In this week's episode, Billy and Brian ask pediatric operating room nurse and trauma-informed yoga instructor Marie Nutter:
--A lot of our season has focused on reinventing ourselves after facing tragedy or trauma, and your story follows that same script. Can you share with us your journey to healing and reinvention after the death of your twin brother?
--From that experience came the Human Healing Project, so tell us more about what that is and what your mission/goal is.
--As we mentioned, you work in health care during the day and at night you teach yoga. You recently launched MN Yoga, and your goal is to teach trauma-informed yoga and meditation classes to health care providers, first responders, veterans among others who battle daily secondary trauma accumulated from enduring a career where you have to disconnect yourself to literally save others. What is trauma-informed yoga, how does it differ from the yoga we might take at a CorePower, and why do you see a need for this?
--On your web site you say, “I am not an expert in healing, psychology or philosophy. I am, however, a human being who is finding expertise in my lived experience, and who is choosing to turn my own healing project into a universal crusade of love.” I think that’s a powerful statement because it connects to what we discussed with Jodi Pfarr about understanding one’s experiences. Tell us more about how your lived experiences are guiding your universal crusade of love.
Like what you heard from Marie Nutter? Contact her at:
Website: www.humanhealingproject.com or www.mnyoga.org
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Coming up on The Mindful Midlife Crisis...
Marie: After a few days of searching and, actually, by the time we got there to extend the search, you just start doing reality checks as far as like, what kind of search is this? Is this a fruitful search of him being alive, or is this a search of, hopefully, maybe bringing him back home for some sort of sense of closure?
Welcome to The Mindful Midlife Crisis, a podcast for people navigating the complexities and possibilities of life's second half. Join your hosts, Billy and Brian, a couple of average dudes who will serve as your armchair life coaches, as we share our life experiences — both the good and the bad — in an effort to help us all better understand how we can enjoy and make the most of the life we have left to live in a more meaningful way. Take a deep breath, embrace the present, and journey with us through The Mindful Midlife Crisis.
Billy: Welcome to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. I'm your host, Billy. And as always, I'm joined by my good friend, Brian on the Bass. Brian, how you doing over there, man?
Brian: I'm feeling victorious this morning.
Billy: Why? Why are you feeling so victorious?
Brian: Well, the Packers last night secured the top spot in the NFC — the number one seed — which means all roads to the Super Bowl go through Lambeau, which is great. We have 13 wins for the third time in three years under Matt Lafleur.
Billy: And who did you defeat last night to secure?
Brian: I don't remember.
Billy: You bastard.
Brian: It's nobody.
Billy: No one of consequences, right?
Brian: No one of consequence. It doesn't matter.
Billy: The beauty of being overseas for two months in September and October is that I didn't have to watch the Vikings flounder at all. Usually, I don't pay attention to the NFL anyway until Thanksgiving. Because it's still nice outside in September and October, so I don't want to watch football on Sundays. I want to go outside on Sundays in September and October — which I did a lot of that — especially this time around.
The thing that drives me nuts, one of the things that drives me nuts about the Vikings is that they still managed to suck me in to believing that it was possible that they could make the playoffs. They even did this during this season. Because they only would lose by one score, or they would only win by one score. They would just do this to me. They sucked me in. It's the most abusive relationship I've ever been.
Brian: It really is. I don't blame you. I have all the times I've had to root for the Vikings. Because I'll pull for the division if the pack's out of it, which doesn't happen very often. But every time I've had to root for them, it's just soul crushing. I'm just so happy to go back to rooting for the Packers. So, at anytime, you can always come over and just root for the Packers. Try it. You'll like it.
Billy: I don't think I will. I can't stand the colors. The colors make me want to puke. Luckily, today, our guest is a pediatric operating room nurse. She is the author of The Human Healing Project. I feel like after this Viking season, I will need some healing here.
Our guest today is Maria Nutter. Again, Marie is a pediatric operating room nurse by day. She is also a yoga and meditation guide and business owner of Minnesota Yoga, which focuses on trauma-informed yoga. She is also the author of the book The Human Healing Project. She is here today to talk to us about the impact trauma has had on her life, and how she has navigated through that trauma in an effort to heal while also helping others heal. Welcome to the show, Marie Nutter.
Marie: Hey guys.
Billy: Thank you for being here, Marie. Marie, are you a Vikings fan?
Marie: I was not born here. I was raised here. I've watched the Vikings, but I haven't fully committed like most Minnesotans.
Brian: It's good.
Billy: Yes, for the best, for sure.
Marie: Right. I've noticed.
Billy: Marie, we always ask our guests what 10 roles they play in their life. So, what are the 10 roles that you play in your life?
Marie: Sure. So, not necessarily in this order. But we have nurse, yogi, business owner, wifey, dog mom, old athlete, dancing full, extroverted introvert, closet goofball, and a neuro nerd.
Billy: Oh, I like these. You definitely took some time to think about these. These are very creative. Let's talk a little bit about old athlete. What sport did you play?
Marie: Sure. Growing up, let's say, through grade school, I did basically anything that was put in front of me. I suck at swimming. I almost drowned in gym class one time at seventh grade. But then, I worked my way up to high school. High school is basketball, track and field, and soccer. Then I was actually able to work my way to a D1 level athletic experience at Miami, Ohio. I did track and field. So, I was a thrower — something I never thought I'd ever do, but I actually excelled at. I was able to do that four years. I become captain in my last year there.
Billy: We have had probably the most athletic group of guests this season, so far. Because we had Tiffany Byrd, who is a Hall of Famer at Morgan State. We had Aaron Boike on. We have you on here. Of course, Brian and I are the hosts. We're two of the most athletic 40 somethings out there. Greg Scheinman, if you follow him on Instagram, you'll see that he is just jacked. So, we've had a very athletic group of guests this year. So, very exciting. You also say here that you are a dancing fool.
Billy: What's your go-to music? What's the music that will get you up and dancing?
Marie: Probably '90s hip hop.
Billy: Oh, do we have the band for you?
Brian: It's true.
Billy: Oh, yeah. Brian started a band called Gen X Jukebox. Does that sound like that's up your alley?
Marie: Yeah, definitely.
Brian: We're doing like no diggity stuff, all that regulate. It's pretty cool. It's funny.
Marie: When is this happening?
Brian: It's a lot of fun. We're going to be starting to play within the next couple months here.
Brian: We're booking the Summer Festival stuff now, too.
Marie: Oh, very cool.
Billy: Yeah, '90s is definitely my go-to when it's time to cut up a rug on the dance floor. You also said here open goofball. That's actually one of the three things that you're most looking forward to in the second half of life.
Billy: So, what do you mean by that? What's an open goofball?
Marie: So, within the first 10, I have closet goofball. Usually, people who are very close to me get to see how weird and goofy I am, and just how much I don't care about where I'm at or what I'm doing, and will do anything for a laugh. It takes a while to get to that point, right? So, I'm hoping on the second half, if I get there, my lifetime of just not giving an F anywhere I'm at and just being who I am. It's not about who I'm around. It's just I am who I am.
Billy: I imagine that you are an open goofball around your husband. That's why you're looking forward to being a wifey the second half of life.
Marie: Yeah, hopefully, he's still with me at that point. I don't know if I've driven him away by that time. But hopefully, yeah.
Billy: Well, if he is appreciating your goofiness, then—
Marie: Yes, he does.
Billy: That's great.
Marie: He matches me.
Billy: Excellent. You also put down here yogi. It's very exciting. You have launched a new yoga business. Do you want to talk about that?
Marie: Yes, it's called MN Yoga. It's a play on my initials, Marie Nutter. It's just my style of yoga. So, it taps into trauma. I am surrounded by it at work as a pediatric operating room nurse. I really want to help others who just don't give enough to themselves as they continue to give, give, give at work. A lot of us do that. But with folks in the healthcare field, first responders, police fire, we are constantly dealing with things that normal people don't have to see or do. That becomes our baseline.
So, you have primary trauma — things that happened to us personally. Then you have secondary trauma — things that you see on a daily basis that might happen to someone else. Over time, whether we know it or not, that accumulates on to our spirit. So, it might be an unconscious thing that happens. We just go up. It's just a regular day. Suck it up. We sign up for this role, so deal with it.
The way we typically deal with it is that we don't, and it leads to very unhealthy patterns. It leads to zero self-care. So, that's how I want to step into giving that first back to myself, but then hopefully to help other people see that there's a real need here, and to start finding that for them as well.
Billy: How does that connect to you being a neuro nerd? Because I like that you added that in there. How does tackling trauma, addressing trauma, acknowledging trauma connect to the neuro nerd?
Marie: That's an interesting question. My first operating room nurse position was neuro. So, I really geeked out. I cried when I got the position. It was all great. So, you get to see the insides of people. If that's interesting to you, great. If not, then maybe you don't want to listen to the next couple of seconds. But I love seeing the brain. I love seeing. I love fixing. I love going in and helping.
Actually, it's interesting. The connection to trauma and yoga with that is that, I actually, personally, have to come back to my body. I am usually in my head quite a bit, as far as thoughts go. I'm typically scatterbrained. It takes a while for me to come back to myself. So, when I've learned how to practice and focus on my breath, I'm actually able to be in the present moment and in my body. As much as I love neuro, and being and working with the brain, and even being in my own head as the most comfortable spot to be, actually, I have to work on being in my body.
Billy: I love how you talk about coming back to your body and using your breath to do that. The next two episodes, we have a two-part interview with Kolin Purcell and Anna Schlegel about re-examining our relationship with our breath. So, I feel like this all ties in very closely to each other.
I know that you have seen the impact of trauma has had on other people's lives, and you, yourself, have experienced trauma. So, when we come back, we're going to continue talking to a pediatric operating room nurse and yoga instructor, Marie Nutter. She is going to share that story of trauma with us. Thank you for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis.
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And now, let's take a minute to be present with our breath. If you're listening somewhere safe and quiet, close your eyes and slowly inhale for 4, 3, 2, 1. Hold for 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Slowly exhale for 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Let's do that one more time. Inhale for 4, 3, 2, 1. Hold for 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Slowly exhale for 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Go ahead and open your eyes. You feel better? We certainly hope so. And now, back to the show.
Billy: Welcome back to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. We are here with pediatric operating room nurse and yoga instructor, Maria Nutter. Marie has agreed to come on here to talk about trauma and the trauma that other people experienced, but also the trauma that she, herself, has experienced.
A lot of what our show has been about this season has been reinventing ourselves. Some of the guests have come on and talked about how they needed to do that after facing tragedy or facing trauma. Your story very much follows that same script. So, can you share with us your journey to healing and reinvention?
Marie: Sure. We've all been through difficult scenarios or events in our lives. I've already had experiences of losing really great people in my life and that grief story that can unfold. The one catalyst event that really put me on this different path was when I lost my twin brother, Mark, in 2017, right around the holidays.
Essentially, he's a great, experienced solo traveler, military experience background, very fit person. Just someone you wouldn't question that wouldn't be able to cut it in the environment that he was. He went on a vacation in Namibia, super geeked out about all the things on his itinerary, where to go.
During the middle part of his vacation, we got a phone call. Interesting sidebar story. We got a phone call from a brother of ours that we hadn't met yet, that lives in South Africa — bordering country of Namibia. He had actually found out somehow first that he had gone missing, that Mark had gone missing. So, he contacted me and my brother, Roy, in the Twin Cities to just let us know what was going on.
The next few days that followed, obviously, we're on pins and needles. We're trying to figure out what to do next. There was just a moment where it was like, "Are we going to sit here and wait for updates on what's going on? If people there are actually, really, truly trying to find him?" There's no blueprint for this kind of thing. There's no guidebook. So, we just went. We packed up our stuff. We got emergency passports. We figured out how to get there, and connected to the government, and talked to their police and the people that were out there looking for him, and becoming part of the actual search.
I never traveled really much myself. So, this whole situation, this whole event, this whole traumatic thing was so new to me in so many different ways. It wasn't just, this crazy thing is happening. I'll try to figure it out. It was like, you have to come out out of all of your comfort zones at once, in order to try to help someone that you love.
Billy: What was the result of that expedition in order to find your brother?
Marie: Sure, not off the top my head, but I can't remember how many days we were out there. Each day, we were out there for as long as there was sunlight to track him. There was this guy named Joe, who had a huge military experience, who essentially led the search party. I got to learn from him how to track my own brother's footprints in the sand.
Billy: When you say out there, where were you?
Marie: Sure. Brandberg Mountain area in Namibia. It's a huge area. I want to say the size of the mountainous area is maybe like the size of like St. Paul itself, as far as just how big the mountain is, and then the surrounding area. It was in December, so it was a dry season around that time. So, a lot of the water and stuff was just not available there.
After a few days of searching and, actually, by the time we got there to extend the search, you just start doing reality checks as far as like, what kind of search is this? Is this a fruitful search of him being alive, or is this a search of hopefully maybe bringing him back home for some sort of sense of closure? But ultimately, we were not able to find any of that typical closure with this story.
Billy: First of all, I want to express my condolences. I can't even begin to imagine the impact that it has, still to this day, on you, especially the non-closure part. So, I was wondering if you could speak to that a little bit.
Marie: Sure. Every holiday season, that tends to happen. Each year that comes by around this time, I've grown to learn to take better care of myself. Because those memories, that event lives in my body. So, how I have personally tried to work through some of that grief and through some of that trauma has been actually through yoga. I really didn't understand the full extent of how I could do that through that particular exercise. But when I came back after the trip, I'm completely devastated. You go there with all the hopes and support in the world. I essentially felt like I failed my brother. The first couple of classes that I went to, I was just cash for energy. Normally, you go there. I feel good. I feel great in these postures. I just wanted to curl up and not be around.
When I went through the classes, it just felt different. I actually heard the words from one of the instructors of just like, "Take your time. If you want to meet us in the next posture, you can." Giving options that I didn't have to show up completely, and just be okay with showing up with where I am right now, and being okay with that.
I learned, in those moments through yoga, to honestly understand how to even listen to my body, to listen to where I'm at — energy-wise, spiritually, emotionally — and just be okay with that. Because as a fixer in my job, and even in my personal life, I always want to fix something. This was something that I could not fix despite my efforts. Just learning how to sit with a particular emotion or feeling in my body, without the attempts of trying to fix something, enables me to actually live with what is versus what isn't.
Billy: Before you got here, you shared with us that your husband is a badass therapist. A few years after your brother went missing, you've realized that simply talking and sharing about your experiences was no longer helping. So, what did you do immediately after that? Is that when you got into yoga? What was the draw to yoga? Had you always been doing yoga? What did it look like then when you say you started listening to your body? There's a lot of questions in there, so you can pick a part whatever you want.
Marie: Yeah, my husband is a badass therapist. His name is Larry Nutter. Shameless plug, L. Nutter Therapy. He's great. He's on his own, and works well with folks with trauma and families and kids and all that good stuff. He's a wonderful husband.
At a certain point, I realized that I couldn't depend on him to be my therapist. It would be asking too much of our relationship to expect him to not just be a listening ear, but then to help me dissect myself and patterns that might have grown from this traumatic experience. I can't remember when I had that aha moment. But when I did, I just realized that I had to reach out and talk to an actual therapist about it that I trusted.
But in regards to the yoga, before that crazy around the world, amount of loss experience, my athletic background really drew me to moving my body in different ways that I didn't know about. I really enjoyed all the normal things that people go to yoga for. I want to get a little bit more flexible. I want to work on my focus. I want to work on just becoming more motivated, or whatever physical manifestation that people want to create in their bodies.
So, that was me when I started yoga. But then when I got back and took a few more classes and touched into the ability to give myself a bit of some grace in how I do things. I don't have to be my best 10 out of 10, or your two to show up. Sometimes showing up is just getting to your mat. So, those little, soft lessons and what you can weave through a yoga class, I've learned, matter.
So, when you're dealing with trauma — whether it's personally or professionally, or maybe you're just interacting with someone you know — just being able to give space to that, the ability to create softness in your practice or the ability to actually just try to be in the moment, that's the whole point of mindfulness, of bringing yourself back to, what do I feel right now? Okay. What do I need right now?
Then the second huge piece is, what do I do with that? So, if you are having lots of thoughts in your mind and scatterbrained all day, we try to focus back to our breath. We slow down our breath, and we come back to the moment. If we feel super heavy in our bodies, because we've had a really heavy day at work, for focusing on our breath, we actually end up focusing on our inhales. How does it feel to create space in your body? Feeling a little bit lighter if you've been feeling a little bit more heavier. Just those little nuances you end up finding.
Billy: I'm so glad that you're talking about breath. Because it makes me even more excited for the next two-part episode to come out, where Kolin and Anna talk about breath. Because they really are breath experts, in my opinion. They're breathing experts. They really have an amazing understanding of the impact breath has.
As you're managing your breath, as you're taking a look at your breath, and as you are allowing yourself to check in with your body more and more, what does that grief then begin to look like or feel like physically? How do you feel it? Where do you feel it in your body once you allowed yourself to tune into your body?
Marie: I think that depends on everyone — the patterns that maybe they have developed over time, just as from kids growing to adults, what their experiences are like. It really depends on the moment. Every day it can change. So, the whole point of checking in is to learning where it lives in your body right now, versus you can do some things that have worked beforehand in life that you might try again now that may not work, or they might, or it worked yesterday, but it's not working right now.
This constant assessment and reassessment is the whole point of checking into what you need now. Like on New Year's Day, I woke up super dehydrated. But still, the first thing I went for was my coffee. It's been my crutch to get through the pandemic, and work, and life, and all the things.
I went on my day. I was driving in my car, about to meet up a friend for breakfast. I'm on 694. All of a sudden, I can't see through my windshield. For some reason, I just hit that sweet spot where the sun hit my windshield, as I'm going 60. I can't see a thing. So, quickly, I'm going, "WTF, what do I need to do?"
I actually automatically started to breathe deeper into my body. That wasn't like a conscious thing. It was something that I had practiced over time that kicked in, which I sidebar that as extremely cool. I'm glad that was there. Because I was able to think a little bit more clearly. But as I'm doing the windshield wiper fluid, it's freezing on my windshield. So, I'm still going 60. Nothing's working.
When you think about this, the things that had worked before are not working right now. So, what do I do with that? Do I just bitch about it? Do I complain about it? Do I swerve? Do I start acting chaotic because now the things that didn't work aren't working right now. So, I ended up having to use my side mirror to actually look behind me to see where the lanes in the road were.
Marie: In order to actually, eventually, pull over so I could warm up the windshield and actually see clearly.
Billy: That's an impressive awareness with your breath, that I'm starting to feel it wherever you're feeling it in your body. For me, I always feel it in my stomach first, and then it makes its way up to my chest. Once it makes its way up to the chest, then I know I'm in anxiety mode. If I can keep it in my stomach, then I can at least self talk it to keep it in that area. But once it gets to my chest, sometimes that panic sets in for you. Is that how it works for you, or what does it look like for you when that anxiety or when that stress starts to creep in, and that auto measure comes into play?
Marie: For me, actually, I'm lucky enough where it takes a while for me to start flipping the eff out. I'm surprised that I continued to drive as fast as I did. Still, I'll go a little clearer up. It'll be fine. Then going from there, that's when the the deep breath kicked in. So, I guess any anxious thoughts and feelings, when they arrive in my body, would be more in my chest area. Because you're breathing. You're focusing on what's there and what's not.
But usually, it starts in the mind for me. Once I actually did go, "Oh crap, I got to really need to figure this out. I got to pull over," that's when actually it followed in my body as well. Then I started doing the steps I needed to actually get to the side of the road. It was interesting, because when I was able to pause and collect myself and start doing the other things that needed to clear what was in front of me, I was able to feel calmer in my body.
I think a lot of the times, in relation to anxiety, when that starts creeping up or whenever you notice it in your body, wherever you do notice it — maybe it starts in your mind. Maybe it starts in your body — it doesn't really matter where it starts. It's the fact that you're paying attention that it's happening. Then once you're actually able to realize that it's happening, you can cut it off at a pass. Maybe it just reaches a 3 out of 10 versus a 10 out of 10.
Because when we start to deny what's happening or noticing in our body or in our mind, that's when things get worse. That's when things feel worse, right? You actually take a few steps back in your progress, and being able to manage that kind of stuff. Because you're not paying attention to yourself. You're not being honorable to yourself by listening to yourself, and then moving forward with what is best for you in that particular moment.
Billy: I imagine this carries over to your role as an operating room nurse as well.
Marie: Oh, for sure. Yeah.
Billy: So, where do you see that?
Marie: It's interesting. There was a moment — this happens quite a bit. But there was moment in surgery, maybe a couple of weeks ago, where I was doing neurosurgery. I was getting super frustrated by the case. I can't remember why. I noticed that towards the end of the day I was super tired. I think I had to stay on call. So, I'm already just tired and frustrated. I was trying to figure something out with equipment. I wasn't able to do it right away. That auto big breath came through.
Luckily, I've been practicing right for a while. So, it's not something that naturally happens. But when it does, or if you think about it, that breath that came into my body and then I was able to release it and let go, I automatically felt better in myself in the moment of the surgery, and what was happening.
Ironically, as soon as I actually had the thought to breathe and then let go of my breath, the neurosurgeon working actually said, "Marie, I wish I could be more calm like you." I just paused and smiled underneath my mask. I was like, "Wow. That timing couldn't have been any better in what he said and what I did." But it also made me think that my presence actually matters. My ability to calm myself has an effect of the people in the room.
Billy: You do have a calming effect. Your voice is very calming. Your presence is very calming. I actually feel far less jittery than I normally do when we have these interviews. Usually, I'm bouncing off the wall. Your presence is certainly affecting the atmosphere in the room. Brian, I don't know if you feel the same way.
Brian: I do, actually. Yeah, now that you mentioned it, and you've drawn awareness to it, yeah, you do have a very calm way about you. Yes.
Marie: That's awesome.
Billy: So then, how has the stress of this pandemic that we're going into year two of now compounded the trauma that you faced with your brother?
Marie: This is a very good question. Because last spring, actually, you have the new year, and you have all these expectations of maybe a very unrealistic of, "New Year, new me, or New Year, I'm going to feel better. I'm going to do this, that, and the other. It's going to be great." I have that.
The next day followed, the first or second of the year, and I still felt like shit. I didn't understand why, why one day I couldn't magically undo all the stuff that I saw, personally, looking for my brother, or all the stuff that I have done personally, working as a nurse in the operating room and dealing with COVID, and dealing with all the changes, whether it was at work. Just everywhere you go, it was so much change. So, I'm drained. I have no energy.
Around January or February — I can't remember the exact date — I officially took me a while to actually say it out loud and recognize it in myself that I was burned out. I had asked to request less hours at work. I actually stopped teaching yoga for a couple months, and I actually stopped taking it. Because I, literally, had no energy to get through my day, or even do the things that I personally love to do.
So, I really had to understand how I got there and why I got there. What was the reason why I got there? A lot of it was some of that grief and trauma that I had not processed yet. When we got back from the search, it was back to regular life. That didn't feel like life no longer felt normal to me.
Billy: I think it's underrated to take a pause and to take a step back even before you can move forward. Because like you had mentioned before, we're so used to just plowing straight ahead. Sometimes we need that pause. Sometimes we need to take a step back. For you, you removed yoga, which is something that — it sounds like it actually helped you navigate the trauma, but it was creating a stress because you were burnt out. You weren't able to move forward.
So then, in taking that step back, what I think is really amazing is, you eventually launched MN Yoga. Your goal is to teach trauma-informed yoga and meditation classes to health care providers, first responders, veterans, among other people, who battled daily secondary trauma accumulated from and during a career, where you have to disconnect yourself to literally save others. Real quickly, can you talk about what do you mean by 'daily secondary trauma?'
Marie: In a typical day at work, you just don't know what you're going to get. I mean, you can be assigned to a room. It could be a great day of elective cases of like, "Oh, we're taking gall bladders out all day. Okay, great." Or you can be in a room or asked to do some really hard things like dealing with kiddos in the NICU and doing and seeing kids under the knife for either elective or emergent procedures.
In order to just get through your day, you end up having to disconnect from parts of yourself. What I mean by that is like, you can't really think that the four-year-old kid that is actively dying in front of you looks like your niece or nephew. Those thoughts may come up. But as soon as they do, shut that down. You got to shut that down. You have to think logically. You have to think in the moment. You have to be able to know where your resources at or who to call in to help out, and do what you have to do. So many different things that doesn't have to deal with your heart or your spirit.
Billy: Can you use that as motivation, or should you just bring that kind of care in every situation but detach the immediate connection to it?
Marie: I think the disconnect happens on an unconscious subconscious level. As our brains and how we work to help preserve ourselves, they just can't function in that way in a fight or flight scenario. Again, if you're in a situation where you're trying to help someone live, essentially, your body can't work in that. It just doesn't work that way.
So, when you go through your day — dealing with emergencies all day, or if you're a firefighter dealing with a lot of medic calls, or fire calls, or whatever it might be — where you're constantly on the edge, where you're constantly activating your fight or flight system within yourself, you don't really think, "I've been turning off that switch all day. I got to turn it back on."
That is the piece that I want to step into — to help others turn that switch back on to find more connection within themselves. Essentially, that means getting in touch to all parts of yourself, and maybe even some of the parts that you've been ignoring for quite some time.
Billy: I imagine that's part of what trauma-informed yoga is all about. You've kind of touched on this. How does that differ then from yoga? We might take at core power or something like that. Why do you see a need for this?
Marie: Sure. So, with trauma-informed yoga, it's based in trauma research. A lot of events or times or experiences that people experience it — whether it's the primary happening to us or secondary, something that we see happen to other people — there's a lot of situations where you don't have any choice on how you feel. Either your voice is taken away, or you didn't have a lot of options of what you could do in that moment.
Within trauma-informed, it essentially gives you a safe space to explore what you feel, why you feel, and where you feel it. So, with the mindfulness piece of slowing down the moment, taking a pause, checking in — not to say that that's not in a class with core power or whomever it might else be. But I speak directly about this stuff. Even if you don't particularly work in these areas that I've talked about or that I work in, we've all been through trauma.
The pandemic itself, your experiences through that, took away so many choices. It's created a lot of divisiveness as far as even just getting vaccinated. So, you have a moment where lots of jobs are taken away from people. Maybe you're now stuck at home, in an environment that doesn't give you a lot of choices. Let's say, if you're a kid and dealing with maybe abusive parents. That sort of thing is now living in our body.
That time, and that space that happened is still within us. It still creates patterns of behavior that we might not necessarily be aware of, that we can start being aware of when we start paying attention to our body. Essentially, the yoga that I provide, hopefully, helps you connect back to yourself, but then to understand where your mind and body actually connect.
Billy: All of this reminds me of a TED talk that I saw from Dr. Lissa Rankin. It's Lissa. L-I-S-S-A R-A-N-K-I-N. She talks about, "Is there scientific proof we can heal ourselves?" She has a book called Mind Over Medicine, I believe it's called. It all really connects to what it sounds like you're trying to do with trauma-informed yoga.
Marie: Yes, everything connects. The problems that we get in our body and in our mind, and even with how we relate to others, is when we think that it doesn't connect. I gave the example of on the first of the year, and I'm pulling over. I'm just shocked and I have to breathe, and I have to figure something out quickly and yada, yada. Instead of just going, "Oh, that was weird," like a happenstance, later when I was in a safe space, in the nice, comfortableness of my warm home, I was like, "What the heck was that? Why did that happen? Was that just random, or was that somehow connected to some message that I can figure out to move and operate better in the world?"
I actually took a look into that. I realized, me looking at the side rear view mirror to look behind me in order to try to move forward. That's an analogy of us trying to thrive when we're really just doing things to survive. Instead of drinking coffee, I could be drinking more water. That's an old habit that I've been using to get through the pandemic. I'm like, "I can't continue to do the things that I have been doing in the past that have just gotten me by, if I really want to actually move forward and do something bigger with myself in my purpose."
Billy: I imagine our listeners are finding this just as fascinating as we are. So, what we want to do is, we want to take a quick break. I'm going to advise all of our listeners to go to www.mnyoga.org to check out what Marie is setting up here. Then when we come back, we're going to dive into Marie's work with The Human Healing Project. Thank you for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis.
Thanks for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. We will do our best to put out new content every Wednesday to help get you over the midweek hump. If you'd like to contact us, or if you have suggestions about what you'd like us to discuss, feel free to email us at email@example.com or follow us on Instagram @mindful_midlife_crisis. Check out the show notes for links to the articles and resources we referenced throughout the show. Oh, and don't forget to show yourself some love every now and then, too. And now, back to the show.
Billy: Welcome back to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. We are here with pediatric operating room nurse and yoga instructor, and the business owner of MN Yoga, Marie Nutter. Marie shared her traumatic experience by losing her brother, how that manifests from time to time in her work as an operating nurse. Marie, it sounds like from your experiences came about The Human Healing Project. So, can you tell us more about what that is, and what your mission and goal is with The Human Healing Project?
Marie: Sure. So, it started off as an e book. I wrote that in 2020. Actually, when I was right in the thick of writing it, it was right before the pandemic. So, it was already experiences that I had had — a huge one, obviously, the one that I shared, and how we can attempt to find more connection with other people and find more hope within ourselves through that connection.
The book itself really just delves into hindsight within my own insigh, or insight with my own hindsight, however you want to say it. But I was just looking back and saying, essentially, how did I get through this thing? How am I still working through things?
The first two chapters — I'm not giving anything away — it's like a 40-minute read. It's like $1 on Amazon. So, it's super cheap. With the first two chapters, one is called things I wish I said. In those moments, I don't just talk about the loss of my brother. I talk about other scenarios as well. But things looking back, like, "Gosh, I really wish I had just said I'm still hurting instead of, I'm okay, when people ask how are you doing?" Because, really, I could have invited more conversation and maybe even more healing during that time.
In the second chapter, it's more like things I wish you said. Hopefully, to any friends or family listening, it wasn't a direct thing as far as what you did or did not do. It's just all in hindsight. What's something that I wish I had heard that would have helped my healing process? One of those things was, "It's not your fault." Please don't judge me. Maybe looking back is something that I wish I would have told myself. Maybe it didn't need to come from somebody else.
The first two chapters are really just about my own stories and, hopefully, something that somebody else can take away from. As random and crazy as losing my brother across seas, and doing all that running around and searching, I don't expect most people to truly relate to that. But there are parts to the story that they can connect to. If me sharing my healing process, and my healing story can help somebody else, then why not share it?
Billy: Do you have an example of someone reaching out to you after either connecting with you on Instagram — which is at Human Healing Project — or after reading the book where they said, you captured the emotions that I have been feeling here?
Marie: Yes and no. I think with all the intentions of a world of having people to talk more about their healing, that is a process. People choose to not talk about things their whole entire lifetime. They are willing to go to the grave without dealing with the things that really, truly, hurt.
Over time, I think in the beginning, I was like, "Man, I wish I would get more feedback." I just realized the amount of feedback does not truly correlate to the actual impact that it's happening. So, yeah, I've had some people either come up to me or share reviews on Amazon, or something of that sort that really directly say what you've done and what you've shared have impacted me and my ability to even think about their own story. That was the whole point of like, "Gosh. If I can share my story, that means you might want to dig a little deeper into your own." Because we all tend to operate from our healed or unhealed parts of ourselves.
Billy: I've talked multiple times on the show about how this podcast has served me well, to the point where I don't go to therapy anymore. Because this is therapeutic for me.
Marie: This is very therapeutic.
Billy: So, I imagine that's what the book was for you, was you have all of these thoughts and these emotions inside of you. I imagine that's having an impact on what you're holding in your body and maybe even creating tension within your body that you're not even aware of. So, I'm wondering. Did you notice a release or a freeing within your body once the book was published, or even as you were writing it?
Marie: Yeah, I did, actually. When I started writing, I did realize okay. Because there was a time where I had all these thoughts, and I just wasn't really sharing them. It boiled to the point of like, okay, I have to do something. At least, I have to write this down for myself. You know what? It started more as a note to self, like a guide to, "Okay. The next difficult shitty moment I have, I can look back and say, oh, I forgot. I said that I wish I would have said this thing." Then I do that the next time.
Essentially, it started as my own journal guide to myself. Then I could move it forward whenever it was needed. Then as time went on and I kept writing, I was like, "I think other people might actually benefit from this example, that they can even create for themselves."
Billy: I think that's important for people to understand, too. We're not saying you need to start a podcast or write a book in order to heal, that you need to start a yoga practice or a yoga business in order to heal. Going to a therapist is certainly therapeutic. Journaling is something that's therapeutic. I think what we're saying is, acknowledging when you're holding it in is maybe something that is adding to the stress or the trauma that you're feeling. It's manifesting itself physically, and you're not even recognizing it. Then mentally, it's still there. It's creating a block where you're unable to move forward.
Marie: Yeah, I completely agree with that. I think everything comes back. Everything is connected. How we think is going to be how we feel. How we emote and feel is going to connect back and reinforce to what we think about. So, when I was writing this book, and I had all these emotions and feelings, there was a release. There's an obvious huge history of writing being a therapeutic way to process your emotions, to process your story. So, that was essentially the start of my own healing project.
I had an editor. We were picking around names for this particular book. When I settled on The Human Healing Project, it was more like, "That's okay. That'll do. It's fine." For me, it really wasn't about being this awesome writer, and I'm going to make millions. I'm going to talk about my pain. It was literally like, how can I get this out to as many people as possible for a small amount of money? Because it was during the pandemic, right? So, I didn't want people going through a really crappy time now having to choose between a meal for their family or an inspirational read to get them through the moment. It was like you can do both if you have access to the internet, which hopefully, most people do.
It was more about, "Okay. This is a really painful hard thing for me, but I also know I'm not the only one." I know that there are healing stories that other people have, that I maybe cannot directly relate to but that I could relate parts to. So, the ebook eventually traveled into a website.
The www.humanhealingproject.com is another space where people can actually share their stories. The forum that's on there, you can — Brian, you can share a story. Billy, you can share a story. Because we all have one. I know you guys have one. I'm not saying you have to actually share one — also understand that feeling of writing and having that being therapeutic. Then you can also understand that feeling of someone saying, "Wow, there are parts to Brian's story that I can relate to, that helped me, or actually helped me reach out to somebody else, to someone who was in a similar position." That's the whole point of connection and finding hope through your healing story through that connection.
Billy: I think that's really beautiful. I really do. I think that's really beautiful that you provide that space on your site — again, that's www.humanhealingproject.com — to share that. I think what's really powerful about that is helping people recognize that they're not alone in the emotions that they are feeling or the trauma that they may be experiencing.
I'm going to ask you a really difficult question. In writing this and letting go of some of the emotion, was there a fear that in doing this, that you might be letting go some connection to your brother?
Marie: That's a good question. I hadn't really thought about that.
Billy: Or did it provide a clearing to help you see what kind of loving relationship the two of you had with each other?
Marie: I would say hands down, yes. Anytime you take a pause, anytime you take the time to recognize the pain or grief or trauma in your body, in your mind and your spirit, and you share that with someone — whether it's a loved one, whether it's a therapist, whether it's a blog, however way that you actually want to share it — you are acknowledging that person in that process.
As painful as it is, and as it still is, the amount of pain that you essentially have for your person is the amount of love that you have for them. That's why you're in pain, right? So, the more you're able to process that stuff in your body and process that stuff out of your life, the more it clears up yourself, essentially, to live your best life. That sounds cliche, right? Live your best life.
But when you think about all the people that you love that are no longer here, what would they want for you to do? Would they want to see you suffering, in pain, because they are no longer there? Would they want you to be doing the things that bring you joy, living the life that you want to live — traveling, playing basketball, doing those things? They would want to see you do those things. You processing that junk out of your mind and body is essentially a gift to them and yourself.
Billy: Sometimes I wonder if that's why people don't talk about that grief. It's because that grief is their connection to the past. That grief is their connection to that lost loved one. That's why I was wondering about that if that's something that went through your mind, or if that's something that goes through other people's mind about why they may not share, why they may not seek some way to heal. So, I was just curious about that.
Marie: Yeah, I know. I think that's a really good question that I had never thought of. I think if that does happen, it might be on a subconscious or unconscious plane of living. But I think once you process or, at least, start the ball of processing your junk, you realize that those memories, that person, and that love still actually live in your body.
Once you start to get that junk and get that trauma and get that grief slowly removed, you'll start to know and feel where that love of that person actually lives within you. So, yes, I could see that people might want to hold on to the grief as their way of holding on to that person. But I think in that situation, they haven't really, truly, understood or felt the release of the negative symptoms of grief, to truly enjoy the actual love and emotion that you still feel that is still with you about your person.
Billy: I think that's a perfect segue here to your universal crusade of love. So, we wanted to get you out on this. On your website, you say, "I am not an expert in healing, psychology or philosophy. I am, however, a human being who is finding expertise in my lived experience, and who is choosing to turn my own healing project into a universal crusade of love."
I think that's a really powerful statement because it connects to what we discussed with Jodi Pfarr about understanding one's experiences. So, tell us more about how your lived experiences are guiding your universal crusade of love.
Marie: Every day we wake up, we could choose to go through the motions or live intentionally. I think, as a human, we waver back and forth throughout the day on those two things. I can read all the books. I can become a therapist myself. I can do all the things and have all the credentials behind my name. But if I'm not looking in the mirror and really understanding myself, or really checking into how I feel, or even simply recognizing I might feel a certain way, I'm denying my own sense of self-knowledge and self-truth.
I could keep being given my life for the universe a certain lesson to learn. But I'm never going to pass and move forward if I don't truly understand what's within me, or what's maybe blocking me from learning something, or any truth that I can bring and move forward to just essentially be a better Marie or a better person.
So, if you're able to connect to the real you, you're able to just become your own expert on why you do the things that you do. I can't tell you how many times I've asked folks, "Oh, why do you do that?" Because I'm also a very curious person. "I don't know. I just do that." If you just took a pause and thought about that, if it was like either a really good behavior or a negative habit, you can really break down why you do something. With that knowledge, you can actually truly move forward.
Billy: Well, this has been such a fascinating conversation. Brian and I are ready to join you on your universal crusade of love. We are here to recruit others to also join this universal crusade of love. The way that you can do that, go to Marie's website, www.humanhealingproject.com. If you want to learn more about trauma-informed yoga, go to www.mnyoga.org. You can follow Marie on Instagram @humanhealingproject. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Marie, thank you so much for this really calming conversation and reflective conversation. I've really, really enjoyed speaking with you today.
Marie: Oh, thanks, guys. Thanks for just having me and being open to having this kind of conversation. Because that's what's important. That's what's connects us. Oh, I think, I just appreciate that from you guys.
Billy: Absolutely. Thank you so much. So, for Marie, for Brian, this is Billy. Thank you for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. May you feel happy, healthy, and loved. Take care friends.
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