Finding Your Voice in a Time of Collective Trauma

Finding Your Voice in a Time of Collective Trauma “Your silence will not protect you,” wrote Audre Lorde in 1977. I was a college student in 1980 studying Feminism and the breaking of silence by women writers when I first encountered Lorde’s galvanizing essay titled “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action.” She was one of many writers I read in a class on Black Women Writers. I read her words in the same semester I also read Zora Neale Hurston for the first time, and Toni Cade Bambara and Toni Morrison. Kamala Harris quoted Audre Lorde in her Convention speech and it felt to me like an amazing sign of the breakthroughs possible in this era. On Wednesday January 6, in the morning before the Capital riots, a Black man and a young Jewish man were elected Senators from Georgia. Hallelujah. How do we keep our eyes focused on the good while also acknowledging the real and present danger of our times? It’s a question I am asking myself even as I’m still reeling from the shock of what happened Wednesday. I have more questions than answers now, but I do know that shock silences us, and we can’t afford to lose our voices right now. While I may have been aware on some level of the danger that might come on January 6, I was nonetheless shocked to see the images that I saw. And for several days I did not know what to say. But after a few days of conversation, sharing feelings and experiences, I came into a more centered place of awareness within myself. And I was reminded of all I’ve learned over the years as a writing teacher working with trauma survivors. I’m writing to you today to remind you that your voice matters. And to offer some tools for finding your voice again if you, too, find yourself shaken by recent events. We need your voice. We need the clear voices of good people who care about justice, kindness, decency and the value of human life. If you are American, and you voted for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris I suspect you were shaken by the events of this week. If you are a person a color, I imagine you were deeply impacted. If you are Jewish, an immigrant, gay or lesbian or bi or trans, if you are disabled, you may feel more vulnerable than ever. And yet, what I remember from the beginning of the Trump administration was the outpouring of commentary from people who survived Nazi Germany. The one thing they said that was different about those times was that today, people were speaking up, early. They saw the parallels and took them seriously, between Hitler’s rise to power and Trump’s rise to power. And, they were aware of that one important difference. The voices of dissent. You may not feel that you have political power. But, your voice makes a difference. When you have access to your voice you have access to your own energy and your own vitality. That matters in your own life. When you can connect with your voice and honor both your vulnerability and your strength, you can make empowered choices. You can be part of a stand for love, for peace, for justice, even if it’s just within the small circle of your own family and friends. When you are a stand for love the energy of love ripples out and makes a difference. So how do you find your voice when you have been through a shock, or a collective trauma like those of us in the US experienced this past week? First, you need to come fully into your body. Shock has the effect of disconnecting you from your body. Breath, movement, walking, singing, drumming, being outside in nature are all things that have the power to help you return to a more embodied presence. One simple thing you can do even as you read this is place your hand on your heart and take three breaths as if you are breathing right in and out of your heart. This will start the process of heart coherence, which can help to calm and balance your nervous system. Then, give yourself permission to find your voice first for yourself. Let yourself write into your own truth, so that you can know what your own truth is. If you are feeling scared or enraged or overwhelmed or confused or all of the above or something else entirely, give voice to it. One of my favorite prompts for this kind of time is “What matters now…” Take ten minutes to pour out whatever you feel, in response to that prompt. And use it again and again. Letting all your feelings have a voice is an important step to transforming your feelings into action. Audre Lorde's essay was entitled "The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action." She knew that silence contained energy. Language was the pathway to translating that energy into action. What if one of the actions you could take, after giving voice to what matters now, is to remember your sacred purpose in being here? If you are here to help our world through this time of transition, what is your role? It doesn’t have to be big to make a difference. Every one of us matters. Your decision to become a presence of love makes a difference. Your decision to offer love to the part of you that feels scared, or to your child or friend or neighbor who feels scared makes a difference. Let your voice be your barometer and your guide. If your response to “what matters now” is rage and grief, pour it out. It may come in waves. Keep pouring it out. If you find yourself feeling strengthened by writing and by remembering your connection with the Sacred, ask for guidance in your writing. Ask your Soul Self, your Higher Self, your connection with the Divine to speak to you, and it will. Give that presence a Voice, and listen. .Let your writing be a friend, a guide and a companion you can consult with in these times. Turn to the words of writers you respect to let their words inspire you. Most importantly, if you notice you are silenced because of this or any kind of trauma, take steps to move through that silence and find language, again. Language gives a coherence to your experience and helps you move forward in your life. I want to close by offering you more of Audre Lorde’s words. She acknowledges her own fears of breaking her silences, and comes to be aware of what is possible when she does not let her fears stop her. She tells us, in "The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action:" “I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood. That the speaking profits me, beyond any other effect. I am standing here as a Black lesbian poet, and the meaning of all that waits upon the fact that I am still alive, and might not have been. What are the words you do not yet have? What do you need to say? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence? Perhaps for some of you here today, I am the face of one of your fears. Because I am woman, because I am Black, because I am lesbian, because I am myself — a Black woman warrior poet doing my work — come to ask you, are you doing yours? And of course I am afraid, because the transformation of silence into language and action is an act of self-revelation, and that always seems fraught with danger. But my daughter, when I told her of our topic and my difficulty with it, said, “Tell them about how you’re never really a whole person if you remain silent, because there’s always that one little piece inside you that wants to be spoken out, and if you keep ignoring it, it gets madder and madder and hotter and hotter, and if you don’t speak it out one day it will just up and punch you in the mouth from the inside.” Give yourself time to find words for your own silences. Give yourself time to write about what matters now. Find your voice and you will find the energy and clarity you need to take the next step, and the next, whatever those steps are. … [Read more...]

Mary Oliver in Corona Times

Dear Friends, The brilliant poem, Mary Oliver For Corona Times came to me yesterday via a friend. You may have seen it, it’s being passed around the internet. I wanted to share it with you today. It stars, You do not have to become totally Zen….. The rest is below. For me it expresses something so perfectly for these times. The other reason I’m sending it because my guidance this morning, for myself, and for you, is to remind you: please write. In the midst of this unfolding crisis, while so many voices are shouting loudly—do not let your own voice go silent. Whatever you need to do to keep going, one more day and then the next, don’t forget that writing will help you, guide you, inform you and uplift you. And when you don’t write for too long, a part of you that you need access to right now, will go dormant. The part of you that has always needed to write, needs to write now. It may be harder than ever to let yourself sit down and focus on writing. I’m not saying you necessarily have to write something great, or profound, or beautiful. I’m saying that you don’t want to let that muscle go dormant, in these times. While so many voices are clamoring for your attention, you don’t want to lose the habit of listening to your own. Take a few minutes to sit down with your journal, and listen. Pour out your confusion, your overwhelm, your clarity, your inspiration. Your fears, you tender ever present vulnerability. Especially, your vulnerability. Your vulnerable heart, your sensitive nature, your highly attuned soul is what you need to remember now. Remember and give it a voice. Just for you. Because it matters. Don’t lose touch with that part of you that knows, the part of you that makes meaning, the part of you that needs to find language for the swirling sea of uncertainty. Don’t forget to write. Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, and this time when you breathe out, breathe out the words that are waiting to land on your page. Use a line from the poem below for a prompt. Or use “What matters now.” Set a timer for ten minutes, and give yourself that time like a gift that your beloved is offering you. Take it in your hands, your pen, and the time to write. I offer you nothing but love, as I remind you to touch in with the one in you who needs to write. Let me know how it goes. And here’s the poem: . Mary Oliver for Corona Times (Thoughts after the poem Wild Geese)  by Adrie Kusserow You do not have to become totally zen, You do not have to use this isolation to make your marriage better, your body slimmer, your children more creative. You do not have to “maximize its benefits” By using this time to work even more, write the bestselling Corona Diaries, Or preach the gospel of ZOOM. You only have to let the soft animal of your body unlearn everything capitalism has taught you, (That you are nothing if not productive, That consumption equals happiness, That the most important unit is the single self. That you are at your best when you resemble an efficient machine). Tell me about your fictions, the ones you’ve been sold, the ones you sheepishly sell others, and I will tell you mine. Meanwhile the world as we know it is crumbling. Meanwhile the virus is moving over the hills, suburbs, cities, farms and trailer parks. Meanwhile The News barks at you, harsh and addicting, Until the push of the remote leaves a dead quiet behind, a loneliness that hums as the heart anchors. Meanwhile a new paradigm is composing itself in our minds, Could birth at any moment if we clear some space From the same tired hegemonies. Remember, you are allowed to be still as the white birch, Stunned by what you see, Uselessly shedding your coils of paper skins Because it gives you something to do. Meanwhile, on top of everything else you are facing, Do not let capitalism coopt this moment, laying its whistles and train tracks across your weary heart. Even if your life looks nothing like the Sabbath, Your stress boa-constricting your chest. Know that your ancy kids, your terror, your shifting moods, Your need for a drink have every right to be here, And are no less sacred than a yoga class. Whoever you are, no matter how broken, the world still has a place for you, calls to you over and over announcing your place as legit, as forgiven, even if you fail and fail and fail again. remind yourself over and over, all the swells and storms that run through your long tired body all have their place here, now in this world. It is your birthright to be held deeply, warmly in the family of things, not one cell left in the cold. - Adrie Kusserow … [Read more...]

Radical Self Care in Times of Crisis

Radical Self Care in Time of Crisis Rest Until You Remember What You Love In the past 24 hours, have you been able to find an oasis of calm within yourself? Have you been able to release or transmute the stress and anxiety around the corona virus, and all the changes in your world, enough to really breathe? Have you been able to laugh? Have you been able to remember God? One of my core practices is Rest Until You Remember What You Love. I offer this in hopes it will be of help to you as you navigate these days of uncertainty. Rest—from the news, from the worry, the panic, the “what if” long enough to remember what you love. To remember that you are Love. To remember that you are Loved. Don’t ignore the news, the virus, the precautions, but don’t ignore your heart, either. Don’t forget that your heart is the wisest source of guidance you can find. And when you don’t know what to do, or where to turn, you can, always, turn inward toward your heart, to soothe her, to hear her, to pay attention to her needs, her connection to your soul. Has your soul gone into panic, or has your panic left you disconnected from your soul? Together your heart, your wisdom, and your soul, will be able to direct you, one choice at a time, one minute at a time, one breath at a time, to what action is in the highest good for you to choose. Your heart contains your wisdom, but sometimes your heart needs to be soothed in order for the wisdom center to open. So begin by simply tuning into your heart, resting your hands on your heart, and listen. What is she saying, your heart? Let your heart have a voice, without judgment. Simply listen. Take five minutes to come to the page and ask yourself, what do I need to rest from? Then, ask, what form of self care will soothe me at this time? What can I do that will bring healing to my body, my heart, and to the scared little child within me? Can your notebook be a resting place? A place to acknowledge and face your fears, and also a place to ask for and receive guidance? Here is a simple tool, when it’s hard for you to listen and know your truth or your next step: Pick up your pen with your “other hand” the one you don’t normally write with (i.e. your left hand if you’re right-handed) Ask your “other hand” to tell you what you need to know in this moment. Listen to and honor what you hear. Now may be a time to take small steps, make decision for this week, this day, this hour. Come into the present moment by listening to your heart, giving her a voice, and asking your inner wisdom what you need, by writing out your questions and your answers. Writing can help you find your guidance, your comfort, your next best steps. … [Read more...]

What Matters Now? You are Holy Ground.

The ground is shifting. What matters now? You are holy ground. The ground just shifted again. Primal fears of survival, of facing the unknown are epidemic now, along with the virus. We all are stepping through this together, in our own homes, hunkered down, sheltering in place. Is your home a shelter? Is there a place for you to shelter yourself, and your loved ones, from the fear, while you face the necessity of re-arranging your life? Making sure you have what you need to stay a home, and still eat well, take care of your body, not collapse under the weight of the pressures we are facing? Miracles are rising up, as other structures are falling. Miracles are always possible, if you shift into a place of allowing them… How is that shift possible, in a time of so much crisis? When the world falls apart, is it possible that another world is being born? If so, what is your part, in assisting that birth? Can you be a midwife of transformation now? Can you accept that it might mean taking very small steps? Going very very slowly? Taking the time to pause, each time you lift your foot from the ground and breathe, before you put it down again…. And can you say, in that moment, “I am holy ground.” You are holy ground right now, as you read this. And at three a.m. when the panic hits, and you worry about what’s to come. You are holy ground. What matters now? It’s one of my favorite writing prompts, and I offer it to you now, to guide you through the day to day not knowing. When you face a moment of overwhelm, when the stress feels like too much, when the uncertainty is paralyzing….what matters now? Maybe it’s taking a nap. Maybe it’s meditating. Maybe it’s going outside for a walk, if you’re able to do so. Maybe it’s sitting down at the page, to hear what guidance comes through your pen. What matters now? The next moment, the next breath, is all you have to consider. One moment to the next is how you get through. The ground is shifting. You are holy ground. It helps me to remember. Does it help you? You are holy ground. You are miraculous. Still alive, still breathing, able to look at the sky perhaps...or at the neighborhood you see outside your are holy ground. What happens when you walk five or ten minutes, outside or inside, and each time you take a step, you reach into the heart of the earth, and say out loud, or in a whisper… “I am holy ground.” I believe your guidance will speak to you, if you do that. I believe your guidance will speak to you, if you ask, “What matters now?” I believe that when nothing is obvious, nothing makes sense, nothing is certain, your inner wisdom still exists. You have a direct line to the wisdom of your soul, when you ask, when you write. What matters now, is a tool I want to offer you now. You are holy ground, is another one. Those two phrases, as writing prompts, as mantras to repeat to yourself out loud, or under your breath, can help you listen, and we all need to listen now, very carefully, for our right next step. It may not seem possible, with orders coming from the government to shut things down, to stay at home, to close the doors to the world… But especially now, when so much seems to be out of our control, it is imperative, that we listen closely, for our next step, within our own boundaries, within our own inner world. We are all one. That is clearer than ever now. We are all one. Yet we exist also as individuals within our own skin. What can you do to find a sanctuary inside yourself through these days of shifting sands, to come home to your soul….yes even now? What matters now, might help you. Write it. Say it. Say it or write it as a question...What matters now? Then listen to the response that emerges. “ I am holy ground.” Say it. Write it. Take a walk while you remember it. And then tune in to how you feel, what you know, who you are. You are inviolable. You are a soul. You are whole. Today. Now. Now. Now. … [Read more...]

Write and Heal for You and For Our World

We Heal Now on Behalf of the Whole When you write from and with your soul, you come closer to the power of your own awakened heart as a force for thriving in your life and as a force for justice in our world. This week I offer you two invitations to write as a way to catalyze the healing and transformation you need personally and to catalyze healing and transformation in our world. Whatever else you do in the face of so much painful violence in our world, coming together to give voice to what’s within you can strengthen, nourish and assist you. I’ve been deeply affected by two mass shootings this weekend, as I’m sure many of you are. And while I’m outraged at politicians who block legislation I also believe that our hearts need to process the assaults. On Wednesday, August 7 the Free Monthly Sacred Writing Circle will be in honor of healing, and you’re invited to be part of it. You can sign up here. The call takes place at noon Pacific Time, 3 pm Eastern Time, and lasts one hour. And, I’m offering a new 8 week course: Freeing Your Silences: Fulfilling Your Destiny. This course is for you if you feel your voice is blocked by parts of you who don’t feel safe to express their truth because of past hurts that silenced you. More details are below. Contact me if you’re interested by responding to this email, or writing me at Keep reading to find out more about what it means, to heal personally and collectively through writing. So many of us are going through so much. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by it all. Yet we’re being asked to remember that our lives are part of these times of great transformation. We are part of a whole world in transition. So many places in our world are crying out in pain, and sometimes many places in our own lives cry out in pain. When it feels overwhelming, it helps me to remember that it’s enough if my energy is devoted to healing myself. Because I know that every act of healing serves the whole fabric of life. All that I do to heal myself I also do to heal our world. We are one and the same. Part of one interconnected whole. The world lives in me and I live in the world. When I honor my pain, grief, horror and outrage at another mass shooting, another hate crime, the truth of immigrants in cages at the border, I am honoring what it means to my heart to live in these times. Actions can take many forms. For me, to give voice to the range of feelings in my heart is a first step. As I express what’s true...the whole range of what’s true...I begin to know what other actions are mine to take in this world. From what I understand, I am here to learn to live through my heart, in love and not in fear. So much of what needs to heal in our world is a shift from a paradigm of fear and scarcity to one of love and abundance….the abundance of a world where everyone has enough love and enough of their needs met to thrive. To keep my heart open, sometimes I need to grieve. What I love about writing is that it allows whatever I’m feeling to be honored. Then, through the writing process, I come into alignment with my heart and the feelings can alchemize into an energy that becomes part of healing and transformation. I want to help you do this, because it matters and it can help. I also believe that coming together in community to support each other to have a voice is an action that makes sense. So I offer you two invitations to write and heal...and know that your personal journey of healing and transformation has repercussions for our world. That is one of the truths of our times. More and more we know that we live in one global field of energy. When one heart opens and awakens to the truth of its own wholeness, more love is available to be offered for healing wherever healing is needed. When you take the time to write, you come closer to the power of your own awakened heart as a force for thriving in your life and as a force for justice in our world. The free monthly call on Wednesday, August 7 will be devoted to personal and planetary healing. The call takes place at 12 noon Pacific Time, 3 pm Eastern Time. It’s free and you can register here. And, I’m offering a new program: Freeing Your Silences, Fulfilling Your Destiny. This program could also be called...I have a right to be here and I have a right to have a voice. It’s an 8 week course dedicated to calling your lost ones home. Parts of you that lost their voice, went into a silence, and have not known how to come through to the other side. The other side promises wholeness, freedom of expression, and a tenderness toward yourself that emerges organically when you shower your pain with compassion. If you feel called to do that work, please contact me and I’ll give you more details. The program begins the week of August 19. … [Read more...]