Your Body—Servant or Friend?

by Diane Glass

For much of my life, I treated my body as a servant, there to carry out my brain’s decisions and plans. This strategy worked short time in building a successful corporate career; it did not work long term. My body suffered. It rebelled.

Long meetings led to chronic back pain, at times so intense I had to stand up, rather than sit, to participate. While a leave of absence from my job provided an opportunity to recover, I returned to the same demanding routine. Not until I was diagnosed with breast cancer did I acknowledge that my relationship with my body needed to change.

That change began with simple conversation. I asked my body,

“What do you want?”
“What is your preference?”
“How do you feel about this?”
“How can I help?”
“What is the source of this pain?”

This conversation led to friendship and gratitude. (It also led to quitting my job.) Who else is present with us at birth and at death? Who else knows our deeply intimate fears? Who else provides a home for our dreams and joys? Who else goes with us everywhere to engage in the world?

My body began to respond. She wanted to spend more time outside. Together we rediscovered clouds—how beautifully they glide through an open sky. She missed music so we began the piano lessons set aside since childhood. She longed for freedom of movement so we took swimming lessons.

The dialogue surprised me by opening up deeper insights into my physical problems. Plagued by chronic urinary tract infections for years, I used art and journaling to uncover what the problem might be.

“I’m afraid,” my bladder told me, “but the fear is not yours, it’s your father’s.”

Born with spina bifida and troubled with incontinence, I carried fear about having accidents, but more importantly I carried my father’s fear about whether I would survive this birth defect. Talking with my bladder allowed me to express and release this fear. The infections cleared up after nearly three decades of regular occurrence.

The body uses dreams to show what simmers below the surface of our consciousness. When my bladder showed up in one of my dreams as a pale, thin woman in an Edwardian style waitress outfit on the verge of collapse, I knew it was asking for more support and I called an urologist. She came up with a novel new surgical solution to address my incontinence.

Like all friendships, my relationship with my body has its ups and downs. If I gain weight, become easily fatigued, or discouraged with aging, I at times criticize my body. Can’t she control herself, keep up and fight those wrinkles? This negative self-talk hurts her and hurts us. I come back to expressions of gratitude to make amends:

“Thank you for hanging in there with me when I overdo it and later regret it.”
“Thank you for my ability to walk, even if I need to use a cane.”
“Thank you for the joy of placing my hands on the piano and making music.”
“Thank you for the warmth that comes with hugging grandchildren.”
“Thank you for sharing your wisdom.”

My engagement in TLA study and practices has affirmed my faith in the power words to create relationships, build community, share beauty, address inequities, and heal wounds. In my work as a spiritual director and teacher, I help individuals listen to their bodies and to engage in dialogue that leads to major life shifts. Through such workshops as “The Transformational Power of Story” and “Coming Home to Your Body,” I reach pastors, social workers, mental health counselors, individuals with chronic pain and other spiritual directors.

My TLA practice forms the foundation of my work in the world. But it starts in the most personal and intimate of space—my own body.

Diane Glass, spiritual director and teacher, is a candidate for the Certificate in Transformation Arts Language. She enjoys playing the piano, spending time with her grandchildren, and volunteering with the Spina Bifida Association of Iowa.

The Power of Words with Grace Taylor

Grace Taylor is a spoken word poet, teaching artist and youth development worker. She believes in the empowerment of words, in particular through creative manifestations and providing spaces for people to tell their own stories. Grace’s poetry ciphers strongly around dialogues about identity, with her believing that the exploration of a sense of belonging is underestimated in many facets of society. Grace is co-founder of the South Auckland Poets Collective and the Rising Voices Youth Poetry Movement.

Unpicking The Wound With Words

by Stefanie M Smith

It’s over a year since I first discovered the Transformative Language Arts Network. I’d been looking for a class I could take online fore self-development, and having always had a love of language; it was only natural that I decided to look at some language classes. Little did I know what an amazing transformative tool I had discovered.

Now as the current class I am taking comes to a close, I have decided to take some time to reflect on just how far I have come.

I previously saw myself as a failure; I was 46, disabled – in pain both mentally and physically, and I was mourning my nursing career. I felt totally overlooked by society as a whole and that my voice was no longer relevant or important.

I realise now that some of my insecurities and lack of self-belief were due to the abuse I had been a victim of whilst I was growing up, combined with my mother’s lack of belief about the abuse when I tried to tell her about it. I had had no real validation throughout much of my childhood, however this realisation only truly came to me during my second TLA class – Wound Dwelling: Writing the Survivor Bodies with Jennifer Patterson. The class description had called out to me so strongly that I just had to take it, and I am so glad that I did.

One of the writing prompts from the first week asked us to do a free write based on a piece by Leslie Jamison – beginning from: “here is a [person] who is almost entirely wound…” It was an uncomfortable prompt for me but I decided it was something I needed to tackle head on, and this is an extract from what I wrote.

If I describe myself as Wound – what does that look like – what do I look like as Wound? If I close my eyes and think about how deeply I am wounded I can see a deep deep pressure sore – there at my base – on first look it seems small and neat but then on closer examination I can see that it goes Waaayyyy deep – right around and behind my spine – I could pack it with fibres to try and draw out the stinking pus and allow the edges of the wound begin to close in – but what I choose to do time after time – even though I know it won’t help me heal – is to patch it over & cover it with a sticking plaster – let the surface heal – and try to ignore the deep set rotting that carries on underneath – it looks pretty like that – in the same way that I choose to use a smile to hide my pain- but time and again without warning the rot – the pain – rises to the surface and breaks back through – a slimy ooze trickles through the flesh and releases my secret again. The stench a nose wrinkling smell that drags me back down to the depths.

This is not the story I want my wound to tell – I want to heal it properly from the inside out – not just allow the surface to heal – then break – then heal again in a never ending cycle.

My Wound – its’ story should follow a more linear path – the edges growing granulation – slowly steadily safely – letting new tissue – healed flesh working its’ way up – replacing the stinking pus – growing the pain and hurt out – yes there will be a scar – but scar tissue has its’ own strength – and once this Wound is closed properly – with honesty and revelations – it will not be broken down again – of this I am sure……….

It felt like I had gained a powerful new insight into my inner turmoil with just this one small piece of writing. I was amazed both at myself and at the process and it led me to challenge myself more over the duration of the class, each week coming to a new understanding of myself and my healing journey. This was just the first step of many along the path to a newly healed soul.

Editor’s note: This is Stefanie’s first blog in fulfillment of her Transformational Language Certificate.

stefanieStefanie M Smith, is a 47 year old former nurse and qualified hypnotherapist who has lived in Lincolnshire, UK, since childhood. Unfortunately in 2009 her health took a nosedive, and she now deals with fibromyalgia, depression and other chronic health conditions on a daily basis. During this enforced rest period, Stefanie has been able to re-ignite her love of the written word, especially poetry and will shortly having a selection of her poems published in an anthology. Having noticed a marked benefit to her health through her own writing practice, Stefanie is now re-training in the therapeutic and transformational uses of language with the aim of sharing this phenomenal tool with others.


By Melissa Rose


It is easier to dismiss others when we know them on the surface. We are all more than that surface image however. In fact, we are the same. Our stories unique, but somehow exactly alike, and if you take the time to listen, you discover the connection between us all.

Storytelling is a unique characteristic of human beings. We learn easiest through stories. storycorps4We connect with other humans through stories. Stories tells us who we are and who we want to be. They inspire and reflect. They show us the people we could be. The people we once were. The lessons we learned and learn again. Most importantly, they connect us.

StoryCorps is an organization dedicated to building connections through stories. Founded in 2003, what began as simple pop up “story booth” in Grand Central Station now has growth into a national movement, prompting permanent story booths located across the country, and a mobile booth which takes the storytelling on the road. Places where anyone can share a story with the world, and anyone else can listen to it.

StoryCorps’ mission is to “preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build storycorps3connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.”

The more we share our stories, the more we discover that we are more alike than different. That no matter our background and culture and history, we all experience the pain of loss. The power of love. The strength of our own resilience in the face of impossible odds. We discover that we are, in fact, one human family.

Discover some stories, and share your own!