Take good care.
Take care of yourself.
We say these phrases casually. Informal parting words that leave our lips so easily they have lost their meaning. But, what a beautiful and weighty mandate – to implore one another to look after ourselves!
In these tumultuous and confusing times – where our social, political, and cultural worlds feel as if they have been upended – collective shifts directly impact the in/stability of the ground on which our individual selves try to find footing. It makes sense, then, that now more than ever we are seeking ways to access what we alternately call healing or self-care or ritual practices to find our roots, and, thus, our way home.
While our search for various forms of comfort, care, and meaning often takes us outside of ourselves to people and places we think know more than we do, deep down we know better. We are much wiser and stronger than we believe. That’s precisely why we say, “take care.” We know that like all phrases that become so familiar they sound like clichés, this sentiment emerges from a fundamental truth. “Take care” is an expression of what we know to be real from our own life experiences and from the bone memory of witnessing our people through the generations (often the most vulnerable and discounted among us) miraculously showing up for themselves and, consequently, one another.
Showing up for ourselves means that we minimally know what we need even if we aren’t brave enough or freed up enough to name it…just yet.
Last December after one too many dark days and heavy weeks, I met my dear friend, Stephanie Battle, for dinner. Since 2012, we had been playing with the idea of co-teaching a dance class. As former professional dancers, our relationship with dance is complicated. Because we were paid to dance and had to demonstrate a certain level of technical skill, we have had to retrain ourselves to return to the initial feelings of joy and freedom that made us want to dance in the first place. Over that December dinner, we talked about the place dance and, essentially, being in our bodies holds in our lives as the ultimate site from which we first learned how to “take care.” We wondered if it might be possible to recreate with other people that rare and sacred space we make when we are at home alone and start moving to whatever rhythm, lyric, memory, heartbeat, or emotion starts pumping through our veins and moving to our feet. That feeling of deep rootedness and deep connection that places us back into our bodies while allowing us to live and breathe beyond its epidermal boundaries.
This feeling of trusting the wisdom held in our bodies to guide us to move and feel and connect in new ways is healing, is our own form of medicine. Thus, this community dance space became Funk Medicine.
It has only been two and a half months since we have been dancing with this diverse group of folks who find something essential and necessary not just in dancing but in the community they have formed through Funk Medicine. But, there are many lessons we have learned so far in this community that offer us tangible ways to answer the call to “take care” – to find the healing we need within ourselves and then share this medicine with one another. Here are some of the biggest ones…
Ask: Many of us have been raised to keep our head down and keep pushing and working and striving especially when things feel hard. It is precisely at these moments when we need to step outside of our fears and ask for the support we need. Asking for many of us feels like a weakness, a failure, or an admission of some sort of misstep when it is really an acknowledgement that if we need to rest there is usually some place where we can lay our heads, if we trip, there is a community that will break our fall.
Make Space: If there is something you need, something you deeply desire, something that you know feeds your spirit and fortifies your bones – there are likely at least two or three other people who also feel this way. Put out the call and find them so you can find your healing in community. That way when one of you feels depleted or tired, there is always someone else to keep the healing coming, to keep the medicine flowing.
Shed the Shame: The ways we can be made to feel inadequate and small or unworthy and deficient are endless. So, let’s not count the ways. Instead, can we try to find strategies for shedding the societal, familial, historical, and self-induced shame that can paralyze us? One way we take a small step in this direction in Funk Medicine is by allowing ourselves time to close our eyes and listen to what our bodies are telling us, then moving from that bodily knowledge. This simple practice is a reminder that we know ourselves better than any tired rule, policy, or tradition. All of what we need to know is held within us, even though many of us have been shamed away from this innate wisdom. Moving in the ways that we like, in the ways that feel good starts to bring us back to what we know, without the shame.
Give Yourself Permission: If you wait for someone else to tell you when it is okay, or the right time, or the appropriate move, or the best thing to do, you’ll always be living someone else’s life. You won’t be able to recognize your own healing when it reveals itself because your ways of seeing and hearing have been trained through other folks’ perceptions. In other words, do you!
Music: Enough said! The medicine is in the melody, and the BEAT is always healing.
Forgive: Especially yourself. You have more days ahead of you to experiment and play and try again. What may feel like a mistake or failure now may become the blueprint for your healing tomorrow. Go CRAZY without losing your MIND: I love this statement I first heard from a friend who is writing a book about artistic genius and madness (shout out to La Marr Jurelle Bruce). How can we find ways to free up and access a joy that may look a bit like cray cray? How can we move in unfamiliar ways that may seem odd or crazy because they are different…but we experience as healing? How can we train ourselves to care less how things appear or the story that will be created around our actions, and just act from that deep place of self-listening and honoring we call taking care?
The Funk Medicine community meets every Wednesday evening from 6:30-7:45p. Come get your healing.