“Your Authentic Self Retreat” FAQs

Couple_beach_BenitaEspositoThe following dialogue will give you a glimpse of typical concerns people experience as they decide to attend a Retreat.  I refer to myself as ‘BE’ in the dialogue. These photographs are pictures from our annual Labor Day retreat at the Beach, Florida panhandle.

Click here to view the complete Retreat schedule.

Client: What will happen at the retreat?

BE: Every retreat is different because they evolve organically based on the needs of the participants. You begin by completing a questionnaire to help you define your goals. Instead of expecting me to lead you through a specific set of exercises, you are an active co-creator along with the other participants.  We stay focused on excavating Your Authentic Self, and transforming patterns  that have prevented you from living a truly fulfilling life. You’ll learn tools to successfully attain your goals. You will define your core values, your uniqueness, and draw a picture of the life that would be most fulfilling for you. As you proceed toward creating the life of your dreams, it’s natural for fears and doubts to arise. You’ll learn how to eliminate resistance so you continually move to a higher level of excellence … who God made you to be … Your Authentic Self.

This is a retreat where deep emotional processing is done. There’s nothing superficial about it. Think of the word “deep,” deeper than you’ve ever gone. That’s where we’re going. We also have lots of fun and there’s plenty of lightness. We have time to meditate and take naps and rejuvenate. We have time to play. Think of the words “inner peace.”  Think of the words “balance and healthy living.”  I support you to do that at the retreat so you can implement it in your daily schedule when you return home.

Client: I’m nervous. I’ve never done anything like this before.

BE: That’s normal.  I’ve done tons of retreats, and sometimes I still get nervous.  When we move out of our known reality, our ego gets scared. It doesn’t want to let go of its comfort zone. That’s understandable. But our spirit, our Authentic Self, calls us forward. One time I attended a 5-day retreat and I was so nervous I had diarrhea the day before and the whole first day of the retreat. I told one of the support staff and she said, “Oh, we’ve all had that. You learn how to deal with it and continue to participate.” I found the bathrooms quickly. In our retreat, it’s important to bring with you whatever feelings you have. There’s no judgement. That’s one of  rules of the retreat. It’s OK to feel how you feel and still show up and be real.

Client: I’ve been this way for so long. I always try to make people happy. If they are not happy, I’m not happy. I’m afraid to be my Authentic Self.

BE:  I accept you where you are. I will support you to understand the pattern fully so you can change it. I’ll support you to develop your self-esteem. I’ll be a catalyst for you to develop the courage and take the risks to fully show up as your Authentic Self, not the mask you’ve grown to believe is the real you.

Client: I wonder, “Who am I really behind all this programming?”

BE: You are growing and you have come a long way. One of the major issues I dealt with when I was doing heavy-duty transformational work was comparing myself to others, or comparing myself to an ideal standard that I should be functioning at. I came to realize that the act of comparing myself  created painful suffering over and over again. I didn’t love myself very much, although I thought I did. I wasn’t good at self-forgiveness. This is an example of an issue that might come up at the retreat.

Client: I’m concerned my spouse won’t want me to attend the retreat. He will say that what I need isn’t important.

BE: Ask yourself these questions. Do you deserve a safe place to heal? Do you deserve to be with like-minded people? How important is it to uncover and express your Authentic Self? Are you worth it? This is a self-esteem issue.

Client:  This retreat is something I need to do for myself. I will say to him, “I know you may not agree with it. I’ve already got time off work. I hope you can understand.’”  Then he’ll ask about the money for the retreat, and I’ll say “I’ve got it covered.”

BE: Great answer.

Client: I don’t know if I’ll like my Authentic Self.

BE: Your programmed self, or your ego we could call it, may feel awkward and scared, like a fish flopping around on the shore. Ask this: “Who is the ‘I’ who won’t like my Authentic Self?  Who have I identified with? What is my programming for survival?” That is not the real you.  I suggest you do this exercise with every challenge you come upon.  Ask yourself “What would a woman say or do who has high self-esteem? Begin each morning with this contemplation. How does God see me? What does God want to do?

Client: Do you have any ground rules?

Photo by Benita A. Esposito

BE: Yes, I do.  These guidelines promote maximum growth ad healing for everyone.

  • Speak for yourself. Keep it personal and specific. This creates maximum connection with yourself and emotional intimacy with the group.
  • Confidentiality.
  • Take responsibility for yourself, your feelings, your thoughts, and your desires and communicate them.
  • Check out your interpretations about others. You might be right or wrong. Listen to what they say.
  • No withholds. Withholds dampen your ability to be fully present with yourself and the group. Be transparent. Express your needs.
  • Handle conflicts as they arise. I will support you to practice healthy communication and conflict management skills.
  • Explore what is needed for you to develop trust in yourself and with others.
  • Don’t project onto others, or when you do, look at it and learn from it. I’ll help you with this. When you get emotionally triggered by someone else, it often means that you have unresolved issues. This is a great opportunity to dive deeper and heal.
  • Give me the reader’s digest version. Get to the heart of what you want to say. Remember, we want to go deep, not stay on the surface.
  • Be on time for the beginning of group sessions. I’m pretty strict about this. Allow flexibility on the ending time to accommodate the needs of the group.
  • You are in charge of taking care of yourself and asking for what you need. For example, if you need to go lie down and rest, do so. If you can lie down while the group activities are taking place, you can still be present and participate in a milder way. There will be a long break in the afternoon.
  • If you don’t want to participate in an exercise, don’t. Tell me where you will be. We will agree when you will return to the group. I want to make sure you are safe emotionally and physically.
  • Observe your behavior patterns in the retreat. The retreat is a microcosm of your macrocosm. It’s your life wherever you go. We are all adults and we all agree to be responsible for our own feelings. We can usually resolve conflicts with win-win solutions. Try it. I know you’ll like it.

    Photo by Erica Wieland

  • Speak from your heart, not just your head. Your head is important; we want it fully engaged. We also want you fully present in your body and spirit. We’ll be doing a lot of body-based work. Your body is sacred.
  • Listen. Be open to my coaching. Be open to other’s feedback. Receive. I will dive as deep as you are willing to go. I will match your commitment level. You get to choose. The more you ask, the more you will receive.
  • Don’t give unsolicited advice. Talk about your own experience that arises in the face of another’s discomfort. Stop care-taking others in unhealthy ways. The retreat is a really good place to practice.
  • If you don’t want to be coached at any given moment, say so. I’ll back off.  Be direct and clear. I will respect your wishes.
  • Eat healthy. Drink lots of pure water. Rest. Go to bed when you need to.
  • Be kind to yourself and kind to others while being honest and transparent. Intend to develop enough trust in the group so everyone feels safe to reveal themselves, warts and all.  I’ll help you learn how to do this.
  • Stay focused these questions: “Who am I really in my Authentic Self? What’s my divine blueprint? Am I living it? What would be my most truly fulfilling life? How much am I willing to commit to creating it? How do I stop myself? What do I need to learn about myself?” Asking the questions will catapult you in the direction of wisdom, vitality and creativity. The more you use a precise laser beam focus, the more you will accomplish. Having said that, don’t be attached to how you will get there. Some of your ways may be limiting. Trust me to guide you please. I will be listening to your Authentic Self and to God. I will design exercises for you to access your Authentic Self and develop a deeper relationship with God, your source of well-being.
  • Remember, I love you and so does God. We practice grace.

Panama City Beach. Photo by Benita A. Esposito

These are only some of the issues that participants face as they decide to enter a retreat. Questions are normal and I am happy to address them.

I am like an orchestra leader, helping each person play their instrument well and weaving it together with the entire group so the concerto can be played beautifully.  The concerto, in this case, is your life and how you interact with the group at the retreat.

As more and more of us do this kind of healing transformational work, we uplift our families, our communities and our world.

The Retreat Invitation

If you would like to speak with me about the possibility of attending our next retreat, please click the Contact Page. Tell me 3 good times for you to talk. Please leave your name, phone number and email address. This is a complementary phone interview to determine if this retreat is a good match for you. If it isn’t, I’ll do my best to recommend other supportive formats for you.

Pre-requisites: You must have a minimum of three private sessions before attending this retreat, so it is important to contact me ASAP.

To see the Retreat schedule, click here.

Contact Information

Facilitator: Benita A. Esposito, MA

Licensed Professional Counselor

The Esposito Institute, Inc.


2 Offices

  1. 48 Haralson Place, Suite 3, Blairsville, GA 30512
  2. 5885 Glenridge Drive, Suite 130, Atlanta, GA 30328

Click here to contact Benita to inquire about private sessions or retreats.

Psychotherapy Website: www.Flourishing-Lives.com

Life Coaching: www.SensitiveIntrovert.com

Specialties: Marriage counseling, personal development, divorce, emotional roots of disease, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, grief, bipolar disorders and success skills. Combining intuition and evidence-based practices, Benita gets to the bottom line quickly to help clients create flourishing personal and professional lives. Psychotherapy is available in Blairsville and Atlanta. Life coaching for high achievers is available worldwide via telephone and skype. In this retreat, Benita functions as an ordained minister with AIWP, applying hands-on-healing as appropriate and invited.


“Authentic Self Yacht Retreat” The Story

As the sun rose in the sky, we stood on giant rocks surrounded by the rushing stream that ran through the deep valley below my house. Tall hardwoods and lush ferns and moss flanked the edges of the stream. Our spirits lifted as the sound of four waterfalls splashed white noise all around us. The doors to our Authentic Selves opened quickly in this Nature sanctuary. I always start retreats with a grounding exercise, introductions and goal setting. This was one of the most beautiful ways we ever opened a retreat.

We climbed the hill to my house, and began the breathwork session that lasted the remainder of the morning. Some people were stiff as boards; their bodies were so armored from long-held patterns. By the end of the breathwork, their bodies had opened and softened, all within 3 hours. We healed emotional wounds so they would no longer create on-going suffering. We healed sexual abuse. We healed feelings of emptiness spawned by emotionally unavailable parents who were too wounded to give nurturance.  Our intuition opened, lighting us up with ah ha! experiences.

These results would have been enough to fulfill the requirements for a retreat called “Activating the Authentic Self,” and we still had the whole day ahead of us.

Next up: We were all excited about boarding a luxury yacht on Lake Lanier. There is something about cruising on a large body of water with a gentle breeze blowing against your skin that quickens inner peace and aliveness.  We were so appreciative of our captain who radiated a special kind of love. He was delighted to share his beautiful yacht with us. We were truly surrounded with beauty, peace and love.

The blindfolded trust walk in the afternoon lent itself well to the continued grounding in our bodies and opening of our intuition.  I instructed the participants to line up like a train with their hands on the hips of the person in front of them. The captain had his eyes open, but the others wore blindfolds or kept their eyes closed.  I told them to remain silent the whole time. They also wore earplugs to eliminate external stimuli which helped them get more in touch with their bodies. I followed the people train, monitoring their experience and making sure they were safe.

First, we walked along the sandy beach, had fun splashing in the water on a day, and then trekked up the hill into the forest on the large island. We wandered under a canopy of tall trees that shielded us from the summer sun. Fallen leaves crunched beneath our feet as we walked the gently rolling hills. Although some people initially struggled with their footing in the people train, after about 30 minutes they all synched into a flowing unified resonance. A deep sense of inner peace was growing in the group.

While still in the middle of the forest, the captain stopped the train.  He took each person’s hand and helped them explore the bark of a tree, using their sense of touch. Everyone stood quietly in total silence.

While waiting patiently for them to finish, I glanced up at the canopy of lush green leaves, and felt deep peace. I was enjoying the scenery when my gaze drifted off to the left and down toward the ground. My eyes blinked in disbelief at what I saw. I looked again. A newborn baby deer lay curled up in a little ball only 10 feet from us! It lay motionless like it was sleeping.  While I wanted to shout out with glee, I controlled myself be very still and quiet. The deer was unafraid of us and continued to lay quietly with its eyes closed. I stepped gingerly toward the captain and pointed to the fawn. He gasped for joy as his eyes focused on the baby. I whispered to him to interrupt the blindfolded exercise, and to let the participants see this amazing site. As we helped remove their blindfolds, I will never forget the look on one man’s face. I turned his head toward the fawn, and his mouth dropped wide open, and his eyes bulged to the size of saucers. Everyone remained quiet and calm even in their excitement. After a couple of minutes, we decided it was best to slowly walk away from the fawn. They replaced their blindfolds and the people train continued its journey back to the beach with their hearts glowing.

When they removed their blindfolds for the final time on the beach, everyone finally exclaimed their joy about seeing the fawn. I offered that they had grown so calm while walking blindfolded that their serene energy was not a threat to the fawn. We were in resonance with its peacefulness.

I also shared with them the idea that the external environment can be a metaphor for our own state of being. Coming upon the newborn deer was an indication of our new birth—a birth with peace, tranquility and gentleness—a beautiful way to activate the Authentic Self. When you live from the Authentic Self, you are so grounded, so powerful, so clear, and so peaceful that everyone around you has increased life. It is this state of being that cannot be taught didactically; you have to experience it.

To top off the day, we cruised back under one of the most magnificent sunsets I have ever seen, a perfect ending to a perfect day.

The participants were well poised to return to their daily lives. In my opinion, this is one of the greatest gift we can give ourselves and the world. Their goal was to continue to shine from this peaceful state of being. They had a point of reference inside their bodies now; they could feel it. Some of the applications people chose to make were: (1) to improve their marriage, (2) to divorce in a mature, responsible, loving way, (3) to heal their bodies, (4) and to increase their business success.

Prosperity, love and health flow when we are connected with our Authentic Self.
“Your Authentic Self” is the secular term I use for our spirit. When we connect with our spirit, we connect with God, and God’s love and wisdom flows through us.

What can you do to connect more deeply with your Authentic Self? Relax. Breathe deeply. Develop a more intimate relationship with God. Listen to your body. Cultivate calm. Meditate. Listen to the animals. Listen to the trees and plants. God speaks through them, and God will talk to you if you have ears to hear, and eyes to see, and feelings to feel. Nature senses your energy. When you rest in a clear state of consciousness, you connect to God and access your natural intelligence and intuition. You can use this connection to improve every aspect of your life.

Dateline: Summer 2006. Cumming, Georgia.

Copyright. The Esposito Institute, Inc. 2006. All rights reserved.

Contact Information

Facilitator and Author: Benita A. Esposito, MA, Licensed Professional Counselor

The Esposito Institute, Inc.  / Counseling and Life Coaching

 2 Offices

  1. 48 Haralson Place, Suite 3, Blairsville, GA 30512
  2. 3188 Atlanta Road, SE, Smyrna, GA 30080

 Click here to contact Benita A. Esposito to inquire about private counseling sessions, life coaching or retreats.

Click here for the next breathwork workshop.

Click here for the next “Authentic Self Retreat.”

Psychotherapy Website: www.Flourishing-Lives.com 

Life Coaching Blog: www.YourAuthenticLife.com

Specialties: Marriage counseling, self-awareness, communication skills, intimacy, divorce, emotional roots of disease, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, grief, bipolar disorders and success skills. Combining intuition and evidence-based practices, Benita gets to the bottom line quickly to help clients create flourishing personal and professional lives. Psychotherapy is available in Blairsville and Atlanta. Life coaching for high achievers is available worldwide via telephone and skype.


12 Keys to Conflict Management

My first mentor told me, “Conflict is a necessary part of intimacy.” 

I didn’t want to hear that. I hated conflict, but his words rang true. I knew I wasn’t good at conflict management, and because of that, many of my relationships did not thrive. That was 30 years ago and since then, I have spent zillions of hours learning how to handle conflict productively. Read more


Stress Management for Leaders

How to Optimize Health and Productivity.

Rotary Club, May 3, 2012, Noon. St. Francis of Assis Catholic Church, Blairsville, GA.

What do Olympic athletes and high potentials do to reduce stress and maximize performance? Glean the essence of their wisdom, along with understanding the hidden costs of stress to your organization.

Stress and Productivity Statistics
Approximately 40% to 50% of all adult workers experience the negative effects of stress (American Psychological Association, 1997). In a study by Northwestern National Life Insurance, 70% of workers said that job stress makes them less productive as a result of frequent health problems. According to the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, healthcare costs are nearly 50% greater for workers who report high levels of stress.

Major Consequences of Stress in the Workplace
1. Absenteeism
2. Turnover
3. Diminished performance & productivity
4. Substance Abuse
5. Anxiety and Depression
6. Increased health compensation claims

Four Keys to Reducing Stress
(1) Breaks, (2) Breathing, (3) Balance (4) Beliefs
This 20-minute speech can adapted to a workshop format of 2 to 7 hours.

Benita A. Esposito, MA, Licensed Professional Counselor
The Esposito Institute, Inc.
2 Offices: Atlanta and Blairsville, Georgia
Life coaching is available worldwide via the phone and skype.
Psychotherapy: www.Flourishing-Lives.com
Life Coaching: www.YourAuthenticLife.com


Death’s Gift. Healing Grief Article

With a breast cancer prognosis of one month to live, Mrs. Samuel and her family came for counseling upon the recommendation of her doctor. No one in her family talked about her dying, and that was fine with her. I wanted to help them create emotional intimacy before she died and thereby make her passage easier. Read more


Coat of Many Colors: Benita’s Retreat Story.

Emotional Intimacy Beings Within.

My Intensive Personal Growth Retreat Preparation

The North Georgia Mountains cradled a group of people who gathered for an intensive transformational Retreat.  It was one of my first retreats with my teacher, Lee.  I was looking at a whole lifetime of not being true to my Authentic Self for fear that someone, mostly some man, wouldn’t love me.  I was afraid to be vulnerable, to be transparent, and to reveal my flaws. I was successful in business, and I dressed impeccably. I looked good. I had spent a life time developing coping strategies designed to create success and love. But my body was stiff and hurting. Some called it chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia. My breath was short. Deep down inside I felt scared and insecure, but I didn’t let anyone know it.  I certainly did not cry in public places.

Committed to being true to my Authentic Self, I decided to break out of the “need to look good” pattern.  I wanted to feel my emotions when they came and to take responsibility for them. I wanted to stop blaming others and hiding my Authentic Self.  Instead of stopping the tears, I wanted to be transparent and honest.  I realized that others might feel uncomfortable in my presence, but I chose to see them as adults who could take care of themselves and handle their own feelings while I felt mine. I didn’t have to protect them from themselves. I chose to stop my unhealthy codependent care-taking behaviors.  I promised to love my Authentic Self and to love others more wisely. I committed to stop manipulating their impression of me by projecting a fake mask. More than anything I wanted to stop abandoning my Authentic Self. If I wasn’t willing to love myself unconditionally, how could I expect any one else to be there for me in a deeply connected way?

My Retreat Experience                                                                                                                

As I walked into the dining hall Saturday morning, the room was bustling with chatter and laughter. My introverted self was not feeling very sociable. I felt out of place, and observed my discomfort.  I thought to myself, “I won’t fit in if don’t socialize with them.” Tears swelled in my eyes, but I didn’t know why. Instead of smiling politely, I gave my face permission to be sad and cry a little. Instead of putting on a happy face and chatting like all the others, I didn’t make idle conversation.  I ate a little, keeping silence.

Then my eyes were drawn to a brightly colored ski jacket hanging on the back of a chair. I was very moved by its beauty.  It had wide diagonal stripes of turquoise, periwinkle purple and fuscia pink blazing against a solid black background.  Would I sit quietly appreciating its beauty, or would I express the joy I felt to its owner? What would my Authentic Self do? My inner voice told me to share my joy because expressing my joy as well as my pain was part of being true to my Authentic Self.  Listening to my inner voice and acting on its direction was my mission that weekend.

I walked across the crowded room to the table near the jacket.  “Whose coat is this?” I asked. A dark-haired woman responded, “It is mine.”

“It is so beautiful!” I exclaimed.  “It’s just so beautiful!”

She glowed and said, “Thank you.”

I walked back to my seat.  There was still food on my plate, but I didn’t want to eat it.  Neither did I want to socialize.  So I walked out of the dining hall and headed through the woods to the building where we were to gather for the retreat.

I entered the large one-room building.  No one else was there.  “Good,” I thought.  Curling up on the sofa, I vowed to stay present with my Authentic Self, still feeling sad and tearful.  I knew people would walk in soon. I talked to myself saying, “Don’t put on a happy face when they came in. Stay close to your Self. If you want to cry, cry. You have the courage to be real and transparent.”

A few people came in, laughing and talking.  I was still crying softly on the couch. They ignored me. “Good,” I thought.  They didn’t try to distract me or make me feel better, although I thought it was strange that they would ignore a person who was crying.  A few more strolled in, and then a few more, all talking among themselves and ignoring me.

Then a woman walked over to me and sat on the floor in front of me.  She gently put one hand on my knee and sat quietly with me. There were no words. She was just being present with me. I cried more, touched by her warmth and tenderness.

Another woman came in and she, too, sat on the floor in front of me, resting a hand on my other knee.  She gazed into my teary eyes as I gazed back.  There were no words, just quiet sharing.  “What a beautiful gift,” I thought.  We continued communicating without need of words, love radiating between us.

Then the woman with the ski jacket walked over to me and placed the coat around my shoulders, saying, “Here, this is for you.”

I enjoyed the comfort of the coat while cuddled up on the couch.  She sat with us, too, and I continued being close to my Authentic Self, softly crying, grateful for the women surrounding me.

After a while, my tears subsided and I breathed easier, feeling like a weight had been lifted off my body.  I looked at the woman who owned the ski jacket and handed it back to her.  She said, “No. This is for you.  I am giving it to you. I have enjoyed it for two years, and I am done with it. I am making many changes in my life, and I am giving away many things. I want you to have it. It’s yours.”

“You mean it?” I asked while gingerly receiving it. She smiled and nodded. My eyes moistened again as we stood and hugged each other. I was so touched by her love, and she was touched by my receiving. The other women and I hugged.

My Reflections

The women and I trusted ourselves enough to act from our Authentic Selves. I discovered that I could be transparent while loving myself every moment, even while crying in public. I discovered that some people would love me in a way that I felt nurtured, and that others wouldn’t connect with me at all, or only superficially. That’s how life is. The more I commit to be my Authentic Self, the more those who want to connect with the real me will come into my life. Others will go on their way. That’s OK. When we are true to our Authentic Self, we love more fully and purely.

* * *

Author and Retreat Facilitator: Benita A. Esposito, MA, Licensed Professional Counselor. The Esposito Institute. I’ve been leading intensive transformational retreats for four decades. If you’d like to attend a retreat that I lead, view the current schedule: click here.

If you’d like a complementary 10-minute get-acquainted phone meeting to see if we are a good fit to work together, complete the Contact Page.

Psychotherapy Website: www.Flourishing-Lives.com

Life and Spiritual Coaching for Highly Sensitive People: www.SensitiveIntrovert.com

Specialties: Marriage counseling, divorce, emotional roots of disease, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, grief, and success skills. Combining intuition and evidence-based practices, Benita gets to the bottom line to help clients create flourishing personal and professional lives. Psychotherapy is available in Blairsville and Atlanta, Georgia. Life and spiritual coaching for high achievers is available worldwide via telephone and videoconference.


Healing Trauma: Laura’s Retreat Story

Three men and ten women gathered for one of my spiritual retreats: “Awakening the Authentic Self.” I had been helping Laura for two years, and we had built quite a bit of trust between us which is necessary to do deep level work. As a child, Laura witnessed and experienced physical, emotional and sexual abuse. She had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, and clinical depression. Anti-depressants and hospitalizations helped protect her from suicide attempts when she was in her early 20’s. While in the hospital, she was sometimes in a semi-catatonic state.  Professionals wouldn’t let her die. They used injections, medications, and leather restraints.  She hated all of it, so she was trying to die the only way she knew: by disassociating. That’s how great the pain was.

Laura was 37 years old. During the last two years, Laura had projected onto me and learned to take responsibility for her own thoughts and feelings.  She had gone away from me, argued with me, and tested me enough times that she knew that she could trust me.  She trusted my wisdom, my tenacity, my strength and my ability to connect deeply with her. I stayed with her in the middle of her pain. I was not going away and I was not going to tell her or her pain to go away. She knew it. She was feeling safe enough to feel deeper levels of the pain now.  She had good self-awareness and was pretty stable.  A year and a half earlier, I was so concerned that she was becoming suicidal again that I refused to continue to work with her unless she enlisted the services of a psychiatrist. She chose to do so she could continue working with me.  In the last few months, she had gained enough strength and skill that she was able to wean off the anti-depressants.  Now, she thought she was prepared to cope with the whole range of her emotions.

Laura asked me to facilitate a piece of work to help her heal trauma.  As we prepared, all these memories flashed through our minds. We were ready for the next step. I asked her if she wanted to work through it in the quickest time possible and she said, “Yes, as long as it is done in a loving way.”

“OK, choose two people with whom you feel safest and ask them to sit on either side of you on the couch.”  I instructed.

Laura chose Tara and myself.  We sat close to her, touching her body to help her feel safe.  Laura’s body immediately started tensing up and her breathing grew very shallow.  She’d been peeling away layers for the last two years, and she didn’t have much armoring to prevent her from feeling her emotions and sensations.  She had already come a long way.  I put my hands on her arm and shoulder and instructed Tara to copy me on the other side.  Her body needed to be braced so that she could feel like she was being held together because she was about to feel like she would fly apart with intense emotion.

I received this information and instruction intuitively, from my prior experience of working with her, and from watching her body. Laura began to shudder and twitch in her shoulders, neck and head.  I encouraged her to let it happen, and to unwind the tension.  The twitching started slowly and then increased with intensity.  I knew that her body had been coping by freezing up with the stored trauma.  We are biological creatures and we have three choices when we are traumatized:  freeze, fight, or flee.  Laura had chosen all three at different times, but most of all her body was frozen in fear. Although Laura has taught herself good communication skills over the years, when she felt threatened, her affect was either frozen or angry.

The rest of the group gathered around us to support us. I told them, “Pay attention. You are going to learn how to heal trauma.”

I played a CD which began in a low male resounding voice, “Commencement!  Take One!”  Then beautiful piano music followed.  It was a song written for a graduation ceremony:  “Take My Hand” on Gerald Stacy’s “In Remembrance of Love” CD.  It is very moving music and I knew it would help Laura connect with her emotional, spiritual and physical heart.

Laura’s body started twisting into different positions, breaking out of the container that Tara and I were providing.  She made loud deep raw guttural sounds of the pain and anguish.  She ended up lying on her side, facing the back of the couch, her head tucked into the corner of the couch.  It looked like she was hiding, with her arm draped over her head. Tara and I re-positioned our bodies so that I was at her head with one hand on her head and one hand on her side supporting her body.  I wanted Laura’s body to feel that I was there for her.  Tara was at her feet, touching her legs, again being fully present with her.  Our intention was not to get the pain to go away.  It was to invite Laura into absolute connection with herself even in the midst of the pain.

The sounds of anguish continued while Laura’s breathing became shorter. She started to gag because she felt like she couldn’t breathe. I kept my hands on her back; feeding energy into her lungs, connecting with the trauma in her body, and helping her stay present all the way through the fear.  I intuitively tracked her body, supporting Laura to stay 100% present with whatever fear arose each moment.

About 45 minutes passed, filled with contracting, squeezing, and twitching. Laura’s body opened a little and closed down again and then opened a little again.  Finally, her breathing opened up, and her body began to relax. The sounds naturally subsided as her catharsis came to a close.

I sat on the couch and pulled Laura onto my lap, holding her like a mother would hold a small child. Non-verbally I reassured her of my love and my connection with her. I fed her healing energy, and reassured her that she was OK.

The CD was finishing as we sat quietly on the sofa.  It was indeed a “commencement, a graduation.”  Laura felt had gone through the eye of the needle and now felt at peace.

As Laura sat up to make connection with the group again, we saw a slight smile beginning to radiate across her face.  The muscles in her face were soft and her skin was glowing.  The smile grew as she sat there and radiated.  She felt a deeper connection with her Self than ever before.  She was amazed and proud of herself.  So was the group, and so was I.  It felt like diving into the black hole and coming out the white hole. Transformation! A true celebration!

The group had paid close attention for the whole hour. Laura was their teacher, although she did not know it at the time. They each shared what they had learned from watching Laura and experiencing their own feelings.  Every one of them, without exception, had a powerful moving experience.  They were in touch with their own emotions in a much deeper way.  They began to trust that they, too, could move into such deep levels of pain and come out the other side into peace and freedom

I told them, “You have witnessed a miracle. This is very uncommon phenomenon on the planet. As I looked around the room, I saw faces of peace. People were solid and grounded and connected within themselves.  The whole group had transformed while Laura was transforming.

I said, “The reason why you all feel so secure right now is that you felt the power of my presence and the presence of the Holy Spirit while I assisted Laura through her intense feelings. I was not scared to feel the feelings. I was confident. You felt that Laura was safe even though you were witnessing violent movements and volatile emotions.

“If Laura had been in a traditional setting with psychotherapists and psychiatrists, when they began to see her twitching, screaming and writhing with such dramatic intense emotions they would have given her an injection, or pills and put her away in a room.”

Laura started crying as she remembered the times that had happened to her. Professionals had put her in locked units in the hospital where she disassociated.  But now, she was still connected to her core self and she was emotionally stable. The support of the group was immensely healing for her.

“I first learned how to do this deep healing work within myself under the guidance of my teachers. I have done years of deep healing work within myself.  That’s why I am not afraid of it. The Holy Spirit directs my words and my hands. It is the Holy Spirit who is the healer, and the Holy Spirit lives in each one of us.”

The wind blows away the clouds to uncover the sun.  The sun has been there all along, shining brightly.

Dateline: October 2001, North Georgia Mountains

Copyright 2012, The Esposito Institute, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


If you are interested in attending a retreat, please contact Benita A. Esposito through the “Contact Us” form on this site.  Click here to read about the “Your Authentic Self: Create the Life of Your Dreams” Annual Beach Retreat September 13-17, 2012.  Panama City Beach, FL

Author and Facilitator: Benita A. Esposito, MA, Licensed Professional Counselor. The Esposito Institute, Inc.  Counseling, Spiritual Therapy and Life Coaching

 2 Offices

  1. 48 Haralson Place, Suite 3, Blairsville, GA 30512
  2. 3188 Atlanta Road, SE, Smyrna, GA 30080

Psychotherapy Website: www.Flourishing-Lives.com

Life Coaching Blog: www.YourAuthenticLife.com

Specialties: Marriage counseling, divorce, emotional roots of disease, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, grief, bipolar disorders and success skills. Combining intuition and evidence-based practices, Benita gets to the bottom line to help clients create flourishing personal and professional lives. Psychotherapy is available in Blairsville and Atlanta. Life coaching for high achievers is available worldwide via telephone and skype. Spiritual therapy and hands-on-healing is conducted at retreats. Benita A. Esposito, MA is an ordained minister with AIWP.



My Body and I are Sacred.

Erica’s Reflections after our “Awakening the Authentic Self Retreat.”

It’s the day after our retreat, and I just got a massage in this morning in Asheville, NC. My body was tired and sore from the weekend, and I wanted to take care of it. As I lay there on the table, I became aware of how much I have hated and hurt my body. As I apologized to it, I became aware of how much my body loves me, unconditionally. It has been willing to take on my pain and hold it for me. It has never resented it or withheld its love from me. My body has held every feeling, every experience that I have been unwilling or unable to feel. It has willingly kept everything that I was not willing to feel, not willing to see, and not willing to know until I was ready to remember.

As I realized how much my body loves me, many things began falling into place. I understood that Jesus came to teach us that it could be done: The Spirit conscious in the Body; God alive and awake in the flesh. He loved himself and us so much that he could do that consciously, knowing it was a teaching for all of us. Then I knew that what I am here for is to be what He taught:

Be Spirit alive and awake in the flesh.

I came into a female body into a world dominated by males, so that I could teach and learn that there is only one: male and female, light and dark, body and spirit, business and personal, worldly and cosmic. It is all one.

Today I know beyond all expression that my body and I are sacred.

Thank you, my teacher.

Erica Wieland

Copyright 2002. All rights reserved. The Esposito Institute, Inc.

Please contact Benita Esposito, MA, Licensed Professional Counselor through the “contact us” page to schedule a private counseling appointment or to inquire about retreats.

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