Els Verbrugge is a Marine Biologist turned Silicon Valley Corporate Innovation Executive turned Soul Embodiment Coach & Energy Healer. She helps awakening women to align with their deepest desires, work through conditioning, trauma and subconscious blocks, and to fully embody their Soul Mission: in their personal lives and in starting a successful business around their Soul Gifts. She combines her inner ‘wild woman’ with her practical business background and her tapped-in spiritual side to fully support her clients over the course of their entire metamorphosis. Because the Body is the vehicle for the realization of the Soul on this Earth, the central theme in her coaching and healing sessions is embodiment.
Els and I were introduced to each other by a friend quite recently and it “clicked” instantly between us, as we both are passionate about transformation. Her perspective from the “embodiment” of our life experiences and her work with body memory and energy are a very strong approach to me, which we should definitely take more into account in transformation work.
My conversation with Els is about the connection between transformation, comfort zone, fear and vulnerability. She tells in a wonderful frankness about her own transformation experience and gives great insights from the perspective of energy healing guided by the body. Enjoy the read!
Els, thank you for taking the time to talk to me, I have been really looking forward to this conversation. So, let’s just dive in.
What does transformation mean for you?
I feel, that particularly in leadership today, we’re taught to look at things much more the masculine way. This makes a lot of sense for building a business and structuring a business, but when you look at the process of transformation, it’s rather a birthing process. It’s a process that’s messy, it’s chaotic, you don’t know what’s going to come out of it and it needs it’s time. I like to compare the process of transformation of a business or a person to the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly. At the time of transformation, while the caterpillar is inside of its cocoon, it’s mush. You can’t recognize what’s it’s going to be. It doesn’t look like a caterpillar, nor a butterfly. But there is no one at the door of the caterpillar’s cocoon making pressure “hey we need this transformation done by Friday!” or nobody is taking out the cocoon and looking into it and then deciding “this is no butterfly, we are going to kill the project”. There is the trust that the process will unfold as long as there is the intention and the settings are right. I believe that this understanding of the nature of transformation, this feminine aspect of feeling comfort with the discomfort, of letting things evolve, is so important to bring back.
What is the importance of transformation in your life?
For me right now it’s important to be with the transformation that is happening. First, there’s my personal transformation. My big initiation in this process was about five years ago when I reached a burnout. Before that, I always prided myself in working hard and being super resilient. I had built a career that I was proud of. And then, after trying to hold up the impossible for way too long, everything crumbled. My sense of identity crumbled. However through the cracks the light came in. That was the moment I could expand and be open to things that I was not open to before. I started exploring, expanding my consciousness, breaking down my conditioning, and freeing myself from anything that was holding me tight in the previous life that I had. It was a big transformation for me, and it’s an ongoing process, like a birthing process with waves where things get really intense. I completely feel a big transformation going on for myself, but also for our collective:
When we look at our society, we are in a massive transformation process right now. We have built our society based on Masculine principles: controlling mechanisms, creating order, making sure that we are safe and protected, predictable and organized. As society we have very much repressed the deep feminine aspects of the cycles of life and death, creation and destruction, the chaos and messiness of birthing, new ideas and creativity. I feel in a way we’re managing society in the way we’re managing companies. We lean much more towards the Masculine, organized way of doing things, and moved away from the scary unpredictability of the Feminine. This created an imbalance over time. Our global situation now is a big call for us as humanity to rebalance and to have that feminine principle rerise and being revalued.
We are going through a very messy, very painful period right now. If we are unable to feel the pain and move through it, and repress our emotions, they become our shadow. It’s still there but we don’t want to see it and that’s when it’s becoming even more painful to face. So, now as a humanity, we need to take the opportunity to face ourselves, face our shadows, face, feel and come to terms with everything that’s happened in our collective history: the exploitation of the feminine principles, mother earth, minorities… just to name a few. Especially in this time of the corona virus where basically the economy is shut down, we can’t run away anymore from the deep personal work that we need to do in order to transform as a humanity. This is a big start of a big transformation process and I feel it is essential that we deal with it consciously.
Can you share a story of your own in which you have experienced a fundamental transformational shift that contributes to who you are today? And how does comfort zone and fear weave in there?
A personal transformation starts when you are either voluntarily or involuntary being driven out of your comfort zone. Very frequently it’s involuntary. Life just kicks you out of our daily life, your daily routines. This kick could come in the shape of an illness, the passing away of a loved one or being fired from a job, and it’s usually something that really affects you.
For me, my kick in the butt was a burnout. I was working at a job that was perfect for me on paper. But in reality, I was in a very toxic work environment. I was not aware of what was happening, and I had very weak boundaries. I just really really wanted to be successful and I was unconsciously sacrificing my health and my sanity.
So, something that had been unimaginable before came and hit me in the face. I -of all people- faced the ultimate defeat. A burnout. The terror! The shame! The humiliation! The crash of self-esteem! Not knowing what would be next… In a way, this burnout felt like dying.
And in a way, it was like dying. A part of my ego died. I had identified with my work at that time and that part of myself was dying away. If I wasn’t a successful sustainability consultant that was saving the world, who was I? What was left of me if I am not my work, my job title anymore?
This was a very scary moment and I felt extremely vulnerable. But at the same time it was a magnificently beautiful moment, because this is when I opened up to something else besides what I thought life was about.
Since that moment of burnout, I have died many more deaths: I moved to Silicon Valley for a corner-office innovation job, only to be kicked out again after a strategy change. I changed my precious single life for one bound to a beautiful husband and daughter. I moved from innovation work to coaching, energy healing and ceremonial work. I moved across the globe twice to finally settle down in Todos Santos, Mexico. Moving through a death still is a painful process. But now I know that death does not actually exist. Because each death is the harbinger of something new. Something new always emerges. That’s how life works. The problem is that we can’t tell what the new is. It’s unknown. And the unknown is scary.
So actually, it’s the fear of the Unknown that’s keeping us within our comfort zone. From an evolutionary point of view, staying in the comfort zone can be very useful, because it helps us to survive and stay safe in relatively unchanging times. But in society, our fear of the unknown has led us to where we are today: in an over-structured and over-managed society. Sometimes it’s good to fall flat on your face. You bleed, but you know that it will heal. So, fear doesn’t just keep us in our comfort zone, it’s also keeping us from growing and evolving as human beings.
What would be your most important recommendations on how to deal with fear in transformation processes?
Firstly, I would recommend you seek help. We’re so programmed to feel like we have to do everything by ourselves, to keep our emotions bottled up, and to be ashamed of any emotions such as fear, anger and all these kinds of the emotions that are not pretty. I think that for the process of growth and transformation, it is crucial that we see and all of our emotions- move through them and hear the messages they have for us. However, I think that going through that process by yourself can be extremely hard and feel very lonely. It’s a lot easier and way more fun to have a support system set up that can help you put everything in perspective.
Secondly, I’d recommend to really make the time and the space for allowing you to go through a transformation. Having gone through quite a few transformations myself, I’ve noticed that the more time and space I give myself to go through the transformation and the less I expect anything out of it, the more peace I can find in the process. Because there’s no pushing. There’s no pulling. There’s no trying to manipulate the outcome. And I notice that with this peaceful attitude, the pain is way less. The process is gentler. The transformation happens much faster and with more grace.
According to your own experience, what role does resilience and self-care play in a transformation process? How do you take care of yourself?
Resilience and self-care are crucial, because that is your foundation, and especially if the transformation is intense, then that can give you an anchor.
For me, self-care is a relatively new thing. I grew up with the model that you show your love by always first taking care of others and putting your own needs behind. I loved my work. I worked myself to the bone, never, ever called in sick unless I was bleeding from my eyes. I loved my boyfriends. So, I almost never took any time for myself. I did not even recognize that I had needs, too. And that those needs were valid. I was the ultimate martyr for love. Over the last five years -starting with the burnout- that has drastically changed, but it was a tough process for me. Today self-care means for me being gentle with myself and listening to my body, and my feelings, listening to what comes up and trying to understand where it’s coming from. And allowing myself time and space to nurture myself and my body and reconnect with my inner guidance. And I notice that I can be of much better service to everyone around me because of it!
How would you describe the essence of your work today?
The essence of my work is helping people -especially awakening women- to navigate their personal transformations. I help them access their subconscious mind, and help them excavate and face deep buried karma, traumas, beliefs and conditioning that is holding them back from the life and work they deeply desire to do. I help them to move through these subconscious blocks, so that they can liberate themselves. I use my extensive business background to help them design and launch a thriving business that is built around their Soul Gifts.
I help them to find the joy in the vulnerable process of transformation, the joy of moving through challenging parts of their life. That might sound paradoxical, but I feel that there is so much beauty in allowing intense emotions to come through. If you can see them for what they are, your friends, rather than fearing them or resisting them- you’ll see that they bring important information and healing. This is also something that I’ve learned the hard way 😉
I do this in two roles: as a coach and as an energy healer. As a coach, I help awakening women align with, and embody their Soul Purpose. And as a healer I help people get clear on the underlying root of a physical or emotional issue and heal it. In my Body Inquiry sessions, for example, we enter a conversation with the Body Consciousness (which is part of the Subconscious mind), to find out where the root lies, and what the body needs to heal.
What is your observation at work, how discomfort and fear manifest in people?
Discomfort and fear can manifest in a lot of different ways. I find that the body is a great map of the traumatic things that happened in the past and it usually gives helpful cues or indications of what might be going on. According to Chinese Traditional Medicine, different emotions are associated with different organs. For example, anger is stored in the liver, and grief is related to the lungs. So, for me it’s interesting to see where something manifests in the body and how that relates to the root cause of an issue.
I find it extremely interesting that the Covid 19 Virus right now affects the lungs, as we have collectively repressed so much grief and so much sadness that is associated with the disassociation with, and the exploitation and de-valuation of the Feminine principle.
Usually when people come to me with an issue, they’re ready to release it. However, they need a safe container in order to do that, because it’s a very vulnerable position to be in- showing and facing difficult emotions. It’s important to not rush anything, as the body has its own pace. If I’d try to rush anything during the session, the body will shut down again. The biggest fear that I notice within the sessions is the fear of opening up. This fear is blocking the energy flow in people. It’s is fear of not being loved, of not being accepted, of not being good enough. That is a big part of what we’re overcoming in these sessions.
What are the moments in your work in which you observe real transformation happening?
When people are really present with their body and open to whatever needs to happen, and when they are feeling safe, great transformations can happen.
We know that every upset is an opportunity for transformation and growth. What are the situations in which you are triggered yourself? How do you navigate through this/these trigger situation(s)?
I’ve moved through a lot of trigger since becoming a mum. I guess it has to do with a sense of self-worth and identity. So, moving from a much more masculine oriented way from making tons of money, being a Silicon Valley hot shot dealing with innovation and sustainability (which is a super ego boost), to the kind of work I do now, which relies much more on the feminine principles of holding space, nurturing and healing. Instead of reaching an objective it’s about the process and the transformation. And I love it. However, at the beginning it was kind of difficult. My husband and I moved to Mexico, and at the same time I was setting up my new business there, I was pregnant. People didn’t really see any of my old identity that I was still kind of identifying with. All they saw was the wife of Michael, the mom, the one who does a little bit energy healing as a side. And I was just super resistant to that. Somewhere deep inside of myself, I had very much de-valued the qualities of the feminine principle. I experienced a huge drop in self-worth and I had to work through it.
I became very intimate with all of the aspects of the Feminine Principle. I worked through massive shadows within myself. And eventually, I healed my relationship with the feminine principle, and I re-valued all the beauty and bounty that she has to offer the world.
And I think this is something we need to do as a collective as well.
If we meet again for another conversation in a year from now – in the meanwhile you have been super happy and satisfied with your contribution to the world – what are you telling me that you did?
In one year, I’d tell you about the thriving business I set up, where I help and empower people to own their soul gifts, shine them out into the world and create great wealth doing so. I’ll tell you about the awesome group programs I host, where people move through amazing transformations together, where they connect with each other and find support within each other. I’ll tell you how my business supports several empowered employees and helps to support the protection of the Amazon rainforest- the place where the Sacred Plant Medicine and its Carriers and Guardians reside.
And I’ll tell you about all the plans and inspiration I have to make the business even more awesome and thriving! With a big smile on my face, I’ll tell you about how I got to do all of this with plenty of time for self-care and my family.
What do you believe in?
I believe in love. Love is the basis for everything. And I believe that anything we can imagine is possible.
What do just few know about you?
OK, this is a little tender. Here we go. At night, I still snuggle up with the doll that I’ve had since I was two. She’s accompanied me and my entire life journey and she’s the bridge between my outer Self and my Inner Self. She calls out my bullshit and she supports me in tough times. Her name is Sanderaatje. 🙂
Your “private” you, how would you describe your characteristics, likes, dislikes, your uniqueness?
I hate the feeling of being taken advantage of. And being mansplained to. I try to be impeccable with my own words, and because of that, I can take the things people say quite seriously. This is why I often don’t get peoples jokes. Especially those of my husband J
Otherwise, I feel that I now have quite a good balance between my masculine and feminine energies. I can move relatively easy between the two, making it easier to solve problems and gracefully move through life.
I love surrounding myself with beauty, walking in nature and spending time on the beach. In Todos Santos, there is so much wildlife: whales, whale sharks, seals… I love the spaciousness and rawness of this place and I’m happy to call it home.
I love moving my body. It’s such an important part of taking care of yourself. One of my favorite things to do is hoop dancing. It’s a full body workout, massage and moving meditation all in one.
And, I’m also a bit of a nerd. I like to really understand things. So, when something catches my attention, I dive right in and I won’t come out until I have a satisfactory understanding of it.
Els, I loved out conversation, thank you so much for your openness and insightful stories.