Breathwork Q&A

Can you relate to any of these situations?

1. You find yourself getting emotionally triggered, and you wish that didn’t happen.

2. Your relationships are damaged. You and your partner don’t know how to resolve conflicts so you don’t feel deeply loved and respected.

3. When you get emotionally triggered, you don’t deal with it constructively. Read more


Newsletter May 2013

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Be compassionate. Speak up. Reach out.

Blairsville, GA Office

Blairsville, GA Office

Do you know someone suffering from depression, grief, trauma or anxiety?  It’s pretty common. One in four adults will experience some kind of mental health difficult challenge during their life.

Too many people suffer needlessly. Well-meaning family members may think their loved one is just being lazy moping around the house, when in fact, they are clinically depressed. A high-achiever may believe they work best under pressure. But when they live with anxiety for several years, it may result in heart disease. Trauma from abuse (physical, verbal, emotional and sexual) may result in anxiety, addiction, depression or thoughts of suicide.  People often think they come through hurtful experiences unscathed, but rarely is that true. Emotional eating and  top the list of symptoms that are only the tip of the iceberg. We must look deeper for the true cause and heal there.

It’s not only individuals who are affected by mental illness. Marriages and parent-child relationships can be ruined when people don’t have the ability to be truly present with their loved ones.

People who grow up in families with turmoil, yelling, icy emotional distance, abuse and frequent criticism are at greater risk for mental illness. If you are a highly sensitive person, you are more susceptible to depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

You can help stop the needless suffering in your family by removing the stigma of asking for help. If you suspected your loved one had heart disease, you wouldn’t think twice about telling him or her to go to the doctor.

Smyrna, GA Office

Smyrna, GA Office

Share these videos to educate your loved ones.  Sometimes, people think they are weak if they have to ask for help. But actually, it takes more courage to reach out for help than to do nothing and continue to suffer.  Calling a professional is a sign of strength. You may contact me by clicking here.

Mental Health Awareness Month PSA

Representative Schlossberg speaks on legislation for Mental Health Awareness Month

Remember: When you take care of yourself, you help all those around you.  What we do (or don’t do) impacts others.

Are you looking faster progress than private therapy alone? Attend these intensive retreats where you have many hours to dive deep into healing.

Retreat Venue, Young Harris, GA

Retreat Venue, Young Harris, GA

Deep Emotional Healing Retreat 7/13/13.

Explore, Excavate, Express Your Authentic Self.

Do you find yourself repeating unhelpful patterns even though you don’t want to? Do limiting thoughts and “monkey-mind chatter” create unwanted worry? Do you want to create a relationship that finally works?  Unresolved emotional wounds can sabotage your best intentions.



panama-city-beach “Annual Beach Retreat” Aug. 31- Sept. 5, 2013. 

“Create the Life of Your Dreams” 5 nights at the beach.  

Dig deeper than ever before. Heal at depth so you can make your fondest dreams come true!  Register early. Tuition increases monthly. Panama City Beach, Florida

Contact Benita A. Esposito, MA, Licensed Professional Counselor to inquire about private psychotherapy or intensive retreats. In-person, phone and skype appointments are available.


Deep Emotional Healing Mini-Retreat 11/16/13

Explore, Excavate, Express Your Authentic Self  fall-leaves

Even though you are a high-achiever, there’s probably at least one area of your life that you would like to improve.
We’re all on a journey towards expressing more and more of our Authentic Self. As we develop greater personal and spiritual mastery, our outer life reflects the shining results.

What do you want to improve in your life?

RELATIONSHIPS:  Do you long for healthy relationships, but dysfunctional patterns keep cropping up? Do you want to change your part of the pattern so you can finally BE healthy in relationships, and experience the kind of love you have always wanted?

CAREER: Would you like to experience the joy, emotional support and financial remuneration you desire? Would you like your job to be an expression of your spiritual calling? Do you sense the creativity within you, but something holds you back? Do you want to leave a legacy to make the world a better place?

HEALTH: Do you experience illness, pain or weight issues?  Do you sense there might be an emotional, spiritual or life-style component?

SPIRITUAL DEVELOPMENT: Even though you are a high-achiever, do you sometimes feel an emptiness way down deep inside?  It might feel like anxiety. Do you want to feel whole by developing greater spiritual intimacy?

PERSONAL MASTERY: Do you want to increase your ability to create the life of your dreams? Do you find unhelpful patterns repeating themselves even though you don’t want them to? Do limiting thoughts and “monkey-mind chatter” cause you to worry? Are you eager to increase self-awareness and express your Authentic Self in every situation?

Fall Leaves

All these challenges can be symptoms of unresolved emotional wounds that decrease your self-esteem, competence and ability to create healthy personal and professional relationships. The part of your brain that tries to protect you when you are in danger has become stuck in survival mode. This can generate a number of symptoms including pain, anxiety, depression, procrastination, OCD, addiction, and emotional eating. You may not know how to effectively communicate to resolve conflicts so that your relationships flourish. Your intimate relationship may suffer because you can’t be as emotionally and sexually open as you would like.

The Promise of the Retreat:   You’ll experience rigorous yet gentle leadership tailored to your unique learning style to ensure your success. You’ll receive insights so compelling that you will naturally flow into effective action instead of getting bogged down in self-defeating patterns. You’ll be in a safe place so you can allow Love to flood you, heal you and release wave after wave of creativity. Bask in the sweetness of spiritual intimacy, drawing ever closer to the Divine, the source of all healing. You’ll increase your intuition and hear the voice of the Holy Spirit more clearly. You’ll learn how to allow your energy to flow freely, and open your heart after being wounded. You’ll strengthen your ability to feel even the most difficult emotions, while staying present in your body. When you stop abandoning yourself, you’ll receive more love into your life. You’ll be able to truly forgive, instead of just thinking you should. You’ll deepen your ability to be emotionally intimate with your loved ones.

You’re transformational journey will be accelerated in this pristine Nature setting: the Blue Ridge Mountains and Lake Chatuge.

WHERE AND WHEN:  One Saturday, November 16, 2013. 9:30am-6:00pm. Young Harris, Georgia. Hiawassee

Breathwork is one of the primary activities of the day. It helps you access memory, emotion and spirituality in a profound way. Click on the following link to learn more about what happens in breathwork:  2 Client Stories

Reserve your seat now. This small intimate retreat consists of 5 – 8 people.  To apply, call 770.998.6642 or email A minimum of 3 private sessions are required before attending this retreat.

Tuition: $175.00. (Singles and couples welcome. Couples receive a $20 discount.)

Early Bird Discount: $150.00 by October 13, 2013

Retreat FAQs

TESTIMONIALSBusinesswoman shouting her victory to the world

“I had never really even entertained the idea of doing a retreat. Scared me to death. Once my spirit decided it was the place to be, then it was so powerful that I had to surrender. So far it’s been one life changing experience after another. Right now I am flying. Can you tell? I mean high! I feel like running up this path barefooted if I have to.” – V.S., Psychotherapist

Last night while soaking in the hot tub, I had a mental slideshow of past retreats and how transformative they’ve been for me.  For many years there’s been a deep ache inside of me because my father didn’t affirm me. This unresolved pain caused great difficulty with my romantic relationships. During the breathwork session at the last retreat, while I was in a dreamy state, I appeared as a radiant bride and my Dad finally gave me the adoration I have wanted all my life. Now six months later, I still feel the love that was planted in me during that retreat. What a priceless journey, worth more than gold!  – T.H, Realtor, Health Coach

“By working with Benita Esposito over the last eight years in one-on-one and in group settings, I have deeply explored the outer reaches of consciousness, and the inner depths of my body-mind-soul-emotions. Via strong empathetic connection with me, Benita has intuitively coached me through issues so I can create healthy personal and business relationships. I benefit most from group retreats where there is a mixture of people’s energies. The extended time to work on things is crucial to digging deep and making major changes, while the beautiful Nature settings give me the soothing arena I need to process the experiences. Jump at the chance to be involved in a retreat as often as possible. It is an honor Waterfall_HighShoalsand a privilege to have Benita as the co-creator of my true destiny and my journey towards my Authentic Self.”  ~ L.S

More Testimonials

Lodging:  If you care to stay overnight, click here for a list of hotels. Register early.

Food: Bring a sack lunch and healthy snacks.

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

To inquire about counseling services or intensive retreats, click the Contact  form. Enter your question and contact information.

Refund Policy
*There will be no refunds within 30 days of the event. Cancellation must be writing. Fax to 706.896.0031 or email to
* 31-45 days before the retreat, there will be a 50% refund, minus a $35 processing fee.
* 46 or more days before an event, there will be a full refund minus a $35 processing fee.


The Transformational Journey: A Story

“Erica’s Personal Journey”

There are times in each of our lives when the entire course of our life seems to change. Sometimes, the change is so dramatic it feels like it must have been preordained. I have had several of those turning points in my life, but none more dramatic than the day in 1990 that I met Benita Esposito. My life has not been the same since then, and I am eternally grateful for that. Read more


Newsletter July 2012: Why Retreats are So Effective.

I know your path is not always easy. I know you are intelligent, conscientious, and you have a big heart. I know you are courageous. Every time you take a step toward your goals, every time you speak up for yourself, every time you extend compassion to yourself or someone else, I applaud you.

Part of me cries when my you cry. Part of me aches when you feel stuck.  Part of me wails my tigress roar when people mistreat  you or neglect your needs. You are not alone. We are in this life together, connected through the web of humanity.

I’d like to tell you a little about my own transformational journey in the article below. I have struggled with some of the same issues you have, and I’ve grown and healed. I hope my story inspires you.

I’d also like to invite you to our Beach Retreat: “Your Authentic Self: Create the Life of Your Dreams” September 13-17, 2012. You’ll find several links at the end of the newsletter which will give you a fuller picture.

My Transformational Journey: An Overview

When I was doing my heavy-duty inner healing work in the 70’s and 80’s, there were two things that made the biggest difference for me:  (1) having 2 long-term teachers I trusted and (2) attending multi-day retreats. My teachers saw dynamics in me that I couldn’t begin to understand, let alone heal. I wouldn’t be where I am today without their help.

In order to break free of my past programming and the emotional wounding that held patterns in place, I had to go deep, real deep. I would never have gone there without my teachers. I had to trust them to take me into the unknown. I soaked in their love for me, and because of that I felt safe enough to let go and explore my inner wilderness. Sometimes I challenged them, and they were strong enough to let me ask tons of questions.

The toughest thing was for me to drop down into my emotions and my body, and stop being so intellectual. I had to learn how to get in touch with emotions and stay fully present in my body. That can only be learned experientially, not from reading a book.

I was willing to do that in retreats because I had enough time to pussy-foot around, and stick my toe in the proverbial water. I watched other people as they were coached by my teachers, and I learned vicariously before I asked for healing. I had plenty of time to deal with my anxiety instead of shrinking back. I was scared of the unknown, but I didn’t let it stop me because I saw other people making major breakthroughs. They’d come out smiling, even radiant.

I knew I was playing too small in my life. I felt God prompting me to unfold more of my divine blueprint.  Private counseling sessions were great, weekly groups were wonderful, but my biggest changes occurred at retreats because we had three full days to go deep. “Deep” is what I needed.

What About You?

Are you feeling an inner prompting to go deeper like I did?  Do you have a sense that God designed a blue print uniquely for you, and you want to fulfill it?  Are you feeling the need to break out of the patterns that have kept you stuck?  In my mind’s eye I see the picture of a chick tap, tap, tapping from the inside of the shell, and finally breaking it open. It is the beginning of its new life. I really want this for you, and that’s why I am writing to you today. I want you to break free.

Personally, I love to lead retreats more than any of the work I do because of the deep bonding we experience over three days and the remarkable changes that occur.

To view the current list of Retreats, click here.

If you feel your spirit urging you to explore these opportunities, please contact me now to arrange a complementary phone interview.  Phone 770.998.6642.  Or email me at Tell me 3 good times to speak with you, and I’ll do my best to match one.

The tuition increases on August 1, 2012 so register early to receive a discount.  Final decisions for enrollment must be made by mid-August. There are pre-requisites to complete so if you are interested, it is important to contact me now to see if this is a good fit for you.

Links to Retreat Stories

1)    If you’d like to read about one of the first times I participated in a retreat and how I learned to be vulnerable in public, click here.

2)    To read a story about how I facilitated a client’s healing trauma in a retreat, click here.

3)    To read about a participant’s reflections after a Retreat, click here: Topic: The holy connection between body and spirit.

4)    Click here to read details, testimonials and logistics for our September 2012 Annual Beach Retreat: “Your Authentic Self: Create the Life of Your Dreams”

5) To read about Breathwork combined with our Lake Lanier Yacht Retreat with amazing Nature and animal stories, click here.

Author and Facilitator:

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

Psychotherapy Website:

Life Coaching via telephone and Skype, blog:

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 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. Retreats are facilitated by Benita A. Esposito as spiritual therapy which includes hands-on-healing. Benita is an ordained minister with the AIWP.



“Your Authentic Self Retreat” FAQs

The 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 Labor Day retreat at the 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.


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

Psychotherapy Website:

Life Coaching and Spiritual Counseling:

Specialties: Couples counseling, personal development, 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 quickly to help clients create flourishing personal and professional lives. Psychotherapy is available in-person in Blairsville, Georiga. Life coaching and spiritual counseling for high achievers is available worldwide via telephone and videoconference. In this retreat, Benita functions as an ordained minister with AIWP, applying hands-on-healing as appropriate and invited.


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.

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

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Specialties: Couple 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.


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. Although she intensely resisted my request, she complied because she wanted continue to work with me.

In the last few months, Laura 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.”

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

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 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 four choices when we are traumatized:  freeze, fight, flee or faint.  Laura’s 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. I invited Laura to be in 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, the contracting, squeezing, and twitching stopped. 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 like she 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 a black hole and coming out of a 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. The courage to stay so profoundly present in the midst of anguish is a 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 to me, and she was emotionally stable. The support of the group was immensely healing for her.

I continued: “I first learned how to do this deep healing work under the guidance of my teachers. I have done years of my own deep healing work. 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 teacher, 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.

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Retreat facilitator: Benita A. Esposito, MA, Licensed Professional Counselor.

Bestselling book: The Gifted Highly Sensitive Introvert

The Esposito Institute, Inc.  Counseling, Spiritual Therapy and Life Coaching

2 Offices: Blairsville, Georgia and Atlanta, Georgia

Psychotherapy Website:

Life Coaching and Spiritual Counseling for Highly Sensitive Introverts:

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. Life coaching for high achievers is available worldwide via telephone and video-conference. Spiritual counseling and hands-on-healing is conducted at retreats. Benita A. Esposito, MA is an ordained minister with AIWP.