How to Choose Freedom and Joy After Trauma


Clint Murphy Mary Firestone

Clint Murphy  00:15

Welcome to The Growth Guide podcast. I’m your host, Clint Murphy. Every week I talk to authors, subject matter experts and millionaire mentors, to share the lessons that will help you and me be better, achieve more and become financially free. Today, I had a great conversation with Mary Firestone. She’s a graduate of Princeton University and has a Master’s in Clinical Psychology. She is the author of Trusting the Dawn, How to Choose Freedom and Joy after Trauma, which is a handbook for not only healing from trauma, but awakening to even more joy and meaning through your experiences. Enjoy our conversation. Good morning, Mary. Welcome to the podcast, where I’d love to start is for our listeners who may not know you yet, if you can share a brief bio and history. And if you’re comfortable also sharing your story about what happened in your life that led to the book we’re going to talk about today, which is Trusting the Dawn, How to Choose Freedom and Joy after Trauma,

Mary Firestone  01:30

Thanks for having me, Clint. And gosh, okay, brief bio. I have a master’s degree in clinical psychology. And yet by the time I had completed the program, I had moved to California from the East Coast, and I was exposed to all different kinds of healing modalities that I never knew existed before. So energy work, and even like yoga was new to me, flower essences and this whole world kind of opened up for me. So I knew that traditional therapy and being a traditional therapist was not going to be the right fit for me, because I wanted to pull in all these different modalities. So my sister and I began a retreat business a decade ago, which I can’t believe that but where we pull in all different kinds of healers, and we go to beautiful places that are like cocoons, and we go deep, and then we celebrate. So that was sort of my background in the healing world that led up to living in Montecito, California, and having a near death experience in the Montecito mudslide in 2018. An incredible trauma that I can get into more. But that really led to this whole other level of healing and evolution for me that I wanted to share with other people about post traumatic growth through writing the book.

Clint Murphy  03:08

Awesome, thanks for that summary. And I’m sure we’ll talk a bit about what happened as we work our way through the conversation, where I want to start with trauma before we talk about the idea of post growth is one of the things a lot of people focus on is trauma with a capital T, not looking at lowercase t and the traumas that are happening more regularly in people’s lives and compound and then have a strong effect over a period of time. Can you share with our listeners, the idea of large scale traumas and smaller scale traumas that are still having an impact that they may not be aware of?

Mary Firestone  03:53

Absolutely. For me in the book, the definition of like a capital T trauma would be any time you fear that your existence is in jeopardy that your life is threatened for whatever reason and this can happen even in you know witnessing something tough happening to somebody else or hearing about, it calls into question or mortality, basically, for me that’s like capital T. And even like on a smaller scale, like a lower case t trauma, you know if we think about even we’re right at the end or I don’t know where we are with the COVID pandemic but that even that was kind of like a mass global, lowercase t like almost for everybody because it does call into question on some level, our ability to well, to live, to thrive, to go about our lives and connect. So I think that one is like very prevalent right now and it might not be directly impacting you, but there’s just this, like, global consciousness or group consciousness that that affects us on some level.

Clint Murphy  05:10

And for the listeners, if they’re trying to understand, well, how am I going to spot this in my life? What are some of the ways that trauma can manifest in their life that they should be looking for to say, hey, maybe that’s a sign that I am dealing with some trauma that I should get some help for?

Mary Firestone  05:28

I think that’s a great question. And because we can’t begin to address anything, if we don’t realize that there’s something to address so, and PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is anytime we’ve been using, we might have gotten through a traumatic or a tough time, using a certain behavior or mindset. So that’s an adaptive behavior, and it turns into the PTSD. When we’re out of the traumatic situation, but we’re still exhibiting that behavior or mindset, that’s when it becomes maladaptive. So ways that it might show up, anxiety, I think of anxiety as like the other side of depression, another expression of it. So anxiety, trouble sleeping, digestive issues, I guess, hyper vigilance, which is kind of a close sibling to anxiety, but you know, everything’s a threat. And you’re kind of on like constant alert, your heart starts racing, sweaty palms, like, you know that feeling of like you have to, it’s the fight or flight response. So if that’s kind of happening out of the blue, then that would be but I think more it’s that anxiety, depression, usually an indication that there’s something else to look at there.

Clint Murphy  06:51

And so what we’ll be doing for most of the conversation is talking through all the different healing modalities. You’ve taken part in and many of them are new to me. So I’m looking forward to learning and having that conversation. And before we get there, one of the things you talk about that I think is powerful, and is really what we’re trying to do, is this idea that we often always focus on the negative side of trauma, there’s always two sides to the coin. And that is, without recognizing some of the positive aspects like resilience that comes out of a contribution of trauma, when we come out the other side of it. Can you talk about some of the post trauma growth and what we’re looking to achieve other than just the negatives that we focus on?

Mary Firestone  07:43

Absolutely. I mean, that’s why I wrote this whole book, because, you know, yes, I was having symptoms of PTSD after you know, I lost my house, I lost all my worldly possessions. I thought my husband and child had been killed in this mudslide. So it was like an extreme traumatic event, I did have nightmares, I did have like some of the symptoms of PTSD. And at the same time, I was experiencing all these wonderful connections with other people. And with like, a greater, I don’t know how to describe it, but like, almost like a connection to something bigger than me, the divine or whatever you want to call it, whatever you believe in, that I hadn’t had access to prior to the trauma. So all of this growth was happening and these really great things, and I was getting so frustrated by having psychiatrists tell me, oh, you’re gonna be, you’re screwed, like PTSD. And you’re gonna haunt you for the rest of your life. But people in passing, psychologists, psychiatrists, like a lot of books, written by trauma experts, that are excellent learning resources, and yet they were very triggering for me. So that’s why I really wanted to share with others that when we’re going through a hard time and when we’re in the aftermath, like hold on, and it you know, there is like dawn always comes, keep going, we’re getting through the hard stuff, we have to look at the hard stuff and heal the hard stuff and continue to heal it. But on the other side of that, as you mentioned, there’s greater resilience. There have been a lot of studies done around resilience in stressed traumatized people, animals, that then they come out and they’re far more resilient to resilience is one, a greater connection to others, to themselves, to like the fragility and the beauty of life.  I think so often are just going through all the motions and, you know, we’ve got to get the kids to school and get to work on time and go out for date night and it’s almost this checklist, that we forget why we’re doing all these things and we lose the connection. So I think when our mortality is threatened, or things get really hard and contracted through the healing of it, we’re able to really, like be here and be present and connect.

Clint Murphy  10:20

So good point, when we read all these posts and articles on productivity, and when we look at life, we can often be living, let’s call it a checklist life, tick the boxes, I got X done today, I got y done today, moving forward. But then the question is, you stop to breathe, to take in the sunshine, to smell the flowers, to just be present with your family, your loved ones, and that can often be missing. And it can take a wake up call to tell us let’s zone in on that. And so, I’d love to start on the healing modalities as you talk about the power of language, I’ll share a quote and then we can dive into it together, which is “we use language all day long every day, whether we think it write it or speak it. The power of our words isn’t often considered in ancient Celtic and other Anglo Saxon cultures, the spoken and written words, were considered magical in the sense of weaving a spell, this belief is the origin of the word spelling. Subtle shifts in our language are available to us all in each and every moment, particularly around the traumatic event and ourselves. Begin to notice the story you are telling yourself, how are you speaking to yourself?”  So can you share some of the ways that we can improve how we talk to ourselves, whether that’s through our thinking, writing, or our speaking?

Mary Firestone  11:52

Yeah, so I mean, all day long, every minute, right, we have this internal dialogue going in our brains. And, you know, something that we spoke about a few moments ago is I think the first step is becoming aware and conscious of, of our thoughts, of you know, are we are you speaking yourself kindly? Often, our internal dialogue is so harsh with ourselves like, we would never speak to anyone else like that. So I think that the first step is becoming aware of, you know, your internal thoughts. And again, when we noticed that we’ve been unkind to ourselves, we’re in a loop, don’t beat ourselves up just like, Oh, I did it again. You know, okay, oh, there’s that again. So the first step is just becoming aware. And then the second part would be to replace an unhelpful contracting, thought or belief with something more empowering, that can go if we have, like, most of us have different stories that we tell ourselves and that we tell the world. So becoming aware of, you know, just for me an example with the mudslide. It was for a while like, I almost died in the mudslide, everybody I love almost died in the mudslide. My whole life got destroyed and blown up. And it was that was when I was in super contracted trauma state. A therapist helped me reframe, reword, rewrite that story, as I survived the mudslide, I used my voice, I woke up my family, you know, my family is safe. I was divinely protected. But just like subtle shifts in moving ourselves from the role of like, hapless helpless victim to survivor already begins to like, you know, you can feel it in your body almost, it’s like I tell one version, I like, oh, I tell the other version, and you can kind of feel an expansion.

Clint Murphy  14:00

And when you first start doing that, if I look at, for example, stoics had an idea, concept thought auditing. And so before they would accept a thought they would question it, say, do I give assent or permission for this to stay in in my mind? Or do I challenge it? And with cognitive behavioral therapy, they have that concept of thought auditing, where you write down the thought, write down some alternative thoughts. And so when you first start this reframing exercise, or you’re becoming aware and challenging these ideas do you start with, with the written word to capture it and train yourself to say, that thought or thought I don’t want reframe the thought I want and just train yourself by journaling or writing it down. Or for you was that more just conceptually mentally doing it?

Mary Firestone  14:51

I think, you know, I love the idea of writing it down. I am a visual person and a writer. I like to talk tactile experience of writing and then seeing the written word. So yeah, that’s a great way to do it. I journal actually every morning. And again, like, I think what we’re looking for, yes, it is that the words, but it’s the words and how, like the feeling you’ve got in your body. So, again, I think through the language we’re, all of it is like we’re integrating, and we’re trying, we’re working to become more aware of ourselves and our bodies and our thoughts. So I think that’s a great way to do it like, Okay, if I write this statement, do I still feel heavy? Or did it make me feel hopeful? So I love that.

Clint Murphy  15:39

And one of the ideas that I saw you talk about was this idea of the person. So first person versus third person. It’s interesting. It’s the third book and third conversation I’ve had in the last two weeks where I’ve heard this and I’d never heard this idea of replacing I with your name and one of the people called it from”me to she” and it was so instead of saying I would say, Clint is going to be okay. Can you can you talk a bit about that? Because I find this one absolutely fascinating for our listeners to understand.

Mary Firestone  16:15

Yeah, there’s a gentleman, Dr. Srini Palais, who’s done a lot of research and writing around on this topic, and I found some of his work. And I love that, that in the brain, when we use the third person, it bypasses a certain part of the brain that we get all caught and muddled and doubt and fear. It somehow bypasses that part of the brain. So the message like instead of, I’m gonna rock this podcast interview, it’s like Mary is gonna rock this podcast interview with I even actually just felt that like it like the difference in the shift. I mean, the brain is a wondrous, complicated thing that, you know, we’re still learning so much about and I think, finding different ways that some of the modalities that we’ll get to. But I had always been a very intellectual thought, like, talk my way, write my way through things, and been always very escapist. Like afraid of trying drugs or anything like that, never always goodie two shoes. And then like therapies like ketamine therapy, which shot off again, like what Dr. Palais is talking about bypassing this part of the brain that keeps us stuck in loops. That’s the same thing with ketamine therapy, or holotropic breathwork. But kind of quieting the parts of the brain that can keep us stuck. And getting to that next layer of, you know, subconscious unconscious, where a lot of these traumas they still exist on some level.

Clint Murphy  17:52

Yeah. And I’m looking forward to having a conversation on some of those modalities, because they’re ones I’ve heard about, but never tried either and the idea of understanding what they’re like, and then potentially figuring out, okay, which ones do I want to incorporate into my healing efforts is powerful. And I’m looking forward to that. And to the concepts that you talk about that will probably come up throughout the conversations, are the idea of integration and initiation. Can you share what each of those are and that way as we go through, people will understand, well, how am I going to integrate this or initiate this into my healing practices?

Mary Firestone  18:56

Throughout I interviewed so many different people and worked with so many different people on this book, and across all modalities and from you know, like the intellectual professory trauma experts, to shaman, to everybody in between this idea of integration of the trauma is key. In fact, Dr. Pat Ogden, who’s one of the leading trauma experts, maybe in the world, she said that’s the goal of all trauma therapy is integration. And what that means is for me, is that we’re not trying to like get the trauma out, or remove it, you know, or cut it out or get it out of our subconscious. The goal is to have it just be part of our story, not the story. So, to kind of desensitize or take away the triggers get us out of that fight or flight when we think about the mudslide. It becomes a part of my story, it doesn’t become the whole, the thing that changed. I mean, it did change everything. But it’s when I think about it, my heart doesn’t go racing again, my palms don’t get sweaty I, it’s just part of my overall story. So that is the goal of healing and trauma therapy is that integration. And initiation, that too was something that like a Jungian psychologist was like, you’ve been initiated, the shaman in the Arizona desert, oh, you’ve been initiated. So I was like, initiated to what. And the greatest, or the easiest explanation that I came up with was, in some traditions of shamanism, they believe when you face your death, you become Initiated to another dimension, almost, it’s like the veil has been pulled back a bit through that experience that we understand that we’re not just these three dimensional beings, but there’s so much more happening. So that is kind of what I took it, you’re initiated to the recognition that the physical plane is only one plane, and there’s a lot more going on.

Clint Murphy  21:10

Okay. And then before we go to our first modality, you talked about the idea that for the listeners, before they start any of these modalities, there are some things that they should have in mind, about the before, during and after the healing work that they should keep in mind, what are some of those things they should think about before they try anything? Or and then to seek to understand well, how did this work for me?

Mary Firestone  21:39

Well, we’re all unique beings. And even if we experience the same trauma, the way that we process it, or it affects us is going to be different for each person. So I think it really that is like such an individual question like, where are you literally, like are there safe people that you can talk to about it? What is the environment? Like? How can we find you a safe person to begin working with? And again, I think everyone’s approach is, is different which is why I’m like I’m offering one on one sessions now because it depends on the trauma, it depends on your environment, it depends on have you ever done any healing work before? Or do we want to start like for me, my path was starting up here, intellectually talking about it, and talk therapy and beginning to understand it up here. So it was kind of like a top down approach or under approach. But for somebody else who might be extremely physical, it might behoove them to begin with like movement therapy, and then works their way into like a talk situation. Or, you know, one of the women I interviewed in the book, Gianna, her boyfriend was killed in a car wreck when she was in the passenger seat, and she was totally fine. And he was killed right next to her.  For her, she said, after I couldn’t even talk about like, that was so retriggering and traumatizing. And there weren’t even words yet to, to talk about it. So she turned very much to yoga and massage and you know, being able to receive healing benefits without having to talk or mentally process. So it’s different for everybody. And that’s why, you know, in the book, I try to give as much guidance as I can, for each modality about what kind of trauma or where you are in your journey, it might be appropriate for, who it might not be a right fit for, you know, in different ways to, to access the modality and find people to work with.

Clint Murphy  24:01

And so you mentioned movement therapy. Let’s start with that one. And it’s an interesting one because as we’re talking, I can see the sunshine in your background and I look out my window, I’ve got snow and my son is playing with our dog in the snow. And last month with her, I noticed we were walking and a lot of dogs, it seems during COVID may not have been socialized. And as we would walk by these dogs we were out for about 90 minutes in the city. A lot of the dogs were sort of lunging and snapping at her and which it is a bit traumatic in every time we would get a few feet away. And I’ve learned to kind of say certain things to her and do some own shaking myself and she kind of looks at me and then she just shakes it off. And then her tail goes from the scared down to okay my tails back up and I’m a happy girl, let’s keep our walk going. And the one interesting thing about animals is they just shake the trauma right out of their body. So what does that look like for humans? And what are some of the different movement therapies that we can do to try to physically release that trauma from our body?

Mary Firestone  25:12

You’re absolutely right. That shaking is like a, you know, biological, natural, healthy response and the animal world, Peter Levine, who’s another trauma expert, he wrote a whole book about it like that that’s called Waking the Tiger. So dogs, a deer that escapes, being eaten by a tiger, they shake the little ducks in like, in the park, after they get into a fight. They go around, they shake. And we, as human beings are taught and socialized to like, we almost do that, right? Instead of like…

Clint Murphy  25:50

Yeah, we just squeezed it into our DNA into our bones.

Mary Firestone  25:53

If we just hold it in and become rigid, it’ll go away. No. So yeah, this Psoas has been called, in some traditions, the muscle of the soul. And another trauma doctor, Dr. David Briselli, he came up with a whole bunch of like shaking, it’s called shaking therapy, trauma releasing exercises, that literally you’re just gently shaking, and it releases that Psoas an begins to release the the unhelpful chemicals that come along, like cortisol and adrenaline, that spike when we experience a traumatic or fearful event. So the David Briselli, shaking therapy’s great, dance is great. I list a whole bunch of different like online dance programs. And literally even if I’m like, oh, like, I literally will just stand up and like kind of shake, and it feels so much better. And if we watch our children, too, right, they do it before they become self conscious. But younger children, we watch them do it too. Like they move their bodies or they run around and they discharge that the cortisol, adrenaline, anything like that. So that is just, I do that every single day.

Clint Murphy  27:12

And you talk about it a bit more when you get to Chinese medicine, but also the idea of incorporating into the movement, the Qi Gong practices, how can those help us with –  is that a similar way? We’re just moving our way through the trauma and there’s also a fair amount of tapping while we’re doing the Qi Gong. Right. Can you talk a little bit about that one, because I’ve, I found the little bit of it that I’ve done so powerful and relaxing you in a short period of time.


Mary Firestone  27:43

Qi Gong was new to me, when I began my healing journey for the book, you know, I was familiar with and been doing going to acupuncture and taking herbs for a long time. But yeah, Qi Gong is a branch of Chinese medicine, one of the five branches. And it’s sort of to me, it feels like a moving meditation. And yet, it’s like increasing good energy in the body and the physical body and helping to discharge unhelpful energy. And I remember the first time I did it, there’s a gentleman in the book I interviewed, Paul Fraser. And he had, you know, some sequences on Facebook, and during COVID, I was like, Oh, my neck and my upper back killing me, okay. And he had it was literally like, five minutes of just like movements like that. And my neck felt better immediately. So I was like, okay, maybe I need to research this more. And now I practice Qi Gong every day. And yeah, and he teaches a form of it, I guess there’s 1000s of forms, but he’s been doing this for 30 years and studied with a lot of different teachers and the kind that I practice now is what he teaches, and it’s like 12 minutes. And I my immunity has gotten so much better. My anxiety has gotten so much better. I noticed too, if like, you know, you’re in a tough, like you’ve gotten in a disagreement with someone or you’ve been in like a holiday party with a lot of energy and a lot of personalities. That just doing a little Qi Gong afterwards helps just like move it on out.

Clint Murphy  29:32

And so for that 12 minutes, is it the same practice? It’s a 12 minute routine and you do the same routine every day for 12 minutes.

Mary Firestone  29:42

Yes, exactly.

Clint Murphy  29:43

Oh, that’s perfect. The right amountof time that you get some benefit but you’re not. Where do I fit this in? It’s gonna take me an hour to do.  12 minutes is something we can really squeeze into our day and benefit from,  and his name if you can share that one more time. I’ll get that in the show notes for people.

Mary Firestone  30:03

Yeah, his name is Paul Frazier and I can I can share his website and stuff like that.

Clint Murphy  30:09

Perfect. We’ll get him in the show notes. That sounds like a fabulous thing that people have to try out. And so one of the ones that you talk about that I’ve never really had much experience in is aromatherapy, essential oils and flower essences. So for people like me who are new to this, what should we know and how can we start integrating these into our practice?

Mary Firestone  30:34

Aromatherapy. Well, they’re two different things. So I’m gonna start with aromatherapy, aromatherapy, you know, uses our sense of smell. And essential oils are a really easy way to start there. You know, affordable, they’re sold at a lot of health food stores, you can get them online, and they have extremely powerful qualities. So I’ve actually been working with essential oils for years, my sister and I have even developed two essential oil based perfumes that we designed to make you feel a certain way not just smell good. So great ones for if we’re a little bit in a trauma loop or having a hard time, sandalwood is very grounding. So just inhaling it or even you can dilute it and put a little bit on your skin. Sandalwood is very grounding, Rose Geranium calms fears. Juniper is detoxifying. Let’s see what else like honeysuckle can make us hopeful. Same thing with any of the citrus like a kumquat, orange, lemon, Magnolia is really great for healing trauma. And there’s a gentleman named Edward Bach, who, you know, like 100 years ago, was studying all the different essential oils and flower essences too, which flower essences we can take those internally, or we can also put them on our bodies. And I asked this amazing woman, Katie Hess, who’s got a really cool company named Lotus Wei, W-e-i, about, well, I don’t understand, like, why does it? How can like this flower, spritzing it make me feel better or have an impact. And she’s like, it’s, if you think about it is like WiFi? Like every being has its own energetic signature that that’s just physics. And we don’t question like that you and I are talking, we’re hearing each other, we’re seeing each other based on waves that we cannot see. But we don’t take that right, we don’t question that. It’s like you pick up the phone, you call someone you don’t think about the sound waves or whatever it has to happen so that you can hear each other. So if we think about like in flower essences like the aspen tree and the pine tree have very healing calming properties, also to humans. So it’s just like kind of, they distill the essence of the tree or the flower in water, and then the essence that’s like energetic signature, you take it into your body, our bodies are what 85, 80% water and it kind of harmonizes our body with the essence of the plant or the flower.

Clint Murphy  33:25

And on the aromatherapy one. The if I look at like, you know, if I have one of the diffusers, that puts –  is that aroma. A I engaging in aroma?

Mary Firestone  33:37

That’s also the brain. So that goes hits like the olfactory part of the brain that also bypasses certain of these, like, the fear and the doubt parts of the brain, that aromatherapy can go right into different parts of the brain. And even there was one study that I referenced in the book, people that don’t even have a sense of smell still benefit from the property of that, which is so cool, I think.

Clint Murphy  34:08

Yeah, and it makes me realize I do more the I have like my little bag or container of different scents. And I’m like, oh, I like that scent versus okay, what is the purpose of each scent and what am I trying to accomplish in the session? It’s so I should think of that because the one spot I do absolutely feel like it makes a big difference is for example, you if you go for a steam and you go scentless versus you have a steam with a eucalyptus or another smell a mint, something that it just you come out so much more. The benefit that I feel like I receive is so much higher in the scented session than the non scented session. Like there’s just an energy and a vitality to it.

Mary Firestone  34:57

Absolutely. And why would we question unless we, you know, dive into this work, but all the benefits beyond just like smelling good. It’s like Wally’s roots and flowers and plants. They have different energy and frequencies that are helping us.

Clint Murphy  35:13

Yeah, I love that. And so now I know before, when I get home from the cold trips that we’re doing today for our kids activities, I’m going to have a steam with some eucalyptus, that will definitely recharge me. And so the next one you talked about, as well as one, I’ve done it for sports injuries and for physiotherapy, and it’s fabulous from those respects. But I haven’t done it for healing trauma. And that’s the idea of acupuncture. And one of the things you talk about there is it helps us go from the sympathetic state, back to the calm parasympathetic state, which is where we’re trying to get to. So that makes this a triple tripleheader question. What is the sympathetic? What is the parasympathetic? And how does acupuncture work to take us from one to the other?

Mary Firestone  36:07

Yeah, when you say that, we get stuck in that fight, flight or freeze position. And we’re constantly in that heightened sense that can often lead us to a path of exhaustion and depression because we never get that chance to, as you say, just breathe and relax. Because we’re always something’s coming. It’s going to happen again. I’ve got to be ready for it. And so this lets us just let that go. Be calm again. So the parasympathetic is like, you know, the our rest and digest and like, the things that were processes in our body that we’re not even aware of, that just are what’s the word like your heartbeats, you don’t tell it to be, your you digest your food, you don’t tell your food to digest you. So it’s the rest and relaxation. And the sympathetic state is when we can get, you know, into that fight or flight, triggered, the heart rate speeds up the palms sweat, the digestion kind of shuts down. That’s when like, the tiger is like, roar, and we’re like ahh, got to flee or fight. And PTSD is when we get stuck in that hyper vigilant state. So acupuncture, to answer that question, which I love learning about acupuncture. I’ve been benefiting from it for a really long time. But I hadn’t until the book like really delved into what exactly was happening. So if we think about like the body and different meridians, that’s what they talk about in Chinese medicine, that we have these kind of like highways running all through our body, energetically. And sometimes do we have like a little traffic jam, or a blockade on one of the highways, and acupuncture now through the use of needles, but originally it was they used like bits of jade or bone to kind of open up the collapsed highway, if you will. So like kind of opens and allows the energy to begin to flow again, how it’s naturally meant to flow, which I love that. So there’s so many different variations and styles and one that I think Minka who I interviewed for the book, she used one on my back that just like is a great one to use for trauma. What’s it called the Seven. Thank you. And also what Watsu points, I think, to really get shift me out of that, like the sympathetic hyper vigilant state back into the rest and digest. Hah, I’m safe now. I can I got the Tigers gone. So finding a great acupuncturist. I think it’s so beneficial, like not just for trauma for everything. Yeah, it’s a great tool for mental, emotional and physical health. And to your point, I think yeah, when we don’t address being stuck in that hyper vigilant state, not only does lead to exhaustion, but it leads to you know, disease and illness in the physical body. So really important to to get him to do the healing work and acupuncture is one way, meditation is another way to quiet the nervous system and you know, it’s free. There’s so many apps or programs or teachers. I referenced a couple in the book, but so many different styles to try like Joe Dispenza is one who I love. Tara Brach is another, Mark Nico’s a great spiritual teacher. So, kind of finding your, Deepak Chopra, finding maybe a meditation guide. That’s another great way to calm the nervous system too.

Clint Murphy  40:07

And what is your meditation practice look like for you?

Mary Firestone  40:09

I learned Vedic meditation, which it became famous for, Beatles did it. And David, what’s his name? David Lynch, the filmmaker. And that’s 20 minutes in the morning, 20 minutes in the afternoon and evening. I learned that maybe in my 20s. And I remember like, going to like the free talk with this amazing guy, Christian Bevacqua. He’s still teaching Green Tree meditation and being like, there is no way I am so like, type A busy, I can’t sit still, that’s not going to happen. And my boyfriend at the time and my sister were like, oh, we should sign up like what? Okay, so I guess I got a little peer pressured into it. But it really changed my life, really quieted things, there was so much more flow, my relationships were more harmonious, my physical body was happier and more harmonious and healthier. So I still will practice Vedic meditation. Sometimes I’ve gotten into Joe Dispenza, who is wonderful. He’s written a bunch of books, and I’ve worked with him on retreats. And he’s a great teacher, totally different style. So I kind of dabble in it. You know, it’s like I go through phases.

Clint Murphy  41:29

Yeah, yeah, it’s something I’m studying more and more and incorporating into my life more and more. So it’s always interesting to learn what other people are doing and see what the options are out there. The next one you talked about, most of our listeners may not have heard about. And it’s the idea of EMDR. Can you share with us what that looks like? And how did that work for you?

Mary Firestone  41:55

EMDR, Eye movement, desensitization reprocessing therapy, which is a total mouthful, which is probably why everyone just calls it EMDR. It was discovered by a psychologist named Dr. Francine Shapiro, who walking through a park one day thinking about a traumatic event in their own life noticed that like, by moving her eyes back and forth, and thinking about the traumatic event, that the triggers became less and less and less. So she began studying it. And now it’s essentially it’s bilateral stimulation. So the two different hemispheres of the brain. And when we move our eyes back and forth, like we do in REM sleep states, that it unravels the triggering effects of the traumatic memory. So the first time I did it was with a therapist a couple of weeks after the mudslide. And again, same kind of thing. I was like, how is this gonna work I’m holding, some people tap. Some people use buzzers so the buzzers alternate buzzing right and left in your hands. But the idea is, again, that bilateral right, left, right, left stimulation, and you tell the story. And the first time I told the story, I was sobbing, my heart rate was really like extremely elevated, I was in that fight or flight response. The second time it was a little bit less, the third time and it kind of lessened and lessened and lessened but same thing like is there really any way this is going to work? And that night was the first night that I didn’t have a nightmare. So for me, it was extremely powerful. Again, it’s that idea of like these neural pathways, we think about certain thought patterns can just like anything that we do over and over again, at least it’s like a groove. And that’s kind of breaking the loop. So the groove of like the brain, instead of going like, in the same familiar way is like oh, now I’m gonna go this way, you know, and creating these new neural pathways and disrupting that unhelpful, traumatizing triggering story.

Clint Murphy  44:12

Was it EMDR that had the impact on neuroplasticity? Or was that one of the other modalities that we’ll talk about later?

Mary Firestone  44:23

EMDR definitely impacts neuroplasticity because again, it’s this whole idea of forming new neural pathways, which is neuroplasticity.

Clint Murphy  44:35

So reprogramming ourselves. And the one that you did that had a big impact for you. It sounded like it was one of the more impactful ones. And I have heard it’s one of the fastest ways to treat depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder a number of times, and that’s the idea of ketamine therapy, which seems super interesting because the experience is very short in duration relative to a lot of other hallucinogenic therapies, whether it’s Ayahuasca, whether it’s MDMA, they can be a longer journey, but my understanding with ketamine is super tight journey. Very powerful results. Can you take us through your experience with ketamine and what people are understanding about this as a type of therapy for us to heal?

Mary Firestone  45:27

Ketamine was described to me by Dr. Jeff Becker, who I adore and is a brilliant man, psychiatrist, as the gentlest, but most powerful psychedelic, it’s also the only psychedelic that is legal in the United States. I’m not sure about Canada, but it is legal in the United States, which is why I also want to have this disclaimer. In the US, there’s these like ketamine bars popping up where people can go in and get injected, and you’re in and you’re out. That’s not what I’m talking about. And I don’t recommend that because for trauma or depression, or using ketamine, reverently as a healing tool, I think you really need the before with the psychiatrist, the actual experience of having the journey and then you need the integration, follow up with the psychiatrist. So that’s what I’m recommending. And that is what really did change my life. And again, I had done EMDR, I’ve done talk therapy, I’ve done a lot of things leading up to doing the ketamine and as I said earlier, I grew up in the 80s in Washington DC with like Nancy Reagan, just say no to drugs, such a goody two shoes, never, like was bad at smoking pot didn’t ever really like drugs, cut to I’m on the I’m writing this book, I’m doing all this research. And I met Dr. Becker’s wife at a lunch and we like got into it. And she’s like, I think you need to meet my husband and talking to him and understanding what you are explaining it is gentle, but it shows you what you need to know. Whereas Dr. Becker was like, unlike mushrooms, which can like force you to your knees and make you see what you need to know, ketamine, it just gently shows it to you, and it has a super short half life which means it wears off quickly. So in our sessions, we did three injections. And again, the psychiatrists works with you on your weight and your body, you know, to figure out how much is the right dose, and each little trip lasts like 20 minutes. So it’s kind of you know, you have a little trip, and then you go again, and then you go again. So 60 minutes of being under the influence, I guess. And it was so it was incredibly powerful for me, who’s never done anything like this. But again, this idea of like, I think I’ve referenced it earlier, but of the knowing that there’s so much more going on than we’re aware of in our three dimensional reality and also with ketamine. I think it’s a pretty common experience, and I had it to the idea of depersonalizing the trauma. So I witnessed, you know, I had an event of being molested when I was seven by a seven year old man. And that kind of led me to my to begin my healing journey. But I had never obviously gone up into the subconscious like this, so that even though I was there to deal with the mudslide trauma, that was the first trauma that like popped up and I had a visual of little seven year old Mary and this man, but I was kind of watching and it was safe and whatever. And then out of the blackness, this like gorilla formed. And my first thought is, Am I scared of the gorilla? And then I was like, no, no, the girl is a good gorilla, Steve, the gorillas good. And the gorilla swooped into this scene and scooped little seven year old Mary out of there and away from that man. And, you know, in talking about it, integrating afterwards with Dr. Becker, the gorilla represents the strong fierce gorilla part of myself that was able to go back and like help seven year old Mary heal from that. So it’s just like, things like that, that it’s, I don’t know, depersonalizing, in a way like, oh, it wasn’t there was that understanding for me too. And that experience I get what happened to me was not personal. It was a force of nature moving through him. I happened to be in his path.

Clint Murphy  49:46

One of the interesting things about that one of my favorite quotes on this show, and probably because it’s one of my favorite quotes is until you make your unconscious conscious you will forever be led by it and call it fate by Carl Jung and I might have butchered it a little there. But it’s the idea that we need to know what’s under the surface. And it sounds like ketamine gave you that visibility under the surface. And meditation can do that. And this next one we’re going to talk about can do that either, because the where I want to shift us is ketamine gets us there with chemicals, with a drug. And the next one, you’re able to get there without any external drugs just with our system. And for you, it felt like you say it felt like six months of therapy in one session, in terms of the magnitude of clearing and healing. And I had a similar reaction when I did it once where I, you know, they talk in advance about, hey, when we do this, you may end up crying like, Oh, what are the odds of that bawling like a baby in the fetal position? Crying more than I’d ever cried in my life and that was the Holotropic breathwork. Can you talk about? How does that work scientifically? What is it doing to us? And how does it have such a powerful reaction when we do it?

Mary Firestone  51:11

Well, it was, by a psychiatrist named Dr. Stanislav Grof, who’s like 98 now, and he’s a Czech psychiatrist, who was working in Czechoslovakia, with psychedelic drugs and having great effects with his patients. When he moved to the United States where they were not legal, he and his wife, Christina had to find another way to access that subconscious. So they formulated this way of breathing, that kind of shuts off oxygen, again, to the part of the brain that gets in our way, a lot that like, doubt, fear, part of the brain kind of quiets that. And the body has this over is flooded with co2, carbon dioxide, which is why when you know, in the prep work, they’re like, your hands may go like claws, your lips might go like that. And we might feel like your tube of toothpaste being squeezed, or whatever it is, that’s the co2, flooding the body and the brain. And because we’re quieting that other part of the brain that normally is in control, that’s where we get this other access to the subconscious, which yeah, I mean, honestly, the ketamine and the holotropic breathwork, it was like, they were both so extremely powerful. And to your point, like the breath work, you don’t have to take anything. Yeah. So that’s a great, a great place to maybe start for someone that is like, can’t take drugs or doesn’t want to take drugs like that might be a good place to start.

Clint Murphy  52:59

And for our listeners. So that’s a bit more of a, an extreme form of work you can do with your breath, that has a positive impact for healing your trauma. And there’s so many others that you can read about that you can research that you can understand, where just simply the power of how we breathe, can impact and if we go back to the idea of taking us from the sympathetic to the parasympathetic, simply by practicing box breathing, we can move from one state to the other. Deep breath in hold for four or five, deep breath out hold for four or five in that can take us from one state to the other. So for our listeners, definitely do your research on breath, work on different breath practices you can do to change your states, it’s absolutely one of the most fascinating and free ways that we can address our traumas. And for you, Mary, near the end of the book, you talk about all these different healing modalities. And there’s even more that we didn’t talk about, because I don’t want to give away every single one that’s in your book. So we talked about some of the great ones. And there are many more is you also then offer tools and strategies and some simple practices that people can use to keep in touch with the guests following the trauma. Can you share some of those with people that they should be thinking about and incorporating into their lives?

Mary Firestone  54:30

Yeah, we’ve kind of touched on some of them. I do have a daily practice that you know, sometimes feels like a full time job, but I notice you know if then on the days that you’re like, oh, I feel great, I don’t need to do it today. It’s like no, those are exactly the days that you need to do it because then that makes the other days that are a bit dippy. I find I rebound more quickly. It doesn’t last as long so so for me my daily practices we talked about Qi Gong, well I do Qi Gong and and I have a morning meeting with myself and with the divine or God or whatever. For some people, God is very triggering. So what like higher power, the universe, whatever you want to call it, where I read just for a few minutes, something inspirational. I love Florence Scovel Shinn. She’s an amazing spiritual teacher who was writing around the turn of the century. And a lot of people don’t know about her. I love her. She’s amazing. Or Mark Nico’s books I love to read too or even, you know, poetry, whatever gets you in that heart open, expansive state of being. So do a short reading and then I write a letter to God and myself. And it’s, it’s all gratitude. And it’s what I’m grateful for, and what I’m bringing into my life and writing it in the, you know, the as if it’s already happened. And again, I think a lot of people talk about manifesting is not about like, for me, not about like, ooh, I want a Mercedes. You know what, if you do, great, there’s nothing wrong with wanting a Mercedes. But it’s not just like, cutting out a picture of a Mercedes and sticking it on your vision board. It’s like, okay, what’s the feeling for you that having the Mercedes would give you is it like, you feel the wind through your hair, you feel free, you feel like you can go places you can. So it’s really connecting to the feeling, and actively experiencing the feeling. That’s what I’ve noticed. And you know, kind of even getting underneath well, then you might not even need the Mercedes. after all. It’s like, wait, I’m free. And I can go places.

Clint Murphy  56:49

Can I interject on that one, because that’s taking it a step further that I often now will do with some young people is when they ask questions like this is, well, wait a second, it’s not the Mercedes you want. What is it you truly want? Does that Mercedes make you feel like people will think that you’re a certain thing? And then the next question, going back to our making the unconscious conscious, why do you want that? When in your life did you not feel like people looked at you the right way? Or that you were free? And is this car going to fill the void of your dad not saying I love you when you were little like, oh, so do you need the car? Or do you just need to go talk to your dad? And have them say I love you, son. Like where are we going for here? So sorry, that was a digression. But I loved where you were going with that one.

Mary Firestone  57:43

Yeah. And I love that. And it’s true, right? If we peel back our desires, like at the end of the day, most of us just really are we want to feel loved. We want to feel safe. I mean, I feel like those are the two main ones.

Clint Murphy  57:57

Yeah, we want to be loved. We want to be safe. And we want to be seen.

Mary Firestone  58:01

Yes, yes. And truly seen not just seen, because we’re driving a red Mercedes. So those are my, you know, really the gratitude practice, the Qi Gong, moving my body. Those are my main and the meditating. Gosh, see, it’s like a full time job.

Clint Murphy  58:19

And you also journal every day, do you not? Was that part of the letter to your God and yourself? Okay, so do the Qi Gong, do the journal, do the reading, inspirational reading and faith exercise. And that could be prayer for someone, whatever it is for each person, then you meditate. And when you said moving the body, is that the Qi Gong? Or is there another movement exercise like a walking or a yoga?

Mary Firestone  58:45

Yeah, that’s like, exercise, like, you know, getting my heart rate up. Whether it’s like, there’s an online dance workout that I like, Whitney, Hoover, I do her or go on a hike or do yoga. But some, even if it’s just for like, 20 minutes, if it’s like one of those days where you don’t, I’m like, okay, I know, I’m gonna feel so much better if I just can, like, sweat it out for 20 minutes.

Clint Murphy  59:12

Well, I love that. So that will be powerful for people because establishing in your right, it’s so hard. When you compile a list, and I might write about this some time is all the things we’re supposed to do on a daily basis. And you compile the list and you’re like, well, no, those would take me 18 hours a day to do. And then I could sleep for six, but I also have children and a partner and a job. The job takes eight hours. So like when am I supposed to read, meditate write, journal, breathwork, sauna, yoga.  You start circling down the list, it becomes overwhelming. So you do have a list that you maintain. It’s still not it’s still not a super short list, but you’re able to do it in a way that’s manageable. How long would you say in the morning when you do this, your daily practice takes you.

Mary Firestone  1:00:00

At least,I mean, not counting the exercise part, probably at least half an hour.

Clint Murphy  1:00:06

At least half an hour. Yeah, so that’s not too bad.

Mary Firestone  1:00:09

No. And you know, sometimes there’s days where it doesn’t happen, the timing that I want it to happen. And I think another thing that’s really important, and I’m telling myself this too is like doing the practices, not out of a sense of obligation, or like, well, I checked my spiritual practice off the list, but, you know, remembering, okay, like, maintaining that connection to why I’m doing it, I’m not just doing it to do it. But I need to remind myself of sometimes.

Clint Murphy  1:00:39

Yeah, that absolutely makes sense. And so we’ve gone pretty wide on the different modalities, and we’ve gone deep on some of them. Are there any specifics that we haven’t covered that you want to make sure the listeners get in those areas.

Mary Firestone  1:00:54

I mean, I do have a whole part on prayer, I interviewed Reverend Michael Beckwith, who I love he’s so inspiring. And he was really helpful, there’s so much in there and such a range, because everybody has their own particular way in or maybe they’ve been on their healing journey for a long time. And we’re needing some new oh, psychological astrology. That’s kind of fun and interesting, too. The more I learn about and I’ve studied with, I love her. She’s like a role model mentor, Dr. Jennifer Freed, she has a couple of books out. But the more I’ve studied and learned about astrology, I find that fascinating, there’s just so many different tools to understand ourselves and our loved ones and our triggers. So I would say I really tried to offer shamanism. Be really careful who you work with, because shamanism, different strains of it come can come from black magic and voodoo. So I really, I hope that I’m empowering the reader to trust themself. So a few notes like, just because I recommend ketamine, or you and I are recommending Holotropic breathwork. Like, if it doesn’t feel right, like don’t do it, or it might be the wrong practitioner, it might not be the right therapy for you, it might not just not be the right time to try that therapy. So I would say, yeah, there’s so many more in there.

Clint Murphy  1:02:28

And you raise a good point for the listeners, do your research, do your homework. Part of what we’re trying to do is just open people’s eyes to, there’s more options and opportunities available that they may not be aware of. So you may have never heard of EMDR, you may have never heard of Holotropic breathwork. Now you have heard of something. And if you’re on a healing journey, and you haven’t found that something that worked, there may be other opportunities available to you. So you don’t have to give up. You don’t think, well, I just have to live like this for the rest of my life,

Mary Firestone  1:03:07

No, Clint, there’s so many more opportunities and so many different ways. And yeah, so keep trying. I don’t like the word try, keep at it, keep investigating, you know, you’re speaking to the listeners, like your hope and your light and your healing is like absolutely possible. And you know, I don’t know, I don’t want people to feel like they have to do it alone. So that’s why I love these conversations. And it can feel so isolating and you’re not alone. And there’s a community here to support you and keep going.

Clint Murphy  1:03:42

And we’re like the word try is on my banned word list. And so when I saw that you said in tips and tricks that people should not use the word try either. I thought that was great. Do you have time for a quick final for rapid fire questions that we’ll throw at you?

Mary Firestone  1:03:58

Sure. Let’s do it.

Clint Murphy  1:04:00

Okay, so for you what’s one book that’s had a significant impact and really changed your life?

Mary Firestone  1:04:06

I referenced her before with a Florence Scovel Shinn. It’s called The Game of Life. Great book, highly recommended.

Clint Murphy  1:04:13

Excellent. And I will check that out. What are you reading right now? If we check out the bookshelf, what’s popping off for you?

Mary Firestone  1:04:20

At the moment I’m reading so I did a book reading at Chaucer’s bookstore, which is like the best independent bookstore in Santa Barbara. You know, one of the ones that had been there for a long time and I’m like, perfect, like the the people that work here know their stuff so well. So I’m like, I need a new book. I love this. I love this. I love that. I like that style. So she the manager steered me to Alice Hoffman, who wrote the Practical Magic series, which I they’re so well written like she’s such a good writer. It’s like polls, historical fiction. So there’s a lot about like the Salem witch trials, but it’s all like historical fiction, and I feel like witchiness Goodwitch witchiness I think I’ve been that a lot of times that came up in some of my healing work. It’s like, oh, here we are again, but I’m not going to get killed for it this time.

Clint Murphy  1:05:15

Yeah, hopefully things don’t go backwards in some of the ways we’ve seen that happening. What’s one thing you’ve spent less than $1,000 on that you can’t live without, that you bought maybe in the last 12 months?

Mary Firestone  1:05:28

Gosh, that’s a really good one. I like I like white noise that helps me sleep at night. So I got a white noise machine. That’s kind of another fun answer.

Clint Murphy  1:05:39

No, but my wife and son both use it. And so they have and I don’t know if you’ve seen it. If you have an iPhone, they have an app called Sleep fan and sleep fans a free app. And they both sleep with that beside their head. Like my wife has her phone, just playing that sleep fan noise all night long. And then my son does it. One of my boys does it for about eight hours throughout the night. So it’s called Sleep fan wonderful little app for when you’re on the road when you’re in a hotel. She’s always got the white noise going. And I hate any noise. So the white noise kills me. I now sleep with earplugs. So this shows all about growth, which you’ve probably picked up on. We’re actually rebranding in the new year as The Growth Guide. And so that’s coming, which I’m excited about. And so habits, mindsets, behavior shifts, is there any you’ve taken on in the last 12 months that have had a significant impact on your life?

Mary Firestone  1:06:40

I think just this idea, I mean, I’ve practiced it for with the book and everything but really continuing to practice on why did this happen for me? Not why did this happen to me, but you know, little things even throughout the day, like not just the big capital T traumas and stuff, but Oh, like, why did this person cross my path and make me feel like this and something that might look bad or hard? Actually, like, what’s the blessing or the opportunity in that? So that’s something that I’ve been really working on practicing, and I keep getting opportunities to practice it.

Clint Murphy  1:07:24

Yeah, it’s amazing how such a simple reframe is so powerful, and part of it is just speaking to that locus of control and taking yourself away from victim voice to well, now I’m the driver of the story, and it’s happening for me in the world is happening for me so I can be in charge and have control. That’s beautiful. And how can our listeners find you Mary?

Mary Firestone  1:07:51

I have a website and author website which is, not .com because somebody else took that one. So you can find me there and on Instagram, @trustingthedawn2022 and also my sister and I have an Instagram which is @Firestonesisters.

Clint Murphy  1:08:13

Firestone sisters. I love that. Yeah, thank you for joining today. It was great to have a conversation with

Mary Firestone  1:08:18

Thank you Clint.

Clint Murphy  1:08:28

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