Some Emotional-Spiritual Healing Tools
For this time of Shelter-In-Place During the COVID19 Epidemic
These are some tools that I shared with people as part of our Idle No More SF Bay and Movement Rights Webinar, Beyond Isolation: Reconnecting with Indigenous Women and Wisdom. I offer them in the hopes that some of them will be useful to you during this time.
A Brief Overview:
We are living through a very challenging time, which has the potential to trigger lots of historical trauma making it hard to stay centered, balanced and let our good thinking guide our lives. These kinds of times can also bring out the best in us, help us to connect deeply with what matters most to us, and allow us to transcend our regular struggles and become our true heroic selves.
For Indigenous People on Turtle Island, our experiences with epidemics have been horrific. When people from Europe first came to our shores, they brought diseases with them. We had no immunity to these diseases, which were later used as a tool in policies of genocide. We carry ancestral trauma from this devastating time.
Our people also survived these epidemics. We are still here. We have ancestral and intergenerational resilience, and brilliance. We are way more powerful than our trauma. We have brilliant minds, strong spirits, the legacy of our ancestor’s survival, as well as cultures and songs and inner sources of power that we can tap into at any time.
This time is different from those times. People across Mother Earth are all facing a virus to which no one has immunity. We are all in this together. We have information. We know what we are facing and how to stay safe. All of us, in any group, are here because their ancestors in their original lands survived an epidemic. Part of our power in these times, is to notice that this is different from what happened to our peoples in the past. This is a new moment.
HEALING WITH LISTENING:
This is a hard time. It’s heart-breaking knowing so many people are dying. It’s hard to be either out of work or overworking. It’s hard for children to not be able to be out playing with each other and for families to be home together, or cut off from family that they love. We all have a lot of feelings. When I work with children, I tell them that all their feelings matter, and that they get to be in charge of their feelings. I say to them, “I want you to be the boss of your feelings, and not have your feelings be the boss of you”.
Our Creator also gave us the gift of having everything we need to heal inside of each of us… We can release sadness, deep grief, fears and feelings of overwhelm through our tears. When children are really scared, they release their fears through shaking and crying. We can release our exhaustion with yawns and rest. We express our joy through laughter and release our fears through humor. These are signs of healing.
CREATING LISTENING CIRCLES and LISTENING PARTNERSHIPS
We all need to be listened to these days. And we need to do it in a way that honors our traditions of RECIPROCITY. I would encourage everyone, especially during these times of shelter-in-place, to find regular times to listen to others and be listened to. Creator gave us the super-power of listening with love. Listening is a powerful part of your tool kit for these times. Listening to someone deeply without judgment brings people back to themselves. A little relaxed, aware listening goes a long way to restoring our relationships.
SPECIAL TIME FOR YOUNG CHILDREN:
Young children need to be “listened to” in a different way. Children mostly talk to us and heal through play and laughter. They need grown ups who can set up “special time”, where for a set amount of time, they can talk about or do whatever they want. Give the time a clear start and an end, and then follow their lead, always keeping things safe. A small amount of this kind of time tends to make the rest of life go much better, especially if they know that it will happen regularly… whether once a week, or once a day or every other day.
Another way of listening to slightly older children can be by phone… going into a closet or bathroom with a phone and getting to complain to an auntie for ten minutes about everything they hate about being home, or how annoying a sibling is. Having someone listen who is outside of those sheltering together can be a lifeline for a child.
Even if it’s short, having the full attention of a parent, or auntie or grandparent or older friend can make all the difference in how thing go in a child’s life.
One other important thing to remember with children is that often when we are nervous or scared, we laugh or giggle. This sometimes happens when someone gets hurt or someone gets angry. The child is not lacking compassion or being disrespectful, but really just trying to release some fear. It’s similar to how, as adults, we sometimes like to joke about traumatic things and use humor to face challenges. We need to be understanding of each other and understand that laughter and humor have an important role to play in these times.
When they feel powerless, many children like to play games where they are the powerful one, the superhero…and reverse roles with the adults. These games allow them to regain their sense of power and any grown up who can play along and be the less powerful one will be giving that child a huge gift of healing.
OTHER POWERFUL TRAUMA HEALING TOOLS
With trauma (childhood or intergenerational) or being in a situation that is new and overwhelming and scary (like now), our feelings can get caught in the part of our brains where the feelings and images live. The normal process where information passes back and forth between the emotional part and the thinking part (that takes that information and helps us make sense of it) gets interrupted. There are simple tools that can help these two halves to our brains work together again to process our feelings and regain power and perspective.
THE BUTTERFLY HUG (or Eagle or Hawk or Bear Hug…)
TAPPING THROUGH THE TRAUMA:
This kind of gentle tapping helps our minds to process things that feel overwhelming, and calm our bodies and spirits.
If you are a first responder who has had a hard day witnessing traumatic events, or a hard-working and overwhelmed parent who has been with children all day, or someone teaching from home, or anyone who has had a hard day, it can really help to just end the day before sleeping by reviewing the day and tapping your way through the story. Having someone you love listen as you do this is wonderful, but you can also just do this for yourself. This can help our minds process it and let it go and increase our chances of good sleep. Before going to sleep, imagine a calm place that you love and tap that in. Rest is so important during these times of challenge.
You can use this tool to calm yourself when you are in the middle of a challenge. Just tap your toes back and forth in your shoes to help your mind process what is going on better. Slow down your breathing. Remind yourself that in that exact moment, you are ok and can keep thinking, and that it is good to ask for help.
OTHER THINGS THAT HELP US:
One of the most important ways of being powerful is to stay centered in gratitude. Starting and ending each day by noticing what you are grateful for will help you keep perspective as you face new challenges and opportunities.
One of our big strengths as humans is our spirit of generosity. Take care of yourself first, always, as your foundation. And then, be generous and share with others whatever makes sense for you and will bring you joy: your love, food, flowers, medicine, good news and victories. We have seen the beauty and healing as people online are sharing their dances. Share your good words. Sharing and generosity help us weave together the new world we are creating during these times of big change.
Remembering our Medicines and Wisdom Keepers
Every group has it’s own medicines. Every culture has traditional ways of healing. Use those medicines that work for you for grounding, healing and clearing our minds. If you have a wise person whose writings help ground you, or inspire you, take a little time each day to read those words and put them into your heart. Good words are good medicine for our spirits.
Many of us find that prayer is deeply helpful and powerful always, and especially in these times of challenge. Take time to pray on your own, with your family. Express your gratitude. Ask for help. Wrap your beloveds, your community, the sacred web of life, and the world in your prayers.
Alison Ehara-Brown (Mohawk, Palatine German, Scottish) is a founding grandmother of Idle No More SF Bay. She is also a signatory on the Indigenous Women of the Americas Defending Mother Earth Treaty, and organized the Refinery Healing Walks. She works in the Bay Area an LCSW therapist, with families and children, working with childhood trauma and historical trauma. She is also am part of an international community of people who use the tools of listening to build healing and empowering peer counseling communities across the world. She works with a team of Native peer counseling teachers in North America to share peer counseling theory and practice so that we can all heal and collectively build a world where there is respect for all of life.