bodywise retreat reflections
In early June I was lucky enough to travel to the big island of Hawaii to attend the Bodywise Professional Development Retreat on the Puna Coast, “a five-day experiential retreat where we practice caring for ourselves in order to care better for others.”
My work is often a paradox – it is deeply rewarding and fills me up while at times wearing me down and making me feel helpless/hopeless. After attending many trainings that were packed with practical information, I was longing for guidance and kinship in how to manage the inevitable feelings of burn out. I was seeking a deeper understanding of the underlying beliefs that contribute to our oppressive systems and how to better create inclusive, safe and welcoming spaces for folks in marginalized bodies. I wanted an immersive experience with space to rest and reflect. I wanted to build up my own toolbox so I could navigate my work from a resourced place. Wow, did this experience deliver.
It was not the Hawaiian vacation I necessarily expected. I was unprepared for the humidity and the island flora and fauna (geckos, mosquitoes and frogs, oh my). My beloved cat had died just 2 weeks before to the trip, so much of my “vacation” time was spent in beautiful places feeling totally numb to the magnificence, and then feeling frustrated with myself. On the fourth day of my 11 day trip I broke out into hives that lasted until I returned home and my digestive track reacted to the lack of sleep, no air conditioning and general anxiety of traveling. But every time I was in the room with the five other women at the retreat, I never wished to be anywhere else. I felt captivated, activated, heard, held and supported. (and no one seemed to mind my constant spraying of lavender oil and calamine lotion.) We enjoyed daily meditation and yoga practices and day trips to different parts of the coast. There was even a kitten named Caro to snuggle that lived on the property.
These are some of my notes from the sessions. Some of the thoughts are mine, many are from our visionary facilitator Kimberly Dark and some are from my amazing fellow retreat attendees Justine Shelton, Sarah Peck, Fiona Sutherland and Jess Campbell. The constant flow of ideas meant that I couldn’t always track who said what… and much of the discovery came from collaboration. These notes are also through my own filter of how I interpreted the information – I honestly couldn’t write fast enough to capture everything I wanted to remember!
“My retreats generally begin with some kind of invitation to look after others in the room. We practice care for ourselves and the specific bodies around us. This is sometimes triggering at first because women, in particular, have been made overly responsible for others’ needs and well-being. This is an opportunity to practice interconnection in a very different way, not as a burden but as an acknowledgement of reality.
Until we see other people’s bodies and lives as worthy of pleasure and care and love and compassion, we’ve lost ourselves. And we sure don’t create systems, policies and politics that acknowledge the inviolable dignity of all. That’s where we have to go and it’s possible to practice small.”
– Kimberly Dark
Can love be a verb every time we say it?
Practice COMPASSION for someone’s marginalization (without expecting them to talk about it, or treating them as fragile or damaged.)
Enforce their VALUE and INTEGRITY.
Treat their body as WORTHY of RESPECT.
Acknowledge the impact of stigma on marginalized bodies. Acknowledge the body hierarchy that exists in our cultural construct. Showing up somewhere you are not expected in a marginalized body can be a radical act.
Invite people to tell stories that are about more than their pain. How do we frame and reframe the stories we live in? What are the barriers to someone’s full expression? How can I, as a person with privilege, work toward remove those barriers, while honoring their agency?
“If your anti-racism work prioritizes the growth and enlightenment of white America over the safety, dignity and humanity of people of color, it’s not anti-racism work, it’s white supremacy.” – Ijeoma Oluo
We are all carrying a cultural script that we can’t put down, but we can edit the script and add to it
Lifelong learning about our own bias.. lifelong unlearning of cultural patterns
We will never escape internalized oppressive thoughts, but how can we make sure we don’t act from that place?
When do we need to step up?
When do you we need to stay put?
When do we need to step back to make space for other voices?
“Diversity and Inclusion without Equity and Love is an invitation to a colonial, cis, white, able-bodied, fat-phobic, transphobic, heteronormative, patriarchal party…it’s deadly.” – Sonya Renee Taylor
Sometimes, I am going to think, speak and act in ways that align more with the oppressive systems we are all swimming in, than with my values of human rights and body equity.
I accept that truth. I forgive myself.
I don’t have time for the privilege shame/guilt parade.
Instead: is there something underneath that needs my attention? (grief, ignorance, fear)
I re-commit myself to growth today.
People need us to get on with our growth so we can get out of the way of theirs. Can we accept that we are sometimes in someone’s way because we haven’t grown our awareness and practice enough to be fully helpful and forgive ourselves for that?
It doesn’t work when we try to manufacture inclusivity from our ego and conviction alone.
Systems were created by individual humans. They can be changed by individual humans.
“When I dare to be powerful to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I’m afraid.” – Audre Lord
We are creating the world as the world is creating us. We are either creating something new or reinforcing what already is.
Transform your own discomfort into information and then create change.
Showing up somewhere you are not expected in a marginalized body can be a radical act.
It’s not about resisting/avoiding “the suck” it’s trusting you’ll get through it with deepened skillfulness.
“My role as a dancer is to create spaces for liberation and connection. I do this work as a courageous connection to equitable access to dance and creativity.
I release perfection to walk my path in integrity and honesty. This is my pledge.”
– Sarah Leversee
Artistic Director, Art as Action | Teacher, Reconnect with your Body
the template for creating this pledge was an exercise during the retreat
This is a selection of what I was reading and listening to during my travels, as well as resources from the phenomenal women from the retreat.
Newlywed and Paralyzed Podcast Episode
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
Tressie McMillan Cottom interviews Trevor Noah for the Death, Sex and Money Podcast
Shrill by Lindy West
Food, Sex, and Body Liberation with Kimberly Dark Podcast Episode
Fat, Pretty and Soon to Be Old by Kimberly Dark (coming Fall 2019)