Remembering My Innocence - A Reflection on Diederik Wolsak's Choose Again Process

choose again diederik wolsak Jun 29, 2022

This blog is written by Lori Yearwood, an American journalist who writes for world-wide media outlets about trauma and its root causes, and who recently attended a 10-day childhood trauma healing workshop with Diederik Wolsak at the Choose Again Retreat Center in Costa Rica. 

From the very beginning of the retreat, I felt an ineffable kinship with the woman from New York.

At first judgment, this resonance appeared counterintuitive; The child of a first-generation immigrant from Panama, I grew up in the suburbs of California; She had been born and raised in China; The source of her painful memories revolved around her father screaming and beating her. My father never laid a hand on me. My pain, I told the retreats’ facilitators and participants, was about my mother’s physical and emotional abandonment of me.

Add to those dissimilarities the difference in our age – I am at least two decades her senior – and the chances of us sharing much in common seemed, in my mind, remote. Yet almost automatically, even instinctively, I knew otherwise. 

Two or three days into the retreat, a facilitator divided the participants into dyads, and I was paired with this woman. Our assignment: to lead each other through the six steps that are the cornerstone of all healing processes at Choose Again. We sat ourselves down on the dining room’s red corner couch and began. She acknowledged that she was upset. She identified the feeling behind it; The target of her father’s rage, she felt unseen, powerless, invisible. Even more devastating, she felt guilty. But in going back to the memory of it, she got lost in a torrent of tears, then an accompanying wave of terror and unsafety.

I looked into her eyes with all the love I could locate inside me. It was so easy to see her innocence. She stared back, but her tears continued. Within minutes, Wendy, one of the Choose Again facilitators, sat down beside us and slipped into the role of facilitation. 

“I have so much love for you,” Wendy told her. “You are safe.”

The woman’s eyes stared back with what I could only call my own sense of franticness and fear. Inevitably, the memory of the first time my mother and father divorced, flared across my mind. I had been 6-years-old, in our front yard searching for four leaf clovers, when my mother called me into our home’s spare bedroom. I stood between my parents. My mother sat in a chair to the right of me, her face set like a block of immovable concrete. My father stood in the doorway to my left, sobbing, his broad shoulders slumped in defeat. 

It was at least the third time in three days that the memory flooded me with the helplessness that I felt as a child whose world as she knew it, was shattering. In an instant that would play itself out for the next 50 years, I created a belief system to protect myself from what was so suddenly happening: I am helpless. I have lost my protection. I am doomed. And, somehow, it is my fault. I know I am entirely guilty.

The ramifications of those beliefs and resulting behaviors would prove nearly insurmountable. Because in my perceived guilt, I decided I wasn’t worthy of belonging, and my childhood was full of evidence that this was so. A bi-racial child, I was shunned by Black children for being “too white,” and with my frizzy curls and light-coffee colored skin, was deemed by whilte children as “too different.”  By the time I married in my early 20’s, I was convinced no one could love me, let alone be loyal to that love, and my husband proved me right. He cheated on me and our marriage dissolved in a torrent of disappointments and betrayal. Despite my expensive engagement of the help of pricey therapists who commiserated with me about my “damage,” the snowball effect of unresolved trauma continued. When, regardless of the people around me, my sense of isolation became too much to bear, I called Diederik Wolsak, the founder of Choose Again. He invited me to attend the childhood trauma retreat. Within three weeks, I told my editor in Washington D.C. that I needed to go learn more about the trauma-awareness I called myself an expert in, negotiated the complicated logistics of securing an expedited passport, hired a cat sitter, and booked my flight to Costa Rica.

I leaned into Wendy’s back, as she continued her facilitation with the woman from New York. It was her second visit to El Cielo, the name of the center where Choose Again holds its ongoing events. That first week helped her to uncover the painful fact that she had spent her life trying to garner her self-worth from her accomplishments – her grades in school and her performance at work in particular. That investment was plagued by an almost ceaseless sense of an escalating, internal pressure.

“I knew it wasn’t because of my new manager or my colleagues doing anything to me – it was a projection that I had been carrying for years, she said. “After all, I had done the same thing with my previous job. It’s what I do – I constantly feel guilt and fear about not doing enough, not being good enough.”


There it was – the root of what would soon learn is the root of every single participant’s agony: The pain of the misidentification with a painful, albeit untrue belief, carried valiantly but unnecessarily throughout their adult lives. 

“The last time I was at Choose Again, I was able to give up tying my worth to my job. But that has always been the foundation of my worth – study well, do a job well. So when I gave up tying my worth to my job, I felt like I lost the foundation for my worth and I asked myself: ‘Where should I look for my worth?’ That’s when she decided to come to Choose Again for a second week.

“You are Love, the innocence you think you lost when your father screamed at you and hit you never went away. It is within you now,” she told the woman.

My mother was a Christian Scientist, my father a self-avowed “recovering Baptist.” I am not religious, but deeply love the words that A Course in Miracles so often uses: “God,” and “Holy Spirit,” for example. The woman from New York grew up a communist, she said. She mostly believed in “nothing,” she said, but did  believe in “Infinite Love.”  Here, we found common ground and an intense purpose.

Please feel the love, I found myself silently imploring the woman. Because if you can know that love has never left you, then that means I can feel it, too. Her healing was my healing, too.

Like her, I had felt fleeting moments of that love during the retreat, then quickly forgotten its invisible, quiet presence as the past continued to repeat itself in my mind.

Eventually, her tears stopped, and outwardly, it was obvious she had collected herself.  But when she returned to dinner, she was far from the smiling woman who would show up at the breakfast table on the last day of the retreat. What happened?

A Course in Miracles refers to healing as “forgiveness.” But that’s a loaded word, steeped in the common association of forgiveness with overlooking someone’s injury to another. A Course in Miracles has an entirely different definition of it, the use of which creates the foundation of Choose Again’s six steps to healing. In this definition, forgiveness means to realize that nothing that can happen to us can affect the unchanging nature of the love within us. 

Not a beating. Not a rape. Not abandonment. Nothing.

Only when we attach to mistaken beliefs about ourselves, do we endure the suffering of victimhood. And only in correcting those mistaken beliefs about our true nature, do we heal.

“No exceptions,” Wolsak is often heard saying in the circles he facilitates.


 A Course in Miracles defines a miracle as “a change in perception.”

On the last day of the retreat, I sat at the breakfast table, across from the woman from New York. What I witnessed and then heard her explain to me, continues to astound me. As you listen to her tell it, consider that she had been at the center for a mere week and that what she experienced at the table occurred within the span of 15 minutes.

8:30 a.m.

The woman from New York: “It was Anne’s birthday and I said, ‘Happy Birthday’ to her – and I felt so much love for her that I hugged her. Then I remembered my own birthdays and how those were always difficult days for me. Every year on my birthday, I go back to the feeling of being abandoned. I have spent a lot of time alone on my birthdays – as a child and even now. It’s always a difficult day.

“Then I realized how I have been learning here that the love I feel about others is a projection of my own love for myself. And I knew my love for Anne was actually for me – I caught that. And then I felt joy that I was finally able to feel so much love for myself. So many tears just came out. I cried because I was really, really happy. I was so happy.”

8:45 a.m. – Diederik Wolsak hands out handwritten cards with individual messages for each participant. 

“My card said, ‘Innocence cannot see evil and evil does not exist.”

“I had said days earlier that when I was a child and my father hit me, that I thought his actions were a combination of both love and hate, and Diederik told me: “That’s insane. Love and fear can not coexist.’ Diederik said that my dad hit me out of fear, not love.

“Diederik had also told me that my father’s action was a cry for love under fear. He asked me: ‘What do you do when he is crying for love?’ 

“For me, it’s easier to see the innocence in my father than it is for me to see it in myself.’ 

“I know I spend more time beating up myself than thinking about my father – the guilt in me is deep.But when I read that card, I remembered the innocence in me, too. And I cried again. So I just sat and took it all in – to take a moment to connect with that in my heart.”

I told her I knew what she meant – I was able to see the innocence in her before I was able to fully feel it myself. But as each day had passed, I had, to my astonishment and utter relief, felt it on a visceral, even cellular level. The nearly continuous anger that I had been carrying for so many years -- the anger that I woke up with and used to keep myself from being hurt -- palpably diminished. I began to smile more, to dance in the yoga room, to dive into the lake by the center, and yell with the joy of being alive.

My card from Wolsak was just as perfectly addressed: “Dear Lori, You have always been home! Never Forget.”

Then, on the opposite page, a quote from the Course: “ You have not lost your innocence. It is for this you yearn. This is your heart’s desire…”

A few days later after the retreat, the woman from New York, went back her life in the Big Apple. And soon, I will return to my home in Salt Lake City, UT. It is unlikely that I will ever see her again. But I know we are forever connected in something that will never disappear, something inside all of us.


Diederik Wolsak shared his Choose Again 6 Step Process in a series of 4 Masterclasses in Evolve in May. The recordings are available to review in the Evolve Member Library and are available to new members of Evolve as soon as they join.