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Hello

My name is Jera Johnston. I am a trauma doula, consultant and educator. I'm also a queer mother, living an eco-centered, communal lifestyle in the Pacific Northwest of the US.

After years deep in healing, learning, and growing, I turned to face the world and now offer my findings to other Heart Warriors. This has manifested as:

  • providing professional trauma doula sessions to individuals

  • holding space as peer-support

  • coaching, consulting, & educating on trauma, conflict, & communication

I still feel blessed each day to wake up and get to do the work I do.

Helping people heal isn't about "being a Healer",

it's about the sacred privilege of being allowed

to sit with people in their pain and joy.

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My Story

THE HURT

Being born to addict parents who were deeply neglectful and abusive shaped the entire experience of my childhood through teen years. I was blessed with an amazing set of great-grandparents who were able to offer some relief early in life, and then a superhero of a foster mom who assisted me in the later years.

My early trauma and insecure attachment had sweeping effects on my adult life, from disabling me during college to undermining nearly every personal relationship I attempted to form. The list of impacts are as long as my arm, culminating in a suicide attempt and hospitalization in my early 20s - when my young child was just 1.5 years old.

Having been on the edge of death, with nothing to stop me but me, I made a promise to my Self and my beautiful child that I would do everything in my power to never put myself there again. That started a journey that continues to this day.

In the last decade, I have dedicated my life to climbing the spiral of recovery and evolution.

THE HEALING

 

At first the journey was about getting my mental health under control. Which I did through the use of therapy, therapeutic learning, and medication. As soon as my mental health was mostly under control, my spiritual health became my next task - including the exploration and healing of my childhood trauma.

The biggest step I took was to quit a high-paying office job that kept me separated from my family and child for 13+ hours a day. We sold everything we owned and moved into an intentional community in the Pacific Northwest. I had no way of knowing just how pivotal that move would be...

RE-CONNECTING

I spent the next 4+ years living with 30-60 other people, stewarding an 87 acre piece of shared land and working to educate the world on personal and ecological sustainability. We worked and lived together using Sociocracy - a form of governance based in consent. I learned to breath, communicate, move my body, facilitate, mediate, open myself to others, and a million other little things that helped me slowly start to peel back the layers of trauma.

During my time in community, I participated in a sacred medicine ceremony, overseen by a trained facilitator. This medicine returned my psyche, for a brief time, to it's natural state - completely outside the trauma. I was able to see my body and soul in their purest form which, while fleeting, has been a North Star - an inextinguishable light guiding me home to myself. 

Just before COVID hit the world, sensing that I was hitting some blocks to my growth, I decided to leave my little intentional community. I spent time with beloved friends, and even made a 5000 mile journey to Derby, England to meet the love of my life.

ALONE

Upon returning to the US, I decided to take the opportunity of having "no roots" to tackle one of my biggest fears: homelessness. I spent several months living out of my best friend's van, actively working to heal the housing insecurity that plagued my childhood. The goal through this was to heal the wound, but I also made it a priority to save and search for a tiny house to renovate and make my home.

I did just that, moving myself into the deep woods of Southern Oregon. While the land was beautifully feral and amazing, it was also very rough and demanded a lot from me - as the wilds so often do. 

Burning sun turned my little plot of Earth into a dry, cracked, poison-oak wasteland. My body flared in response, breaking out in huge, painful welts. A kidney infection landed me in the hospital. Then, heavy snows took down parts of my shelter. Rats constantly encroached, trying to find warmth and food. The furnace went out and I realistically thought I might perish in the thick winter. 

 

 

With some luck, bits of assistance, and an inner strength I didn't know I had, I made it through a year and half before I made another move - this time at a communal farm just outside Oregon's capital. While it became clear that this wasn't my 'final place', I learned an incredible amount about true ecological sustainability and got to explore new interpersonal dynamics.

BECOMING

All of the wandering of the last few years has left me tired. More tired than I ever anticipated. 

In my travels, I discovered that I am undeniably neurodivergent. My masks were held so tightly that I believed them to be who I really am. This made my life confusing, but much more tragically, it prevented anyone (including myself) from really knowing me.

Having the support of my beautiful, neurodivergent partner, and a wider ND community, have helped me immensely in finding the magic of my own authenticity. A magic that I am still seeing unfold before me.

LIVING IN-LOVE

My partner became my fiance in the winter of 2021, when she visited from the UK. We are traveling as safely as possible back and forth, until we can get financially stable enough to get married. She is not only my biggest support but also the strongest and healthiest person I know. 

I now live with a lifelong friend who is one part of a larger network of people who I've learned to unmask around. I've learned that I need to be very careful with my energy and choose my people very carefully. My circles are smaller, but so much more powerful, these days.

I'm moving into a new and exciting role as a more active co-parent for my 12 year old child, working closely with their father's family. Mothering this child, even from a distance, is one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. So much so that I'm actively working to be closer to them, to be able to show up more in-person.

My driving force in life is working as a Trauma Doula. The joy and fulfilment I experience entering those sacred spaces with my clients and communities is completely indescribable. There is a deep and tragic beauty to holding someone's hand as they face their deepest fears and pains. I often walk away from client sessions and content creation with a sense of awe and honor. 

If you got this far - Thank You. It is so powerful to me, to get to share my story here with you. If you found yourself resonating with me as a doula and coach, take a look at my offerings page to learn more about what I offer and how we might work together. (You can learn even more about my history and practice as a Trauma Doula, down below.)

 "The Divine in Me sees and honors the Divine in You."

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Becoming a Trauma Doula

Most folks who take on trauma healing as a serious pursuit will quickly run into an unfortunate reality - our society doesn't understand how to treat trauma.

This sounds like a big statement but let's check in with one of the leading trauma researchers, to see what he thinks:

"[The current model] is not, however, a useful paradigm for trauma healing...

What is called for here is cooperative and restorative process with the doctor as assisting guide and midwife." Dr. Peter Levine, In An Unspoken Voice

The leaders in this field understand and are advocating for major changes in trauma treatment, because we are failing traumatized people.

There is a vital role in trauma healing for (trauma-informed) doctors and therapists. But the notion that these professionals are the only answer to trauma healing shows our society's deep misunderstanding of trauma and it's development. 

While Levine puts the onus on the doctor for this additional healing role, I see this vacancy as an opportunity for a new kind of 'guide' to arise. Levine eludes to this just a page later:

"The [healer] is always first initiated, via a profound encounter with his own helplessness and feeling of being shattered, prior to assuming the mantle of healer."

Enter the Trauma Doula.

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"Trauma Doula" as a concept didn't exist when I first started my practice. I searched high and low, with no references to this exact term. However, that isn't to say that this role hasn't existed - it's actually an ancient one, reflected in cultures all over the world.

This role would have had names such as: shaman, medicine person, witch, wise person, or priest(ess). These were people who combined their innate gifts with the teachings of their culture, passed down from their ancestors. 

The sickness that is Colonialism and White Supremacy has disconnected each of us from these deep lineages and wisdom. It's the price that our ancestors paid in exchange for the safety of Whiteness - or, if you're a member of the global majority - it was forcefully, violently ripped from you.

I can't pretend that it's as easy as finding my ancestors and simply learning their wisdom; my pre-colonized culture is all but erased at this point. (As it is for so many cultures all over the world.) So, the development of the Trauma Doula role would have to be a slow, mindful process.

 

 

 

I knew it would be so easy to just reach into other culture's belief systems and build a practice on the backs of those people, as I was seeing it happen in the "bohemian", neo-hippy communities around me. But every time I heard a young, white woman with dreads list herself as a #Priestess and #MedicineWoman, I felt a deep ick.

 

I had a strong desire to build the foundation of my practice deeply into both the worlds of spirit and science. But being that the role of Trauma Doula didn't exist yet, I would need to design a curriculum that would teach me what I needed to know to be effective.

In the following section, you'll find information about the modalities, experiences, theories, and thought-leaders that have shaped my Doula practice to what it is today.

The Modalities

Somatic Interventions

This is a set of techniques that help address the physiological and biological woundings of trauma. Using these techniques, I'm able to guide my clients through different ways to feel into their bodies - allowing access to stored hurts and 'infected' wounding. 

Heart of Now - Assistant/Facilitator - 2016-2019

Network for New Culture - Participant/Student/Community Member - 2018-Present

Innsaei (Grassroots Spiritual Container) - 2018-2019

Forum Facilitation Training (with Teryani Riggs) - Trainee - 2016

Live. Energetic. Authentic. Forum (LEAF) - Facilitator - 2017-2019

Labishire Homestead Commons - Community Member - 2022-2023

Non-Violent Communication

I first encountered Nonviolent Communication as I was healing from my suicide attempt. The combination of clarity and focus on compassion caught my attention right away. I've been using it as a personal practice for over 10 years with great successes. 

My learning took a giant leap forward when I spent over 4 years in an NVC immersion experience through community living. I was even able to develop basic NVC workshops and mediations for the community's use, while I was living and working there.

ADAPT Program - Student - 2013

Meadowsong Ecovillage - Community Member/Leader - 2015-2019

Lost Valley Education Center - Teacher/Facilitator - 2016-2019

Mediation

While I'd always been interested in facilitating mediations, I felt under-skilled - until I got to experience the trifecta of Sociocratic governance, consent culture, and Nonviolent Communication. These were the principles that ran our community and, as a set, they are a powerful medicine to learning how to move through conflict.

Lost Valley Education Center - NVC Mediator - 2018-2019

Meadowsong Ecovillage - Community Council Member - 2017-2019

Meadowsong Ecovillage - NVC Immersion - 2015-2019

Coallescence Dance - Consent Facilitator - 2017-2019

Network for New Culture - Mediator - 2019

Peer Support

Peer supporters are people who: 1) are healing from mental illness or addiction and 2) trained to support others who are experiencing the same. I took classes to be able to perform these duties in Washington state, and have deepened my skills through other organizations over the last 10 years.

I believe that Peer Supporters are the base-layer of the new paradigm eluded to by Dr. Levine (in the quotes at the top of this section).

The REACH Center - Student - 2013-2014

The REACH Center - WRAP Trainee - 2013

Innsaei - Peer Supporter - 2018-2019

Heart of Now - Peer Support/Assistant - 2016-2019

Network for New Culture - Peer Supporter - 2019-2020

Consent Dynamics

Our biology as 'primates' has wired us to depend on our social group for safety. This means that there are innate consent dynamics baked into our nervous systems. In order to guide others in their healing of trauma, one has to first have a very deep understanding of consent dynamics - to both educate and help heal the damage.

Lost Valley Education Center - Sociocratic Collaboration - 2016-2019

Meadowsong Ecovillage - NVC/Community Immersion - 2015-2019

Network for New Culture - Student - 2018-Present

Coallescence Dance - Consent Facilitator - 2017-2019

Space-Holding

When I first arrived in community, we all chuckled a bit at this idea of "holding space" - it was a new and sort of strange concept. Over the years, however, I have seen this simple skill completely change people's lives - and it's a skill I use in every single doula session.

At it's essence, space-holding is the ability to hold an energetic and physical container for another person. The space-holder has agreed to hold non-reaction and non-judgment as the hurting person is allowed to experience their pain in whatever (safe) way they need to. 

Heart of Now - Assistant/Facilitator - 2016-2019

Meadowsong Ecovillage - NVC/Community Immersion - 2015-2019

Innsaei (Grassroots Spiritual Container) - Member - 2018-2019

Labishire Homestead Commons - Community Member - 2022-2023

My Teachers

Dr. Peter Levine

Leading trauma researcher for the last 40 years. Focused on the mind/body connection and founder of the Somatic Experiencing technique.

Dr. Marshall Rosenberg

Founder of Nonviolent Communication. Used the trouble and momentum of the US and Indian Civil Rights movements to introduce a new way of peace-making - using communication based in compassion and honesty.

Dr. Marsha Linehan

The creator of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), most often used to treat people with personality disorders (aka trauma-based disorders). DBT is based on Linehan's background in Buddhism and our understanding of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). It is centered in the mind/body connection, with the addition of somatics and mindfulness.

Michael Singer

A Buddhist teacher and leader who focuses on the intersection of Western psychology and Eastern philosophy, with the aim to help Westerners make sense of our inner world.

Lama Tsultrim Allione

Author of the book "Feeding Your Demons", which explores shadow work through ancient Buddhist practices of acceptance and self-alchemization.

Dr. Nadine Burke-Harris

A doctor who developed the Adverse Childhood Effects (ACE) test while working in the inner city. This test is still widely used to assess physical health outcomes for people who experienced trauma in childhood.

Resma Menakem

A "cultural trauma navigator" and author of "My Grandmother's Hands". His work in racial, cultural, and ancestoral trauma of black Americans is a must-read for everyone. It gives a somewhat brutal, but much-needed deep-dive into the dynamics of trauma healing for black people.

Dr. Brene Brown

Her first book "Gifts of Imperfection" was my first foray into the world of 'authenticity'. Her research into the interplay between shame/grief and joy/authenticity absolutely shook my world 12 years ago. While her work hasn't seemed to branch out much in recent years, I still treasure the core of her theories on shame and joy.

Thich Nhat Hanh

A Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist. His works, plentiful and well-known, do so much to help Western people understand Eastern concepts in an accessible yet informational way. 

(the late) Baba Ram Dass

This last entry is one that's more a part of my personal practice, but his teachings are so influential for me, I felt that I needed to list him here. Ram Dass was a beloved spiritual leader and psychologist who pulled from many belief systems (primarily Buddhism and Hinduism) to help illuminate more universal truths. 

Ram Dass' primary teaching was one handed down from his teacher - "Love everyone, and tell the truth."

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Becoming TD
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