…what is important is how the body feels — Intro to TRE Sep 26

…[most] are not aware of the lack of aliveness in their bodies. People are so accustomed to thinking of the body as an instrument or a tool of the mind that they accept its relative deadness as a normal state. …what is important is how the body feels
– Alexander Lowen

Hi everyone,

Next Saturday, September 26, 10a – noon, Living Ubuntu is hosting Intro to TRE – Fundraiser: Trauma Recovery for East African Refugees. Many of you are familiar with this method, created by Dr. David Berceli. For those of you that aren’t, I want to encourage you to come give it a try. (See: What is TRE?)

I first learned Tension and Trauma Releasing Exercises (TRE) from Dr. Berceli back in 2004, and it is not an exaggeration to say it dramatically changed my life and the path I was pursuing. The story is too long for email, so if you want to hear it, we need to meet up for coffee ;)

By now I have had the privilege of teaching thousands of people, and countless times I have heard how it helped them sleep better. The list of additional benefits is long. For those who continue to practice it over time, stories of significant healing and a way of being able to enjoy living differently in their own skin are plentiful. Recently, I even heard a story about how it helped someone’s tennis game :)

I am very passionate about the wish for us all to have more access to compassion and live more embodied, healthy lives, so I could go on and on. Instead, I am just going to issue the invitation again – come give it a try and see how you feel. Continue reading

April GAPM film series (Bosnia genocide) – 4/23 Carpenter Center

If a person cannot see horror, then he can neither see beauty, nor sadness, anger, fear or love.
– Alexander Lowen

Hi everyone,

It was during the Bosnia genocide that the phrase “ethnic cleansing” first gripped me. I am sure I had heard it before, but there was a certain point for me in the mid-90’s that was the first time I really thought about it, felt it, got it. I wasn’t terribly well-attuned to politics or human rights issues at that point, yet the phrase reverberated within me as if entering the deepest part of my bones. Years later I met for the first time someone who had been imprisoned in one of the camps. I couldn’t fathom that this delightful man I laid eyes on present day had previously been subjected to such cruelty. Nothing about it, on any level, made sense to me.

To this day, I continue to struggle with how it is we do these things to one another within our species, and in mass numbers.

Next week, on Wednesday April 23 at the CSU Long Beach Carpenter Center, the fifth film series event will focus on the Bosnia genocide. Much of the emphasis will be on the women who were raped, and their quest for justice as we screen, “I Came to Testify.” Continue reading

The trans-generational nature of trauma

There are many instances in which we are not the master’s of our fate. Yet our helplessness in these areas is tolerable because all human beings are in the same boat. And we need each other to counter the darkness, to keep out the cold, to provide meaning to existence. Human beings are social creatures. It is with other people that we find the warmth, the excitement, and the challenge of life. And only within the human community do we dare face the frightening unknown.
 – Alexander Lowen

Hi everyone,

Yesterday, I had a conversation with a reporter about the upcoming April events. The conversation headed in the direction that conversations often go when I am involved, toward trans-generational trauma.

  • Women pregnant during 9/11 gave birth to infants with stress hormone levels that correlate with trauma.
  • Attachment researchers identified compelling evidence that mothers with unresolved grief and trauma are frequently unable to provide the secure attachment necessary for babies’ optimal health and emotional / intellectual development. Many of these babies throughout their lifetime have increased risk of physical, emotional and relational difficulties, and increased risk of developing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The myth that children are “resilient” persists. As child trauma expert, Dr. Bruce Perry, put it, children are not resilient; they are malleable. Continue reading

We blinked and it’s Thanksgiving…

Wisdom means seeing into the heart of things, beneath the surface of our contradictions, where there is no good nor bad, neither right nor wrong. It means seeing the human being as the animal he is, struggling to gain security yet be free, to be productive but also joyful, to seek pleasure but also to know pain, to hope for transcendence and yet be content that one is contained within a finite body. It is to know that love does not exist without the possibility of hatred. It is to know that there is a time for living and a time for dying. It is to know that the individual exists to celebrate life.

– Alexander Lowen

Hi everyone,

So, I blinked and it’s Thanksgiving week (and for some, Chanukah too)…

For me the subjective sense that time is going by so very quickly only reaffirms the need to live and live every moment. Last year this time I was dealing with a bit of shock after noting the death of four people close or well-known to me who had all passed within a two month period of time, plus the loss of a beloved feline family member. This year I sit with the sadness of two recent suicides. Life is uncertain. Life is short. We must live the life we have to its fullest extent, and celebrate life.

There is so much I am grateful for, so much that we all have to be grateful for.

How would life be different for us all if, like the Desmond Tutu quote on Ubuntu, we really allowed it to permeate deep into our being, the self-assurance that comes from knowing we are part of and belong within the greater whole? And — that we are diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, tortured or oppressed…

If we genuinely lived in pursuit of the common good, what would that look like?

So, before I blink again and find that 4th of July fireworks are going off, I want to thank each one of you for being a part of Living Ubuntu. I am deeply grateful for your presence, engagement, and support.

I hope to see you at one of our partners’ upcoming events noted below. Watch for another email coming soon giving a preview of next year’s projects and events.

For now, I hope you fully enjoy the holidays. Celebrate life.

Thank you,

Barbara English
Founder & Executive Director, Living Ubuntu
(949) 891-2005

[Ubuntu] n. Every human being truly becomes a human by means of relationships with other human beings.


Winter Wonderland — A Tiyya Foundation Fundraiser
Saturday, December 7, 7p — Mission Viejo
Facebook event »

Write for Rights & Bake Sale — Amnesty International – Irvine
Sunday December 8, 10a — Irvine
Facebook event »

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Expansion, contraction and the horror of it all

The defenses we erect to protect us create the very condition we are trying to avoid.  Thus, when someone builds a castle to protect his liberty, he ends up as a prisoner in his own castle because he dares not leave it.
– Alexander Lowen

Hi everyone,

Two weeks have passed and it is clear that the tragic mass shooting that took place Friday, December 14th, in Newtown Connecticut, continues to be a national heartbreak.  Within that it is obvious already that we are not all the same when it comes to how we respond to an event of such magnitude.

While a father who lost his daughter appeared the next day to give a loving tribute to her and speak of coming together in compassion, others have already begun to dig their heels in on both sides of the gun control debate.

Within my early learning of Bioenergetics, a type of relational, somatic psychotherapy, I was profoundly impacted by what I learned.  Two things in particular come to mind for me at this time.

First is how the human organism alternates between expansion and contraction.  In response to pain, we have a tendency to tighten up and pull in.  When it feels safe enough, we release what we have been holding, and venture back out, becoming more expansive.

At times we can see these rhythmic alternating cycles take place across our society.  Is the national response to tragedy to get tight, pulled in and contracted?  Do we bolster up our defenses, increase our fear of one another, and rationalize that a form of me vs. you is the only way to survive?

Or, is there another type of response?  Is it possible for a more open, compassionate response to take over?  Can we step out and draw closer to one another?  Can we still find it within us to take a risk by admitting to the innate vulnerability of being human?  Can we find our way to being strengthened not through armor or weapon, but by increasing our connectedness, one to another?

The second thing, supported by the brilliant differentiation that comes through in the writing of Alexander Lowen, the founder of Bioenergetics, is horrorNowhere else have I ever heard someone discuss the difference between terror and horror, let alone the difference as it is experienced within the body.

While terror involves the extreme overwhelming fear that comes when our own life is threatened, we experience horror when we are witness to such a situation.  Terror will activate the fight-flight survival mechanisms of the body, but that is not necessarily what happens in horror.  Horror takes us into being witness to something so inhuman we cannot process it. It stuns our mind as we seek to comprehend the incomprehensible.

The problem with horror is, most of the time, we block it with platitudes.  We come up with defensively motivated statements to minimize and dismiss it, such as, “well, that’s just what happens in life… that’s just the way it is…”

The secondary problem with blocked horror is that we stop fully registering it.  This puts us into a state to stop noticing it for what it is, and thereby to become more able to perpetrate horrors upon others without realizing it.  In interpersonal situations one of the most commonplace, yet insidious forms of horror is acting out coldness toward one another, normalizing the abnormal so that disconnection is shrugged off and accepted.

Why would we choose to feel our own pain if we could avoid it?

I would suggest that it is only way to live.  It is in registering the pain and going through it that we can land in a different place of acceptance and increased compassion.

We must go through our fear together, thereby increasing our ability to stay open in spite of it.  It is by increasing our connection to one another that we are best equipped to face the future, deepening our understanding of the ills we face in this life, and able to resist the temptation to perpetually build more and more, ever-thicker, well-armed defenses.


Barbara English
Executive Director, Living Ubuntu
(949) 891-2005

[Ubuntu] n.  Every human being truly becomes a human by means of relationships with other human being.

Why is joy, satisfaction and “aliveness” so elusive?

“A body is forsaken when it becomes a source of pain and humiliation instead of pleasure and pride.  Under these conditions the person refuses to accept or identify with his body.  He turns against it.  He may ignore it or he may attempt to transform it into a more desirable object by dieting, weight lifting, etc.  However, as long as the body remains an object to the ego, it may fulfill the ego’s pride, but it will never provide the joy and satisfaction that the “alive” body offers.

… The first difficulty that one encounters… [most] are not aware of the lack of aliveness in their bodies.  People are so accustomed to thinking of the body as an instrument or a tool of the mind that they accept its relative deadness as a normal state. …what is important is how the body feels.”

– Alexander Lowen, founder of Bioenergetics

Hi everyone,

It’s hard not to get overwhelmed with our chronically busy stressful lives.  Lately, it seems more and more people are going through unusually difficult times.

We all strive for peace, yet it remains elusive.  We try hard to change our patterns, “I have learned from the past”, “I’m not going to repeat the same mistakes as my parents, I will do it differently, better…”, yet somehow time and time again we find ourselves stuck in the same place.

Why is lasting change so difficult?

In Living Ubuntu, we have a deep conviction that true, genuine change requires not only awareness and insight into the problem, but requires change in the body.  Yes, the body.  Our patterns, and behaviors are not just driven by our all-powerful minds, but are structured into our bodies.  Sadness, loneliness, anger, overwhelm are not just experienced in our psyches, but show up as tension and pain in our body (belly, lower back, shoulders, jaw).

This is why we incorporate body-centered methods (e.g. Bioenergetics, TRE) in most events that we organize in Living Ubuntu.

I hope you will join us for our upcoming retreat in October.  It is a time to get away from the regular rigmarole of life, to focus on our self, our relationships, community and the world.  Plus Idyllwild is beautiful this time of the year :)

All details are on our website.  To create an emotionally safe space, we are limiting attendance to no more than 10 people.  If there is any financial hardship, please get in touch with us.  We are a not-for-profit organization and we will do our best to accommodate your situation.


Anshul Mittal
Co-founder, Living Ubuntu
(949) 891-2005

 [Ubuntu] n. Every human being truly becomes a human by means of relationships with other human beings. 

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When We Become The Thing We Hate

How our trauma and unhealed wounds erode empathy, fuel fear, and create “others”

When we become the thing we hate: How our trauma and unhealed wounds erode empathy, fuel fear, and create “others”

The Living Ubuntu Fall Retreat will be in Idyllwild, CA.

Friday, Oct 26 – Sunday, Oct 28

Up in the mountains of Idyllwild, CA

Find out more about the 2012 Living Ubuntu Fall Retreat »

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Bioenergetics vs. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (and most traditional therapies)

Time and time again we are asked why we focus on the body in our work in Living Ubuntu.  Below is an explanation by Alexander Lowen, founder of Bioenergetics.

Alexander LowenAt the outset it must be recognized that most therapeutic efforts fail to help the individual resolve his conflicts and find peace of mind. In my opinion, there are two basic reasons for this failure. One is a lack of understanding by the therapist of the nature of the problem, and the second, related to the first, is too great a dependence on insight to change behavior.

Throughout this book I have emphasized that one needs to look at the body, to observe its movements and read its expression, to understand the individual and to evaluate and treat emotional disturbances. These disturbances are structured in the body and manifested in its loss of gracefulness. An analysis or therapy that focuses largely on the presenting complaint or symptom is not a holistic approach because it does not comprehend the whole individual. The goal of gracefulness cannot be achieved by working solely through the mind. It is a mistake to believe that deep emotional conflicts can be resolved through conscious reasoning alone.

The far greater part of our actions and behavior is governed by feelings and impulses of which we may or may not be aware. Analysis attempts to bring these unconscious forces, threatening as they may be, to consciousness. Psychoanalysis depends largely on free association, slips of the tongue, the interpretation of dreams, and the analysis of transference to shed light on the unconscious. Jungian analysis relies more heavily on dream interpretation. But because such methods are indirect, in most cases they do not reach deep enough. Even if patients become aware of some of their unconscious motivations, such insight does not generally lead to significant change. Neurotic attitudes and behavior are largely structured in the body by chronic muscular tensions over which the mind has no control. These tensions have to be released before any real resolution of conflict can occur.

Bioenergetics is a more powerful and effective technique than analysis alone because it offers a more direct route to the unconscious. By reading the body’s language, the therapist is able to see a patient’s personality conflicts immediately in areas of rigidity and chronic tension. By working with the body as described in earlier chapters, the patient learns to sense these tensions and to get in touch directly with his unconscious. Such an approach does not neglect the use of verbal analysis, including the interpretation of dreams and the analysis of resistance and transference, but its primary focus is the body. Rigidity is softened, chronic tensions are released, and the body is freed to feel the life of the spirit. In effect the body recovers its natural gracefulness.

In most cases a person cannot accomplish this alone. Feelings that have been suppressed are generally too frightening to be experienced without the support and understanding of a therapist, who acts as a guide to the patient’s unconscious. How good a guide he is depends on the extent to which he has explored the unknown world of his own unconscious. I like to compare the therapeutic experience with Dante’s account of his adventures in The Divine Comedy. When the poet finds himself lost in a wood with three wild beasts ahead of him, he calls upon Beatrice, his protector in heaven. Because the way home passes through hell and purgatory. Beatrice sends the Roman poet Virgil to guide him. As they traverse hell, Dante sees the punishments visited upon sinners. The passage is dangerous because a false step could leave him stuck in one of hell’s pits. Only with Virgil’s guidance does Dante make it safely through hell and purgatory. The patient in therapy goes through a similar experience on the path to self-knowledge and health. His own private hell consists of the painful feelings he suppresses in the interest of survival despair, panic, rage, humiliation. The chronic muscular tensions these suppressed feelings cause cannot be fully released until the feelings are brought to consciousness and expressed. That process requires the help of a therapist who has traversed his own hell, learning its dangers and finding his own way out.

From Spirituality of the Body by Alexander Lowen, M.D. Pg 74-75.

Alexander Lowen is a world renowned psychiatrist and the creator of Bioenergetic Analyis, the revolutionary therapy that uses the language of the body to heal the problems of the mind.  He has authored 14 books including Narcissism, Betrayal of the Body, Joy, Bioenergetics, The Way to Vibrant Health, Pleasure, Language of the Body and Honoring the Body.