In late 2011, I was finishing up a PhD in Cultural Anthropology at UCLA when I met Mexico’s monarch migration for the first time. I studied trauma and suffering and had yet to understand how my own unresolved trauma and suffering attracted me to this subject matter. After my introduction to the butterflies, I saw another possibility for my life—one dedicated to sharing and protecting this joyous experience.
When the butterflies flooded forth from their trees and filled the air, the thrum of their wings entered my heart and recalibrated it. For the first time in my life, I felt connected to everyone and everything in the universe.
Even though I had years of personal work behind me, I didn’t have the tools to integrate this altered state of consciousness. In the best/worst decision of my life, I transferred my feelings of love and connection onto the person who’d taken me to see the butterflies. I partnered with my butterfly guide, spending the next decade creating ecotourism and forest conservation projects that served the Cerro Pelón Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary and surrounding communities.
Our projects prospered. Everything I did, I did for love: for my husband, his family and village, and for the butterflies. I thought that I had at long last escaped the isolation of my lonely only childhood. But over the years, I came to the sickening realization that despite differences of culture, class and language, I’d managed to replicate the dynamics of my family of origin, just on a much larger scale. Publicly I was living my life purpose. Behind the scenes, I felt trapped in an emotionally abusive system than ran on envy, belittlement, and gaslighting.
Ten years after my first butterfly journey, I ran away from my marriage and my professional identity. For the first time in my life, I paused, taking time off to slow down and heal in my new home in cosmopolitan San Miguel de Allende. I took a deep dive into psychoeducation, researching attachment theory, trauma bonding, complex PTSD and narcissistic abuse.
In this process, I learned that intellectually understanding what ailed me could only take me so far. True recovery weaves together the somatic and the spiritual. Discovering IFS and the therapeutic use of psychedelics jumpstarted my healing. Both taught me that no matter our stage of life or the severity of our trauma histories, we all have within us a loving presence. The joyousness I first accessed when I encountered the monarch migration is available for all of us at any time. Yet it can be hard to tap into this Higher Self on our own. I collaborate with people by holding space for them and guiding them as they cultivate their connection to their inner knower.
On the surface, shifting from fighting to save the monarch migration to facilitating individual self-actualization may seem like a big change. Indeed, the old me might have considered taking the time to tend to your inner work before throwing yourself into altruism self-indulgent. Experience has taught me that until we act from a place of wholeness, all our attempts to help others will be based on ego rather than heart and doomed to failure.
The ecocide, hate and conflict that surrounds us can make it hard to have hope. And yet every time I access my own higher self and witness others as they occupy theirs, my connection to joy and hope for humanity are restored. I’m excited to share this experience with you.
MENTAL HEALTH TRAINING
- Advanced Weekend: Mastering IFS-Deepening Your Core Practice with Derek Scott of IFSCA (June 2023)
- The Others Within Us: Unattached Burdens and Guides in IFS Therapy Workshop Series with Robert Falconer (May-June 2023)
- Stepping Stone Graduate: 16 Week Comprehensive IFS Course with Derek Scott of IFSCA. Approved to offer IFS-Informed Services. (January-April 2023)
- Participant, Taking Yourself Back: Healing from Narcissistic & Antagonistic Relationships Online Community with Dr. Ramani (January 2022-present)
- Active AlAnon participant from 2007 until 2014. Worked the 12 Steps twice, served as speaker and sponsor.
- PhD in Cultural Anthropology, UCLA 2014
- MA in Cultural Anthropology, UCLA, 2008
- BA in Women’s Studies, Brown University, 1991
- Suspension of Flight. In Terrain.org. Lyrical nature writing about the heartbreak of illegal logging and the failure of conservation efforts in Mexico’s Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve.
- We Were in Love with the Forest. In Forest History Today. Colloborative oral history project featuring two generations of Mexican forest defenders.
- Letters from the Field. In Journey North. Weekly updates on the progression of the monarch migration across the overwintering season, archived on a venerable citizen science website.