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In Bloom: Healing and tending to ourselves
A moment of rest and reflection in nature
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A warm welcome to our Bloom community!
This is Nooreen again, wishing you a lovely summer season wherever you are. As we are ending the month of July and heading towards August, it is getting quite warm here in the city of Edmonton in Canada, which I am thoroughly enjoying. If you are tuning in from a place where the heat is unbearable, I hope you are hydrating and are having as many ice lollies as possible to keep you cool and collected.
In today’s newsletter, we’ll settle into our grounding exercise and root ourselves in what the Chayn community has been up to this month – including a new resource launch, more Bloom courses, and new job opportunities – before diving further into the topic of nature-assisted self reflection. You are receiving this email because you subscribed to the Bloom newsletter.
Ground: Settling into our bodies and the present
Today we’re going to be focusing on sound. For those of us who are deaf or hard of hearing, we’ve shared another grounding exercise after this that doesn’t rely on sound.
First put on your favourite song or music, but pretend you’re listening to it for the first time. Try to use a speaker instead of earphones. You can sing along if you’d like.
Focus on the melody and lyrics (if there are any). Note the changing rhythms, the different beats, and the high and low notes. Did you pick out anything you’ve never noticed before? Pay attention to the parts that stand out most to you. What about them do you enjoy? Notice if the song has an impact on your body. Does the song give you chills or create any other physical sensations? Take your hand and touch the speaker. Can you feel the vibrations?
Now let’s play the song again, but this time pay attention to a part of the song that often gets lost in the melody. Perhaps the background drums or the bass guitar. Follow this instrument throughout the song until the very end.
Here’s another grounding exercise but focusing on a different sense: touch. Pick three items around you that have different textures. Anything works! It could be your carpet, a plant, or even your laptop. Focus on what this item feels like in your hands. How would you describe it? Is it warm or cold? Is it smooth or rough? Is it hard or soft? Try to identify what it feels like. Is this an item you touch regularly? Have you noticed what it feels like before?
The purpose of both these grounding exercises is to help you focus on using one particular sense and using that as a way to bring you to the present moment. Use this time to reflect and sit with the feeling that these sensations bring to your body.
Root: Connecting with the Chayn community
After the Roe v. Wade decision was overturned last month by the US Supreme Court, we were hurt, angry, and disappointed like many around the world. For about a year, we’d been working on a new guide called It’s Your Choice: a judgement free guide to abortion. This month, we launched this guide as part of our project, Your Story Matters. The guide assists us in understanding our options and gives a realistic picture of abortion. It includes information and guidance on the practical and emotional process of getting an abortion, taking care of ourselves afterwards, speaking about our experience to others (if we would like to), and debunks common myths about abortion.
Within Bloom, we also launched our ‘Reclaiming resilience in your trauma story’ course last week. Based on narrative therapy and journaling techniques, in this course we explore how to identify triggers, understand the science of trauma, re-build self-esteem, work through shame, and recognise the ways we’ve already been resilient. You can still sign up to get weekly messages of encouragement from us in our anonymous Telegram group, or just work through at your own pace. And remember that ‘Society, patriarchy, and sexual trauma’ and ‘Healing from sexual trauma’ are still available for you to work through anytime. Sign up for any of these courses on our website!
On the Bloom front, we also wanted to share that we’re holding a Bloom training workshop on 10 August. This workshop is designed for organisations who want to learn how to adapt Bloom for their own work; whether you work directly with survivors, in mental health, or even in tech or business, come learn from us and each other about how to build a trauma-informed digital service. We have paid and free tickets available, so remember to share it in your networks, and book early before tickets run out!
Chayn is continuing to invite external practitioners to support our Bloom team and we are currently looking for therapist partners and bilingual freelancers in the following areas: :
Video presenter [French & English speaking]: We’re urgently looking for a confident professional who is passionate about gender-based violence and mental health to help us record Bloom courses. Alongside other French-speaking activists, you’ll create videos that provide information and tools for survivors on their healing journey. Apply by 1 August.
Trauma-informed therapist partner [French]: We’re also looking for a French-speaking, trauma-informed therapist to partner with us, delivering remote, short-course therapy in French to survivors. Hiring for this is on a rolling basis, so apply ASAP!
Trauma-informed therapist partner [USA & Canada based]: We’re looking for a trauma-informed therapist based in the USA or Canada to partner with us, delivering remote, short-course therapy to survivors. Hiring for this is on a rolling basis, so apply ASAP!
Localisation & translation of trauma-informed content [Portuguese]: We’re looking for bilingual activists, educators and psychologists to help us translate our Bloom courses from English into Portuguese! Apply via email by 3 August.
Branch: Exploring together
It’s summertime in the northern hemisphere, which means it's the holiday season! Many of our Chayn team members have been or are going on vacation, like lots of other folks, as this is the time when schools are out and weather is better for outdoor activities. We have noticed how there has been a nature inspired theme in all of our team members' holiday pictures (as you can see below):
Photo from Zoë’s break: River leading through a valley near Vikeså, Norway
Photo from Beatriz’s vacation: ‘Peñol Rock’ and Peñol dam in Antioquia, Colombia.
Last month, I too spent five wonderful days at a leadership retreat on an island on the West Coast of Canada. And so, in today’s deep dive I am going to talk about how spending time in nature has helped my health, improved my emotional wellbeing, and redirected my sense of purpose. I hope sharing my experience will bring you some inspiration or joy.
Did you know? In Finland, there is an early education movement focusing on ‘forest schools’ where pre-schoolers spend up to 95% of their time exploring and interacting with the wilderness.
To give you a little background, I moved to Edmonton, Canada on my own in the middle of 2020. Since then, I hadn’t travelled anywhere because of the pandemic. Like everyone else, I was staying home to avoid the virus until I was able to get vaccinated. Along with navigating life in a new city, I was also miles away from my loved ones for the first time. So naturally, once I got my vaccine shots, COVID-19 restrictions lifted, and air travel resumed, I made a trip home to visit my family in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. I was able to spend three lovely months with them, but unfortunately caught COVID on my trip back to Canada.
In addition to being infected with the virus, I was jet-lagged, tired because of the 14 hours flight, on my period (and if you read last month’s newsletter, you know what I mean), and away from my family again. I was exhausted: mentally, emotionally, and physically.
My symptoms weren’t as severe, as I was vaccinated and probably caught the variant (regardless, I would like to highlight how we all have different immune systems and we are still living in the pandemic. I would encourage you to stay safe and vaccinate – to protect yourself and your loved ones).
This happened two weeks before my trip to the retreat. Thankfully, I started recovering and tested negative before my flight to Vancouver. The only thing that I was dealing with was fatigue. Hera, the founder and CEO of Chayn, had suggested this leadership retreat to me in April and since then I’d been anticipating this trip, so it didn’t cross my mind to cancel it. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I was only looking forward to meeting like-minded folks.
When I reached the island, it was beyond my expectations. The retreat was on Cortes Island’s Hollyhock campus that rests in the traditional and ancestral territories of the Klahoose, Tla’amin, Homalco Nations. It’s situated in the middle of the forest, facing the ocean, and surrounded by mountains. The cabin I was assigned to stay in was near the ocean, so I could hear the waves whenever I was in my room. Along with that, I was waking up to chirping birds. The whole experience was surreal. As someone who spent most of her life in cities, beaches and parks are the most ‘nature’ that I’m used to.
View from my cabin on Cortes Island, British Columbia.
I made the most of my five days. Outside of the main program, meals, yoga, meditation sessions, and bird watching with Hollyhock’s naturalist, Bill Ophoff were all included in the agenda. All the amazing organic meals were prepared in house and the produce was from their garden or freshly caught from the sea. In between workshops or talk sessions, I would take naps, since I was still struggling with fatigue. The activity that I enjoyed most was hiking to the venue of the workshops (as they were all located in different cabins throughout the campus). I have never spent so much time surrounded by nature or sitting by the ocean in silence; it truly opened my heart. Even though just two weeks ago, I had felt overwhelmed by all the unexpected circumstances, I was now able to ground myself and be present. With all the fresh food I ate and clean air I was breathing, it felt like this was exactly what I needed to fully recover and build my immune system. Nature truly is healing.
Did you know? There are various practices and approaches to therapy that involve nature; if you like the outdoors, you can explore nature-assisted or eco-therapy or even equine-assisted therapy – if you love horses, go look it up!
Now to talk a little bit more about the main program. The leadership retreat brought together digital leaders from all over North America, including political activists, environmental activists, feminists, and land defenders. You can read more about it here. Although everyone present was a ‘digital’ leader, we were encouraged to avoid using our phones or digital devices so that we could stay present, connect in person, rest, and relax. The workshops, panels, and talks were facilitated by inspiring leaders in the space. It was interesting to find that even though we are all from different social movements, we had overlapping similarities and struggles.
It’s been six years since I joined Chayn and have been working to end gender-based violence. My experience with Chayn has been life changing, and I will write about my journey another time. It feels cathartic to support survivors while being a survivor myself, but it can also feel hopeless at times, especially with everything on the news.
One thing I picked up from sessions at the retreat was when one of the speakers said: “It’s important to name and identify our enemies”. This is not to cause them harm, but to recognise where the problem lies and how we can create a system together that is nourishing and equal to all. It is important to build that community in order to break down the colonialist, capitalist, patriarchal structures, which make it difficult for everyone to be in the same space. This explains why I’m still able to passionately work with Chayn. It’s because I found a community that I enjoy welcoming others to.
I hope you find ways to spend time in nature and that it helps bring you back to yourself. Your retreat doesn’t have to be as drastic as mine but find out what works for you. Even if it’s just a walk to the local park to clear your mind.
Thank you for reading and making it to the end of the newsletter! For anything urgent, you can always reach us at email@example.com. We’ll see you very soon.
Nooreen and the Bloom team