Thursday, September 5, 2013

Change-Making (Get Your Education On)

Mindfulness-Based Practice: A Workshop in Presence for Social Workers, 
Healers and Change-Makers
9am-4pm, Saturday, October, 5th, 2013
Social Work CEUs provided.

"We don't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts."
-Pema Chodron

As social workers and healers, we use ourselves--our personality, voice, perspective, view point, energetic presence, practice wisdom, sense of humor, sense of compassion, capacity as witness, dedication to justice, and commitment to our craft--as tools of transformation. As co-creators of wellness, we are asked to witness the vast range of human experience, from the depth of pain, grief and despair to the elation of joy, possibility and the bright spark of human resiliency. To our clients, we ask that they bring their best selves, trust, vulnerability and willingness to be present to their range of deep emotions. Of ourselves, we must continue to ask the same, building skill and capacity for this continual work of presence and mindfulness-based healing.

This workshop is an exploration of the use of--and deepening skill with--presence in practice. Together, we will offer a supportive, experiential learning environment for deep, reflective practice growth, exploring the intricacies of meditation and mindfulness, compassionate presence, self reflection, intentional impact, radical acceptance, grounding and centering, re-centering under stress, tending secondary trauma and use of presence as a tool of intentionality and justice. With awareness of the cumulative toll of vicarious trauma and the energy demand of deep witnessing, we will gain skill with many accessible and achievable tools for supporting our own self care, as well as our ability to remain present and engaged in the vital work of liberatory wellness.  Social Work CEUs provided; the content is relevant for folks from interdisciplinary healing practices.  

To register for the workshop, please visit http://joyfulawakeningpractice.com/upcoming-events/, complete the online registration form, and pay your workshop fee by following the posted link to our PayPal site.

Cost: $130, some limited scholarship available
Location: Conexiones, 3500 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Suite 200
Contact: heather.joyfulawakening@gmail.com

Heather Horizon Greene is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker living in the beautiful city of Portland. She received her Masters degree in Social Work from the University of Kansas and has worked in the areas of anti-poverty law, medical social work, clinical mental health, child welfare activism and human service education. A student and practitioner of earth centered wisdom and anti-oppression work, she is passionate about personal and community resiliency, being a gentle steward of the earth, and weaving justice throughout her life's work. A teacher of bridge building, culture shifting and identity claiming, she spins threads of healing through the tools of liberatory wellness, connection, intentionality and transformation.

Sheila Walker is a catalyst, counselor, and fellow journeywoman specializing in supporting people in loving themselves fully and in living a joyful life.  She is a Licensed Master Social Worker and received her degrees in Social Welfare from the University of Kansas; a program known for the Strengths Perspective, celebrating that everyone has resources and strengths no matter how bleak their past or present circumstances, obstacles, or oppressions. She has spent the last decade studying about trauma and anxiety, justice centered social work, and change theory. She has practiced in child welfare, education, alternative health care, and research settings.  She is full of hope, energy, and tools to support you in your joyful awakening to wholeness and wellness.

Heather and Sheila co-anchor a small wellness practice,  www.joyfulawakeningpractice.com, where they offer resiliency coaching, wellness-centered therapy, practice mentorship, and program consultation.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Same Love: Hip Hop meets Truth

I love when our community celebrates Truth! Thank you Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.



Group Supervision for Justice Centered LCSW Candidates Forming

Hi all, I am recruiting several folks for a newly forming, monthly clinical supervision group for LCSW candidates. I'm looking for practitioners who are interested in anti-oppressive, justice-centered, intentional SW practice. We'll meet once a month on a Monday, during the business day, in the Beaverton area. Cost is $25/session. 
You can learn more about my practice and supervision framework by visiting my websites: http://www.justicecenteredsocialwork.com/ and http://joyfulawakeningpractice.com/.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Trauma Resiliency: Weaving Body-Based Healing into Justice Practices

Heather Horizon Greene
Portland, OR
Justice Centered Social Work 
heather.joyfulawakening@gmail.com 
www.joyfulawakeningpractice.com


As  our collective understanding of trauma deepens, we have come to understand that unresolved trauma lives in the body, frequently surfacing as anxiety, fear, heightened sensitivity, emotional overwhelm, body pain, panic attacks, flashbacks, nightmares, periods of dissociation. When our ability to process trauma is interrupted, we interrupt the natural and miraculous healing our bodies and emotional systems are capable of. What is also remarkable is that this resilient capacity for healing is something we can always return to, no matter when our experience of trauma may have occurred, how debilitating the traumatic recurrences may be, or whether the traumas may be  personal, community or historical in nature.  

One of the core frameworks of my clinical practice is that each of our emotions–no matter how challenging–speaks to our lived human experience. This is how, as a justice centered clinician, I understand and translate diverse mental health experiences.  This framework is one of the many ways I breathe a recovery model into my work, supporting folks in learning to view their emotions, symptoms and reactions as signposts on their wellness path, humanizing the range of our human emotional experience.  This is a clear counter to the mainstream medical model narrative that so often blames and pathologizes folks for their lived experience (poverty, homelessness, trauma responses, behaviors perceived as challenging, addiction and dependence, traditional mental health symptoms and on and on). This counter-to-the-system is radical social work at its core. 

Though I have witnessed firsthand the important work of many capable integrative wellness practitioners working inside the system, the mainstream mental health system maintains a strong, single-minded narrative—a deeply entrenched belief about the limitations of recovery. It sounds something like, “Take your medication as prescribed. Keep your therapy appointments with your pre-determined therapist as prescribed. You can expect these symptoms to continue.” This narrative is not only limiting, it is harmful, and in no way does it speak to our immense capacity for resilience, strength, empowerment, remarkableness or capability.  In truth, there are as many unique ways to access healing as there are dreamers to dream them into being. 

The (ecofeminist) part of me that recognizes the interconnection of all oppressions, also knows intuitively that all justices are interconnected. Where oppression creates disconnection (or perhaps where disconnection reinforces oppression), justice creates connection. Or, stated differently, one way of practicing justice is simply to connect. Connection is both the legacy and the frontier of justice.

This truth can be felt and experienced on many levels. Most fundamentally, however, this is true on a body level. Much of the work of learning to heal trauma—what I call trauma resiliency—is the the work of learning to sit with all parts of ourselves, to experience ourselves with a compassionate radical acceptance so that we might get to and beyond  that still-space below the echoing hurt.  There are as many unique ways to access healing as there are dreamers to dream them into being. Our bodies hold so much deep wisdom and insight, how dare we not listen to them. In fact, I dare us to listen! Our bodies have such important things to say!

Movement is a bridge between the body and mind. Intentional movement is a bridge between the will and possibility. The vital work of decolonizing yoga is so intimately tied to the decolonizing of our stories, bodies, earth, social and ecological environments, and of our immense capacity for healing.  This is in the realm of our achievable possibility. We are the dreamers, dreaming these possibilities into being.  

Unresolved trauma lives in the body, and this too is where we heal it. Yoga and body-positive (or body celebrating!) intentional movement supports our life’s work of learning to listen to, and sit with, all parts of ourselves in all states of being. Yoga and movement practices can and should be trauma-informed, consent-based (please get consent before touching or partnering) and, as much as possible, mindful and accepting of folks’ range of triggers and emotional experiences.  And, too, movement and body-based healing has much to teach us about our capacity for growth, learning and possibility. This too is the work of decolonization, just as it is the outcome of healing and the sense of aliveness that is the reward for embodying justice and connection through our use of body, possibility, resiliency and self.
 

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Bridge Between Justice and Connection



Heather Horizon Greene
Portland, OR
Justice Centered Social Work

Happy Social Work Month, Change Makers!

Social workers often have amazing superpowers; we tend to be exceptional listeners, problem solvers and bridge builders—these are the core skills that make us great at our jobs.  One of my supervision clients recently joked that she has a black belt in case management—and she totally does! Why is it, then, with our fabulous skill sets that we often struggle to heed our own advice?  One answer, among many, is that it is simply lifework to learn to listen to our body/mind/spirit and to offer ourselves what we need.  Another answer is that it takes a different set of listening skills to drop into ourselves, recognize and name our own needs, and respond to them with kindness and intention.

These are lessons I've been returning too over and over again lately.  And even though I know this is lifework, I still vacillate between feeling frustrated with my body's (totally appropriate) response to stress and vicarious trauma, and recommitting to my personal practice and self-care process. After several years of regular acupuncture and counseling support around stress management, I noticed a pattern I have of self-blame toward my stress response.  This information surprised me. If you asked me on any given day in any given moment, I would confidently tell you that stress and trauma are natural responses to triggering experiences, that they are mindfulness bells about our needs, and that our job is to learn to hear and respond to them.  After years of sharing this wisdom with others, I find myself now learning to take my own advice, just as I am learning to hear myself with that deeper level of internal attention.  With my senses now opening, I find myself extending this introspection to my clinical practice, and particularly to my relationship with diagnosing the human experience. 

One of the core frameworks of my clinical practice is that each of our emotions–no matter how challenging–speaks to our lived human experience. This is how, as a justice centered clinician, I understand and translate mental health symptoms.  This framework is one of the many ways I breathe a recovery model into my work, supporting folks in learning to view their emotions, symptoms and reactions as signposts on their wellness path, humanizing the range of our human emotional experience.  This is a clear counter to the mainstream medical model narrative that so often blames and pathologizes folks for their lived experience (poverty, homelessness, trauma response, challenging behaviors, addiction and dependence, traditional mental health symptoms). This is radical social work. 

This deepening awareness inspires me to return to my core practice values. Social workers respect and acknowledge the inherent dignity and worth of each person. Is this our true practice? Do we remember this commitment in those moments when we work with our most challenging clients? Is this our practice when we silently diagnose someone in the first 5 minutes of our assessment as having “personality traits that interfere with the treatment relationship”? Is this our practice when we work to support folks in their addiction whose commitment to recovery we have heard 25 times, each time before relapsing yet again? And, perhaps more intimately, can we sit with this awareness of our own human imperfections, edges, shadows and judgments—not out of shame, but out of compassion for our own learning process, for our own tender hearts and good intention? Can we learn from our mistakes—from the spaces between our practice and our intention—and recommit to our own core values? And even more intimately, can we remove the artificial “us versus them” mentality that labels folks with mental health diagnoses as different from us?    Each of our emotions–no matter how challenging–speaks to our common, lived human experience. 

The (ecofeminist) part of me that recognizes the interconnection of all oppressions, also knows intuitively that all justices are interconnected. Where oppression creates disconnection (or perhaps where disconnection reinforces oppression), justice creates connection. Or, stated differently, one way of practicing justice is simply to connect. When we label (and perceive) someone as “Other,” we distinguish that person as different from Us. Us, in this case, works
to define that which is normative, which presumes how something ought to be. Labeling someone as Other is disconnective, and disconnection reinforces oppression. If, rather than blaming and distancing, we choose to acknowledge our common human vulnerabilities—in healthful-boundaried ways—we  work, instead, to connect, to bridge and to heal. In this way, we can transform our healing relationships with folks from one of distance to one of connection, utilizing connection as a tool of justice. And this is yet another way (of many countless ways) we can breathe a recovery and wellness framework into our lives and practice. 

“Our life is composed greatly from dreams, from the unconscious, and they must be brought into connection with action. They must be woven together.”  - Anais Nin

On Sharing the Work of De-colonization: Some words for Idle No More Allies

Jenika Watson
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

My name is Jenika Watson. I was born and raised in Kainai Territory (South-western Alberta, Canada). I am indigenous to a land over the ocean that I have never seen. I love this land we call Alberta, it is my home and it is my honour to stand up for this land and water and the rights of Indigenous people. I am so thankful for the great love and excellent guidance of the grassroots women leaders of the Idle No More movement. In many ways, I have been waiting and preparing for this all my life. Today I want to share a little but about sharing the responsibility for de-colonization, and about solidarity and becoming an ally.

I don't know a lot, but as I understand Idle No More, it’s not just about Bill C-45 and the devastating changes to environmental laws, nor is it about Chief Spence and her great sacrifice to gain the attention of policy makers. It’s the knowledge and understanding that 500 years of colonization, genocide, assimilation, abuse of children, and now a new kind of colonialism through oil industry can really have a negative effect on people. How much more can we tolerate? And how can humans with a beating heart think its ok to see third world conditions for our neighbors in such a rich land? It seems to me that if we are not actively tearing down the systems of oppression – then we are complicit in holding it up.  If we do not commit to the hard work of actively listening to each other, of modeling ways of being in community and rebuilding our country in a way that honours all life… if we are not willing to speak up when lies are told and people are suffering – then we are consenting to continued colonization of this land and people. I am a part of this movement because I want to help build a society where all people are safe, have a home and community and sustainable livelihood.

We are all bound by the treaties. I didn’t sign them with my own hand, but we have all inherited treaties as we were born on this land or chose to make Canada our home. Many Canadians think that Treaties are just for the First Nations, but they not. Our ancestors made treaties for all of us born here or who come to make a home here. They are living agreements for the benefit of our relationships and they give us a map in how to treat each other and the land. All governments, federal, provincial and municipal have defaulted on this contract. I am a part of this movement because I want my government to honour the historical relationship which allows for us to live in peace as equal and different.
 
In joining with the Idle No More movement we have a real chance to challenge the legitimacy of the colonial government because Indigenous people and women are the traditional keepers of the land.  Many settlers (non-aboriginal Canadians) are wondering how to support Idle No More. Many non-natives want to be mindful of culture, of past hurts, and we don’t always know the right way to behave. But please, do not let your fears stop you! There are barriers that separate our thinking into “Us and Them”, but there ways to tear down barriers and build bridges. 

‘Solidarity’ and ‘allies’ are words that I have been considering a lot, especially since Dec 10th when I attended the first Idle No More rally. To me, solidarity means that while I may not share a common experience, I recognize that our humanity is tied up together. For me to live a good life, you must also have access to a good life. Solidarity means that I commit to hearing you and to working toward equity and fairness. Australian Aboriginal leader Lila Watson said at the 1985 UN Women’s Conference, “If you have come here to help me you are wasting your time. But if you come because your liberation is bound up with mine – let us work together.” I am part of this movement because I do believe that our liberation is bound together, and I believe in the important work we can do together. 

As non-natives, if we stand in solidarity with indigenous struggles and work towards our shared liberation, we might call ourselves Allies. An ally takes responsibility for educating themselves and begins the work of decolonizing their own mind, recognizing their own privileges and oppressions. It is not the responsibility of Indigenous people to educate settlers. (Although I deeply appreciate when an indigenous person takes the time to share protocol or a story with me, I don’t expect that I am so special as to take up a lot of their time.) In the time of information at our fingertips – ignorance is a choice. There are many who choose ignorance. Don’t waste your time trying to educate those who aren’t ready to listen. Read, listen and discover for yourself what the legacy of colonialism means to you. Speak only for yourself. Don’t waste your time feeling shame for what you did not do, but use your energy to reach out, be of service and build relationships. You will probably make some mistakes – apologize and keep going.  Stand on the front lines, not just in silent support. An ally is always learning.  An ally is committed for the long haul.

Honoring Indigenous, women leadership is so important as we attempt to shift away from power-crazed, money-centered colonial governments. We know that the problems we are facing now will not be solved by the same minds that created them. Even as we hold up indigenous leadership we know that this is not only an Indigenous issue, or an environmental issue or a women’s issue – Idle No More is all these things and more! Look around you…. See the people standing around you. May we see each other as whole, complex and beautiful!  So let us work together for the children, the land and animals, the water and the air. Let us work for the future, but let us also work for now. For the person next to you whose eyes you can look into. As all our feet touch Mother Earth, we really are in this together!  Let us walk and dance and work together in courage, beauty and fierce love. 

Thank you for hearing me.

Coffee in Limbo




Serenity Madrone
Woodburn, OR

I created this piece for Portland's 2010 AmeriCorps VISTA Symposium. My inspiration was the program of winter warming shelters which I helped coordinate at the time.

Despite volunteers' true intent to create a sense of warmth and welcome, many shelter guests still struggle to adapt to being indoors. I watched one gentleman sit in a quiet corner of the shelter's t.v. room with a cup of coffee warming his hands. His eyes gazed, off in the distance, deep in thought. The bustle of volunteers and exhausted guests surrounding him, he seemed stuck in limbo. As others around him rushed to prepare for bed, he seemed to focus on just that one breath, that one sip of coffee, as if that act took all his strength.