Our Spirit Journeys: The Backstory

Andes mountain scene - a spiritual retreat to Peru in April, 2020Since we announced our 2020 Spring Spirit Journey to Peru, some have asked how our Spirit Journeys fit into the larger context of our work with Constellations and Breathwork.  Here is how it all started. Many years ago when we were heavily focused on breathwork, we offered breathwork in a warm swimming pool here in the Boston area.  And we all discovered that being held in warm water while opening the body and heart is incredibly beautiful and powerful. As we dried off and shared our experiences, the idea of doing breathwork in a warm ocean was raised.

This idea eventually culminated in our first “breathwork training in the sun” in Holbox, Mexico. It was an amazing success.

We named our journey Sacred Places, Sacred Spaces, as it included visits to Mayan sacred sites. At these sites, we did ceremonial work as well as daily breathwork sessions in and out of the water, opening those sacred spaces inside ourselves. Of course, “sacred shopping” was added as another activity by the group as we explored the little island!

Once we had a flavor of how deep our transformation can go when we give ourselves time away from routines and engage the forces of the elements, we were hooked on offering Journeys of the Spirit.

Our subsequent journeys also involved an element such as water (our Dolphin Journey in Bimini) or fire (Desert Wisdom). They often included animals such as the camels in the Sahara or the horses we rode during our trip to the Badlands of North Dakota (“Eagle Medicine”).

Some of our journeys have been Vision Quests. Others have included shamans or healers from the local area. Our shamanic hosts worked alongside IAI facilitators to show us how they access healing and spirit in their own tradition.

I have loved each one of our journeys.

You can watch some of the mini videos we made of previous journeys if you’d like.

Coming Soon ~ Vision Quests In Massachusetts

As we realized what powerful healing comes through Mother Nature and the elements around us, the IAI team began dreaming of offering Vision Quest experiences here in Massachusetts so that more people can afford to journey with us.

That is when Maya and I bought an old farm in Amherst, Massachusetts.

Since then, it has been seven years of clearing land and old houses and re-building the property. And we are almost finished! Our Constellation Barn is close to completion and with luck, it should be operational by the spring!

Still, we have gone many years since offering a Journey of the Spirit, and in the meantime, I have been exploring as I always do before inviting you to join me. It takes a lot of organizing to meet the right people, find the right power places, and decide how to put a group experience together.

Inner Light: A spiritual Retreat to the Andes of Peru

Well, it has come together at last!!

I am delighted to be able to invite you to the sacred valley of Peru and the glorious city of light, Machu Picchu, in April of 2020.

Samvedam on top of Huayna Picchu.

Some amazing shamans of this area have agreed to work with our circle. We will be in ceremony with them throughout our journey. You can also book private sessions with one of them.

When I explored Peru, I had a private session with a local shaman. It was a profound experience that opened new doors for me and helped me close some old ones.

The highlight of my visit there was being in the temple of the moon, which is out of the way on Huayna Picchu. We will go there for a ceremony first thing one morning, when hopefully nobody else is there yet. The views are absolutely breathtaking with Machu Picchu nestled below us in the expansive panorama of the Andes.

Please take a look at the program.  Our guides on the ground are Pierre and Janice, who know the area very well, speak the language, and are both shamans in their own right.

They are fabulous and make all the logistics so easy.

Machu Picchu

If you are up for an adventure and the timing is right for some inner transformation, please join us next April. We have planned for 10 days, as for most of us, this is a trip of a lifetime. The Andes are stunning and there is so much beauty to see.

I look forward to this adventure with the “just right” small group that is called to join us!

Click here for more information.

Samvedam and the IAI team

Implicit Blame in Collective Trauma Work

red heart symbol with bandaid and patchHow do you feel when you’re blamed for something you didn’t do?

Often when we think of collective trauma, we consider the victims, most often with our love and compassion.

But how do we compassionately embrace the perpetrator’s reality? Thinking of ourselves as the perpetrator in a collective trauma brings up a lot of feelings. We feel guilt, shame and anger. Often, we feel rejected from the group of people we see as the victims who deserve compassion.

A White European Facilitating Constellations To Address Racial Trauma

I am a white European. Earlier this year, when I facilitated a course about collective trauma with black Bermudians, I gained a firsthand experience of the implicit blame towards me because of my ancestry.

As we opened the field for people to share their painful experiences related to race, story after story poured into our space. “White people” were the perpetrators throughout the stories.

This was difficult for me. What I felt was the implicit blame of my ancestors’ role in the abuse of people of color around the world. I hadn’t hurt anyone in the room personally, but the classroom was filled with tension and impatience. In other words, the room was filled with consequences of the wrongdoing and pain inflicted by white people in the past.

I had read about “white fragility,” and asked myself if that was what I was experiencing. Continue reading Implicit Blame in Collective Trauma Work

Understanding Your Family Inheritance

heart on stone wallAt the Inner Arts Institute, we focus on a mixture of methods to help a person release trauma from his or her body. One major concept behind our work is the transgenerational transmission of trauma.

Studies on epigenetics confirm that our ancestors, grandparents, and parents pass down wonderful traits like our gifts and talents, strength, and our body type. What our family also passes down is unfinished trauma.

But how do unfinished trauma transmissions work? How do we inherit our gifts and long-passed traumatic experiences from family members we may have never even met?

1. Through our DNA

As seen here in a PBS video
about the children of Holocaust survivors
Epigenetics, as written beautifully
within the Atlantic Monthly, Oct 2018
And revealed in Emory University’s
2013 mice and cherry blossoms experiment

2. In Family Dynamics

Through our family constellations
And through family loyalties and the morphogenetic field
We repeat experiences and burden sharing

3. Through Our Culture

In collective and cultural shadow structures

Getting in touch with these three areas help us to become aware of the root of many of our personal issues. Although talking to a supportive person is helpful, talking keeps us in our higher brain functions and does not allow us to access our unconscious or transgenerational issues.

To connect with these issues, we need to stay in tune with our bodies and become highly attuned to our breathing patterns and physical states. When we are triggered, our mind and our logic is of little help. Our nervous system goes into fight, flight, or freeze.

These instinctive states are so deeply ingrained in our bodies and move faster than conscious thought. Fight, flight, or freeze overrides any logic or thought in the moment.

What can I do to get in touch with my family’s unfinished trauma?

In short, we can learn to increase our internal capacity to stay centered and calm.

We can practice this by trying to:

  • Engage in family constellation process work to loosen stuck energy in our bodies
  • Slow everything down.
  • Learn to recognize triggers within ourselves.
  • Learn how to integrate our emotions

red heart painted on wooden fence to symbolize trauma healing work

At Inner Arts Institute, we continuously seek to share these valuable tools so people can discover how to release trauma and find peace in their lives. If you feel called to learn more about processing unconscious generational trauma, we have several events over the next few months.

If you’d like to explore a 3 hour introduction to our work, find us in Watertown, MA on May 31st from 7-10 pm

Our day-long workshops this summer:

Saturday June 1st in Watertown, MA

Saturday July 20th in Brattleboro, VT

We’d love to hear from you. Please leave any comments or thoughts below or sign up to our monthly newsletter to stay up to date on what’s new at the Inner Arts Institute.

Planting Flowers for 2019

cartoon showing animals planting flowers hopefully for 2019.
Source unknown.

At the Inner Arts Institute,  we spent 2018 “planting flowers” like the character in this cartoon. Our work expanded with an intensity that felt dizzying at times. What a joy!

In this New Year, I am so grateful for the incredible clients and collaborators who helped us plant seeds of peace and healing in our communities. I want to take a moment to acknowledge those who co-created with us. We can hardly wait to see what blossoms in 2019!

Connecting Family Constellation Work to Cultural Trauma

One of the brightest “flowers” we have been cultivating is deep training in how to help people integrate cultural trauma. First, I completed Part II of Thomas Huebl’s training in Collective Trauma Integration last spring. This profound journey brought personal growth, new friendships, and new tools for Family Constellation work; namely, a greater ability to hold space for the shadows of large-scale traumas such as war, famine, slavery, terrorism, and natural disasters…. and explore how these shadows reside in our culture and in each one of us.

Secondly, Thomas Huebl was also the keynote speaker at the 2018 North American Systemic Constellation conference, where Collective Trauma Integration is starting to be recognized as a natural evolution of Systemic Constellation work.

I had the privilege to introduce him to fellow North American “constellators” there, and also to lead a Collective Trauma Constellation workshop. Other members of the Inner Arts Institute team stepped into leadership roles at the conference, too. Comma Williams and I co-facilitated a Medicine Wheel Constellation, drawing upon the shamanic training that has influenced both of us deeply as practitioners. And Kimberly Clementi-Eadon introduced her work on Constellations with Adolescents.

It was a great joy  to share our work in the North American Constellation Community which has provided so much inspiration over the years. We hope that we planted seeds that will flower in the work of Constellation practitioners far and wide!

Collective Trauma as a Source of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

3 people on stage in a panel discussion
Samvedam, Christiana, and another speaker in panel discussion at ACEs conference in Bermuda.

An unexpected highlight of 2018 came when I was invited to present a talk on Collective Trauma Integration at a large conference on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) in Bermuda. Research has shown that ACEs play a huge role in physical and mental health struggles in adulthood. This understandings has inspired new efforts to recognize and address trauma occurring childhood.

In Bermuda, racial issues stemming from colonialism and slavery have brought tremendous pain that continues to impact new generations of Bermudians. My role was to share insight about how children can inherit Collective, or Cultural Traumas that impacted their families… and  to offer a model for healing such an enormous wound. The intensity between white and black people filled the space in our conversations.  Continue reading Planting Flowers for 2019

Collective Trauma Work… Mine and Yours

“I don’t think this has much to do with me.”

I heard this from a number of people at the Celebrate Life Festival, a dynamic annual European consciousness event that was held for the first time in the U.S. this summer.

Racial division, white supremacy, and white privilege were words that we invited into our midst. They dropped into a sea of discomfort that quietly built, even though many of us could not identify with these words…

“It’s not me!”

Continue reading Collective Trauma Work… Mine and Yours

Constellations and “Collective Trauma”

Towards Healing the Shadows in our Culture

by Samvedam Randles, LMHC, Dipl. Psych.

silver lining, a metaphor for trauma therapyThomas Huebl, who has done significant healing work around Holocaust trauma in Europe and Israel, recently sent out an invitation to mental health professionals, scientists and other professionals to explore what can be done to understand and heal collective trauma.

Last month, 150 practitioners answered that call and made the journey from all over the planet (39 countries) to his Pocket Project training in Israel. They brought their knowledge, skills and resources, as well as the traumas that have impacted (and are still impacting) their countries. I was one of them. I’m now back home, and before daily routines claim all of my attention again I want to share a little of the amazing journey that I was immersed in. I feel a new level of peace within, and my understanding has been upgraded a few notches.

What is collective trauma, and why is it critical that we learn to address it?

In The Body Keeps the Score, Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk explains trauma in simple language. He says that our ability to “stay present” gets hijacked by survival-related emotions and sensations when an incident overwhelms us in ways that we cannot cope with. When the event is more than we can process, we dissociate or go numb. Then, the traumatic charge lands in our physical body, where it can be reawakened by something like a smell, a sound or an image that is associated with the traumatic event, sending us back with a flashback to the traumatic experience.

What happens when trauma gets internalized on a larger scale? Collective trauma, sometimes called cultural trauma, occurs as a result of large-scale events like war, genocide, colonialism or terror attacks. The violence and shock is so overwhelming that the entire culture goes numb, disassociates, or finds other ways to create distance from the truth of it. People may survive and move on with their lives, but the actual feelings associated with the event stay frozen, unintegrated, in the cultural body.

This frozen emotion forms an underlying energy around the culture. Unconsciously, its members then see reality through a lens that is fogged up by this unresolved past. And everyone who is born into the culture thereafter simply assumes that this fogged-up picture is reality.

broken windows, a metaphor for a traumatized psyche

Most Family Constellation facilitators have experienced that moment when a Family Constellation suddenly shifts into a Cultural Constellation. The cultural trauma that impacted the client’s family at some point in history becomes so dominant in the field that it cannot be ignored. It demands to be seen, felt and integrated.

How can this be accomplished?

Who can “host,” or open to such intensity, when the emotion is so overwhelming?

Constellation Work & Collective Trauma – The Boston Marathon Bombing

These questions arose in my own practice as a Constellation facilitator after the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013. The Saturday after the bombing, our Boston-area Constellation Learning Group met as usual, but nothing else happened in the usual manner. Continue reading Constellations and “Collective Trauma”

Family Constellation Case Study: The Concussion

by Samvedam Randles, LMHC, Dipl. Psych.

Blue butterfly emerging from cocoon, a metaphor for family constellation for physical illness.Our bodies are wise, and they are also deeply connected to our soul as well as the field that we move in and through. When we receive sudden or unwelcome messages from our bodies in the form of illnesses or accidents, we usually react with shock and annoyance. Most of us just want to get rid of painful symptoms as quickly as possible.

But these events tend to come with teachings and purpose. Constellations are a great tool to understand the learning that might be brought through physical symptoms.

Here is a recent example of listening to physical symptoms in Constellation Work.

One of the senior students in our Constellation Learning Circle, Chloe, suffered a fall on the ice in January and ended up with a concussion that left her quite incapacitated for some time. She had been a busy practitioner with a full private practice, and had to take a break from seeing people after her fall. She simply could not handle any stimulation.

Chloe had been on her own journey of personal growth and change through the constellation work and had been amazed at all the positive changes in her life. As a result of so much change, however, she felt unsure of her identity now. She seemed to be reconsidering much of what she liked (or did not like), even down to the simplest things, like foods she had once dismissed but now found appealing.

In the midst of this unfolding process of re-discovery, Chloe had the accident.

When she still could not fully re-engage in her life three months later, she became nervous and asked if we could do a constellation about this concussion.

I don’t like to disturb movements that are in process, so I felt cautious about setting up a constellation in this case, but I also attuned to Chloe’s anxiety and wanted to be helpful. We talked about what might be the right framework and checked in to see if we had permission to explore.

As I listened deeper, the field opened to a yes, and informed me, as it so often does, about how the constellation needed to be set up. I chose to keep it blind.

In blind constellations, the representatives are not informed about whom they are representing. They receive a piece of paper with the name of their representation, which they then put it in their pockets. They do not get to see what is on the paper. This removes from the constellation dynamic the possibility of interference from mental interpretations, allowing the representatives to completely immerse themselves into the felt sense of the relationships we are exploring.

So I wrote four papers and handed them out to representatives, whom Chloe then placed into our circle:

Continue reading Family Constellation Case Study: The Concussion

Of Blessings and Farewells

Teepees in DC, honoring the ancestors as a lesson for Family Constellation Work
Washington DC, March 10, 2017.

I recently travelled to Washington DC to support my Lakota friends as they marched to protest fracking and the building of a pipeline on their tribal land.

Several years ago, in my study of indigenous ways of healing, I had the fortune to be invited by a Lakota elder to attend their sun dance in South Dakota. Watching the enormous offering of strength, the willingness to shoulder pain, and the incredible generosity of spirit that week really impacted my life.

I had stayed in touch with my Lakota friend after spending the week with his people. Standing by their side for this day of protest felt like a small way of giving back to them. In spite of the snowy coldness of that day, I found my heart being warmed by the ways in which people treated each other at the rally that followed the march.

I am not talking about what was spoken, but rather the attitude underlying the interactions. In tribal societies, the rhythms and stages of life are honored and respected for what they each offer. I felt the beauty of each generation’s contributions to the event.

Honoring All Generations

The enthusiasm and passion of youth was honored, as well as the thoughtful leadership of the tribal councils, culminating in a reading of the tribal declaration. We heard angry voices as well as hopeful ones.

Elders proudly affirmed the youth, who ran the rally. Young ones fondly acknowledged their elders as they focused on keeping our earth cared for so that she, in turn, will care for the next generations. Broad smiles welcomed one of the grandmothers who had traveled all night to bring her warmth and blessings to her people, and the respect for her spread palpably throughout the crowd. She poured her heart into supporting the next generation, passing on the torch with love.

And then, right in front of the White House, all became still when a prayer song called on the Creator to protect our earth, and to bless our people and our planet.

Having been immersed in constellation work for many years, I recognized the right order of things in relationships, and I appreciated that blessings were offered as well as received with such ease. Continue reading Of Blessings and Farewells

%d bloggers like this: