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TRE leads the body home

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Being on the healer’s journey for years has led me to explore how holistic healing differs from Western medicine. Particularly it focuses on four levels of health — mental, emotional, physical and spiritual — rather than just the physical body.

Many people are surprised to learn of a probable connection between the mind and the body. When our emotions and our spirits get thrown into the mix, dealing with our health becomes extremely complex, yet vastly more intuitive. In fact, if you could choose one layer of healing to peel down to and focus on, tapping into your own intuitive guidance would change everything.

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This sounds a lot easier than it is; today’s colonized world has disconnected most of us from our roots and wholeness, and we falsely view ourselves as separate from other beings and compartmentalized within our own bodies. I’ve suffered from this dilemma too.

A godsend, Rita Marsh, director of The Center for Human Flourishing, invited me to participate in an introduction to TRE (tension/trauma release exercises). After just four sessions, I felt supported to let go of my old story of overwhelm, grief from losing my children in a nasty custody battle, and PTSD from abuse and neglect in my childhood. All of this was more than I could bear, so I closed up so that I didn’t shatter — a common response to trauma, as TRE has illuminated for me.

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Arriving at my first session at the Third Street Center, I did not know what to expect. Jacquie Wheeler and Betsy Bowie, demure and grandmotherly, greeted participants at the door. Both took turns explaining TRE and what the session entailed.

I would have been nervous except that we were in the kindest and gentlest of hands. They then guided us through a series of strenuous exercises with the daunting end goal of inducing tremors. We laid down on yoga mats in a variety of positions that made our legs and sometimes different body parts shake rapidly or wobble more slowly. The practitioners said the size and speed of the tremors depended on how trusting your body felt to release trauma, and where it was located.

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According to Dr. David Berceli, engineer of the TRE program, painful incidents get held in our bodies through very deep muscle contractions as a protective response. Observing animals shake after a violent scare taught Dr. Berceli what the human nervous system is supposed to do. He posits that people are too led by their minds, or a need to dissociate, to allow this natural shaking to release the problematic tension. So many of us are walking around in a daze of overwhelm and PTSD, stuck in our mind’s stories and body-held tension and do not know how to let go.

These tension release exercises hold the key by being a body-led healing process that can help us to get out of our minds, and therefore our stories. What’s next is a coming home to our true selves, or stepping back into our bodies. This can look different for everybody.

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Bowie is so fascinated by all the different bodily reactions and says, “nothing needs to be fixed, tremoring just allows our body’s coming back into wholeness and feeling alive.” Some people just let their bodies do the work and feel better with no or minimal processing. For me, this feels like not thinking about my choices and actions, but rather feeling what to do. TRE helped me get out of my own way.

For participant Renee Womack, being vulnerable in this group setting seemed to be a gateway for true healing. During the first session, she emotionally expressed her disconnect from her body and general unhappiness. After the tremors did their work and we returned to a seated position, Womack shared, “I feel more at home and acclimated in my body than I have since I was a dancer. It felt like an electrical current rebooted my entire system and now my body is a sacred space that no one else can go into.”

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Just one session opened this door for Womack, but Wheeler recommends doing several with a guide before trying it at home. The last session is March 23 at 7:15pm and more will be offered later this spring. Find more information about TRE at  

Tags: #Dr. David Berceli #Melina Laroza #The Center for Human Flourishing #trauma release exercise
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