Health and Activism : / transcription 

This conversation explores the dichotomy of health and activism as it relates to womxn of color and our community’s needs. The discussion features Lori Adelman, Gabriela Alvarez, Aala Marra, and Cloud Nagy, experts in their field as educators, healers, chefs, advocates and activists. This conversation is a toolkit, a skillshare, a community resource for womxn of color. It touches on reproductive justice, mindfulness and mental health, self care, sourcing local food and plants.

Lori: So my name is Lori and I work at the intersection of health and advocacy and my focus is on global sexual reproductive health and rights. When Americans say global they mean outside of the U.S. so everything else but the U.S. I’ve been doing that for 10 years now I guess which feels like a very long time. My background has been working at organizations you may know as being related to reproductive rights and health and justice like Planned Parenthood, I was there for 4 years, also lesser known organizations, I worked for a really small grassroots organization called the International Women’s Health Coalition that fed seed grants to local groups so that’s my background and interest. I also have a side interest in digital media, so very interested in how we use the media to talk about these issues.

Aala: I also wanna thank you guys for putting this together and creating this vibe it’s amazing. My name is Aala Marra, I am a health and wellness advocate and activist, not by trade or training but because I managed to overcome a really difficult time in my life. I was diagnosed with an almost fatal autoimmune disease and was able to cure it with a lifestyle change in like three months, so that’s why I’m up here and that’s the work that I’ve decided to focus on from here on out.

Gabriela: My name is Gabriela Alvarez. I’m a chef and I show up in activist spaces mostly to cook these days, to ensure that people on the front lines and people who are doing all kinds of work are nourished and that they’re able to show up for the work, for themselves, for the people in their lives, etc etc. I’ve been doing a lot of work recently with, for, and in Puerto Rico. A lot of work with farms, so right now I’m sort of in a slow mode because a lot of stuff I do is seasonal so I’m kinda super hibernating, envisioning, and in a space of self care for myself at the moment.

Cloud: Hello, my names Cloud. I’m here on behalf of environmental activism mostly. I’ve been a practicing herbalist apprentice for four years at Flower Power Herb’s and Roots, if you ever get a chance it’s a beautiful place. I also have been studying environmental policy and science for the past six years and I’m currently getting my masters. My work is really about bridging the gap between ecology and the arts and wellness and really trying to take the notion that the way that we treat the Earth is a reflection of the way we treat ourselves and in healing ourselves we are healing the earth, and the two really go hand in hand. And that removing people from their relationship to the Earth is a tool of oppression and is how people colonize the Earth and commodify it. And so my work specifically is about trying to re-engage everyone with their surroundings, with the understanding that we’re all from different places and everyone's duty is to care for the Earth and that is what we can all do together now. I founded a space called Earth Art’s Initiative, we’re in Bed Stuy, we have a lot of fun things happening that are ecology, arts and wellness focused and we’d love for you to join us or if you have any ideas where we can gather and share these ideas and skills, that’s the purpose of the space. Also we do a lot of really powerful work with Urban Coda and Antonia, if you all know her. She’s really powerful and I’m so honored that she asked me to speak tonight, so shout-out to Antonia. My understanding is that for centuries our ancestors were able to cultivate deep relationships with their surroundings and that formed ito culture. And when you remove people from their relationship to their geography you remove them from their culture and that is a systematic tool for basically selling things. What I've found in my healing especially because I’m mixed is that I don’t have a tradition of healing that I specifically am aligned with especially because I feel not super close to my Chinese side. There’s been a lot of searching in that and what I’ve found has been the most healing is to just realize we are geographically all here, we should be cultivating deeper relationships with what is growing here because those are the things that will help us be resilient here. And so many of those herbs and beings heal the earth why they heal us, so like a shout out to dandelion, one of the most amazing herbs is not native to America, it was brought here by British people as medicine and now is the number one target of pesticides. But it’s a testament of how resilient these plants are and help detoxify the soil and detoxify us. So getting in touch with what grows around us and what is here has been really helpful for me in healing.

Gabriela: Yeah connecting to earth, shout out to Soulfire farm, they have a black and Latinx immersion program, its evolving as they and we all evolve with it. It’s the idea, as colonized people, violence is pulling us away from land and pulling us away from each other. So what the program does is it brings black and Latinx and indigenous people together to heal together and also just be with land. Because especially in New York City and capitalism in this northeast region, most of us live in cities and don’t get a lot of opportunity to just be with nature, and there is a lot of healing in the medicine and just being able to be with trees, and being able to go back to farming and growing our own food. There’s so much traumatic history around farming and how that relates to our different ancestors and bloodlines, and to our collective story in the U.S. Being able to go back to a healing and collective way can start to heal some of that as a people. Something else that I really love about the program is that we’re coming together and I feel that’s something among my peers. I’m Puerto Rican, I identify… how do I identify these days? I’m trying not to use

Latinx because it kinda weirds me out, I’m kinda identifying as a mixed race Puerto Rican person. And I’m 30 which is weird, but I’m relatively young so thinking about people in my age range also who are just hustling and working really hard, and capitalism is super individualistic, and pulled apart. So some of my friends do therapy, I do a practice of co-counseling and there’s lots of different ways that this can work and there’s lots of different ways to come together with people, with your tribe, with your family, with your friends and coworkers, whatever that looks like. I think finding a way to connect with other people, and talk about things, feel things, just not be in it alone because life shouldn’t be lonely, we’re not gonna get really far, or as far as we could if we really work and build together.

Lori: What are the primary health concerns of our community? When I think of primary health concerns I think of the socioeconomic problems around accessing healthcare, whether its accessing healthy food or practitioners or advice or even just the infrastructural aspect of that, I think that that’s a huge barrier. I think with respect to New York City and something in our localized community that I think is heightened more in our community than in other communities is the figuring out a work/life balance in the sense that being able to adapt to the fast paced nature of the city and being able to understand that while you can take care of yourself physically, while you can try to source your food locally, while you can try to eat a certain way and meditate, there’s also a certain awareness and balance that is necessary for us to achieve and really truly practice in order to maintain wellness. And I think it’s pertinent to people living in NYC, that’s very distinct. And especially to the community of color and especially women of color.

Aala: Just building on everything that’s been said with regards to the piece about bodily autonomy and just thinking about the ways in which our bodily autonomy as poc, women if color in particular is constantly under attack, and I think it’s almost like the water that we swim in, we forget that it shouldn’t be this way and it could be another way of viewing our bodies and ourselves as truly liberated and free and so with everything that’s been happening politically right now around reproductive health, our bodies are literally ground zero for the political attacks that are happening. Even in bills that have nothing to do in theory with healthcare or reproductive health, our bodies actually get added into bills about tax codes, and infrastructure, we are the political football, it all comes down to us and you see that over and over and over again. It came down to us with the healthcare bill, it came down to us even with the most recent tax bill, abortion became a huge issue in that and we’re basically chips that politicians move around and we don’t even know the toll that that’s taking on us and it’s really hard to envision a world where that isn’t happening because it’s been happening for so long. I think really trying to find solutions that work for us and one of the ways that I try to think about this is to let go of the shame and stigma around myself and my sexuality because that trickles down. It’s not just the actual policies and the laws and resources in the health centers that we get limited access to, but it’s also the idea that is present in the world that says that our bodies aren’t ours so pushing back against that piece as well.

Moderator: How has the government had an effect on, of course your ability to healthcare, but the ways in which you’re able to do your work and reach your communities and get funding and resources to sustain that work?

Lori: Well I can just say specifically building on what we were talking about, health centers are closing, we have less access to places where we can get basic things like breast cancer exams, pabst smears, basic healthcare, so that’s happening on a very tangible level. More broadly, the government is also limiting people’s access to these services outside of the US, and we’ve talked on previous podcasts about the global gag rule which I try to share with people of the diaspora who are living in the united states because we’re not always aware of what’s being done in our name outside of this country. The global gag rules extends way beyond what we know is happening here. It basically is putting a gag on healthcare providers, what nurses and doctors can tell patients who are working in other countries. So if a patient comes and says for example, “I’m pregnant what are my options?” the US government has as a criteria for receiving our foreign policy funding that they’re not allowed to counsel them on their access to abortion. So literally the government is forcing healthcare providers to lie to their patients which makes me personally really angry. And I will just say also I think the resources question is very financial. What would it look like to have an actively funded healthcare infrastructure, I think that would be nice.

Aala: Yeah definitely just to add to that I don’t think that the government is necessarily a proponent of the work that I do or the work that I believe in. That’s just the way that policy is set up. It’s really interesting because I come from a very low income household and I’ve always seen healthcare, medicaid, medicare, as something that was always provided to us and that was a really close and essential part of my childhood growing up, so I can’t even imagine or understand the climate in which a lot of these families are trying to survive in right now especially with the lack of advocacy and help through the government. So yeah I don’t think that they’re a proponent of it.

Moderator: You both did a beautiful job in terms of talking about healthcare, I’m going to just point out that all the things politically going on are also super impactful on our emotional and spiritual well being so whether or not the government, in addition to the decisions and policies they are creating around healthcare and the environment and how that impacts us. It’s also like, policies with the nypd and black lives matter and thinking about the Caribbean and the hurricanes and how that’s impacted people who are in the diaspora and all of the things that are going on every single day like access to water and just how this is gonna continue to perpetuate the same systems where there's huge class divides and that goes along with racial divides and how everything is just set up for some people to win and some people to lose. Yeah I think that’s a huge impact and again I’m a huge proponent of us sticking together and figuring out ways to create something different.

Gabriela: Well I’ll just add that I guess since my family, many of them are in Puerto Rico and so since the hurricane I’ve been in a little bit of a whirlwind personally and something that I’ve done personally is disconnected a little bit from social media and go to particular people to know what the important news are and stay connected to the world but also really cancel out some of the noise so that I can focus on what’s hurting for me, and what really matters and who really matters cuz there is so much noise in our world right now in all the different realms. So that’s something that I’ve chosen to do and it’s the simple things like, I wish I could do this with text but on email being like, it’s gonna take me some time to respond, I check my email 2 or 3 times a week and almost shifting people’s consciousness who I email with and work with like I am not attached to my email 24/7, you will not get a response from me. If it’s an emergency you can do this, but just shifting the way that I relate with the world and the world relates with me. I’m prioritizing myself, me.

Cloud: Yeah all that. I feel so strongly about everything that was said and resonate so deeply and feel like this notion that we are separate from our bodies like we go to a doctor and they tell is what’s wrong. They don’t really care, it’s like a five minute appointment they have so much funding from all the pills that they push. The healthcare system is designed to make money, it’s not really a healthcare system it’s designed to keep people slightly ill. You take this pill and then you’re stuck on it forever and oh by the way you might get ulcers and then we have a second pill for that and oh your stomach is hurting? Lets just take it out, whatever is ailing you we’ll just take it out, your gallbladder isn’t working? Lets just remove it. This is the system of allopathic medicine that already has a history of deep horrors done on midwives, herbalists, women, keepers of knowledge, separating women from their bodies specifically. And this is a touchy subject for me especially because I feel really drawn to doing reproductive health work and in my herbalism I’ve felt very reserved about sharing some of the herbs that are really empowering for women like abortificients and amenogauges and the process of just knowing your own cycle like bow many of us know when we’re ovulating? Or can feel like oh I think I’m exactly premenstrual, today’s the day. We’re separated, we’re taught to just trust a man to give us pills so that we cant even feel our own bodies so this is a thing in my own direct healing like if I don’t need to go to a doctor and I can try to tune into myself and see myself as the healer first that is so empowering. And also with access, medicine for thousands of years has been free. There are pharmaceutical corporations going to the amazon finding sacred plants, taking them from those people, erasing that knowledge by colonizing them or globalizing them, then selling it back to them as pills. It’s happening everywhere in every way, this monster of colonialism and consumerism and capitalism is one monster and it goes everywhere and consumes everything and leaves destruction, everything it touches. Our wellness, the earth, it’s all connected, our food. I could talk about the farm bill for half an hour like these GMOs, pesticides, they're all funded by the government no question. Anyway! What I’m getting at is, if you have deeper interest in getting back your autonomy and body, really get in touch with the earth, she wants us to reach out. The medicine is there, our ancestors have been in touch with it and furthermore if you’re interested in women’s reproductive health and fertility please reach out to me personally because I am offering that class and I was hesitant before because I know it’s risky, there are some herbs that are more dangerous than others, but I’m at the point where if we can’t- tampons are taxed! Tampons are taxed as a luxury good, but condoms and viagra and rogaine are not. Anyway, I’m getting really angry about this, getting so angry that I can’t even go further. Reclaim your body, reclaim your right to the earth, reclaim your right to know what grows around you, and if you’re really interested in learning about your cycles and fertility hit me up and we can go deeper with that.

Lori: I think living in the political climate that we do right now it’s mentally, physically, emotionally exhausting. And I remember one time watching the news and feeling extremely overwhelmed and burdened and sad and conflicted as I’m sure so many people here and elsewhere feel on a daily basis. I remember shutting the tv and wanting to retract. I feel like what has helped me in the process of dealing with the environment is not only indulging  and engaging in self care but also working on allowing yourself to feel those feelings you have to feel the feelings of being let down or being frustrated or feeling like you can't take it anymore so that you can be free to feel something else, so that you can be free to explore that, accept it, understand that it’s there and then move forward in a movement of love towards yourself and then understanding tat self care is also very tied to community care. Once you’re taking care of yourself and you're in a place where you’re prioritizing yourself understanding that you’re also connected to a larger community, which is probably why you felt the frustration in the first place because you felt like your community was threatened, you felt like your identity was threatened, so understanding that that could be the next step and so following certain steps to institutionalize programs that advance the health of our communities just like the Black Panther Party in the 1969, how they had the free breakfast program for children every single day. They ended up feeding 10000 children across this country. I think that when you start with being politically frustrated with something and then allowing yourself to feel those feelings and then prioritizing yourself, taking care of yourself and your community in active sustainable healthy ways you ultimately defeat and overcome whatever barrier you were trying to escape from to begin with.

Aala: I love this idea of activism as a form of self care, and also animals. And I think one of the things that's been so hard for me personally as someone who basically identifies as being in the movement and the movement for reproductive health and rights and bodily autonomy in this country is super white. So it’s almost violence on my body having to be in spaces all the time where I actually feel like this issue impacts my community greatly, but I’m having to confront all of these other systems of oppression like not only patriarchy but racism, and the history of forced sterilization and all of these things that not everybody in the reproductive health movement is on the same page about that. So feeling like it is really important work and this movement does need to reflect the needs if or community but also feeling like you’re putting yourself on the line for that. You do see a lot of burn out for activists so I would just say, similar to your call, embrace the earth and I think to get involved this idea that our movement does need to be more reflective of or community because the opposition uses the fact of the whiteness of the reproductive health community against us all the time. Remember the billboards that went up across the South and started in Atlanta that were anti abortion campaign started by the right, using racebaiting as a tactic so the billboards read “The most dangerous place for a black baby is in the womb.” Using this idea that black women getting abortions is bad for the race and I know that personally because I’m out in the space that poc come talk to me, especially men of color will tell me their opinions about it, was actually a pretty effective tactic and there’s still a lot of hesitation in our community to fully embrace what it could mean for an agenda of bodily autonomy for women of color. So it’s also important for the movement to be reflective of us. There are really practical logistical things that don’t serve our needs right now. There was a grassroots group in Guatemala that was trying to reduce rates of maternal mortality in the community by encouraging women and their families to go to the hospital more because they were doing home births and having high rates of death, and in doing that there was sort of an attitude among the men in the community that if women die in childbirth that was God’s will, or the way that it needed to be. This idea that there were better maternal health outcomes if they would go to the hospital so there were campaigns encouraging them to do that, but when you’re working in rural Guatemala they realized that their childbirth practices were not recognized by the local hospital. In particular there's a childbirth practice of giving birth standing up. And that’s an integral part of the identity of their community, so they were scared that if they went to the hospital the hospital would not honor that, and in fact the hospital wasn’t. And so just making it really clear to the community that that’s not only welcome but setting up the space to accommodate that and to be very welcome to that and therefore being able to increase the health outcomes of the community so if you don't have people in the room who are of that community you can’t really bring that to people’s attention.

Moderator: Yeah and thinking just to the general labor of women of color’s bodies and the policing of that and the trauma and just overwhelemedness that comes with our work as activists as well and constantly going and going, working and fighting against systems and trying to build our own communities up. Just the general embodiment of resistance. I’m interested in hearing ways how you think that resistance trickles down into our health and how we’re able to engage with our communities and be supportive for folks. How can we keep our communities’ health intact and still showing up for our communities?

Aala: I think it’s a lifestyle. It’s a daily thing that you do. It doesn’t mean that you have to be perfect, it doesn't mean you have to subscribe to a specific label or any kind of way of eating or being but it’s making a conscious effort every single day whether it’s 15 minutes or blocked times throughout the day or just in the way that you eat or forming or picking up some sort of habit. Checking in and maintaining your health can be while being resistant, first of all I think that you being who you are on a daily basis and trying to be healthy and do better and be better is a form of resistance. That’s kind of halfway there. In terms of practical ways that you can be in touch with your healthiest self or work your way towards that, wake up make sure that you’re hydrating, monitor your intake of water. I drink three litres, I used to drink like a gallon a day. Making sure that you’re doing that, making sure that, being conscious of what you’re putting in your body. It doesn’t have to be perfect but if it’s something not too good then making sure you’re balancing it out with something that’s really good for your body, and you know what I mean by that. Making sure that you’re looking at what comes out of your body, looking at the toilet bowl, examining what your feces and what your urine looks like on just a very practical level. Making sure you understand who your friends are, what your environments are, the toxicity levels of that, the places and the people you surround yourself with I think those are very small easy practicable ways to be resistant and be a resistance while still being a servant to your community.

Gabriela: I’ll add to that, in terms of food, some things that I think about are just variety or diversity in your food. Just thinking about different colors and textures. When I teach elementary school I talk about different colors because scientifically different colors have different nutrients so if we’re making sure that we’re getting a balance by just doing that. Sometimes reading all the different nutrition things for me can be really overwhelming cuz like, last month they told me this, this month they’re telling me something different. So just maintaining diversity in your food and going back again to what your ancestors were eating. They had many generations of experience of figuring out what was good for the body so there's a reason why so many culture shave a rice and legumes, rice and beans dish because they digest really well together. There are things that have been passed down so I often think like, go back what were people eating before meat became so attached to class and what everyone wanted to be eating and became part of every single meal. What were a lot of the root vegetables or the staple dishes that people were eating in your ancestry. Another thing that I’ve been thinking about a lot is, I don’t know if folks know Loba Loca but they do a lot of queer education and have tools for, they call it mooning, menstrual wellness. I did a program with them and learned how to track my cycle. So similarly every day I would track my menstrual cycle, and that was a way for me to learn for me what is my body doing every day, what does ovulation feel like for me, what does my premenstrual cycle feel like for me. How does it shift? Am I on that 28 day cycle that all females are on they say. And then for me personally I was also tracking it because I’m interested in astrology and that’s something that I use, I’m just really interested I find it really fun, but I also integrate it with my self care practices so like paying attention to the universe, the moon, like oh the moon is full and I’m bleeding. So paying attention to that all the time and being in connection with my body in that way on the daily. Going back to food for a moment, something I’ve been thinking about for 2018, I don’t know if I mentioned it but my company is called Liberation Cuisine, so for 2018 we’re thinking about doing a meal cooperative. So often what I hear from people is cooking is a lot, it’s a lot to go grocery shopping, to figure out where to go grocery shopping, how to get it affordably, good, what recipes you’re gonna make, cooking for yourself can be depressing, do you have roommates do they clean up? All these things that get in the way of feeding yourself and feeding yourself well three times a day if not more is a reminder three times a day to love yourself and care for yourself. So how do we do that in a collective and more sustainable way? One way is by counting on multiple people, not just doing it for yourself. So right now we’re in a phase where, and if anyone has ideas please reach out, of what that could look like and how it could grow to a certain extent and still be sustainable financially and energetically and logistically. And just in activism I’ve been thinking a lot recently that activism, out in the streets, protesting, going to city hall and these thing we think about as activism, and then activism is also your daily life and showing up as you. And something I’ve been personally working on is standing up for what I believe in and who I am in my home. I live in a home with my blood family, my birth family, and if I can go and talk about this all around and I can’t go home and feel good about the conversations that I’ve had or how we’re treating each other then something is wrong. If nothing is changing at home then something is wrong. And I think that can often be some of the hardest places to do the work because there is so much baggage that comes with that and for me, similar to what you were saying, when I have feelings, finding a way to discharge them like get them out of my body and just feel them, rather than letting them boil up. I don’t wanna be angry, or sad, or disappointed, or hopeless so just letting that stuff out so that I can show up to my family, my dad, and be like “Dad, I need to show up better for this.” Yeah, just show up for people who are really challenging and maybe don’t believe in a world where you exist in the limelight. How do you show up for those relationships and those people all the time as your best self and let all of the other stuff out of your body. Spiritual ways, physical ways, whatever you gotta do to make that happen.

Aala: I have a tiny thing to say. I support and feel very strongly about everything and just like, what we’re doing right now is pretty significant act of resilience. Just thinking about how long ago it was that women didn’t have the right to vote, black women didn't have the right to vote and we could talk about that forever but just like, people didn’t have the right to get together and just speak on these ideas and these subjects, that is the first step, for us to make space for each other to do this to gather in our homes together. The other thing too, and everyone likes to enjoy and party, but I think that there is this thing in our culture where this system that we’re all grinding in and working just so we can exist in an apartment, just exist at all, is so draining that the only remedy is to numb yourself completely on the weekend. And we should spend that time gathering, networking, planning, going to yoga, supporting our peers and our colleagues who know this work and have these skills. Why go to the yoga studio wherever the heck that is run by people who don’t care when your neighbor can help you and host you. And we can do this from an interpersonal one on one level and then build it into something really beautiful. And it’s overwhelming because where do you start? What if you feel like you don’t have a community? And these questions are coming more and more like every day is a nightmare, who do I reach out to? So I think that this is a beautiful first step, supporting your colleagues that are getting involved. We as activists and everyone in this room, we all need help and the more we support each other and the more we organize as organizers and interweave this beautiful supportive network we can do a lot more together, collectively. And also to stake time instead of going out to party like let's spend a night in and craft together, let’s reclaim cooking together and just feed each other and be able to nourish each other in truly holistic ways and then go dance afterwards and drink like a little bit. Just like balancing it out versus going out and then going too hard and recovering for five days afterwards just like ugh, it’s too much. Take care of yourself and each other, that’s all.

Moderator: What are some of the tools or things that you have to constantly remind yourself that you can share out with folks who maybe aren’t as well versed or self aware in this specific way to check in with our body, check in with our mind, check in with the foods we’re eating, the antibiotics we’re taking or not taking, how we can start to deviate from Western medicine, grabbing that acetaminophen immediately when really we could just have some water or a piece of fruit. What are some of those self check ins that you do that could maybe be a good base level for folks as we start to work towards more consciousness in regards to our health?

Lori: I can start, I’m actually looking forward to hearing, I wish I brought a little notepad, that’s a really good question. One of the things I like to remind people right off the bat, I don’t work at Planned Parenthood anymore but they work on a sliding scale, they will not inquire about your status as an undocumented person which is really important right now, there’s one in every borough in New York. Even though we live in a liberal state in New York, abortion is still essentially criminalized in some sense in that it exists within the penal code here so there’s still advocacy that needs to happen around that and there’s a lot of barriers to access a wide range of reproductive health services. We’ve been talking a lot about fertility and cycles, I think there are some really good period tracking apps out there that I enjoy but you do have to keep in mind that your data is being sold so just think of that. Other resources to keep in mind, I definitely plus one on the water, really important, room temperature with some lemon. Something that I really have been enjoying doing is a ritualized twist out for what it’s worth, to all my naturals out there. On a Sunday night, a twist out really calms me down, that’s something that I’ve really been enjoying.

Aala: So I think I kinda answered part of this in my last response which is hydration and monitoring the foods you’re eating, what’s coming out of your body. And I think beyond the physical and beyond assessing what environments you're in and who  you’re spending your time with and who’s energies you’re taking on, self work is not emphasized enough. The idea that you need to check yourself. It is a civil responsibility for you towards yourself and your family and your friends and your community to look at yourself and check yourself and work on becoming a better person for yourself and for other people. And what I mean by that is looking through the dark places that we all sometimes it’s very difficult to unravel and unpackage, to rewire your brain, visit the suppressed emotions that your have, visit the trauma, revisit it, get familiar with it, try to understand it better, try to understand yourself better, try to create some sort of action plan where you can get yourself out and move forward and release and let go. And a way to do that and check in with yourself is to simply write it down every single day. Get a notebook, this is what I do personally I have a self work journal. And I write in it, you can do it very day, you can do it when you feel inspired, when you feel down when you feel amazing. Just sit there and write about, it could be different for every single person in here, but write about where you are, where you came from, where you wanna be, manifest however you wanna feel, manifest your future and your desires and your bliss. Reclaim it, and accept and understand whatever you’re harboring or whatever you're sitting on and I think self-work is so important as a way to check in with yourself, maintain your own health and wellness and be able to contribute to the health and wellness of the larger community.

Cloud: I have a pretty interesting situation because I have Noodle in my life, and caring for Noodle has shown me so many different deeper things about how I need to care for myself and maybe that’s ridiculous because she’s a tiny poodle but she’s so empathic and deeply understanding. If I’m having a bad day or my throat hurts she’ll just come and sit on my throat and I don’t have to speak to here about these things. And I think that just tuning in and sensing people and just sensing where we’re really at and furthermore just rituals that I do, and this sound cliche because all I’m talking about tonight is reconnect to the earth, she's desperate for your to reconnect! But I do a lot of barefoot hiking, in New York it’s hard to do, you can go to Inwood if you’re really brave, it’s a lot of glass and sometimes other stuff up there it’s confusing. I spend a lot of time grounding and I walk barefoot and I take that time to meditate, it’s really hard for me to sit and meditate so I do walking meditations and I’ll just let things come to me and some of the most beautiful music or poetry have come to me by just silencing my mind and going into nature and just being like, I’m a vessel. And every time that I’ve done that I’ve been able to cultivate much deeper relationships with the forest by my home and furthermore that forest has gifted me with so much inner knowing. And there’s this hawk that’s been hanging out that I see a lot now. Everyone is different and has different methods like writing, some people just need to make a nourishing meal and take this time 5 seconds before I eat it to take the time to appreciate that I made it for myself, I’m taking the time to take care of myself and just recognize where you are and how much work you’ve put into it. And we live in New York so everyone's on coffee and go go go and sugar and there’s never a time to just take a breath and be like wow we're in bodies together and it’s so fleeting. So just appreciate and be grateful and do sacred things that feel important to you so that it makes daily existence a sacred act, and everything you do out of that is sacred.

Gabriela: The thing that I’ve been thinking about and being like, should I say this is, I mentioned earlier that I do cocounseling. I don’t know if folks have heard of it, it’s also called re-evaluation counseling. The reason why I;ve been on the fence to mention it is because it is not POC led it is not queer led, there’s a lot of women in it but it’s not like women led or founded or any of these things. At the same time it’s one of my top things that I do in my life. It’s changed my life. It’s a lot of what you’ve been talking about, going back to when I was younger what was it like for me to be in the school I was at with the parents that I had, with the siblings that I have, in the neighborhood that I was in, like what was my experience as a young person. Cuz all of those experiences were hurtful or traumatizing. Things impacted me and they got stuck in my brain and my body and my heart. So me crying about it, laughing about it, shaking about it having all these feelings, being nervous about it get it out of my body so I can show up as me versus my history and my story. So it’s a practice that I’m practicing more and more, again it’s done in community so I’ll talk for 20 minutes then you’ll talk for 20 minutes. And I have all these people in my life who I’m not friends with like you’re not supposed to be friends with the people that you’re counseling with, and they’re not necessarily people that I would be like, yo you’re someone I wanna be friends with just because of all the things that are real in the world and real in our minds. But they’re people who I’ll tell everything and just go in and then it’s out of me and out of my chest and I’ve really been able to work on bettering myself and seeing, whoa what is this thing when someone says something to me I feel abandoned, where that coming from? Just doing that work like release that that is not you, you can show up as you and you can continue to show up as you and wanna connect with people and wanna be loving and actually practice doing that. Cuz one thing is being like, I’m affirmed and I am loving, which is amazing like mirror work, affirmations are great, but then there's like how do I really embody this so that my instinctual reaction is to be an open loving being.



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