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Centering in Collective Healing in the Midst of White Supremacy

This article is intended to support BIPOC folks

I am angry.

I am appalled.

I am afraid.

I am numb.

I am disappointed.

I am not shocked.

The systems have been working exactly as they were intended to — many Black, Indigenous, folks of color are activated, traumatized, and triggered in the midst of the current political moment. Others are numb and desensitized because they have bared witness, yet again, to another act of white supremacy, rage, and violence. People are tired.

I have no words of comfort. I will not suggest that we calm down, attempt to cope, dismiss, or self-regulate away from numbness, triggers, anger, sadness, fear, or any other emotion or response you, the reader, are feeling. Any and all of these emotions that you may be experiencing hold wisdom. You do not have to change anything about you because there is nothing wrong with you.

I do, however, want to reflect how in the present moment we may feel restless and unsure of how to release or transmute the pain, the anger. These emotions and stress responses coupled with the historical racism and anti-blackness that are embedded in our current experiences — which have been transmitted intergenerationally — can keep us in a space of disembodiment. Some of us are functioning from a space of disembodiment and have been for a while.

The collective trauma we are experiencing can impact our ability to build health, wellness, equity, and collective power.

Healing from racial trauma and white supremacy is a longstanding vision for communities of color who are trying to survive within systems that were not built for them.

The collective trauma we are experiencing can impact our ability to build health, wellness, equity, and collective power.

A practice of “centering” can be helpful in supporting us as we sit with the emotions that are coming up. Sitting with and feeling our full spectrum of emotions is not a bad thing. However, it may keep us in a state of chronic stress which can affect us in many ways.

Centering as a practice is a “way to find balance within the chaos that might be surrounding us”. Centering is an ancient visualization technique that is popular in Aikido — the Japanese defensive martial art of “spiritual harmony.” It teaches you to focus on the here and now, taking power away from outside concerns and negative thoughts. Centering redirects negative energy in a beneficial way.

Centering in radical love and collective healing that is grounded in our ancestral and cultural healing practices allows us to come back home to ourselves and recognize the resources that are immediately accessible to us that can help replenish our mind, body, heart, and spirit.

You know yourself best and I encourage you to look at these suggestions, while honoring yourself, your intuition, and your existing practices.

Here are four strategies that I put together for the Healing Justice Transformative Leadership Institute to center yourself in the midst of collective trauma. This is meant to be a starting point. You know yourself best and I encourage you to look at these suggestions, while honoring yourself, your intuition, and your existing practices.

Four Strategies to Centering in Collective Healing

MIND: Disconnect and unplug from social media and news outlets

…Even if it’s just to reconnect with your breath.

It can be overwhelming to be exposed to images and videos of white supremist violence especially when it is clear that the response by law enforcement is significantly different. This may keep us in perpetual rage, and rightly so.

Sometimes when we are in a state of panic and trauma, we forget to do even the basic functions like breathing. We can feel like you can’t breathe. I like to use the following box-breathing technique to ground me in my breath. After a few practices you can add visualizing the energy being expelled through your exhale.

● Inhale and stretch arms out for 4 counts ● Hold breath / stretch for 4 counts ● Exhale and release stretch in 4 counts ● Hold and rest for 4 counts ● Repeat 2 more times

BODY: Find a way to exert energy- move that body, dance, walk, run, push against a wall.

I cannot stress this enough, just move. If this is accessible to you, find a way to move the energy through your body. You can stretch, dance, walk briskly, run, push against a wall, do jumping jacks. Whatever feels safe and gets your heart rate going. When we move our bodies and allow ourselves to take up space, we are no longer shrinking or hiding. Practices that allow you to ground yourself in your body can provide centering You can even add a gratitude practice to your movement. You can add a statement of gratitude to communicate to your body for all it provides for example, “I got you,” “thank you body for protecting me and helping me heal myself.”

HEART: Connect with people who are supportive, empathetic, and can allow you to safely process your emotions.

You are worthy of being supported. Collective healing and community care is an act of healing in community and leaning on one another. Therapists, energy healers, spiritual healing practitioners are often holding group healing circles, providing community chats, meditations, and other community and relational supportive spaces. If you do not have access to this, identify one or more people who you feel safe to reach out to. Relationships can increase the opportunity to process your feelings, hold space for one another, or you can even create boundaries for one another if you do not want to talk about what is happening and instead want to send cute baby animals memes.

Honor yourself and communicate what you need and have capacity for. Consent is key, so it is a good practice to ask your supportive people if they have the energy to process.

SPIRIT: Create a space for you to connect to your ancestral and cultural medicine.

Traditional healing practices like Curanderismo teaches us that we are physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual beings (Avila, 1999). Individual and collective trauma can result in what is referred to as susto (soul loss) which can lead us to feeling like we are not fully present or like our spirit has been violated. It may feel appropriate to reach out to traditional healers that can assist you and facilitate a supportive space for you to connect to your ancestral and cultural medicine. However, you do not need to go outside of yourself to start connecting with your medicine.

Tending to and healing our spirit may include activities that allow us to pour some warmth back into yourself. These activities may also help us heal our mind, body, and heart. Some activities can include connecting to the moon, engaging in tarot/ divination, reading, listening to music, engaging in art, sitting outside in the sun, connecting with water and nature. This may also include working with your favorite healing crystal, intention candles, making a comforting tea blend, taking a bath and using a bath soak with the intention to remove energy that is not serving you, meditation, and breathwork.

Prentis Hemphill shares that: “to be centered in this moment — is not to ignore what’s happening, or change the moment/make it different. To be centered in this moment it’s to be present with what is — if we’re afraid, concerned, allow it. This is not to eliminate uncomfortable feelings, but to be more choice-full”

Adrienne Maree Brown reminds us that: “the white rage that is unfolding in D.C. is viral energy — inside of all this, it is likely not gonna stop anytime soon. This is a long piece of work, inside of that, remembering to center is helpful. We can center and be scared, we can center and be angry, we can center and be disappointed, we can center and be critical…There is something we are longing for — that we love and care about. We are shaping so much change, we have to stay centered in that, we are not done yet.”

Dr. Patty Ramirez, DSW, MSW is a transnational social worker based in Los Angeles. She is a Healing Justice and Trauma Informed Consultant and earned her Doctorate of Social Work from USC’s Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. Dr. Patty Ramirez is a founding member for the first-ever Los Angeles County Crime Victim Services Advisory Board and the founder of the Healing Justice Transformative Leadership Institute, committed to advancing collective healing, transformation, and liberation for black, indigenous, communities of color.

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