Interview with Anneke Lucas by Phil Bolsta
Watch Anneke Lucas’s interview:
Hi, Phil. It's my pleasure to be here.
Allow me to introduce you. Anneke Lucas is a survivor and advocate for victims of sex trafficking, and a public speaker and author on the subject of trauma, sexual abuse, and healing on the personal and global level.
Anneke is also the founder and executive director of Liberation Prison Yoga, a nonprofit organization bringing yoga and meditation to jails and prisons.
Anneke, you conduct workshops that attract people from around the world, especially women. You're about to embark on teaching yoga workshops specifically for sexual trauma. Can you speak a little bit about this new project?
Yes. Sure, Phil. I created a sexual trauma workshop many years ago, but there was little interest at that time. I also always addressed in that the problem of sexual abuse and harassment inside the yoga world. It’s just now, with the #MeToo movement, that it's getting attention. So now this workshop I've had for a very long time, people are interested in bringing it, and so I'll be starting in New York in a studio here. I'm speaking to other people around the country to bring this workshop there.
But thinking of the problem of sexual abuse, this is taking it back a little bit, it's endemic, part of the way the world is. This sexual abuse is an inherent part of the paradigm in which we currently live, where women are raped, and boys, of course, are raped just as much. If we think of the perpetrators of these crimes, they're always victims themselves. I think there's perhaps... like every rule has an exception, but I think it's formulaic, that the perpetrators were themselves sexually abused. As widespread as the problem is for women, we should really consider that the problem is just as widespread for men. And generally, boys and men have less recourse to healing.
Of course, this cycle of abuse is part of the system in which we live right now, this society today, going back to three continents, thinking of the United States of America and the indigenous people that were here that were all killed, almost all killed. There's very aggressive Europeans that came here and wanted to dominate. It was easy to overtake many of the peaceful matrilineal tribes. This aggressive model imposes itself through violence. We have the continent of Europe and the continent of the Americas, and then, of course, the continent of Africa, the African people who were enslaved in this model.
We have three continents involved in the creation of this domineering paradigm where Europeans are still the stars in that sense and our European descendants. That goes back all the way to the Roman ages and the Vatican, the church, the beginning of power, in this particular sense, where power abuse really created a top-down system that has created a patriarchy of which we are living the dark side. My work has very much to do with the restoring of the female principle, balancing out the forces, the elements, to create a horizontal system and raising awareness about what power really means and what it's for.
You speak of Europeans, sexual abuse, abuse of power, and that all coalesces into your own history, your own story, which has inspired many. Would you mind sharing it and how your story relates to your background in healing?
Thank you, yes. Yes, well, I was raised in Belgium and, as a young girl, sold by my family. The network I was sold into, the pedophile network I was sold into, they were people of power. I knew they were powerful. I didn't know quite how powerful they were, but I found out later on as an adult. I found out that these people had very prominent places on the world stage. There were heads of countries that were at war that clearly were friends in this club. It was a worldwide network of white men who abused me.
I was exposed to rituals there, I guess they were called satanic rituals, where humans, children were sacrificed. This was part of what these people who are at the top of the power paradigm, what they do, so raping children and partaking in rituals, committing extreme violence, where all sense of morality is lost.
I saw, as it was my job to see, that they had a need for nurturing and love that was never met because of their own abuse that they came to get from me and perhaps the other child sex slaves. There was this vulnerability in these men that they were never able to show to anyone in their position of power, not even to their close family. People in power always have to be on the top. Any vulnerability is considered weakness.
This is what was exposed to me. Then I had to nurture that part that was hurt. It is because of these experiences that I know that those people at the top of the power paradigm are not to be envied and how sick they really are. There is this great intelligence and ability, and yet, emotionally, those people are completely dead and sick, the sickest, I’d say.
There is this emotional, mental, psychic disease, and this is being imposed on the entire western world, that in this disease, this numbing of feeling is passed on, and there's a lot of brainwashing involved in that. At this time, we're trying to wake up from the brainwashing and get the courage to go against the grain of that blatant materialistic, capitalistic mindset. As we have entered into a new age where we are beyond, we are not relegated to the purely physical world anymore. We're in a new age, we're in the atomic age.
Speaking of the new age, you mentioned the #MeToo movement earlier, which seems to be ushering in something that promises to be a lasting change. Has this movement changed anything for you given that you were already speaking publicly about this for quite some time?
Yes, I definitely had a lot of people reach out to me and mention that I was, for them, the original #MeToo person. As with any movement, we have to be very careful because this paradigm is so powerful that as soon as something takes root, there is this temptation to lose the purity of intention. People who are in need of status and power get involved, so we have to be very careful always that anything that becomes big, to make sure that the agenda remains pure, because this brainwashing machine is very powerful. We're being brainwashed constantly through media, not social media so much, but still the media and, of course, the powers that be, all the messages that we're getting through movies and TV just as much as the news.
The news that we're getting is very specific, and there's a lot of good news that we're not receiving. There's a lot of important news that we're not receiving. This is all for very specific reasons. When a movement takes root and it's everywhere and it's undeniable, there is this pushback from certain people — who have interest in keeping the status quo of the paradigm as it is — that will dilute the power of the movement.
I just want to say we have to be careful about that. We have to remain true, and this courage that is needed right now is because when you move into a position where suddenly people are listening to you, which has happened to me, which is happening slowly to me, there's always this temptation to give up your integrity, to let go of your self-respect for the sake of what is being offered to you.
It is being dangled in front of you like a carrot, like we're going to put you in touch with these very powerful people, but we're not going to be respectful while we do it. That is the way to power, is to swallow it, to take the humiliations until you reach a point where you can then do the same to the ones who come after you, and while you're kissing up to ones that are in front of you.
That is how the power system works, and anyone with integrity, there's going to be attempts to compromise you. It is constantly remaining in touch with my higher power, my guru, my system of meditation, and the things that bring me deeply in touch with what I truly am to stand up for myself, which is to stand up for what is right and to not give in to that. It does require courage because it's scary to go against someone who's offering you perhaps what seems very tempting, it seems like a good way to go. Just to say no or just to stand up and demand to be treated with respect doesn't go over very well.
I've always done it. I've always done it. I did it before my message was being heard at all, and I didn't really see the reward of it for a very long time because I didn't really have the self-esteem to not need some affirmation of myself. I was just suffering, and the humiliation and the hurt. But I always knew that I cannot do this, I cannot give in to... If I lose myself, then I have nothing and I have nothing left.
It's a continuing struggle, and I see more and more people finding the courage to stand in their truth and to find their own healing, which also takes courage. In the #MeToo movement, there are a lot of women and men who have lost their job, they've lost their community because they spoke out. That's the reality. That's the courage it requires and that's what we need more and more of.
Anneke leading relaxation in Liberation Prison Yoga workshop
I agree. You mentioned that you've spoken out about sexual misconduct in the yoga world. You were actually a voice in the wilderness back then, but you never failed to speak up when you should have spoken up. You were somewhat isolated because of that, I believe. That speaks to your integrity. It's very impressive because so often it's so difficult for victims to speak up.
Absolutely. I don't know why I have this integrity. I think it's related to my connection to my guru and a higher power and a spiritual... I'm comfortable spiritually. I've always been comfortable spiritually. I think without the spiritual help, I would have not only not survived but would have never been able to heal from this extreme trauma that I suffered.
It's this connection to the spiritual which makes us really strong in the world. I certainly understand and have compassion for everyone in this game. That's to say that people who are abused and who are not aware that it's abuse, for example. There's a lot of people who, while the abuse is happening, are not necessarily able to stand up against it because of the attachment they have towards the guru or the teacher.
Anneke photo taken by Francesca Magnani
I have to say that I understand that completely, and I have nothing but compassion for that, just like I'm not better than those people. I also understand that the male privilege, how privilege works, and especially for white, able-bodied, cisgender men, that privilege makes it very difficult for people to look at the trauma that is behind their aggressive actions.
That is all part of this vertical power paradigm that we're seeking to dismantle... that privilege is so much a part of that paradigm. There are people who make their way out of a certain class of people to reach another class where they feel comfortable, and that involves climbing. There's very little impetus to return with compassion to the area, the class of people where you came from, to bring healing there. It's more about keep climbing, keep climbing. It still is that way largely.
The male privilege, I think, what #MeToo is doing to a certain degree is to expose the male privilege. Again, the system doesn't really work for anyone. It doesn't work for men or women. To put women down, a man has to be very insecure. It comes naturally because it's taught, but also the degree to which a man is going to engage in that behavior has to do with his own ignorance about his own pain.
The privilege offers this great... it's like a drug. It offers this way to cover this over, this pain, and forgo this pain. Of course, it causes separation. The truth is that we are all one, but privilege and power and being anywhere on this vertical paradigm causes you to be separate from everyone else. This is most felt by the people at the very top, who all feel incredibly, incredibly lonely.
I'm reminded of a wonderful quote, and that goes, "To the privileged class, equality feels like oppression."
What happens if you were to take [privilege] away from someone? It's not really oppression, it truly is a way to freedom. It's really truly the way to liberation, but it's not conscious. It's liberation, but it's not felt that way because the way of power shows you one thing. Children are sometimes abused on purpose to create splitting of the mind and to prepare them for certain things. It's this very harsh reality that is true, that certain children, for example, in the choirs, it was found out that the boys were sexually abused. When the director of the choir was asked about his reasons, he said that it made them sing better.
What happens when a child is abused is that there's a psychic opening, where the physical world becomes too difficult to be present in. There's a psychic opening that happens. Those people who are attached to power and fame and so forth, wealth, have these psychic abilities, and it can be used in two ways.
These abilities can be used either to put you on a spiritual path and lead you towards healing or they can be used to manipulate others. In that case, it becomes a secret, the ability to read minds or whatever power any particular person has. It creates the illusion for the people in power that they are above others, that they have been given by the masses the moral right to rule.
Anneke presenting a TEDx Talk titled "From Child Sex Slavery to Victory: My Healing Journey"
That is very troublesome. It creates separation, of course, but it also is that all of us are responsible for turning certain people into gods on earth by giving them this power. It's really up to us to become awake and know what it really means, what power really means, to stop it. The moment everyone sees behind the surface of someone in power, behind the way someone presents, behind the authority, and assumes the unresolved trauma right there, things will be very different. They can’t get away with it anymore, can you?
This system just hurts everyone. The person who thinks they are above the others... As I say, someone starts out with a very sincere intention to change things for the better in the world. They embark on a political career. But at some point on this climb towards having that power to change things, they are definitely going to be corrupted because that's how the system works. They're definitely going to have to give up their integrity. No one who reaches the top can really stay with their initial fire and with their true... They could still have the desire to change things, but they won't be able to do it in our system, which is not a democracy at all.
What it does, though, is that none of the people who reach that place where they have the ability, let's say, to serve tremendously... because I think of power, in the truest sense, as the responsibility to serve your brothers and sisters. When someone reaches that position, they never say, "Well, what I'm going to do is to leave people alone." They take the right to rule, they claim the right to rule, and that's the problem.
Why not leave each person to be empowered and decide for themselves what is right and wrong? Most people are good. We know that most people are good-hearted. It's just this brainwashing into a power system that makes everyone afraid, so that beyond the duality of the world that exists anyway, there is this great evil happening. Good people are being manipulated and brainwashed and made to believe that they don't possess the power within themselves. But each person has the ability to tell right from wrong. I think, generally, most people don't condone violence.
What happens is when we give power to someone, what they do with it is usually not create the peace that everyone wants, but instead they use it to perpetuate war and to perpetuate violence that is done in the name of the right to rule, as most people who seek power do so because of unresolved trauma that is too scary, they're too scared to face, and so they seek that mantle of power in order to perpetuate the trauma onto everyone else.
Well, surely there must be some people in power whose moral compass hasn't been compromised and who still act with integrity.
Yes, there's always a mix of good and bad, but it's that the bad elements are what... The true power pyramid, the people who are at the very top and who are really ruling the world, and that's beyond above, I'd say, in this paradigm, above the top. There is an exclusive... apparently about 4,000 people, where the game of ruling the world is played is all about money and where wars are decided as a game. That's the society that I was sold into. That is why there are very few survivors of that network because it's so secret, but it's above, it's the top of the pyramid.
What it really is is that all these people there, there's no one with good intentions there. You see the pyramid, it's the pyramid of pain. They can't feel their pain at all. The pain gets distributed over the entire world. Others in power feel a little bit less of it. Then the upper middle classes, middle classes, the lower middle classes, then the poor, and then there's an entire population, like the outcasts, in India who are below, say, the true pyramid, the people who are incarcerated in the United States. That's a system of slavery. It's the pyramid of pain. They carry all the pain for the entire world.
Everyone, as you go down the ladder, there's more and more pain that's felt. The drugs and everything is set up to numb the pain, and climbing has to do with numbing the pain. It's people who are incarcerated who lose their right to vote. They're not considered citizens anymore and, of course, are enslaved. This is a continuation of the slavery from the beginning of this country. This country was built on slave labor, and this continues today. It's just not called that anymore. It's not okay to call it that anymore, but it continues.
Sex trafficking is another form of slavery that has to do with defiling the female. It's all this dark side of the male principle of the patriarchy that we're experiencing. Those people who in the upper middle classes and even... There are, of course, good people there, but ultimately they're not going to be able to reach the top of the top with any good intentions. The way to the top is very clear about letting go of your conscience. That's what happens. That's why absolute power corrupts absolutely.
I remember that Adlai Stevenson said, "Anyone who does what it takes to get elected isn't fit to serve." I think that speaks to that. You speak of power dynamics quite a bit. How would you say that power dynamics fit into the work of healing?
Absolutely, yes. Well, I think that the external power dynamics are a reflection of our own internal trauma. As I said, I think the system is really trauma-based, and the people with the most trauma don't have the resources, but think of moving up as a way to not feel their trauma.
But when you go inside, when you start to do this, turn this psychic spiritual energy towards healing, you find that you have internal power dynamics that are very much related to the people who raised you, the people that you look up to that you elevate above others. Those are representatives of scary power figures.
Anneke photo taken by Francesca Magnani
The desire to placate, for example, the desire to placate comes from an internalized fear of some authority figures from your childhood or young adulthood that you needed to please or else. The people that you look down at, and I'm sure there are some that you can't respect, those are representatives of the unloved child that remains trapped inside of your own psychic energy system. The way to shift from this power paradigm in which we live is by each person to go inside and resolve their own power dynamics to an egalitarian system within, giving voice to all the parts that have been frozen in time and space in trauma.
Again, trauma is related to fear of death. To go back to that place of fear of death requires courage, and courage is in itself a spiritual quality because you can't face fear of death if you think you're going to be completely annihilated. You have to have some faith that you'll live so you can emotionally return to that point of pain, of fear of death, and resolve... allow that young part inside yourself to be seen, heard, understood, and to help it move forward, grow up.
Well, given all the horrors and trauma that you've experienced yourself, I'm amazed that you recently said that you view yourself as healed and whole. That's a powerful and profound message that offers hope to so many victims of trauma.
That's right, yes. That's not to say that my journey is over. My spiritual journey isn't over, of course; I'm not enlightened, but I have reached a point, and it was a very specific day with so much awareness around it, that my self-esteem was healed, my ego was balanced, that I came to a point where my guilt complex was resolved and I could begin to love myself.
That was a big day. It was the day I knew that I would be able to come out with my story as well. It was in 2013, not that long ago, because as long as I was suffering from this guilt complex, I knew that when the Dutroux case was happening in Belgium [in 2004], I did not want to come forward then. I didn't want to testify because for two reasons. One was that I didn't believe that this case could be resolved in Belgium because there's too many people of power in Belgium that are involved in this that would be able to sabotage any efforts coming from within the country, which is what happened.
The second reason, though, is that the one woman who did come forward — her name's Regina Louf — she was viciously attacked. It's very unfair what happened to her. I knew that I would not be able to withstand those attacks, that, with my ego not healed, I would need the love from people who believe me, and I would get hurt by those people who didn't believe me. It would become some kind of a repetition, an emotional repetition. It will become a trauma story in and of itself. I was aware of that, and so it took until 2013 to know that I was healed.
But, yes, it is possible to heal from anything. Not for everyone, but those people who've had enough love, I think, in the very early years to form some sense of self, some blueprint of the way you should be, the way you truly are, the very beginning of life who've had a reflection of themselves as that sweet, innocent creature that we all are at birth. Completely clean, completely pure. Clean slate. Anyone who's had a reflection of that has this awareness, some level of the innate goodness of the self.
If people who need power don't have that, people who abuse power have trouble with that, the reason for all crime has to do with this sense of self, this perverted sense of the true self. It's the psychopaths who have no access at all to this first stage of emotional growth in the human life cycle. There's no way to return to healing or to just the true self. Certainly not in this paradigm where nothing is seen. I mean, the power system is set up so that people in power can't discriminate someone who is placating from someone who is genuine.
It's very messed up. It's very difficult to be in that position. It's no less difficult to be anywhere else on the scale because, as I said, the system hurts everyone. Certainly the people who feel all the pain, the people who feel all the pain are suffering tremendously for no good reason. There's no need at this point in our world to... There's no need for poverty. We know that. There's no need for hunger, there's no need for mass incarceration.
I don't understand how anyone can harm children in the way you were hurt as a child. It's beyond me. Can you explain to me, as you had once before in a private conversation we had, how someone can be capable of this?
Right, yes. When a person is asked to leave their conscience at the door... Ronald Bernard is someone who was in that world, he was working for the people that were my abusers. A different time period, but the same kinds of people at the top of the pyramid. He ultimately was invited to a sacrifice where a child will be murdered. He couldn't do it, so he started to back away. That was a very difficult process he went through.
He went through many of the same things I went through. He nearly was killed. He did have a near-death experience, as I did as well. Then came back and found his way slowly but surely, but it was very difficult to move out of that circle without putting himself in danger. But his conscience was coming to life again, and that's a problem in that world.
Most people have a conscience and can't conceive of what it means to not have a conscience or what it means that nothing means anything, what it means when you are treated as a god because you need to feel that you are God and above everyone, because in your infantile emotional maturity level, everything is... like babies see everything is life or death, everything is black or white, life or death. Some of the most powerful people have this very infantile emotional level, maturity level, where they really can't get in touch with that selfish innocence.
The process of abuse is for someone who has, say, a dead part... like the child that was abused was emotionally deadened, and the process of abuse recreates... the process of abuse is unconscious. It is unconscious. It may be surrounded by a lot of intention and a lot of premeditation and psychological manipulation, but it's still unconscious. It is an unconscious way to finally find release from that deadening experience.
When a child is abused... and, of course, I know very well what it feels like exactly... is this incredible humiliation that seems like you'll never be able to overcome, the shame that is transferred, this unbearable shame that is transferred that you deserve. On some level, as a child, you feel that you deserve this. You can't not feel that way.
Anneke photographed for a New York Times article on human trafficking (photo by James Estrin)
That's the point that you... this shame and the humiliation and the powerlessness that you feel in that moment. If there's no healing, these feelings remain inside you. That's why the power paradigm offers this way out, this apparent way out, of climbing and taking pills, taking all sorts of drugs, because on the top level, all drugs, all drugs, and alcohol... I mean there's so much of that.
The power itself is an incredible drug, and an attachment to privilege is an incredible drug as well. Nothing but drugs on the top, and that's also perpetuated. That's all in order not to feel that pain and it's all in order not to feel that tremendous sense of powerlessness, humiliation, and pain and betrayal often.
If there's no healing, no matter what you do, the escape doesn't really truly work. You have to go through it to get out. These feelings remain usually a little bit split off from daily consciousness. There's this seeking to overcome those feelings because they're unbearable. Someone who has no healing at all, the only model that they have is what happened to them, to then create the circumstances where then you are feeling that power that you didn't feel when you were being abused. There is a need for momentary insanity, or some people are continuously insane.
But what happens is that the victim, the true victim in the moment, is projected upon and not seen as a child, but seen as the perpetrator. That is what happens every time. So there is no feeling. This protection, this placating love often goes to the parents, and even in the most powerful people, they often protect their parents and their family and so forth. They treat them as if they were saints.
These original power figures who were probably the abusers remain protected. Whereas, the children who represent the unloved child within get the charge that belongs with the parents. And in that moment, there is this momentary insanity, this projection that this child is the perpetrator. And how that happens is through the most intelligent people. We don't want to believe that they can be that crazy, but these people are completely crazy and use justifications.
There is actually the belief in those circles that children are little adults, that they shouldn't even be treated as children because there's nothing wrong with sexual abuse. That was one of my perpetrators who trafficked me to the United States. They just really secretly believed there was nothing wrong with child abuse. He was very happy to abuse children, and was completely connected, conjoined with their original abusers, so that the abuse is good. That's what he tried. He was one of the influencers in the world. That is part of the agenda that he and others were putting out. We go back to a time where children are not considered children.
That is a justification at work. It's an insanity. The intelligence of a person who has that much power is really used to convey what can be heard, and not anything that's not going to be accepted. This is using the psychic abilities to move up. But the secret agenda has to do with everything that we don't want to know. It's a direct repetition of their own childhood trauma that is then perpetuated onto the entire world.
So in that moment, there's a release. In that release, there is a sense of freedom… that's to say the freedom from these feelings. It's what every drug, every addiction offers: this moment of release, freedom from the pain. It's the same thing.
Having been exposed to as much darkness as you have, what insights do you have into the nature of evil beyond what you've already shared?
Right. Well, our guru says that evil is ignorance, and I agree. I think ultimately it's a profound ignorance. I think I did touch on it quite a bit, that all the traps, say, of the world that are power, money, want, drugs, that it is unresolved trauma and brainwashing that gets someone to give in to those.
I mentioned it before, we're not just dealing with the challenge of being on earth as it is, having to constantly choose between darkness and light in every moment, but we're dealing with this superimposed evil of this agenda that is real. It's only the sickest elements of society that are perpetuating it.
Pedophilia is a very big part of this that most people are not ready or willing to reckon with, that the trusted figures, politicians, that we look up to, or that we don't look up to, but that we've put in power because we're doing it, we're giving this power away with our votes, with this belief that this is how a system should work, that we should give our votes away, that we should let other people decide the moral right to rule through laws which are imposed on us.
Supposedly, we have some say in it, but we clearly don't. The laws are if you think of a street gang, they have laws, too. They impose certain restrictions and so forth on people as well, and no one thinks that they have the right to do so, but we still listen out of fear.
And it's this belief in the system that is profoundly evil, that is perverted. The essence of the male principle is wisdom and rationality. Rationality without wisdom is insanity. That's where we are. We have a lot of rationality, we have a lot of science. We need science, but it really all is applied in a purpose.
There's a certain purpose and agenda, and all of it is covering the pedophilia, which is because we're dealing with men who were emotionally little boys and who need to abuse children to get a release from their own abuse and who are literally perpetuating their abuse onto the entire world. Their personal unresolved trauma, that's what we're feeling. That's what we're all feeling. That's all the chaos and the pain.
It's also, in a larger sense, related to a shift away from the dark ages. It is a time where we are waking up. Each person who has this personal transformation, each person who begins to be brave, who begins to have courage... Again, these are words that are very often manipulated and used in the terms of the agenda, so be careful. Again, but courage is the beginning of change. Personal transformation is the beginning of change out of these evil times that are comprised of this vertical system that doesn't work for anyone.
Can you say anything about the book that you're writing and how would you summarize its message?
The message is all about the way to heal. There is a way in which programs are offered that don't do a lot of good. Even people with the best intentions come and offer programs, say, inside the jails and the prisons where I do most of my work, and they can't reach... it can't reach because what is missing is step one that has to do with accepting a person exactly as they are where they are and help them accept themselves, help offer a reflection of anyone that you're going to be working with or your friends as perfect.
There is this spiritual light that, again, helps someone to get a sense of the true self beyond the body and the mind. That is, of course, light. There's a lot of people that are very, very open to that right now because I think we are in an age where we're able to recognize subtler energies and we could work with those energies. Then, psychologically, there's a very strong need to allow someone to be wherever they are, whether or not they're able to move forward from there.
This is the problem with programs is that they have goals and agendas. On paper, our programs have those goals listed and so forth, but, in reality, we are offering this psychic spiritual space energetically, in an energetic vibration, that, again, our guru, Paramahansa Yogananda, is a premavatar, he's the incarnation of love, and that is the unconditional love that everyone is seeking, that our guru had to offer that, and had humility that I haven't found in other gurus that are out there in the yoga world.
We're creating with prayer and, with the help of our guru, a vibration of unconditional love. It's called the unconditional model in which, whether it's in the workshops or in our classes, where people feel that they can just be who they are, as they are, where they are, and that that is good enough, that that is not only good enough, but that is great, that is perfect. That's very powerful.
It actually then helps people to move forward more quickly because there's no pressure. There's no pressure to climb the paradigm, there's no pressure to get away from this place where you are right now to climb, to do better in the world, to get higher up. There's no climbing, there's just being, being okay as you are. That's the unconditional model. In all our workshops, that's what we…
Liberation Prison Yoga teachers, (l to r): Yael Stone, Anika Absar, Anneke Lucas and Oneika Mays
Our last workshop was... the Liberation Prison Yoga workshop was last week or two weeks ago. I'm more aware of bringing this energy, using this energy to create this vibration. There were a lot of people there who were able to truly open, open their heart and grieve. I was very comfortable holding space for that. I noticed it was very comfortable holding space for the grief, even though there was a lot of opening.
I was also very comfortable steering it towards the... I mean, I don't have to steer very much because the fact that someone releases grief from pain from previous trauma, that brings the release that is sought by everyone who is doing drugs and using power and privilege to get that sense of release. That's what they're looking for, that real release. The difference is that this release brings true joy, and so we ended the workshop in an extremely joyful environment with a lot of positivity.
Then certainly I've developed a way to be present for people to help reverse their trauma in that unconditional way. That is definitely in the book, and I also teach that in our workshop.
Anneke teaching at San Quentin Correctional Facility
(photo courtesy of Prison Yoga Project)
In the subtitle of your book, The Purpose of Dark Times, are you referring to the chaos and violence in the world at this time, or have there always been dark times?
No, I'm referring specifically to our dark times. I mean there is a larger sense of the spiritual purpose of pain, the spiritual purpose of adverse circumstances, and whether or not, again, there is this unconditionally about where a person is. Not every person is going to be able to take a spiritual message from a personal life event that's very painful, and that's fine. That's where that person is, and that's just as it is. There's no judgment at all.
Then there is the possibility to take adverse circumstances. Because of the chaos right now, everyone has something. You can have a personal loss, your husband can pass away at a young age. I mean there's plenty of things that happen to people personally still within this, but even if it seems like your life is gliding by easily, it's not really like that right now because everyone is affected by these times that we live in.
The healing, the spiritual healing, comes when you can see without bypassing that not only that you need it, this experience, difficult experience, but you can see why because you've learned everything that you needed to learn from that lesson, that life lesson. I know it can be a little dangerous to speak about that because there is a tendency for people in spiritual communities to bypass and to look for a benefit in painful circumstances, so it's not that. It's not that.
You have to go through all the feelings. You can't skip the feeling. If you've been traumatized, there is this need for that release, there is the need to go back, there's the need for courage to go back and then to feel the pain. That's the grief and the shock and the betrayal. It's mostly in the grief, though, that the awareness sets in. Then the integration, the neural integration, happens from this part that was frozen in time and space. What's separated from daily consciousness becomes integrated as it is heard, seen, and understood... becomes integrated into the whole self. And that's where the magic happens… the change, the true change happens. It's not a change that is forced in any way. It just happens through the process. It's part of the process and it's the result of the process. It's a way to get there, and again, with the understanding that it's not for everyone.
Anneke speaking about the Belgian network of high-profile pedophiles in an interview on CUNY-NY
A big part of spiritual healing, of course, is forgiveness. You often speak of forgiveness. Have you forgiven your abusers? If so, how long did that process take?
Well, I would say, in general, yes, because I do understand. I do have a deep understanding of my abusers. But that doesn't mean that I don't still have a lot of negative feelings that arise about my abusers, my parents, my abusers in the network, those who became parental figures when my parents were less of parents than some of the abusers were.
I still have a lot of process to do, to go through when it comes to my abusers, but I have gotten to a point where I do have a lot of understanding that, again, I needed the understanding before I could forgive, and I could never forgive just like that. I could never say I'm forgiving. As a spiritual practice, I could never do that. I needed to understand, and the understanding allowed me to forgive. Then it's a continual practice of forgiving.
People trigger me. When I get triggered, I go to pray for them, I visualize them in light. I actually have an exercise from one of the monks from Self-Realization Fellowship, Brother Bhaktananda, who gave out an exercise to do to put someone in the light that you have an issue with. Five times a day do this exercise.
It's the peace and harmony prayer. For one minute, you say, "May you live in peace and harmony, peace and harmony, peace and harmony," and you repeat that. Then for 15 seconds, you do it for yourself. You place yourself in the light. You send yourself peace and harmony for 15 seconds. You do that five times a day. I do that in some way or another whenever I have an issue with someone, and that helps tremendously.
Again, it's the spiritual that's always first, but then I still have to come to some understanding what that person represents... that if I have an issue with someone, I don't just think that it's them, I understand that this is something in me that's not resolved. I look at my story and where this person, the patterns that are present with my dynamic with this person, where they fit in my story, and I go back to my past. It's when I can go back to my past and resolve that link, the original, the cause of the issue, the psychological cause of that issue that I'm having with that person, when I can link that consciously, that's when I resolve the issue with the person.
But I take it away from them by doing the prayer and by doing the spiritual exercises. I take it away from them because deep inside of me, I know that it's not about them, but that's easier said than done. When something's going on with someone, you tend to focus on them.
Do you advocate forgiveness for everyone?
I would never want forgiveness to be a bypass. My therapist used to say that I didn't need to forgive my perpetrators in order to heal, and I always thought that's not true. I always thought if I want to heal, truly heal spiritually, psychically, psychologically, emotionally, I needed to forgive.
Anneke leading a Liberation Prison Yoga class at Taconic Correctional Facility, a medium security women's prison in Bedford Hills, New York
I think forgiveness is the last stage of the process. When we are truly whole, when we are truly good enough, it's easy to forgive, and it helps ourselves, it helps the world think… on a global level, it's necessary to find forgiveness for the worst perpetrators, to really not stay in this good and bad duality, that you need to somehow side, you need to feel that you are on the side of good and then this other person is evil.
I think we need to look at everyone and seek to understand ourselves, because we have that in... It's like the worst serial killers. Certainly the people at the top are the worst serial killers. But when we get the gruesome details, or when we get confronted with them, mass shootings and everything, the news, this gruesome... It's just showing you everything that's gruesome, gruesome personal stories of people that get into the news. It's part of the brainwashing really to instill fear in everyone, that this can happen to me any moment.
But if we can really instead of focusing on the sensationalism and the... Instead of siding with, "I'm good. I would never do that. I could never do that," just to look at that inside ourselves. We all have a killer inside. It's just circumstances. If you really understood, if you really truly understood the life trajectory of that person and the abuse they suffered, would you be able to do things differently? And if you would, then you'd have compassion.
One of the comments on your TED Talk was, "She's a healer, something like a western shaman for our postmodern, cold-hearted world." What are your thoughts about that?
That was a good comment. I think that definitely the shaman looks at the physical world and then equally at the psychic, emotional world. I think that, yes, this work is shamanic.
Why do you say that service is part of healing?
After we've received some healing, that is what we have to give. I mean we have to understand that we can never go in and help people truly unless we've had some of this healing ourselves. It's this degree of growth, this degree of posttraumatic growth that we have, that is what we really have to offer. Vibrationally, that is what to offer. We come in a state of consciousness that is come by through the work that we've done on ourselves. Vibrationally, that is what we have to offer. That is where we start. That is the level of consciousness where we start, and people will automatically understand where that is and start from there.
Service is that, is to share. It's not to go and help those poor people, it's to share from the self, to equals. When that happens, the connection that happens is just beautiful. The healing, it's expansive, because let's say that you choose to work with people who have less opportunity than you have, as I had, this amazing opportunity being here... For so many years, as a white woman, I could stay off the radar, I was not incarcerated for doing little stupid things. I always was in this position that I was able to focus on healing. Then I was married, and I was really able to do the deep work.
Sharing the healing, suddenly I felt very useful. I think everyone needs to feel useful in some way, needs to be in touch with their purpose, but mostly if I meet someone... let's say I work with severely mentally ill, incarcerated women, so what I connect with is a very young part of them that is maybe telling me about hearing voices and everything... that part, that young part in me, comes to life in that moment. We connect on this really beautiful, really pure level.
These parts, once the connection happens, because I'm aware of my parts, I can go there, I can connect to severely mentally ill people easily, then they start talking too. Those parts have things to say. It's so clear that mental illness... I'm sure that, again, there are always exceptions to the rule, but that mental illness is due to trauma.
So what happens is that in the connection, in the heart-to-heart connection, the parts in me are filled up and get to heal, I get to heal, together. It's a very generous universe. There's enough for all. It does work expansively. It's not just, I'm going to give and then I'm going to be burned out. No. It feeds me too. It feeds everyone who does it in that way, in the way that we're doing at Liberation Prison Yoga.
Thank you for sharing your wisdom and healing presence with us today, Anneke. And thank you for the work you do in the world.
Oh, thank you. It's my pleasure, Phil. It's really nice to talk to you.
Anneke Lucas is a public speaker, author, and advocate for survivors of sex trafficking. She is the founder of the nonprofit organization, Liberation Prison Yoga, bringing yoga and empowerment programs to prisons, training yoga instructors to work with traumatized populations, and educating the general public about trauma.
In 2013, she started two groups at the Rikers Island jail for female survivors of sex trafficking. She counsels survivors of sexual trauma, sex trafficking, and extreme abuse. She herself survived some of the worst atrocities known to humankind before reaching the age of 12. Sold as a young child into a murderous pedophile network by her family, she was dramatically rescued after five-and-a-half years of abuse and torture.
Her background, the obstacles she overcame, and the insights she received into the nature of the human psyche on her 30-year journey to mental and physical health, form the basis of the Unconditional Model, a way to effectively share any healing modality, which she developed in her work with traumatized populations.
Anneke graduated from the MFA Screenwriting program at American Film Institute in 1993, published a novel in Belgium in 1997 on the subject of sexual abuse, and has written many articles about yoga and sexual trauma. She is currently working on a book about the Unconditional Model.
Click here to read Anneke’s April 2017 article in Catalyst, “Finding Forgiveness in Healing From Trauma.”
Click here to read a New York Times article featuring Anneka.
Click here to read the March 21, 2017, NBC News article on Anneke, “Human Trafficking in Hotels: New York Lawmaker Teams Up With Advocate.”
Click here to watch Anneke’s TEDx Talk, “From Child Sex Slavery to Victory - My Healing Journey”
Click here to watch Anneke’s 6-minute video and accompanying essay on GlobalCitizen.org titled “My Name Is Anneke Lucas and I Was a Sex Slave to Europe's Elite at Age 6.” Click here to watch Anneke's companion 5-minute video, "Anneke Lucas Talks About Her Mom, Society And Emotional Maturity."
Click here to read Anneke’s January 2017 interview in the U.K.'s Daily Mail.
Click here to watch a 24-minute documentary called “The World & I” about Anneke’s past and her prison work.
Click here to sign Anneke's petition to help victims of sex trafficking.
Click here to email Anneke.
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This article appears in:
2018 Catalyst, Issue 9: Diversity