The Art of Healing: Money can’t buy well-being

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The art of healing is by design a painful journey, which is why the majority of people who are overworked under a capitalistic system opt for the many distractions available.

Healing has become a luxury rebranded as sliced cucumbers and performative posing on a yoga mat. Using branding for broad concepts seems to be what America is best at – using people’s deep want for inner peace as the carrot on a stick to fund huge industries.

With access to therapy reserved for those who have the time and income readily available, therapy and medication become inaccessible for many. Even if people of the global majority are able to get access to therapy, it is hard to find a non-white therapist or at least one who understands the nuances of your culture and its dynamics to be fulfilling support. I have heard experiences from people who had a therapist express shock every time they brought up a situation to do with race. Everyday problems became a spectacle, leaving the client feeling alienated.

Real healing to me means being still with myself and moving through distressing emotions while practicing non-judgment. Non-judgment has been a huge part of my healing journey and is something I return to often as a reminder that I am not my thoughts, and that I am only the observer. There is no point in pushing away every thought I have because every thought is created by the environment around me. How I define a thought says more about who I am than the thought itself. Being gentle with the voice of the inner critic is one of the best things I can do. 

Healing is losing a night’s sleep to work through past experiences that appear every time I close my eyes. It’s messing up again and again, it’s leaving friendships, it’s being honest, it’s apologizing well, it’s sitting in front of a journal and having so much to write and nothing at the same time. 

Healing is a nonsensical experience and it’s not something that can be bought. 

I think it’s painful to see that we haven’t globally connected mental and physical health as one entity.  Capitalism is one reason that people are unable to take time to explore themselves as a person. Or if time is offered in the form of vacation or mental health leave, it is for the sole purpose of being able to come back and produce once again. 

We seem to look at ourselves through the lens of what we are able to obtain through a system that bleeds us dry. Children go from wanting a defined purpose in the form of a job– wanting to be a doctor or astronaut – to just wanting time for themselves. What about feeling at home in our bodies? What if that is the only goal I have? How would that disrupt the system at play? 

As I start my first year of graduate school to earn a master’s degree in African studies, I am faced with questions about genuinely exploring my cultural identity while wanting to avoid capitalizing on it. Except, it’s not something I know how to entirely avoid. I often feel forced to make something of the art and ideas I am passionate about in order for them to be “valid.”

Decolonizing and dismantling white supremacy comes in so many forms, and learning how to rest is one avenue to decolonization I am practicing right now. Learning how to be, to breathe, to sleep, to nourish, and provide me with what I need as I need it – this is the only kind of labor that I dream of: taking care of me and my community.

Muntaha Mohamed is an artist and activist who works for Portland Empowered, volunteers with Black POWER, and sits on the board of Mindbridge.