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Journal

Embodied Rituals for Skin + Soul

Filtering by Tag: eating disorder

An embodied look at addiction

Katie Gordon

The other day I was having a coffee date via Skype with a close friend who is also a soul sister/mentor/mystic. She has a knack for truth-telling in a most compassionate & loving way to which I can only aspire. We were talking about relationships, in particular the patterns and lessons you learn about yourself within each relationship. How much potential there is for growth within love and how intense, heart wrenching, and amazing it all is. And then she pointed out to me (again, very nonjudgmentally) my pattern of running in relationships. Or more accurately, running out of them. Since a large part of the work I've been diving into lately, what Bill Plotkin refers to as "Soulcraft," is recognizing old patterns in thought and behavior, relinquishing old identities, and giving up addictions, her observation struck me as something that obviously required my attention.

In his book Soulcraft, Plotkin dedicates a lot of time to the topic of patterns, why we have the ones we do, how they developed, why they were necessary at one point in our life, and why it's imperative that we untangle ourselves from them once we've accepted our journey of descent into soul. Addiction is one form of pattern, something we ALL fall into, whether it's addiction to a substance, food, shopping, sex, Facebook, checking our email 8000x a day, etc. And of course there are countless theories of WHY we develop certain addictions and how to treat them. I'm not even gonna go there today. It's Plotkin's opinion that many times, addictions are either attempts at self-initiation, because basically here in our western, non-nature-based society we no longer have cultural rites of initiation built into our education, OR an addiction is a distraction, a way we have of numbing ourselves because we feel unfulfilled, unsatisfied, trapped, claustrophobic, and we deeply know we're meant to do more in our lives than we're currently doing.

In my experience, and in my opinion, it's often a bit of both. I've distracted myself from fully feeling uncomfortable or intense feelings, from fully acknowledging that I'm feeling those uncomfortable and intense feelings, and then feeling guilty for not acknowledging or feeling those uncomfortable and intense feelings. (P.S. that's a lot of energy moving around without being released. It's best not to do it that way.)

I've also acknowledged that my journey into anorexia and bulimia was absolutely an attempt at self-initiation. Pushing my physical body to its limit, approaching that breaking point when it couldn't take anymore, allowing myself to almost physically and metaphorically disappear, diving deeply into that shadow side of my psyche that didn't feel valuable, loved, seen, or heard. Of course at the time I didn't know that's what I was trying to do, but at some level, I did know the reasons behind all of those behaviors were much deeper than body image and self-esteem issues. Something in me was seeking answers, meaning, and explanations of deeply rooted feelings and my purpose for being here on this Earth.

Anyway, back to my "running" story...

When my friend said that I realized I DO run many times a situation begins to feel out of my control or I don't see a pleasant way out. I have (had) an addiction to running. It was a deeply engrained pattern. Of course often the way out is working it THROUGH, which I also wasn't a huge fan of doing. However, being in a committed and healthy relationship now, one that I want to show up in and not run from, means having to wade through the unpleasant feelings that arise, the disagreements that occur, and the feelings that surface as a result. Not always fun, folks. Some of my ugliest shadows have shown themselves. Each time I feel like hiding, running, or otherwise pretending the discomfort and intensity isn't happening, I see that pattern in myself. I see my need for things to be comfortable and if they're not, to make them better by smoothing it over, even when it's not for the best of the relationship. I know whatever's coming up is at least partly a call to sit and feel, hear, see, and know my own soul deeper. And then it's a call to act in alignment with my soul.

"Be still and know..." - Psalm 46:10

Here's one thing I know for sure. When we can sit through all that intensity that exists within our own wounds, we see that's where our greatest opportunities for growth and brilliance lie. We can witness our own sacredness. We can act from our deepest truth rather than from an old, outgrown identity. We can allow those parts of us to die.

What are your favorite addictions? I invite you to consider seeing them as stemming from an attempt at awakening/stimulating ourselves out of what we've come to see as ordinary reality. Out of our everyday lives. Our small selves. Perhaps acknowledge them as your soul's call to initiation to a deeper level of consciousness, opening us up to a new layer of being seen, heard, or felt.

Evolving yoga & the bodysoul

Katie Gordon

A friend and I were walking and talking the other day about how, as teachers, both our yoga practice and the way we approach teaching has evolved. I came to yoga during college after leaving ballet. I had struggled with bulimia and anorexia for years, but even more than that, I felt mentally, emotionally, and physically rigid. I was stuck in this foreign body that I had numbed and quieted for so long, I no longer knew how to hear the voice of my soul or feel my physical body enough to even know when something was wrong. So I stumbled/dragged myself into a yoga studio around the corner from my apartment in Boston's Back Bay, started teaching awhile later, and discovered a world I saw as completely opposite from my rigid, extreme, self-loathing reality. And unlike the pain and exhaustion of ballet, I had found something that made me feel literally high afterward. Plus it's healthy (both physically and mentally), it's great exercise (they don't call it a yoga butt for nothing), and I felt good about myself as a person, justified in my somewhat-self-righteous approach to the yoga-raw food-vegan-sattvic-clean-eating lifestyle because I'm doing something "of value" and teaching people how to feel better, right? Now I see all I had done was carry that same rigidity, the same self-imposed rules into a new setting.

And then I got disillusioned with the whole thing. I got bored. I got injured. I wasn't down with paying $100 for a pair of yoga pants. I got tired of feeling burnt out after teaching SO much and struggling to pay my bills. Seriously, if you want to be a "successful" yoga teacher (and they're out there!) you gotta hustle. You gotta have passion. And I didn't. My body hurt, I could barely make rent, I didn't even have the time or energy or desire to maintain my own practice. So I said f*ck this.

I gave up trying to survive by teaching and I got a "real job." You know the whole work 9-5, wear "professional" clothes, get a paycheck every 2 weeks, have health insurance, work in an office kinda job. This was that stage in my practice when I was so happy to NOT stress out about money/survival/my-family-thinks-I'm-a-total-failure that you'll do anything for this new job. And don't get me wrong, the company I worked for is GREAT! They treat their employees better than any I've seen. The people there are wonderful. But my connection to my wild soul was fading. And my physical body was like, "How can you possibly have a job where you're sitting at a computer all day??!! Have I taught you nothing??"

During this time my practice taught me to slow down. Because of injuries, I couldn't do everything I used to be able to do. I had to be super mindful, take my time, and listen to my body in a way I never have. I felt like because I no longer had to depend on yoga to make a living, I could make it all about me. What I needed, wanted, craved in terms of movement. How my bodysoul needed to manifest herself. And through that work, it became increasingly clear that, even though I was comfortable & happy enough, I wasn't living my full truth or my soul's purpose in the world.

So when the opportunity arrived, I left. I moved to the Pacific Northwest, where I'd wanted to live since I was a kid (after watching The Goonies. Because pirate caves.) and where I could focus solely on my little business. And since Wild Grace is an extension of me, it became VERY clear that to have an abundant business, I needed to cultivate a healthier mind-body-soul connection. For me, even though I hated to admit it for awhile, the way in to that connection was through my yoga practice. It forced me to sit, breathe, be, and listen. It showed me how to deeply honor my body when I was practicing honestly and from a place of love for myself.

As I was preparing to teach a demo class in my new home town, I realized my yoga practice and what it meant to me had changed because my relationship with my body had changed. Because of the way I used to practice, always pushing myself, forcing myself further into poses, to keep going even if practicing didn't feel good or if I was hurt, my body had finally had enough and my practice HAD to change.

You're probably thinking, "Well, duh!" But really, I could finally see clearly how the way I felt in my body, the way I surrendered to my body, the way I saw it, felt it, heard it. The way I allowed it space. The way I honored the open spaces and the tense, closed, traumatized spaces had shifted in each stage of both my ego & soul growth. And because of that I was finally allowing my body to evolve rather than stay within a "safe" range of weight and shape. I was allowing my soul to expand, to be her brilliant & bright self. Where there was once a major disconnect between my soul's desire for compassion and self-love and my mind's need for some semblance of control, now there's just (for the most part) quiet, space, and a deep honoring of the way it sometimes all has to play out so that we can actually learn how to get out of our own way and meaningfully make something of ourselves.

And so I guess when you can finally let go of your opinion of the yoga industry, your fear of not being "good enough," the constant need to compare yourself as a teacher and student, and the competition for classes, all that's left is your relationship to your body (physical and energetic) and the practice of showing up each day to be with yourself.

The Divine Art of Witnessing

Katie Gordon

Just a little over a year ago, I wrote this post on why I don't do New Years resolutions and what I do instead. On focusing not on some particular goal, arbitrary weight, new job title, etc. that we feel like SHOULD matter to us, but rather on our CDF's (Core Desired Feelings). I told you about how (in my opinion) we show ourselves so much more compassion by focusing on how we want to FEEL rather than what we think our life (or ourselves) should look like. But here's one of my major lessons from this year: if we don't feel the "bad" stuff, we also can't feel the "good" stuff. The stuff that motivates us to ACT because we want those feelings. We want to feel desired, empowered, radiant, loved, abundant, embodied. But if we don't witness the "bad" feelings, if we shut down, become numb, and deny the uncomfortable feelings, we block the feelings that we're actively trying to invite in!

As someone who spent a very long time in the seductive, addictive grasp of an eating disorder, I know a few things about shutting down. When I allowed myself to become aware of the compulsion behind the behaviors, it was so simple. I was afraid of feeling. I had zero trust in my ability to deal with anxiety, grief, and anger that I wouldn't even sit still long enough to allow it to come into my consciousness. So it stayed in my physical and energetic body, making me sick, making me angry and then feel shame about that anger. It swirled around in my belly, my pelvis, and my heart creating what I felt as so much ugliness and shame that I didn't know how to even articulate asking for help.

This year has been one of HUGE growth, initiations, lessons, and incredible teachers. One thing I've learned is this: Sometimes, when your soul has decided that you've had enough, when a pattern has finally been exhausted and it's time to move on, some sort of cosmic switch is flipped and it's almost effortless to let it go. There came a day when I found the inner strength to say, "Nope, not this time. I'm going to sit with myself through this moment of total-freak-out-anxiety and see what happens."

And the world didn't end. I cried what felt like tears of pure energy being released. The next day it came up again, and I sat again. It wasn't a moment of white-knuckling through it. It was a moment of grace, a conscious decision to allow awareness to heal old wounds. I finally understood at a very deep and visceral level that nothing can be healed if you're not willing to hold it in your awareness with compassion. Awareness, as one of my favorite people says all the time, is the container for alchemy.

So my INTENTION for this year is to witness more of myself with deep compassion. No judgment, just love, understanding, and forgiveness.

*I'm not sure who said this, but it wasn't me so I can't take credit...*

"Its not who you are that holds you back; its who you think you are not."

With this new level of awareness, I intend to release old versions of myself. The ones that feel too small. The ones that hide from her own brightness.

And now to move into the light...

Wild Self-Love: A journey from Starvation to Soul

Katie Gordon

wolf woman Dearest Wild Ones,

You remember a couple months ago when I created Shameless Self-Love, my 30-day video campaign to cultivate and encourage a deeper, healthier and more meaningful relationship with our bodies and souls?  Each day, for 30 days straight, I made a video with tips, quotes, tidbits of wisdom, stories and journaling prompts to begin softening our hearts toward ourselves, and to learn how to wildly LOVE our own souls (here's one of my favorites: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mLwWnaSgjmo).

Of course those videos were a way to offer some of my work to you all, to get my voice out there in a big way, and to share the wisdom I've gleaned from my own mentors.  But another major part of my reason for creating those videos was for myself.  To get clearer on my message, my truth, what I wanted to share and teach with my clients, and to distill what was the essence of Wild Grace.  To get clear on what I feel my soul's purpose and message is to the world.

And the response to those videos from you all was AH-MAZING!  I heard from people all over the world who had seen my videos on YouTube, Facebook, and Pinterest, and who wanted to reach out to say how badly we all need the reminder not only to love ourselves, but how to heal those wounds that prevent us from doing so.  I got such incredible feedback and so many equally inspiring questions, that I decided to write a program based on the video series, only now we're diving much, much deeper.  I've been exploring how to use self-love coaching, energy work, animal totems, shamanic ritual, plant medicine, chakra work, visionary and craniosacral therapy in order to heal trauma, addiction, depression, anxiety, and other stuck patterns of behavior and beliefs.  All of this work has effectively led to creating my own life coaching methodology that I CANNOT wait to share with you!

After months of writing, researching, rewriting, scrapping, and starting over, I'm officially (but unofficially) launching Wild Self-Love, a 3 month, one-on-one program to reconnect to your Wild Soul and fall madly in love with your Self with passion and grace.  I say "unofficially" because it's not even on my website yet.  It is brand, spankin' new.  And since you're already on my list, I'm offering it to you, my incredible tribe, FIRST and at a special price...

What happens when you cultivate more self-love and connect with your Wild Soul?

  • You attract better, healthier, happier, and more whole relationships, both romantically and otherwise (i.e. you have amazing friends!!)
  • You manifest abundance in your life, whether it's literal financial abundance, more satisfying life experiences, or more time to do the things you love - all wonderful, valid forms of abundance
  • You have the ability to create the life you crave, and the power to decide how you want to feel EVERY DAY
  • Your creativity EXPLODES and you become capable of designing your life and anything within it
  • Your body feels free, limitless, and light
  • You know how to make yourself JOYFUL, happy, and fulfilled without looking outside of yourself in order to feel a certain way
  • You feel free from past traumas, addictions, and stuck, recurring patterns that aren't serving YOU

If you're ready to fall WILDLY in love with yourself, reconnect with your SOUL and her purpose, now is your time!  I offer a complimentary Self-Love discovery session for any woman interested in working together so that we can chat and make sure we're a good fit!  Remember, your wise soul contains all the answers within, this work provides the space and support to tap into your inner guides and learn to listen.

I am so passionate about this body of work I've put together for you!!  It's truly an honor to share it, and I can't wait to work with you...

All my love, Katie XO

And now for some serious truth-telling

Katie Gordon

A lot of people ask how I began my recovery from my eating disorder(s).  What was it that finally broke through the walls I had built up.  What was the thing that finally helped me to WANT to feed myself.  How did I recover?  People want to hear that it was one particular moment, that the light bulb went off, that I finally realized there was more to life than weight and food, blah blah blah... Here's the truth, and it may surprise some, anger a few, and make total sense to others.

I didn't.  There was no light bulb.  There wasn't a decisive moment when I had had enough.  There were many of those moments, and they would last anywhere from a few days to a couple years.  And then there would be a trigger, an event, a stressful couple months, a major (or minor) shift, and I would be sent spiraling back.  Only each time was a little worse because everyone expected me to be "better", "recovered", "over it".   The shame and guilt over my behaviors, the fact that I was slowly ripping my body apart, was worse than I could bear, and so to alleviate that pain, I'd sink deeper.

story we will never tell

I did a pretty okay job of covering up this intense shame and self-loathing by soaking up all the knowledge I could about health, yoga, meditation, spirituality in general, healing work, bodywork, emotional holding, Ayurveda, herbalism from multiple traditions, Chinese Medicine, how to heal trauma, nutritional theory, shamanism, tarot, anything I could get my hands on.  I learned how to eat really healthy.  I'm now one of the most educated 27 year olds I know, and all that is simply a compensation, a distraction from dealing with the fact that I still had no idea how to nourish my Self.  I couldn't bear the thought of sitting with myself long enough to hear the answers that my soul had for me.

And then for the greatest cover-up of them all, I decided to coach OTHER women with eating disorders, because if I couldn't fix myself, maybe I could fix them and then my own struggle would be justified.  And that's when it all started to crack and crumble.  My soul was speaking to me through the eating disorder, telling me it was time for transformation, for letting go.  My body was beginning to feel the (quite frankly) terrifying effects of years of starving and purging.  Before I could do anything I needed to heal my body and my heart.  To give myself the space, let myself be seen in the most vulnerable way.  Everything about it felt raw, exposed, torn open.  It was time to learn the lesson of asking for what I want and need.

And I did.  And my community has risen up more than I could have ever imagined to offer support, space, guidance, words, and witness.  And no judgment whatsoever.

circle

So here I am now, bearing all my scars, all my shame, my pain, anger, grief, everything I'd been working SO hard to conceal for fear of your judgment.  Now that I have nothing left to hide, I can begin the real work to connect with a deep love for myself not because of my imperfections and battles, but because I Am.  Because all of us have the right to love and be loved simply by being born into this world.  We don't need to earn love.  We ARE love.  And so begins the heroine's journey...

heroine's journey

Piece by Piece: Deconstructing an Eating Disorder

Katie Gordon

skeleton in the closetAfter announcing the creation of Wild Grace, my health coaching and bodywork practice specifically for women working with disordered eating, addiction, and trauma, the response was overwhelming. It made me realize something I already knew, but find difficult to put into practice: People love when you get real. Like, nitty-gritty real. Sure, nice stories about recovery from disordered eating and living happily ever sound good. Sometimes we even need them to give us hope and inspiration, but the truth is that the rest of us may have stories that don’t sound as nice. I’m making it my mission to give people the space, support, and deep love to be able to speak their truth, to tell their story without the fear that they’ll scare someone away. I kept waiting for that a-ha moment.  The moment when I’d feel the vice grip release and I could breathe again.  When that internal monologue would finally shut off, and I’d be able to look at a plate of lovingly prepared food without thinking about whether or not I’d exercised enough, or restricted enough, or what I’d be doing the next day to deserve eating it now.  That moment never came. There were a few times when I thought I had it, when I felt the hard edges soften, my rules start to bend, and my heart begin to show her true self.  Inevitably, within a few days that light bulb would dim and I’d be back to where I was before, only now with the disappointment in myself because I couldn’t keep up the illusion.

It took a long time for me to realize that this approach is actually extremely passive.  I was waiting for the right time, the right conditions, the right situation with the right people to all come together in one moment and flip that switch for me. It was like I was sitting at the beginning of a path, waiting for the Universe to pick me up and set me on my feet at the end. Over time I realized that if I wanted something to change I couldn’t wait for it to happen to me.  It took me until halfway through my health coach certification program for me to begin to understand how to take those first excruciating steps.  After years of treatment, therapists, and dietitians I had only JUST started on this path of recovery.

At first this realization made me even angrier.  How could I have been working for so many years and gotten nowhere? What the f*ck had I been doing with myself? I had become jaded, pissed off, and untrusting. In a way it felt like a waste, and at times I wish I could go back to make my college years a little less painful.

But in my anger I learned.  I learned to honor the power of my anger, to know that it’s not ‘bad’, but rather something to listen to and feel.  Anger is a powerful teacher.  I was afraid to listen, afraid to feel, and afraid to go to that deep place within myself where anger lived. It was ugly, dark, and gnarly.  Mostly, though, I was afraid of letting anger out, because who knew what would come out along with her.  Would I ever be able to get her back under control?  To tighten the lid back on, apologize to whoever was in her path of destruction, and get on with my life?

The thing is, I wasn’t fooling anyone.  Maybe they weren’t seeing the full extent and depth of it, but anyone could see something was there, seething just beneath the surface.  So I decided to give up being ‘nice’:  It wasn’t really working for me.  I have a huge and beautiful heart.  I don’t need nice.  Being nice only served to make me small, from which place I wouldn’t be of any use to myself or anyone else.  Instead, I’d set boundaries while loving my family and friends unconditionally.  Because love isn’t nice.  Love is speaking your truth, listening, and creating space where it’s safe to open our hearts to each other.  Love is getting real, getting into the nitty-gritty, and trusting that whoever’s there with you is meant to be there.  Love is having faith that everything destined to happen will happen.

My full story will eventually make it out. I’m sure it gets easier to write, easier to take that next step and gain momentum.  Right now, each word, each tiny step is still a bit like giving birth to a piece of my soul.  But it’s real.  And with each word, the vice grip of anger, of control, of restriction loosens and I fall in love with myself that much more.

My point is this: no matter what your story is, stop waiting for the a-ha moment.  Recovery from addiction, an eating disorder, or trauma, is a series of conscious decisions to take that next step, a process of unraveling that thread a millimeter at a time.  The more gut-wrenching it is to unwind it all and take that step the more truth your story holds. Within that pain, that work, and that struggle is where your power lies.