It has taken me a while to write this newsletter. I was trying to figure out how to export my contacts from one platform to another during a global pandemic, and guess what? It was too much so I quit.
Our nervous systems are all feeling this whether we realize it or not. Some people are experiencing strange sleep patterns, others notice they can't concentrate or retain information, and it's likely that all of us are riding waves of energy and fatigue. (Speaking of which, I feel there should be a distinction between tiredness and listlessness- when we're tired we need rest. When we're listless we need circulation and movement.)
All that to say, this pandemic is taking a toll on our physical and social nervous systems. These symptoms are nothing to be alarmed about, it's our body's way of taking care of itself. So if I can't learn new technical skills right now, it's okay. Old school emails are fine.
I miss my clients. I miss touch. I miss social dancing and going to movies, restaurants and all the usual ways I experience connection. But I don't miss feeling pressured to meet the status quo or participate in patriarchal capitalism. I don't miss the rate at which the earth was being terrorized by mass transit and material consumption.
That may trigger some of you who are struggling right now, and I understand that. It's important to check our privilege and think in terms of intersectionality. Not everyone has the privilege of an unemployment funded staycation.
Some of us are working from home and homeschooling and cooking dinner. Others are treating sick people, caretaking elders, or forced to show up in work places despite stay at home orders.
People of color are being hit hardest by Covid-19 in many cities, bringing to light the structural inequities still in place.
Addictive behaviors are rising globally as our nervous systems grasp at comfort and escape.
It's a very hard time to be a "physical being having a spiritual experience". But I believe we are born with flexible minds and resilient nervous systems, and if given the right tools to cope with stress, we can do hard stuff. We can stay healthy and help each other.
I've been using this time to catch up on my continuing education in the field of trauma study. I've taken some on-line courses with trauma & somatic repair specialists. I'm enrolled in a philosophy course at Harvard University exploring justice (currently they are offering free courses that anyone can audit). And finally I am meeting with a team twice a week on Zoom to learn and practice peer-to-peer counseling techniques that help discharge stress in the body and clear the path to a more authentic way of living, relating, and being.
I've been finishing creative projects that have been on the back burner. I've also hugged A LOT of trees. It's Taurus season, and this Taurus is grateful for the privilege of spending unlimited time outside (unlike friends in other countries with strict curfews). I'm doing everything I can to practice safe, social distancing and living one day at a time.
It's a quiet revolution to heal ourselves and bring that healing out into the world. I feel very blessed to be doing this work. As we're all creating new routines and boundaries around our time and energy, I encourage you to take up more space. Limit screen time if you feel fatigue. Give yourself breaks and drink more water. Ask for help, and remember that this is all new. No one has experienced this under the same exact circumstances, and therefore we are ALL in a learning cycle which requires us to leave room for mistakes. Progress not perfection.
I will be in touch when I feel it's safe and ethical to resume massage services. If you are interested in astrology & tarot coaching, you can book through my website isabelleguzman.com I offer a sliding scale and work through FaceTime & Zoom.
Until then, stay well and be kind to yourselves.
In the last month, life has been consumed with projects that have nothing to do with business and everything to do with healing. ⠀
I initially thought I would use this time to write more blog posts and share more resources with you, but as the internet became flooded with information I took it as a sign that I could step away and hold the space IRL. ⠀
Everyone is doing such a lovely job of offering their gifts right now. I'm so impressed and in awe of my professional healing circle, and it warms my heart to see more generosity than entrepreneurialism flowing through my social media feeds. Because what we need more than anything right now is permission to be vulnerable, to both give and receive, and to care for each other. (Or at least that's what the North Node in Cancer is telling me.)⠀
Please know that I miss you all. Today marks 40 days of no physical contact- as soon as it's safe for me to work again, my hands will be so happy. Sun moves into Taurus today so we may all be missing a lack of physical connection. I recommend hugging trees, gardening, trying new recipes, working with clay or paper mache. Also self-massage, lymphatic skin brushing, and humming... yes HUMMING... are soothing to the nervous system. Anything that feeds the senses and nurtures the body is under Taurus' rule.
Despite a slump in socially recognized "productivity," I have found joy in service and creativity as we all navigate this incredible, once in a lifetime astrology together.
It is natural to prioritize in times of intense emotional and mental stress, the same way our bodies prioritize in times of physical stress. When we sense danger the last thing we want is to stop and take a bathroom break. Our sympathetic nervous system automatically shuts down what is least necessary and utilizes energy so that we can handle the crisis.
Our social nervous system also goes through an elimination process, and in my own personal experience I've been taking note of what has shifted for me in terms of importance. Creating new paths of security while letting go of old habits has been the biggest work. Coincidentally this has all been reflected in the astrology leading up to now and the energies currently at play.
Whenever Pluto has strong aspects to other planets, we can expect profound and unrelenting transition in the areas of life those planets represent. In the last six months Pluto has been transited by the South Node, Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars. I think we can all agree that we are living through some of the most intense astrological cycles of our present lifetime, and as always, how we respond, move through, and learn from these cycles will determine our future success as individuals and as a society.
Answering these questions will help clear and prepare for what's to come. Change can be unsettling, volatile, and triggering. It can also be exciting, challenging, and enriching. One thing we know is that it is necessary for growth.
"You have been telling the people that this is the Eleventh Hour,
now you must go back and tell the people that this is the Hour.
And there are things to be considered . . .
Where are you living?
What are you doing?
What are your relationships?
Are you in right relation?
Where is your water?
Know your garden.
It is time to speak your truth.
Create your community.
Be good to each other.
And do not look outside yourself for the leader.
There is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and swift
that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on to the shore.
They will feel they are torn apart and will suffer greatly.
Know the river has its destination. The elders say we must let go of the shore,
push off into the middle of the river,
keep our eyes open, and our heads above water.
And I say, see who is in there with you and celebrate.
At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally, least of all ourselves.
For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt.
The time for the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves!
Banish the word struggle from your attitude and your vocabulary.
All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.
We are the ones we've been waiting for."
There was a New Moon earlier this week with some pretty powerful aspects to Chiron and the North and South Nodes, but I don’t feel like hiding behind astrology right now. I want to talk about feelings.⠀
These times are unprecedented, bringing up so much, and the fact that we have social media to see what’s happening all over the world makes it that much more real. Where are you at today... right now?⠀
I’ll tell you where I’m at. After using every one of my coping tools from recovery (and even from childhood) I have finally, thankfully, come into some submission.
I’m letting the grief in.⠀
Grief is a lot of things. It can be about what’s to come, what’s already happened, or what didn't happen. Staying busy keeps it at bay for a while. Having a sense of humor helps soften the blow. But at the end if the day, it’s there. And this morning it woke up next to me.⠀
My grief feels like a loss of innocence- knowing that things will never be quite the same, for better or worse. It’s my proof that the world is ruptured and that the illusion of security is just that... an illusion. That despite all acts of charity and good will, there is going to be loss.
I also grieve the ways of living that we’ve adopted as “normal” and that it’s taken a pandemic to slow most of us (not all) down. And if I’m honest, I’m afraid of things going back... it’s just not sustainable.
Thank you for holding my grief with me. Otherwise it would be too much to bear. And no amount of memes or inspirational jibber jab is gonna make it go away. I just have to be still and let it do it’s job. ⠀
And that’s the astrology this week, as the New Moon in Aries was conjunct Chiron and square the Nodes. A time to stop, listen to the wound, and reflect on how we can take action to be part of this GREAT HEALING.
I believe we all need self care and human connection during times of crisis; after weighing the most current information about the spread of coronavirus, I have decided to discontinue massage therapy services until future notice.
It's a tough call, but I took a vow to always have your best interest at heart, as well as my own.
When I feel that I can work safely and ethically, I can assure you that all surfaces and door handles will be wiped down between sessions, and I will have sanitizer available at the door when you enter. I will also be wearing a mask for both your protection and mine. As always the aromatherapy diffuser will be cranking with Thieves oil and my Hepa Air Filter is running 24/7 to insure clean air.
It goes without saying, cancel and self quarantine if you present any symptom of cold / flu, but especially shortness of breath, sore throat, fever, dizziness, loss of taste / smell, and dry cough. If you've travelled by plane or have been exposed to large groups of people, I ask that you wait 2 weeks before scheduling an appointment even after the shelter in place order is lifted.
Feel free to call with any concerns or questions.
*In case you didn't know, I offer Tarot / Astrology consultations on a donation-based sliding scale. I do these via FaceTime or Zoom. and if you've never had a reading with me, I can promise you it will not disappoint. Check out my services page for more info.
Gift Certificates are available, and expiration dates will be extended to accommodate the current situation.
I sure do appreciate your support, and I trust we will all find our way through these unprecedented and uncertain times. Let's flatten the curve so we can enjoy therapeutic touch again.
For further reading on Coronavirus:
This weekend I did the one thing you’re never supposed to do when baking dessert for a dinner party- I tried out a new recipe. And not just any recipe but a rather ambitious one, all things considered.
I basically attempted to recreate the staple of Carnival season- the almighty King Cake. Every restaurant and bakery has a signature version of it, the more decadent the better. You can expect to find at least one or two at every gathering you attend between 12th Night and Fat Tuesday. It replaces donuts at the office and takes over display cases at the grocery store. So when I say ambitious, I mean it.
If you're lost, allow me to explain. King Cake isn't a batter cake, it's a giant ring of bread-like dough stuffed with anything from cinnamon to cream cheese (and everything in between) and sprinkled in yellow, purple and green sugar. After it's baked, a plastic baby is stuffed into the bottom, and whoever gets the piece with the baby has to bring the next cake. Everyone has a favorite King Cake, and people actually argue over which is better... Dong Phuong, Manny Randazzo's etc.
Three years ago I gave up eating white flour and sugar which makes living in New Orleans a bit of a challenge around certain "seasons", this being no exception. King Cake is more of a cultural institution than anything, and wanting to fit in can be tough when you're the only person who's not eating it. My dad used to joke, "Never trust a man who doesn't drink" and a similar theme can be applied here.
So that afternoon, only three hours before the party, I destroyed my kitchen baking a gluten / dairy / and sugar-free king cake. Having researched several recipes and finally settling on one from a paleo website (huge mistake) I committed to rising yeast and grinding my own powdered sugar from dried coconut nectar. The process was deeply satisfying and beyond anything I have ever attempted, but it was doomed to fail because you basically need certain ingredients to make a thing taste like a thing and I'm still learning those tricks. (Truth be told, I have yet to taste a gluten free version of anything that's even close.)
The minute I pulled it out of the oven, I knew. I could tell by eyeing the crust that it wasn't even close to real king cake. Too dry, too crumbly, zero fluff, etc.
But I brought it to the party anyway (because g-dammit I'd put my heart into this thing) and feigned good humor. “If you don’t expect king cake you won’t be disappointed” I laughed, and “that’s what I get for thinking I could cheat Mardi Gras.” To make things worse I’d posted all these process pics on my IG and FB stories, and even though no one else knew the end result, I KNEW. I felt like a fraud. Like my cake was shit, an absolute disaster which made me an absolute disaster by proxy. Like if Donald Trump was in the room he'd be puckering his mouth and pointing at me, "It's a hoax!! Fake cake! Lock her up."
Only a few people at the party tried the damn thing, and I winced every time I saw the crumbling crust fall apart in their fingers. Needless to say I came home with 2/3's of a cake. The hostess was gracious enough, asked me to leave her a slice, but everyone else was avoiding eye contact as I wrapped it up and did the cakewalk of shame.
(In case you're feeling sorry for me, don't. I don't need your pity, I need humor. I need someone to say "Oh my God, yes!" because they understand how insidious our perfection-obsessed culture can be and how ridiculous this story is. I need someone to laugh with me because otherwise, it's rather sad isn't it?)
But then something wonderful happened... an unexpected twist.
The next day I absent-mindedly pulled a piece of the crust off and while letting it dissolve in my mouth I realized that I'd actually baked a giant scone! A perfect, delicious, gluten free, low carb, apple, cinnamon and maple pecan stuffed scone that wouldn’t put my body into inflammatory shock. I hadn't enjoyed a scone in years, and so I immediately brewed a cup of strong English tea and after that, everything changed. EVERYTHING.
It occurred to me that so often in life we confuse failure with invention. We rush to reach an end product and thereby devalue the process. We fail to see that our mistakes can be discoveries, that it's about the journey AND the destination.
And sometimes we even miss our true calling because we're blind sighted by something else. Like Lauryn Hill sang, "Don't be a hard rock when you really are a gem, baby girl..."
This all happens to be the perfect analogy for the astrology this week. Keep an open mind. Expect answers and solutions to come from unexpected sources. And don't throw the baby out with the bathwater! Great innovation comes from trial and error.
Tomorrow’s lunar eclipse in Cancer gives us pause to reflect on our relationship to family, home, and mothering / being mothered. Some of us are building tribes based on spiritual lineage- changing the face of what conventional family looks like. Others are healing generational wounds through self parenting.
Change is bumpy. Change takes time. And the change we’re seeing now is all part of the great shift from patriarchy to a more egalitarian society.
With the eclipsed moon opposing the Pluto Saturn conjunction, expect decomposition and rebuilding in all Cancerian areas of life: mothering, ancestry, home, self care, parenting & reparenting, and literally our relationship to the GREAT MOTHER 🌊 Yemaya.
It bears mentioning that Uranus is stationing direct the same day as the eclipse. Whatever house is ruled by Taurus in your natal chart is where you’re reinventing yourself and can expect breakthroughs over the next 6 years. And lastly , pay attention to any information or insight that comes in unexpectedly as Mercury opposes the Moon and is conjunct the Sun.
Immediately following we have one more big transit, as Pluto and Saturn conjoin at 22° Capricorn. Pluto wants us to reclaim our inherent power while Saturn wants us to be responsible with that power. Time to reign it in.
My intention for 2019 was to move from surviving to thriving. I knew it would be challenging, as every year has it’s ups and downs, but I didn’t anticipate any of the events that would come to pass.
Sudden death of a friend, unexpected illness, job loss, moving, breakups, oral surgery, and a serious family crisis all marked the year. And yet here we are at the close, and all I can think of is how grateful I am. For every tool, every breakthrough, every helper, and every bit of grace and insight that taught me how to live life on life’s terms, one day at a time (sometimes one breath at a time). I’ve been able to stay curious and open; to find shelter in unexpected places, and to thrive- not in spite of but because of these challenges.
The current astrology encourages you to find the lesson, the reward, the wisdom in the muck. The first lunar eclipse of 2020 is on Jan 10th followed by Pluto & Saturn’s conjunction on the 12th. Both will require our full presence, so tits up!
I'm still booking new year's readings. To schedule yours (or any other service), use the contact page, and have a happy & prosperous 2020.
Good morning and congratulations. If you're breathing right now, you're a raging success.
Some of us are doing the work of generations. Some of us get sick during the process. Some of us don't meet the status quo because this work is all-consuming. Whatever you were taught to believe about success, healing, and love... let it go. Embrace the idea that you're exactly where and who you're meant to be.
Before I say anything, I want to credit Bessel Van Der Kolk, Kimberly Johnson, and Peter Levine for their work in the field of trauma and somatic therapy which has taught me so much about healing personal and trans-generational trauma. I also credit Alice Miller whose breakthrough work in child abuse brought to light what was formerly unacknowledged and is now the gold standard for child psychology. Additionally, I feel called to give credit to the patience and compassion of my mentors, recovery sponsors, and therapists. Their wisdom is the bedrock for all of my work.
A client recently asked me to explain what I meant by a "social nervous system" which prompted me to write this post. Please note that it's a HUGE topic, and I'm still very deep in the learning process. I have yet to fully dive into the work of Stephen Porges whose polyvagal theory is the basis for what is known as the social engagement system.
I use the phrase social nervous system as a metaphor for the way attachments and social awareness can influence our perceptions of (and reactions to) life. We are mammals, after all, and we rely on our instincts to keeps us alive in a precarious world .
When faced with a threat, the nervous system ideally responds instinctively to move us towards safety. Afterwards, a built in repair system discharges the energy, and we bounce back to normal functioning. If, however, we override our natural response because it goes against social cues and beliefs around what's appropriate or acceptable then we might experience a glitch in our system, otherwise known as trauma.
It's important to remember that the first assurance of safety always comes from our environment. Not just our physical environment but the people who coinhabit our environment. In a social sense, this begins with family and the attachments we formed with primary caregivers. Later it extends to religious communities, peer groups, professional networks, and society at large. Our survival brain recognizes that we need others to stay alive, and the extent to which we will go to earn and keep approval and acceptance varies case by case. Additionally, with the addition of the social media, our social nervous system has grown wider than ever before in history.
For anyone who was raised around dysfunctional family dynamics that include alcoholism, drug addiction, gambling addiction, sex addiction, codependence, mental illness, sexual abuse, narcissistic abuse, religious abuse, and any form of neglect or chronic invalidation, the social cues you relied on to feel safe were most likely distorted.
Furthermore, when children feel traumatized they depend on co-regulation with parents, siblings, and other adults to gain a sense of safety and security (regulation is any adjustment we make consciously or unconsciously to function normally). Kids need a compassionate mirror- first to validate their experience and emotional reaction, then to name sensations in the body, and finally encouragement to shake it off and self-soothe. If the people they depend on aren't regulated themselves, this poses a problem. If someone tries to normalize a traumatic experience by pretending that nothing is wrong (or any attempt to interrupt / shut down the natural process of discharge and repair) this adds trauma on top of trauma.
When cues from our social nervous system clash with personal instincts, our brain is thrust into a dilemma- it has to choose which system to trust. An invalidated sense of reality interrupts the natural process of repair and with time and repetition becomes what is known as complex trauma.
To make things even more "complex", this trauma will repeat itself until it's repaired. We are constantly looking to others to mirror and affirm us, which is natural, but if we habitually choose unregulated people for this task we stay stuck in old trauma indefinitely.
Right now there are multiple generations of grown, invalidated children acting out of old trauma.
Many are caught between the instinct to repair (which can require stepping outside of family and social networks) and wanting to stay "safe" by not disrupting the status quo.
Looking at it from this vantage point, it doesn't seem unusual to see Greta Thunberg holding up a proverbial mirror and saying, "This is not okay. This is not fair. Please, adults, fix it." In other words, do the work of your own repair so that I don't inherit your trauma. Even though she is talking about the climate crisis, she is an archetype for uncovering the shadow and getting to the root of the problem.
And to be sure, it isn't fair. It's not fair to inherit the ignorance of past generations and be robbed of the pursuit of happiness. Paradoxically it's exactly what our elders and parents were forced to do when they were children, and it's what many of us in recovery do. Maybe the tipping point we are witnessing now will lead to some major evolutionary and spiritual breakthroughs.
Our country, as a collective body, holds deep ruptures that began with the genocide of First Americans, the enslavement of Africans, and every other crime against humanity ingrained in its history. It also holds the trauma of war and scarcity which led to present-day laws and practices that are unsustainable and have put the entire planet in crisis.
Our social nervous system is in need of deep repair. And it's happening! Just look at all the social movements that define this chapter in history.
"Creatives, healers, and empaths are in a time of power" -Kimberly Johnson
Pluto stations direct on Wednesday, making it the most influential planet along with Venus who rules the sun in Libra. Pluto is all about deep, transformational change, and Venus rules relationships and contracts- to ourselves, others, and the world. The bottom line is that by doing the work of recovery and repair NOW, we can become the co-regulators for our ruptured society. The world is in dire need of practical, compassionate approaches for healing systemic trauma, and as always it begins with us.
This blog is unpaid and ad free. Your readership means the world, but if you would like to support my work in a more substantial way you can donate anytime with Paypal or Venmo me @Isabelle_LaFleur