Tell me about yourself!
Yeah, absolutely. My background is in Shiatsu therapy and Eastern medicine. I have been a Shiatsu therapist, wellness practitioner, and mindfulness practitioner for almost 20 years. Within those 20 years, integrated a lot of trauma-informed pieces of training and community work. I’ve also been a community worker, youth justice worker, community justice worker for about the same length of time. That’s where a lot of my work is anchored when it comes into Building Up. It’s working with individuals in moments of change and transition, because everyone here is in a transition, going into this program and changing something in their life.
It also mirrors the work I do with the FYOU to Forgiveness project. There, we work with men who have been in custody. As an organization, we use mostly music and hip hop, but I add mindfulness and body-based trauma-informed pieces. Again, we’re supporting the individuals who are in those moments of transition, whether that’s transitioning out of jail, into jail, or transitioning to a different jail.
I also run my own business, which is called Circlepoint Wellness. That’s focused on emotional resiliency, personal resiliency work, and collective resiliency work. Lastly, I work with Rebecca Prize from iriseyoga. We’ve formed The Well Collective together, which is aimed at decolonizing the wellness narrative. We do a lot of things centered around shifting the narratives and shifting the conversations around what wellness is, who is represented wellness, who informs wellness and how we change those spaces. That’s everything, in a nutshell.
So you clearly have a big presence in the mindfulness and mental wellness space. What inspired you to pursue this, and how does it work?
Well, I started in the physical space as a bodyworker. Eastern medicine and Shiatsu therapy are based on Chinese medicine which is not disconnected from the mind and emotions as some other Western physical therapies are. It understands that emotions affect the body and that the mind is connected to it. The entire system of Chinese medicine understands that! As I was working with clients, I saw that come to life and saw that we are more than just our physical bodies and symptoms. We have to take in and look at these emotional processes, thought processes, and mental processes. Over the years of working with individuals, both in the community and in private practice, I started to see that many of the imbalances that we carry in our lives come from these areas. By the time they come to our bodies, they’ve already gone through all these other levels. I feel like looking at that emotional and mental connection is important because so much is born there, that then affects the rest of our body.
Are these the methods you use at Building Up?
Yes, we talk a lot about our emotions and emotional resiliency. We talk about trauma, and specific emotions like anger, and how that relates to behaviors and conflict. Rather than looking at how to change behaviors, we look at how we have greater self-awareness around our internal self, our emotions, our internal narratives, and our internal language. We also look at life experiences and how they’ve shaped where we are and behaviors, because they all affect our health and wellness. Because if we want to change our behaviors, we can’t just change a behavior. We have to go back and look at the foundation and where it came from. At the health and wellness workshops at Building Up, we look at the whole piece while keeping in mind other external pieces of health and wellness like physical health, financial health, or social relations.
I was wondering what advice you can give to people who are looking for help managing their mental health with the world as it is.
Take a moment to step back and check-in yourself. What are you feeling? Honor those feelings, and then ask yourself, what do you need? Asking yourself that question will allow you to put the power back into your own hands. Check-in with yourself consistently, more often than before you might have because we are living in times that are quickly changing. Be aware that our reaction to life is not the same as it was pre-COVID and be gentle with yourself and give yourself space and kindness. And remember that you are not alone. If you feel like you are, then reach out to people and talk about your feelings, because most likely other people are feeling and needing the same things.
I was wondering if there was any advice you had for potential trainees or people who are considering entering the program?
That’s a good question. You need to know what is the greatest benefit that you could get from this change in your life? What is the greatest benefit that you could pull out of the program? If you can connect to that, it will be worth it. It will be what helps you get through it when it’s hard and you don’t want to continue. If we can tap into that from the start, it will make the journey a lot easier when there are times when you want to stop. Ask yourself, why does this discipline matter to you? How does being in Building Up fit into your greater why? How does Building Up fit into how you want to live your life, and the quality of life you want to create for yourself? Keep remembering your why, and even write it down, so that anytime you have a hard time, you can see it and be reminded of it.