Coming Alive

This was an interview conducted via e-mail between Jardana Peacock and Preeti Kaur. Preeti proposed some questions (in bold below), which Jardana responded to.

Jardana works with creative women making a difference in the world, all over the world. She is based in Tennessee. You can find out more about her work on her website: Preeti works with torture survivors in the UK.

  1. You describe yourself as a “Radical Wellness Coach” while also providing “Yoga for Healing”. What do you mean by a Radical Wellness Coach? And, what is the difference between a Radical Wellness Coach, and a personal development mentor, therapist or life-coach? Great question! I created Radical Wellness Coaching based on the gaps and needs I was seeing, feeling and hearing from activists, organizers, healers and artists in our movements for social justice. Folks are feeling burnout, overwhelmed, isolated and tired. When you are working for social justice you are constantly interacting with secondary trauma and that surfaces our personal traumas that we have buried deep within and haven’t fully processed, explored or healed from. Add this to the stresses of the secondary trauma that we are working inside of in the world but especially for social change makers, then add on major political transformations and identify shifts and it’s no wonder that so many of us have breakdowns. I speak from experience. As a young activist I simply did not have the tools or the language for anti-racism. I was a white, working class woman in the US who was grappling with my sexual identify. I didn’t know where to start and felt intimidated by activist groups that seemed so much smarter and politically more mature than me. So I really struggled and in my early 20s as I was working at a primarily Latino/a youth center in Tucson, AZ, all my suppressed trauma started coming up and completely threw me. I was interacting with youth whose lives were filled with the violence of police brutality, racism and poverty. I was unprepared to be the white ally that I so desperately wanted to be for them because I didn’t yet understand that there was such a thing as white antiracism. I grew up in a colorblind mentality household. After moving back to the Midwest/south, I met Anne Braden, a white antiracist Civil Rights leader in Kentucky and was really taken in and nurtured in her community in Louisville.

I created Radical Wellness Coaching in response to young activists who are grappling with what it means to be an activist and also for veteran activists who have been working a long time on movements for social change but are struggling because of their own trauma and the trauma of their work. There is a collective trauma that is really specific to social change makers.

As for the terminology, Radical Wellness Coach and Yoga for Healing, I think that we need all kinds of people in our lives at different times. I think you try to find the right people to work with on your healing journey and that can take many manifestations (coach, therapist, yogi, healer). I am a holistic healer, a guide that helps to connect your mind, body and heart and that is what my coaching and yoga is all about—the journey into yourself to repair and gather the tools you most need to live more fully so that you can be a part of greater liberation in the world.

2) You work a lot with activists, artists, educators, and social change makers. Is there a particular reason for this? I believe that social movements are vital for us to create the larger systemic changes we need so that we can have healthy communities; institutions, families, and lives based in liberation, feminist, anti-racist values.  Then why it’s so important that activists are engaged in a journey of healing, so that we can both be happy in our lives and also more effective bringing about visionary change. In order for our social justice movements to be well, the activists, organizers, educators, artists and leaders must also be well. Also, I feel very called to work with people who have and are struggling with some of the same things I have and do struggle with in my own life. Primarily I work with women identified persons who have undergone trauma, are working through major transitions in their lives, and want to feel more connected to their mind, body and spirit through wellness practices. I have been practicing yoga for 14 years and more seriously for 9. I have a meditation practice; I am a creative and have used art, writing and other wellness practices in my own healing journey. I incorporate my practices and experiences into my coaching. Healing is what I am called to do for my community and with people like me or who struggle with what I have struggled with in my own life.

3) What role does yoga play in healing? Yoga is healing. It’s one of the oldest wellness systems in existence so it makes sense that we would continue to use it in that way. Unfortunately I think “yoga” is often culturally appropriated to the extent that it no longer is healing. For example, yoga isn’t healing if no one in your yoga class looks like you, if everyone is wearing clothing you cannot afford, if the instructor uses language that does not include you. That’s the opposite of healing. I try to thread the 8 limbs of yoga into how I coach and how I teach. I am really vocal about who I am, a white able-bodied woman. For me, yoga has been an incredible gift on my own healing journey. However, it has been a long journey and it still continues. I think that it is very helpful to have a guide in your yoga practice, a teacher, and a spiritual healer. I feel very blessed to have so many teachers in my own life and on my yogic journey.

4) What does “abundance” mean to you? It’s feeling really full in your life. I think about it as a feeling and less as what you have accumulated or not. A fullness in being, acting and working in the world. Our individual feelings of abundance are also wrapped up in other people’s access. It’s about the human rights of all people being fulfilled and resourced. Part of feeling abundant is working towards the abundance of all, a world where people’s economic, political, cultural, and social needs and rights are valued and met. Abundance is also about living in balance with the limits of the natural world, which helps us deepen our connection to the divine and sacred in this world.

5) Terms like “self-confidence”, self-compassion/love”, and “self-care” have increasingly become part of popular vocabulary. What do they mean to you? I think they are all important! However, I think they are really connected to people outside of ourselves. We need each other.   I am a mama of a 3-year old and that has been such a journey of pain and love for me. I had a really hard childhood. I was neglected and abused. My father was an alcoholic who almost killed me several times and enacted a lot of violence in our family. My mother was traumatized but didn’t have the support or tools she needed. We really need support in our lives if we are to be well.

When my son was born I found myself emotionally shut down. I don’t think I could have ever really known the depth of the pain I carried from my own childhood with me into my parenting, without having the support of a wellness and spiritual practice that guided me towards that realization. Through practice, I started to open myself up instead of remaining protected and closed with my son.

See, our histories show up no matter how long ago they occurred. We live in a capitalistic society where we are taught to present in a “very together” kind of way. Take care of yourself, love yourself, be confidant we are told and yet there is little that shows us how to do those things. We need communities of support; we need connection to ourselves that I believe happens with mindful wellness and spiritual practices. We need something beyond a direction, “take care.” Because then if we don’t know how to “take care” we feel pretty down on ourselves for not being able to. Communities of support are people, places and practices that cultivate love and nourishment in our lives.

6) You’re currently leading a virtual course called Overcoming Overwhelm. What are you hoping to achieve from this? This is a really exciting time for me in my own development as a healer. I am trying to reach a much broader base and one way to do that is to connect virtually with folks. Most all of my Radical Wellness Coaching clients are conducted through Skype sessions. Overcoming Overwhelm is a way to offer the work I do individually with my clients in a community setting. It’s about building a community of support, especially during our 4 weeks together. Many women I work with don’t have that and I know how vital it is to have people who are supporting you on your healing journey, more than just me! This was also a way for me to connect some of my courageous clients with each other so they can really benefit from each other’s stories, realizations and insights. 12 women are signed up from all over the world, although mostly from the US. It’s a very intergenerational, multiracial and compassionate group and I know it’s going to be so powerful. I can’t wait to run this again in the spring of next year.

I’m also working on a DIY mind, body, heart guidebook that will be coming out in October called Healing Habits. It’s all about creating new healing ways of being and also understanding and replacing habits that don’t serve us.

7) Tolstoy wrote, ““Can one be well while suffering morally? Can one be calm in times like these if one has any feeling?” You recently wrote that overcoming overwhelm can be difficult “especially in light of the injustice happening in Ferguson, the violence in Palestine and Iraq, I felt overwhelmed, angry and deeply sad.” (Jardana Peacock, August 27, 2014, Blog). What tips can you offer to people feeling overwhelmed by pain and suffering in society? Know that you are justified in these feelings. Patanjali writes in the Yoga Sutras that we must practice nonviolence internally because if we don’t it shows up externally. Gloria E. Anzaldúa, a feminist write and scholar wrote, “I change myself, I change the world.” I don’t believe in isolated actions but in the interconnection of life. We must explore our own pain in the processes of working to change the pain of the world, in fact that is part of changing injustice. The violence of injustice is painful and we must also find ways to take action to change that violence, whether that is through writing, participating in demonstrations, creating art for social change, education, organizing or healing—so many actions are needed to eradicate these injustices.

8) In addition to feeling the weight of pain in the world, I often feel overwhelmed thinking that I’ve not been able to get the balance right between taking care of myself, giving enough to my work/my purpose/organizing for a free society, to my partner, to my family, and to the world. What do you think are the keys to maintaining balance? Practice! There will be times when life is unbalanced. These are opportunities to react a little differently, try something else out. If we keep reacting the same ways to overwhelm and stress then the same results will keep occurring. Wellness and spiritual practices help shift our reaction and our choices. When we have a daily practice that is about ritual, connecting to our inner light, cherishing our divinity then we are able to move through the world with a little more compassion and peace. Over time, we are hopefully able to become kinder and more loving through these practices. Do what you love more. Stop and breathe. Look people that you love in the eye and tell them you love them. One of my spiritual teachers, Shri K. Pattabhi Jois said: “Practice, practice, practice and all is coming.”

9) In a world with so much suffering, it can often be difficult to know whether actions we’re taking for a new, more free society, are working. What do you think are the keys to avoiding burnout, creating the seeds of a society we want in the future now, and maintaining self-confidence? Creating communities of support in how we do the work and in how we are living our lives. We must resist the temptations and dominant messages that tell us to figure it out on our own. We need each other. Healing is not something that happens in isolation. There is such a thing as self-healing, however it is still an active and interactive journey; it takes bold action to create collective liberation. We must live the way we want the world to be, in our relationships to others and with ourselves, in our practices, and in our day-to-day. There is not a fix all cure or a magical pill. It is a process and we must be the process ourselves towards creating the world we want. As for avoiding burnout, that’s another interview! For here though I will say we have everything we need inside. We know every answer to every question that we ask. It’s about getting quiet enough to receive guidance. As for maintaining self-confidence I believe in the power of prayer and mantra. Create mantras and affirmations that tell you how strong you are, how amazingly skilled that you just did that thing, loved that person, felt that emotion then the self-confidence will come with practice.

10) If there’s one tip you could give readers for bringing more wellness to themselves today, what would it be? Black radical theologian Howard Thurman said: “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Now, take out a piece of paper. Answer this question: What is your greatest super power? Now start leading in the world from there. If nothing comes to you, open yourself up to a receiving a guide or teacher to become a mirror for you.

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