It’s 5 a.m. in New York City—the epicenter of the pandemic—and I’m up.
For the first time in six weeks, I finally went to sleep before midnight. My days are scrambled, but I remind myself that it is Tuesday, April 21st by my phone.
Today, I want to remind us that our future depends on us remembering who we are. Capitalism and oppression and trauma and violence will only win when we can’t name them anymore. When we forget our names and where we come from.
Tears accompany me this morning, healing wounds I didn’t know I had. I welcome them as cleansing for my lungs that still get tight when I least expect it. I mourn for my community, at home and abroad. I feel powerless today. I don’t have the answers and the fear is overwhelming.
Memories of a past that no longer exists in the same way remind me of a world I was both embracing and running from. I am grieving the love lost and loved ones who are gone too soon. Who will be here when we finally get to see each other? Who will I never see again?
Last night, I dreamt of the ocean full of stingrays and manta rays. I was on boats going to worlds unknown, yet familiar. I believe this dream came from my ancestors as a reminder to not forget who I am. I believe they were showing me the future and grounding me in hope of a better world—a world unknown to my humanity but familiar to my spirit.
I wonder what other healers are dreaming.
I lie still, hearing a silence in New York that is both peaceful and eerie. I stay at home because I don’t want to see, witness, or look into the eyes of people seeking answers I don’t have. I don’t want to see the fear and despair in people’s eyes. Hearing the sirens is enough, knowing as a healer there is only but so much I can do.
Although I have not gone outside in a couple of weeks, I have supported more people than ever in healing and recovery, crisis and trauma, grief and loss. As a healer, I have worked nonstop to show up for my community, my family, myself.
Yet, even with knowing who I am, this morning as I write this, I think about what people have said to me about healers in times like this. But aren’t you a healer—why are you feeling this way? Where are your self-care practices? As a healer aren’t you supposed to not feel? Aren’t you supposed to be brave and courageous? These questions haunt me as healers are being called to the frontlines right now, being asked to show up in unprecedented ways.
But being a healer is so much more than that…
Being a healer is more than just burning sage and wearing white. We are also humans who feel deep grief before there is even loss and death. A healer answers the spiritual call to action made by their ancestors. We are organizers and activists. Survivors and victims with our own stories, and we use the smoke of sage as an organizing tool and practice to send signals to our ancestors to hold us, to clear pathways, to keep us safe, and to go before us as we fight in this human world. Burning sage is a call to action. It’s a conjuring. It is a witch’s brew of personal freedom and collective liberation. It’s about reparations when the state refuses and it’s about the restoration of the spirit in a world that depletes it. It’s about the regeneration of a people’s collective mind, body, and spirit in the aftermath of institutional oppression. Burning sage is about a healer’s constant rebirth.
Being a healer is more than just lighting a candle. It’s about healing justice and our ability to ground personal healing in social justice and vice versa. Being a healer in the absence of social change lacks accountability and integrity, creating more trauma and injustice without consequence. Engaging in any healing practice while not understanding how our trauma and our privilege impacts others’ quality of life is being a gatekeeper for white supremacy and capitalism—not being a healer. Especially and even if being a healer is disguised in nonprofit social change work. A healer can still be an asshole, a racist, sexist, and homophobic, even with a yoga mat, meditation, and breath work.
Being a healer is more than just charging crystals. Being a healer is not about acquiring more self-care tools and more healing practices. It is about being committed to being in a constant re-creation of self so that we are in alignment and integrity with who we say we want to be in the world. Looking at how trauma, injustice, and violence have shaped us and being accountable to the people we love and are in a relationship with. Being a healer is about making amends, so we can continue to do the necessary work to align our spirits with our mission and our stand in this world.
Being a healer is more than just doing rituals. Survival and trauma do not make healers exempt from what’s happening in the world. Sounding like a healer does not make us exempt. Reading all the right books does not make us exempt. Knowing our horoscopes does not make us exempt. We can do yoga, Reiki, wear white and all the beads, meditations, and crystals. We can know all the sun and moon signs and quote all the right people, but if there is a gap between who we are being and the impact that we are having in the world, then we as healers still have a lot of healing to do.
Being a healer is more than just building an altar. As a healer and coach, I oftentimes get people who say, “I have nothing to heal from. I’m good.” But if we live on this Earth, we will all need healing, because systems of oppression create constant trauma. Trauma creates families and leads organizations. The thing about trauma is that it leaves no one out. No one is exempt. Not healers, not celebrities, not artists, not executive directors or organizers, and definitely not parents or partners. Everyone has a story that has shaped them without them knowing. It is only at night, when the world sleeps and no one sees us, that our personal struggles as healers unite us. We struggle with not belonging and not being enough. We struggle with not knowing how to love or be loved. And we struggle with intimacy and addictions, self-harm and disease.
I want to undo the myth that healers don’t need anything, that somehow, we are exempt from what is happening in the world. That we are perfect, that we all meditate, wear white, are Yoruba priestesses, do Reiki, read astrology, are peaceful, and eat organic or vegetarian food.
People think we have no problems. I am so sorry to disappoint, but most healers are on a journey of recovery—recovery from trauma bonding, codependent behaviors, unhealthy relationships, and a past we often had no control over. We come to the work with deep stories of abandonment, not feeling good enough or like we belong. Many of us have experienced child sexual abuse, sexual assault, and domestic violence, eating disorders, and other addictions. Most healers have been in the dark facing their biggest fears managing depression, worthlessness, and disease in order to be able to show up for others. We are also struggling to stop self-sabotaging, under-producing, and not believing in our own gifts. We too struggle with thinking that we don’t have the right to cry or sit with our fears, trauma, and grief.
This time of COVID-19, quarantining, and social isolation is not any different for us. Whether it’s a pandemic, war, injustice, oppression, abuse, violence, or trauma, healers are impacted too. From death, breakups, and divorce to losing jobs and friendships, like everyone, when things happen, healers also wake up to a new normal that we have to get used to.
Sometimes we forget to breathe. We forget to celebrate ourselves and tell ourselves that we can exhale. Healers are people with their own stories, their own pasts and traumas. To show up as a healer, one needs to be responsible and commit to being in a constant state of inquiry, self-reflection, and a deep level of integrity to go back and heal the past constantly, daily, and moment to moment. Don’t take advantage of that!
Healers are spiritual organizers who harness people’s personal magic, courage, and power to manifest. They are a witness and container for their community to conjure and honor the healing medicine of their ancestors and use it as a tool to create the world they want to live in.
We are all healers and we are all breathing life into someone else’s healing today.