“The heart is an organ of fire.” ~Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient
The limbic brain, the seat of our emotions and learning as human beings, can be destroyed by unhealed trauma. Ancient Christian mystics, often called the desert fathers and desert mothers, referred to this brain as the heart brain. Our emotional world, governed by the limbic brain, can feel like a fire that is raging out of control. Some trauma survivors are affected oppositely—they become shut off to feeling altogether. Often we shut ourselves off from emotion by choice, afraid of what feeling them might do to us.
Our emotional world and other matters of the heart are much like a fireplace that keeps a cabin warm. If the fire rages, it can burn the cabin down. If the fire dies, the cabin goes cold. Recovery teaches us how to keep the fire in balance—properly tended to create for us a beautiful warmth.
Invitation: Interlace your hands together and place them over your heart. If directly touching your body feels too activating, you may hover this cross-fingered gesture a few inches away from your heart. Spend 3-5 minutes in this position and listen to what messages your heart—and the emotional world it represents—may be giving you today.
Prayer or Intention: May the emotional fire of my heart create warmth—not destruction—today and on the path ahead.
Excerpt from the forthcoming, Trauma and the 12 Steps Daily Meditation Reader, releasing on September 30, 2020 from Creative Mindfulness Media
Photograph & Meme by Dr. Jamie Marich
Do not fall back asleep
Although the days are short
And the night is long.
Do not fall back asleep
If your heart still beats for humanity
I beg you.
Go find your kindling
Reignite the flame within your heart.
Do not fall back asleep
Remember 401 years of terror for Black Lives.
Reaffirm your commitment to justice
Do not fall back asleep
Remember we still can’t breathe -
even though we find a way to keep smiling, laughing, drumming, crying,
Do not fall back asleep
For me and mine there is no option
We can not step out of our Black skin and take a day off.
There is no day off.
Our ancestral melanated garment calls us to action everyday.
Do not fall back asleep
My dear Ally
There can be no peace in our land if the blood of Black people continues
to flow through the streets.
Do not fall back asleep.
Poetry and photography by Dr. Kellie Kirksey
What do you see?
What is the story of your projection?
Do you see my color?
or is my hue invisible to you?
How does this unfolding story strike your heart?
Where does the word racism resonate within your body?
Why were your eyes closed for 401 years?
Did you not hear my screams?
Did you not see the hanging tree?
Did you not feel my anguish?
Did you not notice my red blood running through the streets?
Was I not just as human when they killed us again and again and again?
I am perplexed.
Do you really see my reality now?
Can you taste the fear that has been my life?
Is this all real or simply a gaslight hallucination?
My fear is you will fall asleep once more and i will recess into the blackground of your mind like yesterdays old yellow newspaper.
I know one of you has cried muffled tears of saddness for this 4 century long tragedy.
Step boldly forward and work for systemic change.
Please come out of the shadows.
Let your tears water the soul and soil of justice.
....she is exhausted.
and yet she begs you.
Do not slumber.
Please do not fall back asleep.
Stay awake for freedom...
and raise your voice to action as we toil for a system that is just, together....and truly equal.
May the souls of the Ancestors rejoice in this earthly transformation and find peaceful eternal rest.
By Dr. Kellie Kirksey
June 30th, 2020
Outside the window, Cleo’s uncle stalked to the corner of the yard to stand beneath the phone pole and look up, hands on hips, ranting. Cleo grabbed her father’s handgun from the dusty windowsill and ran to hide it between her mattresses.
When she returned to the window, Uncle Bobby was still out there waving his hands and yelling at the brown-skinned cable guy on the pole. Cleo stared through the glass, images blurred by a filter of dead bugs, bird poop, pollution particles.
The man on the pole cut and moved wires without bothering to look down at her screaming uncle. That impressed Cleo, seeing a man who could take insult and mind his own business. Then she noticed the ear buds and his moving mouth. Maybe the man couldn’t hear her uncle threatening to blow his “stupid fucking head off.”
Uncle Bobby threw up his hands, yelled, “Fuck you!” and turned toward the house.
Cleo dropped into the chair whipping her face back to the school-issued laptop screen. Words raced before her eyes. Her heart fluttered.
The front door opened and slammed shut. Cleo peered up, keeping her head down.
“Did you hear me giving it to that sonuvabitch out there?” her uncle asked. “I heard him talking on his phone, saying he supported the stay-at-home order.” He reached into the corner cupboard, his sweaty T shirt riding up over the little bulge growing around his middle. “What a dumbass. We oughta kick out all the foreigners. That would solve 99% of our problems. Get real Americans back to work and back to normal life. This CO-VID shit is a liberal hoax.” He moved a few cans around, muttering, “Damn!”
“What are you looking for?” Cleo asked. She glanced out the window. The cable man descended the pole.
“I’m looking for my damned peas and carrots,” her uncle barked.
“I think daddy ate them,” Cleo said. The man outside climbed into his white van.
“He knows those are my favorite!” Her uncle slammed the cupboard door. “He’s been taking my shit since we were kids. I’m gonna kill him when he gets home.” He stalked to the bathroom, the door cracking shut against the frame.
Outside, tail lights lit up and the van moved into the street, diminishing in size as it travelled up the block, shrinking the threat of violence, the distraction of warranted worry.
Cleo's breath calmed and she returned to the Civics assignment: Read a news article related to how any level of US government is responding to the current pandemic; write a one sentence summary of the article; write three relevant questions related to the article and include answers.
She opened a fresh document and tapped the keyboard with efficiency, accuracy.
The first lady of Maryland has been instrumental in securing coronavirus tests for her state.
1. What is the first lady’s profession? (Artist)
2. Could this first lady be governor some day? (Yes)
3. If a girl who grew up on a chicken farm in South Korea can become the first lady of Maryland, could someone like me possibly escape this hellhole? (Maybe)
The toilet flushed.
Cleo ran to collect the gun and put it back on the windowsill.
With any luck, when her father returned from work to face his brother’s wrath, one of them would take a bullet and the other would end up back in jail.
Didn’t matter who shot who, as long as they were both out of her life.
If you can’t handle me in three or more dimensions
You don’t get to have me in two
You one dimensional fool
If you can’t digest my substance and my messiness
Seeing only the perfect image you behold
You won’t get any of me, not anymore
If you can’t treat me with the respect
You would want any man to show your most sensitive daughter
I withdraw any respect I ever held for you
If you keep putting me on hold when you were
Once so eager for me to answer the phone
This fantasy of ours will cease to be reality
Poetry by Jamie Marich
Mixed Media by Jamie Marich based on a photograph by Michael Gargano
Fear overwhelms me.
Sucking me dry
So many wounds
A shell of a human
Left to die
Without the virus
Imperfect, unworthy of care
You know it’s over when they let you enter without first scrubbing your hands.
This ends one of two ways. Only one means coming home with the one you love.
Safety precautions are no easier in intensive care, just clearer.
The ventilator, translucent skin, the unsteady beat of the monitors--all scream vulnerability and so, of course, of course you wash and gown and mask. That’s obvious.
The dying parent. The tiny babies. Every cell in your body wants to shield them from danger, even – especially – the invisible danger clinging to you from outside, hitching a ride closer to them. Looking for a way in; their vulnerability an invitation.
They can’t protect themselves.
Protecting them is obvious even when it’s not easy. You respect the barriers marking the threshold between the menace outside and the relative (hoped for, prayed for) safety here, inside.
When you can see blue blood rushing beneath translucent skin, it’s not hard to wash your hands.
The line used to be hard and sharp. Maybe it was imaginary, but it seemed straightforward. Safety is here: danger is there.
Now, the ink has smeared until that line becomes earth, becomes air encircling each of you and what does it mean to be safe now?
Ah, but you know what it means to keep a distance, so that you can protect.
You remember. It’s planted in the marrow of your bones.
How do you love through panes of glass? With a heart beating so hard you’re certain your tiny babies must hear it, too. When you touch them with a gloved hand, is it warm? Do they know it’s you?
Only your voice can touch without danger. The soft lullaby you sing into the incubators when you have to leave them. And the way his heart speeds up when he hears you coming into his hospital room.
On that final morning, they let you in without scrubbing. You touch your father’s hand with yours, unwashed and ungloved, because that line doesn’t matter anymore. It’s how you know it’s over.
All those years before, you got to take your babies home, drawing a new line around them, hard and strong for as long as you possibly could until you cracked it open to take them out. Out there. Unwashed hands and air travel leave them with bronchitis, but they’re stronger now and recover. You gave them time to grow and for their lungs to heal.
And you know it isn’t over.
It’s planted in the marrow of your bones.
And now? Now you will stay away for as long as you must if it means they will be safe.
You will love them again through a pane of glass (or a computer screen) when they are six-thousand miles away instead of in your kitchen, cooking and bickering, where you wish they were (where they’re supposed to be) instead.
You will send your voice through the telephone and hug over a video link and listen through a window for the music you know is out there because the line defining dangerous and safe has shattered, and you will protect them with the distance that you keep because this is what you do when you love.
- Visual Media and Poem by Dr. Mara Tesler Stein
May the reason I practice yoga be
To lead others to realizing the true nature
of the Self
Yet in doing that empowering others
Especially my fellow sisters
to advocate for themselves
To not let men walk all over us
In the name of spiritual practices
For us to claim our voice
As the creative energy that makes
it all happen
Refusing to be treated as anything less
We are not just servants
of the masculine
We are the whirl that creates
The motion and maintains
People have tried to keep the waves
From rising to their fullest majesty
not anymore, and never again
"The river doesn't come to your home. You have to go get the water."
Being a student of tantra
Means that life makes me wet
I float on the river its energy creates
To the Source that is Home
The place where I don't
Have to pretend to be anything
I trust the banks that
Nature puts in place
Since letting the river run dry
Would be a disaster
No longer an option because
Being is all there is
Being is who I really am
I am the river and the Ocean
I am the energy and the Source
I am complete
I am Home
Photo of Jamie by Kalindi Hoffmann
Burn away the pages
of my past
told by strangers to
Burn away the tainted
gripped with desperate
Awash my body
with the healing
my own spark.
Heed my call,
the scream from
Heed the fire
held in my heart.
- Peyton Cram
Dr. Jamie Marich
Curator of the Dancing Mindfulness expressive arts blog: a celebration of mindfully-inspired, multi-modal creativity