I work individually with those who want to explore and receive support in their lives as they reclaim their own agency and embrace staying human.

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This is often related to intimate lives and sexuality, religious and spiritual abuse and meaning making as we thrash in the shadows left by the gods once believed in or seek to name new gods. Sometimes it is the intersection of these two together. I also work one on one with those preparing for childbirth or supporting the dying of one they love, who are sick or live with chronic illness and wrestling with what consent means in the face of all we cannot control as live in these corporeal bodies and stay here with our human selves.

Sometimes, we wake up and look around and it is like we are in the middle of a story we don’t remember starting, all the vows we broke and all the self-betrayals inside and all the questions that came when what we believed began to go up in smoke, and yet we lit the match with our hand.
We want to cease the war inside.
We need sanctuary. We are deserving of Sanctuary.

 

For the past fifteen years I have worked as a birth doula and death midwife, walking with those crossing thresholds, wrestling with the unanswerable questions and seeking to find meaning in messy humanity and art and a living mythology. My life's work informs the presence I bring to Sanctuary Sessions: the experience of a doula; the devotion of a writer and the real life beauty and vulnerability of sex education; dance and movement workshop facilitation; medical anthropology and hospice work; activism and advocacy with the fervor of a radical; and the quiet of a Quaker tradition in spiritual discernment;  deep love for shadow work and reclaiming our once abandoned selves to no longer live divided inside.

The Sanctuary offered comes both from the solid ground of a body of work that arises from walking the path that is my own, and from the intimacy of one who has entered into those experiences in life where you swear you won’t survive, except you do. And you come out the other side knowing both things are true - you made it through and you can’t ever be the same again. And so I offer, to you, safe landing, amnesty, refuge, revelation in radical love. This is not counseling, medical treatment or psychotherapy, all of which I support with a hearty yes and believe in. But that is not what I offer, or what Sanctuary is. Sanctuary is trauma informed and anti-oppression framework consent culture based midwifery and companioning where we come together to sit in the space between the in-between. You can read here, to learn more of my orientation, ways of practice, and what informs my work.

 

The truth is that no one can walk for you, or have the sovereign authority as to what your own walk might be. No one can give birth for you or die for you or make the decisions that will change everything. No one can inhabit your body for you, live your life for you. And yet, what I am saying is: you don’t have to walk it all alone. I will come walk with you, alongside you, as you enter in, wrestle with angels and demons, fall in love and grieve true. I will walk with you, alongside you, as you ask your questions and show up present for your own life and find your way through to the other side.

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Sanctuary is truly sacred to me, and the container Isabel holds is priceless. Her true presence in every single session never ceases to amaze me. I have told my nearest and dearest about her work in humble gratitude. If you are considering working with her, please do it. The enrichment offered will change you, your heart and your life in the best ways possible.
— Carla Matthews


For those with those who want to explore and receive support in your intimate lives: sexual identity, sexual expression, intimate justice, non-monogamy, monogamy, partnership, gender identity, sexual orientation, oppression and religion and reclaiming your own body as belonging to you, sex workers, support after assault and abuse, the geography of pleasure and want, the honoring of consent and the power of intimacy in ways of relating. There are not taboos and off limits here. No inconsequential or unimportant. This is your space. Your body, your sexuality, your honoring of yourself and ways of relating, your life. I’m here, to be with you in all of it.

 

Threshold Sessions:

These are specifically for those who are in the place of beginnings and endings, birthing and dying into life. It is for those in life transition: divorce and relationships ending and those entering into new relationship and all the beautiful loss and life that comes with such a thing, illness and coming to understand the relationship you want to have with your own embodiment.  Life is life, brutal and achingly beautiful in what it takes and gives, and Sanctuary is for those who by choice or necessity,
do whatever it takes to stay human.

(If you are not sure which session is best for you, feel free to contact me to talk further, and also just go ahead and book the Theshold Sessions and we will be in the great tangle of it together where all the things intersect and we are no longer who we assumed ourselves to be and this is both devastating  and also freedom.)

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For those who want to explore and receive support in recovering from religious abuse and oppression, cult recovery, and offer existential spiritual direction for the secularists and seekers.
Honoring self and agency, learning to listen to ourselves and trust ourselves, exploring the meaning of consent and reclaiming sovereignty.

 

 

 

Art Sanctuary Sessions:

These are for artists, writers, creators of all kinds. For those who are grappling with myth and meaning, rough housing with words and seeking to unearth the sound of their own voice. For those who want sanctuary, a safe space, to wander deep into the why of their creating, to ask questions of where the words and vision and uprising wants to take you. Those who feel the doubt and the desire, how sometimes it is a tangled thing to know what we will create and release into the world, because life herself is messy and so are we.  What will I do with the shadows of my own stories, and the glory, with the part of me that wants to write the body true, in all its profane pleasure and knotted knowing? Where does my resistance live, and how does it inform my art? Together, we enter into Sanctuary, an hour at time. We explore. We excavate. We ask questions. We listen. We walk through your words one by one. Or we enter into the unknowns and see what sits there in the silent spaces, asking us to not look away.


What happens in a Sanctuary Session?

  • As a contemplative non-theistic Quaker, I sit in the sublime silence of meetings, alone while with others. The Quaker tradition from which the silence rests, sometimes speaks of the idea of spiritual discernment. In this you will often hear the phrase, “Listening to Your Life.”  In so many ways, this is the Sanctuary we find safe landing within. We come together to listen to your life and your creating. The art of listening is the foundation from which we begin to make meaning of the shatter and mending of transitions inevitable in being human.
  • We meet in person or via Skype or phone for one hour sessions.
  • These times involve listening together, and each session arises from the source of your own contemplation and life, your seeking and your grieving and your creative acts. We explore and ask questions, sit in the spaces between and feel the full range of motion in the feelings that accompany being human and alive. We seek to listen to the voice of your own innate knowing, honor your own agency and to find sanctuary in the solid ground of full presence. 
  • I work with individuals for months and even years, and sometimes for brief periods of time, offering support in a life transition.  I do ask for a commitment to a minimum of four sessions. This allows for connection and cohesiveness, the chance to sink into the sanctuary of listening and seeing what meaning wants to be made in the thresholds we cross together. After four weeks, we connect and explore what comes next and how I can support you in that process.

Details

  • Sanctuary Sessions are $75 for a 50 minute session.
  • A deposit is required for the first two sessions, and the remainder can be paid any time before the third session.
  • Each session is one hour and can take place in person, by Skype, or good old fashion telephone.
  •  If you are unable to make a session, you can re-schedule 48 hours before we are scheduled to meet. Cancellations or reschedules less than 48 hours before the scheduled sessions are charged at half payment, and I will work to find another time with you as soon as possible.
  • By registering for Sanctuary sessions you understand that this is not psycho- therapy, nor is it a substitute for therapy or medical treatment of any kind.
  • While I am a scholar and seeker in a diversity of religious and spiritual traditions and come from an inter-faith of model of service, honoring your own seeking, I am not representing a particular religion, denomination or belief system.
  • Sessions are scheduled upon payment and I will send you a form with a few questions that will support us in gaining clarity before we begin our work together. And then, we dive in.

If you know you would like to begin, you can register right now here:

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Sanctuary Sessions are a safe place. You are safe to be fully human. You are safe to come as you are. you are safe to sit beside Isabel with whatever it is that brought you here. If you are crawling, crawl to these sanctuary session. If you are falling, fall, fall even if it is a crash landing into the sanctuary sessions. If your heart is hurting and you are weighted from so much grief and loss that you can barely move, barely get out of bed, come to the sanctuary sessions. If you are confused and you are exhausted, come to the sanctuary sessions. If you don't know and you aren't sure, come to the sanctuary sessions. If you are on fire and burning with strength and passion, or heartache and pain, come to the sanctuary sessions. However you come, come. Just as you are. You will be met, held, loved and welcomed by Isabel. You will experience the softest place to fall, the safest place to land, the safest place to come apart, come undone, the safest place to mend, the safest place to have all of what brought you here and all of you held. Isabel offers all of this in a way that feels like being held by love and healed by love and made alive again by love.


-Ashley Hoffman


A note on trauma

  • That the idea that we resolve all our traumas (that sustained states of trauma are even an experience that can be resolved) is a narrative worth interrogating, and that the story we tell about how enlightenment means working through all our shit or that the goal is to come to our death with nothing left unfinished is not always the one that will help us to live or be whole. We are complete and complicated creatures. capable of doing the unthinkable and knowing the unthinkable upon our own bodies and years later falling into bed with a lover and thinking, "none of what I have known will ever be okay and it is also true that this is here and real and alive and my whole self knows the meaning of yes."

  • We are allowed to never have meaning for things and never manage to integrate what was only ever horror, and to still be restored to a life of relationship with ourselves and this bent world and never to come again day we woke to.

  • You are not required to "get over it" because there are things we never get over but rather simply learn to live with. We will all leave this earth with things we did not resolve, work through, reconcile, figure out. We are human. Gloriously and achingly human. And this is why i love us.

  • You can read more of my orientation in my own work HERE.

I have worked as a birth doula for over fifteen years, and have trained and been certified with D.O.N.A. and Birthing from Within.  In addition to working as a birth doula, I have been a childbirth educator, trained and mentored new doulas and educators, and created community organizations to serve those who have been marginalized in the medical system, advocating for rights and reproductive justice, bringing unwavering presence to human dignity and worth. I have experience supporting birth in all its many places and ways of being, it’s unexpected and unknowns. What matters is presence, and I am here, to be with you while you stay with yourself, moment by moment, breath by breath, birthing.

Contact me for Death Doula Sanctuary:
A death doula, or death midwife, is a one who offers a continuum of direct presence and integrated support to the dying and their family throughout a personalized and participatory death process. A death midwife accepts death, dying and grief as part of life and what it is be human, and in this offers the sanctuary of bringing presence to those areas that this profoundly death denying culture seeks to ignore or keep quiet in the corner. I hold the entirety of the death experience: the individual, family, and the larger social contexts that inform how we live and die.