Annie Brook is a therapist, trainer, and business owner. She is the founder of BodyMind Somanautic and owner and executive director of Colorado Therapies. Brook has 30+ years of study, practice, and teaching in somatic psychology and movement arts sharing her wisdom of meditation, neuroscience, movement awareness, and group process.
Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like?
S Florida; one of 5 kids, we were nature-based. I raced home after school to spend my afternoons fishing, wandering the seawall, or swimming. I had about 10 aquariums, the microscope, and a science kit where I practice “my inventions.” We went to church, played on the girl’s softball team, and studied. My high school was experimental, which kept me curious and learning lots because we could move at our own pace and test whenever we were ready.
My mom was a social worker who went back to school in early childhood education after my father died during a routine test pilot flight. It was their 7th wedding anniversary, and Mom was left with 3 daughters all under the age of 4.
She taught us to be ourselves, accepted our differences, and shaped us with good ethics, compassionate faith, the right amount of discipline. Mom went on to be the first city councilwoman for our little town of Oakland Park. She defeated developers by proving a little creek was part of a watershed! She spray-painted some cocoanuts hot pink and yellow, had my brothers drop them off the intercoastal bridge, and waited for them to float through the little creek. 2 weeks later when they showed up in our backyard canal! Mom brought them in as evidence that the creek was a connective waterway, and defeated the developers who wanted to backfill the tiny creek because they said it went nowhere! She had New York Chutzpah.
Mom also taught us how to save and how to work. At age 6 she gave my 2 sisters and I toolboxes and taught us how to use a hammer, screwdriver, and saw. I built many boats for the back yard canal, and a scooter (which didn’t work all that well 🙂
When I was 8 she got us little mailbox piggy banks. She drove us to the savings and loan and gave each of us $25 to open our own savings account. I would invent my own jobs as a child; I took the wagon around and drove nails into the stree, saying I was “fixing it.” I had a red wagon shoeshine business and a “paper route” in third grade where I hand delivered 100 mailings for the local merchants. My great joy was to take my $3 weekly check, ride to the savings and loan on my bicycle, and deposit it! She taught us how to work too. I was waxing a car at age 7 with the neighbor boy and we were getting paid 50cents each. Mom was watching us. Finally, she said to my friend, “Michael, you need some elbow grease!”Michael remarked, “yes please, Mrs. Loss, where is it? I laughed because I knew it was in my arm!
Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?
Yes, at 18 I dropped out of college and traveled/hitchhiked through Europe with my partner. I landed a pottery apprenticeship in Scotland, after hitchhiking around looking for 2 months. Jim went back to the states; when I returned we moved to Maine, and at age 20, we bought 100 acres of cheap land that had an old sawmill. We cut logs and built a house, I had a huge garden. 2 years later, our handbuilt log house burned to the ground when I was away visiting my family in Florida. My partner had started drinking and forgot to shut the barn furnace down after starting the morning fire. That was usually my job; it was a disaster. I arrived back home to a huge ash pit, my animals were killed, everything destroyed. We moved into a 12-foot trailer, which was freezing, and rebuilt a post and beam house in the spring. That whole adventure, back to the land, building, creating, loss; it was a huge learning and creating, as well as huge trauma experience. Life can take a turn in a moment!
That experience led me to my career path. I got a job on a fishing boat off Cape Cod to earn money to rebuild, and then realized I needed to do some self-care. My mind was a mess with worry and shock. I earned enough to get myself out to California where I started studying meditation, emotional body healing work, body-based personal growth and healing, and improvisational theater and movement. It was a Godsend, as my brain had gotten so filled with worry and despair I couldn’t think straight or hold a job or even a conversation. The meditation and body-mind healing saved my life. Little did I know it was the beginning of my career path as a somatic psychologist. Such gratitude to Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, Ruth Zapora, Heartsong, and the Healing Ourselves school back in the late ’70s in Berkeley. I went on via Antioch to create the first Somatic Psychology degree in the country. It was a new “word” and I was in the right spot to dive into the healing in a deep way.
What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?
Hmm, I don’t know. I like how things have unfolded. I don’t relish all the losses and disappointments; however, I think there is a natural timing to a soul path; you can influence it but I guess I feel pretty lucky to have stayed resilient and become who I am based on all the losses and life hardships I have been through.
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
Therapists are interesting. It is easy to become “too necessary” if you are wanting to be that kind of therapist. I like sharing skills, helping people find their own resources of body-mind-spirit, and to heal themselves with guidance. I think that is the better use of therapy. I have many people come to me who have had bad therapy; or simply OK therapy. Talking doesn’t resolve all that much; for me it is the new information coming into the body-mind, the release of cellular experience memory, shifting of belief systems, and providing the right amount of challenge, skillful body-based and relational interventions, and compassion that make for good counsel with others. I guess giving advice is not good therapy I hear about; making the client depending upon the therapist.
Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?
My husband’s sudden death at age 35 was a huge lesson. My earlier time I described was dark; this was sad but not so dark. Jac and I met at SportsMind after I had gone through graduate school, where I got a dual MA in Applied Behavioral Science and Family Systems therapy. I had worked in Africa, brought Jac with me the next year, then we had gotten engaged the next spring, and married that fall. We had set up work as consultants in corporations, were getting ready to build a house on Lopez Island, and were about to start a family. Then Jac died suddenly 3 months after we were married. That rocked my world. Jac was the first person who really met me in partnership. We learned skills, used them to handle conflicts, and shared vision and action in the world. He too was a “big player” and we were a good match. It was truly devastating to lose my beloved; however we miraculously had water blessed by the Dalai Lama to open the gates of passage at death, and when Jac died the room filled with golden light. It taught me what love really asks of you! I was happy for him, going back to spirit, even while everything we had together crumbled away. I had done some years of ritual and Native American studies which helped me reconnect to nature to manage my grief and continue to trust life and its unfolding.
What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?
Continue to learn and grow. I have had fantastic teachers, love learning, and learned how to put things into action. I also have sought professional therapy help for many years; reaching out when I needed a growth edge or was internally stuck. I have had help through struggles and my early ethics helped me not give up; mom said love was action, and I learned that is true as well.
What is your morning routine?
I love getting up at 6:30, and going to the gyro studio for 2 hours, 3x/week. Keeping my body healthy is key. I workout, eat my Spirulina smoothie, go to my home office, and dive in. I am busy creating everything into online training programs as well as seeing clients of all ages. I make sure I take a break, and I also practice guitar and tango dance. My current passion for a number of years is writing my own songs, and sharing them. This year I am reading poets Robert Frost and Mary Oliver, and being inspired to write my own poems.
Body health is essential, as is emotional, mental, and spiritual health. I feel fortunate to be successfully recovering from chronic hip pain, due to crawling with straight arms and legs which gave me no internal spirals. At age 60 I put out a prayer for whatever I needed to experience for my deepest growth at this phase of life. Abracadabra, chronic hip pain emerged at age 62. They took X-rays and said I needed a hip replacement. Now, 3 years later, due to acupuncture, dry needling, and my Gyrotonic workouts with Miguel (hooray for Pelvic floor Specialists clinic, and Gyrotonic Bodhi studio in Boulder) I am pain-free and relearning how to walk using spirals in my fascia and joints. I backpacked 4 trips in the high country for the first time last summer.
What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?
Creativity; solitude, kayaking, dance…keeping my energy and spirits moving and reflective. The best habit is “cultivating virtue” a chi gong practice, where you learn to readjust the dial on your mental body, physical body, or emotions as soon as things get funky.
What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?
A good combination of get her done!, creative design, inspiration, and follow-through. I find I put myself into my own work rhythm and even as I have been self-employed my whole life, that I show up at the “office. I also made sure I had a part-time job when I was starting over due to a location move or some other life event. It is important to have work; I think the creative mind self-attacks without enough structure and place to show up. When I was the Director of Body Psychotherapy for the Naropa University MA in Somatic Psychology, I would remind students upon graduation to keep a part-time job. So many people don’t know how to work and expect life to fall into their lap. That could be a big disappointment and work makes you show up instead of getting lost. I believe you want the work you love; I am fortunate to have found mine. Even so, I have taken all kinds of jobs while I was building my dreams; I worked in a sawmill for $1 an hour when I was 19, sewed sails for a sailboat shop part-time when I was 32, collected urine samples as a temp worker while I was creating Studio Moves in Taos, NM. I have had enough work in the “real world” to allow me to appreciate helping others to grow and deal with life challenges rather than live in fantasy and escapism. “Getting real” is a guiding star value; not to be afraid of life and what it brings. Like the Velveteen Rabbit story, you can have your rough edges and “prettiness” worn off so you can actually let your soul shine through. 🙂
What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?
The Time Falling Bodies Take to Light by Irwin Thompson; engaged me with the deep feminine at a time when I was doing a deep dive of inner work; wanting my spirit and soul connected to my daily life.
Knowledge, Power, and Decision Making by Thomas Sowell, Phew…a diligent read; looking at the underbelly of what influences decisions, how is knowledge shared, and power dynamics behind it all. This helped me not be swayed by drama dialog but actually fact check and think historically as well.
Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?
Florida Scott Maxwell: When you can claim the events of your life, all that you have been and done, which may take some time, you are fierce with reality.
“…have patience with everything unresolved in your heart…love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language…the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps,..someday…you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer…” from Letters to a Young Poet, By Rilke