All too often in life, the methodically structured and meticulously organized plans we make for ourselves seem to, well, unravel right in front of our eyes. As frustrating as it may be at times, it’s the nature of being human to never really know what’s around the next bend, or where its divergent path might lead you.
For Debra Graugnard, that unexpected bend came in 1987, with a shotgun pressed against the small of her back.
Amidst the humdrum of her full and busy life as a university student and an employee at a local bank branch, there was little time to contemplate much other than where the next dinner special was coming from and who was hosting the party that weekend. In the course of a single Friday afternoon, however, her life was turned on its head forever.
Without warning, Debra felt the unforgiving metal of a sawed off shotgun pressed against her back, and the click of a cartridge loading through the pump-action mechanism. It was a bank robbery, and she had been chosen as the human shield.
Fortunately, no one attempted to play the part of hero, and the bank employees (including Debra) didn’t suffer any physical harm. However, what Debra didn’t know at the time was the lingering trauma that would remain in her body from the incident. In fact, just a short month later, she began experiencing symptoms of ulcerative colitis – which her doctor informed her would, regrettably, be a lifelong condition. Coincidentally, or perhaps not at all, the manifestation of her symptoms began in the exact spot where the robber had held her hostage.
As Debra puts it, “I just needed to get the gun out of my back – I felt like it was still there.”
With that one utterance, her life was again irrevocably changed. Searching for a holistic approach to healing, from both the physical and mental symptoms of her trauma, she was carried far away from the sterile laboratories of pharmaceutical companies and waiting rooms. Before long, Debra found herself under the tutelage of Shaykh Mohammad al-Jamal, a Sufi practitioner and Spiritual Master from Jerusalem.
Over the next twenty years, Debra would delve into the ideals, beliefs and power of Sufism, combining spiritual wisdom with the practical clean-living habits of a modern, professional woman. Today, Debra remains a Master Teacher and Healer in the Shadhiliyya Sufi order. In case you aren’t familiar with (we weren’t), Sufism is a spiritual practice that emphasizes the inherent properties in foods and herbs to aid in the healing process, through an ancient science called Prophetic Medicine.
Debra credits her recovery – symptom free for the last twenty years – to this intensive study of healing and mindfulness.
Yet, for all of her personal restoration and growth, there was still seemed to be something missing from her life. After all, what good was the gift of healing, if kept a secret?
As she tells it, “My personal journey was incredibly rich and culminated in the understanding that our bodies are sacred vessels for the divine spirit and love. The body is designed to heal and the healing process includes body, mind, heart, and spirit.”
After this realization, it became clear that she had to find a medium for which she could share what she had learned. If she was able to help even a small handful of people, then it would be worth the effort.
And so, out of an altruistic desire to heal others, Debra’s podcast, Self-Care For The Soul, was born. In it, she shares some her most profound insights and revelations after years of working as a spiritual healing practitioner. More than just another self-help podcast though, Debra’s unique approach to pedagogy combines what she refers to as “a continuum between the lofty teachings of mysticism and the cultivation of healthy, daily habits.”
Furthermore, in the wake of the emotional trauma stirred up by the vocal outcry of the survivors of the “Me Too” movement, Debra once again offered a helping hand. From her series of groundbreaking interviews with survivors of sexual assault, Debra’s international best-seller While We Were Silent: 12 Experts Share Stories of Healing from Sexual Trauma,
opens the door for an honest, respectful conversation about the journey to healing and recovery.
When asked about why and how she came to find podcasting specifically, she explained it like this:
“I love learning. If I could, I would be a college student my whole life… and in some ways I am. Through podcasting, I get to interview people I am genuinely interested in, about their lives, trials and tribulations, and wisdoms gained in the process.”
Debra wasn’t shy to admit that podcasting also allows her to work smarter, not harder, in her already jam-packed schedule. “It’s not so much work as other mediums. With the service that you guys offer [Podetize
] – doing the video transcriptions, blog posts, and keyword insertions – it really helps take a lot off my plate.”
And of course, we are glad to help, Debra! If you’d like to see more of what’s coming up in Self-Care For The Soul
or speak with Debra personally, visit her website
for all the latest news, events and updates!