When Self Care Meets Collective Care, Our 2021 Member Retreat

On July 17 and 18, 2021, we held our member retreat, Me to We: When Self Care Meets Collective Care with Sonya Renee Taylor, Prentis Hemphill, Aryeh Shell, and Amber Field. Visionaries, whose life work is healing the world through individual healing and collective anti-oppression work.

Day 1

Build Resilience and Radical Love

“Radical self-love reminds us that we are the world. We are the system that we are discussing. As you dismantle that system inside of yourself, you destabilize the hierarchy.” – Sonya Renee Taylor

Aryeh Shell began the retreat by teaching us how to respond to the compounding pressures of the world in a healthy, loving way. We have the power to shift away from negativity bias and hardwire our neural pathways to respond to trauma in a more resourced way through centering, embodied presence, and a strong connection with one’s emotions and senses. By actively practicing this mind-body connection, we can strengthen our resilience and take care of ourselves in a fuller, more holistic way, especially under pressure. 

Sonya Renee Taylor led us through a transformative workshop and shared tools to help us love ourselves more fully, recognize our worth, and exist without living in shame of our bodies. When we stop believing that some types of bodies are more worthy than others, we free ourselves from oppressive cultural messages reinforced by society, politics, and even our families.

Through Sonya’s radical self-love framework, we learned that:

  • How we, as individuals, experience and view our bodies has a direct impact on how other people get to live in theirs. When we learn to love ourselves radically, we also create the conditions for other people to love themselves fully.
  • Being in community is necessary for radical self-love. We must foster communities where we can collectively interrupt messages about whose bodies are worthy of opportunity and value.
  • Radical self-love is an ongoing process. As Sonya kindly reminds us, “I practice loving the imperfect me until I love all of me again.”

Resilience and Radical Love Resources:

  • Through intentional practice, we stay in relationship with ourselves, each other, and the world. Try on one of these somatic practices: RAIN Practice, Taking in the Good, Centering Practice.
  • Grounded in neuroscience, Hardwiring Happiness will teach you how to combat negativity bias and uplift positive moments in your life, ultimately changing your brain for the better.
  • Understand the racial origins of fatphobia and how anti-fatness is rooted in anti-Blackness by reading Sabrina String’s Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia.
  • Explore radical self-love is and how to embody it within ourselves with Sonya Renee Taylor’s New York Times Bestseller The Body is Not An Apology and accompanying workbook Your Body Is Not An Apology

Day 2

Our Liberation is Bound to Each Other

“There are some griefs that must be felt socially.” – Prentis Hemphill 

While critically important, self-care is just one piece in the journey to healing and living more full and compassionate lives. Our relationships shape who we are on such fundamental levels, and in order to be in a right relationship with ourselves, we must also extend care and concern to our communities and the world.

Prentis Hemphill spoke on healing from our collective trauma as the root of collective care. Trauma does not stay contained inside one body; it cascades from one person to the next and is felt over generations. How we interrupt these cycles of generational trauma is through our capacity for collective care, in spaces where our basic human needs of safety, belonging, and dignity are being met.

In practice, shifting from individual to collective care looks like:

  • Interpersonal generosity. Through the practice of giving, not only do we heal other people, we heal a scarcity that lives within us. 
  • Creating spaces for collective healing and expression. Rarely in our society do we have access to spaces where we can be in authentic expression with one another and truly allow ourselves to feel pain, grief, and an array of other emotions. 
  • Shifting resources to communities that have fewer. Pouring care and abundance into places where trauma has been inflicted is how we interrupt cycles of oppression. 

To close out the retreat, vocal coach Amber Field led us through a playful, meditative workshop where we connected with our bodies and voices. Amber’s workshop reminded us of the power of song and movement in channeling healing, loving energy through ourselves and to others. Watch the video above for an extended version of Amber’s meditation workshop.

Collective Care Resources:

  • adrienne maree brown shares her reflections on the role of community in holding safety, belonging, and dignity.
  • Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice has an array of resources on how individuals and philanthropy can build power and resilience for movements and organizers.
  • What we practice, we become; the more that we practice, the better we become. If you want to further explore the power of practice and embodied somatics, our incredible retreat facilitator Aryeh Shell provides life and resilience coaching.
  • Prentis Hemphill’s podcast, “Finding Our Way” is an exploration of ourselves and the skills needed to embody the world we want.
  • Amber Field offers a range of services — including voicework training, expressive arts therapy, musical instruments lessons, and sound healing — to help individuals and groups free their voices and their lives.

Reflections from Participants

“The Me to We Retreat offered both a respite from my daily routines even on Saturday and Sunday and a rapid-fire set of revised concepts of care. Each of the leaders brought excellent edges of growth. The term radical self-love became my mantra as a method of growing new neuro-pathways over time. With my accountability partner, I committed to engage in 30 seconds of radial self-love at least six times a day until it became a habit. What’s amazing just six days after starting this practice is that my inner dialogue welcomes my body far less critically and my collective world has widened significantly. Thank you, WDN, for providing such a rich experience filled with the power of interdependence.” – Jody Usher, WDN member

“This retreat did a great job of moving from the personal to the collective. I think it was helpful as we start to transition back out into the world after this past year-plus. I appreciated the somatic and embodiment practices.” – Cynthia Beard, WDN member, WDN Action board member

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