Wednesday, October 17, 2012

More healing, more of the time



I am thinking a lot about B. Loewe’s article “An End to Self- Care” right now. I'm trying to figure out if he's saying what I think he's saying, what I hope he's trying to say, or what I'm afraid he's saying.  No matter what it is, I am having some feelings and reactions, like many others.  I, too, am yearning for more community healing and transforming our relationship to healing, specifically the way capitalism has taken healing out of our hands and made it expensive and something we see as a “luxury” and something kind of precious, but without muscle. Sometimes the prescription of self- care can be problematic: the inherent classism in some of the ethics of self-care, the illusion that our struggles and our healing are individual and separate from each other, the shitty cycle we can get into judging each other and ourselves for not meditating or eating well or resting. But these kind of declarations to end self - care and that there is no time for self -care hurts all of us, especially disabled people and chronically ill folks.

I’m a community- based healer who sees people individually for healing work, as well as teaching and offering healing in community contexts. My work is rooted in collective liberation and self-determinism. It’s nothing new to invite people into your home, give them some tea, listen to their grief, hold space for their pain, lay them down on cushions on the floor and pray with them or touch them or move energy, and offer them remedies made from plants and stones. This is ancient. This is deep healing. And this is radical. Our healing traditions are so massively co-opted, then mangled in the maw of capitalism, we think we’re being radical by eschewing taking care of ourselves? People need self- determined, bone-deep, individual care and support in a community healing framework because we are still healing from isolation from each other, we are still healing from racism and poverty and oppression and trauma and we need healers who get that to offer us their time and skills to help us heal on an individual and collective level.

One of my teachers, Karyn Sanders, an herbalist and healer of Choctaw descent, was trained by a traditional curandera in L.A. This woman would just take on whoever came to her door and doctor them and Karyn does the same. She doesn’t have office hours, she doesn’t have “rates”; she does the work that needs to be done and the people make an offering. I have a feeling that if you asked most older traditional healers, they would certainly see their work with individuals as tending to the whole, because we are taught that people’s individual pain, as well as our well-being, are also part of the whole. I would say that most of the people I see for things like depression, addiction, chronic pain, chemical sensitivities, digestive complaints, heartache, fatigue, grief, anxiety (just to name a few) are connected because most of their suffering is rooted in generational and collective trauma and oppression. Their pain is not going to be relieved by committing more to the struggle. Usually their healing is a long and non-linear path, supported by some awesome healing practitioners, leaning into their connections to their communities, creating rituals and new habits around food, movement, and rest, and having their pain acknowledged and held with compassion and tenderness. And when we heal, we have to remember we are not just healing for us, we are healing through time, healing patterns woven through us, healing our ancestors and our lineage. (*see interview with me in No More Potlucks for more on this idea.)

What we need to end- and by end, I mean transform- is the privatization of healing, the illusion that our struggles are also private and separate, the marginalization of disabled and chronically ill people and people who struggle with mental illness, disassociation from our bodies, and the pervasive disconnection from all of our indigenous healing traditions and ancestral wisdom (and we all come from people who have healing traditions). Also, I might add, we also need to transform the way we talk about self- care as another obligation, something on our infinite and overwhelming to do lists as organizers and activists, another thing we can feel guilty for not doing enough of. I agree with B. Loewe that we need to transform the way we see our work too; our activism is healing work, and vice versa, and it is vitally important that we source it from somewhere deep- our spiritual practices, our connections with each other, our heart’s desires for justice and liberation for all beings, and the visions our ancestors have rolled out before us. YES. When we are connected to our purpose, we have something deep to draw upon and we won’t burn out, rather than trying to manufacture empty energy from our very depleted kidneys, or caffeine, or other stimulants. And YES to the end of guilt and shame about not taking care of ourselves or doing it right all of the time.  Most of us have grown up inside the medical industrial complex in which we are taught to be disassociated from our bodies, to pathologize and diagnose, and to suppress our symptoms. Creating more shoulds and judging folks for not seeking help, or for not taking care of their chronic cold, chronic fatigue, or chronic pain in the ways we think they should is not the path of healing, and throwing out a call to end self-care doesn’t seem like a wise remedy either.

If we’re wanting to encourage more collective care, we also need to help support people in taking care of themselves; if we judge and minimize the importance of self- care (bodywork, resting, and yes, even knitting), how are people going to feel safe asking for help? Collective care looks like a lot of things: healers having sliding scales or seeing people for free sometimes, creating a meal plan for a friend dealing with chronic illness, babysitting kids while their parents nap, so they can be well rested for their work in the world, and their work raising kids… but collective care doesn’t have to be instead of self-care.

There are so many people I work with who are just beginning to integrate self-care practices, practices that nourish them individually, and connect them to the whole. People who are reclaiming rituals and practices lost in the last generation or two, for whom self- care is radical and essential: young queer activists of color remembering their grandma’s recipes and cooking them up for friends, laying altars for our beloved dead, laying our bodies on the earth, taking a break from sugar (self-care and disinvestment from a fucked up industry), going to the community acupuncture clinic once a week, finding a special stone to hold in a pocket for grounding, putting ourselves to bed a little earlier. I would hate to see us abandon these beautiful practices. I’m reminded of something my friend Dean Spade said, “We need to be gentle with ourselves and each other and fierce as we fight oppression.” 

In my dream, our bodies are part of our collective body and our collective body is not just us, but our whole planet, our earth body. My body is made of stars and dirt and the blood of my ancestors and the breaths of all the people who have been here before me and the green exhale of the trees. How can I possibly think my pain and my joy is mine alone? So I imagine, I envision, and I invoke that we need more care, more of the time and that self- care is just one part of our collective movement towards healing.  We can gently and fiercely take care of the little baby bodies, the disabled bodies, the aging and dying bodies, the green bodies, the blue bodies of water, the four legged bodies, each other’s bodies and the one body you were born into, this time around.



Many thanks to Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha for her response to B. Loewe’s article and for her fierceness and gentleness.


Thursday, June 21, 2012

stretching out into the longest day



daylily summer solstice essence


 dandy lion gathering






summer blessings, people!

Love,
Dori




Tuesday, February 7, 2012

full moon: magics! classes! weather!

welcome to the full moon! People keep talking about what a weird winter it is, with so many signs of spring happening when we should be freezing and bemoaning the long winter and wondering when spring will come. This spring-ish energy is certainly moving through me like the bright moon on the snow.

Below is a list of some upcoming things I am excited about, including an intensive in community healing and magic, which has been in the ground like a tiny ancient seed for a loooooooooong time. Here it is, popping it's bright green head out of the earth to be macked on and relished by you birds/people/magical creatures! This intensive begins on the full moon in May and meets one weekend a month for three months. We will be deepening into magical places of collective and personal healing and explore things like daily practices for grounding and protection, working with stone, plant, and animal allies, creating rituals, ancestral healing, dream work, and skills for community healing. I can't wait. more information below.

I'm doing a workshop on community wellness for radiation exposure as a benefit for the Safe and Green Campaign to shut down Vermont Yankee in Brattleboro, VT this coming weekend, if you're around these parts.

And please consider joining me, Fearn Lickfield, and Pam Montgomery in May/June for an incredible intensive on Earth Healing, including geomancy, earth acupuncture, council of all beings, and more at Pam's beautiful sanctuary in Vermont. More information on Pam's website, here: http://www.partnereartheducationcenter.com/earthspirithealing.html

Also, many people have been asking about the transnatural listserve, which is a great community resource that fellow herbalist Jacoby Ballard and I (very lightly) moderate. It's open to people who are interested in herbs and holistic support for trans folks- practitioners and non-practitioners alike. If you're interested in joining, you can subscribe by sending an email to transnatural-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Such good discussion and information sharing!

Please pass this along to people who might enjoy any of this. I love to expand our beautiful web of people I love who you love who they love. If you know what I mean.

I hope whatever weird weather is moving around you and through you fills you with some gladness for life and moves you to the places you want to be.

with love,
Dori

PS! I thought I'd join facebook for Brigid/groundhog's day, but I am just too overwhelmed by it. Can people who are fb savvy post this info somehow? Or would someone like to help me join the future already? I'm serious, I'd love some help making a page to be liked. Let me know if you are that person.

UPCOMING EVENTS

Radiate Wellness: Holistic support for community health in radioactive times
Saturday, February 11, 2012
2-4pm
Brattleboro Holistic Health
62 Elliot St.
Suggested donation: $5-20
All proceeds benefit the Safe and Green Campaign to shut down Vermont Yankee

Come and learn powerful, simple skills for surviving and thriving in these times of environmental uncertainty in which we are all exposed to varying levels of radiation. We’ll explore herbal and nutritional remedies for daily wellness, practices for boosting your immunity and vitality, as well as holistic support for acute radiation exposure. You will leave with easy, affordable recipes and skills to share with your family and friends and a greater sense of courage and calm.
To register contact Leah Mutz:
leah@brattleboroholistichealth.com or (802)251-0888


COMMUNITY CAULDRON: an intensive in practical magic and healing

explore and deepen into personal, community, and planetary magic and healing grounded in collective liberation and self-determinism

intuitive arts
grounding & protection practices
ritual & ceremony
ancestral healing
plant, stone, and animal magic
dream work
& more.

one weekend a month for three months
DATES:
May 5 & 6
June 16 & 17
July 7 & 8

COST:
sliding scale $540- $650 for the entire intensive
early bird discount: $500 by March 1, 2012
*I am committed to making this financially accessible. work/trade and partial scholarship is available, please contact me for further information.

LOCATION:
Williamsburg, MA (15 minutes from Northampton, 2 hours from Boston, 3 hours from NYC)

space is limited
To register or request more info about the intensive, please contact me.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

FULL MOON: the revolution will not be fairyless




It's the first full moon of the year, and as usual, the moon wakes me up in the middle of the night. It's like all of a sudden everything is clear and my mind is quiet enough to write an entire book or solve the riddle of my schedule or understand the limits of the law or have a crystal vision about a person I am working with. It's dark and quiet and I can feel my ancestors speaking through me. But then it's 2am and I'm like, why can't my ancestors talk to me around 4pm, for tea or something? Not to complain, but I just want to sleep through the night, "like a normal person" as I have been known to say.
I don't know if it's the jew in me, but I am quick to leap into the rapids of the river of torturous inner dialogue of trying to figure out what is wrong with me. As anyone who has read an article about insomnia in their therapist's waiting room can tell you, freaking out about not sleeping is just about the worst thing you can do. I've been reading a book called Healing Night, which re-frames the modern epidemic of sleep disorders as a serious lack of dreaming, mostly due to our excessively lit up lives and guess what? There is nothing wrong with me!!! I recently read that after researching pre-industrial peoples' sleep patterns, and re-creating them in some studies, sleep researchers found that before modern "light at night" times, most people actually slept in two distinct sleeping chunks, with a little hour or so of wakefulness in the middle. This middle of the night waking, sometimes called The Night Watch, was often used for meditation, prayer, creativity, making out, and staring into the darkness, and wasn't pathologized as insomnia! WHAT??? I love the Night Watch! (My sweetheart might not love it as much as me though.) The book explores our malnourished relationship with the dark and our excessively lit up evenings and how that has affected our dreamlife, which is at the root of fatigue and insomnia.
But this is just a little aside. What I want to tell you is what I was thinking about when the moon woke me up, which I welcomed and curled into like a cat.

So, many months ago, I began a long post on community wellbeing and first aid for the occupy movements. I was so excited! I was so moved! I was so inspired! And then I didn't ever finish it because during the exquisite murmurations of this movement, I was suddenly displaced from my tiny gnome house in the woods by a fungal occupation of a severe sort. The mold inspector literally said, "It's as if you moved all your beautiful wood furniture into the forest and it's trying to decompose it." I was witnessing time and death and de-materialization in fast forward...of my stuff. It was gross, even though as you all know, I really try to not to hate on any living organism. Hey, we all got to eat. ANYWAY, I never finished the post.

So in the middle of the night, the moon was like, "Dori! You need to finish that thing you started about community well being for the Great Turning!" Then it went on to tell me that actually, I wasn't supposed to write about an actual first aid kit, but an invisible one. I was like, "Oh moon, you so crazy!" But I know the moon is not crazy and I knew just what ze meant. We need to shift out of the idea that things are going to save our lives all together. Even in, and maybe especially in, our liberation movements, it's time to sharpen our skills for connecting with the invisible and surrender to what might be moving through us right now. The Occupy Movement, and all of it's inspired tributaries, is supporting new possibilities of community and a new kind of interconnectivity, and I think that calls for a new kind of healing. I am not advocating not bringing your first aid kits to actions, but I am suggesting we begin to cultivate a stronger and deeper commitment to practicing magic. Or whatever you want to call it.

It reminds me of a dream I had last spring in which I was a small child with a bossy older sister who trapped fairies in bubbles and kept them under her bed in a trunk. One day, I snuck into the trunk, broke open all the bubbles and freed the incarcerated little people. They danced around me in a circle and sang, "we're free! We're free!" Then suddenly, I was my age now and I was giving a tour through a cityish town. I said, "This mound would've made an excellent home for the fairies, but they don't live here anymore." Someone on my tour asked why not, to which I answered, "They are afraid humans don't know how to like things without keeping them, they are worried they'll be enslaved, but they want us to know, the revolution can't happen without them." Then my dog showed up wearing a fancy suit and stole my keys and I woke up. What a revelation!, I thought. I have to write this down and tell everyone that the revolution can't happen without fairies! This is Very Important Information.

Now, as you can see, I didn't tell everyone right away, because it sounded a little weird. I mean, I realize that this is not something I need to worry about at this point; let's face it, I work as a witch and my hair is really impractically long and most importantly, I am learning so much about the impact of shame on our wellbeing and how essential it is for all of us to encourage each other to release shame, by saying and being in our truths. So here I am, telling you all that the fairies want to take part in the revolution. I am still unraveling what this means. I think part of it is that we need to open up to collaborating with everything and everyone and not give precedent or privilege to the obvious and what can be seen and what we consider "real". (more on this in my queer magic/queer healing workshops) Our work is not just to resist and dismantle the dominant structures, we also need to revive our imaginations and reconnect with what is real power, not the toxic mimics.

I'm not a luddite or self- righteous about it, but I'm still not on facebook or twitter or cell phones. Last year was the first year that I started to waiver- Arab Spring! Occupy Wall Street! My friends' photos of dogs and outfits and babies! We're witnessing how uprisings are being fomented with all this technology and how exciting! but I still think social media and networks are our training wheels for something else. We're weaving a web that is strong and vibrant, we're connecting across borders, we're remembering how to be part of a whole. It's as if the planet is knitting itself more tightly together, faster and faster- we're moved and changed by learning of somebody somewhere else moving and changing. I see how these tweets and posts are training us to dream together and move in some kind of graceful resonant current. I see the glimmerings of the days to come in which actions are planned in dream circles and we have meetings on the astral plane and artists are healers and healers are activists and activists are healers and we all dream together new dreams of a just, beautiful, life-sustaining world, where the invisible, the "unreal" and the imaginary are all loved and honored.

NEXT: Part 2 , the practical and the magical: First Aid for Witches.