Have you ever considered how caring for yourself could be a revolutionary act? Danielle Denichaud, a professional dancer turned chronic disease recovery coach, and Ph.D. candidate at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education helps us unearth the importance of self-care as an ethical project and a key component of regenerative education. We dig into the importance of somatic awareness in education and the need for bravery and action in our pursuit of wellness. Through this episode, we shed light on the significant connections between performing arts, social justice, education, and embodied learning, and how these intersections can influence our personal and societal wellness. Our conversation also steers towards the impact of permaculture principles and Indigenous teachings and the role creativity plays in navigating our way out of this current moment. Join us in challenging our perceptions and beliefs about wellness and self-care to reimagine an approach to education that is radically regenerative.
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(0:00:20) – Exploring Regenerative Education and Wellness
Danielle Denichaud discusses somatic awareness, arts-infused facilitation, regenerative health, and disease stories to explore Indigenous wisdom and interdependent relationality.
(0:11:13) – Regenerative Education Through Self-Care & Indigenous Teachings
Foucault’s Care of the Self, Indigenous ecology and permaculture principles inform regenerative education, empowering us to act independently and create joyous wellness.
(0:26:54) – Ethic of Care and Creativity
We explore an ethic of care, connecting our own suffering to the world’s, and offering unique forms of love, justice, and resilience.
(0:38:56) – The Importance of Creativity and Care
Creativity, regenerative education, ecology, belonging, purpose, presence, ethic of care, and caring for ourselves and others.
(0:44:25) – Radical Tenderness and Compassion’s Power
Technology, Vedic practices, emotional development, radical tenderness, and creativity are discussed to understand our inner faculties and find hope.
(0:53:23) – Find Resources and Contact Information
We explore how Vedic practices can help us understand and relate to our body, mind, and spirit, and use technology as a tool for self-care and connection.
Resources mentioned in this episode
“The Care of the Self” by Michel Foucault
0:00:20 – Anna
Welcome to Creative Praxis. I’m Anna Griffith, an assistant professor in the School of Creative Arts at the University of the Fraser Valley.
0:00:27 – Kyla
And I am Kyla Mitchell-Marquis, an undergraduate honor psychology student focusing on gender and sexuality at the University of the Fraser Valley and a research assistant for the podcast.
0:00:37 – Anna
I would like to begin our conversation with acknowledging that I’m speaking today on the beautiful shared territory of the Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam nations, but that our work also takes place on Stó:lo territory. Beginning with a territory acknowledgement is a way to remind me that Kyla and I are exploring what regenerative sustainability is and what regenerative education can look like. We have great models for this. The various Indigenous peoples and wisdom of this land offer highly sophisticated understandings of how to live with an ethics of interconnection in mind. For me, considering our interdependent relationality is a key component of regenerative education, and this is something our guests today understands deeply.
0:01:29 – Kyla
We are joined today by Danielle Denichaud. Danielle is a first generation Canadian currently residing in Tkaronto, Turtle Island, whose professional roots are grounded in an eight-year career as a professional contemporary dancer, followed by 10 years as a helicic nutritionist, chronic disease recovery coach and rehabilitative postural trainer.
0:01:47 – Anna
Danielle currently works as a researcher and knowledge mobilizer for Dreamwalker Dance Company and, following a BA in Child Studies and an MA in Social Justice Education, is now a fourth-year PhD candidate in curriculum and pedagogy at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. She is also a longtime meditation practitioner and ongoing student of living systems theory, regenerative health sciences and eco-spirituality In both her personal and professional practices.
0:02:15 – Kyla
She explores the symbiotic bridges between the performing arts and community well-being, social justice, education and embodied learning, along with environmental education and holistic health promotion Through storytelling, movement, philosophy, poetry and science. Danielle’s stewards embodied languages and pedagogies that activate her wonderment, felt sense and compassion in individuals of all ages. Ultimately, her work strives towards peace and the mutual thriving of diverse and diverse humans, more than human life and the earth we all call home. Welcome, Danielle, and thank you so much for joining us today.
0:02:48 – Danielle
Thank you so much, Anna and Kyla. It’s truly a pleasure to be here with you both.
0:02:54 – Anna
Danielle, your work is a beautiful blend of somatic awareness and practice, arts-infused facilitation, and you have this really expansive understanding of wellness with your focus on regenerative health. So I’m wondering if you could open the conversation today with speaking a little bit about how these are really important dimensions of this kind of regenerative education in a broad sense.
0:03:19 – Danielle
Yes, thank you so much for that question and the opportunity to launch into how this all lives in me. I think there’s a word I discovered recently, which is a synthophiliac. I love weaving together ideas that seem to live in different places and see how they hold together webs of understanding, and for me it all begins with what are the times that we are living in, what are the needs right now and what is being asked of us as educators, what is being asked of us as people who have the privilege and the gift to be conscious, but the kinds of ways we are building and maintaining and shifting relationships with ourselves, with other beings, with the earth and when? I’ve been asking myself questions for many years now, even before I went to graduate school and, as I’ve mentioned, I may have mentioned, you know, this all began with my own journey of coming to know my own disease, stories that lived in me, which happened in my early 20s. It was the peak of my low health, or at the bottom of my health, and in order to come back to my wholeness, in order to even start to grow my health, I need to understand my disease very intimately, and that went far beyond my own body. It had to do with my emotional relationships with my family and my friends at the time. It had to do with being a citizen in a culture. It had to do with being a social being. It had to do with also being a part of the earth’s children who are breathing the same air and being breathed with the same air.
So, when it comes to regenerative education, I really look at what is alive in us right now, and I think it merits repeating, because what is alive at us is a plethora of disease and ubiquitous dis-ease that is not limited to one person, one part of the world, one location, one symptomatic expression. It has a historical arch which will then bring us into conversations with industry and broader relationships that humans tend with the earth, and it will bring us into our belief systems and our spirituality. So if we’re looking at regenerative education and even that, I think, opens up, but I’ll close this little sharing here what are we looking to bring forward through education? What are we looking to nurture, what are the languages we’re looking to transmit and what is it that we’re hoping to regenerate? And I’ll dot, dot, dot it there for now.
0:05:48 – Anna
I love that and I will pick up from your dot dot dot, and this idea of kind of our ethical imperative as educators is something that I also think a lot about and I also really resonate with so much of what you’re saying. But especially starting with the sense of self and how we understand the, the web that we are within, that we contribute to, I think that’s a really critical place for us to understand within our own being before we can steward others, and I also really think that what is needed right now is bravery and the attempt, even if we get it wrong, or rather than just waiting until we feel ready or perfect. So there’s so many kind of follow up questions I would like to ask you, but I’m also going to ask Kyla, if you have any follow up questions before I jump in.
0:06:44 – Kyla
Oh no, not immediately. I, yeah. I deeply resonate, though, with having this sense of like bodily psychology, like mental awareness of of a, of a disease or an imbalance and such, and how I think, ultimately, it needs to start there in order to like branch out and see this interconnected web, of reiterating what you had said of this connection between us all. So no immediate follow up questions, but I just I want to see that I resonate with you.
0:07:12 – Danielle
Yeah, no, jump in and say something. There’s two things that that came up for me. What I believe? I 100% agree with the need for bravery, and I believe that the bravery that’s needed is to be radically tender and radically compassionate.
And the one, the one thing I want to say to you, kyla, with your comment, is, whether or not we’re aware of it, we do begin from what is alive in us.
Whether or not we’re aware of it, we may start a conversation from a different place of awareness, but we are never not our mind, body, heart, spirit, relational, environmental, complex speaking forward, and I imagine we’re going to get into this. But the place where hope actually lives is the place that hope actually lives is in the acknowledgement that all of me is always present all the time, and where our starting places is likely a lot more primary, a lot more basic than our intellectual and theoretical and philosophical theories would like us to believe. We can talk a lot about what we’d like to see in the future, but our first step is from our most tender, most wounded, most scared part of us. Like if we’re injured, we cannot run. If our ankle is broken, we must wait for our ankle to heal so that we can learn how to stand again before we can write the theories and the schematics of how we’re going to win the Olympics.
0:08:37 – Anna
And so, as we’re imagining like that, we’re that we’re all starting from different places and yet we are all starting already. How do you have any advice or how do you help steward people toward becoming a little bit more aware of disease of the broken ankle, Like what are the kind of first steps that you often encourage people to take?
0:09:03 – Danielle
Yes, you know I am.
It’s different, for it’s different if I was facilitating a class versus if I were speaking to educators.
If I were facilitating a class, we begin with, I mean, we can do it right now, which is if we can allow our gaze to soften from our outside projection and to allow ourselves to settle into where we are right now and simply begin to notice our body and specifically the parts of our body that are in contact with the surface, notice the weight of clothes on our body and maybe any air against our skin, doing a gentle scan of our body, being curious about any stations that you can perceive quiet ones, the loud ones, the silent places, the painful places, the pleasurable places and then, if we can bring our attention to notice how our body is being breathed, noticing the parts of our body that are moving and receiving breath and releasing breath, notice any parts of your body that would like to receive more breath and see if you can soften there.
Noticing the movement of air and where it’s coming in and out of your body, noticing the rhythm your rhythm of your inhale and exhale, noticing the temperature of air in and out of your body and then just feeling all of yourself as much as you can for the next couple of breaths. And if your eyes were closed, I invite you to blink them open and start to gaze around your room, wherever you find yourself today, and notice any colors or textures that are interesting for you, allowing your eyes to linger gently on objects, maybe even perceiving what direction you might be facing right now and having an awareness of what is deeply below you, expansively above you and surrounding you in all directions. And then just offering a moment of gratitude to yourself for this gift of presence, of being, and noticing and experience what it’s like to receive that. And then coming back into our Zoom space, I invite us just to share one word with how are we today? How am I today? I’ll start Grounded.
0:12:20 – Kyla
I felt the immediate word that came to mind even prior to when you prompted it was just welcoming, like I felt like I was brought back in to the present moment and brought back into this space, welcoming you, welcoming the listeners, myself, even just back into this space, yeah, and my word is calm.
0:12:44 – Anna
I feel, after the tumultuous morning, the sense of ease and calm.
0:12:50 – Danielle
Yeah, thank you for just allowing me to throw us into that.
0:12:57 – Anna
Yes, a beautiful moment.
0:13:01 – Danielle
That, for me, is a more about. I’m really glad that I could share that with you all, because the place to begin is in doing something that brings us into being here now and the reminder that we are. We are writing a story right now. A story is being written through me with every heartbeat, every kidney filter, every cycle of blood cells. A story is being written that is as old as humans itself and as a part of my personal story and together, because we’re relating, we’re connecting to meet, we are writing a story as well.
We’re contributing to ideas, and a place to begin is noticing that I am here and I’m alive, that there’s a lot of me that I know and that I don’t know, there are parts of me that are okay and not okay, that I’m in space that’s filled with stuff and there’s a broader world beyond my nowness, and that I’m with diverse beings that have a different experience of now and that we can understand each other through common language, through a common experience of space, of the elements of being in a body, and for me, that is a way to open up the landscape, to have a conversation of what is alive in me right now, and no matter what the question is, if we’re speaking about regenerative education, regenerative education, what is a part of me that really wants to be part of this conversation? What’s bubbling up that says I want to speak and that’s a place to begin?
0:14:39 – Kyla
Speaking of writing writing a story I would like to pivot to a paper that you wrote, and your paper Learners to Become. You use Foucault’s Care of Self and the indigenous sense of ecology of healing through Cahete, along with principles of permaculture, to set the stage for the impacts regenerative education can have. Could you tell us about each of these and how they helped you form your ideas about regenerative education? Absolutely.
0:15:03 – Danielle
I really enjoyed getting into Foucault when I was doing that. That paper emerged from my master’s thesis, actually, and I really enjoyed getting into Foucault and looking at the way that authors are examining Foucault’s work when it comes to ethics, morality and education, child development, child rearing and this idea of being in right relationship with ourselves and with others. And what I enjoyed about it is it clarified things for myself and my own journey and, as I said, so much of my internal language, of how I’ve come to grow my own wholeness again comes from now. It’s a 17-year journey of coming back to wholeness after living in chronic pain for over 10 years, and it spoke to me that caring for yourself is an ethical project because my conscious mind is in relationship with the inner faculties, my body, and there is a first relationship, ethical relationship, and it’s ethical because our body is not a submissive. It’s submissive but it’s not a slave. It has will. So Foucault’s care of the self helped me to articulate a very important part of my research, which is that it begins with our internal sense of governance, that my conscious, attentive mind is governing my mind, body, heart, spirit, faculties, and I establish a power dynamic through how I am symbiotically responsive to my body’s voice, or I could say even salutogenically, health promotively responsive, health growing responsive to my body’s voice, or pathogenically responsive, which is disease creating. As simple as do I listen to my body’s cries for rest, for water, for sleep, for safety, for quiet, for movement, and that so the Foucault’s care of the self really brought me into focus of it’s right. We do have a power dynamic.
It gave a language to something that I discovered for myself and my own work of recognizing that I was living in a dictatorship, that I was governing myself with a very iron fist and I held myself together with fear and I needed to face that first complicity and grieve my own grieving of wow, I’m also a part of my own suffering. And also that it pointed to and this will lean into the other ones it pointed to care of the self is not a performative, it’s not for economic gain. It is for the joy and beauty and harmony of beingness and to be a part of a story that we’re proud of and to be part of growing a society that brings us joy and wellness. And it also has to do with the liberty, our liberty to be able to resist against external forces upon our own will to act. So when we do have a sense of awareness of how am I caring for myself, what attitudes and behaviors and practices do I affirm each day that inform my culture of how I grow myself forward, how I educate myself, how I bring myself forward, has to do with my ability to be an independent, liberal person walking in the world, because it means that if you imagine all that comes to us, all of the cultural inculcation that of course goes into us as a certain river or an energy that comes in what we grow within ourselves and that we magnify through our daily thoughts and our feelings, our relationships and our practices, physical practices and walking in the environment is a resistant.
We could use a funny example. It’s the two light sabers, mr Wors. We grow our own light that is like a light that then radiates itself. That is an active relationship. And for cahete and a lot of my relationship with birth based practices, indigenous teachings, comes from a seven years I’ve been a student and mentee in turn with the Living Centre. It’s an eco spiritual education sanctuary in London, ontario, under the mentorship of two elders.
It is exhaling into our ontological interdependence with all life that we can simply connect with by asking the question where does wind end and my breath begin? Where does my breath end and wind begin? Where do the rivers end and my teardrops, saliva, lymphatic rivers begin? We can do that with fire, we can do that with earth, and in that place all walls of separation dissolve in an ontological way. My nature of being is an interdependent relationship.
And then if I can soften further and see myself as sitting in a great circle and this, this is also speaking about concentrism or kinship, coming from Indigenous teachings we are not able to impose an ethic on to land or govern it, because it is a sovereign nation of sovereign beings. And so if I see myself sitting in a circle with the squirrels and the oaks and the whales and the insects and all of the crawling, in the swimmers and the flyers, I ground myself out of an anthropocentric perspective and I’m no longer the governor and the author of life here from. No, I’m a guest here, as all other guests, and we are all sharing the same home. So I can also exhale what I know into a singular lens of wisdom and look at other beings, and I recently listened to the fabulous podcast on regenerative agriculture and they were speaking about the wisdom of the rabbits when it had to do with growing hazelnut trees, because they have a way of germinating and I may be confusing the animal, but they have a way of germinating the seeds that humans don’t figure out haven’t figured out.
So the ecology of life, a part of it, is the ontological interdependence with all life as a practice. Again, these are all practices of when I’m in relationship with the elements air, water, food, walking, fire in my belly, in my eyes, in my heart am I reminding myself of where these come from, these ancient expressions of the earth? The other thing that I really enjoyed about the ecology of life is growing towards life and that anything to do with the direction of regenerative education, the direction of regenerative anything, is to grow towards more life, create the conditions that are going to create good soil propitious of thriving. That is like a flower, that is like a tree, that is like a healthy ecosystem which is rich in color and beauty and harmony and creativity. And was there a third?
0:22:08 – Kyla
Oh, yeah, yeah, just briefly about the principles of permaculture.
0:22:11 – Danielle
Yes, disgust, yeah, yes, which is completely woven in, absolutely yeah. It’s looking at everything as an ecosystem that’s dancing together and the really beautiful example of a plant is you can’t force a plant to grow. You can try all you want. I mean, that’s not true. We can force plants to grow. Look at industrial agriculture. So I retract that comment.
We can definitely force plants to grow, but in beauty, in the way that is whole, that is as below as above, deeply nourishing, deeply healthy and independent in its own capacity to regenerate. That requires a relationship, and permaculture, in its root it looks at. We’re looking at an ecosystem and in order to understand how to be in a flourishing relationship with the ecosystem, we need to observe its patterns. We need to observe the natural behavior of an ecosystem. What is its weather, how do things behave, what is the natural relationship with a broader environment, and then understand where is it that our participation will be of greatest meaning for the health of the environment.
The other thing I really enjoy about permaculture is that it works a lot with regenerating deserts and land that has been over exploited due to industrial agriculture and other means.
So it bravely says I’m not afraid of disease, I’m not afraid of something that looks barren.
I’m going to be curious about it and believe that this is a part of supporting the Earth’s natural wisdom, the Earth’s natural wellness, to blossom forth. Therefore, what I see is not a representation of its beingness. There’s no determinism based off of the symptoms, which might be another segue, but that’s why I love permaculture, because it’s another entry point so that we can reclaim our wellness back from the biomedical model that wants to have us fixated on our human body as either deficient or likely to break down, or somehow in relationship with a norm that is subpar, which keeps us in fear versus in. There is a living hope, and it’s that the Earth is wise and the Earth is creative, and I can be an ecosystem participant and I can share this space with an ecosystem participant, and having that lens on education changes a classroom into a garden of creative wise, becoming beings who are full of experience and full of wisdom and full of complications, but together we could participate through observing ourselves in one another and grow something beautiful that we choose to together.
0:24:44 – Kyla
Yes, what comes to mind immediately is starting off, when I began to think of this, going back to even just the practice that you have done like slowing down, becoming present, and how this relates to how we get to know our Earth, you need to get down on its level, become slow, become quiet, listen.
And when you talked about this ontological interdependence of all life, the first thing that came to mind was the work of Robin Wall Kimmerer. And we question what is intelligence? And often we look at it from an anthropocentric point of view, using IQ skills or what have you. But ultimately, what you had said about the squirrels or whatever critter it was, learning to foster hazelnuts or whatever, yeah, but it makes this question that, and observing its patterns, being curious about the fact that Earth does have its natural wisdom, and what I love about what you had, you weave that together so well and how we can recreate that through teaching human children, human lives and such and one of the things that I’m really impressed with the way that you’re able to really succinctly weave all of these threads together that come from such different aspects of you, aspects of your life.
0:26:14 – Anna
And there is this ethics of care. That goes beyond just what Foucault’s care of self, but this idea that we have wholeness and wellness inside of us. We just we need to, as you said, tend the soil, do the things, the practices that are able to help us to unlearn, to relearn, to repattern, and all of that takes a lot of care, and so I’m wondering, if you can. You might not use the term ethics of care in your work, but I hear that kind of resonating through a lot of what you’re saying. So I’m wondering if you could share a little bit about how you see ethics of care in your work or in your perspective.
0:26:54 – Danielle
Absolutely Thank you, and I find it to be a helpful term because one of the things that I find important when it comes to education because I’ve now spent the past seven years analyzing curricular documents and looking at languages within academia is the need to look below the surface and say well, what do we mean? We have fabulous language available for us, and I’m going to bring forward and name the work of Joanna Macy and the work that we connect here, because this was huge for me as someone whose own illness had a lot to do with not understanding what it meant to be an empath in a world that is suffering, someone who has a wild imagination, someone who feels very deeply and someone who has a mind that asks questions of why is it that war exists in the first place? Why suffering? It’s why I’m so grateful for meditation, teaching all these ancient teachings, that I’ve asked questions and proposed possible answers, and the work of Joanna Macy was paramount for me to understand that it is because we care about the world, it is because we belong to the world, that our hearts break over and over again. It is why we are so deeply disturbed and dismayed when egregious things happen to people and thinking about. And there’s also the work of Brian Swim, who is this fabulous cosmologist who speaks about the new human, that we’re now at the end of the Anthropocene and the new human 14 billion years of evolution. To go shopping is our peak, to be a consumer. And he brings us back to well, actually, we’re compassionate beings, aren’t we? We have an incredible capacity to suffer with and weaving together that with Joanna Macy. She says all paraphrase suffering for our world is the most natural thing possible and it is on the other side of our deep suffering that our greatest creativity, our work, our greatest creativity is there, our justice for our world.
And it gets shivers when I speak about the work, because for me, care and why an ethic of care again goes back to that original conversation is what is real? What do we know right now? We know from devastating statistics that we are more sick than ever before, that our young people are suffering deeply and they are deeply sensitive to the suffering of the world. On one side, if we take it from a pathological perspective, that’s a problem. We need to fix this, we need to get them OK. However, from a living systems perspective, these young, beautiful, sensitive beings are the biological feedback letting us know that the world is not OK, that there’s something very wrong with how we are in relationship, there’s something very wrong with how we’re doing things.
And instead of pathologizing them, can we see that the natural emergence of deeper sensitivity and emotional distress in a world that is ailing in all ways could be a beautiful entry point to ask the question what does it mean to care today, as a practice of being in relationship, and my study in Joanna Mates’s work and my embodiment of her work that we connect to specifically the Truth Mandala, where I have been and I might get a little emotional here, for good reason it’s a very powerful practice where we sit in circle and allow ourselves to be as honestly emotional as our heart asks for, where we don’t simply sit there and nod and tense our body when we hear whatever buffet of devastation is available to us today. So there’s an endless buffet of sadness and devastation in the world and we allow ourselves to be devastated and allow our hearts to break while sitting in circle and scream and wail and yell or just hold objects in anger and in grief and in hopelessness and in fear, and in doing so we realize that we can be devastated and we will not be annihilated, that the heart has an incredible capacity to break and break, and break and break all over again, and in that it’s love grows and in that our creativity is available. So pretending everything’s OK is the opposite of care, in my opinion. Pretending that we should be able to cope or bounce back in the face of stress and that that’s good enough is the opposite of an ethic of care in 2023 on planet Earth. Bounce back to what and why. What does it say about a system, what does it say about a practice that wants us to be able to look at the suffering of another, being human or otherwise, and be okay with it, and not show feeling.
We go back to kindergarten for a second. I’ve got a school next to me. What do we teach our young about? Caring for one another and making sure everyone’s okay? When does that disappear? When does caring for one another and being kind to the bugs and going, drawing pictures of the trees and caring about them? When does that all of a sudden stop being relevant? So the idea of an ethic of care has brought me to face the saddest things that I could possibly face, to face the things that terrify me the most the child abuse, slavery, sex trafficking, weapons, war, everything. I don’t need to name them all. We all know it’s their ecosystem collapse. There’s so many.
And I do need to say here that I believe that because we’re all unique and that’s a very important thing to hold onto, I feel, in terms of our ability to feel empowered with our sensitivity, with our brokenheartedness I believe that there’s deep insight in that we’re all unique. And because we’re all unique, I believe that each of us, those of us who have access to our caring, feeling, tender heart and our hopeful, compassionate, brave heart, we each hold a facet, like a very thin shard of human suffering. Each of us holds a certain kind of sadness, a certain kind of fear, a certain kind of hopelessness and anger, holy rage, as Joanna Macy says in our being that, if we tap into, each of us will offer a unique form of love, justice, resilience. That means to grow forward towards wholeness and compassion. And so an ethic of care asks me what parts of me need caring for and what parts of the world do I long desperately to care for?
And then, focusing on the parts of me that care, or are afraid to care, or don’t know if it’s okay to care or are scared to care. I believe that’s our entry point to understand what is my ethic of care, that I can contribute to the story of human in relationship. So it’s again, it’s also a very subjective conversation where I honor all of us, every person I’m in a room with, as a source of wisdom for a way that they can care because they’re unique, will be at a different stage of our life, but even that, each stage of life offers a different perspective that is greatly insightful, which brings us into, you know, going back again to those principles. We’re living in a circle and every member of the community offers an important perspective for the whole functioning of the community. And that’s another deep wisdom that I sit with and think about from Indigenous teachings and practices.
0:34:50 – Anna
Absolutely, and you’re talking about this. We each have this individual sliver of care and experience, and to me, it’s about developing our individual voice and nourishing the gifts that we all have. And so if we imagine this garden that you talked about, if the classroom is a garden that’s full of diverse, beautiful, interesting, unique but interconnected beings, what a wonderful way to steward learning. I think it’s so beautiful and you’ve talked about so many things I just want to dig into, but one of the really impactful things is thinking about creativity and creation in relationship to suffering, and so I’m wondering if you could talk a little bit about the role that you see like creativity and art-based. I don’t want to use art-space necessarily just because it can sometimes pigeonhole things, but just creative expression. What role of creative like sorry, what role creative expression can play in developing, growing toward the sustainable, regenerative future?
0:36:06 – Danielle
Yes, thank you so much for that. And I believe that if we could define here that creativity is something that has, to a percentage, my authenticity in it. I may even be imitating something I see, but to the extent to which I’m choosing what I do and that there’s a whisper of my own feeling into it, I feel that we’re in a place of real creativity and the opposite of a mass produced. When we are in real creativity, we are resisting the teachings of the industrial evolution and saying I will not carbon copy what I see, I’m not going to replicate, I want to create with my own being. That is so important because in that journey we can discover what is our language of contribution and what I found very interesting about my own graduate journey and I’ll use this as the example because it’s the most real for me it took me to go to graduate school to realize what a dancer I am, what an embodied mover I am.
I definitely had imposter syndrome when I was a dancer. I didn’t think I was a dancer, even though I was a professional. And we do that to ourselves, we compare, we look at the right, the normal, who’s the normal, who’s the ideal of this? And then graduate school, as I did my master’s in social justice education, and I was reading and digesting and coming into a relationship with deep, deep sadness, very challenging topics. The only way that I could breathe it, so that I could actually go through a process of digesting and integrating, was through dance. It was through singing, it was through poetry, because my experience of the arts in song, especially nonverbal, in tone, in movement, in poetry, that is unlike the way that we speak. In drawing, that’s not my art form, but in those creations it’s expansive and it doesn’t have a known direction that it needs to become something specific. My experience is it bows itself to the process and you are surprised by what you encounter by being in the act of art making, by being in a creative space of improvisation. We have an entry point. It’s like, okay, we’re gonna work with this image or we’re gonna work with this sentence. Now go off and see what you discover. I came to going for a walk in the woods and you know when it’s gonna end. You’re safe, you don’t know what you’re gonna encounter, who you’re gonna be surprised by.
And I believe that creativity is so important for this because we don’t know how to get our way out of this? Yet we don’t know because we haven’t changed yet. And if we can, we need creativity. We need everyone’s unique caring, everyone’s unique expression to find a way out together. And it is that surprising oneself that I find is so important.
And also what happens after I’ve expressed something. There’s a place of integration I find in my own body, after I’ve gone into a creative process, that I am in a different inner positioning at the end, even after what we went into, what you so kindly trusted me to guide you into, launch you into, in that breath, awareness that for me was creative. There was a sense of entry points and guidance. But I’m discovering my breath and I’m listening and I’m noticing to see what is so I’m. I don’t know what it is. I’m not going to textbook and page number 54 and read paragraph three and answer the questions that are given to me based off of what I think are expected of me. I’m looking at something and seeing what comes up and creativity and regenerative education.
In looking at an ecology, this ecosystem, we really do need every single participant, every ecosystem participant, to know themselves and have a sense of Practice, of what is their language, of contribution, and that goes right into what we know. Individuals need to be well. We need to have a sense of belonging, first and foremost, to ourselves. We need to have a sense of purpose. Where does my purpose come from? It comes from that excitement of I’m a curious being, I’ve got things to say, and that can be a part of something that is welcome and that’s that’s inviting me.
So creativity is so important, again, not only for what it can create in the solutions, not necessarily only in the outcome. Also, for me, I’m also growing as a tree. You’re also all, all these children. We’re all growing, all. We’re all growing into some expression. We have no idea we’re going to end up. I also work with elders now and they didn’t know that they were going to end up there when they were five or six, but it’s the story.
So every day can be a creative journey and if we want to, I think, if we really want to, if you really want to take up the challenge of living with hope, it’s about well, what? What can we do differently now? What’s some way that we can do something else? Because I’ll tell you that, knowing that the international panel on climate change has been alive, I think, since the seventies I don’t think statistics are going to get us out of it. Like really we’re. We’re 50 years in and we don’t have a way of being differently with ourselves yet Great. We need more creativity, and how. How powerful would it be if we invited the creativity of all of the children and all of the schools to help be a part of that conversation.
0:42:07 – Kyla
Absolutely. I agree. Sorry, I’m just letting it wash over me right now. I’m telling everything that you said wash over processing speed.
0:42:16 – Danielle
There’s one thing that we is very much not supported in academia yes, we get to inhale a lot. We often get to hold it while writing papers. Yeah, often don’t get to exhale and wait in a sense of fullness until we’re hungry again for something more. So I really encourage exhaling and chewing on things.
0:42:42 – Kyla
I think there’s something to be said about that with where we are in the world. As far as just social media, I think I’ve been I’ve been reflecting on this a lot as being constantly bombarded by everything that comes up, especially when you scroll. It’s just like you never have a moment to pause about the devastations or anything or the funny even the funny cat videos that come up, but you never have a chance to because we’re like that is how I think our society is right now. It just what can I get? The next thing immediately and how do I? And that, and it goes with like numbing out, it goes with disassociation, which is really antithetical with what needs to be done and what you were saying in terms of like being present, being embodied, and I think that the work you do would really foster this incredible changes.
And to just briefly kind of circle back to what you had mentioned about suffering and this link between suffering and creativity and in order to care for suffering, and what came to mind and I don’t know if you had said it or if I came to mind organically was like this wisdom and suffering and, of course, like this is not that we’re saying like suffering needs to happen, but that suffering is something that does exist within the world and that we can learn something from someone’s devastation in a sense. But it needs care. You know you can’t just have someone like pour out their suffering to you and and then not care for them after. It’s not whole space for them afterwards, in a sense, and talking about what you said about being in a circle with one another, I think that is such a beautiful caring way in order to manifest that that’s what I mean Really comes to mind.
0:44:25 – Danielle
I just make a little comment, a couple of things there again, seeing everything as a relationship. You know, bring in a little bit of our Veda you know, ancient Vedic practices, you know, study, science of life and longevity.
We are in a very they call it a very Vata time, which is an air and ether. It’s a constitutional perspective that understands all phenomena as an expression of various combinations of air, fire, water, earth and ether. Everything technological exists in the Vata. It’s very high-paced and so we have become faster through our technology. And you look at the prevalence of ADD and ADHD and you look at the prevalence of anxiety, all of these things that are very up, up up and we are very petty society. We are very fast. They were also product based. We’re also mechanism based. We’re looking for the outcome. We are not separate from the evolution of our technology in our industry. We become it, they become a way of our primary relationship again with our inner faculties of mind, body, heart, spirit. And that’s why I know, and I said before that I believe that radical tenderness and radical compassion is being asked for us now is we’re all having a hard time, none of us has it figured out and a first step is to breathe together and just enjoy breathing together. Again, it’s also our expectation of the one size fits all quick fix, these industries. The one size fits all quick fix comes from a pharmaceutical industry where a pill can fix it, we don’t know, so it let ourselves process to get anywhere.
I like to share my journey, because I became increasingly ill from ages 13 to 22. At 22, I decided to stop wage and warn myself, which I had been doing. I had been using numbing, exploitation, many forms of abuse against myself to survive in the way that I knew best, and I’m so grateful that those tools existed. However, it brought me to a place where I was losing my sense of happiness and even desire to be in this world From 22 to 28. All I did was detoxing 28. To 35. I started to build the foundation and now I’m 39. So if now from 35, I’m like, wow, now I’m really starting to grow things. It takes time, and thank goodness it takes time, and learning how to be tender together is going to be a beautiful practice for all of us to take brave steps, because a nice insight was given I can’t remember who.
It’s a perspective that, if you look at how we’ve developed socially, we’ve been given the opportunity to progress physically. We don’t expect babies to run. We are patient with them. They learn how to crawl and slide and then they slowly start to stumble, then they walk and then there is a physical evolution and we can see historically that today’s athletes are much more competent physically, much more performant than athletes that stay in the 20s or the 40s. Even their muscle, muscle tones different. It’s very interesting.
We’ve also allowed the same thing for ourselves intellectually. We have, you know, let’s go to Piaget, let’s go to all the base and we have child appropriate learning and development and you know, abs. We have concrete to abstract all these things. So we understand that there’s a development intellectually and we don’t do that for the heart, not at all. We expect, you know I’ve studied with with Gabo Matiz when I just finished a year long training and study in his work and what he’s doing for us and is such an important insight that with the way that we ask students to behave and we don’t want their wild behavior and keep your anger to yourself and you know no tears in subtle and overt ways we are on the path.
We have stunted our emotional development. And you know we can see the tyrants of the world are having temper tantrums with weapons. You know, one insult and they’re waging war. You know it’s a very inappropriate response, it’s a psychopathic, very, very alarming response and it’s the sign of a very immature emotional body, so that it is black and white and huge. And we all, we’re all guilty of this. I say guilty in the sense of we’re all immature emotionally. And I feel that if we can humbly acknowledge that we don’t know how to care for ourselves, we don’t know how to love ourselves, we can write books about it, we can read books about it.
But practice of being vulnerable together, to open up my heart and say I’m not okay today and bravely see if I can hold myself, not knowing if people are going to judge me, listen to you and do that at a bigger scale, that is a place where I feel that we could humbly begin to care for ourselves and start to allow ourselves to.
Saw the ice of numbness, saw the ice of separation that has held together cultures and societies for many generations. It’s needed numbness so that, you know, war could be perpetuated for so long and the potential is here Now. The trauma is a common word that’s being said now that social emotional learning is more commonly said, now that the boxes are being broken, how we label and judge and assume about one another. It’s all ripe. The thawing is happening, and I believe that one of those practices is going to be hey, I don’t know how to be an emotional being. I’m learning how to name my feelings. I don’t even know if I know the names of all my feelings, while we have a very developed intellect and a very developed physicality to hold space for this newness, this beginnerness of ourselves that we share collectively.
0:50:02 – Kyla
Amazing. You briefly touched on this, but I just want to reiterate again in the work that you do, just to sum up, what gives you hope.
0:50:16 – Danielle
What gives me hope is that we are all being breathed by the air right now. When the sun rises and the sun sets, the birds are singing outside. Everything in nature gives me hope. What gives me hope is that you and I have come together today, and what gives me hope is the fact that my body will go to sleep. And what gives me deep hope is my own story, because I have irrefutable proof that multiple diagnoses have not defined my future and that uniqueness means that we have our own story to write.
And what gives me hope is in my own life, now that I have started to practice this over time, that things that felt impossible are no longer so scary. For example, in my own relationships, where I used to feel I used to have a very hard time in relationships where I used to feel that I couldn’t create anything. I felt very victimized in relationships and, like I said, I had a lot of autoimmune conditions Seeing hearts open to kindness. If I could be succinct, I would say what gives me the greatest hope in my work is that, no matter who I meet with, no matter their age and no matter their state of debilitation, no matter their state of suffering, no matter if the most dire circumstances that I see someone in, if I low down to their level and I say hello, how are you today? It’s nice to see you, so nice to see you today. I wish you a beautiful day. I see a glimmer in their eyes, I feel myself warm in my heart and I go wow, we are still sensitive to one another.
What also gives me hope is our sensitivity. When we stop caring and we’re close to not caring, we’re really close to not caring about our children or our elders the most vulnerable of our populations. But as long as there are humans that care, there’s a reason to hope, there’s a reason to try. If there was no hope, we wouldn’t care that our world was dying or that we were falling apart in very scary ways. So it gives me hope is that kindness still works and that hearts are still caring. Yeah, that’s what gives me the greatest hope.
0:52:46 – Anna
Thank you. This has been an amazing journey conversation with you. Thank you very, very much for being vulnerable with us, being brave to share all of the really beautiful work that you’re doing in the world. Thank you.
0:53:02 – Danielle
Thank you. Yeah, I’m deeply honored to have this opportunity to share with you and to be breathing, feeling complex, unfinished bodies, exploring these topics that are so meaningful for us and, I believe, are meaningful for so many people. I’m deeply honored and deeply grateful for our time together today. Many thanks, many blessings.
0:53:23 – Anna
You can find our guests’ contact information and any resources they mentioned in the show notes for the episode. If you want to stay connected with us or learn more about our work, visit my website, annagriffith.ca. There you’ll find additional resources and ways to contact us directly. We would love to hear from you, so if you have any feedback, suggestions or topics you’d like us to explore in future episodes, don’t hesitate to reach out. The Creative Praxis podcast is produced by me, Anna Griffith with support from Kyla Mitchell-Marquis. Sound editing is done by Brendon George, with music from Wattaboy on Pixabay.
Transcribed by https://podium.page