Conversations with Debby

What type of tools/frameworks/philosophies do you reach for to access your internal wisdom? What do you recommend individuals do to access their inner wisdom?


Our internal wisdom is always there- ready to inform us, to advise us, in the most ordinary and extraordinary circumstances of life. How do we access sit in a moment’s notice? Here are a few tips that I use when working with others, as well as practicing with myself.

First and foremost, I pay attention….to what is being said to me, either in words, behavior, or feeling, Both my left-brain and right are in use all the time.  If the lead is a sensation, I will invite my thinking mind (theory, accumulated knowledge in working with people for 40 years, studies I have read, workshops I have attended) to add to or clarify the feeling, and vise versa if a theoretical construct comes first.  I listen to what my body is feeling, what you see, hear, think, taste, and touch. Information comes in all forms. Look for connections. I believe these are Creator’s punctuation marks, and need to be paid attention to.  Sometimes these punctuation marks are in a “connect the dots pattern”.  For example, a colleague and friend gave me a gift of a Yupik fan.  Years before that, someone had given me a children’s book about Eskimos.  One event did not relate to the other until, many years later, Oscar and I were host to one of the 13 Indigenous Grandmothers arriving at Menla for their first gathering.  It happened to be Rita Pitka Blumenstein, a Yupik tribal healer, and her travel companion, Marie Meade, the person responsible for the permanent Yupik collection at the Smithsonian.  When I showed them my fan, they gasped.  It was a fan from their people, and they prayed over it and blessed it, and from then on I felt the fan was ready to be used in Breathwork ceremony.  Before that, I didn’t use it.  I don’t know why I hadn’t.  It just hadn’t felt complete at that point.  I don’t believe that this was serendipitous. I felt that Creator had her hand in it all.

My belief is that the person in front of me is, as they say in Texas, ”the boss of their own applesauce.”  That means that their knowledge of themselves is respected and is counted on to know the direction of the work they want to do with me.  They, not me, set the goals though there may be times when I suggest an additional exploration.

I believe that energy follows intention. By setting an intention, in my own exploration and with the people I work with (in individual, group, or breathwork), it creates a direction for the energy to go. Much like when you get into a car, you have an idea of where you are going….to Red Hook, to Kingston, to San Francisco. Once the direction is set, there are many roads to choose from. Whether it is then conscious or not, the destination is set, and off we go!  Sometimes we talk, sometimes we use dreams to access information, and sometimes we meditate. Sometimes the meditation begins with an eye roll; a technique developed by a psychiatrist who realized that the eyes roll up into the head when one becomes unconscious. This is a down and dirty way of changing state of consciousness.  Sometimes it is watching the breath.  Sometimes it is Heaven’s Gate, a wonderful combination of specific body posture and breath.  It all depends.  Often I feel instructed as to what should happen next.  Whether that is Creator or intuition, I would not venture to say.  What I do know is that my guidance works, not always, but very often.

What we do depends on what is needed, and what each person is asking for in the moment. Recently, I was called to play chimes as a person walked into the office.  Her response was, “how did you know I needed a sound bath.”  In that instance, the feeling presented before she walked in was one of compression.  Sound, as well as vibration, has the capacity to disperse some of the density.  Sometimes, a combination of breath and touch (and luckily I do have that Ministerial license) can release stuck or held emotion.

What is the foundation of your work as a therapist?

My work is heart work, creating a safe environment for someone’s true nature to develop fully.  Often it means introducing people to the concept that heart and head can be as far apart as they are anatomically, and that the head must be in alignment with the heart for full expression.  I believe that people are set into a classroom at birth (perhaps decided, karmic, perhaps ?) and the lessons are developed there, long before a child has consciousness as to what those lessons are.  The experiences of the family, the child’s biological constitution, the limitations or vastness of such experiences are the shapers of the lessons. (This is the first part of the book, using my own experiences to point to the themes that then recur throughout one’s life, ad nausea until the lessons around them are grasped).  To me, children are often hit by unidentified energetic objects (another term to be used it the book).  What I mean by this is that children, much like dogs and other animals, are sensitives, and often pick up feelings, or responses, long before they have the cognitive skills to know what exactly is happening.  An example….a father and mother live together with their children. The father is absent a lot because of work. He has numerous affairs on the road.  The mother, home with the children, is furious. The kids pick up the energy of these experiences, but don’t know why.  Later in their lives, they unconsciously construct a similar circumstance in their own lives to begin to outline and make conscious the details of their heretofore-unseen world. (All this is the book)

The themes always repeat.  Everyone seems to have them.  Mine were loss and abandonment, by death, and later death became one of my greatest teachers.

What is an “altered state of consciousness”? How does one get there? What does it feel like? What are the benefits?

Altered states of consciousness…. we live day to day in a beta or high beta state…that is either the anxious (high beta) or very busy day to day world.  It is a measurable electrical state.  Sleep is delta, a way less electrical state.  In between beta and delta is alpha and theta, calmer and calmer, deep and deeper, where the mind quiets, the “ah ha’s” come, and the information can come in without your working on it.  The breath is the vehicle to get you there; repetitive exercise can get you there (I can remember when I swam in a pool all the time, for an hour at a time…. by mid-way through that hour, I would barely see the X marking the pool’s end.  Several times, being so zoned, my arms would hit the edge, and I would come back with a start.)  I hear this happens with runners as well.

So, one can get there through the breath, through exercise, through baroque music, or another very slow cadence music, through meditation, imagery through biofeedback, etc.  What it feels like to me…. it’s the port in the storm, it’s the place you can take yourself to that calms, provides information, gives you space in a very compacted world.  For me, it feels like I leave my head behind, and the center of my being is way lower, in the sea of chi, the dan tien.  

The benefits are many.  One can direct (as I did) physiological processes…enhance immune function, lower blood pressure, do better on chemotherapy, envision a healing process, find a direction, get teachings from the wise ones, or the highest part of yourself.  I believe the sky is the limit that everything is possible, once we employ more than the 10 percent of our brains that we seem to use every day.  There is a reason for that 90 percent extra.

And no, you don’t need any drugs to do this.  Cheap, legal, and equally fascinating!  I remember once working with the toughest kids in a Jr. High in Kingston.  I brought cheap biofeedback monitors from Radio Shack to help them get signals as they began to quiet their minds.  They got better and better at it, and the final compliment was when they told me that this was as good as the drugs they had such difficulty paying for!  Loved it.

What is Maitre Breathwork? Why is it so helpful?

Maitre Breathwork is simply one of the most wonderful tools I have ever had the pleasure of working with.  It is an all day workshop, over when everyone’s process is over, with a great lunch after the work is done.  The participants are asked to create an intention for their work (again, it is the direction they want to go in).  Often, the creation of the intention begins a process days before they arrive for the day, and it is easy to see that they are “cooking,” a combination of nervousness and psyche’s stomping at the bit to get this much needed work under way.  We circle up.  We do approximately an hour of talking with the left brain, giving the info of how this process began, how to breathe, the parameters, call in the helpers of the four directions, smudge each one, have people introduce themselves, and share their intention if they would like.

We lay out the mats, people find their spots, connect with their intention. The music, as well as their blankets, pillows and eye masks, provide them privacy access into their own psyches, and the deep, full rapid breath and the music takes them into their altered state.  Sometimes it is a very physical experience, sometimes visual, sometimes a storyline.

What I know for sure is that when the participant allows themselves access, to whatever extent they allow, they gain insight into themselves and awe around the process.  In my first breathwork, my intention was “who am I really?”  At that breathwork, I found myself standing in front of a huge bear, it’s chest supporting me, it’s head on my head, and it’s arms around me.  At that moment, an eagle flew into my chest, slitting it open with its beak, and took a piece of my heart.  When I asked a Native American shaman about that years later, he told me the eagle had saved my life.  Whether that was true literally or figuratively, I can’t know for sure….but I do know that my work changed at that point.  I was no longer a psychotherapist, I had an alter in my office, and my work always included some altered state work, non-ordinary states of consciousness.

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“Debby—you have not only been a therapist and a friend to me, but also a role model. I have always admired your courage and your inner strength. That is why I chose you as my therapist. You have helped me to find a courage and an inner strength of my own that I never even realized I possessed.”