Our Alumni in the World

Cheryl Burns

MA, Somatic Counseling: Dual concentration, 2011

“I feel that the most powerful element is the belief that we heal, and can facilitate healing, by becoming more embodied, by tuning into our somatic sensations, impulses, energies and drives. We know how we feel...by listening to our bodies, by feeling a subtle tightening in the belly, an expansion in the eyes, a tingling in the feet.”

A practicing Butoh dancer and massage therapist from Georgia, Cheryl Burns has long wondered what makes people tick. While attending high school literature and neurochemistry classes, she would wonder about the psychology of novel characters. What were their motivations? To what degree were their personalities a result of biology and chemistry? At home, the questions took on a different context.

“My older sister suffered a brain injury when I was a baby,” says Burns. “My role has always been informed by the reality that I am the only one in our family who has known her only post-injury. I feel that my connection with her has fueled my curiosities about the psychological changes she experienced and the challenges she continues to face.”

Eventually, Burns participated in Naropa study abroad to India where she encountered Buddhism and its accompanying theories of the mind. As she advanced in contemplative practice and the performing arts, she discovered Naropa’s Somatic Counseling Department, which “pulled together these seemingly disparate pieces” of herself.

“I’m fascinated,” she says, “by the neurobiological processes that reveal the ‘bodymind,’ a unity of the brain/nervous system and the entire body. I love that our program emphasizes this science along with studies of the intangible, ephemeral end of the spectrum.”

Since graduating in May, 2011 Burns has been working to open her somatic psychotherapy practice that combines Jungian theories and expressive art therapies, as well as work toward a Licensed Professional Counselor certification. “I feel particularly grateful for the ways this program supports awareness and action concerning diversity issues,” she says, “because I feel that we are stepping into roles as healers who work with systems as well as individuals.”

Read more about Naropa Somatic Counseling alumni careers.