Breakthroughs in Being Alive

When we deny our stories, they define us. When we run from struggle, we are never free. So, we turn toward the truth and look it in the eye. We will not be characters in our stories. Not villains, not victims, not even heroes. We are the authors of our lives. We write our own daring endings.

—Brene Brown

Do you wake up in the morning in love with your life? Do you experience quiet in your mind with an unshakeable sense of purpose in your feet? Do you feel deep peace inside of your body as you move through the experiences of your day? Do you even know that this is possible? What if your experience of being alive could be like this? Would that be an unrecognizable shift in your reality? Nothing may change in your outside world. There will be bills to pay, toilets to clean, food to purchase, dishes to wash, work to do, but your experience of flowing through these tasks could alter to one of appreciation and love. This experience is possible.

I learned about Landmark Education from my former brother-in-law. He handed me a brochure as my then-husband and I drove away to celebrate our honeymoon in Bar Harbor, Maine and Acadia National Park. I thanked him then shoved the red and white pamphlet into the glove compartment. Out of sight. Out of mind. A year later I pulled it out while waiting for some friends. I read the entire pamphlet knowing I wanted to participate. That’s the first time I heard about transformation. I registered, walked into the room, and began to engage with all the ways I pretend in life. I began to discover what I didn’t know that I didn’t know about myself, being human, and possibilities. I completed the curriculum for living, many seminars, the Communications Course, the Wisdom Course, and Power and Contribution.

After a decade of intellectual distinguishing, declaring possible ways of being, doing lots of homework which included looking straight into the eyes of my past experiences through the power of language reframes, I still noticed that terror and rage lived in my body.

I could eloquently describe the ways in which I showed up as a “psycho bitch from hell” with my then-husband and two young children. Words and inquiries could not purge this “character” from my life. I’m grateful to have identified “Lois” as me/not me.  I really needed her to leave or at least be in a separate room ripping up recyclables, smashing coconuts, or drawing pictures of her feelings with crayons rather than frightening my children.

I began engaging somatic work including craniosacral therapy (CST) and somatic trauma resolution (STR) with two gifted practitioners. I read the books: I Hate You, Don’t Leave Me by Jerold Jay Kreisman, Understanding the Borderline Mother by Christine Lawson and Surviving the Borderline Parent by Roth and Friedman. These books, especially the latter two, affirmed many of my experiences as a child, the heinous dynamics of my childhood environment, and validated the painful chaos that had created the terror inside of me that I lived with every single night and day for as long as I can remember.

During this time period, I accessed internal tracking tools and practices to clip the lines to the explosive bombs of the “fight” reaction. I thawed the numb of dissociation of the “freeze” reaction. I began the courageous, rigorous work of healing the persistent traumatic stress. Within a couple of years, I ended contact with all members of my family of origin knowing I had to break the cycle and create healthy, vibrant relationships with my two growing children as best as I could. I had hoped to do the same with their dad, but this did not transpire.

In the therapists’ offices, I cussed, shook, and sometimes puked. I wept and sometimes screamed. At home, I put myself in “time out” when I felt the triggers fire in my body. I sobbed and screamed into pillows. I did everything I could to keep my son and daughter safe. I took full responsibility for my past words and deeds. I took detox baths while weeping into the hot, steamy water. I began to forgive myself, to love myself, to see that I mattered. Deep inner work of this magnitude is not for cowards. And going through is the only way.

Identifying all traumatic events of my past, which included many that happened outside my childhood household, allowed me to see them fully, to no longer deny that they had happened, and to finally flow through the grief that accompanied all those shocks to the nervous system.

The involved process of triage for that amygdala and rewiring my nervous system began to free me. Pathways opened to the pre-frontal cortex as my life shifted into sustained periods of calm. Meditating, being grateful, dancing, doing yoga, exercising, living with embodied awareness became daily or weekly experiences which deepened my healing. Multiple pathways created this inner transformation of living more moments of most days with profound and enduring equanimity.

What I know for certain is my life is a testament to transformation. I have broken through the experience of living as a traumatized, terrorized, people-pleasing victim pretending to be someone who had it all together. I no longer live in constant fear. I sleep free of night terrors. I am unrecognizable to my former selves.

You may or may not have endured traumas, but you may live with much anxiety. Thriving from the inside out is possible. You don’t have to die to rest in peace. You’ll likely have to process through bottled up emotional content. Burning through this pain in your heart can liberate you. The willingness and passion to transform resides in every one of us.

For those of you who have endured traumas, know that you do not have to live one more day with rage, numbness, or terror. There exist many modalities for healing, for transforming. Seek professional support. You are worth it. The quality of your life matters. Know that living free and at peace is possible. You do not have to endure one more moment as a hungry, scared caterpillar because you know that life has come to an end. The cocoon of goo awaits. From that dark, quiet place you can emerge.  You can then flutter free as a butterfly savoring the nectar of the beautiful flowers blooming in your very own bonus round of being alive. Or maybe you can soar like an eagle or a great blue heron as you find flight on the currents of conscious awakening.

Laura Staley
Laura Staley
The founder of Cherish Your World, Laura Staley passionately helps people thrive by guiding them to a holistic transformation of space, heart, mind, body, and soul. Laura knows that there’s a relationship between the conditions of our homes or workplaces and the quality of our lives. Trained and certified with the Western School of Feng Shui and seasoned by almost two decades of working with a variety of clients, Laura uses her intuition and expertise to empower her clients to produce remarkable results in their lives. Her trifecta of serving people includes speaking, writing, and compassionate listening. As a columnist, Laura writes personal essays focused on self-discovery, feng shui, emotional health, and transformations from the inside out. Laura is the published author of three books: Live Inspired, Let Go Courageously and Live with Love: Transform Your Life with Feng Shui, and the Cherish Your World Gift Book of 100 Tips to Enhance Your Home and Life. Prior to creating her company, Laura worked as a fulltime parent and an assistant professor at Ohio Wesleyan University. She earned a Ph.D. in political science from The Ohio State University. Her joys in life include laughing with loved ones, dancing, reading, meditating, running, being in nature, and listening to music she loves. She resides in Black Mountain, NC with lovable dog, Layla.


  1. Laura, there is so much to love here. We are all evolving and growing and transforming in some way, and you are the embodiment of that process being a joyful building up and lovely discovery. Life doesn’t have to be a root canal, and if it is, as I stated in my “Already Gone” piece, you hold the key, I hold the key, we hold the key for us to own our lives, our futures, and our mindsets. The Brene Brown quote at the beginning is purely and simply genius – one of those breathtakingly simple things stated simply that makes us stop and wonder why we had to read someone else saying it. We are the authors of our lives, and yes, only we can take ownership of the narratives. One way to start that is to follow your lead, and to re-frame that negative chirping betwixt your ears – which, duh, we can control too. The way that you model the example of staring our past and the truth about our lives in the face is just such an awesome gift to all of us. And then, you put the cherry on top of this dessert by taking the ACTION that was required to make all those changes. And all you get for it is the joy of living the life that you desired and deserve. God bless, always, and thank you for being that beacon that so many of us can use to guide our own paths.

    • Tom, thank you so much for all these thoughtful, heartfelt, and meaningful reflections regarding this article. Your words touch my heart deeply. One of the many gifts of taking action to clean up aisle Laura continues to be meaningful connection with high quality, smart, heart-centered, self-aware, thoughtful, humane, loving, and compassionate people—You, especially, take the time to honestly reflect and offer that nourishment for the soul. I appreciate you more than you may realize. Yes, we hold the key! Yes!

  2. A beautiful and clear article, Laura. Your explanation – “The involved process of triage for that amygdala and rewiring my nervous system began to free me. Pathways opened to the pre-frontal cortex as my life shifted into sustained periods of calm.” is profound!

    We are entering the age of self-embodiment as the new medicine and way of being and expression of our true inner nature. I too experience that somatic work, combined with other modalities has the effect of what Judith Blackstone called dis-entanglement of physically held trauma. Inner calm and the ability to sleep at night are a personal miracle.

    • Thank you so much for your thoughtful reflections, Kathleen. I’m excited to know that “we are entering the age of self-embodiment as the new medicine and way of being and expression of our true inner nature.” The two experiences of restorative sleep and sustained, enduring inner calm are indeed miracles. I’m happy to know that you, too, have now embodied these experiences on your journey. I appreciate learning about Judith Blackstone because I’m not familiar with her work…now I get to read her perspective. Thank you, Kathleen!

  3. “I accessed internal tracking tools and practices to clip the lines to the explosive bombs of the “fight” reaction. I thawed the numb of dissociation of the “freeze” reaction.” Then, “Multiple pathways created this inner transformation of living more moments of most days with profound and enduring equanimity.” Beautifully expressed, deeply contributory encouragement for getting on the road to healing and transformation, against any odds. Thank you, Laura!

    • Thank you for your kind reflections, Mary. Yes, you can be more open, brave, and free. We are all in this together-most of us have lived through something that challenged us-maybe broke us wide open. I appreciate you and your courage. Thank you for taking the time to read this article and to share.

  4. Great post my friend. While I find it a very powerful message I went through this trauma only when I was on the road playing music and it was hard but since them I wake up in the morning loving life and walking toward the light with a joyful song in my heart. That being said I am sharing because I could have benefited knowing you during the dark years.

  5. Laura, thank you for sharing your story with us. I love that you started with a share of a Brene Brown quote. I love her!

    Your story is raw and poignant and an excellent example of the strength that comes from within. Your account exemplifies hope and courage, and you offer a glimpse at how you can come out on the other side with hard work and determination. It isn’t easy facing our fears, anxieties or traumas, but I agree with you that it is freeing to do so. There are multiple ways we can transform and find ourselves again, and like you, nature is one of those ways for me.

    Most mornings, I wake up feeling balanced and happy with where I am. It wasn’t always that way. The best thing I ever did was take a long hard look in the mirror and begin taking steps to discover who was inside. I am ever-evolving and grateful for each day that I get the opportunity to welcome another day.

    • Thank you so much for all your thoughtful, heartfelt reflections, Laura. Looking in the mirror takes much courage. I celebrate the paths you have chosen and continue to choose to evolve, grow, and learn-to transform from the inside out. I appreciate your kind words, the affirmation of the strength it takes. I appreciate you. May you have many days to experience gratitude, to welcome the sunrise.

  6. Yes, I do, Laura! It took quite a few years for me to recognize my feelings of not being quite right because my mother’s ideas of proper and mine were so totally different. Of course since I was an adopted kid, I also had different internal wiring, and that made it difficult for me to be her child. Difficult for both of us, to be honest!

    I was probably in my mid-40s before I took the time to reflect on how she had grown up, and what her needs were that were never addressed either. Needs that caused her to very often suggest that I wasn’t doing things the way I should have been doing them.

    Today, I wake up every day, loving the life I’m living right here on Buttermilk Bay, with friends like you who share so willingly from the heart and with such courage.

    • Oh, I celebrate your life now, Susan, and the work you did in your 40’s to pull apart what was your mom’s and what you could own about being you. Our journeys have challenges that become gold mines of treasure for growth, healing, and our evolution. Thank you so much for all you have honestly shared here, for your kind words of support, your thoughtful reflections. I’m grateful you are in my life, my friend! Enjoy your Friday and weekend on Buttermilk Bay!

    • Thank you, John! Yes, it does. This article definitely fits Shelley Brown’s description of writing naked (vulnerable/honest). I look forward to reading your book on shame as that’s a feeling/experience I’ve lived with/been sorting through for a long time.



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