To Your (Narrative) Health in 2020!

Full Moon Greetings!
The First Full Moon of the New Decade!!

After a decade leading women in writing journeys through the chakras (and leading yoga, dance, retreats & even business workshops through the chakras), I went dormant for the better part of 2019 without knowing why.

But now it all makes sense. Hindsight 20/20.

Instead of leading, I’ve been learning, immersed in the exploration of Narrative Medicine, curious about the intersection of medicine and writing since unlike my father, grandfather, and great-grandparents, it’s the pen that’s chosen me instead of the knife.

Alas, after assisting a half-dozen programs focused on the healing power of narrative (see list at the bottom of this page), I’m still not sure what Narrative Medicine is. I suppose this isn’t entirely a bad thing, as it once took two years of focused study and application to articulate an understanding of Non-Violent Communication.

Some things are that big (and worthy.)

What I have gleaned in the company of leading thinkers, including the originator of the field of Narrative Medicine, Rita Charon, and fellow giants from the field Carol Gilligan and Paul Browde, not to mention my regular assists with two women who over time I think on as friends, scientist/mystic Joan Borysenko and memoir writer Dani Shapiro, is a greater understanding of what makes my own writing journeys through the chakras tick,  ie. the brain science behind the alchemy of witness, presence and the page.

It’s funny to arrive at an understanding of the writing journeys I lead only after the fact, glean the how, why, and what of it now after experiencing it first-hand and through feedback from participants.

When I first started, I imagined the writing journey a one-time thing, but then some participants asked for more, returning again and again, and so I followed their energy and the energy of the journey instead of my ideas about what it was or wasn’t.

One such long-time participant is a business leader who works internationally and yet sets aside time in her travels to write and read and lean into other’s voices.

The careful articulation of her experience has enlarged my understanding again and again:

I keep returning to the journey because I love what bubbles up.

I am no longer writing for an audience. I am writing for me, to explore and unearth what wants to be said. I spend very little time analyzing- I just take the prompts and write whatever comes.   I now LOVE my words. Unedited. Raw and powerful.  Vulnerable and honest. Poetic.

Every time, I surprise myself.

I am writing into the present moment of my life – a zooming in on what currents are affecting the course of my life…… And I play with new ways of looking at my life… in any direction that moves me.

…With women who have my back, who empathize with whatever my journey is, with women who are also being vulnerable.  Total support.

Like floating on water, a woman’s womb that nurtures and feeds the soul…

New and returning journeyers echo these refrains, sometimes citing revelations that they have never spoken or understandings that they have never gleaned, or forgiveness they have never felt, or self-love they have never known (my favorite!) or a sense of community they have never experienced (which grieves me.)

Their feedback often surprises and unnerves me, but fortunately, as I age, I don’t need to understand everything or take it personally so even with my newfound understanding of the science behind these journeys, what truly matters is the journey itself and the journeyers who make magic together every. single. time.

That magic is uniquely shaped by those who gather on any specific journey, but it always feels the same–awe and wonder and soul-stopping.

Sometimes the journey points the way backward for an individual, unearthing truths, other times it points forward, toward endings or new directions or greater understandings.

I like how the author Christina Baldwin speaks of personal writing:

Life hangs on a narrative thread. This thread is a braid of stories that inform us about who we are, and where we come from, and where we might go. The thread is slender but strong: we trust it to hold us and allow us to swing over the edge of the known into the future we dream in words.

For me what has always been true of writing since I first cracked open a dusty journal in my bedroom above the garage when I was a girl of 18 and everything I knew was falling apart, is what I heard spoken at a recent Poetry as Narrative Medicine program with Lisa Weinert and Holly Wren:

Writing contains the chaos of my creative mind.

My friend Dani Shapiro has been known to say that writing saved her, and perhaps that’s true for me too.

Writing saved me as a girl of 18 and then overtook me and spit me out and swallowed me whole while taking me on adventures that continue to unfold.

May it be so.

Here’s to shaping healthier narratives for 2020, particularly for this nation and our global community and planet.

Yours on the page,

Kelly Salasin
January 10, 2020

On the First Full Moon of the New Decade!

United Nations

2019 Narrative Program Study
(some of the programs/presenters I assisted at Kripalu this past year of learning instead of leading):

Radical Listening Narrative Medicine for a Polarized World
, Rita Charon, Carol Gilligan, Paul Browde and more.

Narrative Healing Unlock the Power of Storytelling, Lisa Weinert, Jamia Wilson,  Ethan Nichtern and more…

Poetry as Integrative Medicine Narrative Healing, Lisa Weinert & Holly Wren Spaulding

The Stories We Carry Meditation and Writing, Dani Shapiro

Spirituality, Neuroscience, and Narrative Becoming Fully Human, (and upcoming in 2020: The Spiritual Art of Memoir.) Joan Borysenko

Radical Acceptance Healing and Freeing our Hearts,
Tara Brach

Bonus: Each year I return as an NGO representative at the annual Commission on the Status of Women, at the United Nations; to help shape a new narrative for the world!

 

We are writing the stories ourselves…

 

As women’s voices come into sharper focus around the world, I feel a deepening appreciation for these journeys I lead with women, even though I’ve never entirely been clear of my purpose, even while sensing it somewhere deep inside.

I’ve continued because women have continued to enroll, and asking to return, finding and shaping their own meaning with each journey, and it is the light in that reflection that pulls me forward.

This morning, I searched for clips from last night’s Golden Globe Awards because I’d heard that the #metoo/#timesup movement would be front and center.

Although I have never read or watched The Handmaid’s Tale for fear it would be too chilling, I really liked the character Elisabeth Moss played in the series Madmen–the secretary turned copywriter–so I leaned into her voice as she quoted Margaret Atwood:

We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print.

Yes, I thought, that is us.
That is my mother and my grandmother, and my great-grandmother.
Marginalized from the very world we’ve conceived, delivered and nurtured.

And then Elisabeth claimed what the #meTOO movement has brought forward:

We are the story in print and we are writing the story ourselves.

That’s it, I thought!

We are writing the story ourselves.

In the journeys I lead, we do just that.
We speak for ourselves.
Not what others want to hear, but what seeks expression through us, which is something I find unique to each woman.

There is a Native American saying that celebrates the necessity and gift of each voice:

It takes a thousand voices to tell a single story.

The more women, the better.
The more women speaking, the better our world.
The more women shaping the story, the more the story represents us all.

A handful of years ago, just around the time I began leading these journeys, I had the opportunity to realize my grandmother Lila’s dream. She never got the chance to work at the United Nations, so each spring, I join thousands of women from non-profits around the globe to participate in the annual Commission on the Status of Women.

While I don’t play a part in shaping law, policy or politics, I hold deep respect and appreciation for those who do, and over the years, I’ve come to understand and respect my own place in the fabric of change–facilitating the play of consciousness–what we call in yoga–the divine lila.

Each and every voice inspires mine as we write through the seasons of the year and the seasons of our lives. Births. Endings. Dreams. Celebrations. New beginnings. Confusion. Despair.

Some women come with strong, developed voices–seeking tenderness and flow.
Some come with whispers–seeking permission to shout (or to be heard while whispering.)
Some come without knowing why they’ve come and later speak of finding soul.
Some come seeking light; others seeking company in the darkness.

As we plumb the depths of the body’s energy centers, we meet, as Ram Daas says: in the silence behind the words.

I sensed that same sacred space when I listened to the clips of women speaking at the Golden Globe Awards. I was particularly moved to tears (sobs really), as many of us were, by Oprah Winfrey’s acceptance speech for the Cecil B. DeMille award.

What placed me at the center of the silence behind the words, however, came during the backstage Q&A after her speech.

“You have no idea the power of noticing another human being,” Winfrey said, “…what it feels like when somebody knows that they have been seen by you. It is the greatest offering you can give.”

I’ve heard this from women journeyers again and again. They feel seen.

We provide that for each other.

I’ll never forget my first time at the UN Commission on the Status of Women. Faced with the impressive work of women whose education, action and leadership far outstretched mine, I questioned my place, even while I felt so right among them, simply bearing witness.

On my last morning in the city, I returned to my favorite breakfast spot before catching the train to Vermont. When it was time to leave, I looked back longingly, and a woman behind the counter must have sensed my energy, and so she wished me well, meaning to say, “See you,” but in her beautiful emerging English, said instead:

“I see you.”

With those three precious words, I knew.

Kelly