8. Re-friending my body

In this episode, Katie Mansfield, lead trainer of the Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience (STAR) program at the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding (CJP), speaks about her path to STAR from working in multinational banking during 9/11, polyvagal theory, and her dissertation work on embodied trauma healing.

Mansfield, who was raised on Long Island, flew back to New York on September 8, 2011, to be close to her mother after her grandmother’s death. She lost friends in the terror attacks on September 11.

“I was physically present with both a sense of fear and powerlessness that I had not, until that point, experienced in my body before,” Mansfield says. A few years later, she quit her job and began learning about different ways of seeing the world from a family in India – a peace education teacher; his wife, a human rights lawyer; and his mother, the first female high court justice in the country.

During “time around their table, they were just removing dirt from my eyes,” Mansfield says. When she returned to the States, she worked with the organization Peace Games alongside school children grappling with neighborhood violence and interpersonal conflict. Her mentor there suggested she pursue further education in peace studies.

Mansfield went on to study under John Paul Lederach at the Kroc Institute at Notre Dame, who suggested she take a class in restorative justice at the program he helped found – CJP. After finishing her master’s in international peace studies, she attended the Summer Peacebuilding Institute in 2009, which “made a very strong impression.”

She recalls attending a STAR training in 2010, where she talked about her experiences on 9/11. Another attendee from Somalia told her, “Well, now you know how we feel every day.”

Mansfield’s doctoral dissertation, Re-friending My Body: Arts-based, embodied learning for restoring my entirety, in part draws on neuroscientist Stephen Porges’ polyvagal theory, which deals with the vagus nerve’s role in the embodiment of emotion and trauma.

“So many of us are learning the words, but not the embodiment,” Mansfield says. “Trauma and joy and life land on the body, and systems and structures, and how people respond to us is because of what’s happening in the nervous system. Do I feel safe in a situation in my body, or do I feel endangered?”

In researching for her dissertation, Mansfield was confronted with the power and privilege she’s experienced in her own life, and their effects on how she interacts with others. Similarly, she sees one of CJP’s core challenges now, at its 25th anniversary, as overcoming a tradition of “helpers and healers” going from a privileged and safe position to help others in less privileged situations.

“That model is a holdover from colonial mindsets, and it is not fully respectful of the incredible resilience, capacity, wisdom, power, healthy power that exists in all of these communities that some people are trying to go help,” Mansfield says.


Guest

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Katie Mansfield

Katie Mansfield is the Lead Trainer for the Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience program, or STAR, here at CJP.

Before joining STAR, Katie worked with Mennonite Central Committee in Kenya for three years as peacebuilding coordinator. Previously she was an apprentice with John Paul Lederach at Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute, researching, writing, planning and network building with initiatives in Colombia, Argentina, Thailand and Nepal. She also worked with CDA Collaborative Learning Projects and engaged in peace education work in Boston, Davao, Mindanao and Delhi, India. Prior to working in peacebuilding, she worked for eight years with a major multi-national bank in New York and London.

Katie is a Ph.D., candidate in Expressive Arts and Conflict Transformation with the European Graduate School in Switzerland. She completed her M.A. in International Peace Studies at the Kroc Institute in 2008 and her AB in History at Harvard University in 1996. She has also completed teacher trainings in yoga, healing dance and Integrative Energetic Medicine.


Transcript

Katie Mansfield:
Rumi’s poem, “The guest house” is here on the wall, right?

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.”

[Theme music plays and fades into background]

patience kamau:
Hey everybody, happy Wednesday to you! And welcome back to Peacebuilder, a Conflict Transformation podcast by the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding. My name is patience Kamau and with us this eighth episode:

Katie Mansfield:
Katie Mansfield, and I’m the lead trainer for the STAR program — Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience.

patience kamau:
Katie Mansfield is the Lead Trainer for the Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience program, or STAR, here at CJP. Before joining STAR, Katie worked with Mennonite Central Committee in Kenya for three years as peacebuilding coordinator. Previously she was an apprentice with John Paul Lederach at Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute, researching, writing, planning and network building with initiatives in Colombia, Argentina, Thailand and Nepal. She also worked with CDA Collaborative Learning Projects and engaged in peace education work in Boston, Davao, Mindanao and Delhi, India. Prior to working in peacebuilding, she worked for eight years with a major multi-national bank in New York and London. Katie is a Ph.D., candidate in Expressive Arts and Conflict Transformation with the European Graduate School in Switzerland. She completed her M.A. in International Peace Studies at the Kroc Institute in 2008 and her AB in History at Harvard University in 1996. She has also completed teacher trainings in yoga, healing dance and Integrative Energetic Medicine.

[Theme music fades back in, in a crescendo and ends]

patience kamau:
Good morning Katie!

Katie Mansfield:
Good morning patience.

patience kamau:
How are you today?

Katie Mansfield:
I’m doing well.

patience kamau:
Good, glad to have you here!

Katie Mansfield:
Thank you.

patience kamau:
So let’s begin by you just telling us your story of how you ended up here at EMU, CTP/CJP.

Katie Mansfield:
I suppose the shortest answer to that question is, um, is sort of two-fold. When I was doing my, uh, masters in international peace studies at the Kroc Institute at Notre Dame in Indiana, John Paul Lederach who had started the program here –or who was among the team of people who started the program here– was my faculty research advisor, and then I got to, uh, be part of a group of people who were apprenticed with him. Um, he got funding for a peacebuilding apprenticeship pilot program. And during that apprenticeship he said, “you know, you should take a restorative justice class at EMU.” So I came for SPI in 2009 after finishing my master’s in 2008, and um, that made a very strong impression on me.

patience kamau:
Mm — in what way?

Katie Mansfield:
Well, one was the, the energy of the Summer Peacebuilding Institute, and um, yeah, there were some things that were really extraordinary that happened, like conversations with classmates. As I was studying restorative justice and grappling with some –frankly harm that I had done, I received an out of the blue email from a person I had harmed, suggesting forgiveness and mercy. And so it was really extraordinary that like being here, learning about this, really engaging my body, mind and spirit in, you know, how to address harms, including the ones that I have done. And then having whatever energy came from that invite and magnetize an email from someone on the other side of the globe, um, was really extraordinary. So that was my first experience here. Um, and, and learning with Lorraine and Howard was really life-giving. So that was the first time coming here and the next year, uh, as part of a research project that I was doing, I got to come to STAR, in Minneapolis, so with Elaine Zook Barge and Donna Minter, and so that was kinda my second CJP-ish experience. And I didn’t know when I was taking STAR that I would be moving to Kenya six months later. Um, but when I did got to work really closely with CJP alum, the late, Doreen Ruto. And so when…and then a number of CJP people had said hello while I was in Kenya, cause people come through, you know, so Vernon and Elaine and Jan Jenner. And so when I came back, I checked in to say hi and said, “you know what Doreen and I have been doing?” And uh, they said, “Hm, there might be a job you should apply for.”

patience kamau:
And what was that job?

Katie Mansfield:
At the time the job title was STAR director –my role now is the Lead Trainer of STAR because we’ve had some organizational shifts.

patience kamau:
So that transition from…what does it mean to be “the Lead Trainer”?

Katie Mansfield:
Uh, it means that I get to learn from a lot of people in environments ranging from, you know, sort of more intimate groups from 15 to 25 people in a five-day training, to larger groups. You know, young people who are new Americans at the Harrisonburg High School who are a part of something called “peer leaders,” and we do a one day thing for young people looking at how, um, adverse experiences hit our nervous systems, to two or three day trainings that, you know, more recently we’ve been doing things with organizations that are trying to address harm within their organizational structures that are, that are both structural like structural racism, structural sexism, as well as things that have happened between individuals. So sometimes we not only do the five day star trainings, um, but we also are customizing things to work with, with particular situations, uh, to bring some of the processes and practices that we talk about and teach about, and practice in STAR, um, to particular organizations and groups.

patience kamau:
Mm, are there things that you can boil down to what STAR actually teaches?

Katie Mansfield:
Yeah, so STAR draws on, um, at least five fields of theory and practice. Um, so if you, depending which way you want to turn the star, um, you might start with “trauma and resilience studies,” “conflict transformation,” “restorative justice,” “human security,” and um, “spirituality” –kind of broadly defined. So those are the five areas, right? “Trauma and resilience studies,” “conflict, transformation,” “restorative justice,” “human security,” and “spirituality and meaning making.” So each of those is, in and of itself, a huge body of theory and practice, and these were brought together in the wake of September 11, 2001 when, um, Church World Service came to the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding and said, “y’all have been doing a lot of work in a lot of other people’s contexts, can you develop something for community and religious leaders who are responding in the U.S. to what just happened?” And so Carolyn Yoder worked with a team of CJP faculty, and some people who were students at the time, to develop a curriculum that drew upon, the deep pillars. You know, Lisa Schirch’s work in human security, um, multiple people’s work in conflict transformation, restorative justice, and, and trauma and resilience studies –Nancy Good, and Barry Hart had been doing a lot of work around trauma for a long time. And so, drawing on the stuff that was here as well as stuff that was outside the CJP, Carolyn wove together a five day “experiential training,” is one way to put it.

patience kamau:
She wrote The Little Book of Trauma Healing, right?

Katie Mansfield:
Yeah.

patience kamau:
Was it around the same time?

Katie Mansfield:
The original Little Book of Trauma Healing was published in 2005. Um, so the first STAR workshops were in 2002, early 2002, the Little Book was published in 2005 –and she’s actually in the process of revising and updating it, so maybe it will even coincide with the anniversary.

patience kamau:
Oh wow. That’d be great!
Um, if I recall correctly, you…so how have you processed the intersection between how STAR came to be as a result of September 11 and yourself or in New York City on that day?

Katie Mansfield:
Yeah.

patience kamau:
How has the your internalization of that been? What’s your process?

Katie Mansfield:
Yeah, well, certainly requires some drawing on spirituality and meaning making, right?

patience kamau:
Yeah, yeah! You were in the city on the day itself?

Katie Mansfield:
Yeah, and I am a New Yorker, you know, my parents are Brooklyn born and I was raised on Long Island and um, a few dozen friends and, um, family members of friends were killed on that day. So I was both physically present with, um, a sense of peer of, of fear and powerlessness that I had not, until that point, experienced in my body before. And the loss, you know, having my grandmother go to funerals pretty much daily for two months straight, was not something that we had known in our lives. And, um, actually when I went through STAR in 2010 as a participant, I, and I tell this story often, so, um, there was a Somali lady who’s just said to me, “well, now you know how we feel every day.” So I, I don’t tell the story as if it’s some kind of exceptional thing, and because my life had been the way it was, it was exceptional for me. Um, so I think it is one of the reasons I ended up in this work. I was doing extremely different work at that time, which is what had me down in the financial district of Manhattan.

patience kamau:
What work were you doing then?

Katie Mansfield:
I worked for a large multi-national bank for eight years, so I really didn’t have a clue that the fields of work, of “restorative justice” and “conflict transformation” and “human security” and “trauma and resilience studies,” uh, existed. I was there doing my thing. Then for me it was a version of the world falling apart. And because I had not experienced that level of fear and powerlessness in my own body before, it stopped me in my tracks. And it took me a year or two before I could think again more than five days into the future. So I used to be a longterm planner and suddenly five days was as long as I could look at. And I went back. My mom’s mom had just passed away, which was why I was in lower Manhattan that day –I was actually living in London at the time, um, because I wanted to support my mom in a time of grief, my managers in London said, “yeah, I work out of the New York office for a month.” So I had flown in on September 8th, 2001. Um, and, and then happened to be there when it all went down. And, um, so I returned to London at the end of September. And, um, even though I had known for a long time that working in a bank wasn’t really the, the thing for me for life, I hadn’t figured out what was, um, and when my ability to future plan dried up, I just stayed in my wheel and kept spinning. I remember on the, on the plane ride to New York on September 8th reading these books about like, “what do I do with my life,” you know, kind of going through a quarter-life, “midlife crisis” early, you know, sort of thing. Um, and as soon as it happened, I just stopped thinking about the future and I stopped imagining that my life might be any different. So when I went back to London, I just got back in my wheel and I spun for a while. Um, knowing what I know now, know that I was in a form of trauma response. Um, and after one to two years, I finally started to kind of lift my head up above the water again, and be able to see something. By 2004, I had quit my job and, um, I found some amazing teachers. Um, I found a peace education teacher in India, who , a friend had introduced me to and his wife was a human rights lawyer, so Shantum Seth was the peace educator and a Buddhist teacher. Um, his wife, Gitu was um, a human rights lawyer, his mother was the first woman high court justice in India. So, suddenly I got to fall into learning from this family who, um, saw things very differently than how I had been seeing things. So it was like time around their table –they were just removing dirt from my eyes. Um, and I’m sure there’s still a lot of dirt in my eyes, and it led me to come back to the U.S. with a, kind of a, different perspective and an idea that there was something called “peace education.” And, um, and then I got a chance to work with an organization called Peace Games that worked in schools that were, whose students were experiencing a lot of, um, yeah, some, some neighborhood violence and just being human, and all the things that we deal with, um, in terms of peace and conflict. And I got to play games and ask questions and learn with third graders every week. Um, and my mentor there, Steven Brion-Meisels said, you know, “if you’re interested in this, you might want to do a degree since you haven’t been doing this work very long.” And that’s what led me to Notre Dame. Um, and through there to CJP, through that to Kenya and Doreen and through really intensive work with her on trauma awareness and resilience, to then working for STAR. But without that experience of…and, of course there have been others since, um, experiencing fear and powerlessness like that, I don’t think I would be remotely equipped to do…

patience kamau:
…the work that you’re doing now?

Katie Mansfield:
Yeah.

patience kamau:
Yeah.

[Transition music plays]

patience kamau:
So you used the language of, uh, feeling trauma in your body.

Katie Mansfield:
Mm-hm.

patience kamau:
When did you actually come to that language –because you use that to describe how you felt after 9-11?

Katie Mansfield:
Mm, I imagine participating in STAR was the beginning of that –um, of really putting a fine brush on it. Often when we study, and even practice some of the many different approaches to addressing violence and responding to violence without more violence, we can have great concepts, we can have great things to say, inspiring quotes, powerful words and structures and frameworks and theories. And um, in some ways the “body anchoring” that I now talk about, um, as really central came first out of STAR, but part of it is a much more recent, um, awareness because of what I’m working on in my thesis, which is around arts-based embodied learning. And it was really interesting just talking with a colleague a couple of days ago. I wrote down what he said, that “it is so necessary because so many of us are learning the words but not the embodiment,” right? So, so much of our learning orientation…

patience kamau:
…happens in the head?

Katie Mansfield:
Right, and yet trauma and joy and life land on the body. And systems and structures and how people respond to us is because of what’s happening in the nervous system. Do I feel safe in a situation in my body or do I feel endangered? You know, my brain can say, “oh, this is a safe place because you know, I know these people and sort of some people, I don’t know, but I can see where the exits are and there’s the sun is shining, and this is familiar, but something in my gut tells me this is not safe,” and that can be a memory from 10 years ago, or it can be a particular person who walks in, and if my body doesn’t feel safe, I’m going to have a response to that.

patience kamau:
How do we reconcile that? Or sometimes are we even aware that there’s that dissonance within us.

Katie Mansfield:
Yeah. I think, I think awareness is the first thing. And of course one of the things we learn studying trauma is that the body often knows things that we can’t quite process in our brain.

patience kamau:
What’s the physiology of that? Why is that?

Katie Mansfield:
So a lot of it relates to the Vagus nerve. Um, so Stephen Porges has written a book that’s really dense some years ago called “The Polyvagal Theory” and some other books more recently that I think are much more accessible because, unfortunately in the almost 20 years since STAR was established, there’re a lot more people talking about trauma. So fortunately and unfortunately, so I see it as both a blessing and a thing to grieve that a book about trauma is on the New York times bestseller list, right? For years.

patience kamau:
Say more about that…

Katie Mansfield:
Um, yeah. Bessel van der Kolk’s “The Body Keeps the Score” was a New York times best seller for a long while. And on the one hand, great, we need this information –public health, you know, trauma does need to be a public health concern above all because of the impacts of history, right? Historical harm, which was named to my knowledge, publicly written about, um, by Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart, ah, talking about the historical trauma of the Lakota and by many others I’m sure in communities that I haven’t gotten to read about. Um, but we have these “foundational harms” that are still playing out in individual bodies and in organizations and in the very land that our structures sit on. Um, and we also have the legacies and aftermaths of the historical harms of enslavement playing out, and so these two things alone mean, and then if we think about “participatory-induced traumatic stress,”…

patience kamau:
What is that?

Katie Mansfield:
Uh, was originally, again, to my knowledge written about by Rachel MacNair and her focus was more around when folks go to war and come back from war. There is, um, always, uh, an honorable impulse there, and there is –at some point– a realization that participating in war is harming other human beings. And so “participatory-induced traumatic stress” basically refers to any situation when either as individuals or as large groups, we have participated in harm to other individuals or groups, …

patience kamau:
…which in turn means we’ve harmed ourselves, cause you can’t harm another without harming yourself, right?

Katie Mansfield:
Right, right. And not everybody’s gotten there yet, right.

patience kamau:
Understanding that?

Katie Mansfield:
But, um, but yes. So if you take…actually Navajo activist Mark Charles, um, said in a big meeting in Washington, D.C., he said, one of the reasons that so many, so few white Americans can talk about the historical harms of genocide or attempted genocide and enslavement are because of participatory-induced traumatic stress. And, and so he’s pointing out, it’s not only that one InBody directly did the harm, but if one InBody is benefiting from the harm, um, there is a participation and a complicity in that, and so there’s often just a, “I don’t want to talk about it.”

patience kamau:
Yeah. Yeah. Um, you had alluded earlier to the disconnection between the body and the mind and you were going to explain the phys…the difference in the, what physiologically is happening that causes that disconnect.

Katie Mansfield:
Oh, thanks for keeping me on track.

patience kamau:
No problem! :)

Katie Mansfield:
Um, so Stephen Porges brought forward The Polyvagal Theory and while there are hundreds of pages to read about that, um, the simplest way that I’ve learned to understand it is that we have this nerve and Resmaa Menakem, um, who is a therapist and author based in Minneapolis, um, calls it the “soul nerve.” Yeah. So the, the Vagus nerve or the “soul nerve” and others have called it the “wandering nerve” is this incredible apparatus in our body that anchors into the brainstem, travels down to the palate, down through the throat, past our heart, down past our digestive system, into the depths of our gut, right? So this has, this nerve has branches, um, throughout really essential systems in the body and more of the impulses through that nerve go from the gut up to the brain, than from the brain down.

patience kamau:
Oh!

Katie Mansfield:
So often we think, “oh, it’s about thinking,” “it’s about cognition,” and actually so much of how we feel safe or endangered, is what our gut sense is. And there’s probably more to say about that, the structures of the brain, but, but what this means in practical terms is that, um, whatever I might be thinking, whatever moral structures or ideas, kind of cognitive stuff I carry in my brain, if my body smells a smell, it brings back a particular memory. If my body sees a particular color, shape, thing that is associated with a memory that made my body have a huge response, that memory may not have a time stamped on it, um, cause that’s another thing, and this might be too much detail, but like in the limbic system, we have the amygdala, which is the brain’s “fear center,” and we have the hippocampus, which acts as like a time/date stamp and kind of a “filing system” like, oh, that happened on this date. And so one of the definitions we use in STAR is from Peter Levine, who wrote years ago the book “Waking the Tiger,” uh, which is about healing trauma, and in it he offers the definition that “trauma is when our ability to respond to threat is overwhelmed.” So it’s not just, I can’t respond, but what ability I have, what capacity I have, right? Cause we, human beings have amazing capacities –it’s overwhelmed. And, and that can happen for many different reasons, from experiencing overwhelming events that show up in the headlines to a surgery gone wrong when you were under anesthesia, um, to the all too pervasive instances of domestic violence that are too many places in our world, um, to the things that we carry in our bodies because of what happened to our ancestors or because of what we know our ancestors did. And so these things, and Resmaa Menakem, again in the book, “My Grandmother’s Hands,” he’s looking at racialized trauma in the U.S. and he’s really laying out how this stuff lives in our nervous systems. And so he speaks into why we have implicit bias and responses, because we’re carrying things from many generations ago. You know, he, he calls us “white bodied” and “black bodied” Americans, um, and he acknowledges that, that that’s a simplification and there are many bodies and there are newer immigrants who, you know, bring other stories into the picture. And there’s our native communities who bring other stories than “white bodies” and “black bodies,” so, so, he, uh, Resmaa does a really good job –he lays out that like there’s the much talked about and named in films and in literature, historical harm of enslavement, but there is much less focus on what white folks are carrying in their bodies, probably reaching back to when they had to flee Europe because of the practices of public torture and things that were real traumagenic events that “white bodied” Americans never deal with or attend to in terms of what’s carried in their nervous systems. Um, and he talks about “clean pain” and “dirty pain” and when he talks about “clean pain,” in some ways it, it really resonates with what we use in STAR –the “cycles of violence” diagram– is in STAR (to oversimplify what is usually an unpacking of five days), first we talk about the impacts of trauma on the body, brain, beliefs and behaviors. Then we talk about how those impacts often leave us in “cycles of violence.” And those cycles of violence can include “acting-in” on self or community and “acting-out” against others and other communities. And then in STAR we talk about how we, you know, many different strategies for moving out of those “cycles of violence,” and I really liked the way, um, Resmaa puts it cause he talks about “clean pain,” which is just really “feeling the feelings,” right.

patience kamau:
Just letting them flow through you…

Katie Mansfield:
…letting them flow through you, and there’s a lot of practices required to enable us to feel our feelings. When our ability to respond to threat has been overwhelmed or when, yeah, when we are in trauma response, even feeling what we feel can be inaccessible to many people. Um, so first there are practices for enabling ourselves to feel “clean pain,” but part of what he’s laying out is that if we don’t, we go the “dirty pain” route, which is just blowing our pain through on other people’s bodies.

patience kamau:
Ah, and is that what he’s then saying probably a lot of “white bodied” Americans have done over time?

Katie Mansfield:
Yeah, because we haven’t dealt with a “clean pain” process.

patience kamau:
Yeah. Oh wow! And what’s the third, fourth and fifth of the STAR week?

Katie Mansfield:
Oh yeah. Well, day one is usually just, um, getting onto the same page. You know, when you arrive and you’re talking about trauma and resilience, there’s a lot of arriving to do. Um, it’s not, I mean, my mother’s a math teacher and is very passionate about math and…it’s not showing up for a five day math class. There is very deep emotional material and physical material for many of us. Um, if you think about the prevalence, the tragic prevalence of sexual abuse and, uh, other abuse and how many bodies are walking around with those memories in their nervous system. If you look at what people have suffered with systemic racism and dignity violations, um, many people have been talking about dignity violations. Our, our South African colleague Oscar jumps to mind, Oscar Siwali, you know, from the apartheid struggle –there were so many references to this, and then in the U.S. Donna Hicks wrote a book called “Dignity,” and so her languaging flows into our program. There’s evidence that a dignity violation hits the physical body and the nervous system with the same impact as a physical hit. And so from these systemic things that are kind of “in the water,” so to speak, to things that are happening when we violate each other’s dignity, whether through some kind of…and, and many times unintentionally.

patience kamau:
Micro-aggressions?

Katie Mansfield:
Yeah, and I have, yeah, and I have unfortunately done them really recently and it’s, um…

patience kamau:
…we all do. :(

Katie Mansfield:
Yeah, this is, this is being human.It brought Ibram X. Kendi –I don’t know if you’ve seen his book, “How to Be an Antiracist.” He has this great line:”I used to be more racist, I am changing.”

patience kamau:
It’s so compassionate; self-compassion.

Katie Mansfield:
Yeah.

patience kamau:
That’s good.

Katie Mansfield:
Yeah.

patience kamau:
Um, back to the days of uh, STAR.

Katie Mansfield:
Yeah. So we start getting on the same page, kind of understandings and definitions –what are we talking about when we talk about trauma? Um, and, and doing a little bit of arts-based examination of our own experiences, but not to kind of expose that to everybody in the, in the room, but just to do a little self exploration and to share with one partner. Um, so just kind of first getting on the same page, “what are we talking about?” Then we move into a segment of the journey that’s currently called, “why we don’t just get over it.” Um, and that’s where we talk about the body, the brain, the beliefs and the behaviors. Um, and I really like what Judah Oudshoorn has put in “The Little book of Restorative Justice for Sexual Abuse.” Um, which is the simple framework, which is “harms create needs, justice is meeting needs, true justice is healing.” So we, we look at “what are the needs that are created, what is going on in bodies”? Um, and this sort of starts on the first day and, and flows into the second day of a, of a typical STAR where we unpack what’s, what, “why, why does the body feel this way?” Or “why do so many bodies feel this way?” Um, and there are many different ways to feel, right? There’s not one way that trauma hits people, but naming what are some of the common patterns of experience. Um, and part of that is just –when we are going through a trauma response, we can feel so isolated, so alone, and so, like “no one could possibly understand how this feels to me, and I don’t understand how this feels to me and I don’t have words for it and I don’t have tools for it.” That’s the nature of overwhelm and…

patience kamau:
…mm-hm, you just know you feel bad…

Katie Mansfield:
…yeah..

patience kamau:
…feel pain. Right…

Katie Mansfield:
…yeah. Or you feel fear, or you feel aggression or you, you know, you’re, you’re behaving in ways that in your thinking brain you would never behave. Meanwhile…that’s what happened to me anyway. Um, so we, we unpack to kind of do some de-stigmatizing. So for me, part of the naming of things on the “why we can’t just get over it” is in the first two days, the work of de-stigmatization, um just kind of naming common responses, and then we move into, okay, so now these things have happened to body, brain, beliefs and behaviors –what does that mean in terms of “acting-in” and “acting-out”? How does that entrap us in “cycles of violence” at the individual level and at the collective level? And then, um, by day three –so we kind of have unpacked that by the end of day two and by day three we move into, well now “how do we transcend these cycles of violence?” “What are ways that we break free?” “How do we do acknowledgement” and “how do we reconnect,” um, either self or relationship or community. And we, we travel that path for the rest of the week focusing on all different ways to build resilience, um, by breaking “cycles of violence.” Um, and it’s funny cause we have one specific unit on the last day called “resilience and self-care,” and sometimes people look in there like, “why don’t you talk about resilience before this?” And the whole point is that we’re, number one, from the first day doing practices together that help build bodily resilience, but also that breaking “cycles of violence” is, in and of itself, both a source and a result of resilience.

[Transition music plays]

patience kamau:
Um, you talked about trauma being…or a “trauma response” being something that overwhelms our ability to respond…

Katie Mansfield:
…mm-hm…

patience kamau:
…how, how does that square-off when something really, really good happens in our lives? Because that can also be overwhelming.

Katie Mansfield:
Mm-hm, yeah!

patience kamau:
What do you think of that?

Katie Mansfield:
Well, you know what’s really interesting, um, there’s a person named Karla McLaren who, um, and I have Christen Peters of the CJP and Jonathan McRay, a CJP alum to thank for recommending this book to me. Um, Karla McLaren has written a book called “The Language of Emotions,” and um, I got to spend, I got to be part of a little thing that she and Jonathan hosted this summer, which was a grief ritual –and in that grief ritual, one of the, one of the comments she made, cause she basically lays out that every single one of our emotions has something to heal in us and something to teach us. So the anger, the sadness, the grief, the boredom and apathy, the, the shame, the hatred, each of these things, the joy, the contentment, the happiness, they all have something to heal in us and something to teach us. And yet as humans in most cultures or many cultures, at least, we pretty much don’t want to have anything to do with anything but the joy, contentment and happiness. And so we push the anger away. We pushed the sadness away. We, we really don’t want to go there –and so we haven’t developed, frankly, the resilience and the capacity to let those emotions flow through us. And in some ways that’s, I feel like what Resmaa is talking about in terms of “clean pain,” and it’s, I think, what we’re talking about in STAR when we’re talking about acknowledgment and reconnection.

patience kamau:
Right!

Katie Mansfield:
Right? Cause it’s not that bad things are going to stop happening; but how do we actually find ways to flow with all the emotions that are here as healers and teachers for us to help us move through those experiences without doing harm to other people or without doing harm to ourselves. And one of the things she said about joy just blew me away, which was –one of the things joy does, is it drops all your protective boundaries. Anger, shame, hatred, all of these things can be nourishment to build healthy boundaries, joy, basically, it’s like “I’m connected to everything and everyone and isn’t just everything great?” And things can sort of sneak up on us when joy is all that we’re about. Um, and if we’re not engaging with the sadness we feel, if we’re not engaging with the anger, we feel, um, again, people have heard me tell the story, but like one of my most important teachers is, um, a man from Maharastra whose name is Martin Macwan and, um, he’s been very active in the Dalit rights movement, um, for years, and when I was asking him, so he, his organization was working in like 3000 villages. And I was like, “how do you recruit people to do the work of ending caste discrimination?” And he said, well first they have to be from the place, cause then they really know what’s going on. Second, he said they have to be angry. I was like, huh? Cause you know, I was coming from this, “everybody be nice” framework. Gotta be nice. I was like, “they have to be angry?” He said, yeah, because that means the work is coming from a place of truth. And he said, the third thing is they have to have the spark of “loving-energy” to transform that anger into “loving-action.” And when I think about joy, um, and, and now losing your…

patience kamau:
…my original question? Was about joy overwhelming us.

Katie Mansfield:
Oh, right. Being overwhelmed by joy.

patience kamau:
Yeah.

Katie Mansfield:
You know, and I think we can be, right? We can have, like a wonderful series of events. You know, it’s kind of classic equanimity stuff, right? Like, I came to learn about equanimity through studying with Buddhist teachers, right? That whether you’re going really high or whether you’re going really low, you’re kind of out of equilibrium. And so to, um, and our systems are geared to bring us high and bring us low with regularity. And when we get stuck in one or the other, that’s when our nervous systems start to crumble and have some, some challenges. Um, and, and I would say, you know, on the one hand, wouldn’t it be lovely if we all just got to experience being overwhelmed by joy more often. Um, on the other hand, the loss of boundaries that that brings is a real thing and we need some protection. You know, we need to have, um, we need to be aware of what we’re carrying and what we’re taking on from other people. And I think this is so important for all of us peacebuilding folks, right? Cause we want to change the world. We want to “celebrate, reflect and dream.” We want to do the big things and really make this world less deadly. Like, it’s a real mission, and there’s a lot that lands on our bodies in doing that work. And so we have to have processes for cleaning, clearing, maintaining, loving this body and this little energetic field of ours or else we are going to take on more than is healthy for us to take on. We’re going to get sick and we’re probably going to do some harm, because of that whole dirty pain thing. Because if we’re not tending to what is carried in our system, and that can mean self-care, it can also mean collective-care, it can mean rest. And it can also just mean honest self-assessment, right? Cause we’re human, so we have these streams of, I don’t know about you, maybe you’re like more enlightened than this, but I’m not. And my, my wonderfully, messy self has streams of self-hatred, has streams of shame, has streams of grief, has, has streams of very painful stuff. And because I just want like, let’s be happy, you know, like, let’s, let’s find our way to joy so that we can make peace, you know? And if I don’t attend to those really yucky, thorny things that I carry inside me, then I’m not going to show up well, and I’m going to do harm.

patience kamau:
A number of times you’ve used the word “shame,” which of course to me, it brings Brene Brown to mind quite a bit. In one of her books, and maybe even her talk –she talks about “foreboding joy,” uh, which is not allowing oneself….like even when, I think the example she gives is that one time she looked at one of her children, maybe her son or her daughter sleeping, and she was overcome with joy, but she pushed it away and was, “something’s gonna go wrong any moment now” –and not allowing herself to live in that. So the balance between that, in allowing ourselves to feel joy when it comes, and also allowing ourselves to feel pain when it comes, it goes to the equanimity you’re talking about.

Katie Mansfield:
Yeah.

patience kamau:
Because the opposite is also true –there are people who do not want to feel joy because they are anticipating it disappearing and that’s our fear.

Katie Mansfield:
Yeah, yeah. I think she also said you can’t just numb the bad stuff.

patience kamau:
That’s right, you can’t numb partially.

Katie Mansfield:
So if you’re numbing the bad stuff, you’re also numbing the good stuff. And so, I mean, Rumi’s poem, “The Guest House” is here on the wall, right?

“This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.”

So the poem goes on from there. And I think this, this, you know, I love poetry and not everybody does. And some people think like, come-on, someone just got shot. These people are being attacked. This military policy is meaning thousands of people are directly under bodily threat –and you’re talking about poetry?

patience kamau:
Oh, but it’s so healing…

Katie Mansfield:
…and so, yeah. So there’s healing, but there’s also like, if you’re trying to engage in some kind of heroic work, and you’re not tending to the grief that goes with the mess that we’re in, it’s gonna bite ya. It’s going to bite you in terms of health. It bit me in terms of blind spots in my practice. It’s going to bite ya.

patience kamau:
Yeah.

[Transition music plays]

patience kamau:
Tell me about your dissertation –so what have you been writing for 10 years? You submitted a draft last Friday?

Katie Mansfield:
[Boisterous laugh] Yeah. In some ways I feel like this project has been going for my full 44 years. Um, I actually entered a Ph.D. program in 2013, so it’s been six years that I’ve been, um, in that. And, um, it’s, it’s interesting –it started out as, uh, a project that I wanted to call “re-friending the body: arts-based embodied learning for facing chronic violence,” right? So very grandiose kind of “pedestal” stuff. But in the end became a project called “re-friending my body: arts-based embodied learning for restoring my integrity.”

patience kamau:
So it changed from “re-friending THE body…” to “re-friending MY body…”

Katie Mansfield:
Mm-hm…

patience kamau:
…can you talk about what caused that change?

Katie Mansfield:
Yeah, so first of all I realized that, especially in a scholar practitioner role, there can…there’s almost like a systemic encouragement to, to talk the language of “grand theory” and to like make your mark by writing some grand theory of everything. And as I was sharing my grand theories of everything –and I have some good ones– um, I was missing really important details. And for example, I had this really awesome intention to explore racism and we were going to do that in two or three class sessions. And I am a white bodied person who has had access to all kinds of power and privilege in my life. And I only had a co-facilitator who was a person of color in one of those three classes. And the way that systematically landed on the bodies in the room was really harmful. And so the way I set things up, was really hurtful, to particular individuals in the class, even in this thing where I had this great intention like, “yeah, we’re going to be brave and we’re going to talk about racism. We’re going to, we’re going to muddle through this together.” And we did muddle through it together, and because of certain things I didn’t see, that the system habituates people like me not to see. And I love, um, Ijeoma Oluo has been a really awesome, uh, accompaniment accompanist to my learning journey in this Ph.D. because what, what happened with that situation in the research container –so the class I was teaching was the forum for the research. And in my research, which I wanted, you know, the two pilot studies I had done, it had been so healing and everybody, not everybody, but probably…most people who talked to me had great experiences and I was like, “great, now we’re going to research this and we’re going to document it and everyone’s going to see how wonderful this work is.” Well, instead, …

patience kamau:
…what happened?

Katie Mansfield:
A number of people were really hurt in the learning container. And we got to address it in really extraordinary arts-based ways together as a learning community, and we all remain connected in relationship, and I had internalized a lot of shame –because I had many other things going on in my life. I was doing way too many STAR trainings, traveling a lot and not taking time for rest and recovery. I had some really significant mental and physical health challenges in my family system. There was a whole constellation of really challenging things happening at the same time as the research was happening. So it was a perfect storm to teach me some really profound lessons. And when a year later I finally had the time to write about it –cause I work three-quarter time for STAR and then I take these breaks to write my dissertation. My advisor said, well, this is really courageous writing, but what are you going to do with all of that self-blame and shame? Because basically I had gone from thinking like, I know something and I have something to do about peace and about ending violence and particularly about looking at racism in this world and what the course where my, okay…so I have a lot of like, perfectionist narratives in my mind and body. I have, I had like huge, good-bad binary going on. Um, and uh, Robin DiAngelo in the book “White Fragility” talks about how the good-bad binary is one of the biggest stumbling blocks to us addressing racism in this country, because you can’t do a racist harm and still be a good…and still think of yourself as a good person.

patience kamau:
Oh, but we’re so complex!

Katie Mansfield:
Right? We are complex and you know, we’ve been raised in a racist system –generations of our people globally have been raised in, you know, racist systems. And so of course it’s in us and you know, she just names that when you get feedback about having done something that is a racial harm, you have options. You can say thank you, now I’m learning, or you can go to this place of shame that shuts down any possibility for learning.

patience kamau:
Right, right, right.

Katie Mansfield:
And, and that, that goes back to the nervous system stuff, right? When our ability to respond to threat is overwhelmed. So because of the dynamics of racism, someone saying, “hey, you just did something that was racist,” gets…like to be kind of a threat to me…cause I internalized that as like, “I’m a bad person, I’m a bad person.” You know, this is some kind of attack, right? And then we become overwhelmed cause we don’t want to be bad people and we want to think like, “no, no, I’m not racist –I’m a good person.” Anyway, Robin DiAngelo explains all that –and I read White Fragility –I was like, “oh yeah, people do that.” Well, then [chuckles]…

patience kamau:
…it came home to roost?

Katie Mansfield:
…finally I realized like, “oh!” And what she names is like, people get so defensive, particularly white people get so defensive when someone calls a racial harm, and so the, the good news I guess is that I didn’t get super defensive. I was like, “wow, I got work to do.” And, and we openly processed some of it as a class, and I’m sure not nearly to the level of needs that everybody had, cause you know, I’m learning and we’re all learning. And while I was able to be non-defensive, there was a part of me that really internalized, “I am a horrible person.” “Who am I to call myself a peacebuilder?” “Who am I to call myself an educator?” “Who am I to call myself trauma-informed?” Like I went to a real complete dismissal of myself –and there were a lot of other things going on in my life, it wasn’t just about this, but this was the thing that tipped me into thinking “I don’t belong here, I got nothing.” And what was so extraordinary is that because of the structure of three-quarter time working for STAR and one-quarter of my time to work on things, I actually got to go through what I think of as a three-phase healing process, engaging arts-based, embodied learning for myself.

patience kamau:
What are those three?

Katie Mansfield:
And so the first part was when, um, one of the students in the class said, I would like to bring a group of educators from my country to take the five-day class with you and we’ll co-teach it. And we did, and we had an incredible experience. And so it was like, Oh yeah, there’s something to this. And the second thing was after I did the writing, and my advisor named, “there’s a lot of shame and self-blame,” I did this seven day process and each day was on a different chakra, so a different energetic center of the body and focusing on that through drawing, through dance and through journaling and sometimes with, um, a friend helping me out, you know, like for example, current CJP student Yasmiene Mabrouk, as I was telling them about this healing process I was doing, they said, “you know, you do you want to do it all alone or do you want someone to work with you? I got all my papers done so maybe I could help you out.” And so they agreed to come and I got to tell a person who hadn’t been in the, “the shame container,” [chuckles] no, I mean was it was a “learning container,” um, I got to tell them the story and then they helped me engage and we co-created a process that day. And this was about the solar plexus chakra, which is the, the energetic seat of power in the body…

patience kamau:
…you are pointing to your diaphragm…

Katie Mansfield:
Yeah, pointing to my diaphragm. So this is the energetic seat of power in the body. And it’s also the energetic seat of kind of like the story I hold about who I am in this world. And so that was the day that they joined me. They helped me land on the questions –“how do I do accountability without shame or attack?” You know, which is basically, again, going back to “clean pain,” right? But really digging into that and, and doing it in ways that included, um, an arts-based process that was both individual and relational and doing work about how to use power in healthy ways. And part of my thesis is coming to a definite…a definition of resilience, which was “healthy power in the midst of vulnerability and uncertainty.”

patience kamau:
“Healthy power in the midst of vulnerability and uncertainty.”

Katie Mansfield:
Yeah, because often people think resilience –well that’s just being strong, being like a rock. Well actually…

patience kamau:
…stiff upper lip?

Katie Mansfield:
…that hasn’t served us so well! Um, so that was one example of when another person came in and helped, you know, bring the process and, and they made the great point –like if you’re dealing with power, it’s good to have an accountable situation and be accountable to another person. So I did, so the first thing was with the group of educators from, from Korea. The second thing was with, um, …

patience kamau:
Oh, was this, was this what Eunkyung Ahn organized?

Katie Mansfield:
Yes, yes. So Eunkyung had taken the class and she had been part of both the really challenging and healing set of things that went on in the class. And in spite of it all or because of it all, she said, “I want us to bring a group of Korean educators who are focused on bringing restorative justice in schools.” So she brought them and together we co-facilitated a week of arts-based embodied learning with those educators. And it was really life-giving and um, working with Eunkyung was life-giving and working with these educators. So, so it was restorative for me as well because instead of the deep imprint of sadness and “oh no, I hurt people,” um, that I had been carrying, it was like, “oh well, also we can do this work in healing ways.” And then a few months later I did this seven day process, some on my own and some with, um, accompaniment, and because I did that and I saw how much that healed in seven days, the final two months of working on my dissertation, I set up, um, so that every single day included, yes, some reading and some writing, but also arts-based processing, including dancing, including, um, drawing, including journaling and uh, with the added benefit -cause it was summertime in the Shenandoah Valley- of a lot of touching the earth, both through gardening and through just literally putting my body on the ground. And it’s funny, I was talking with Molly Stover who is a local craftsperson and quilter and there’s a pillow that I bought from her months ago that said, be still and listen, the earth is singing. And had this unbelievable experience where I was doing these daily processes and I, I had started to look more into ecology and like Soula Pefkaros, you know, a CJP alum has done a good deep look at, at, um, eco-psychology, and so I can’t pretend to be any kind of expert on it, but I just started to really touch the earth more and, and stop moving around so much. In a six week stretch this year there was a trip to Afghanistan and back and a trip to Kenya and back. Like these bodies were not made to go those distances in such short times, you know, maybe not in a lifetime. But anyway, I just really prioritized being still, and the last three weeks I think I left my house a handful of times; and being still and listening, stories came through me. I got my poetry back. Like I wrote this one poem, “please help me find my poetry,” like in the first healing process. And like, so the poem started to come again and the like stories, a creation story came out and I have never written a creation story in my life. And then a few months later, Yasmiene, they said, why don’t we read Sacred Instructions because we’re doing an independent study. Um, and Sacred Instructions is by Sherri Mitchell and it’s in the subtitle is: “Indigenous Wisdom for Healing Trauma [sic]”…maybe I have mixed up on the subtitle, but Sherri Mitchell, um, comes from up in the Penobscot area of Maine, and is deeply grounded in her own culture and has written a gift of a book that speaks about conflict transformation that speaks about trauma and grief. And the opening chapter is creation stories and there was so much resonance –and you know, I’m like, I’m pretty white person and as Tala and I have been talking about, we are all indigenous to somewhere, if you go far enough back.

patience kamau:
Tala, our current student, Bautista.

Katie Mansfield:
Yeah, who’s got so much amazing teaching that she is imparting to me! And um, as I read her some of the stuff that had come out in the creation story that I got by sitting still and listening to the earth, were like almost the exact same. And I just realized like she’s coming from a culture that has, since time immemorial, listened to and cared for the earth. I have not been in that cultural space. When I just got still enough, that story came through me and it was really kind of a moment of like, “oh, right, we need to be still,” and to re-institute our creativity. And you know, of course John Paul talks about the, creativity being a critical ingredient in “The Moral Imagination,” and that always stuck with me, um, but it stayed in a different way. Um, when I actually got to be really earth grounded, um, for a couple of months. So the process ended up starting as like, “ooh, let me showcase how beautiful arts-based, embodied learning can be for people who are working as activists or educators or restorative justice practitioners” to, you know, make the world a better place by, uh, addressing violence with nonviolence. Right? So I went from kind of this big picture thing to like, wait a minute, I created a harm and I have gone through a process to address it, but I haven’t fully addressed it in myself because I didn’t fully deal with the “clean pain.” Um, and so in order to go with integrity into the next stage of my life, I need it to do a lot of work cleaning up. And it, it, it enables me now to kind of talk about where I am and what messiness I have, and what gifts I have with a different kind of humor, than I could certainly in the midst of that, and probably even before, you know, I think I, I probably took myself too seriously before and didn’t take the pain that so many bodies carry seriously enough. I’m sure I don’t fully even understand now. And this is, this was what I was about to talk about a while ago from Ijeoma Oluo, in her book “So you want to talk about race,” she says “know the limits of your empathy;” and I just find that really helpful advice, especially for white folks. Right? Cause there can be this thing like if I, if I’m present enough, if I’m loving enough, if I’m caring enough, like guess what, we know nothing of another body’s experience.

patience kamau:
Ah, maybe that’s why your dissertation changed from “the” body to “my” body.

Katie Mansfield:
Exactly. Exactly.

patience kamau:
Um, something’s just occurring to me as you’ve been talking –you, you’re of Italian background, right?

Katie Mansfield:
That’s one quarter of my heritage.

patience kamau:
All right. So just in general, personally being an immigrant to this country and something that I wrestled with or just that I observe –so much of a lot of white bodied people lose…have lost from my observation, and I don’t know whether I’m right or not, but from my perception, have lost their own background and that feels to me like a loss….it’s, it presents in strange ways. Like people are threatened when they hear somebody else speaking a different language that they don’t understand. Um, I’m thinking of one of our really great teachers and leaders, uh, in Kenya and a lot of East Africa, probably Africa in general, but Mr. Lumumba, he is a professor and he talks about how when there are tribal Wars, like in Africa, they are referred to as “tribal Wars,” but when they are tribal Wars for example, in Europe, which were the World Wars, they’re referred to as “World Wars,” but really they’re tribal, you know, the Germans fighting the Polish, and this and that. But there’s this desire that over time, at least within America, everyone overtime stops being Polish or this and that. I mean it’s still there you know, like there’re Irish celebrations and what have you, but the overarching identity is being white. But that has not always been true because for example, if you go to Ellis Island, you see all these uh, obstacles to, “oh now they’re coming from East Europe and they’re dark-eyed,” and this and that…but then over time now everyone’s just “white.” Like what are your thoughts on that? It’s just interesting to me –feels like a loss of identity, I don’t know?

Katie Mansfield:
Yeah. Um, there is, there is. In fact, this very morning I was reading through this beautiful book that my aunt created that traces four or five generations of our Irish heritage ancestors and what we know about them practically, cause she’s my aunt Pat is an amazing genealogist, and in my thesis I…part of what I…so one of the things Karla talked about in the grief ritual was that the ancestors are always willing to help, but you need to ask. And she said there’s a lot of unemployment on the other side. So like we’re not asking our ancestors questions, not inviting their help, and that’s part of the cultural loss, right? Cause we’re so focused on “now” and “to-do lists” and “the future” that I think a lot of, particularly white bodied Americans, don’t recognize the past that lies before us, right? As, as J.B. [Jebiwot] Sumbeiywo said. Um, and so one of the things I did very intentionally each morning was name specific ancestors, my grandparents have all passed on, so naming my grandparents, naming some of their forebears, both the ones who I know a lot of their joyous self lives through me, but also the ones about whom I’ve heard stories of really terrible mental health, pain, abuse. And it’s just been an incredible experience because my mother’s father, who was the, the Sicilian part of me, yeah, my mom’s dad, his family came from Sicily.

patience kamau:
So he spoke Italian?

Katie Mansfield:
Yeah, he spoke Sicilian dialect. How much have you…

Katie Mansfield:
If you listened to Sicilian –Italians will tell you that’s not Italian. [Laughs] But yes, he spoke both Italian and Sicilian dialect and his parents came and they, um, apparently his mother never wanted to learn English and, and she was apparently, I just learned this through this process cause I started asking my mother more questions about my ancestors. Like, so what do you know about grandma Rosina and grandpa Antonio? And we have some amazing family stories about them, but I started hearing these pains like, “oh, grandpa Antonio just went and got grandma Rosina and brought her here and she never wanted to be here,” right? So inherent in that is like the patriarchy, right? A woman who didn’t want to leave her place but had to because that’s how marriage worked and no power to do anything about that. And then there’s my own grandfather, Rosina’s son, who died young of pancreatic cancer, who I have heard of as a very loving person, as an achiever, as a perfectionist. And one of the things that’s amazing, right –on a really superficial level, racism is about skin. Obviously. It’s not about skin, it’s about history. It’s about original sin, you know, is one of the titles. But I had, I have had some skin cancer and I realized there is a parallel process going on because when I, I’ve had some things cut off me before, but recently I had something on a very prominent place on my chest, like right below my neck. And so the doctor said, well, why don’t we do a topical cream instead of, uh, cutting it. And my chest got so inflamed and infected and I couldn’t sleep. And energetically this sits between my heart-center, which is the seat of love-relationships, and my throat, which is voice and self-expression. And so I had this terrible situation and then I got to be part of, um, energetic medicine learning and one of my classmates did a session on me and asked about my liver. And I was like, no, no, we need to work with the chest here. And the thing is, the liver energetically is the seat of anger in the body. And she got me to talk about all the unexpressed anger that I had in my life about love-relationships. And the next day that wound dried up. And as I’m doing this process and writing about healing from shame and all the different things that come into play when we’re trying to address a lot of different forms of violence, but particularly racism in a U.S. context, I realized that I was dealing with skin and my grandfather was a dermatologist and I got this one poem that is also about dealing with those dark emotions that we don’t want to deal with? It was, “I sat in the shadow, the shade of this tree had enough sun on my face in this life. Too much sun translates as skin cancer for me. Had enough sun on my face in this life, was taught to be light, stay out of the shadows. Now I’m not sure where that too well lit road goes. I’ve had to cut parts of me off.” And so I think the work of all of us, and of course many of us cannot trace our ancestors, right? For many people that was completely disrupted systematically, people were cut away from their families…

patience kamau:
Right!

Katie Mansfield:
So first we have to acknowledge there were people who cannot trace their ancestry. And then for those who can, and especially the white bodied ones who haven’t dealt with some of the “clean pain” that their ancestors were probably carrying and that they’re still carrying in their nervous systems, this journey can really unearth some amazing gifts and I’m inclined to believe that the healing does reach backwards through the generations. I had like a little dance party with all my grandparents when I finally hit send.

[Transition music plays]

patience kamau:
So Katie, what do you think CJP should be celebrating right now? I mean, you’ve been here for five years, will be soon, what’s to celebrate in this, at this milestone in your opinion?

Katie Mansfield:
Yeah, I mean, in some ways the difficulty is the celebration. Um, and so what I see as one of our core difficulties right now is –I feel like we come out of a tradition of helpers and healers going to help other people. And that’s not entirely true, right? The idea of the education that happens here is that everyone who goes through it is the helper and healer for their own place. Right? But if you think about kind of historically, systemically, what are the origins of some of this peace and conflict work? It involves people from a more privileged and safe position going to people who were in less privileged and more endangered positions and critical theory and systemic lenses are making it real clear that that model is a holdover of colonial…

patience kamau:
…mindsets?

Katie Mansfield:
Mindsets, right. And that it is not fully respectful of the incredible resilience, capacity, wisdom, power, healthy power that exists in all of these communities that people are, some people are trying to go help. And so that that justice lens, that systemic justice lens says, things have to change. You know who, who are the bodies in leadership in different spaces talking about different issues? Why don’t you have a person of color leading all of the conversations about racism? And then there are other issues with that, right? There’s, there’s other people who would say, well, no, you can’t put all the emotional labor on the people of color, you have to have people carrying their own part of the burden. So it’s, it’s more complicated than any one sentence can do justice to. But, you know, particular to trauma, I noticed just in the course of the last two years that I used to talk from the works of primarily white authors who were all coming from a more clinical understanding of trauma, but making that clinical understanding accessible to other people. And there’s a lot missing from that, if what you’re saying, that’s what trauma theory is because there’s a huge body of radical feminist theory and of critical race theory and practice from many different cultures worldwide, in particular a lot of indigenous cultures, to address trauma that’s not coming out of clinical stuff and has huge amounts to teach us about trauma and resilience. And so I think there’s a balancing going on, where I hope that we can celebrate the voices that are guiding us, be a much greater multiplicity. Um, because you know, I, I came in here like “wow, these Mennonites they know peace,” and there’s a lot of awesome wisdom from Mennonite traditions, and there are so many people who know peace and who grapple with violence and who have huge amounts of wisdom and resilience to teach. And so I celebrate that I think we are, I think we’re trying to honor that.

patience kamau:
We’re trying, Yeah. So looking down, 25 years down, the lane what do you hope CJP will be? CJP at 50?

Katie Mansfield:
I think CJP at 50 might draw on the awesome multiplicity of perspectives of its alumni to bring a wisdom that has grounding in many different places and traditions, but not in a way that’s just about like a good show, but in a way that I don’t yet have the exact words for it. I have like a few hundred pages of words for it, but I haven’t yet figured out how to put a really fine point on it, which is like when each person is doing the thing that is informed by their own deep roots, change comes maybe more slowly, but it’s grounded and I think the earth is singing, I also think the earth is crying –so for each of us to both physically get more grounded in the place we are and not think there is some grand theory of everything that we can go all over the place dropping. And that was never the approach, right? The approach was always elicitive, always like “the wisdom is in the room,” have the right conversations, have an elicitive structure and the wisdom that’s in the room will emerge. So I do believe that’s always been the approach and still coming to a real creative structure that allows for much more fluidity for much more exchange, for much more, “here’s the deep embodied wisdom that comes from this place.” I think that can stimulate the kind of creativity and a grounded creativity. So, you know, there’s, there’s kind of one version of creativity that’s like, “Ooh, look, I can paint something beautiful,” but a grounded creativity is like, you know, when Wendell Berry writes “be joyful, though you have considered all the facts,” right? Like if, if we have bodies who are grounded in place and in earth and not thinking that there’s one approach that’s going to fit…I mean I, this feels so obvious, right? It feels so obvious –like obviously one size does not fit all, and I think there’s still so much, like I thought I knew a lot of stuff and then I had no clue. I, I’ve called it power oblivion in my, in my dissertation. Like I had no clue about my own power and how to use that helpfully or not helpfully. And so I guess finding ways for people to discover and continue reviving their healthy power in grounded ways. But I don’t know, I feel like even the question of where to be in 50 years is not necessarily a healthy question for us to be answering, cause we have really huge things happening to the earth now. And so that idea of vision, right, I love Elise Boulding’s 200-year present, you know, I think it was Václav Havel who said, hope is not necessarily, you know, knowing what the result is going to be, but hope is knowing that what you’re doing now makes sense regardless of the outcome. And so I, I almost feel like I have no view of 50 years and I really, really hope that we can learn to be more present with each other. I know, and really all of those things have to happen at the same time. Um, I really hope that in 50 years we know much better how to address the past, and to be present.

[Transition music]

patience kamau:
We’re almost done, so in just closing, Katie, what do you do for fun?

Katie Mansfield:
Hm, well, dance is the, the word that most people would shout out…

patience kamau:
…associate with you…

Katie Mansfield:
If they had to answer this question. So I do dance. Um, and, and last night I had the most incredible experience –I woke up, you know, uh, kinda in the middle of the night, and I remembered that it was a clear night and it was the new moon. So I went outside and I lay on a big bolster pillow and I looked up at the sky and I got to see two shooting stars. So I think my answer a few months ago would have been like, well, I dance, and I write and I cook and I host and I go hiking in the woods. I do those things and they’re great –and the power of being still and touching the earth and seeing the cosmos, it’s really fun and really life-giving. And you know, to use the title of my thesis, it helps me re-friend my body. Like I had broken relationship with my body –I was saying things to my body that were really not okay and they were, they were violent [chuckles], and, um, to actually become friends with all that’s here in terms of complexity and mess and amazing thoughtfulness that has required the help of the earth, of the ancestors, the cosmos; and there’s nothing like looking up at those stars to see that we are part of a long history of evolution.

patience kamau:
This is right. This is right.

Katie Mansfield:
Attempting to dismantle, this mantle of white that lies over the ground, I found these lies live deeper. I think I know the way down to the central core of truth, but pieces of the crust keep flying into my eyes. Be still, she says, put down the drill, she says, you are killing me!
[Begins to sing] Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, too-ra-loo-ra-li. [stops singing]
It’s okay to cry, she said, stop beating yourself and destroying us both.

patience kamau:
This has been great.

Katie Mansfield:
Good to talk with you patience.

patience kamau:
Thank you for sharing your time with me.

Katie Mansfield:
See yah!

patience kamau:
Hey, hold on a minute –after we finished, the mic was still recording and it captured more of Katie’s poetry and other gems.

Katie Mansfield:
So in the very last day of my dissertation writing, I got um, one final poem that helped me kind of see where I am. Because there was this really challenging quote from Ijeoma Oluo who was a really helpful teacher to me through her book “So you want to talk about race,” and in a more recent article she wrote, “if your anti-racism work prioritizes the growth and enlightenment of white America over the safety, dignity, and humanity of people of color, it’s not anti-racism work, it’s white supremacy.” [Both make acknowledging sounds]

Katie Mansfield:
And then, um, Kyle Powys White who’s a Potawatomi scholar, um, writes “indigenous environmental movements work to reject the ancestral dystopias and colonial fantasies of the present. This is why so many of our environmental movements are about stopping sexual and state violence against indigenous people, reclaiming ethical self-determination across diverse urban and rural ecosystems, empowering gender justice and gender fluidity, transforming lawmaking to be consensual, healing, intergenerational traumas and calling out all practices that erase indigenous histories, cultures and experiences.” So I read these two things that these awesome healing forces in humanity wrote and then I realized, despite my best intentions, I did a white supremacist project grounded in colonial fantasy. And then I got this poem which is informed by the writing of a number of different people, and the stories of a number of different people. One is Ibram X. Kendi who said, “I used to be more racist, I am changing.” One is Fania Davis’ recent Little Book of Race and Restorative Justice in which, at one point she writes, “there are no sides,” and at another point she talks about the need to create “a healing ground, not a battleground.” It draws on Fannie Lou Hamer’s, well known words “nobody’s free, until everybody’s free.” And it draws on the story of the hummingbird that I understand to have origins in indigenous South America, although the tale has traveled –and the hummingbird is trying to save the forest from burning and the other animals ask, you know, “what the heck are you doing now, with that tiny beak of yours?” And the hummingbird says, “I’m doing what I can.” So this poem came at the end of my process of uh, learning. It’s called, “there are no sides.” “I am neither heroine nor villain. I am neither to be imprisoned nor placed on a pedestal. I am practicing being on this ground. I am practicing listening inside and out. I used to be more racist, I am changing. I am a story of privilege and a story of oppression. There are no sides and nobody’s free until everybody’s free. I am doing what I can to make my body, our bodies, this work, this country, this world, a healing ground, not a battleground. Let me let us face history, drop salvation fantasies. Prioritizing myself is white supremacy, and I will do more harm if I don’t start with me.”

patience kamau:
And just to mention that we had just talked about, you just gave the background, the provenance of that story about the hummingbird.

Katie Mansfield:
Yeah.

patience kamau:
There’s a very beautiful recording somewhere on YouTube or by Wangari Maathai…

Katie Mansfield:
Yes!

patience kamau:
That she talks about that story –if people want to look it up– it’s pretty amazing.

Katie Mansfield:
Yeah, oh yeah. Look, you can look up, there are two really beautiful animations. One is with Wangari Maathai telling the story, and there’s kind of an anime version of it.

patience kamau:
And you said the Koreans that came earlier in the year called themselves “the hummingbirds.”

Katie Mansfield:
Yeah. So when this group of educators came, um, I was working with Eunkyung to understand more about who was coming. Um, and, and during the preparations she shared with me that they consider themselves and she said “like the hummingbird.” And I asked her what she meant by that and she told me the story they had learned a few years ago while visiting Vancouver, a story with origins in indigenous South America that was put to paper and then to anime by Haida storyteller illustrator, Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas. I may not be getting that just right. And later told by Wangari Maathai and now this story is claimed by this group of Koreans, and this was so meaningful to this group of educators that they still really invoke that image of the hummingbird. And we had a hummingbird that Eunkyung and I fashioned out of beeswax as part of our centerpiece for the week –so it was a very present theme for us in that learning.

patience kamau:
We could keep going for hours, but we have to stop.
Thank you, Katie.

patience kamau:
Katie is the author of…

• Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience programme: experiential education towards resilience and trauma informed people and practice. An article in Intervention: Journal of Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Conflict-Affected Areas. [Volume 15, Number 3, Page 264 – 277.]

She is also author of…
• Supporting creative, whole peacebuilders: An apprenticeship program –– a chapter in Faith and Practice in Conflict Resolution. [edited by Rachel Goldberg.]

Recently, Katie was also on a special COVID-19 episode of the Virgil Stucker & Associates Podcast “Mental Horizons” ––it was episode 14 of their second season.

[Outro music begins to play and fades into background]

patience kamau:
All the music you hear on this podcast has been composed by: the one and only Luke Mullet. Our audio mixing engineer extraordinaire is: Stephen Angello. Audio editing support was generously provided by: Michaela Mast. And I am the podcast executive producer, audio recording engineer, editor and host: patience Kamau. As you are able, please remember to subscribe, rate and review this podcast so that other peacebuilders may find it. We’ll be back with a new episode in two weeks! Thank you so much for listening and join us again next time!

[Outro music swells and plays till end]

3 comments on “8. Re-friending my body”

  1. Elena M Huegel says:

    Hello! I resonated with so much of this podcast that I am still vibrating!! I avoided the trauma healing courses at SPI during my master's program, I kept saying I wanted to focus on conflict transformation and Vernon Jantzi, as my advisor, kept saying, "you really need to take a trauma awareness course." Three weeks before the devastating earthquakes and tsunamis in Chile in 2010, a STAR trainer came to Chile and I did the program along with 12 other Chileans. Little did we know how valuable it was to become! I came to trauma healing through the round about route of ecological and outdoor education, and experiential education and recreation. I kept asking during my SPI experience, "how does this relate to the environment?" "How do our experiences affect our bodies and can our bodies be more involved in our learning process (even at a Master's academic level!)?" Now I am learning so much from the Mayan people in Chiapas about how our ancestors and their experiences bring wisdom and also healing and pain and about how the earth is an essential part of our healing. Thanks so much for sharing deeply and openly about your own path, Katie!!

    1. Katie Mansfield says:

      Thank you so much for your comments, Elena. I do hope our paths will cross more directly some time soon, and by what I have seen of your work and weaving and writing, they are already part of the same tapestry. Appreciating you and all the love and care and multi-faceted wisdom you integrate into your life and work, at least if Vernon's word is anything to go by ;)

  2. patience says:

    elena 🧡!

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