Dearest friends,

From the end of March until now I have been immersed in a profound and stormy re-engagement with life. I don’t remember the last time I had so much to learn in such a short time. It has felt profoundly humbling in every possible way. I have seen through my work that the COVID pandemic and the murder of George Floyd and its sequelae have pushed us all to our limit and squeezed us each in unique ways. Some of us are in a state of grief over current and past losses, for others there is health and safety-related fears or concern for the health and safety of loved ones. Some people are facing isolation, for others, prolonged togetherness. Many are facing economic strain and uncertainty. As a result, I have seen in myself and many people I work with that old coping and survival strategies are resurfacing with unexpected force. We can but allow this process and breathe through the great tremors of it all as we do our best to stay grounded in wisdom, grounded in our bodies, and grounded in care for ourselves and each other.

One of several major challenges I have faced is that I have had to work very actively and collaboratively with my physician colleagues in order to lobby the government to stop cuts to OHIP coverage for the group mental health work I do. As frustrating as this has been, I have been blown away by the extraordinary brilliance, compassion, and tenacity of my colleagues as well as my patients who have shown tremendous support.

Another big task has been learning, while on the job, how to run groups on two videoconferencing platforms simultaneously. It has meant making some funny and not so funny mistakes and having to apologize repeatedly. As with learning anything new, it was uncomfortable and awkward at first. And as with learning anything new, awkwardness is now being replaced with ease. I’m still tickled with amusement and delight at the beginning of every group as lovely people start popping up on my screen from all across the city (and sometimes beyond).

Thankfully, Heart Space is now on more solid ground with running online groups and I’m excited by the possibility of offering services to people in other parts of the province and world. I have been surprised and impressed with how much we can build a feeling of connection within a group even while online.

The murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement have pushed me to listen deeply, reflect, and reflect some more. It has felt like a necessary shove out of complacency and feelings of relative comfort and privilege that I had been enjoying for some time and a push that I am extremely grateful for. It has taken me back into exploration of the uncomfortable territory of finding the margins of who I think I am and then going beyond. I am humbled by the generosity of those who have been sharing their stories of racism and pain to help us learn and grow. It has brought me back to the depths of pain I once knew (during my sojourns in conflict zones both here on Turtle Island and around the world) and had disconnected from. As I listen, my heart aches. And anger wells into firm action. And so now I add my voice in the ways that I can in support of change. For those who have not been doing this kind of inner reflection, I strongly encourage you to do so. There is such rich and fertile ground for healing and growth both for us individually and as a society. I have found the following resources extremely helpful:

An amazing podcast interviewing trauma therapist Resmaa Menakam about the impact of racism on black and white people and how the impact of racism is stored in each and every one of our bodies: https://podcasts.apple.com/ca/podcast/on-being-with-krista-tippett/id150892556?i=1000476829447

A poem which offers white folks a chance to reflect on what defensive patterns may be activated by anti-racism work. https://decolonialfutures.net/portfolio/why-i-cant-hold-space-for-you-anymore/?fbclid=IwAR2TXmpOU7hJwRbncvCkM2YeRTR8OTnYoonYIgxb36rDrKaMvMW0qUULeCs

An interview with the author of the book “White Fragility”, ….. In it she shares about her own journey as a white woman in coming to terms with her own unconscious racial bias and how she came to write the book “White Fragility”. http://www.pbs.org/wnet/amanpour-and-company/video/robin-diangelo-on-white-fragility/

The life challenges of late have been a great blessing reflecting the need to let go of what is false – a sense of security, and the self-perception of being someone who knows something and is on the right side of justice among other things. Gratitude arises for the opportunity to be a beginner again, to learn, to feel uncomfortable, to look in, to let go, to speak up, to grow stronger, to find joy in small things, to see beautiful faces on my computer screen, to sing, to eat chocolate, to feel life moving faster than I could have ever imagine, and to just be. After all the storms, life has gifted many pieces of metaphoric gold and this gorgeous rainbow.

Wishing you all a continued letting go of who you think you are and a deepening into your own beautiful presence.

Peace and love

Shira

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