The Art of Healing: On returning

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Although I haven’t finished the “Parable” series by Octavia E. Butler just yet, the quote, “God is Change,” sticks with me.

It is the first tenet of Earthseed, a fictional religion created by Butler. There is much I can say about Butler’s amazing ability to generate an entire religion in her creative work that actually attracted a following in our reality (among many other ways she has inspired organizing), but that’s for another time. Today, I want to talk about revolution and change. 

Revolution. The term often used in organizing spaces, one that I feel shouts from inside liberationist hearts, is about revolving back to what was before. “Before” meaning before corrupted systems impacted lives, nervous systems, and hurt, killed, and traumatized communities. It suggests a return, coming back to who we are at our core. I think “open-hearted,” “trusting,” “infinite,” and “loving” when I think of my core. 

Breath is one of the most natural anchoring points we have to practice “returning” and what it feels like in the body. Something I’ve been learning by practicing returning through breath is how to hold space for the complicated and hurtful dynamics between me and others in order to continue releasing year-old pains. As I’ve mentioned in columns earlier, I’ve experienced a lot of trouble with accepting change. While I know this is not a strange thing, I also recognize my comfort zone growing up had a very small range. 

I feel grateful that I have a larger comfort zone now (thanks to caring for mental health), and a greater ease when it comes to stretching and growing in discomfort. Through meditation, my supportive networks, dancing, therapy, writing, and radical honesty, a new life is emerging before my eyes.

I reflect on the changes just my family has made in the past year, and how I have grown alongside the expanding history of our household. How our dynamics have changed over time. How traumatic memories have reopened, healed, erupted, and stood still, like a capsule of time.

Years ago, we were six, and then we were five strong. Now we are six, eight, 10, and growing. From chosen family to extended family, to in-laws and newborns, our roster grows, more delightful every time. So much has changed, and will continue to change, and so much has hurt throughout the process. I am practicing how to honor and love through it all. 

All of this change feels like it is breaking something open, whether it is my perspective, old habits, limitations, fears, or assumptions. For my family, loved ones, and me I’ve noticed a pattern of opening up. We are, collectively and individually, instilling new practices filled with honesty and compassion.

In order for any of this to be possible, a commitment to sticking through discomfort is necessary. Learning how to navigate discomfort is its own skill. One that I believe would help our communities connect deeper if sharing this skill was prioritized. 

What is usually indicated with the word “revolution” is destruction. And yes, white supremacist systems need to be destroyed. But if revolution starts with “me” and the “I,” then I think of destruction as fear screaming because I listened to hope instead. I think of destruction as the discomfort that outdated and harmful beliefs experience on their way out of my body. 

Last week, I saw the most beautiful day that I think I have ever seen as I drove past the East End. The world felt and looked so vibrant. Maybe it was because I had spent more time inside than out that week, but the sea sparkled, and everything felt calm and full of pure life.

Today it rains. New York’s subway system is flooding, and people in the Bronx are risking their health and lives to make it to work by swimming in the dirty water to catch the trains. Palestine is still occupied and recovering from Israel’s latest rocket strikes, while citizens’ homes are being demolished.

Sometimes things need to be broken down in order to create what is needed to live, heal, and thrive. 

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

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