Ep.21 - Cultivating Sanity in Crazy Times | Erika Ruber - Part 1 — In the first episode of a two-part series, Candice sits down with long-time colleague and friend, Erika Ruber. Erika is a psychotherapist, movement facilitator, and trauma-informed educator. Together, they speak openly about the collective mental health challenges we now face, and Erika shares about the group and individual support she has been able to offer her clients throughout the pandemic. She speaks to the practical importance of movement and self-regulation, offering examples of how we can validate ourselves when we are faced with social isolation, existential dilemmas, and/or emotional triggers. Together they explore the subtle-yet-profound difference between ‘being seen’ and being visible in a world of social currency. As a breast cancer survivor, Erika shares about an intimate healing experience she had in Maui, and invites us to re-orient our selves toward embodied self-compassion as a practice. Candice opens up about how somatic therapy was a turning point in her own healing journey and how the power of emotional intelligence has been key to her mental health and healing. The episode wraps up with an example of a triggering moment in Erika's life and how she used the tools of mindfulness to re-orient and practice self-empathy; her story serves as the foundation for Part 2, which will feature a layman’s deep-dive into the nervous system and self-regulation. 

Erika Ruber offers a unique, integrative approach to health and wellness, combining her education in Clinical Social Work with extensive training in movement, dance, and mindfulness. As a psychotherapist, Erika combines a focus on integrating traditional talk therapy with whole body awareness, achieving effective results in helping people to recover, heal, and strengthen themselves and their relationships. As the founder of Emerge Movement, Erika combines mental health with movement, allowing participants to explore what emerges in body, mind, and emotion. Erika worked for years as an individual and group therapist at Morrison Child & Family Services Family Sexual Abuse Treatment Program. She has received training and certification in Sensorimotor psychotherapy, a body centered approach to trauma treatment.  She has developed and implemented a Body Mind wellness curriculum for middle schools and co-created the Mindful Parent and Caregiver Program with Mark Lilly, Founder of Street Yoga. This curriculum teaches everyday skills using movement, yoga, and mindfulness to decrease stress, increase self care, and live more powerfully as a parent and or clinician/social worker. Erika is happily married with two teenage kids in Portland, OR.  She loves being out in nature skiing, hiking, biking, paddling, and playing every chance she gets.

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Ep.21 - Cultivating Sanity in Crazy Times | Erika Ruber - Part 1

Hello, hello. Welcome back to The Deeper Pulse. I'm your host Candice Schutter. Thank you for joining me today. I think most of us would agree that these are some crazy times we are living in. We're entering year three of a global pandemic. We can no longer deny that the climate is in crisis. And now, we're on the brink of a world war in Eastern Europe. This is the shortlist. There's no question, it's a lot to stomach all at once. So it should come as no surprise that our bodies, hearts, and minds are having some trouble metabolizing it all. Or maybe it's just me, so I'll just speak for myself. Now I'll admit I live a pretty privileged existence compared to most. Even so, I've been feeling the weight of collective grief as I do my best to stay informed and be proactive when it comes to the daily news cycle. Violence. Abuse of power. Loss of life. Sadly, this is nothing new. Yet, thanks to online connectivity, we are finally learning it's no longer an option... to simply ignore it. So I have this former client, she's an elder of mine that I admire. She's the daughter of Holocaust survivors, a kind, joyful, conscientious woman with a huge heart and a generous spirit. I thought of her earlier this week when I was steeped in all the feels. I was recalling a session with her a few years back when she described to me her experience of grief. She said, grief is like an invisible bubble on the path ahead of me. It appears out of nowhere. I'm just moving through my day and then suddenly I'm inside of it. It's all encompassing. Everything around me becomes opaque, and it feels in that moment that the pain might just last forever. But with age, I've learned to keep steadily moving myself forward, because I have learned that eventually I will emerge out the other side. I love this description of grief, like a force of nature that we move in and out of. Just like any force of nature, it's unpredictable and certain. We don't always see it coming, and we are humbled by its insistence. So many of us are having this experience, of individual and collective emotions, that we at times find ourselves immersed in. Despair, anger, confusion, helplessness. Each of us must carry ourselves through to the other side. This is the path of human resilience. Some journeys are more difficult than others, but no one is exempt. In this way, tending to our mental health is essential. It not only brings us peace of mind and relief from our suffering. It reorients us toward the present moment so that we can better live our lives in service to the whole. Today's episode is part one in a two part series with another dear friend. Erica Ruber is a psychotherapist, movement facilitator, and trauma-informed educator. She and I have been friends since the early 2000's, when we worked as colleagues in the mind-body fitness world. We've witnessed one another grow and change over the years, every step of the way, sharing a deep passion for embodiment, mindfulness, and livelihood in service to others. Erika has been working as a therapist for over a decade and throughout the pandemic, she has continued working with clients remotely one-on-one, and also via outdoor safe spaces she's created where individuals gather and process their emotions through movement and group support. In today's episode, Erika speaks to us about our ability to respond to strong emotions and these crazy times we're living in, through a combination of mindful awareness, self-compassion, and somatic embodiment. She offers tools that can help us to buoy ourselves and one another, keeping us afloat in the gravest of circumstances as we develop greater strength and resilience over time. Erika and I sat down just a few days ago. We scheduled our talk weeks in advance, and I didn't have plans to release it right away. But in light of the realities we're facing across the globe. It felt right to hustle to get this out sooner rather than later. Before we dig into the content, on behalf of both Erika and myself, I would like to express how much our hearts go out to the people of Ukraine who are suffering violence and injustice. The trauma they face... the trauma that so many individuals around the world continually face under the reign of authoritarian regimes... It is devastating. It is tragic. And it is a call to action. We strongly encourage you to consider donating what you can safely and honorably afford to one of the non-profits we've provided in the episode's show notes. And we urge you to use the tools provided in this episode and the next to ground yourself and find stability as we stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian people. All right, it's time. Erika and I had a really rich discussion and we covered a lot, so I've decided to divide our conversation into two episodes. This is part one. Yay. It's so good to see.

Erika Ruber: 5:43
So good to see you, too. Oh, I'm so thrilled to be here with you.

Candice Schutter: 5:47
Yes, of course. You were one of the first people who came to mind when I thought about, people that I love that I want to connect with and also you're a person that I feel like is a real resource for me and for others during these crazy times that we're in right now, which seem to be getting crazier by the minute. And it just so happens that, just as we're maybe starting to feel a little bit of spaciousness around the COVID pressures and things are starting to open up a little bit, and many of us are beginning to connect and reach out to one another again, we have this massive event happening across the waters with Russia and Ukraine and I know for me the past few days have just been, I've just been carrying a lot of grief in my body. And it feels so perfect that we're having this conversation today in this moment.

Erika Ruber: 6:49
Absolutely. Yeah. It's hard for any of us, I think really, to even get our bearings lately. Like you say, you know, we're just kind of in the space of, of, you know, I think our nervous systems really, of course, throughout this pandemic have just been through the ringer. Right? And just kind of like trying to get a sense of landing again. As a therapist, I think historically, there's a little bit of space, you know. You come in with something in your family of origin or a trauma that's going on and I'm holding space and really here. And what, one thing that's happened in the pandemic of course, and in the world being what it is right now is like, we all are in this right along with each other. So when you mentioned, you know, what's going on in Russia, Ukraine, it's like, I haven't even begun to process it myself. I mean, I think we're all, right, in this place of like... what? And, feeling all the feels right along with everybody, I guess, is the...

Candice Schutter: 7:43
That's a really good point. It's not unpacking something you're not experiencing with people. It's something you're experiencing right alongside them.

Erika Ruber: 7:49
You know, I often say that, from a trauma perspective, we can't start healing trauma until we're safe, until we have safety. And so I think throughout this pandemic, we've really been looking for safety, right? What is safe? When is it safe? Is this safe? Is it not safe? How do we interpret what is safe? And, and then we're hit with another variant. And, and so all of that is really difficult to signal because internally we're doing all this work that we don't even know is happening, right. To try to navigate it. And then as you say, in this greater world context of, of course now this looming you, know, this, this violence and, and war that's broken out and what does it mean? And how do we take this in? And again, this, activation around, am I safe? And is the world safe? And yeah, so we can feel it. And certainly I'm feeling it in, in this room, you know, every, every time someone enters. Everyone, as I've been saying in the pandemic, sort of has their own personal crossroads, then life continues, right? So we have joys and celebrations and losses and divorces and all sorts of things that are just life, you know, and then intersecting with this greater context of isolation and anxiety and fear and unknown. And so it's quite palpable.

Candice Schutter: 9:19
Yeah. It's a lot to reconcile. And in some ways it's unreconcilable. In some ways it's always been true, the both-and. The fact that we need to be able to hold two truths equally. And now I just feel like it's so forefront for so many of us. Like, how do I celebrate my child's 16th birthday while there's a war going on? And I'm feeling the grief and I'm feeling the joy and the expansiveness and how do I make room for all that? And it is such a essential time for us to lean into each other and also to reach for supportive containers, like the space that you provide. And so I'm wondering, you said in this room, this room that you're in. So are you coming to us from your office where you see clients?

Erika Ruber: 10:01
Yes. This is my, my new space opened, opened up just this past fall, which has been a real gift to be back with people mostly, you know. Still doing some telehealth, but for me, being physically with people is a really big part I didn't, you know... I was so grateful to be able to offer support and holding and guidance during the pandemic and really, you know, from home and on tele-health. But, I'm so, so grateful. And, you know, I bring a lot of the body because I do a lot of trauma work and a lot of really nervous system regulation of really paying attention to our body, not just our thoughts, not just what's spinning in our heads and the regurgitating narrative and story, but really bringing it down into what's our body have to say and bringing more of us online. I think is really the, the way I like to work. And so being with people in person really helps me be able to do that.

Candice Schutter: 10:56
Absolutely that's key. Your emphasis on the body comes from being a movement practitioner of many years, which is how you and I met. And gosh, I don't even know how many years ago, probably 18 years ago, I would imagine. Yeah, that sounds right. When I first moved to Portland and this sort of integrative, holistic perspective that you bring to the work that you do, I think is so key. And I know speaking personally for me as somebody who is a survivor of trauma and has been through all sorts of different kinds of therapy, the somatic based perspectives were really the turning point for me in my healing process. And so I just, am getting goosies on my arms just thinking about the potency and the power of really helping people to connect to their body. And we know as movement practitioners and facilitators that we have to become embodied before we can inspire embodiment in others. So maybe do you, would you be willing to tell us a little bit about what led you to marry the work in the way that you do. Was it an organic thing? Was it a conscious choice or did you train in a somatic perspective from the get go?

Erika Ruber: 12:11
I love that question and I love how you stated that, you know, we have to be embodied first. And I just so believe that. We can't do for others, what we can't do for ourselves, kind of thing. And I often say that and firmly believe it. And yeah, it's wild to think about how these paths have become integrated because I do think they were quite organic actually. Really, really so. I have danced my whole life, and so I danced in all sorts of different formats. And then, actually my husband and I moved over to Denmark. That was just something we had wanted to create; we had wanted to move internationally, and I was in this space of not knowing what I was going to do. He had a job over in Copenhagen, and I knew that I just found this movement. And when I looked it up in Europe, I found someone who was in Copenhagen. She wasn't teaching, but she had gone through training. And, you know, I often say it's one of those seed questions. I love those like profound questions that come at the perfect moment. When we met up and we became fast friends and she said to me, well, why don't you teach yourself? I had been really asking her, well, maybe you'll start teaching and just really wanting her to teach so that I could take the class again and be dancing. That's all I wanted. And she said, well, why don't you teach? And it was just one of those moments where time kind of slows down and it just sort of became like this, you know, you can feel it in your body. Like, oh really? It was just sort of never occurred to me, and then from there led me into, you know, a long pathway with that format. And, sort of simultaneously, had been curious, really since, since college for a long time around this path of working with marginalized communities, working in social justice, like how was that going to transpire? And I decided to go back for a master's in social work. And again, wasn't sure how that would unfold and found that my gifts really lied clinically, really working in that micro level with people. Understanding the macro, right, and the framework, but really being you know, connected in this heartspace, was really my gift. And so I, my first job out of graduate school, working at an outpatient mental health clinic with sexually abused kids and families and doing groups in that format, and then having all this movement experience and really having an incredible opportunity there, which was unusual at the time doing outpatient mental health to have leeway to be as creative as I was. My colleagues really encouraging me to bring in the movement, bring in the body. And now we're, we really understand the neurobiology. We have so much science supporting and backing up why the body has to be essential in healing from trauma. But at that time it really was just starting. And it was so exciting that I was given free range to, to bring this in. And I could see, like you have experienced and have said, sort of firsthand how bringing this in was so effective. And fun and joyful and sparked things in people to reconnect to their bodies. It's just where we live in such powerful ways. And so I kept kind of doing this dance, weaving these together throughout my career. And I think, I just have learned to really, really listen deeply to my body. And so in that way, when it was time for me to launch on my own and really continue to explore more concretely how I wanted to offer this work, that was where Emerge Movement was created. The movement is sort of the integration of movement and mental health, but in this way of just allowing what's present to emerge, not only as we show up and step in, but then as we co-create together through dance and movement and coming together in this sacred ritual and then seeing what gift is there through that practice of just not knowing. And it's really how I see therapy, too. You know, I really practice from the place of let's really be with where you're at right now. And, that changes moment to moment really, as we know. So I create all the playlists and I create all the movement in the moment. So I feel like it's kind of this download of energy that happens or an upload, depending, right? It's sort of this mixture of magic and playfulness and everything in between. And then we see what emerges together. We see what transpires. We have a closing circle and an opening circle to honor where we are as we're stepping in, whatever space that may be, and then moving together and the alchemy of what transpires as we move energy. And then a closing circle to see what was experienced, what surfaced, what showed up. And it's really been a gift. It's really been a gift.

Candice Schutter: 17:09
Yeah, it sounds beautiful. It makes me want to jump in with both feet and have the experience... and so you, so tell us a little bit about like what you've seen in terms of people showing up to this and what transpires and how is it supporting people in holding all of this and releasing what needs to be released?

Erika Ruber: 17:32
Oh yeah, it's been really profound, you know, starting up again... And of course having had to stop completely, like most people in most spaces in the pandemic, and then starting back up last spring, last March of 2021. And just meeting out at a park that actually at my kids' elementary school, like in the playground on Saturday mornings. And little by little, what was cool is that it was like people would just bring neighbors and bring friends and people would be walking their dogs and ask to join in and they would join in. So again, in this space that I really love of being so organic and just so expansive and inviting. You know, inclusive, right? Whoever needs and wants to be there. And it seems like the energy that surfaced last spring, as one of the times, you know, here we are re-emerging yet again, but one of the times that we were starting to re-emerge and maybe this was safe and we could dance outside and we'd be distanced. And, even in that beginning circle, as we went around and I lead a little bit of a somatic inquiry, a little mindfulness exercise, just to find out where am I at as we step in? Where is my body at? Where am I emotions at? Where's my head space? And just to notice without judging, right? Just that was so profound as we went around and people were given the opportunity to say, you know, "I'm Mary and I'm in deep grief." And "I'm Susan and I am excited this morning." And I'm what, whatever it was. Right? And that we could hold space together. And that when we release the judgment and when we bring this permission and this allowing, it's really profound, I mean, just that. It's okay. And it's okay, whatever is here is okay. And let's allow that to move through. You know, dance is one of the oldest rituals we have, right. The world over. And so to come together in community and move to music and sound and whatever transpired, this playfulness and, you know, it's really, it's a state change. It's what in the trauma world, we would call a state change. You know, we come in in a certain way and we move the energy and then something transpires and we don't know exactly what that's going to be. Right? But we allow for what needs to come through, to come through. And we can't always do that verbally. We can't always do that in this linear kind of fashion. And so I think the movement taps into a different part of our brain that allows for that process.

Candice Schutter: 20:16
Yes. Well said, yeah. It's the language of the body as its own fluency to learn. Right?

Erika Ruber: 20:25

Candice Schutter: 20:26
As I'm hearing you, two things jumping out at me. One being the opportunity to name our experience, to bring it from the inside to the outside is in itself powerful. It's an alchemy in a way that we don't fully understand. Like, why is that the case? It's it's... like, I think a lot of times people think, oh, we're going to therapy to be fixed. And when in fact in many ways we're going to be witnessed and held, right? And so whether it's in a therapeutic setting or whatever setting it is, I'm hearing you say having a space and a place we can go to be witnessed where we can simply name our experience out loud is really important and has proved to really support people during this time. So that doesn't have to be a therapeutic space, right? In terms of folks who say, I don't have... I live in the sticks, and it's a small town and I don't have a place like you provide to go to, to be witnessed in that way. What are some strategies for people who don't have access to those sorts of containers or it doesn't speak to them to be witnessed in that way?

Erika Ruber: 21:37
Hmm. That's a really good question. Because I do think that's true that that people have to listen to what resonates for them, right? And, and how they can be witnessed. And I think for me personally, some ways that I access that and have seen others access that, besides in a therapeutic space or in a movement space would be, you know, out in nature. I think nature provides the most, I mean, it's the mother container, right? It is the original container. It is going back to that source. And it's incredibly therapeutic to be in that vast place of nature and what she offers, whether sitting by a river or taking a walk in the woods, you know, those things I think can really bring us back to that calm, grounded place and offer a space to be reflected internally. To give us time to just kind of be with ourselves in that way to hold the container, if you will, internally. You know, what is here, what is present? Meditation is another space that I think of, just sitting in that quiet and really giving time for what's internal to have some space, to just breathe with it. Writing, I think writing can be, I always think of writing as a... as an incredible way to organize ourselves, right. When we have big experiences going on, it's just giving witness in this way of like, okay, what are the different parts? What's what's happening here? And so that can be another, another space maybe.

Candice Schutter: 23:15
Yeah. Feeling in my body, how each of those things, quite literally, that you listed are the things that carried me through the hardest parts of quarantine. Particularly my time in nature every morning, like clockwork. And it's interesting, as you were speaking, I was thinking about how I've been feeling the last couple of days, and life has been such that I haven't been able to get out and walk the last two mornings. And I'm feeling that lack of spaciousness inside. Right? And it's like even, and a lot of times it's a combination of things, even though I have sat in meditation each morning, it's like we each have to find our own sort of inner choreography that works for us. And then in time it's going to change and shift and that's not going to work, and then we have to reorganize and reorder. If like it is... what is a thing that you can go do or not do that will create a sense of spaciousness so that you can access the witness. And what I'm hearing is, while you could sit with other people witnessing you can also witness yourself and make room. I love that.

Erika Ruber: 24:21
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And I do, I think it is sort of the key element. When I try to distill down what happens in this therapeutic space. People come in this, this office right here with all sorts of different, you know... well, I'm feeling anxious and I'm overwhelmed. Or I'm feeling depressed. Or my marriage is falling apart. Or, I wanna understand my family of origin better, my past trauma. You know, at the end of the day, the uniting factor is I want to be seen. I want to be seen in my experience, right? I want to be held in a space where there isn't judgment, where there isn't an expectation. Where there is space just to be seen. Just again, like you say, the power of naming, just to name and to be validated and held, this is true. This is accurate. This is, this is mine. And then we can start to understand it, unpack it, put it together in ways that make more sense to the person. Let them guide it. Um, but it's really, it is so profound.

Candice Schutter: 25:29
Yeah. As I'm hearing you say this, I'm thinking about something I've had to learn the hard way over and over again, especially in this attention is currency clickbait economy that being seen and being visible are two different things. Right? And, and that, I think it's really important for us to just take a minute and highlight that. And to say, being seen as we are. Like, to me being seen has a sense of spaciousness around it. Whereas being visible is... It serves its own purpose, and yet it's very different. I think we can get confused about... I feel like I'm having this, this deep yearning inside to be seen, and so I'm going to post on Facebook and then I'm going to check every five minutes to see how many people liked or loved my post, and I'm going to base how I feel on the feedback that I get and this visibility. And there's this sense of like, I'm striving to be seen. And visibility, visibility doesn't always give us that feeling of being seen, right?

Erika Ruber: 26:32
Yeah. That's a really, that's a really good distinction. Yeah. And I don't think we really know the impact of that yet. You know, the culture we've created around that. You and I can understand some of those differences, but when I look at my kids or generations growing up with this and, you know, then what does that mean? And how do we start to develop that those pathways that are wired for, this is how I get my validation or whatever it is. Um, yeah. Yeah.

Candice Schutter: 27:03
It's tricky sticky stuff.

Erika Ruber: 27:04
It sure is, it sure is tricky, sticky. That's right.

Candice Schutter: 27:10
So the other piece I hear you saying, just to circle back to the Emerge work is around this movement piece. I feel like it's important for us to also underscore this piece around, moving the energy out. Emotion, energy in motion. Finding an outlet for that energy is key. Like to use a tangible example. When I walk in the morning, I strive to walk for at least five miles and it's not because I have a ticker and I'm counting calories. It's because I know how much exertion I need to spend what's sort of sticky and gummed up inside of me emotionally and energetically. And if I move that energy and my heart rate gets high enough. If I breathe heavily enough, if I sort of purge the energy enough, I don't need to unpack it in my head at all. I just let it kind of pour out. Then I feel again, that spaciousness. So in a way, I'm wondering if you see it as movement in some ways creates this spaciousness for us to witness ourselves. Or how would you describe the relationship between the movement piece and the witnessing?

Erika Ruber: 28:18
I think they work sort of interchangeably. Where the movement gives us space and the space can give us room for the movement if you will. Right? And I, I think what you said is true, it doesn't always happen cognitively. And so, you know, we default to our narrative, right? And so, I think pausing people in their narrative and checking in with their body, allows space to examine more mindfully, right? What are these conditioned parts? What are the parts that are, you know, we we're always reinforcing something, right? Our behavior, our thoughts, we just we're always practicing. And what we practice, we get good at. And so the ways we learn to survive, the ways we move through the world, the ways we're trained and conditioned, we don't have to judge them. It's like, they're kind of working for us or not working for us, you know? And so when we start to notice that... again, that's the mindfulness, then we can give space to kind of rearrange it. If we, if we kind of pause and kind of come inward and notice those small sensations, notice the tears that want to come, or the rapid heart rate, that gives us a whole avenue, a whole portal into another space, and it just kind of gets more of us online.

Candice Schutter: 29:34
I love that so much. One of the benefits of tuning into the body is... in some ways we escape the meaning that we give everything, and we just get right to the source of the discomfort or the emotion, the root of it. And as somebody who can intellectualize until the cows come home. I have a very analytical mind. For me, finding movement and tapping into the body, it was the first time I really listened to myself. I could hear my brain all the time. It was exhausting, but when I learned to listen to the body, even when I didn't have... actually, in some ways it was better when I didn't have language to wrap around it because I wasn't, it wasn't as easy to attach to the narrative that you're speaking about. Right, right. So it was like, all I have is the sensation. I don't know where it's coming from. I don't need to make up a story about it. I can just directly respond to that sensation. Whether it's by letting myself cry. Whether it's by shouting in the middle of the desert. Whether it's stretching on the floor, whatever it is. And this piece though, I think that is so critical to the work that you do and why it's so helpful to people is this piece around not curling up around it, but letting the energy move through the body so that it doesn't become yet another thing to identify with, right?

Erika Ruber: 31:07
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I like that imagery of curling up around it because we do, we get, so we get stuck in it, right. I always say like, emotion moves. Emotion doesn't last. It comes and it goes. Thoughts come and they go. But when we, when we kind of like latch onto it and we just clamp down. We regurgitate or we obsess, or we go into these loops that create the stuckness. And when we can back up and take a pause and take a breath and again, use our witness, our observing mind and just notice and back up from it now, again, there's that beautiful spaciousness. When you were speaking about some of your early healing in the body, I thought about one of the most profound healing experiences that I had, an experience I had in Maui. So, I'm a breast cancer survivor and I had the opportunity to go with an incredible organization that I now am involved with and volunteer with called Project Koru, and Project Koru brings young adult cancer survivors on these outdoor adventure camps and to provide healing and connection and a survivorship opportunity. And it's an incredible organization. And I had the opportunity to go with them to Maui and learn to surf about nine months after my breast cancer. And it was, as you might imagine, it felt like the, you know, just this incredible golden ticket after just so much turmoil and hardship. And Project Koru has incredible connections after doing camps there for all these years with the local community. And there is a man there, an elder in the local Maui community by the name of Kimo Kao and Kimo Kao is just this incredible resource on the island. He does a lot of spiritual work and work with different groups, and he came and worked with our group one day. And he had us on a circle on the beach, in these very sacred native lands that I think you can pretty much only go to if, if you have a connection. He brought us there. And it was really potent just to be in this incredible, this fishpond that had a lot of roots in his culture. And he started chanting and singing in his native language, and I understood nothing of what he said. And I can't describe for you, Candice, really what started to transpire. It was something about the setting, about his presence, about standing together with fellow survivors with our feet in this pond together, that I started to feel a loosening internally, that as he looked in my eyes and he then went around the circle and gave us each a blessing. Again, not in English, so I didn't understand again, in this cognitive way, anything that he was saying. But I took it in, in my body and I felt this, you know, I don't know about a final, but there was something remaining energetically in my body after my breast cancer. And I had done a lot of different sort of healing work, you know, medically and otherwise to kind of get where I was, but there was something in that zone that he created. And, you know, sometimes it's just unexplained. There was something in the intention, I mean, I think a lot of it is the intention. He created a healing circle. He intended to bring what he knew of all of his healing work on the island and in those magical waters, and he brought it to us very mindfully, very intentionally and consciously. And it was really a beautiful, beautiful thing.

Candice Schutter: 34:54
It sounds like it, what a perfect illustration of the way that the body speaks its own language. And I think for many people, some of these things are held in sort of this woo light. And again, nothing, no judgment there, I splashed around in the woo, explored it quite a bit myself. And what I'm finding is the more I grow and learn, and the more that, the sciences began to catch up... that there are actually... there are explanations for many of these experiences when you... Which is kind of where I want to go next, is this conversation around the nervous system and, and is it, is it this magic energy infusion? Maybe it's a both-and, maybe it is. And it's also the ability to attune and, um, it's not really a transmission so much as an attunement with the people around. To bring the sense of healing and in through one's own body and connect to another human. And it may be that 10, 20 years from now, this will be able to be explained through scientific modules, but we know it when we feel it and when we experience it, when we've been changed by being in the company of someone. We know when we sit across from someone and something, something is happening and it's not so much about a hierarchy of them healing us. It's about the synergy of connecting and what can come through that connection. I think in some ways, my suspicion is at least in my experience of it is it does have to do with someone's ability to hold a certain steadiness so that my nervous system can attune to it. And also the sense of intuition, this ability to connect to our own guidance being activated, and there's this emotional intelligence that is like pulled online.

Erika Ruber: 36:46

Candice Schutter: 36:46
Like we understand, and we know how to care for ourselves internally. It's just that we have become so accustomed to entraining with energies outside of us that don't know anything about that because our culture has never made that a priority. And so when we encounter someone who has the ability to stay connected to their own and embody that's that... like we were talking about, you have to embody before you can inspire embodiment. If they embody that, we entrain with it and it's not to say that we follow their guidance. It's very much the opposite. It tunes us into our own, right? And there's this sense of, oh, this was available to me all the time. So you're being reminded or re-bodied what this intelligence that you have inside of you is capable of whether you can wrap language around it or not doesn't make it any less potent. Right. It's just, we have to learn to trust that, which we don't have language around.

Erika Ruber: 37:42
Yeah, really well said. Yeah, I think that is absolutely right on. I think there, I think, you know, I really find that I'm in the business of helping people get into their bodies, right? And like you say, why is that important? Well, when we tune into so strongly the world around us, which is easy to do, like you say, get pulled in, right? And there's...

Candice Schutter: 38:09
Especially nowadays.

Erika Ruber: 38:10
Especially nowadays. There's things flying at us all the time. And we, when we are in a life of chasing things outside of ourselves, you know, what we should do or what's expected of us, or even the validation and praise, you know, any of that... It really, at the end of the day, it doesn't matter because it's not inside of us. It's just, we don't, we don't own it. We don't belong to it. And so then we're just outside of ourselves and we chase it and we chase it and then we chase the next thing. And so it starts with turning the volume down on that, that is outside of us and starting to tune in... what is here? Why? Because we live here. Because at the end of the day, when we understand that people that have everything... why do we see that in the public eye, people that have everything that are horribly depressed or these things that don't line up, they don't sync up, because they're not aligned. So it's that alignment of when I tune deeply internal, and we know it, we know when we're in our own lives, when you think of a time when you've been most in your flow and we come and go from it, it's not a perfect system. And for any of us, right? There are times when I've been incredibly out of alignment and on what I think of as detours, right? And I know that because it's not resonating internally and that's often when I see people, right. Or when I need to go and get the support for myself. But when I start to listen is when I can realign. When I start to put the pieces back together, that directs me... this inner direction, rather than from the outside. And so, it's something that I think is cool is being taught more now in schools. You know, I see with my own kids, obviously, they have me and they, they probably roll their eyes, I'm sure, at a lot of what I teach them, because that's the nature of the beast. But none the less...

Candice Schutter: 40:03
Cause you're mom.

Erika Ruber: 40:04
Cause I'm their mom and that's that. But they learn it, you know, it's cool. They have these curriculums and in school. Mindfulness and yoga and all these ways that I think we are starting to teach the importance of that listening as a guide and as a resource, which is huge. It's not something that... I certainly did not grow up with.

Candice Schutter: 40:27
Oh my gosh, no, and what, what a different journey it would have been, right?

Erika Ruber: 40:31

Candice Schutter: 40:32
Yeah. To begin learning about all of that in my twenties, late twenties, you know, was, yeah. And to know that there's this whole other generation who, in some ways we can look at the world and say, oh my heavens, look, what they have to deal with. And at the same time, they're more equipped and, and teaching and offering programs like this... and even more importantly, modeling, modeling this self-connection and getting to that point where you can become a point of entrainment for your children and for, for other people's children and for the world around us. Like if we invest in this personally and socially, which is what I would really love to see, if there was an emphasis on making these social programs that are available to all individuals, so that it's not such a privileged experience to learn about mindfulness and to, to know about nervous system regulation. Like I so many times thought that I was going crazy, which is the words we... I got air quotes going on here. Like, we feel so crazy when we don't understand what our body's telling us. It's the most crazy-making thing in the world, because we know deep down in our bones that it's supposed to be speaking to us and that we need to be listening. And when we don't understand the signals we're getting, it does feel a little crazy making, right? If we, we have to give people opportunity to learn that language. And I just love the work that you do because, and this is where I want to go next is talking about these trauma imprints and how they impact the way that the body speaks to us. And how do we negotiate the way that our body speaks to us about our past experiences and the present? And it can get very confusing, right? Because we can have a reaction that really isn't about what's going on around us. It's about something deeper. And, I feel like you're going to be able to speak to this so much better than I can. But what role do you feel like, in light of everything we were just talking about, the nervous system plays and our relationship to our nervous system plays in all this in the healing and the connecting to our own inner guidance?

Erika Ruber: 42:50
Well, I think it's huge, right? Because if we, you know, I often say, trauma at its root is, or a traumatic response is a really normal reaction to an abnormal event. So just that language of knowing, oh, my body's responding the way it's supposed to. You know, and that education just first and foremost, is so essential, right? When we experience the threat of loss of life or the perceived loss of life, or disconnection from ourself and, and a traumatic event, our body responds the way it's intended to respond the world over. Right? Our nervous system starts... our brain, right, first starts to signal differently, by design. And so our thinking brain, our cognitive brain, our rational brain goes offline, so our primitive brain can operate. And the neurochemicals that tell us to fight or to flight or to freeze, are in play. And that is by design. And that is helpful. That helps us survive. Now, what happens is then when we are triggered, years later, or months later, or whatever it is when something reminds us in whatever way of that event or of a piece of that event... and sometimes it's very conscious and concrete. Sometimes it's very obvious what that is. And sometimes not. I think the crazy-making ones are when we don't know right away what it is. And so I often say, when a response to something is bigger than what is warranted... we can see this in ourselves and we can see it in others, when there's a big response that doesn't meet the scenario at hand, I know that, okay, something more is at play. And so while this what's happening right here, what's transpiring in the here and now is something, it's being compounded and the volume is turned way up because of past experiences. And once we know that, just through again, mindful awareness to start to understand what might remind us and to just, just even knowing that, then likely I need to pause and I need to step back. I need to take a breath and I need to start to look at what is happening. And sometimes I say, can I tease apart? Can I start to just again, you said it before, how profound just naming something. When I name, I am being triggered right now. And I can tease that apart. And my whole nervous system starts to calm, right? So, because my sympathetic nervous system, it's going back to that same place of fight, flight, or freeze. As I peel it back through my intention and awareness, I can start to get my parasympathetic nervous system online. I can start to do some calming breaths. I can start to feel my body again and now, and only now, can I begin to regulate? So the first step is awareness. Well, the first step really is pausing and then gaining the awareness. And then, what can I do to get more of me back online in the here and now, right? Um, what I think happens a lot, you know, out in the world or in a clinical space is we stay up here and we're, we're trying to talk through what's happening. When what we need to do is pause and get back in the body. Cause we need to get our full brain back online. Right? We need to orient to the here and now and recognize what's happened. And then I think giving ourselves a ton, like lathering on the self compassion, I think is so critical, right? Because that, self-compassion... what we often do is we judge it. What we often do immediately, and I hear this all the time and you even said it. It's like, there's this place of like, oh my God, am I crazy? I must be fricking nuts, right? And so there's this tendency of like, what is going on? Or even like, God, I know this, or I thought I was over this. And instead, can we just notice it? And if we can avoid that judgment and criticism, and if we can just notice it and say, "oh honey, oh honey. I see you. oh, this is what's happening." Just that tenderness. It calms the whole system. It's an incredible way of letting everything come back to a baseline. Through that compassionate through that tenderness.

Candice Schutter: 47:26
That was beautifully expressed. Thank you for that. So this self-compassion piece, would you say that it's a tool that helps us to bring the parasympathetic online? Or how would you describe that?

Erika Ruber: 47:40
I'll give an example. Can I give a personal example? Cause I think some of this can get real heady and it's like, I love to give examples and I love when clients give me examples. I work in the concrete cause that's when it comes to life. Right? So, as you know, I had this big ski accident two years ago and blew out my knee, you know, tore my ACL and meniscus, and I spent a long time healing my knee. And about a year ago, I started back into Nordic skiing. I didn't get back to downhill skiing until this winter, but even when I went back a year from this accident back to being on the mountain where the accident happened, um, I was really, I was terrified to be honest. I was just so terrified, just that this could potentially happen again, that what might happen here. This was during the pandemic and, because of the distance learning, I would take my son and drop him in his friends at the downhill at mountain, and I would go to Nordic ski. And so it was during the week, it was in the asynchronistic school days. So that means I was often by myself as my point, cause it would be mid-week. And so then that was also a little terrifying because what if something did happen? And I would be by myself, and who would help me? And I could feel my whole body was rigid. And what I started to do, I noticed was like, God, you know, get a grip. I could hear myself in this narrative of like, get it together. Like, you're fine, you're strong, you've done all this work. What is wrong with you? And your only Nordic skiing, you're not even on the mountain. You're not even downhill skiing. And I just, I remember the first morning I went out, and I kind of played this script and I wasn't completely aware of it. All I was aware of was that my body was tight, and I was scared, and I was trying not to be, and that was about it. And then as I went throughout the day, I started to do what I advise people to do. Luckily in that moment, I started to kind of notice, wait a minute. I started to pause and that helped me to notice, what is happening here? And I noticed the script that I was saying, and I started to acknowledge that I was being triggered. I was activated. My body and my nervous system were on high alert on high alarm, because this is the site of where the accident happened. And I'd spent a year now in a fair amount of pain and two surgeries and a lot of PT, and I didn't want it to happen again. And so I, I started to recognize, again, just recognize just accurately naming what was happening. And through that, I then started to understand that I was being triggered and that right here and now, what was happening? Yes, I am strong and I am ready for this. And I started to take some deep breaths and I started to really, again, layer that self compassion. Like, yeah, this makes sense. Of course you're scared. Of course you're terrified, honey, right? I always throw in the honey. Cause everyone wants to be called hunny. Right? It's like, of course. This makes sense. It's okay. Look around you. You love this. You love being on the mountain, right? Like, take it in you're. Yes, you're by yourself. But you're like in what you love this incredible solitude. And I started to look around and I started to take in the snow and the trees and the sunshine and my breath. And my voice of kind self compassion, loving compassion that said it makes all the sense in the world that you are scared. It's okay. It's okay. This makes sense. And all of those things combined, right? The pausing, the mindfulness, the breathing, and the change in the voice of bringing in the self-compassion, rather than the criticism started to melt away. It started to literally loosen my body and free my mind and open my heart, and I was skiing. And then, practicing that then regularly. Cause again, we practice and then that gets reinforced. Then over time, that led me to this year on the mountain being back at downhill, right? So it's little, little baby steps, which I didn't know that I would do. But that was an experience. And it's it's um, you know, I don't want to say benign. It's an experience that is physical, but very emotional was way more emotional than it was physical at that point. And so, yeah. And so that, that was an example of me using it and really seeing it in action, like, oh, that worked. Yeah.

Candice Schutter: 52:06
Yes, yes. It's such a relatable example, that's what I love about it. And really the practicing of self-regulation happens in regular moments so that when we're faced with a pandemic or all of the terrors of the news cycle that we're reading, whatever it is that we have practiced in these mundane moments where we're triggered in a small way, and we practice these things and then we're able to lean into those practices when it gets a little more challenging. Tune in next week for part two of my conversation with Erika. Here's a sneak peek at what's to come.

Erika Ruber: 52:51
When we're sitting and binge watching Friends, and we're saying to ourselves, I'm going to give myself this break. And the world is heavy and I'm going to take this evening or this day or whatever it is and enjoy it and rest for a little bit and check out for a little bit. So that, guess what? Now I've done it. And so now I'm resourced and ready to come back.

Candice Schutter: 53:13
Yes. quick postscript to this week's call. As, you know, due to the pandemic, there's been a seismic shift toward digital platforms when it comes to communication, education, entertainment, and yes, mental health support. There are now a number of online resources available for people struggling with isolation and mental health challenges, and a face to face services are limited where you are, or if you prefer to stay close to home for any reason whatsoever, we strongly urge you to explore them. If you or someone you know is in need of support, seek the help of a professional. Consider online therapy or search for a group support network on the web. For best results, only follow the guidance of trained and qualified mental health professionals. And remember, while your mental health is, of course, your responsibility, it also relies heavily on your access to resources, education, community support, and shared accountability. Never forget. You are loved. You matter. And you are not alone. Erika and I will be back next week. Until then, breathe deep, tend to your precious heart, and be kind to one another. Big, big love. Ciao.

© The Deeper Pulse, Candice Schutter