Alive and Awake: part two



How could I know that what Gail Larsen shared would change me so profoundly?

She said to speak from the body; that the body remembers everything that ever happened to you; that it knows every detail of your stories. When you speak from the body, what wants to be said will be said. She said,

“The body has all the details. Just move and you’ll know them.”

Standing in front of the group on the first night of the retreat, I let her words sink in.

The body remembers. Everything.

There was a subtle sinking down in. The mind relaxed just a bit, realizing that something else knew ‘how’ to do this, how to speak truth, experience, and wisdom in the moment.

I began to tell a story from my life. I could feel the words coming up from the body, as if they were ripe for the picking. The body was ready, willing and able. The words wanted to be said. That’s the best way I can describe it.

As I relaxed into the process of speaking in this way, the story flowed. Laughter came, tears trickled down, meaning arose, and synchronicity happened. The story happened in two parts, seven years apart. But in the telling of it, these separate instances, and the third instance of now (the moment of telling) merged together into one fluid river of experience. As I spoke of time being a fluid river running together, time showed us, in the room there in Santa Fe, that there is no time, there is only now, a fluid coming and going of experience.

Beginning at the beginning

On a Friday afternoon, I landed in Albuquerque, and headed up to Santa Fe by shuttle. I’d never been to New Mexico. I was there to attend Gail Larsen’s Transformational Speaking Immersion, along with five other women brought together by Danielle LaPorte. I knew this was going to be a powerful time, a time of transformation, but I couldn’t even begin to imagine just how much I would change from my time in Santa Fe.

When I received the invitation from Danielle, I didn’t hesitate one moment. I had already read about Gail, and had known I would work with her at some point. From what I knew of Danielle, I knew the five other people she would bring together would be those who are interested in truth-telling – my kind of people. And, I wasn’t wrong.

In anticipation of the time in Santa Fe, I thought a great deal about what I wanted to come away with. I’ve had a vision for some time of speaking in front of large audiences about women and their worth, about the sacred feminine and how women are the embodiment of this sacred presence. I knew I wanted to learn how to speak in the moment.

Santa Fe

Santa Fe
Santa Fe

This day in mid-January was cold with a bright blue sky and clear air. I settled into my room, and then went down to check out the lodge. I decided to get a workout in before dinner. I know that deep inner-work needs a healthy dose of body movement. I would make sure, over these four days, that I moved my body a lot, through dance, yoga and walking.

Over the four days together, Gail would lead us deep into speaking from the body. In a beautiful and supportive container, we learned so much about what we’re here to say, what our ‘original medicine’ is (that which others experience from being with us), and the structure from which to create any talk that will captivate and hold an audience.  Gail’s work brings you to the intersection of “your authentic self and life experience – where your power as a speaker emerges.”

The first time I stood in front of the group to speak, what had been high-flying nerves became a smooth, deep source of power. I can’t begin to explain how that happened, other than I trusted my body to know what wanted to be said. Yes, it was that simple. It’s not as if there were no nerves. I was still a bit nervous, but I stood in front of the group and listened deeply to what was right there inside me, right there all around me, right there wanting to be said.

In my experience, speaking this way is about telling the stories out of which wisdom naturally arises. The body remembers the story and the story offers up the wisdom. And that is what I experienced.

This is exciting. To have experienced this, means I now embody it. Any time I speak, or write, or share in front of a group of people, I now know, deep in the bones, that everything will emerge from the truth the body holds; and, even more important is the truth of what I experienced. In the moment, in any moment, all of what is needed is already here; and, it is found by way of the body. The body holds our instincts, our intuition, our power and our wisdom. The body is the vessel through which the soul expresses.

Sharing Here What I Shared, There

So, I’ll share that first story with you here, just as I shared it in Santa Fe.

On a warm day in 1991, my husband, my daughters and I, arrived on the Stanford University campus. We were there to help my older daughter move into her freshman dorm. All of seventeen, she was arriving at Stanford to begin her studies.

As we walked across the campus, we happened to pass by the clock tower as it was striking on the hour. We stopped to listen, and in that moment I felt an overwhelming urge to be a student there, at Stanford. Now, at this time, I was 34. I had my daughter at 17, and had consciously chosen to not go to college while my children were young, so that I could be there completely for them, and so I could enjoy my years of motherhood.

Once they were a bit older, I had started courses at the local Jr. College, taking one class a semester at night. I’d been doing this on and off for four years at this point, and I knew I would eventually transfer to a four-year college. But of course, the dream to attend a prestigious university such as Stanford was just that … a dream.

So here we were, the four of us, standing at the clock tower listening to it chime. I spoke my urge aloud to my husband, Gary. “Honey, what I would give to be a student here, someday.” And his reply? “Then, I bet you will be. Just trust that it can happen.” I responded to his positive image, with a somewhat more futile one, “As if that could happen. I’m 34. There’s no way.”

As the clock finished its announcement, we began to walk on, arriving a few moments later at her dorm. We dropped her off to begin her college life, and left for home.

Seven Years Later

I’m walking across the Stanford campus, alone. No longer do my husband and daughters surround me. Gary died, suddenly, three years before, my older daughter has graduated and is in graduate school, my younger daughter is away at school on the East Coast.

As I walk, I hear a clock chiming. I look up and there it is: the same clock tower chiming the same bells. I’m stunned into silence. You see, I’m there to attend new student orientation as a non-traditional transfer student.

Suddenly, time conflates and I am both here and there: here as a student, back there as a mother. In this moment, there is no time. It all meshes into one fluid river, punctuated by the striking of the clock.

Back to Santa Fe

Here, in the same fluid river, I’m standing in front of these beautiful women in a small, sacred container in Santa Fe. As I reach this part of my story where time conflates, just yards away from where I stand, the clock tower in the historic chapel on the grounds of The Bishop’s Lodge begins to strike the hour…with bells.

There is a palpable sense of presence that takes my breath away. In this moment, there is no moment. There is simply the fluid all flowing together. I’m stunned into understanding.

The body is the portal to all experience. From within the body, we have access to the totality of life.

The body breathes.

The body knows.

The body awaits.


And, you?

I’d love to know your experiences of the body, of its wisdom, and of how it speaks to you and through you. If you feel called to, please share here in the comments.


This is part two of a three-part series on embodiment. You can read part one, here. I look forward to sharing the last part with you.

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16 Replies to “Alive and Awake: part two”

  1. Julie, this brought me to tears. What a beautiful story – a mother, a child, a husband, supporting your dream even after he’s gone. I’m speechless – but in that good rich way that we hold our words inside, in the body where they will become our own stories. Thank you, my friend.

  2. Julie,

    Thank you for sharing this, both because I’m going to Gail’s workshop in 2 weeks (yeah!), and because, I too have had to come home to the body. For years, I was always nervous speaking in a group, always feeling 5 minutes late, and ‘not together’. Recently, I was in a gathering, everyone was speaking their intentions clear and powerful. I wasn’t sure what I was going to say. And I was sort of okay with it, because experience had taught me, that I sink in, and something that feels right will come out, even if my heart is pounding like crazy in my heart.

    After, a woman came up to me after and said this: “You are so in the moment, you don’t sit around and prepare what to say, you are truly present to everyone and then you naturally let it flow from you. This is how everyone wants to be, like you!”

    I was very surprised. This ‘weakness’ I’d struggled with forever, I could suddenly begin to see as a strength. A strength I now see that I use in most of my doings – whether writing, working with intimately, intensely with a photo client or even, dancing or with a group. I feel a strange relief to think of it as a strength, and that I (and I bet most of us) now can lean into my body, when ever I’m called for to show up.

    xo, lone

  3. My embodiment path has been an unfoldment I could have never planned. This life-giving river we stream from has its own timing, plan and generosity. Today I am grateful to have this body with which to explore and experience life. While it is a temporary garment, it is woven from the divine web and I can only bow and treasure its mysterious marvels. Yes, at times I would prefer the realms of ethers and space, but this is not the time for those dimensions for me. Now is the time to invoke full surrender, wholehearted humility and a measure of lightheartedness as we dance our way through the times at hand. I appreciate the beauty of this blog, Alive and Awake, and I embrace the body as a vehicle of grace.

  4. Julie: it was not only a deep pleasure to be with you as this material emerged, but it had another effect–I felt myself drop into MY body. You are a marvel to witness.
    As far as my body–I find that my most profound moments of understanding come when I am working in and through my body. Working in my body looks like walking, sweating, (apparently shooting skeet) and hoola hooping–I get this rush of acute vision–am able to move way from saboteur language and move into YES much more easily.
    Working through my body looks like dreaming. I feel I’m in a kind of spirit/cosmic-connected embodiment that allows me to tap into another voice. A deeper me-voice. And WOW, the results are really moving.
    Thank you for the reminder and for leading us into the body and into the truth.

  5. Julie
    Your story struck me profoundly on many levels but mostly on the energetic level. It reminded me of a very similar energetic experience – not so much connected to the body – but more focused on the ‘time’ aspect of your story. You see I don’t believe time is linear – I believe we live in the eternal now.
    My story occurred last summer AND simultaneously 7 years ago. Last Summer I experienced a major breakdown. It was the culmination of perhaps 12 long years of serious spiritual practise, sleep deprivation with a young baby, trauma from physical abuse and the stress of just trying to hold it all together being a single mum.
    I hit the depths of depression and was really struggling for any light, any thread, any will to live. Yes I have an adorable son, but at that moment even he didn’t seem reason enough for me to live. Luckily at the depths I reached out to a very close and psychic friend and we entered a journey together. We sat in her kitchen and just chatted – you have to understand that when we chat we seem to open the doorways to other dimensions. During the chat she suggested that I needed some daily ritual to hold me to this world. I shared my urge to shave my head again. And then suddenly it all came flooding back to me, the initiation I had received 7 years earlier. I had been initiated into the Sannyas order in India. I had my head shaved and I committed my life to renunciation and the liberation of my spirit. But 6 months later I had left the ashram, and India, and was forever haunted by that initiation – wondering why did I get initiated if only to leave?
    Finally, in my friends kitchen, 7 years later – with me on the cusp of suicide I GOT IT! The initiation was exactly for that point in my life, 7 years later! That was what I was committing to: to stay, to live, to take up my mantle and struggle past this deepest, darkest point in my life. Suddenly the two worlds merged into one and I got it, I got it. That initiation was what saved my life – exactly when I needed it – 7 years later.
    In that moment the universe was perfectly aligned and I glimpsed beyond the veil of time and space and saw how beautifully choreographed life really is.

  6. Dear Julie, I find myself always looking forward to your writing. I think what struck me the most about this post was the way you treated grief and success and dream fulfillment by granting each of those themes the space it deserved and simultaneously weaving a narrative of your life that feels deliberate, chosen, and in alignment with your wishes. It broke my heart to read that your husband did not live to see Julie the Stanford Student (esp. because my own father passed away before seeing his daughter at Harvard), but I drew delight from how you have continued to march on proudly towards your dreams and have encouraged the rest of us to do the same. Thank you.

  7. This is such a touching story. Mine is similar. But also a reminder of the strength of the body to remember things.

    I was pretty young when my mother died. It wasn’t sudden – three long years of her being sick and watching her grow weaker wasn’t how I anticipated spending my teenage years. After she died, I didn’t go to our beach house for two years. Our beach house was simple: two bedrooms, kitchenette, lounge, right by one of the best surf beaches in New Zealand. We were surrounding by huge houses that must take weeks to clean. I finally went back there two years after my mum died. I remember standing by the back door, jimmiying with the jammed lock, when suddenly my body remembered being there, four years ago with my mother standing impatiently behind me and my sister unloading the car hoping we could get to the beach. Everything, the smell of the house, the sand, the way my mother touched my shoulder. It all came back and I felt at peace. Bodies remember these things when our brains can’t.

  8. bells. fluidity. merging. woven. body as memory. body as truth. body as witness. body as keeper.body as vessel for soul. jewels, i love this layered story beautifully told from and by your cells.

  9. Like Amy, I am moved to tears. Tears for you. Tears for me. Tears for our bodies as they hold on to everything, everything – memories that are ours, not ours, ancient, recent. Tears of relief and release for the letting go…

  10. What a beautiful and moving piece to write. I do believe our bodies know everything too-I too have had moments of spiritual openings where my rational mind has been completely over taken by instinct and they have stayed with me -like they are deeply engraved in my Soul ever since. Some of these moments remain mysterious -ie the resolution remains to be seen but I draw comfort from your own
    sharing and the path that I am on,that somehow one day I will know that they were indeed moments of profound calling.Thank you!

  11. can only say that you are a mentor and teacher and I am pure and innocent! I love and cherish the time we spent together and the time we will spend together!!! in our bodies!!!

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