*Art work by Molly Boeder Harris
I had the honor of interviewing Molly Boeder Harris, the founder of The Breathe Network and a survivor of sexual assault, and Tara Tonini, a Program Director at Exhale to Inhale and a survivor of intimate partner violence. As leaders in the anti-violence movement, these women are courageous reminders of the power of speaking our truth, telling our stories, and uniting with other survivors and allies.
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence estimates that 1 in 3 women in the US have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
Every 9 seconds in the USA, a woman is assaulted or beaten.
Approximately 1.3 million women and 835,000 men are physically assaulted by an intimate partner annually in the United States.
More than 3 women are murdered each day by their husbands or boyfriends.
1 in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence each year, and 90% of these children are eyewitnesses to this violence.
And domestic violence is the 3rd leading cause of homelessness for families.
We must do more to support survivors, who are our sisters and brothers, friends, and daughters. And we must end this cycle.
In this interview, Molly and Tara talk about the power of using trauma-informed, holistic healing modalities to support and empower survivors in ways that make them feel safe, heard, and whole.
Molly Boeder Harris is the Founder and Executive Director of The Breathe Network, a nonprofit that connects survivors of sexual violence with sliding-scale, trauma-informed, holistic healing arts practitioners across the country.
Tweet Molly @MollyBoHa
Tara Tonini is a Program Director at Exhale to Inhale, a nonprofit that empowers survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault through the grounding and healing practice of yoga.
Tweet Tara @exhale2inhale
Listen to the interview:
Eight million tons of plastic trash end up in our planet’s oceans each year. And it takes thousands of years for each piece of plastic waste to degrade—picture that. But even after thousands of years, after millennia and after generations, this plastic waste never breaks down. It never disappears, but simply pulls apart into smaller pieces; our plastic waste remains, making the pollution of our oceans with it irrevocable. We can’t go back.
And entire marine species are dying because of it—finding themselves tangled in our plastic waste and dying from exposure to plastic’s toxic chemicals.
What can you do?
Do everything in your power not to buy plastic water bottles—or any disposable plastic. Think of the containers your cosmetics come in, your take out food arrives in, the bags you use at the grocery store, the container your laundry detergent comes from. Choose companies that honor your health and the longevity of the planet with glass or other sustainable packaging. Buy a reusable water bottle; bring your own bags; carry your own reusable, sustainable to-go cup when you order coffee or tea. The steps are simple and all it takes is one action from one person.
The world doesn’t change; we do—one person and one action at a time.
In 1962, marine biologist and writer Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, a potent and prescient look at the ecological destruction caused by untamed pesticide and herbicide use in the United States. “There would be no peace for me if I kept silent,” she said, and so she wrote—with deep compassion, biting scientific fact, and awe for the devastation of our planet caused by our own hands and own intellects. “Can anyone believe it is possible,” she wrote, “to lay down such a barrage of poisons on the surface of the earth without making it unfit for all life? They should not be called ‘insecticides’"—pesticides, herbicides, fungicides—“but biocides.” Yes, we have created the ultimate weapons of mass destruction, so well marketed that they’ve managed to pervade our bodies and our environment with seeming ease.
Fifty-three years later, with still over 800 million pounds of pesticides used each year in the US, I sat down with holistic healer and author of The Holistic Approach to Breast Cancer Dr. Christina Grant to read her Carson’s quote and ask, “Do you have a sense of outrage at what’s going on?”
“I don’t,” she answered.
Christina Grant is unruffled by the dark side.
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I first became familiar with Dr. Grant when I stumbled across her book about healing from breast cancer, a beautiful and patient guide I offer to my clients of all needs—its wisdom extends beyond women’s wellness, rooting all readers in a path to vitality.
In her book, Dr. Grant writes with deep awareness, personal knowledge, and love about healing, saying, “My approach is holistic, in other words, it pays attention to the whole you: body, mind, spirit, emotions, personality, and desires.” Indeed, her work transcends the physical and becomes a prayer and an offering, a chance to revitalize and return her clients and readers to their soul essence. “I wrote this book,” she addresses readers, “for those of you who are interested in using a diagnosis of breast cancer as an opportunity to both heal and awaken.”
For Dr. Grant, healing is an opportunity to rise.
* * *
In his book, part-memoir, part philosophical text whose title is borrowed from the following, Derrick Jensen writes, “There is a language older by far and deeper than words. It is the language of bodies, of body on body, wind on snow, rain on trees, wave on stone. It is the language of dream, gesture, symbol, memory. We have forgotten this language. We do not even remember that it exists.”
What I feel when I speak to Christina Grant is just that: she draws out in me a language that is often unheard and, certainly, unseen. It’s as if she, by her magically calm, gentle, and wise presence, creates a space—a “container,” she calls it—for vulnerabilities to be exposed, safely and with care. “I want to dive in,” I told her, describing that space. It felt as if anything could open there, in that container, and I wanted to go in and expose myself, expose my soul to its own essence and truth.
As a counselor and therapist of sorts, Dr. Grant works in energy: “That’s what I like to do,” she told me, “work with the unconscious mind . . . I tell people, we’re working on subtle levels. I’m going to look into your energy field. Because that’s where most of our answers are.” She understands that this isn’t always a familiar concept in the Western world, but she treats each of her clients with seriousness and earns their trust: “I treat people as sacred and their inner world as sacred. Every person that schedules with me,” she emphasizes, “it’s a sacred thing.”
When she was young, Dr. Grant didn’t envision being a healer in this way; instead, she always wanted to be a teacher: “I knew what I wanted to be; I didn’t know exactly how that would play out.” She goes on, “My young child mind only saw teachers in classrooms in schools,” and, as the only thing she saw, that’s what she envisioned for herself.
But that wasn’t quite right. “I couldn’t care less about teaching kids math,” she told me, describing her stint in teaching after receiving her educator’s credentials in college. “All the paperwork, the academic work, everything teachers have to go through. What I cared about was how [the students] felt. If their self-esteem was good, if they were feeling like they belonged; if they were feeling safe.”
Today, Christina Grant has a Ph.D. in human science and doesn’t teach in a classroom, but her office and her life continue to serve as one. An intuitive and well-trained student of human nature, Dr. Grant uses her wisdom and training as a spiritual guide: “I’m dedicated to helping you live in alignment with your authentic nature,” she writes on her website. Indeed, Grant’s form of therapy recognizes that dealing with our shadow self, our darkness, our unconscious is one of the most powerful ways to realign us with our souls—to find our purpose, our joy, our health and vitality, and to discover a path to wellbeing for both our planet and ourselves.
And as for her original vision, “I still do consider myself a teacher,” she explained. Her teaching has just evolved to meet her where she belongs in this lifetime, to fit her unique purpose.
* * *
On her website, Dr. Grant has a space for beautiful testimonials; they are a reflection of what she brings, of her magnetic and caring presence.
One of my favorites speaks of her strength, of her ability to remain composed even when stunning and dark vulnerabilities reveal themselves in her office. “How do you do this?” I asked her. “How do you maintain your strength and your light when all of these things—other people’s vulnerabilities—are piled on you? As a counselor and creator, what’s your secret?”
“That’s a really good question,” she responded, because it taps into the essence of being a healer. Anyone in the healing field, she insisted, must know this.
“We have a big push,” she went on, “one of my friends calls it ‘the flight to light’—you know, people saying ‘love and light.’ ‘I’m pure love.’” That’s true, she continued, “you’re pure love, but let’s not forget about your shadow because everyone has one.”
Christina Grant has befriended her shadow.
In other words, when her dark side, her vulnerabilities, her deep rooted emotions or even traumas are triggered in a session with a client, she deals with it—she faces it and doesn’t turn away. “I go and take care of myself, whatever has come up,” she explains. “If we don’t deal with it, if we pretend we don’t have a shadow, this shadow somehow gains strength and it can burst in the worst ways.”
“Look at the Catholic priests,” she explains, “and this is completely politically incorrect . . . but they’re forced to be made celibate, they’re cloistered, they’re put away . . . and look what abuse emerges.” Not all the time, of course. She was making a point.
Indeed, what’s so insightful about Dr. Grant is she recognizes the need for balance. We cannot run from the darkness, fleeing for light; we must work our way through it. Otherwise, any light we find will be artificial.
“I still call in light, I still connect with light, connect with the highest vibration of love and compassion possible,” Grant explains, drawing out the subtleties of her philosophy and ethic. “But it’s yin yang: the whole planet is dark and light. It’s trying to teach us about accepting total black night and then bright bright sun and all the weather that’s happening in between.”
Ah, yes, we have only to look to the earth for guidance.
* * *
So let us return to the earth.
Dr. Grant has written so poignantly about our planet, on Earth Day last year, writing, “There remains little respect for the earth, a disregard for the sanctity of nature, and a lack of concern for the health and wellness of living creatures.” To borrow from writer and activist Alice Walker, it seems as though “the very Earth is being stolen from us, by us.”
But, no, Dr. Grant is not outraged. She is honest, she is thoughtful, and she has brought a magnified lens to the environmental and health problems we’re facing as a global community. But it’s not part of her purpose or her ethic to be outraged: instead, her considerate and deeply potent reaction is compassion.
“I don’t feel outraged,” she told me after I asked. “I sometimes feel despair and disappointment over what I perceive as short-sightedness and ignorance, frankly, on the part of a lot of human beings. But I also know, from my work with people, that as soon as you hear their side of the story and you know their pain and where they’re coming from, then you understand why they’re doing what they’re doing.”
Compassion is powerful. It can alter the devastating march of our planet that seems already written, it can change our diplomatic relationships on a global scale, and it can heal our homes and our families, locally. It functions on the micro and macro scale, drawing out judgment and allowing true understanding to emerge.
“I like to tell people when they’re good listeners,” a friend recently told me. “I can tell. Because they’ll ask questions. They don’t just want to hear what I say, they want to understand it. That’s why we’re here: to understand each other.”
Christina Grant understands the earth, listening as though it is speaking to us. Describing a common meditation practice that calls us to visualize love from above and imagine drawing it into the earth, she counters it, explaining, “Instead of trying to bring love down to the earth, let’s just see the love that’s already here and bring it out more . . . From my perspective, that’s one of the most important things we can do.”
The earth is already vibrating with love. We just need to recognize it and honor it. We must see the true and magnificent dialogue that exists between humans and the planet on which we walk, drive, work, create families and friendships, from which we drink, eat; call our home.
Visualizing the love that’s already there is “not to discount the people that are out there actively doing things to protect the trees and the waters, raising awareness on all these issues,” Dr. Grant assured me. “That’s really important for people to do, especially if that’s their soul path.” Indeed, when we honor the earth, when we listen to it and see its already radiant energy, we will advocate for it, each in our own magnificent ways.
* * *
So is Christina Grant, Ph.D., also Christina Grant, earth warrior—an advocate for our planet? No, she tells me. “I’m an advocate for wisdom.”
“My gosh, what a brilliant answer,” I immediately jumped in. “I once got asked in an interview, ‘Are you an advocate?’ and, at the time, I simply said no. I was just operating out of my joy. But, you—you give this answer, ‘I am an advocate for wisdom.’ Beautiful!”
“We need ‘em, don’t we?” she said, laughing. “We need some advocates for wisdom out there.”
Christina Grant is certainly wise but what I like about her even more is her attentiveness when listening to someone else speak, her careful and thoughtful responses, and her generosity.
By agreeing to speak to me after only a simple email inquiry, Dr. Grant shows that she’s here to share, to engage with those who value her voice and her work, no matter how small their platform.
She is full of kindness and love and an intuitive intelligence. At the end of the day, the question is not, what did you do?, but did you live with your soul, did you let the essence of who you are shine through?
Christina Grant radiates soul.
* * *
To learn more about Dr. Christina Grant and her work, visit her website.
Purchase Dr. Grant’s Holistic Approach to Breast Cancer here.
We must recognize that our bodies are the temples that house our souls, our god-like essence. Honor your body, enter into a relationship of deep self-care, if only to reflect the light within. Our body is our home, guarding the soul, carrying it through this lifetime. Celebrate it.
You are worthy.
How can you celebrate your body?
1. Feed your body organic food from the earth, untouched by pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, or man’s (and woman’s) genetic modifications.
2. Grace your skin with organic ingredients from the earth—oils and plant essences untouched by pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and man’s genetic modifications. Your body absorbs everything you put on it—if you wouldn’t eat it, don’t grace your skin with it.
3. Treat the earth as your child. Earth is not only the mother—Mother Earth; we are the mothers and fathers, too. Become an earth warrior; be an activist. It takes only moments. Write letters to your representatives, recycle, use less plastic (it never degrades!) and more glass, bring a reusable water bottle, choose local and organic foods as much as possible. Little steps add up, especially when we do them together.
4. Dance, play, move. Experience your body and this life with joy.
When we spray the earth with pesticides, covering the land we live on and the food we eat with poisons, we must remember we are spraying ourselves.
We are what we eat: from the microscopic physical level to the highest spiritual level, we are everything we take in. Food matters.
The problem is we are disconnected from our food: we don’t know where it comes from, who grows it, what it looks like, or how it should taste (in its natural state). We substitute the fake for the real, the artificial for life force.
And, now, we’re substituting the poisonous for the sacred: we have forgotten what an act of terror it is to cover the earth—the land that feeds us, the Mother from which we come—in toxins. Talk about weapons of mass destruction.
The earth is awesomely receptive. In remarkable feats of endurance, strength, forgiveness, and boundless love, She takes everything we give her. As we devastate her seeds, her waters, and her air with poisons; as we cover the land through which she breathes with concrete; and as we weigh her down with a population unchecked, she shows no hate and seeks no vengeance.
This is written in celebration of the earth, to whom we owe everything.
Until we recognize this truth—we are the earth, our connection to it irrevocable and undeniable—we will know neither health nor peace. What we do to our natural abode, we do to ourselves. For earth’s sake and for our own, we must behave consciously.
Yes, now we must end our contemptible and misbegotten reign. If God gave us dominion over the earth, She did not give it for us to act recklessly. It is time to end the pillaging and the polluting and the blindness with which we act over her. Now is the time and we are the ones.
Because this is not just about the health of our children’s children, but our health right now. We are plagued with chronic illness at such high rates that we have forgotten how unnatural it is. No, to suffer chronic pain, to be so frequently tired that coffee must be around every corner, to sleep poorly, to have heart burn, and to be so chronically unhappy is not ok. Our birthright is luminosity.
May we be the earth’s stewards, serving Her with the utmost humility and delight. Together, we can teach the world that to serve the earth is, perhaps, our greatest calling.
Let’s create a movement.