Today is Independence Day, 2020. I sat down to write words that I associate with the concept of freedom. “What does freedom look like?”
The words I wrote formed a triangle shape that seemed to point to the word I placed underneath – decolonization.
It’s clear that a world of healing, health, equity, social justice, a flow of giving and receiving, self and community regulation, mutual support, and limitless love exists outside the bounds of colonialism. Colonialism, the intentional and designed rot in system, psyche, and action.
I’ve been reading a lot from BIPOC and the matter of colonialism is at the direct forefront of many of my thoughts lately. On this day in particular that celebrates a nation founded on violence and stolen land from indigenous peoples, I think of decolonization when I think of true independence.
Please check out the following work and words of humans who have really been a beacon of light for me. I am directly benefitting from this work, as it has shined a light deep inside my heart. I’m compelled as a bodyworker and a white woman, someone with two positions of power within the matrix of colonialism, to share, credit, and integrate their work into all aspects of my life. I exist in this sacred role as a massage therapist and I must acknowledge that healing on an individual level through the work of somatics must coincide with the creation of a safe society.
We can learn to regulate our nervous systems and find nervous system management through bodywork, but then we must integrate back into a society that operates under colonial domination – exploitation, capitalism, theft, oppression, and violence. My work is one-on-one, hand to body contact, heart to heart. My work also expands into every realm outside of the treatment room – to live and keep learning decolonization by doing the emotional work I’m responsible for and to stand up for what is just. This is my truth as a responsible bodyworker.
Dr. Jennifer Mullan, psychologist + organizer
"Mind decolonization is an emotional and personal process of reviewing out conditioning. How we learn…It is the emotional work involved in unpacking our ancestral load and the present day patterns associated with these stories of our People. It is how we move and engage to the land, to animals, and to one another’s pain."
"Colonization is not ancient. It is not something 'that happened a long time ago.' Speaking about the effects of physical and emotional colonization are not a means of 'replaying old traumatic history keeping us stuck in the past.' In my experience the effects of colonization are deeply embedded into the psyches and behaviors of all; yes White folxs too. The loss of Resources, such as land, animals, and food, also collide with the stressors of displacement, shame, fear, and constant threat of violence. Are these threats a 'thing of the past?' A vast majority of the population fear being displaced from where they live or grew up (as local as gentrification, as collective and violent as U.S. Middle East occupation). There are many who struggle with deeply internalized feelings of despair, doubt, fear of their lives’ and children’s being taken too soon. There is a fear of losing control of our finances, our temper, our job! This is a reality for many of us. Our bodies remember."
Chetna Mehta, wellness consultant + artist
"Your truest worth is not easily quantifiable; belief otherwise is a colonial mindset planted centuries ago. Your truest worth thrives in the present awareness of every breath you have in this divine human life. Breath it in, feel your richness."
Kelsey Blackwell, somatic coach + writer
"A colonized body does not rest.
A colonized body does not heal.
A colonized body is not appreciated
A colonized body has no voice.
A colonized body is subjugated by oppressive schedules, exercise and diets.
A colonized body shuts down feeling.
A colonized body must be small or overly tough to be safe.
A colonized body is shamed for not 'keeping up.'
A colonized body numbs itself to 'unwind.'
A colonized body never has access to the fullness of who it is. It will be the bodies of the marginalized many who will envision a more realized society – one rooted in justice, equity and inclusion. The blueprints for this community live in our muscles. They’ve been passed down from the resilience of our ancestors.We may not know their names. We may not know their origins but their guidance comes to us through the body in movement, dream, song and our connection to the earth."
Nikki Sanchez, Indigenous scholar + filmmaker
*TEDx Talk: Decolonization is for Everyone https://youtu.be/QP9x1NnCWNY
"Whether you have ancestors that were colonizers or colonized, we are all colonized people. This work of decolonization is really work that we need to come together, to do with one another, equally accepting our roles, our locations, our privileges, and ways in which we can start to move toward a future that looks like healing. That looks like justice. That looks like dismantling systems of oppression."
Lakshmi Nair, founder of Satya Yoga for POC
"Colonization is ego run amok. It makes us think we are the Creator or the Owner. It teaches us to confine creativity to certain fixed boxes that we call art, when in truth, creativity is a way of life infused in everything we do. Colonization is consumptive. It teaches us to focus on the product rather than the process. If there isn’t a product to be consumed, then it has no value. In truth, the creative process is meditative and healing, and the process is the purpose. Colonization is exclusive. It makes us feel that some people are naturally creative while others are not. But colonization is a lie. We are all inherently creative. The ego destroys. Consciousness nourishes. The ego is limited. Decolonized Creativity, Shakti, is Infinite."
Kai Cheng Thom, author + performer + community worker + somatic educator & bodyworker
"I think the major difference between a social justice and a white/colonial lens on trauma is the assumption that trauma recovery is the reclamation of safety – that safety is a resource that is simply 'out there' for the taking and all we need to do is work hard enough at therapy…Colonial psychology and psychiatry reveal their allegiance to the status quo in their approach to trauma: That resourcing must come from within oneself rather than from the collective. That trauma recovery is feeling safe in society, when in fact society is the source of trauma. Colonial somatics and psychotherapies teach that the body must relearn to perceive safety. But the bodies of the oppressed are rightly interpreting danger. Our triggers and explosive rage, our dissociation and perfect submission are in fact skills that have kept us alive…The somatics of social justice cannot be aimed at restoring the body to a natural state of homeostasis/neutrality. We must be careful of popular languaging such as the 'regulation' of nervous system and emotion, which implies the control and domination of mind over emotion and sensation. Because we are not, in the end, preparing the body to 'return' to the general safety of society (this would be gaslighting). We are preparing the body, essentially for struggle – training for better survival and the ability to experience joy in the midst of great danger…Cultural somatics is about rewilding our bodies. Rebuilding our wolf pack and lion’s pride. Rediscovering the collective body. The ultimate question of social justice somatics is not 'how can we cure the traumatized body so it can return to productive society?' – the question of dominant psychology. Our question is: 'how can [we] heal our traumatized bodied so that we may love each other and fight together?'"