Protecting the body, mind, and heart

We are all in a continuous dialogue with our surroundings, everything that happens around us generates a response in our thoughts, emotions, and sensations. These are like speakers, indicating if we require warmth, are thirsty, or need to place limits in the face of something uncomfortable. Sensations and emotions are our first source of input to make ourselves feel well. Humans are far from machines that can do anything, we are vulnerable beings. This means that we are bodies that become ill, can learn, wake up with energy, and go to bed tired, we laugh, fall in love, get hungry or cold, we need hugs and to be listened to, we die. This vulnerability is not synonymous with weakness. On the contrary, it makes us into living beings that are connected to the ecosystem and with knowledge of our lives and the capacity to decide what we needed.

Since we are also interdependent, we do not satisfy these needs alone, but depend on those around us: a mother, a grandmother, a friend, a teammate, a partner, a neighbor, or even someone we have met on the street. That is why it is important to know how to check in with our feelings, to know what we need, and to communicate this with others. However, it is not just interdependence that contributes to care. Contexts of sociopolitical violence can systematically put our needs into question, not only as inividuals but also communities, meaning that we cannot respond to our needs and are constantly generating dissatisfaction and emotions such as fear, frustration, anger, or hopelessness.

Sociopolitical violence attacks our individual bodies and our territories, which are always connected as is noted by Latin American feminists when they speak of the “body territory”. Hence, sociopolitical violence attacks the social fabric, seeking to break trust and ties between individuals and that is done through fear, stress, and hopelessness, among other forms. If we become afraid to act, act on impulse without evaluating our needs, become isolated, or believe that nothing can change, we are experiencing manifestations of fear’s emotional strategy. Attacking the body, mind, and heart of individuals and communities is a clear element. A pained body, tensions that last years, a mind full of concerns, and a hopeless heart are part of this formula of fear, as a tool of war. Violence produces all of this in us, with major impacts on our health and the strength of the connections that we create.

What can we do in response? We propose focusing on care, even though this is often difficult. Care does not mean always feeling good, it is not just about laying down to rest, it is everything we do to address adverse situations. Within this concept of care, it is fundamental to protect the body, mind, and heart since all violence impacts us on those levels. Body, mind, and heart are always united and what affects one affects the rest. From PBI’s holistic protection work, we want to emphasize some care practices that we have seen in our work in Colombia.

For the body: touch

Setting limits is essential to protect our body (“No is no”), returning to loving touch. Massage also helps us to release tension and it allow us to remove, in a pleasurable way, the memories held by our body. How do we touch ourselves? What do we express when touching ourselves? What feelings arise? What parts of our body do we know about most? Where do we accumulate our experiences? We want to vindicate the importance of pampering the body, and doing so with others, as a way to heal. Oils with lavender and natural creams can be helpful to ease pain.

For the mind: recognition and beautiful words

To protect our mind, we want to vindicate the importance and power of beautiful words, recognizing the strength and journey of the women around us. The mind always takes its time, that is why it is so important to dedicate time to it every day, allowing the mind to become accustomed and keeping it entertained by painting, caring for plants or a garden, petting an animal, or writing. Medicinal scents such as thyme, the heat of a good herbal tea, and connecting with deep breathing help to relax the mind.

For the heart: time and tenderness

To protect the heart: love ourselves. Remind ourselves that loving is an exercise that we must give ourselves, feeling that we deserve what we enjoy, have time for ourselves, and can share this with others if we so desire. The heart always needs time, many hugs, and the group. That is why it is important to have spaces to express how we are and feel heard, to share celebrations or pain as ways to make love into a collective verb, to protect ourselves from the violence. Always being aware that, in the face of pain, we need a lot of patience, tenderness, and creativity.

Today on Mother’s Day we want to remember how the women who provide care continue to sustain us in our day to day, even when they experience a lot of suffering and structural injustice, especially in contexts of conflict. We want to continue providing care, but not anyway, not at any cost. We want care with attention, time, compassion, understanding, commitment. Seeing ourselves as vulnerable humans who need to receive care and care for others. In the face of sociopolitical violence, stepping away from “I can do it all” or “I can do it alone”, the response must be collective care.

For the body, mind, and heart, as the Marta Gómez song goes:

“for insomnia, the moon

to warm your body, the sun

for war, nothing.”

PBI Colombia.

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