the healing threads of connection
A couple months ago, I walked through my kitchen and the words I heard made all the pores of my skin open and the hairs on my body stand on end. I walked into the end of a webinar taught by Resmaa Menakem. From the first sentence, my whole being opened up – ‘yes, this is it, he is speaking my language – he understands how epigenetic changes move through us, he understands how trauma is stored, released and wired. This is it.’
I can’t recommend enough reading his book – My Grandmother’s Hands. Resmaa Menakem is a body-centered therapist who specializes in trauma work and domestic violence prevention. He has studied with Bessel van der Kolk and Peter Levine. He has an extensive and powerful background that includes working with the Minneapolis Police Department, Public Schools in Minnesota, African American Family Services in Minneapolis and US military members and their family.
He is doing the work inside and out and I admire him deeply.
Our world is wounded in so many ways. Our world is unjust in so many ways. As humans we have perpetuated harm on each other and harm on the natural world for a long time. Supremacy has been in place for thousands of years and lives inside each of us. Racism is inflicted on Black, Brown and Indigenous people and in my country especially, this particular harm is tremendous, with its toll of police murders, poor health outcomes and housing options, inequities in education and in pay, and the psychological impact of all of those factors. This has been going on for far too long.
The murders this spring of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd are on all of our minds and the Black Community is saying “Enough!”. The world is rising up: the Maori led a Haka at the US embassy in New Zealand, thousands and thousands of people in countries all over the world are bringing their bodies into the street to say Black Lives Matter.
The country I call home was founded on genocide, built on land stolen from the First Nations people. European colonists killed 13 million of the 18 million First Nations people that were here when they first arrived.
This country was built by slavery – humans taken from their homes against their will in boats across oceans and forced to work for other humans against their will.
This is the white supremacist foundation of the country I live in, and it lives still in all of our bodies. It is passed down to us through epigenetics and ancestral memory and perpetuated by current attitudes, actions and structure. This is the racist foundation and it persists in all of our institutions. While I am speaking right now about my country, as we all know this is, and has been, happening worldwide.
Racial Trauma and Impact lives in all Black, Brown and Indigenous bodies.
Racism and white supremacy live inside all of us white people – for many of us, it’s not that we are choosing it consciously, it dwells inside our bodies and subconscious minds.
We all bear the wounds of intergenerational racial trauma, but we don’t bear them together and we don’t bear them equally.
I overheard a conversation last week, one I have heard many times before, and this time it went in another layer deeper. It was a black woman, mother of 6 boys, ages 4 to 22, sharing about the conversations she is having with her sons – that with each police murder she sits her boys down and says, ‘okay, no more hoody, it’s not safe for you to wear a black hoody…it’s not safe for you to walk to the Circle K by yourself…don’t run, don’t ever run..’. She shared that from a very young age she has been teaching her sons how to be submissive, open and responsive to police officers.
If this is your experience, I see you, I hear you, I am doing the work to stand with you. I have a long way to go and I’m sorry for all the ways I haven’t shown up as an ally. If you don’t live in a body, a country or a place where this is your experience, take that in, really take that in. For white folks – there is often a frozen response; we look away, we disassociate, we don’t feel…
I feel this disconnection, these inter-generational wounds – the illness and the separation that allowed(s) genocide and slavery, that allows racism and supremacy to continue – those are the same wounds the leave us feeling separate from mother earth, separate from life herself. This is the framework for how we have ended up here in an unjust world, in an ecological crisis teetering on extinction.
I also believe in the power of healing, I believe in the power of education and social change. I believe in the power of ceremony. I do truly believe as humanity we can heal, life can continue and our beautiful world will survive.
I also believe there is a tremendous amount of work to be done.
I need to do more and I want to do more. We at the Women’s Wellness Circle want to do more and we need to do more. Our community is predominantly white and none of us want that. Chronic illness impacts all women, and we want to continue weaving a community of the women of the world, to heal across culture and country.
I feel it is all deeply connected – racism, patriarchy, misogyny, ecological destruction and chronic illness. We have the powerful opportunity to bring healing to these very deep places in ourselves and in our world. Our long-term vision at the Women’s Wellness Circle is to be a diverse community both in our membership and our leadership. We have a long way to go and we are in the process of educating ourselves so that we can offer a safer, more inclusive space than we do now.
A Collective Awakening
I want to share a little bit about the work I have been doing recently. For the last couple of months I have been in a webinar discussion group on race and inequity. I am currently starting a book group with family and friends, reading My Grandmother’s Hands, so that we can learn, practice, discuss and deepen into the work of dismantling racism from the inside.
So many of us are being called to this work right now; I’ve been amazed watching books on racism and inequality sell out online. I know of several friends starting book groups and finding they can’t even get the books right now. This is good.
We, the humans who share this world, are experiencing a collective awakening. Some days I feel very hopeful that change is finally happening and other days I feel despaired, worn down, tired and sad. As women on a healing journey, we know how to be with and work with our emotions as they move through us, how to open our hearts and our minds to that which is unfolding, without inner resistance, standing strong in solidarity to resist injustice in all its forms.
In response to the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, I facilitated two sessions in my professional guild to address our inner racism and to bring medicine and support to the Black Community. I am deeply moved by the caring expressed in my guild, by the interest in learning, and the vulnerability in naming what we don’t know or are confused about. I am amazed at the healing, learning and growth I have witnessed in just two weeks’ time. And we are committed as an organization and as individuals to continue doing this work.
I write letters and call officials to raise my voice in support of the demands requested by the Black Community. I make donations (small, because that’s what I am able to do right now) to Black Led Organizations doing this work.
None of this is enough, and yet it is a start and I am committed to continuing this work. I also want to acknowledge how little I know and that I may very well have said things in this email that cause harm. While it is not your job to tell me, I do welcome your response if you want to share it.
Here are some resources if you are feeling called to do this work at this time:
- Justice in June – a calendar for the month of June compiling resources for reading, listening and acting: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1H-Vxs6jEUByXylMS2BjGH1kQ7mEuZnHpPSs1Bpaqmw0/preview?mc_cid=d21d1ed61f&mc_eid=356973e273&pru=AAABcqi023o*ItZumt5lNDQGMMjxRmTn7A#heading=h.jlrdafh7t21a
- Cultural Somatic institute (Resmaa Menakem’s organization) is running a free 5 day course on race and trauma: https://culturalsomaticsuniversity.thinkific.com/courses/cultural-somatics-free-5-session-ecourse.
- Color of Change does incredible work to address racial injustice. They lead powerful and strong campaigns that are clear and easy to follow and support: https://colorofchange.org/
The Balance of Inner and Outer Work
I do want to acknowledge, this is a marathon, not a sprint. You are all already doing the healing work of lifetimes. The path you walk is of deep value to the healing of our world. There are people who place value only on the outer work, there are people who place value only on the inner work. I am not one of those people, and yet with all the tensions rising in our world, I have been finding judgments rising in me lately.
The other night, my mom mentioned that as her book group was considering what to read next, they felt it important to read a book that addresses racism structurally and systemically, rather than a book that addresses racism from within our bodies, because they feel that true change doesn’t come from inside, but from within the structures and systems of society.
I quietly judged them for their perspective on what brings about change, as the so-called spiritual practitioner that I am, thinking don’t they realize true and lasting change comes from within . . . Then, at my yoga class (on Zoom) the next day, my beloved yoga teacher (of whom I think the world) said she had just gone to her very first demonstration, ever in her life, and shared the experience of that. It was so unlike me and yet I found myself quietly judging her and thinking, yes, yoga and spiritual practice are profound and how did you arrive into your sixties having never shown up in the world for injustice, how have you not participated in this way recognizing true change involves showing up inside and out?
These judgements aren’t me. I am someone who has always valued the outer and the inner. I recognize the beauty, diversity and necessity of the various pathways we walk and I value the power of each person’s journey and contribution to the weaving of and healing of our world.
Yet in the heat of these times, I found myself carried away in judgement. I forgot who I am and what I know and inside quietly judged two people that I deeply love and respect.
Some of us do the inside work and some of us do the outside work and we change places – it’s a marathon, or perhaps a relay, but definitely not a sprint.
I have been angry my whole life that people haven’t taken impending ecological disaster more seriously. At our last two presidential elections, when people asked me who I was voting for, I always said, “the candidate who will be the most proactive, the most protective, the most aggressive in addressing the ecological crisis we are in, because without that, we are not here to do the rest.”
I felt strong and righteous in my viewpoint and while I was not wrong, I also wasn’t right. First of all, it is all very much connected. And second of all, yes, without an ecosystem that supports life, no one will be here to do the work of healing supremacy and misogyny and all the other woes of our society. And yet also, without art and joy and beauty and life and community and family, what is the world?
The Healing Journey
So my wish for all of us is to trust our paths, open our lives and our hearts to healing and to joy and to deep, deep caring for ourselves, each other and the world. I wish for us to do the work we are here to do in a given lifetime; to raise our voices and lift each other up as we walk the path of life together.
Some days, some years, getting out of bed may be your work.
Some days, some years you will be in the streets, or on the phones.
Let us heal together, let us love together.
Let us help our ancestors lay down the wounds of the past and our future generations to be free from the wounds we have lived in for so long.