Tag Archive for 'somatics'

love is becoming a safe word

love
is becoming a safe word
one i use
precisely
when the risk is greater
than my courage

and i mean
slow down with me
and i mean
take my hand
and i mean
i want time with you
to see you whole

from this miraculous portion
we call a life
i want to give you truth
i want you to see me
off stage
and outside of wonder

love is becoming a safe word

i can taste the near-loves
with discernment
and say
oh that is unparalleled desire
oh that is a broken bowl who senses the gold in me
oh that is a new sibling
and
oh that is the future

and moving through
fields like curtains
i find what love is:
reflections of my self
that make me uncompromising

i find what love is:
a house where the windows
are gone
and the doors are all open
and i feel contained
and content

i feel what love is:
growing from gut heart
intelligence
to the edges of my body
an ecstatic yes
to who i have been
am
and am becoming

saying absolutely no
smiling visceral yes
showing this, not that
a very specific please
and so much thank you
all this love in action
gives me more of my life

and with this
aliveness
i write more poems
i grieve with my whole memory
i rage from the root
i care with no bitter edges
i accept what is
i surround myself with
sweetness, and excellence
and i create
with each next breath

and it is all delicious
it is all exquisite
it is all opening
it is all
love

Self Love as a Liberatory Practice for the Future

On Wednesday night I got to have a public conversation with new and old friends about self love.

We spoke at Solespace, my favorite site store /community space in Oakland. They’re in a campaign right now to keep the space open after the city shut down their street. Support the space with donations and spreading the word.

I opened by speaking about Audre Lorde’s Uses of the Erotic, specifically the idea that once you have tasted the pleasure of being so fully alive and self realized, you cannot settle for suffering. She teaches:

“once we begin to feel deeply all the aspects of our lives, we begin to demand from ourselves and from our life-pursuits that they feel in accordance with that joy which we know ourselves to be capable of. Our erotic knowledge empowers us, becomes a lens through which we scrutinize all aspects of our existence, forcing us to evaluate those aspects honestly in terms of their relative meaning within our lives. And this is a grave responsibility, projected from within each of us, not to settle for the convenient, the shoddy, the conventionally expected, nor the merely safe.”

I’m titillated by the implications of a future determined by those who willfully immerse themselves in joy and love for the self. I am obsessed with how love and joy are the actual tools we need to move against the culture of fear and scarcity. We’re experts at deconstruction and tearing systems and each other apart. But if what we pay attention to grows, how can we be more mindful about growing our capacity for love?

I also spoke of building community with those who are also focused on self love and how it shifts accountability. About how I’ve been learning slowly to engage self loving behaviors and disengage from behaviors that harm myself. That there is a way that truly loving myself makes clear how interconnected I am to other people, to this planet…makes it harder to do harm. I spoke of Somatics and healing as a way to understand that I am more than my trauma, that I can be a part of communities organized around collective and liberatory longing. I spoke of how grief has made self love more crucial, because I have to love not only myself, but the ancestors and ghosts I carry, their wisdom.

Jodie then spoke of how self love radically changes what we demand from the world and the future. She also spoke of how people on a self love journey in parallel engage in coevolution through friendship – and how this isn’t easy. It means asking each other tough questions about whether the choices we’re making serve that highest purpose of self love.

Jay-Marie spoke on being a deity amongst deities and how her choices in life, including leaving the bay for a massive black lgbt bike tour of the South, participating in the stunning Say Her Name action earlier this year, and pouring her heart into her music, come out of this exploration of self love. Jay-Marie brought tons of people out, drawn in by the light force she’s generating.

Ashara was our final speaker, and she had us in tears as she spoke about this year of her mother’s death and her own near-death experience with overworking to the detriment of her health. She taught us about family, being present to each other’s real emotions, about learning to do work we lOve without sacrificing our bodies in the process. Her 29 year-old son was at the event and wouldn’t take his eyes off of her. It was deeply moving.

Everyone in the room then paired up and got a chance to just see and be seen, feel the attention of another. I was moved by how much laughter and crying happened during this pairing. Each pair shared their own ‘self love front line’, where they know they need to advance their self loving practices.

Finally we brain stormed self love practices together. Here’s the list we started – feel free to add!

Therapy 
Bodywork
Masturbation (‘an orgasm a day keeps the nothing away’)
Tarot 
Meditation 
Shifting relationship to food 
Learning to say no in real time 
Unstructured time to feel myself, follow my intuition  
Acupuncture 
Notice when I feel alive and happy 
Give myself permission to grow old 
Recognize my body is all I have 
Celebrate self love in self and others 
Jomo…cultivate the joy of missing out 
Self love day!  (Baba’s day – insert your name!)
Sleeping in late 
Waking up early and being quiet 
Silent walks 
Dancing 
Decaf life 
No meeting Wednesdays (or whatever day you choose)
Grow more food 
Care for injuries 
Don’t hate, collaborate
Delegate 
Trust my intuition 
Being in spaces with my community that cultivate healing 
Spending time by the water 
Singing to myself 
Working out 
Playing sports 
Dancing and playing music 
Finding a tree in my neighborhood 
Read more books 
Free writing daily, or often
Less Internet 
Cook 
Work with clay 
Good one on one interactions 
Prayer 
Making home a safe space 
Animal love 
Feeling land and air 
Let myself be danced by another
Have good sex 
Making out for a really (really) long time 
Put hands in the dirt 

Go forth and love ????????????

what are you a fight for?

i wrote a story this weekend that brought me joy. actually it brought me creative ecstasy. it came at a time when i have been hurting, for lots of reasons, many of them connected to collective black and brown grief. in that pain, i have had the opportunity to create, and to lean on people, and be leaned on.

all this vulnerability and vision has brought to light a practice i have been in – being a fight FOR, instead of (or in addition to) a fight against.

i most recently heard this way of speaking about things in one of the somatics courses i was student-teaching, like ‘how can we be a fight for each other?’

i kind of got it – to be moving forward and advancing, instead of always on the defensive.

but the longer i sit with it, in deep relationship with family, friends and lovers, the more i see that it is a series of small choices and actions that pile up into that forward motion. and, as always, it all unfolds in nonlinear concurrent layers and levels of transformation.

it requires first and foremost being a fight for myself – what do i long for? what do i know i deserve? what do i need? how am i going to fight for myself?

being in a fight for myself has led me to be honest about what makes me feel happy, strong, like i am realizing my miraculous potential. it has led me deep onto my writing and healing paths, led me to develop emergent strategy in response to non-profit organizational trauma, to reexamine my food practices, to ask for what i am worth, to surround myself with woes.

i’ve also looked at my friendships and relationships, asking myself how can i be a fight for my loved ones? this means not just listening to them, but listening for the truth within them, listening for what they are longing for, for what they know they deserve, for what they need. and showing up with them in that fight for their dignity, life, health, joy, self-realization.

this month was the one year anniversary of my friend charity hicks passing. while revisiting the fierce and glorious energy she walked with, while touching again my grief for her, i learned that juan evans, an incredible black trans organizer i’ve gotten to know and hold over the past couple of years through black organizing and somatics work, had transitioned from this life. both of them are incredible examples of the next level of fighting for – being a fight for our people, for our species.

in early june i witnessed juan in that brave and beautiful fight for himself, his dignity and that of black trans people. juan told us that ‘when we fight, we win’. before she died, charity issued us the guidance to ‘wage love’.

i want to embody the fight for my people with a passion that honors both of these beloveds.

this past weekend as i was writing my story, which is about a black goddess addicted to eating racism, i got to watch from afar as the movement for black lives gathered the most brilliant and fearless black minds in this country together. what i saw and read about was the creation of a black utopian space for collective grieving, remembrance, honoring, celebrating, narrative shifting, dancing, singing, centering…and then protecting each other when cleveland cops encroached on that sacred space. i am, again, so glad to be alive and awake at this moment as black people fight for our dignity to be recognized, our lives to matter.

there is so much to fight against, so many people who want us to cower and shrink, or, when we fight, to fight defensively, in isolation, against each other, to confirm some degrading concept of self, of blackness, that has nothing to do with black people, with evolving in our human purpose.

but it feels like we are realizing that the way to do that is to fortify ourselves so that we can source from our longings, health, love, dreams and visions, from our strength and our connections with each other. at an individual level, i feel like a rolling rock, gathering speed in the direction of freedom. at a collective level, i feel we are becoming a formidable people at a time when nothing less will do.

so when i see you? all i want to know is: what are you a fight for?

packing my octavia butler bag (reflections on the field innovation team boot camp)

i am returning from a gathering that felt like a redirection, or next thrilling iteration, of my life resources.

a few months ago, my friend renna reached out to me because she knew some people who were getting together to design innovative responses in real time to the challenges of disasters.

i have very little background in disaster response, but i do live in detroit, and am as obsessed with apocalypse as the next sci-fi head, and i regularly work with communities who have been devastated by a combination of slow economic disasters and faster natural or manmade ones. so i agreed to go.

and i am so glad i did.

the room was one of the most experientially diverse i have been in in a long time. there were first responders and people who had worked in the disaster response field for years and have published books on it. and then there were veterans, an astronaut, robotics experts, artists, nonprofit leaders, government employees, theater arts facilitators, scientists, writers, designers, makers, hackers, teachers, futurists, technologists with communications tools that made me salivate, gamers.

and me.

we are all volunteers, and most of us have never been part of a disaster response effort. and that is the exactly the point. a few years ago, some people who had been involved in disasters we’ve all watched at a distance or survived – 9/11, katrina, fukushima to name a few – reached out to a team of designers, convinced that there must be more innovative ways to approach the conventional response to disasters. with the design team, they (at the time housed within fema) cultivated a survivor oriented response framework during hurricane sandy. they asked how do we fundamentally transform the experience of survivors? not seeing people as numbers, but as stories, people with futures, sensitive traumatized individuals and communities at a major precipice.

what grew out of this was a project called the field innovation team (FIT). it has spun off from fema to be it’s own project.

it includes a lot of characters and really brilliant people. i met an elder astronaut/pilot with a dry wit that kept me cracking up the whole meeting. i met a man using sci-fi to prototype plans with communities. i met a woman who makes robots that can swim underwater during a tsunami and tell rescue teams where people are, where danger is. i met other people creating robots that can carry supplies and resources to people where there are no/dysfunctional roads, and eventually might be able to lift people out of places where vehicles and helicopters can’t safely reach them. i met technologists envisioning a world where the detritus of natural disasters can be processed through 3D printers to rebuild. i met two facilitators using theater, masterfully, to deepen the relationships of the room, and it felt good to be in their hands. i met techies who are creating communication tools that keep people connected where there is no wi-fi.

i met a safety trainer who told us all to pack our ‘go’ bags – not just for doing this work, but generally to make sure we were ready for the world that exists now, with rapidly changing climate and manmade conditions. what he described putting in that bag made me think of lauren olamina, octavia butler’s perhaps most famous protagonist, packing her bag to survive an unknown future. the whole training placed me firmly in my ongoing question about how we grow in the escalating tension of our times – living on a planet we have abused so thoroughly that she must respond.

i won’t lie – it was a politically complex setting for me. i am used to being in spaces where people generally agree on a set of core values, or at least assume that agreement. in this circle, i could feel the best part of each person there, but knew that many had journeyed corporate, military or government paths on their way to landing in the place of doing survivor-centered disaster innovations. the language was largely foreign to me, i had to ask a lot of basic questions to make sure i understood what was going on, and i was left with so many more questions yet to get answered.

but i felt good that they were excited about my world view. and as i shared what mattered to me, i found that the common thread in the room was not just saving lives, but a passion for community voices being at the center of any response, communities being at the heart of envisioning futures that move us beyond the long-term crisis of inequality as well as the urgency of disaster. i learned a lot more about the resource and legal challenges to handling crises with community direction.

most of the people i talked to agreed that disaster strikes in ways that unveil the social inequalities in a place, in ways that open people up to different pathways than they may have thought possible – it is an opportunity to do what octavia spoke of in the parables: shape change.

i feel like my belief that ‘there are a thousand paths towards justice and liberation’ is alive in this work. from our unchosen starting places, we reached this room, and we were able to hold each other as living intersectional entities between lots of different worlds that need to be not just in coherent conversation, but in flow, if we choose to survive and evolve together on this planet.

over the course of the training, it became clear to me why i, particularly, was there. all the diverse, seemingly random skills i have been developing can be of use for FIT. from my doula training to my somatics training to my sci-fi scholarship to my facilitation and process design work to my auntie skills to my coaching work to my ruckus/allied media conference/detroit learnings. perhaps more than anything else, i can imagine calling on my network of incredible people around the country, dedicated to the local brilliance of their communities.

my vision for my impact as a part of the team is to connect communities i love to resources that enhance local reach in the midst of a crisis. i feel like in most cities in the u.s., i either know (or am one step removed from) a body of local experts – people who love their city, understand it’s dynamics and reactions, understand why people stay there and what could catalyze them to save their own lives, and most importantly, have a long-term vision of justice and growth that can shape the innovations that will work immediately and sustain the right kinds of change over time.

one of the things i have learned in detroit is to seek out opportunity in crisis, and i have come to see this as a foundational emergent strategy. the idea of FIT in and of itself feels deeply aligned with emergent strategy – responding to disaster – unexpected change – in ways that contribute to community resilience long-term.

it is just a beginning, and i have a lot to learn. but i am thinking very, very big again, and it feels magnificent. i am excited to find out who in my network will be amongst the local leaders, healers, doulas, sci fi writers and strategists who will transform the way we as humans respond to crisis.

it feels like sci-fi in practice. and it feels like an invitation you say yes to. i’ll keep reporting back on the experience and lessons. and i hope to hear from those of you either interested in getting involved, or with ideas and feedback on all of it.

now – off to pack my go bag.

healing out loud/claiming frida

(drafted this last week on the road)

feb 24, 2014

last week i received my contributor copies of the anthology dear sister: letters from survivors of sexual violence. my piece in it, called “awakening”, was written about two years ago. it is about ‘how i was smart, how i survived long enough to fall in love with myself.’

it was so exciting to read where i was in my healing process at that point in my life. one of the paragraphs talked about my weight – how i gained weight for protection, as many people do. and how i tried losing it a variety of times and ways, but when people began to give me a certain kind of attention, i would lose my courage and go back to my pizza and chocolate beloveds. after years, decades of this, i finally felt ready for the change to begin.

i went on my sabbatical in 2012 with a goal of learning what health looks like for me. what i learned is that i had to really love myself, my body, as it was. and from that loving awareness, i would understand what transformation, if any, was needed.

in the dear sister essay i write about some of the ways i started healing and falling in love with myself leading up to and during that journey.

in that loving place, when i sought the answer to what health meant to me, i found i longed for strength, for the capacity to run and play with the kids in my life, to have a real chance at surviving any sci-fi apocalyptic conditions i could imagine, and to enjoy sex and pleasure without shame.

i learned that i would need to do it all at my own pace.

it’s important for me to notice how far i have come. in my early twenties i was eating pizza, hot pockets, fast food, candy, bread. since then i have learned so much about sustaining myself – how to cook delicious vegetables without meat or sugar displacing the nutritional value, how to make a salad dressing that transformed my relationship to raw vegetables, how to juice, how to shop the outer edge of the grocery store (veggies, fruit, fish, eggs) rather than the inner aisles (snacks, candy, cereals). and i have been actively practicing yoga for two years now, getting my body stronger and more flexible.

i have also been doing major healing work through somatics – learning to access and understand my whole self through the sacred ground of my body.

so it was thrilling to receive this essay about healing from trauma back into my life now, when i am almost halfway through a 21-day sugar cleanse. it feels like the next radical step in this lifelong journey of mine. and it feels like i have come far enough into my body to really notice, with curiosity and tenderness, the ways trauma still shapes me.

i started doing weight watchers earlier this year, which for me includes tracking my food and wearing an activity tracker. i felt like i had made a lot of shifts in terms of my health, and wanted to raise awareness now about eating and exercise. it was illuminating – i was still eating larger portions, eating worse when i traveled (which is a lot of my life), and being more sedentary than i want to be. i made changes with that awareness, but kept hitting pleateaus, particularly when i traveled. two pounds forward, one pound back.

the sugar cleanse came in because what i observed was that i had the hardest time controlling chocolate, bread, alcohol. i first cut out bread, and quickly learned that lots of the gluten free alternatives are also mostly sugar. i needed to know if sugar was keeping me plateau’d in my health. my sister starting the cleanse provided the perfect opportunity to do this from a state of inspiration and solidarity.

writing about it, sharing it, has been immensely vulnerable and powerful. i realize that actually a lot of my writing, here, in more formal essays, and even the fiction i am writing, is an examination of myself, my healing process.

which brings me to frida.

my bathroom walls are covered in self-portraits of frida kahlo. in fact, she has a presence in every room of the house. thinking about my writing, my subject, my passion, i feel i have to invoke her constantly as an ancestor who has made it not just ok but radical to create my art as an exploration of my life. she once said, “I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best … I think that little by little I’ll be able to solve my problems and survive.”

her work as a queer, disabled woman of color was radical because it presented her beauty, her strength, her struggles, her resilience. things not yet to be assumed but claimed, carved out against all societal brainwashing to the contrary.

i feel similarly about my journey, though my medium is less often visual arts (though i will have three pieces up at the carr center exhibition on feminisms this month), and i dare not presume the talent of frida. but i am locating transformation at a level i can see, decipher, understand – myself. i am sharing that as transparently as i can in my art, knowing that the conversation i want to be part of at this time in history is how those of us who were supposed to be invisible instead became very loud, very whole, very powerful, very beautiful, and very joyful. very full, capable of creating our own healing journeys wherein we realize we are examining the breadth of societal trauma through the lens of ourselves.

to claim that full, whole space, i think we must claim the artists and ancestors who worked before us to carve it out. i have been claiming octavia, audre. i want to go on record as also claiming frida. she, too, is my sister.

towards the whole

i spent my 35th birthday in the third week of my first year of teacher training with generative somatics. it was wonderful.

the work is about figuring out what we long for, what makes us feel most alive, and moving towards it. this means learning to feel alive after trauma, after socialization, in relationship with others, in conflict, in love, in vulnerability. part of it is understanding that how we show up is based in what we practice, what we do over and over. and if we can become aware of what we are practicing, we can begin to have choice over what we practice and thus how we are in our lives.

what are we practicing? in our movements, are we practicing the things we want to evolve beyond? how do we change the world if we don’t change what we practice?

what am i practicing? i ask this question several times a day, when i get triggered, when i feel moved, when i eat, when i move.

i like it because it isn’t magic. it embraces that which is mysterious in the world, but it isn’t about just having some mysterious inaccessible magical skill set. part of the idea is that feeling is our human condition, and we get socialized to believe that we are just our thinking selves. reclaiming the full realm of feeling can return to us our whole selves.

as someone who has, at many points in my life, not wanted to feel what was happening, i am blown away by the connection between being able to feel and then being able to make powerful decisions.

and i am so grateful i can feel this moment, when things i have hoped and worked and dreamed for are coming to me.

it was an easy way to spend my birthday, it has been a gift to me. i invite you to support this work, to help it grow so that as many leaders as possible in social justice and other work can grow this wholeness, this feeling self, and bring that into our work.

whole people grow whole movements.

wild seed (geek-out notes)

i recently got to hold space for an intimate conversation on octavia butler’s novel wild seed with a group of fans/geeks at solespace in oakland. i mostly didn’t document it because i was immersed in the full body thrill of being present. however i do have the list of framing questions and the closing thoughts. i share them here purely to titillate.

framing questions:

(from Octavia Butler Strategic Reader)

– Are you currently suppressing or hiding a skill/ability because it would make you stand out from others?

– How do we learn to apply our skills/abilities in positive ways?

– For Doro and his children, death is not really seen as a consequence for their actions – how does immortality or longevity relate to morality?

– What is the relationship between immortality and privilege? (Longevity as privilege at the expense of other peoples’ lives)

– In Wildseed specifically there’s a reliance on a gender-based binary set-up. How does this impact the story? Are there moments of gender subversion?

– This series can be read as a new Adam and Eve narrative, with Africa as an Eden. What is similar and different about this from other creation myths?

– How does this series relate to Darwinism with it’s presentation of the struggles between human vs. superhuman vs. subhuman?

(from Mkali Hashiki, conversation starter)

The piece about power. Why is it that she can only “get power” by planning suicide?
And is that power?
What is Butler saying about power dynamics in relationships here?

—-

closing thoughts from the group – the feelings and brilliances were very much a group effort:

about the experience

i feel gratitude that an artist could be so playful and imaginative and lay stuff out that can get us so engaged. and then to come together and engage with it, to get really excited.

just reveling in embodied geek bliss

grateful for this space to rebound and geek out. i can geek out on the web and mental orgasm as i am talking virtually, but sitting together like this is awesome.

this conversation restores me.

about the book

i am aware of the relationships between art making, different communication styles, somatics, ritual and magic. of all it takes to create a pattern of decentralized networks of coordination.
*
i am interested in having a discussion of men on this content/book, exploring what it says about masculinity.
*
doro is the ultimate disassociation character. he jumps out of body as a traumatic response and continues to do so, as so many of us do, he can never stop, he can never ground and get back into himself. the question i have is: can doro be healed, is he healable?…i’m sitting with the idea that nobody ever tried, i have the feeling (anyanwu) couldn’t – but i don’t think she ever tried.
*
that’s the reality of so many young men of color in our communities. that is our responsibility, for young men, for everybody. i’m left thinking about survival strategies, self-preservation and agency.
*
it’s intriguing to talk about when to quit (and how). somatics has good practices around that.
*
i’m thinking about the creation myths and stories i grew up with, and the world we are in, the glittering world – what it really takes for bigger entities to quit, to give up.
*
neither anyanwu nor doro has much humility. why should they, they’re immortal, that’s their downfall, their inability to seek out help, change or healing. stuff is coming up for me about organizations and leaders not being able to change – we default to hierarchical structures. there are organizations that should die and don’t, there’s a lack of humility and vulnerability.
*
and what does it mean to quit, give up, let go, pick up…it’s deep to see her commitment as positive, her commitment to suicide…how do we do this in our movements, and personally – how do we make transitions constructive?
*
there are no accidents. I’m one of those people who left the movement, committed political suicide, im done, im tired, going to go do something where i am not tired. moved across country and changed my name. now in my wellness work (not healing, as i think of that as something done to someone else) its leading me back to organizing work. not an accident that my favorite author is sparking this conversation as i need it.
*
powerful for me as a filmmaker. i came up organizing. i remember being on the phone saying I have to step back. i was crying, cause we have been doing this so long, it takes a toll on me. it was a moment of self-reflection. i was crying out, and said i want to use my art to create change.
*
it is important to examine whether anyanwu was surrendering to something inevitable when she decided to die, or whether it was her commitment, her power. power or powerlessness – which was it? does it matter out beyond exhaustion? what is the distinction between these two? which had the most influence over doro? her surrender or commitment? which do we need to do – commit or surrender? fully let go of the world which can only exist in violence? or is it that we must commit to surrender – surrender our hold on the old, surrender to the unknown?

the next reading is the next book in the patternist series, mind of my mind. let me know if you want to be looped into hearing about octavia butler and emergent strategy events :-)

it is a miracle: reflection on somatics and trauma training

last week i finished the somatics and trauma training 2012, offered by generative somatics. a few years ago i took their somatics and social justice course, and it left an imprint in me, a longing for more capacity in feeling my body, healing myself, and learning to be a generative healing member of community, towards liberation.

here are some reflections upon completing this cycle of learning, which lasted 7 months:

to set out on a path i believed was impossible, i had to develop an opening towards miracles. and it is a miracle now, to be feeling what i am feeling, all i am feeling, all throughout my body, after years of numbness, self-harm, emotional eating and trauma.

i have had many teachers, some immediately recognizable in the moment, others only clear in hindsight; some positive models, some teaching me what not to do. part of what intrigued me about this course was i could see how it was impacting those who stuck with the training process and practices over years – it seemed to literally be reshaping people into their highest, most centered and grounded selves.

i’ve been involved in many leadership development efforts, and seen a few of them work in some ways. too often, however, they are about recreating one teacher’s style, a cookie cutter model of developing a leader.

having come through those processes, and helped shape them for others, i was starting to wonder if there was any process to truly develop leadership that wasn’t just throwing folks into the fire and shouting ‘good job’ as they learn to keep moving while burning.

the somatics and trauma course really touched something in me. now i am in a new relationship with learning, and my body is the teacher.

it/she has held on for me to get to a place, an age, a yearning that would turn me inward for the love and healing i was seeking.

it/she was/is patient as i hurt myself, made myself big to protect myself, disparaged it/her in internal and external dialogue.

it was years i spent internalizing revenge, cultivating the bitterness that curves up around the heart in clear walls that turned love away even, especially, when i could see it wasn’t serving me.

now i am beginning to see the world through a different lens, or more precisely, to feel the world.

i feel my grandparents’ hope in me,
i feel my father’s hard work, and
my mother’s continuous opening and curiosity,
my sisters’ adorations, wisdoms and patience,
i feel the vulnerable spirit in the babies i love

i feel my strength,
my vibrant race, and my dynamic ability,
my beauty, my brilliant body
my privilege and power

when a beloved leaves, i feel the pull of them on my heart, physically, i feel my life without them physically in it, i feel my responsibility to carry their essential gifts forward in my actions. my body is learning to cry, to grieve, to love, to open, to be whole.

i feel that the next generation of my family is depending on me learning more about how to feel, that it is necessary for evolution, for their own life work.

and it feels like such radical work – to be in a community of people feeling, including my family. and sharing those feelings, growing the capacity to feel. in this world where we are socialized towards numbing, fear, powerlessness and greed, leading to depression, militarism, racism and materialism, it is imperative that we get well.

i am beginning to feel what wholeness in community might look like.

i am learning that getting well in community is liberation. we are interdependent. when one of us attains freedom it elicits/rekindles that longing in each of us. when we learn to feel, when we learn to stand with each other in feeling, when we learn to tune into the wisdom of our bodies, to love ourselves, to love each other, we are doing the unthinkable, we are creating new worlds of possibility.

we were socialized to sleep, y’all. sleep and spend. to break out of that cycle and reclaim my humanity, for these magnificent instances i have experienced, makes me feel like i am in integrity with the universe, serving my highest purpose.

what becomes possible is, without destroying anything or anyone, we can claim power. claim it and live it. this matters for every identity, today i feel the depth of it for my blackness, for my womanness, for my queerness, for the child still within me.

recently i was regrounded in this chant from assata via my friend patrisse:

it is our duty to fight for freedom
it is our duty to win
we must love each other and protect each other
we have nothing to lose but our chains

remember, you are reading this in a body full of miracles you could not create. honor yourself, let love flood your body.

how about a beginning of self-determined care?

my friend b loewe wrote this blog an end to self-care, and i was moved to respond.

hi lovely b :)

thank you so much for putting this out there, i feel the energy of it. and as a community-supported self-care queen on day 8 of a juice cleanse, i have to engage.

my negative feelings on self-care kept me in a state of not caring for myself for years, delaying me in getting what i needed, keeping me in unhealthy movement spaces, feeling powerless and tired.

my community had to intervene. they generated the resources to send me off to take care of myself. if they hadn’t done that, i don’t know if i would be here at all.

once they had intervened, i still had to go through an internal process to get to a place where i determined that i needed this healing, that i wanted to be able to give to movement from a healthier place.

so…i love the idea of community care…but what is that, if not community supporting each other in our self-determined efforts to care for ourselves and our families?

there’s that relationship wisdom, “you can’t change someone else.” i feel that – i know it’s true for me, when people try to change me i root my feet down into the soil of what is.

grace boggs speaks it into movement, echoing gandhi, “we must transform ourselves to transform the world.”

for me this includes self-care. or perhaps more precisely, self-determined care. because the messages we receive are that our lives don’t matter, that we don’t deserve love, or even to exist. to choose instead to value ourselves, our health, and the health of our communities – all as one, not at odds with each other, is radical, it’s self-determination.

and i love the idea you put out that “movement work is healing work” – it absolutely should be, and sometimes it is. and when it is, it’s amazing.

but so much of the movement work we do these days is not structured in ways that promote sleep, much less healing. there are some beautiful flows of intense work, but more often than not, in my work as a facilitator, organizational development lover and coach, what i see over and over again are isolated, exhausted and overworking organizers in endless loops of tasks, conflicts and fundraising. i observe work done in a state of urgency that often leads us to not have time to cook for each other, care for each others’ kids, or even to pursue that “political clarity” which maria speaks of.

when movement is full of individuals with scarce energy and health, that scarcity flows in every direction – it leads to us competing with each other for resources. that’s what this capitalist system wants us to do, compete with each other for what we are told is enough. the shift towards grassroots fundraising is a beautiful response to this – that we generate abundance within ourselves, so our movement work can be self-determined.

that is the same thing we need to seek as individuals – abundance that allows our lives and work to be self-determined, community-determined.

i think that burn-out happens when life is not lived with intention. when we are mindful and intentional, we can begin to experience abundance, not in the material sense, but from the joy of living our lives on purpose.

its a privilege for us to even have this conversation, i recognize that. but there are some people, people with less time and resources than either of us have, who are just beginning to get a tiny little bit of encouragement to take care of themselves, and i would hate to see your words take away from that, or make people feel guilty for that.

i think it matters that we value and love ourselves and each other. and to me, that looks like affirming the radical act of love however it comes, without judgment, whether it’s through a movement retreat, or a yoga class, or knitting, or a protest, or a garden.

so yes, let’s get specific about community care – how does it look to do this so that people are able to do for themselves what they need? some people thrive working long hours with very little alone time…others thrive with two hours of meditation every day, or physical activity.

how do we create communities where everyone can self-determine and ask for what they need, offer what they have to give, where the result is abundance?

long blog short, i don’t think this is either/or. i think this is yes: more health, more care, everywhere. getting more people in more communities talking about what a healthy caring life looks like, how they are already living and caring for themselves and each other, and how we all support each other. and not just how generations from now people might live a healthy live, but how we are and can be practicing health, well-being, joy and justice in the here and now.

because from experience, the healthier i am, the more authentic love and contribution i am able to give to movement, to the next generation in my life. the more i prioritize caring for myself, caring for my community and accepting care from my community, the better and brighter spark in the movement flame i can be.

the too smartness

i am, and have always been, too smart for my own good.

i know this now, in a way i don’t think i have ever fully known before, because i am watching the too smartness of my niece and nephew in their growth. i have delighted in their intelligence, from the first brilliant responsive kicks in the womb, even their timing for showing up in our lives.

before they could speak i called them cellular geniuses for the speed, strength and flexibility of their lovely bodies. now they are speaking, setting boundaries, fleshing in their personalities, and my delight just grows and grows.

now, when either of them decides they want to do something, they are not interested in any adult redirection or trickery, nor are they at all concerned with arguing. they are not hemmed up by the potential worst-case-scenario impacts, they don’t care if people older than them insist they are embarking on a path of danger to themselves and others – they just want to do what they want to do.

they want to see for themselves.

and in that impulse, i recognize myself.

my child self, who was loved, and read to, and in talented and gifted programs, the me who thought i could outsmart everything from my military dad to discipline to spelling.

my young woman self who thought i could outsmart racism, sexual assault, rootlessness, or needing hairdressers.

its gotten more serious with my adult self, who has at various points been convinced i could outsmart fat phobia, my body altogether, addiction, depression, fidelity, heartbreak, politics, the federal tax system, hierarchy. even love. that somehow i could avoid and ignore the guidance and wisdom of my grandparents, my parents, other experienced people, loved ones, experts, advice columnists, therapists – errybody.

and by outsmart, i don’t mean that i thought i could skip these experiences. merely that i thought i could somehow do them differently, skip the painful bad parts and just experience the awesome parts that i wanted.

there is a brilliance to this – a vividness, an aliveness outside of any measurable intelligence. i live so thoroughly, learning this way. I fling myself into the world.

the way my nephew wants to jump off of high places, the way my niece throws herself off stairs and into streets, the way he drinks and spouts the dirty bath water, the way she puts everything in her mouth first.

now, older than these two beloveds of mine, i feel such compassion for them, such curiosity about what they are learning, and such a deep comprehensive desire for them to learn without hurting themselves in any way.

and then i am flooded with compassion for my parents, grandparents, aunts, ancestors, friends – everyone who has watched me run through this life, so painfully foolishly wonderfully smart.

i am flooded with gratitude for the care, for the warnings, for the hands that caught me when i fell down hard along my educational journeys, for the unconditionality of the love i got just because i was born to two people who loved each other and wanted to parent.

and for the friends who have loved me as i walked in the opposite direction of their guidance. all of these family and friends have loved me tirelessly, abundantly, tenderly.

and i have learned so very much in this short life, because of the paths i took, because of the crises i missed – not because of my intelligence, but in spite of it.

and i am like the child, even now. happiest when i am living at full speed in the direction of the unknown, the possible, surrounded by those who love me uttering soft warnings, reaching out hands that never let me crash, and looking at me with eyes that never seem to tire.