Tuesday, January 02, 2018
Resourcing cells, fundraising communities, and economic justice
Every single cell in your body has only three seconds of oxygen available at any given point. Just three seconds. Without oxygen, your cells will die. And yet every cell in your body just keeps on expanding and contracting, knowing in some deep instinctual way, that fresh oxygen will come as needed. And the great majority of the time it does. And so you stay alive.
Within each year, the body rebuilds itself multiple times over. Our life is constantly moving, constantly growing and changing and integrating the new into something different. This would not be possible without that underbelly of cellular trust. Three seconds of oxygen and then comes the rest of our lives. Breathing.
Back in the late 90s early 00s, with a group of people I started a newspaper called Siren. Our tagline was inciting conversation and our vision was to have a city newspaper that read like a conversation between everyone who lives here. This means our writers had to write every article so that it could speak to someone who knew nothing about the article's subject and to a person whose life story had just been reported. Restaurant reviews were written as though the reader was hearing someone talk about their home food and for the reader with no idea this kind of food even existed. The same for news stories and art reviews and music reviews. We didn't always get it right but we kept trying.
When Siren started, I knew nothing about business. I didn't want to know about business. I didn't want to know about budget sheets and advertising and spending plans. So I stepped away from that part of the work, keeping my focus on the editorial and the vision for the paper. I assumed they were different things, not connected at all. I had a lot of justifications for this because really, the rational mind can justify anything, but underneath it all, the business and money side scared the shit out of me. I thought it wasn't political enough or interesting. And so I stepped back.
The newspaper folded in two years for all kinds of reasons but the biggest one was that we didn't have enough cash for a project this big. The second biggest reason is that we hadn't done enough trust at the front end to deal when our values crashed around content versus cash. We fought. A lot. And it was painful, for all of us. While at the time I was full of self-righteousness about the paper's ending, the gift of distance means that I now know, tail between my legs, how I contributed to the crash.
A year or so after Siren closed, I started learning about fundraising. I was tired of being afraid of money and letting that fear actually hurt me and the communities I loved. I didn't want to be rich or earn a shit ton of cash. I wanted to make sure that no fierce and loving vision for change and connection withered and died because deep economic injustice is real in the US of A.
Like healing and organizing, resourcing the body and fundraising from communities are the same thing. The fact of their seeming difference comes from believing that the individual is separate from the community and from all of the life that is around us. Every cell lives with only three seconds of oxygen and the absolute ability to know that more oxygen is coming. The body does not separate from the things it needs: nourishment, water, oxygen. Not every part of the body is impacted by these things in the same way and yet all need them to survive. The root, stem and leaf of a planet have different relationships to the water, nourishment from the soil and carbon from the atmosphere and yet, all need them to survive.
I was mostly paying my bills from fundraising work when I began to study craniosacral therapy. Almost immediately I saw the links between these different kinds of resourcing. It all makes sense, doesn't it? There are enough resources to support our collective basic needs. There are restrictions in those resources that are set up by unfinished histories, by the policy of extraction for profit (a form of capitalism) that defined the US as a corporate state from the beginning, one aspect of its original wound. Fundraising, when it is in right relationship, works to release or move around some of those restrictions. The same is true for the physical body; histories have set up restrictions in the tissues and bodywork supports releasing or shifting our relationship to those restrictions so that we have access to more of our life force. For awhile I met in regular conversation with two beloved friends, David Nicholson and Kate Eubank, to play with the relationship between those two things. We came up with a workshop or approach to thinking about resourcing community work that tried to learn from the body rather than from the systems around us.
As healers and healing practitioners, our work is about supporting each person we work with to feel and experience and deepen and grow their own resources. We work with their muscles to better experience their binding and lengthening factors. We work with their skeletal structure supporting its alignment so that the bones can have a more fluid and solid stacked relationship to gravity. We work with the fluid body, supporting the place where we live as whole integrated selves connected to all life. And we support nervous systems and circulatory systems and energetic systems to remember themselves and feel the nourishment of care. As healers and healing practitioners, most of us have some deep level of trust that part of changing the world is about supporting people to more fully feel and experience their own lives.
This is good. This is powerful. This is not enough. All energy needs to move. All life needs to move. All healers have to move dollars and other resources in support of the collective body. And all people involved in moving money have to learn about healing, both the individual and the collective selves. Period.
One of my favorite sayings these days is that we are all in the middle of the wound while we are trying to heal the wound. This means that how we have been hurt and survived defines how we even think about transformation. The way we have loved and connected despite the shit also feeds how we know that liberation is possible. Both are true. And for me as a bodyworker, my responsibility is to shift the conditions around healing and bodywork as much as it is about showing up in right relationship in the bodywork room.
Two or three times a year I am going to use this blog to try and move some cash from places where there is extra to places where more is needed. And I am going to ask you to do the same. I'll ask you to do it with me or to do it on your own. And I'll share what I've learned and ask you about what you've learned. And maybe out of this, we'll support some of what is tight to get a bit more fluid.
Here is what I am doing right now to weave together the resourcing of the individual body with the resourcing of community, to bridge the false gap between healing and organizing, and to then please god just get out of the way and let liberation take its own path. I don't assume this is enough or even the right answer, it's just the right answer that I hear whispered in my dreams when I ask ancestors and spirits, what next?
First, supporting a cohort of Native, Black, Brown, trans and queer biodynamic craniosacral therapists. This feels huge to me. It feels urgent. I am not going to list all of the horrible things that are happening and have recently happened that underscore the need for both ending violence and then supporting the healing of those impacted by violence. There are so many who right this second need to tolerate the intolerable. Click the link and read more about this dream and vision. And by dream, I mean literal dream. Like ancestors showing up amidst the snores, crossing their legs, raising an eyebrow and saying, hey descendant, get your ass moving.
A bit more context for this fundraiser: when the American Medical Association was created in the 19th century, its focus was on determining which kinds of healthcare were real and which were quackery*. At the time, outside of cultural healing traditions within tribal lands and elsewhere, homeopathy was the highest used form of healthcare within what is called the US. Allopathic or what we call western medicine had a smaller community of support. After the AMA was formed, multiple types of healing were discredited within the mainstream (meaning primarily European descended and government supported) world. Practices like midwifery, working with plant medicine, healing touch, acupuncture, bone setting and more were practiced in Black communities, in Native and other indigenous communities, and in immigrant and refugee communities. One of the strategies for building and shifting white supremacy was to build identity around those who followed "scientifically proven" medical methods and those who practiced "primitive" forms of care. Over time, those "primitive" forms of care (which, of course, still worked) were then made illegal, particularly in the cases of tribal cultural practices of care, midwifery and acupuncture. Healing traditions evolve over generations, tied to a community's language and cultural ways of passing on meaning and survival. Forcing away a community's healing traditions is another aspect of the violence of supremacist culture. This fundraiser and cohort is only one very small not enough moment in attempting to respond, as a healer, to the truth of this violence.
Second, supporting the People's Fund at the People's Movement Center. This fund supports free and reduced bodywork and sustainable supported bodyworkers. A basic win win.
If you can give to both, give to both. If you have to pick one, please give to the cohort. Right now. Supporting something like 15 Native, Black, Brown, queer and trans people to build their own practices is about supporting circles to keep expanding outward. This is not enough. There needs to be more. This is still something.
Our bodies know how to live as though there was enough. We rebuild ourselves, cell by cell, every day. Only three seconds of oxygen and yet, each cell keeps contracting and expanding. Our bodies remember what it is to know that there is enough. Shifting how the collective body holds the resources of money and time and knowledge and practice so that individual bodies can, together, begin to experience what our cells already know is one part of our larger work of liberation.
*While this is a real telling of history, I am also not one of those bodyworkers who is anti-western medicine. Thank god for how it is has literally saved the lives of many who I love. And oh grief for how the fierce caring and healing work of some of its members has been shaped and harmed by the insurance industry, by the cultures of consumerism and competition, and by the disconnection of a single life from the rest of all life.
** A few people have reflected that the illustration about this article is most often used to get people to go on diets. I had no idea and want to yell about that. No diets were supported or tried or experienced or demanded in the writing of this blog post. Our bodies rebuild themselves just because they do, not to change their shape but to integrate the enormity of life.