the heart is warm and open or cold and closed.

Not everyone is looking for advice when they call you. Sometimes they just need to know their not alone. They called because they want you to listen or invite you to share space.

Think about this…when was the last time you listened instead of just waiting for your turn to talk?

Listening – What it Means to Really Listen.

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Listen, really listen. To all that’s being said. To all that’s not being said. To the breaths between the words. To holding your breath. Listen to the silence. To the loud sigh of exhaustion or of release. Listen to how the hugs feel in your body. Do they comfort your soul? Listen to the smile. Listen to your heart. Hear what your soul has to say. What does it need and desire?

I’m here and I’m listening. Sometimes my heart and soul are so full that I don’t cannot hear what you’re saying. Today I will clear my head while I’m with you. You’re important to me. I will listen with my ears, heart and soul. To you and all that you are, you gorgeous thing. I hear you.

I see the pain behind your eyes that your courage tries to hide. I hear the laughter that fills the space when the tears are too much to take. I’m here and listening. Speak your truth. Become your truth. Share your heart with me, I’ll hold it in mine.

The Happiness Question – What Makes You Come Alive?

ImageHave you ever felt dead inside?

Like a machine that’s only clicking it’s way through time without thought or feeling. No meaning to life. Click, click, click…the machine that perpetually moves along. Why are you staying in a space that makes you feel dead? Stop trying to fix and force what isn’t working. It’s time for a new question.

What makes you come alive? 

What makes your toes tap without even thinking about it? When are you smiling ear to ear and don’t even realize it? For me it’s yoga and salsa dancing. When I land warrior II pose, getting deep into my legs and ground into the mat, I feel alive and powerful. When I stretch out my arms and reach, with an energy that shoots out past my fingers, I feel alive. Salsa – oh where do I begin?! The movement touches my soul like nothing else does. It feels like heaven when one smooth turn flows into another. When I’m in synch with my partner – when our hands, arms and feet flow seamlessly. I could dance until my toes are swollen and legs too sore to move the next morning.

This is not about me and what makes me come alive; ultimately, it’s about all of us. The world – each person across our globe doing more of what makes us happy. That’s why asking the happiness question is important. Imagine with me a world where each person smiles every day all day long. Where people are applauded for their craft and what they bring to the world. That happens when each of us are brave enough to fall in love with brings us alive. To practice our craft, to fall in love with it again and again. To play with it and make it ours.

What makes you come alive? Tell me. Now that you know, go do it! Practice it and make it your obsession. We want to experience you when you’re at your best. Share it with us – the world. We want to see you come alive.