The therapeutic practice I host grows directly from a dedication to healing that has sustained my ability to flourish while living with and through the challenges of chronic illness for more than 40 years. In each session of Healing Counsel, I seek to share my experience and passion with you.
Here is my story in brief: I was diagnosed with acute Crohn’s disease at the age of thirteen. After a decade of relentless medicalization, steroid consumption, and incontinence, I almost died from a bleed out and a peritoneal infection that resulted from an undiagnosed small bowel perforation. Then I had a surprising healing experience: As I lay on my hospital bed getting pumped full of antibiotics and painkillers, I began to go into trances (made easier by all the drugs no doubt).
Since my mother, the communist, and my father the physical chemist were devout Jewish atheists, nothing in my life prepared me for this. I'm not sure which was more unsettling: the out-of-body near death experience or the intensity of the trances.
When I left the hospital a few months later, the surgeon who conducted the exit interview told me: “You were the sickest person I’ve operated on in 5 years who is still alive. I have no idea how you got better so quickly.” Neither did I. However, I’ve spent the last 30 years finding out.
In all this time, I have not had another acute episode of Crohn’s (sound of wood knocking) … though of course shit still happens from time to time.
Once I determined that I needed to find other ways to live if I did not want to repeat almost dying from Crohn’s, teachers began presenting themselves to me, just at the moments when I needed them, and just when I was most open to learning from them.
The first of these was Rachel Remen, now clinical professor of family medicine at UCSF medical school, co-founder of Commonweal Cancer Help Program, and best selling author of Kitchen Table Wisdom and My Grandfather’s Blessings. Rachel opened many doors for me. With her guidance, I explored the Feldenkrais technique (a somatic method for cultivating our entangled neurological and muscular-skeletal capacities) with Chloe Scott and others, while simultaneously studying with Philip Brooks, a Psychosynthesis practitioner.
Pychosynthesis is a transpersonal psychology developed by Italian psychiatrist and Psychoanalyst Roberto Assagoli. It holds that not only are we are more than we know, but we are more than we can even know. It also affirms that in a care-full therapeutic container, these unknown potentials can incubate and grow into new aspects of our selves. I worked with Philip for 5 years and completed the 2-year training at the Psychosynthesis Institute of San Francisco.
This preparation enabled me to embrace the profound work of Emilie Conrad and Susan Harper who seeded and tended the movement-meditation practice of Continuum. Through Continuum I discovered that the living-organisms-that-we-are flourish and heal best when embraced within a loving field of care and concern. Continuum teaches that we enhance this field when we move passionately and compassionately with each another. It strives both to overcome the cultural limits that unnecessarily restrict our vital potential and to heal the wounds we suffer while living in such a crazy world. I have practiced Continuum for 30 years.
In addition to studying with these root teachers, I received a Ph.D. in Modern Thought from Stanford University in 1988 and have been teaching at Rutgers University ever since. I am currently a professor in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies where I work with both undergraduate and graduate students.
As a teacher-scholar, I concentrate on showing that (and how) the ways we make sense of the world inform the ways that we make the world. My classes elucidate the shifting histories of what “being human” has meant in order to encourage students to think about what it means “to be” human in our unsettling epoch.
In 2012 I received the Graduate School’s Teaching Excellence Award for the impact of my teaching on future teacher-scholars in the Academy.
I have written two books, published by major academic presses. Each explores how a concept that now seems self-evident (“homosexuality” in one case and “immunity” in the other) first came to make sense at the end of the 19th century, fundamentally changing the ways we understand our lives--and therefore live--as humans. I am currently finishing a new book, Shit Happens: Ruminations on Human Healing, that links my intellectual interests to my passion for healing.