Intercultural Healing: Building Caring Partnerships is Social Justice

November 5, 2019
by Jul Bystrova, CPS Partnership Community

It’s been three years now since the height of the resistance at Standing Rock where the Lakota people fought to protect their water and resist yet another pipeline coming through their sacred lands. It was an event that woke up more of the world to the ongoing plight of the Indigenous people’s oppression and galvanized tribes everywhere to come together and experience a power and a pride in their heritage, as well as communicating the sober fact that their history is now the reality of people everywhere as corporate interests and greed continue to steal from our earth at the expense of the vulnerable.

My heart was called to the camps, and once there, I found myself literally in the center of it—the “medic-healers” camp where those in trauma and need were tended to. It was an inspiring integration of allopathic and alternative medicine and mental/emotional health services. I am a non Indigenous, “white” woman from California, with a long background in holistic health, psycho-spiritual wellness and community activism. But as informed as I thought I was, having already been awakening to the awareness of just how much our historical narratives were skewed to favor the perspective of the colonizers and settlers, I still had a lot to learn. I saw firsthand how a whole population was treated and the very real effects that long term trauma and oppression have had, as well as the old wounds never healed between cultures and communities. Everything was stirred up there, and revealed for us all to see. This is the beginning of healing, I believe. My life was truly changed as I began to understand what was happening on a whole new level—a deeply somatic, emotional, and spiritual reality. I could not turn away, and still can’t.

An embodied, trauma-informed approach to intercultural healing can help to navigate the great duress we are in as a species.

So here I am three years later, with added trainings in trauma as well as direct experience in the California wildfire disasters–while also watching other climate driven disasters happen and doing my best to assist. Meanwhile, it has become increasingly clear to me that understanding how to heal, how to be in a more caring place with each other, must include the social justice issues that are all around us. So an embodied, trauma-informed approach to intercultural healing seems to be the path to navigate the great duress we are in as a species. We must loosen the knots and dress the wounds of our history, shine a light on the injustices AND learn tools for our personal and interpersonal healing in order to build a collective will. At Standing Rock, many were still waking up and their trauma unhealed–which made people vulnerable to conflict and division. But it served a huge purpose for the world in that it sent many on a path of healing and connecting across old conflicts. It also awoke in us a greater yearning for living in a different way, a sacred way, in connection with the Earth and all life. We are evolving and asking deeper questions.

To respond to this social imperative, I am collaborating with some colleagues in hosting a series of dialogues on intercultural healing and building partnerships across diverse communities. The inner and the outer social change work. When people ask me why I want to do this work, I quickly reply: we must learn to find each other again. When we stand united, this will not only bring back our inherent joy—but also shine a light for those that are disconnected in their actions towards each other and the earth. May they begin to really see that we are all in this together. This requires great healing. As a species, we are traumatized and we keep playing out that trauma until we can address it. Scar tissue is known to be stronger than tissue before an injury. As we heal, we form bonds stronger than that which fragments us.

Now as we go forward, many leaders among us are re-emerging and coming together. Together in Heart and Will, we will look to the injustice and say “Enough!”
And we will look at each other and say “It is time”.

Jul Bystrova is founder of the Inner Resilience Network and Director of the Era of Care project. She was born and raised in Pomo, Ohlone and Miwok native territories and is a descendant of European early settler, Russian and Central American immigrant roots. She has a history of community activism and a thriving private practice in mind-body healing work. She is an Ordained Interfaith Minister and holds a Masters in Interdisciplinary Research on Science and Spirituality. She writes and organizes around cultural healing, social justice and psycho-spiritual issues. She also serves on the Transition US Collaborative Design Council and is a founding member of the Social Justice Working Group.
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