Late tonight / early tomorrow morning is the new moon in Aries. Every year, this is our first new moon occurring at the beginning of a new year of astrological seasons, and ushering in a new cycle as we enter spring in the Northern Hemisphere. While the Spring Equinox offers us many beautiful themes of newness and initiation, we might also consider the intensity required for winter to shift into spring. Ground that has been frozen for months and plants and animals that have drawn their energy into hibernation must wake up again and begin the busy task of generating new life. The quality of this task can have a strong and often chaotic nature, given the force that’s needed for these changes to take place. So perhaps this is part of the symbolism for us too – if we are going to break through (from wherever we have been frozen or asleep), it will also require some intensity and chaos, which can be used in service to our greater efforts.
And Aries season this year is loaded with intensity, but we’d expect no less from this initiatory fire sign. The new moon in Aries asks us to be genuine and heartfelt in a world that often prioritizes conformity over authenticity. Some of us are raised to ‘be ourselves’ much more than others, and some of us spend our whole lives wondering what that even means. For many, the idea of ‘being ourselves’ comes with a deep wound, and has been met with great conflict in the world. And there are some who also create this conflict for others, and push back against expressions of difference or individuality.
I am also pleased to be hosting a new workshop next week -
About Aerin Fogel
I began this work when I had my core pattern reading, nearly 15 years ago. The reading altered my understanding of the world, and my place in it. It opened my heart to the path I walk now. In the years that followed, and the subsequent readings I had, I found this to always be the truest, most helpful, most empowering, and most loving guidance above anything else. Soon after I began my study of astrology and found it to be a grounding and pragmatic framework that helps us place ourselves in context of our surroundings and life experience. This is what called me into practice as a life path, and into the privilege of sharing this work with others.
Alison Chan is an integrative bodyworker who combines Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy with somatic trauma work. Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy (BCST) utilizes the body’s innate capacity for self healing to promote nervous system regulation and allow the body to function optimally. This therapy is quite unique as it is a gentle, subtle healing modality that deals with the reorganization of the body’s functions on a cellular, energetic and emotional level. BCST influences the brain, spinal column, and nervous system, along with the cerebral spinal fluid that surrounds it. Further, it has a direct effect on all fluids and tissues within the body. Alison works with individuals who have experienced birth and early life trauma, as well as anxiety, depression, chronic pain, issues with sleep and digestion, as well as auto immune disorders. Additionally, she works closely with individuals struggling with emotional pain and grief and uses light touch therapy in conjunction with body-centred dialogue, to help individuals release stress, trauma and feel more safe, relaxed and well within their bodies.
Using light touch (or intentional touch via video) Alison helps guide her clients to release emotional or physical pain, so that the body can begin to heal. Using specific tools and techniques, she helps her clients cope with challenging emotions or sensations by first asking them to connect with and bring more awareness into their physical bodies. Alison provides a safe and supportive environment where individuals have the
opportunity to form a greater connection and relationship with the body, reduce pain, combat stress and anxiety and work towards cultivating a state of restoration which helps boost the body’s natural capacity for self healing.
Emotional States & The Nervous System
“The more we train our brains to notice and remember these good feelings, the more resilient our bodies become and the less likely we are to get triggered, sending our nervous systems into challenging states”. (Alison Chan)
Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy (BCST) provides a safe space for traumatic or challenging experiences to emerge, shifting the body towards resolution and eventually release. This therapy is an interactive process of meeting and exploring sensations as well as emotions, with gentle awareness from the practitioner. During this process, the client is guided towards deepening the connection to their body, settling their nervous
system and building the capacity to better self regulate. While exploring a clients unique emotional landscape, Alison has the opportunity to create safety through relational contact and encourages the body to shift into a place of balance and stillness. She is truly gifted at helping people settle their nervous systems, relieve pain, trauma and ultimately build more resilience within their own bodies.
BCST helps to create conditions where the body can begin to let go of old patterns and stories that can accumulate over time. It provides individuals with the opportunity for agency by teaching them how to continuously check in with their bodies and learn how to negotiate with and navigate the more complex, difficult sensations and emotions that may arise. BCST brings us closer to the intimate awareness of what is really going on for us and provides us with the opportunity to check in and fully realize ourselves as complex beings.
With a background in Pre and Perinatal Somatic Therapy, Alison holds a deep awareness of the early imprints of our lived experience, which tends to shape how we respond to our life, the world around us, as well as our perceptions surrounding what is safe and what is not. “People who have experienced trauma in early life have a much higher likelihood of developing chronic illness, depression, addiction and other challenges”. When we are triggered emotionally, our nervous system gets impacted and we can quickly shift into a state of “fight, flight or freeze”. Alison explains that in these moments, we tend to fall back on old coping mechanisms, as the body had once created these mechanisms as a source of defence. Since our brains are wired for survival, we can get stuck in a state of hyper arousal where we are constantly anticipating danger. As you can imagine, this as a prolonged state can have many serious implications for our physical and emotional well being. Additionally, trauma can leave individuals experiencing high levels of disassociation and disconnection from their bodies and trauma resolution therapies, such as BCST, provides a wonderful opportunity to bring people back into their bodies, teaching them how it feels to be truly present and safe.
Alison works with her clients to help orient their nervous systems towards focusing on feelings of safety and goodness. She explains that, “The more we train our brains to notice and remember these good feelings, the more resilient our bodies become and the less likely we are to get triggered, sending our nervous systems into challenging states”.
After learning more about the many benefits of Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy, I felt fortunate to have the opportunity to connect with Alison for a session over zoom. Before my session, I was asked to fill out a set of comprehensive intake forms which helped to provide a detailed account of my physical and mental health history, alongside some questions about my lifestyle, my hopes and intentions for effective treatment, in addition to questions about my early life and birth experience. After chatting with Alison, we started our session together with a simple grounding practice.
Seated upright in a comfortable chair, I began by taking some slow deep breaths. As I was breathing, Alison asked me to notice the contact I was making with the floor and to bring my awareness to the soles of my feet, noticing how they make contact. I was then asked to feel into the various sensations I might be experiencing within my toes and feet. After I described some of the sensations, Alison then asked me if there was a part of my foot that felt good? I responded stating that the arch of my right foot felt good. “What are the sensations that tell you that it feels good?”, she asked. I explained that it felt good, in the sense that this part of my foot felt free. I felt there was space that could move underneath it and surround the foot itself. I noticed that this part of my foot did not feel constricted, or heavily weighed down and that there was no observable pain in this particular area.
Alison then invited me to stay with these positive sensations, really allowing them to imprint themselves within my body. As we continued our grounding practice, I was asked to notice other parts of my body and the sensations I was feeling throughout. As my nervous system began to settle, I started to feel a sensation in my knees that felt as though the energy in my body was wanting to move upwards. I continued to breathe
deeply and was guided to continue to hold the awareness of my feet, seat area and breath. As our grounding practice came to an end, Alison had me turn my head slowly from side to side, opening my eyes gently to take in some of the objects in the room around me. She explained that this practice teaches my nervous system to recognize that in this very moment I am safe and that nothing about my environment is threatening. It
is truly incredible how the practice of breath and observing subtle sensations within the body can really help one to ground and ease the nervous system into a state of greater relaxation.
After this practice, we moved our session to a place where I could lay down. As I lay on my yoga mat, using pillows and blankets as supportive props, I was asked to ensure that my spine was generally aligned and that I was comfortable, so that Alison could begin her work. “As you lay there, allowing your body to be held by the floor..notice all the ways that you are in contact with the floor...your back, the back of your head, your seat, the backs of your legs. As you are breathing, allow for softness in your body and notice if there are places that perhaps don’t feel so soft and just accept them”. Alison then invited me to do a slow body scan, starting with my head, moving down my neck, noticing the shape of my body and with each place noticing contact. She asked me to observe any sensations and without doing anything, just allowing them to be. She then asked if I was ready to have her come into contact with my energetic field. Bringing her attention to the edge of my field, I felt her come a little closer and could feel her supportive, warm presence. Before making any closer contact, Alison reminded me that I could let her know if something didn’t feel comfortable and that we could adjust the experience at any time. Throughout our session, Alison constantly checked in with me to ensure that I felt held without experiencing any sort of pressure or discomfort.
One of the most incredible and memorable feelings I had was this wonderful release that felt as though energy was moving up and out of my forehead or third eye chakra. By the end of our session, I felt more calm than I had been in a very long time. (Isabel Fiorino-Habib)
As Alison made gentle contact with my energetic field, I began to feel a bit of tingling in my left ankle and foot, however the sensation was not uncomfortable. I continued to feel certain energetic shifts within my body, such as tingling or warmth and was asked to differentiate between the feelings in the left and right side of my body. When I noticed a bit of discomfort within a particular region, Alison encouraged me to take a deep breath and let out a sigh. She also asked me to breathe into the spot where I was experiencing some discomfort. After doing so, she asked what I was noticing within my body? I simply felt more connected. I could really feel the energy moving up my legs, past my knees, further up towards the middle of my body and moving behind my heart chakra. I felt more warmth and a sense of expansiveness. One of the most incredible and
memorable feelings I had was this wonderful release that felt as though energy was moving up and out of my forehead or third eye chakra. By the end of our session, I felt more calm than I had been in a very long time. I felt much more grounded and felt a sense of peace and restfulness that I was able to enjoy for a few days after my session.
Alison’s warm, supportive and kind approach allows one to confidently surrender to the unique experience of BCST. Throughout my session with her, I felt that I was truly in experienced and good hands.
5. How does somebody find out if you are a good fit for Craniosacral Therapy or not?
They are welcome to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) to arrange a chat, and we can discuss what your challenges and goals are and how we might work together.
The first session I offer is an Evaluation Session where you can experience the gentleness of the work and get a taste of its effects, and then we follow up by phone a few days later to chat and see if it makes sense to continue together.
6. If you were to write a self-help book, what would the topic be, and why?
It would be about building resilience in our nervous systems! The state of our nervous systems is really key to overall health. Period.
7. Do you have a daily self-care practice or ritual that is helpful for you?
I find meditation really beneficial, and I also make sure I go for a long walk in a ravine at least once a week so I’m surrounded by quiet and by trees. That has really helped my mental health during COVID.
8. What do you think are the key ingredients to living a happy life?
I wish I knew! Ha ha!
I suppose I would say having safe, mutually supportive relationships is key. Expressing emotions in a healthy way and having healthy boundaries. And learning to ask for help when you need it. Being of service to others. Having compassion for yourself and others.
Breathing is fundamental to life itself. It connects us to every living, breathing being-other humans, plants, and animals and yet it is something that we so often take for granted. The simple act of filling up our lungs with oxygen to then release carbon dioxide plays such an incredible and important role in our lives. Breathing not only provides us with insight about the state of our current selves, but focusing on how to work with the breath itself, can serve as an important and transformative tool to help us regulate our nervous systems and improve our overall psychological and physical well being.
I had the opportunity to connect with Michele Meehan, a registered psychotherapist and shamanic practitioner, who uses integrative breathwork to help individuals integrate all parts of themselves- body, mind, heart and spirit. In her work, Michele draws upon various tools such as breathwork, relaxation, visualization, ritual and other Shamanic practices to help individuals deepen their self-awareness, heal from trauma, reclaim disowned or unloved parts of themselves and reconnect to their purpose in the world and with nature.
The Journey: Breathwork and Emotional States
I asked Michele a bit about her own journey as a healer and what led her to study integrative breathwork and Shamanic practices. “When I started working with people as a counsellor, I found that all the standard tools, such as straight talk therapy, was very limiting. I’d get people describing to me what they needed to do and how to do it but then having difficulty moving into action”. Without a doubt, many of us have the tendency to do this. We have the awareness that we would like to improve our habits or lifestyles but then get stuck moving into action. She then told me that while she was a counsellor, a good friend of hers was studying hypnotherapy and helped introduce her to the importance of working with the subconscious mind. Michele noted that often it is important to work with the subconscious to help peel back the complex layers of our psyche and understand some of the barriers that may be holding us back and preventing us from taking actionable steps.
After completing a 2 year internship in hypnotherapy and working with a wide range of conditions, Michele continued to expand her understanding of the human experience and was led closer and closer to more spiritual experiences and practices which then led to her engagement with Shamanic studies, where she could examine the role of spirituality in well being. As her journey continued, she went on to study integrative breathwork as a psychotherapeutic technique. In her practice, all aspects of the Self are welcome, and she supports people to embrace the intersection of personal, psychological and spiritual growth. “Breath is the thing that literally bridges the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of our beings. Each session working with the breath can reveal where healing or integration is needed”. Michele explained to me how the breath tends to mirror our emotional states, as well as our defence patterns which may arise from perinatal (early life) to about the age of 6. What she really loves about working with the breath is that it is an organic process driven by the breather's breath. Her role as a facilitator is to provide support and encouragement when resistance comes up and to follow the client’s breath to see what it may reveal about their state of being. We then spoke about the experience of anxiety, which can keep individuals very much so in their heads and which perpetuates shallow breathing. Other difficult emotions, such as anger, sadness, or grief, can also disrupt healing breathing.
Several of us have developed poor methods of breathing, as a result of coping with long term anxiety or emotional distress. It is unfortunate that most of us were simply not taught how to work with the breath as this abundant source of medicine. Michele mentioned that during this COVID pandemic, she has witnessed quite a lot of anxiety among clients in her practice. The uncertainty of these times and the anxiety and fear that accompanies it, has left a lot of people living up in their heads, trying to imagine a different future and spinning various narratives as a way to cope with the unknown. Michele equates the state of anxiety as being similar to creating “castles in the sky without a solid foundation”. In her work, she helps clients combat anxiety by teaching them how to really ground and settle into their physical bodies by guiding them through specific grounding techniques and helpful breathwork practices.
After I began to feel more solid within my body, Michele brought my attention to my breath. Without trying to change it, she encouraged me to notice my breath and notice where I felt movement in my body, perhaps in my chest, belly or both. She asked me to notice if the exhale was the same, longer or shorter than the inhale. “Notice if the breath seems generally long or short and notice if it seems even or if there are places where there might be a hitch or a pause in the breath”. Michele then guided me to gently deepen the breath, allowing it to become slow, full and even. Without stressing or straining my breath, she encouraged me to really feel myself breathing so that my lower belly expanded on the inhalation and deflated ever so slightly on the exhalation. After enjoying a few more soothing deep breaths, Michele guided me back to my sitting bones on the chair beneath me and encouraged me to really feel that my body was supported by this surface and by the floor underneath me. Gradually, I returned my awareness to the room and gently, in my own time, allowed my eyes to open.
After the breathing exercise, Michele asked me about the experience. I reflected and noticed a few interesting things. I seemed to have no issue with my exhalations, in fact, it felt quite cathartic to release my breath. However, I also noticed that my inhalations were much more challenging. Sometimes I found myself struggling to take in a full, deep breath, noticing hiccups along the inhalation. Michele replied, “Since breathing is a metaphor for life, sometimes noticing the breath can inform us of certain things”. She then asked how receiving was for me? At first, this question took me by surprise. I replied, explaining that receiving was often difficult for me. I was always a natural giver, even at a young age. I was always able to identify suffering and dis-ease and found it much easier to support others than to really receive support or support myself in the same capacity. I explained that this was something that I’ve been working on within the last few years and that it was so interesting to see how my breath mirrored such specific aspects of my emotional life. Michele equated the ease at which I was able to exhale, with my capacity to support others effortlessly and again noted that the hiccups I experienced during my inhalations, reflected some of the challenges I face with regards to receiving. I then told her about some mantras that I have been saying to myself lately to assist with this. One of which goes, “It’s safe to stay open, it’s safe to receive”.
It is so incredible that our bodies can reveal so much to us, if only we take the time to tune in, listen to and honour all aspects of ourselves. Michele works with individuals on every level-mind, body and soul and incorporates not only breathwork into her practice but also several other tools, many with roots in Shamanic practices. Michele reminded me that it is so important to be gentle and supportive of ourselves, to express ourselves authentically and to give expression to the primal aspects within us. When we allow what needs to come through us without judgement, we can then move that energy and really hold curiosity for all that is showing up for us. Michele uses her gifts to help people unblock stagnant energies and bring emotions into expression in a safe and healthy way. She helps individuals reconnect with themselves, integrate mind, body, heart and spirit and provides a safe and sacred space where clients can embrace their complex human emotions and move forward in their lives with more compassion, forgiveness, grace and kindness.
Connect with Michele
If you are interested in learning more about Michele and the work that she does, I encourage you to get in touch with her directly by following the below link: https://www.innerartscollective.com/michele-meehan.html
You can also contact Michele at (416) 762 - 8054 to schedule an appointment with her
Happy New Year!
It's time to manifest a world that is aligned with our best selves, our best communities, and our best connection to the natural world.
This year, our Members of the Inner Arts Collective have pulled together to create an arc of experience across the year, with monthly themes that help provide a framework to lean in to the chaos of the times and create a story of resilience and thriving. These monthly themes weave our communities at the Rosseau Sanctuary, Inner Arts Collective Danforth location, and online community The Inner Arts Hive.
Of course, there will be always be services, events and offerings that extend beyond these themes / are offered throughout the year, but this framework means we can create opportunities for one another that are nested within a bigger vision of thriving and cooperation.
Read on to find our Big Purpose Statement and Cultivations across 12 monthly themes, and invitations to create lasting positive change in our lives and communities.
"We bring together people committed to their physical-mental-emotional-spiritual growth, to cultivate the practices, habits and conscious relationships with themselves and others, so that we can all lead more embodied, resilient lives and create connected communities."
Cultivations are tools and practices that will be woven across the year, applied to our monthly themes, to accomplish our Big Purpose. "Cultivations" is another term for what might be said to be "goals" or "expectations", to shift the dynamic into something that we are creating and nourishing within ourselves.
How to get involved:
Let's keep connected!
Back in early May, I was walking down the Danforth and noticed a sign that caught my attention. It read “A community hub for personal development and healing” and immediately, I was intrigued. This was the first time I came across the Inner Arts Collective, a community of practitioners who specialize in a wide range of healing modalities. The sign stated the many services that were offered including: traditional alternative medicine, body techniques, talk techniques, energy work, divination and several other amazing modalities.
Later that day, I went home and took a closer look at the IAC’s website. As I scrolled through the many dynamic healers, one practitioner in particular stood out to me right away. Her name was Monica Kovacs. Monica is an Integrative Sexuality Coach, certified Somatic Sex Educator, Sexological Bodyworker and De-Armouring practitioner. She has quite an extensive educational background and has studied all over the world. Monica has studied everything from Integrative Psychotherapy to Yoga, Reiki, Breathwork, Tantra, various forms of massage and more. She is also trauma informed and brings a diverse skill set into her work to help support her clients.
I had the wonderful opportunity to meet with Monica a few months later and gain first hand experience about the unique work that she does. Monica works both in person and online with individuals and couples who are looking to connect more deeply with themselves, with their bodies and embrace their sacred sexuality. She helps her clients overcome blocks such as guilt or shame and works with individuals who may struggle with a variety of common issues, some of which include difficulty with arousal and orgasm, sexual trauma and sexual shame and anxiety. Monica also teaches her clients to learn new self pleasure techniques, engage in more mindful masturbation and explore the intersection between sexuality and spirituality. She offers several different ways to engage with her clients and helps them work towards their unique goals and intentions at a pace that feels comfortable and guided by the individual.
Shaking the Stigma
Prior to meeting with Monica, I was sent a comprehensive intake form which I was to complete before our session together. The form included several different questions which helped to gather information on my background and my experiences related to my sexuality, spirituality and well being. I was asked to note my intentions and goals, as well as provide detailed information surrounding aspects of my sexual and sensual history. Additionally, several medical questions were asked regarding my physical and emotional health.
When I first met Monica, immediately I felt at ease. She has this super easy going, open and inviting energy that truly makes you feel that you are safe and in good hands.
Before diving into our session together, she let me know that there was a whole range of activities that were available to me and wanted me to feel into what was possibly a bit challenging but still within my “window of tolerance”. Monica explained that any of the hands on touch practices that she provides to her clients is always dependent on their enthusiastic consent. She reminded me that there was absolutely no pressure to get into some of the touch based exercises and that she would continue to check in with me throughout our session together to see what felt right for me at the time and within my body. She explained that at any time, we could stop or adjust the exercises, even midway through, to best serve my comfort levels and needs. This was truly a safe space where I could comfortably explore, release, and listen to my body at my own pace without any pressure whatsoever.
This was truly a safe space where I could comfortably explore, release, and listen to my body at my own pace without any pressure whatsoever.
First, we began by spending some time sitting and talking together and noting some of my intentions for the session. Then she guided me through a series of exercises related to Bioenergetic release, whereby one activates the sacral pump and the pelvic floor muscles and also invites the voice to make some sound. She explained that when we move the hips, it helps move some of the energetic debris that we tend to hold within our bodies. Monica also noted that sound and breath are very helpful and powerful ways of expelling some of the more challenging emotions and stagnant energies that can coexist within the body.
After engaging in some of the bioenergetic emotional release exercises, we then started to work with smaller spinal movements that were coordinated with the breath. All of the exercises that Monica provides serve as helpful tools to release stagnant energy, as well as give voice to some of the difficult emotions and experiences that one may be carrying within their body. She explained to me that often with an emotion such as grief, there is a tendency to curl inwards and shut down. With some of these heavier emotions, she encourages her clients to try and stay open, to breath deeply and allow for big exhales and sighs to come through the body to allow these emotions to really move through.
De-Armouring and Emotional Release Work
Monica offers a technique called De-armouring which can be very helpful when working with individuals who feel stuck in their erotic expression and feel as though they are carrying energetic blockages within the body. We tend to create armour as we react to the various challenges we are faced with in life. Often, especially in our formative years, we encounter situations that are painful and overwhelming and we develop ways to cope with these experiences.
Monica states that armouring is “any kind of defence (physical, mental or emotional) that has become rigid in the system but no longer serves us in our present journey”.
After these experiences, our body may start to create armour and this might look like chronic pain, muscle tension, suppressed emotions or even repetitive thought patterns which do not serve our highest good. She explains that although there is a physical element of de-armouring, it is quite multilayered and can be physical, emotional or mental. This armour can not only deeply impact the way in which we can fully experience our lives, but also hinder our human right to pleasure itself.
In sexual de-armouring, Monica helps her clients to examine where they might be feeling stuck and assists them in consciously opening these blockages with the use of breathwork techniques, as well as pressure points on the body and parts of the genitals. During this process, clients are asked to notice how they are feeling within the body. What do you feel and where might you be feeling the particular sensation? Where is there sensitivity and where is there numbness? Where is there pleasure? All of these questions are explored deeply through a multitude of techniques that allow the individual to work through complex sensations and feelings. For Monica, one of the major goals of this work is to integrate all of these aspects, so that the body can eventually open itself up to receiving more pleasure.
Monica uses full body touch to give the nervous system a chance to activate. Her one-way touch bodywork techniques allows the individual to take the time to really tune inwards and listen to the various sensations and emotions that arise. This unique opportunity, allows the individual to focus on their own experience and to focus on receiving rather than on thinking about another person or being oriented towards a specific goal (ie. fixating on the goal of climax, rather than on allowing themselves to be in the present moment). Within her work, Monica encourages her clients to be vocal and communicate their needs and desires, as she believes that this is an important part of helping individuals own their desires and step into their sexual sovereignty.
With her loving support and guidance, Monica helps her clients to notice and honour whatever arises and utilizes the combination of breath, movement, sound and touch to hold space for the many emotions and physical reactions that may arise during a session. She hopes that through her work, she is able to provide a unique learning environment where clients can safely engage with themselves, re-establish a more loving relationship with their bodies and reclaim their erotic selves. Through ongoing communication and specialized techniques, Monica creates a safe container where individuals are encouraged to explore themselves fully, be present within their bodies, deeply honour their emotions and begin to create a more mindful, engaged and pleasurable relationship with their bodies.
Connect with Monica
So many different individuals and couples of any gender and sexual orientation can benefit from working with Monica. If learning a bit about this work resonates with you, I encourage you to connect with her to experience and receive some of the amazing benefits that her work can provide. She also offers a complimentary 20 minute phone call to see if her work is the right fit for you.
Please follow the below direct link to learn more about Monica’s offerings and book a session: https://www.monicakovacs.ca/
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