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I’ve always strongly disavowed toxic versions of ambition. The human race was perpetually speeding in the fast lane when the pandemic forced us to collectively slow down.
“Done” replaced “perfect.“ Go, go, go, became standing still. We slept in on weekends, championed carb-loading, and instead of tallying accomplishments and always asking “what’s next,” we curled up for much-needed soul rest.
So is it any wonder that many of us can’t or won’t return to that frazzled pre-pandemic pace? Is it surprising that we reconfigured our definition of what’s energy-worthy and now, we flat-out refuse to reverse it?
This week, it’s my honor to welcome Salaam Green to help us unleash the healing power of writing. Salaam is a poet, master healer, creator of What Black Women Want You to Know, and founder of Literary Healing Arts, LLC.
With an uncanny ability to listen beneath the story, Salaam hears what you are NOT saying (and she’s so astonishingly accurate you’ll get shivers). Then, Salaam helps you reclaim your voice by creating your own poem, either through her guided writing or by producing it on your behalf.
As a prominent advocate for racial justice, Salaam has spoken at the United Nations, trained hundreds of leaders throughout the United States, and is a Community Village awardee.
Today, on top of sharing her expert healing wisdom, Salaam “cracks open” her heart to reveal her transitions, transformation, and future ambitions.
What You’ll Learn in this Episode:
- A train of handprints on the window
- Putting broken society back together
- Exhaustion, trauma, pain = everywhere
- The many different ways to listen
- Poetizing the story of your life
Listen to the Full Episode
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Featured on the Show:
Throughout this podcast, Salaam and I reference last year’s Wisdom Fusion Project — an eight-week intergenerational experience of women learning from women. The impact of it, on me and on the other participants, was truly transformational. And now, you can sample the journey – FOR FREE and at your own pace — in the new Wisdom Fusion Project Workbook.
- Sundae’s Website
- Sundae’s Facebook Business Page – Sundae Schneider-Bean LLC
- IN TRANSIT Hub
- What Black Women Want You To Know
- Wisdom Fusion
- The Good Listening Project
- Dr. Martha Beck
Catch These Podcasts / Articles:
- Atlas of the Heart – Brene Brown
We’re delighted to be in the Top 5 of the global Best 30 Expat Podcasts!
Full Episode Transcript:
Hello, It is 7:00 am in New York, 1:00 pm in Johannesburg, and 6:00 pm in Bangkok. Welcome to IN TRANSIT with Sundae Bean. I am an intercultural strategist, transformation facilitator, and solution-oriented coach, and I am on a mission to help you adapt & succeed through ANY life transition.
Just as a caveat for this episode: This was recorded in two parts. The first and April 2022, and the second in May just days after a mass shooting occurred in Buffalo, New York at a local grocery store where ten innocent people’s lives were taken. This mass shooting was racially motivated and all of the victims were Black. This awful news that hit our airwaves has sent a ripple effect yet again throughout the globe on just how much racial healing we need and this episode now goes live in advance of Juneteenth reminding us of how important it is for the work to continue.
Sundae: So it is my heart felt pleasure to have Salaam Green on the podcast today. She is a Master Healer, creator of What Black Women Want You To Know and founder of Literary Healing Arts, LLC, where she supports individuals, and organizations in using writing poetry, and storytelling to reclaim their voices and transform their lives. We have a lot in common on that respect. But what we do is so different and that’s why I’m so excited to have her here today. In her work as an advocate for racial justice, she’s spoken at the United Nations, and facilitated and trained hundreds of leaders throughout the south in the United States, including the Selma Center for Nonviolence, Truth and Reconciliation, and the UAB Institute of Arts in Medicine. In addition to all of that experience, she’s a certified practitioner and trainer for the Kellogg Foundation’s Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation process. A former Reimagining Justice and Women’s Policy Fellow and a Community Village awardee for Gender Justice work in the South. Salaam, it is my pleasure to have you join us here on IN TRANSIT.
Salaam: Thank you for having me. It’s my pleasure to be here. I am super excited. Yes. Thank you.
Sundae: So Salaam and I know each other from our work together on Wisdom Fusion. For those of you who don’t know what Wisdom Fusion is, it’s an eight-week intergenerational experience of learning, and I can’t even find words for how amazing that was. But one of the things that I learned about Salaam during that is, she’s one of those people that, I don’t know, Salaam, if this resonates with you, but you seem to be one of those people that observes.
Sundae: And you might not say much but man when you did say something it was like *mic drop* Every. Single. Time. So it’s been wonderful. And one little fun fact that we have in common with each other is both of us went to, for at least some period of time, the University of North Dakota, right?
Salaam: Exactly. What is that about? Absolutely. I am In the south of the United States, and yeah University of North Dakota, absolutely.
Sundae: Any woman who can put up with the level of cold and snow in the University of North Dakota is a resilient woman.
Salaam: *laughter* I agree. I agree.
Sundae: So thank you for joining us here, the podcast IN TRANSIT, I can’t think of a better way to describe how our global energy feels right now, right? What are you feeling right now in terms of what’s going on globally?
Salaam: Oh, that’s such a great question and I can go back to the Wisdom Fusion that we were a part of, there are no words to the beautiful way in which it was handled and just a beautiful people we met. I think in the world today community is what I’m feeling. I’m feeling like there is this hunger finally, for community. I don’t know if it’s because during the pandemic, we were isolated and we were told not to be in community and that’s trauma. And so, I see the collective trauma of what community – the lack of being in community has done for people. So I see that we are in transit right now. As you were saying so beautifully, moving back into the space of community, the communal healing. Bonfires are getting ready to be spread across the world. They are campfires. There are women in their kitchen, who are getting ready to open up the oven and baking our bread. We are really beginning, I think right now to look at circles or squares if we’re still online, but community, yes.
Sundae: I didn’t realize I was going to bring this up but I notice I have tears in my eyes when I think about it, this idea of community, there have been times where I’ve watched individuals in crisis, let’s say health crisis. There’s a diagnosis or a tragic loss and a family. And I’ve seen two things happen depending on the cultural context, depending on the energy that was going on in the moment, but one group of people isolate, actually go on their own. It’s almost like everybody goes in their own apartment by themselves and feels pain. And I’ve watched other people do the opposite. So come together in that circle, and be in community to share the pain. And on one hand, I absolutely I know we need to give everybody the space to grieve and work through their own process in a way that is unique to them. Absolutely. And I also think there’s wisdom in centuries of practices that we’ve seen, how do people heal best? When experiencing pain. And I hear you, we’ve been forced to be separate, but there’s been pain and trauma through the pandemic and all that we’ve seen in The US with this racial reckoning, that you can’t unsee through, thanks to the media, that has made it so hard to look away from, right?
Sundae: So where do we go from here? I know this is at the center of your work right now. Why are you using your precious energy and attention to focus on racial healing right now?
Salaam: Because I cannot look away. I cannot look away as a Black woman who lives in the south in Birmingham, Alabama, the center of all things civil rights. Also from areas, such as Selma, Alabama, where I grew up going across the Edmund Pettus bridge and I grew up with the whole pedagogy around civil rights and civil rights leaders. I remember the first time my mother took me and my brothers to a protest. There was – and I know sounds like a great field trip, right? We’re going to a protest, but even as a little girl, maybe six or seven years old at a protest, it did something to me then. I wondered two things: Why were the people protesting? And why were the people behind the doors, who wouldn’t let certain people inside of the doors locking people out?
And it’s so important for me now to say, “How do we connect the people behind the doors and the people who are on the sidewalks?” We both are wounded. We both need healing. I only believe, for me, the way that that healing will occur is if we are in relationship with one another. It’s called remembering. So reMEMBERing is when we put our members back together, remembering, the membering part is where we put the members of society back together. The members of ourselves back together. So that’s why I’m doing what I’m doing now. I cannot not see it, but I cannot not feel it, Sundae. I feel it. I feel it in the friendships I have with people who look different than me. I feel it in the friendships with people who look like me; exhaustion, trauma, pain, on both ends. So, yes, it’s time.
Sundae: I know that you are what you call a literary healer that you use writing to heal. How do you do that? And how is that connected to racial healing?
Salaam: Yes. I started doing writing to heal four or five years ago. I went through a really devastating divorce and clinical depression, and I lost everything, my home, my family, all of it. Goodbye, gone. Wiped away. Yes. And I found myself on this lady’s red couch, it was a writing class and I began to write myself back together again. And I hadn’t written, I was 33-34, hadn’t written in my entire life and my background, first degree was in English and always wanted to be a writer. But as I was writing with other women, I began to find and reclaim my voice. I began to reclaim my voice in relation to the voices of others who are reclaiming their voices as well. There was no hierarchy.
So, the way that I do it, it’s through the model of the way that I’ve healed. As I come in, I give people writing prompts based on where they are in their lives. So if I’m in transition for work, or if I’m in transition for relationship or in transition for racial healing or in transition for, whatever, I give people simple writing prompts. Such as, “Okay. It’s a new year. What do you want to keep from last year?” I know everyone’s saying, “Let go, let go, let go, let go, so I’m assuming that you’re probably going to be letting go of something. But what do you want to keep?” And I ask you to write for 7 minutes from your heart. Not your head. Whatever comes up, allow it to come out. “What do you want to keep?” And then after that, I sit with you and I ask if you would like to share the things you want to keep and why those things are important to you. And also the feelings are the emotions that came up.
So for me, my work is all about the expression of emotions and reclaiming that no matter where we are in the world and what we are doing, it is an emotional experience. For me, racial healing is a emotional experience. It is a globally emotional experience. People have been hurt. People are excited about reckoning. People are joyful about finding joy in those spaces. People are traumatized and there’s a collective trauma, which causes so much pain. So as we recognize and become emotionally aware, we can become race aware. We can become love aware as well.
Sundae: Gosh, there’s so many layers to that. One thing I’m hearing is you’re giving people space to have honest conversations with themselves.
Salaam: Yes. Hmm.
Sundae: And then I’m hearing you’re also giving them a safe sort of cocoon where externalize it, share it. And I think it’s always when you say it out loud, you embody it in a different way, right? When you share it in community with other people.
Sundae: And the other thing, that’s one of the things I love about Brené Brown’s work, she talks about the Atlas of the Heart and it’s a literal encyclopedia of emotions, and she talks about what the function is for us. And I think in at least very westernized, industrialized cultures, the emotions are not given legitimacy like other very pragmatic things. Right?
Salaam: Right. Hmm.
Sundae: And you’re centering the emotional experience here.
Salaam: Absolutely. It is centering your emotional experience. That is important, that is valuable, but also in a community with others, you are seeing what it’s like to have others emotional experiences centered as well. So be it becomes less scary It becomes more connected and then you relate. It’s like, “Oh, of course, Sundae went through something as well. And she feels pain too. You mean Sundae cries. Oh my goodness. I thought she was just all day long, this power-driven, high-achieving woman who never cried, or anything,” that kind of thing. So, it’s sort of like when you see your teacher in the grocery store and you realize she’s a human being too, who buys apples and meat for dinner. We are all human with all these same emotions. We’re all in a grocery store after work. in the grocery store getting ready to take care of ourselves and our families. Yes.
Sundae: Totally our shared humanity.
Salaam: Our shared humanity, and really defining that word of what “shared” means, because we can look at words now, there’s so many so much lingo and so much language, and so we get caught up in that language. But if we really realized that “shared” means, share. Like, I have something and I am going to give it to you and you will receive it. Sharing is the gifting and the receiving of something. There’s a need, I feel the need and you receive it and you say, “Thank you.” Not, “Oh, I don’t really deserve this. Why’d you give this? How much is it? It’s not enough.”
It’s the receiving. It’s the sharing. Its the pouring of the water in the cup and we’re all drinking, because we are thirsty. And then we are quenched together. It’s the shared quenching that brings us I think into relationship.
Sundae: Absolutely, and that speaks to so much about this isolation that everybody’s been feeling how that’s more important than ever to have that. So what are you noticing in the racial healing circles that you’ve been leading? What do you notice is happening?
Salaam: It’s not easy, Sundae. It’s a challenge, really. It’s been such a challenge as anyone could imagine. But what I am noticing, what is happening, is I noticed that people are really struggling or are challenged with centering other people’s experiences other than their own. I am noticing that is a huge struggle. My experience as a Black woman in the south is my experience. And as I share that experience, I hope that others are able to see that, it’s not the only experience, but it’s the experience that shapes me, which is going to help shape the work that I do to support you in your healing. So when I look at the spaces of, how do we not center anyone in these spaces, or we center the Black experience, or we center the global experience, I am finding that there’s challenges with that.
And I’m also finding that sometimes when their challenges with that people are like, “Well, let’s not do it. No. No, I’m uncomfortable.” Trigger, trigger, trauma, trauma, trauma, “You’re causing me pain.” Whereas for me, what I am seeing is a call for me to go deeper, to take a deeper dive into what that is to. Look at it from a standpoint of, “Oh, I want to not shame or guilt anyone,” we’re no longer shaming or guilting anyone into having a racial reckoning or having any kind of reckoning. What I would like to do and what I’m saying is happening is by witnessing what that power or loss of power actually feels like. What does it do in your body when you feel that? What does it mean? We all have had that, even not on a racial standpoint.
So taking a witness and really saying, “Yeah, let’s deeply listen.” But I really want to go to the space of witnessing now. And so for me, my work is now witnessing and what I’m seeing in this space is the more that I witness, it strengthens people’s resolve to look a little deeper inside and say, “Oh, it’s not the content you’re sharing, it’s the experience I’m having with my loss of being centered.”
Sundae: That’s interesting. So my cognitive brain is going bananas over here because when I hear that, I’m thinking about all the dynamics around awakening, around Whiteness, right? How do you handle that in your groups?
Salaam: My groups are inclusive right now. I do have separate groups where I do you work with Black women and I do work internationally with global spaces, but right now, the heavy work that I’m doing is with all races, all genders, all nations. And when I see those challenges that come up, of course we have guiding principles and touchstones and all those wonderful things. But truly how I handle that work is I ask people to be responsible for it for themselves. When you actually feel it coming up yourself, I ask you to call that out, call yourself into the circle yourself.
So I ask you to lean into the community. What do you need from the community? Where were you triggered? Where were you bruised? Where was the hurt? Where was the confusion? And then I ask someone in the community; How can we support our sister? How can we support our brother?
It’s communal and community healing going back to what we have always been, going back to that attachment in early childhood, going back and into the spaces of ancient storytelling and ancient healing practices. This is it. What I truly believe.
Sundae: Wow, yeah, that’s huge work. It’s definitely huge work. So much respect for you to create that container and hold that space. That’s massive. It’s really massive. So tell me more about what is it about reclaiming your voice right now and healing, what is the connection? Because I know that’s so centered in your work, you talk about using poetry, using writing. I have been honored to witness you use your voice in poetry and move people. So tell me what it is about that piece that connects, using your voice in healing.
Salaam: Absolutely. I think the first time that I realized I was a poet, once again, goes back to the story of being on this lady’s red couch, after going through a traumatic time in my life and I wrote something and then some other beautiful woman said, “You are a poet.” And I’m thinking, “Who wants to be a poet. What is that? How much fun? Yay.” And I never knew that. And so sitting there as someone is watching me with my words and as I put those words together in that moment, reclaiming the poet that lives inside of me, the voice that I am giving out to the world is the voice of poetry. That’s what people are hearing, and it’s resonating with them. So to me, the work that I do and the whole idea of reclaiming your voice comes from the fact that, of course, no one can help you find your voice. You didn’t lose it. You have your voice, we all have our voices. But it’s the fact of that throughout my life, I was never given the opportunity or felt the permission to use that poet’s voice. I didn’t know that it was an inclusive voice that could possibly heal the world.
Sundae: One of the things I’ve learned is how when you have no words, when there’s no way to take away the pain, people go to prayer, they go to poetry, they go to art. Because nothing else can get close to what they’re experiencing.
Salaam: Exactly. Mmm. It is the space where we are connected the most, art, poetry, our spiritual practices, prayer. There is no divide in those spaces. It is bear is where we break barriers and part of reclaiming a voice, my voice was actually reclaiming my power and having to become power aware, that I am a powerful woman.
Salaam: When I have been told throughout my life that I wasn’t. When I’ve gone through trauma that can make you sometimes feel weak. When I have been in situations where there has been this collective suffering but there’s also been collective joy. And as I tap into the voice of all of those people and all of those places that I’ve been and gone through that’s reclaiming like, “This is mine!” No one else. No one else has this voice. No one else has this poetry. No one else has this narrative. No one else has the ability to support people through their voices and racial healing. That is it. This is who I am. And as I reclaim it, I’m able to now look in the eyes of others and say, “Hmm, come sit on this red couch. There’s some poetry inside of you. There is some coaching inside of you. There’s some consulting. There is a voice inside of you, that is your intuitive voice.” Yes.
Sundae: So Salaam, something I want to ask you, you helped bring out people’s voice, people’s intuitive voice through writing but not everybody is as talented of a poet as you are. And you and I have talked outside of this context about how I feel poetry is so healing when you’re in crisis, or you’re going through hard times. So there’s something that I’ve noticed that you’re doing with other people which is listening to their stories and then creating poetry for them. I think that is such a gorgeous gift and I would love to hear from you, how did you come to that idea? How did this all start?
Salaam: Oh, yes. So I think the whole idea of listening beneath the stories of what people are saying is where I really started. Of course, been expressive writing and doing that for the longest, but during the early part of the pandemic, I found this place called The Good Listening Project and The Good Listening Project has a certified listener poet program. And so I jumped in not knowing at all really what it was. But I noticed that it really was what I had been doing for so long and other people have been doing through storytelling, and I really wanted to see a way to really bring it back into the spaces with people who I have an opportunity every day to listen to. And for me, it was just a natural fit. It’s kind of like the whole idea of Sarah Bono, “Going beneath the voices of what people are saying and really finding out what their initial needs are.”
And so as a result of going through this program for six weeks becoming a certified listening poet, I was able to bring it back into the hospital where I work as an artist and resident and where I was able to work now with probably over 50 doctors and healthcare professionals, really looking at ways that we can reduce burnout, advance resilience, and sit with one another and began to unearth those stories. Not just post-pandemic or pre-pandemic but just stories about where we are as people. So it has been an enlightening, illuminating, sad, happy, joyous but more than anything, I don’t think I would have been able to be this close to the heart of people if there wasn’t the whole idea of using poetry as a tool to kind of get in there. To enhance people’s imagination to really support them and saying, “Your voice matters.”
But not only that but your voice is healing. You can use your voice to heal your life. Tell your story. Here is a poem, it’s your poem. Not me. I heard this. This is really creating your poem when you’re with me. I’m just putting it in a little form and giving it a little rhythm, giving in a little rhyme, but it’s really you, it’s who you are. So it has been and it continues to be a highlight what I do everyday, but also it I think it’s also very healing for people to get the to get a poem but also to be listened to.
Salaam: I’m tearing up just listening to you about this. There’s a lot of reasons why. I think the first one is, I mentioned before, there’s so much our work we do very differently, but I think there is an intention of transformation behind both of our work. That’s it might be similar. And as a coach, what I’ve witnessed in over a decade of doing this is how important it is to just have what I learned from my mentor, Dr. Martha Beck calls A Compassionate Witness, and just listening. And that’s something that I also teach my coaches who don’t have let’s say a coaching qualification but are there more as a facilitator. Like, “Hey, just being present as another human in saying I hear you and I have no agenda,” that is so powerful for people. So that I would just want to acknowledge how meaningful that must be for the people who are working in the medical field because I do have clients that are doctors, and I know they have zero time. They have zero time to process. You’re such a gift for them. The other thing that’s coming up for me, is you’re like a conduit. It’s like the poem passes through you to them.
Sundae: And I just feel like it’s such a beautiful thing that you’re doing because right now, we don’t have more strategies. All of the old ones are used up and they’re not working anymore.
Salaam: They’re not. No, they’re not.
Sundae And we need something different.
Salaam: Thank you. And one of the chaplains that I work with, he’s been a chaplain for 30 years. Before a chaplain, of course, a minister and I asked him, during the pandemic and during the time where chaplains were not able to go into patients’ rooms, he mentioned that they did phone calls. He logged over, I think he said close to maybe close to 18,000 phone calls, his team did with people. But the whole idea of being the head chaplain in the hospital, motivating a team, maneuvering entire team and cross religion, cross spirituality, cross all those barriers but not being able to go and side of the rooms of patients. So I asked him, “What was that like?” And I remember him telling me that he just one day put his hand on the window of a patient’s room. Just put his hand on a window of a patient’s room to just signify or signal, “I am here.”
And as he did that he began to see that there were nurses who began to do the same thing. There were health care technicians that began to do the same thing. And it became almost as if there were just the train of hands on windows at this particular unit. And the people who were behind those rooms were able, when they weren’t able to actually sit alongside someone, they were able to feel and see those hands of the people putting their love, their prayers, their spiritual resilience, all of those things to say, “We are still here, but we also see you are still here.”
Salaam: There’s so many different ways to listen. So I will ask all of us; if we could just have anyone to lay hands on the window that we’re behind, whatever room that we are behind, whose hands would you want on your window? And whose window would you put your hands on? That’s the poem. That’s the poetry. That’s the listening. That’s what we are. I believe right now globally.
Sundae: That’s the kind of strategy, right? And I’m saying that was like air quotes, that we need to do it differently and it’s so simple and so powerful.
Salaam: Yes. It’s beyond. It’s beyond powerful because of course, we know the strategies that we know and like you’re saying, we have the theory, we have the dogma, we have the pragma, we have for the practitioner, thesis. We have all of the pedagogy, we have all of those things. But what I think people are asking us to do now is for hearts to break and so that now hearts can now be reopened to something different and new, to different and new people into different and diverse ways of seeing one another, the diversity of listening and the diversity of how I need to be heard, as well.
Sundae: Totally. That goes back to your healing circles to how you shared with me, how for some people it’s really uncomfortable to have their voice not be centered. And for others, it’s so unique to just be witnessed. To be in community with people in very different, very vulnerable ways. We’re not going to get through this without some pain. Cracking your heart open. Cracking your heart open, it isn’t something, maybe I’m wrong. I don’t think it’s something soft. I think it’s something hot and painful.
Salaam: And it requires someone– a witness. That the hot painful way of opening ourselves that is going to take us into the softness as we go through that tunnel. It is dark. So we might need a witness, we need someone to travel alongside of us, where two or more gathered together, we have a witness. And as listeners, we can decide to witness, we can decide to, “We are gathered here together in witness of one another.” As your heart breaks, your heart is not working alone. As joy began to filter this room. It is not filtering in alone. As we see someone who may have a hard time kind of cracking the door of that resilience or cracking the door of, you know difference. You are not doing it alone. So for me, the listening is more witnessing someone else.
Like, “I hear you. But I hear and see you and I’m with you.” The witness that we have together in this space is really what gives me the opportunity to really bring the emotional barrier, to break the emotional barriers through poetry. To break the dive the different barriers through poetry. To break whatever barriers they make their maybe through a poem, lines of words on a piece of paper that are broken up literally. That set the barriers apart, that have barges on each side, that keep us in a boundary.
That allows me to be able to see you. So I think that’s what I hope I can teach others to do. And really, the vision is absolutely. Yeah.
Sundae: Well, you’ve transformed the way that I see poetry.
And then as I’ve grown and been challenged, the words in their regular structure don’t do it and you seek something else and that is where I found poetry. And I’m so grateful for poets because they do heal in ways that tangible doctors don’t heal, psychologists don’t heal. It’s a totally embodied different way of healing, and I wish and this is my side agenda, I really wish that the arts were better funded because this is a new technology. It’s a very old technology but for new purposes that we need so urgently right now.
Sundae: So I’m gonna put you on the spot, but I’m wondering if you have a poem that you know by heart that you love reciting or something you’ve written that you’d feel comfortable with sharing.
Is there anything that’s coming to mind for you?
Salaam: I think I do have one poem. During the entire pandemic, I have been focused on this whole idea in my healing and I think this was mentioned, the whole idea of the whole person, the whole idea of the whole person. I went through trauma as well during the pandemic where it was kind of trauma of almost losing my life and this kind of thing. And I realized I needed a community that saw the whole me. Not just, “Oh, she needs housing. No, she needs financing. Oh, no, it’s counseling, it’s housing, it’s financing, it’s food, it’s clothes. It’s a hug, it’s a bath, grooming for my dog,” the whole person. Rest, sleep, a part-time job, all those kinds of things. So I have this point that came from me through those experiences, it’s:
I am tending the roots of my pain.
I am uprooting the wounds of my shame.
I am reclaiming the power of my name.
I am set free from every one of my chains.
I am reclaiming the power of my name.
And in so many seasons of my life, I’ve had to reclaim and I’ve had to set free all of my chains.
Salaam: Thank you for listening. But that short little poem has been my solace for this time.
Sundae: Well, and you just sort of casually mentioned that you almost lost your life, as if that’s just a thing.
Salaam: No. It’s not a thing.
Sundae: How do you move forward from that? How do you have that encounter and then find words for that? Only something like poetry can come close to finding something sacred enough to represent it.
Salaam: Absolutely, it’s not a casual thing, like you’re saying that I have experienced, but poetry visits me in all of my trauma. And as it visits me, it reminds me that there’s this continuous process of reclaiming my voice and reckoning with that pain and restoring that joy, and being as honest and vulnerable so that others too can. I truly believe that this global world changing thing that we all hope to do in life comes from the stories of how we have reclaimed ourselves in the most painful things that we’ve gone through.
Sundae: That’s beautiful. That’s like such a guide, I think for this year is; How can we reclaim ourselves, our voices? And sort of like an alchemist transformed the pain that we’ve experienced into something that would be wisdom at best or at minimum, and strength at best. I don’t know the quote but that idea is coming out to me about that wisdom is just the result of pain healed.
Salaam: Hmm. Absolutely. Absolutely.
Sundae: So tell us a little bit about where you are in service of other people right now? And you’re doing this work in community with others, for racial healing. But what about you, what transitions are you feeling right now?
Salaam: Whoo, the biggest transition I am feeling right now, is ease and rest. E A S E. I want everything to be ease, ease, ease in my life. And even the fact that people may judge me because I say I want things to be ease, that’s ease. It’s like, “So what?” So for me, I’m in the transition of sleeping in late on the weekends, and eating as healthy as I can but at the same time, just easily enjoying what that means. Walking every single day with ease, not for some rigorous exercise, but because it’s ease.
Even in the work that I’m doing, that can seem as such a challenge, I take the process as ease. It’s like, “Y’all not gonna do that to me. This is community. I’m not responsible for making everyone happy and healed.” I’m responsible for just holding space for the community and giving some tenancy on how that works. Ease.
And so encouraging people to see that and the wholeness of your life, there is some ease, there is some rest, not just rest, but there’s some real rest, like the soul rest –
Sundae: Not recovery.
Salaam: Yes, not recovery. That’s the word. Yeah, it’s not recovery. It’s soul rest, but your soul, you don’t have anything to recover from, right? It’s not the recovery rest. You don’t rest, so you can get back up and work again. It’s resting so that you’re soaking it up so you can continue to just live inside of your body. So your spirit just continues to thrive with you. It’s because you are rest. Yeah.
Sundae: There are about 99.9% of people listening right now who don’t even know what that would look like to rest, that isn’t just the form of recovery.
Sundae: It’s a mind-boggling concept. So what about you, in my recent work, I’ve been really explicit about transformation and how there’s three kinds, one is an internal transformation, it’s coming from the inside out. Something just no longer suits you and you feel it inside. Otherwise, it might be external, where something from the outside is impacting you. Or it’s simply like performance led, you have a goal that you want to achieve. What sort of transformations are you working through right now?
Salaam: Wow, Transformations that I’m working through right now, I think internally the biggest transformation that I’m working through right now is sitting still. And for me, what that’s like is I’m a recovering perfectionist, high achiever, all of those, beautiful things. Yes. We have that in common.
Sundae: I’m blushing right now, like, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Salaam: “Whatever could you mean?” So I am sitting with the idea of internally, how do I not just sit my body but just sit still. I’m not coming up with something to do next in my life. I’m one of those idea persons who love projects and ideas and all these next things. And it’s like, I’m allowing it to come to me because I am worthy. I have reclaimed my voice. I am valuable. Why wouldn’t it just come to me? Because I’ve worked for it enough. God knows that. And so in turn, that’s my transformation, a year of sitting still. A year of just sitting still. And I’m also happy, I’m getting ready to work on some external things. I want to do some monologues with women, who are talking about what it’s like to heal. What it’s like to be a part of their culture. What it’s like to write. Yeah. I want to do some things on stage. And all those kinds of things and dream about what it would be like to do those things on TV and all those kinds of things. Yeah.
Sundae: That’s fun. I hear the ease. There’s something playful and fun about that. And I’m also hearing that for me when I hear that, as a recovering perfectionist that just allowing ease and stillness is an ambitious transformation because that’s the opposite of the conditioning that you’ve been raised with.
Salaam: Absolutely. I was raised with a single mother who was strong and worked as a teacher and taught us to do the same, taught me and my brothers to do the same thing. And then being part of western society where it’s go, go, go, go, go, never stop, stop, stop. And now coming off of this pandemic, I cannot go back to the way it was before. What is wrong? Stop people stop. You cannot make me do that anymore or it doesn’t work for me anymore. When I say it doesn’t work for me, literally, physically, my energy and my body doesn’t do it anymore.
Doesn’t do the work performance, doesn’t go there. I can’t even walk as fast as I used to, oh my gosh. Even going into the grocery store, I’m like, “Okay, I’m going to take it a little easy here.” So for me, it looks that way, it looks like the way of totally unconditioning myself from something that wasn’t working for me well, at the time. But I know for my mother, she had to do it, right? She had to do that and it was her love language. It was what she needed to do for us. But today, I don’t need to do that for myself. Yeah.
Sundae: it’s good. It’s like you will no longer let your body betray itself anymore.
Salaam: I will witness my body. Talk about listening but witnessing is when I hear my body and my body hears me. And now, we’re in relationship with one another. And now my body is saying, “You heard me because I heard you. So go over there. Go take your dog for a walk and rest.”
Sundae: Yeah, that’s the thing I tell my clients too. I’m like, “I have to be honest with you. Once you start learning that language of your body, you can’t ignore it anymore.” It won’t let you. So you have to sync up with what your body wants. I know that our time has been racing. But before we go, I want to hear more about what you’re working on right now that you would like others to know about.
Salaam: Yeah. So I think two things is I am really working on the, as a listener poet, looking at innovative ways to bring listener poetry and creative ways into wellness and health spaces. I am really working on ways to use this as an equitable strategy for diversity and inclusion and equity, but more than that for justice. I think it gives us justice when we are heard. It gives us justice when we are listened to. It’s justice when we walk away with a poem that is for us to us by us, about us or what have you. So I’m working on listening poetry working on looking at ways to support not just healthcare professionals, but the world. And fostering their voices. It’s like okay, how can I help right now people give birth to the voice of who and where they are today based on whatever has been happening in their personal lives. So I’m doing a whole lot of listener poetry and you can find out more information about that.
I’m working with individuals. I’m working with groups. And I’m also working with organizations, on ways in which we could use listening as a story cultural tool for your organization or your business. And for those persons that your staffing your employees, really transition and transform, not just your communication in the spaces you are, but if you have better stories, allow us to become storytellers. But we are well, as a result of having the better stories you tell in your organization, the more well off your organization is. And I believe this is one way that I can offer that to folks, through listening poetry.
Sundae: That’s amazing. I don’t know anybody else that is doing it like you and just everything you share is like poetry. Truly so talented, so, thank you for sharing your talents with us today. It’s been amazing.
Salaam: Thank you for having me, Sundae. Thank you.
So there you have it. This topic is unfortunately, timeless, as we have seen on the news that the need for racial healing has been present for centuries and continues to pervade today. I am grateful for the work Salaam is doing to support that healing process.
You’ve been listening to IN TRANSIT with Sundae Bean. Thank you for listening. I will leave you with the thoughts of Yoko Ono: “Healing yourself is connected with healing others.”
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