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Episode 5: Who is Wellness For?

Episode 5: Who is Wellness For?

Wellness culture and who it leaves behind.

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If you or someone you know has been impacted by sexual assault, we encourage you to reach out to these organizations for support:


Aja Monet 00:04

Hello, listeners. My name is Aja Monet, and I'm a blues surrealist poet and organizer. I am your host for this show, The Sound Bath, a podcast brought to you by Lush Cosmetics, where you'll be hearing conversations that cleanse. Thank you for joining us today. A lot more people than we actually name and acknowledge have been sexually abused and assaulted in our society; it's a lot more normal than we would like to admit. And I think it's something that we shy away from and that we like to pretend doesn't exist. And so, if you are someone who has been impacted by sexual assault or abuse, we want to share some resources for you all, and that we want to encourage you to be accountable to your own healing in this moment, that if there's something you need, you feel empowered and emboldened to go out and get the help you need. And we are at full support of you getting that help. So please look out to the show notes for resources that may be useful to you. This podcast explores what personal, social, and environmental care and wellbeing really mean in today's society. This show is designed to be listened to in the bath. So sit back and enjoy the conversation. At the end, stick around for a beautiful meditative sonic sound bath. For this conversation, I will be speaking to my dear friend Fariha Róisín; I have been a fan of Fariha from afar, a little bit of a healthy stalker, I guess. I don't know if that's really good but I would guess all of us are a bit of healthy stalkers these days on social media. I say that to say I have been following her work, I have been intrigued by the things that she shares for some time now. And I've had the privilege of meeting her recently in person. And we are currently in a deep spiritual love affair with one another. So, go figure, you know? It is a very important reason why I wanted her to be in conversation with me because she's really been someone that I've been able to talk to recently about ideas of wellness, of self-care, and the political struggle that we have with those terms. And the importance of really thinking through how we can cure ourselves in there and show up better for the world around us. Fariha’s dope. She's just a dope person. And I know you all will enjoy this conversation. Hey, I'm very excited. I actually have something very special for you all for no other reason than pure joy. I'm going to play the kalimba, so who knows, maybe it'll inspire you. Alright, there you go.

Fariha Róisín 03:36

Thank you!

Aja Monet 03:37

Clearing the energy. Please, please, please, please, you don't mind introducing yourself to the listeners.

Fariha Róisín 03:47

My name is Fariha Róisín. I am a writer. I'm a human being. I'm really bad at biographies. I don't really know what to say. I kind of get like really bored after saying writer, so I'm like, “Yeah, I like astrology.”

Aja Monet 04:06

I think it's, what's most important is how you choose to identify.

Fariha Róisín 04:12

Person. Yeah. Porous person. I'll say that.

Aja Monet 04:17

Feeling human being. Ooo, yes please.

Fariha Róisín 04:20

I think I've like recently realized that I'm an ecological writer. That's, that's kind of where my heart is moving towards, the direction of nature. A lot. Yeah.

Aja Monet 04:35

Firstly, I just need to say and get it out the way that you know; I have a deep love affair with Fariha that we have not fully explored yet.

Fariha Róisín 04:49

And I'm so excited.

Aja Monet 04:51

But it's so great on multiple levels, how much we deeply love each other and how have admiration for one another. And I'm just so excited that it's beyond space and time and physical proximity. But at the end of the day, like I've so much of your energy and your, your work resonates with me, so I'm really excited to have you in conversation, particularly because of this new book that you are putting out into the world, and I've been spending time with it. I'm not quite done yet, but I'm almost there. And I just needed to share with you, I feel like when I'm reading you, I'm also writing. Does that make sense?

Fariha Róisín 05:38

That's amazing.

Aja Monet 05:40

It's really strange. But, I've been spending time particularly recently around things with my childhood, stuff around my relationship with my mother, in the process of trying to think about, “Well where do I begin in a memoir?”. And the beginning of your book was like a really… It just felt like a permission, if that makes sense. It was a permission to go there, it was permission to delve into the interpersonal, deep things that have made me who I am that I've been afraid to share because a fear of just hurting the people you love closest to you; that kind of naming the harm that you've experienced, you're afraid of hurting people for naming the harm that they've done to you. You know? But I want to just start with the question, “Who is wellness for?”

Fariha Róisín 05:44

Wow. Thank you for sharing that. That is such a miracle. And I feel so blessed that my work is bringing that to you, you know, helping you arrive at that point in yourself. Like that is such a beautiful mirror, I think in the process of us getting to know one another, what is so obvious is that we're mirrors for each other. So that's a really sacred relationship. And one that I don't think is pursued enough in life and just especially in relationships between women or femme folks, I feel the animosity there before I feel the love and the embrace. So it's really nice to just be embraced and to be able to just send that love back. But who is wellness for? I mean, it's such a huge question. And thank you for also sharing what you shared about your mom. I know a little bit of what you've told me. And yeah, I think that just to address what you said about the fear around speaking to certain truths and the mysterious relationship that we have to the truth. And that is such a difficult thing to parse through when you're writing a memoir, especially when you're writing about violence or abuse. Because, of course, there's always two sides, and there's necessary sides. And in this situation, it's not even my mom's side or my side, it's also my sister's side, it’s my father's side. I'm in the process of that right now. Literally on Monday, I had a call with the lawyer of the British imprint that's publishing my book because their defamation laws are more intense than they are in America. And so, technically, I am defaming my mother. And so she's able to sue me if she wants to. And so I'm having to go through all of those necessary precautions now emotionally and mentally to prepare myself for that process. And I think, honestly, in a roundabout way, that's the idea of wellness for m. Like the idea of it being holistic is so paramount. And it's something that I don't think we discuss enough in society because we're so devoid of true wellness and true care. And especially in this country, you know, the ways in which the infrastructure, the very necessary infrastructure of health, is non-existent. And so when you don't have even the apparatus of care, and then we know that we don't have the foundations that help us in society, like what happens when you suffer from generations of colonization and slavery and the impacts of civil war and the impacts of abuse and rape and all of the violent kinds of things that our ancestors have experienced. So when you are existing in an ecosystem where there are multiple variations and factors of being, and you're not taking all of that into consideration, there can be no wellness. And I think, in the process of writing this book, what has become most clear for me in my own journey to wellness is that I have to be able to take care of all of these sort of fronts in my life in order to be holistically well. And that in itself is such a commitment and just an arduous journey. Well, how do we even take that into consideration in the conversation of wellness? Also, you and I, these are the communities we exist in; we have a fairly broad and expansive understanding of the layers of abuse, you know, like, we're in these healing circles. So we're actually cognizant of what it takes to face and confront abuse and how even words that are very much part of my own lexicon, like EMDR therapy or trauma therapy, like that is not always accessible or something that the vast majority of people have access to.

Aja Monet 11:06

I think children are some of the most oppressed and neglected people in society because they're entirely dependent on someone else for their wellbeing. So even if they were experiencing harm or violence or abuse, it's expected that they have to just deal with it. And something that you wrote in your book that oftentimes because we are so sensitive to violence in the ways that violence has harmed us and harmed our communities, and oftentimes, we have a lot more nuanced understanding of compassion for the people who have abused us. So there's a need to be like, Well, I don't want to criminalize this person, I don't want to demonize this person, this person is a victim of things much larger than just the fact that they're harming me. Yes, that's part of their story. But there's something that produced that sort of behavior. Even if we don't have language for the abuse or the trauma that one is experiencing, I think the thing that has been so jarring for me is this code of silence around what mental health can do and the abuse that it can cause. And that how, especially when children are powerless to handle that abuse and people don't have the capacity to take on those children, don't have the resources or the wherewithal to take on the responsibility of those children, how we just kind of stay silent, the fact that these children have to still be subjugated to this sort of abuse, you know, and I think this is where the responsibility of society comes in, is how do we become a society that sees these children, not just as that person's child, but as all of our children. And so I wanted to ask you a bit about what you saw in terms of what is the conversation around wellness for children? What do you see that looking like?

Fariha Róisín 13:00

I think wellness for children starts with taking children seriously. And listening to children, actually creating spaces of safety for children. I absorbed so much. I knew so much about the world at an age where I should have been free. However, I knew what sex was, I knew what desire was, I knew what breasts were, I knew I knew all of these things from a very, very, very young age. And so, how do we protect children and keep them safe? I mean, I said this in the book at a certain point, thinking about my own child abuse, my own child sexual abuse, and also thinking about how Bangladesh as a country has some of the largest exports for child sexual abuse and how it's rampant there. And there is a clear sort of lineage, and that in itself is so uncomfortable and so sad. And yet, it's I think, we have to have like very confronting and honest conversations about desire. And that's why I didn't really talk about children in the book because adults need to confront the things that have happened to them in order to not pass it on to the next generation. And so, I think that's by and large, why this is the responsibility of us as a society, as a community that has the ability to face these ugly wounds and these ugly secrets in society and actually pluck them out and be like, okay, this is the route, we have the opportunity to do that. And so if we want to protect children, if we want to think about the children that are alive now and their wellbeing, it's really about the adults taking fucking responsibility and being like, okay, it's actually my job to have this sorted out. So I don't pass this on to the next generation.

Aja Monet 15:02

Yeah, I love that because one of the things that I also enjoyed about reading your book so far was that there was this notion that we need to take responsibility for our healing. And that oftentimes, I think we see, when we have gone through violence or harm, we're looking for someone to blame, right, or we get really dependent and reliant on the victim narrative with the mentality, which is part of violence and harm, that’s what it does to you, and it takes away your agency. And I loved how you quoted June Jordan in this quote, where she says, “I resolved not to run on hatred, but instead, to use what I loved, words, for the sake of the people I loved.” And then you said, “When I realized nobody owed me anything, something began to shift. I realized I needed to take accountability for myself, I realized I could liberate myself from this pain by at the very least facing it.” And that I think that's so crucial to right now. And so, I wanted to ask you, as you've been going through this process of accountability for yourself, what has been some of the challenges and the joys of that accountability process? What do people have to look forward to in holding themselves accountable in this healing, wellness journey?

Fariha Róisín 16:20

That is a really really great question. I mean, you get to live life truthfully, firstly, which is such a sublime experience. And, for me, accountability was realizing that the person that I said I was, I was not. And I would get upset at something somebody would say, or whatever frustrated, and then go through this narrative where I would protect myself where I would be angry, and be like, doesn't that person know how hard I'm trying or whatever narrative that I would have at that day or at that point. And actually, what's really beautiful when somebody comes to you and tells you, “Hey, I need more”, or”Hey, I need to say this”, or what and you hold space for that, is it becomes an equal relationship, where both parties have equal leads and equal desires and it is actually the foundation of a solid and fair relationship. And I think what I've seen because I've been in organizing spaces since I was a teenager because I've been very, very involved, I think similarly to you in justice and liberation. And I was always very, very, very, very counterculture as a child, you know, I went to the Iraq War protests when I was 13. And like, you know, like, really worked for Amnesty and Oxfam throughout, you know, from 12 to like, 17. Like, I was so involved in organizing when I was a kid, president of the social justice club at my school, like, these are ways that I like found myself and found a way to, I think, fight for somebody else, even if I couldn’t fight for myself because I didn't know what that looked like yet. You know, and I think a lot of people actually that get into organizing, actually, that's where they're coming from, right? We're protecting ourselves. We're trying to fight for the injustice that happened to us. And a lot of us don't even know why and I think that's why it's complicated because ego gets into the picture. And I think when ego meets humanitarianism, or whatever you want to call it, fighting for liberation, which is how I see it, then there's two factors, is the human factor and the spirit factor, that's always going to collide. And I think we're sort of at this like very pivotal juncture where ego has been plucked out, look at all of the all look at all the liberation fronts and movements of the ‘70s. Where are the leaders now? They either complied or, or lost themselves to capitalism, or they lost themselves to ego. And I think I studied these liberation fronts because my dad's a Marxist. And I come from four generations of socialist Marxists that were involved in political liberation. So I have that history. I'm looking at it from a political angle as a person who is deeply involved now in injustice groups and trying to really bring, I think, a global awareness of justice, and what does that look like? I'm not American, I'm not as invested in just America. I want everyone to find liberation, you know, and I think I think we also have to find that in ourselves, like how important it is and again in the ‘70s they did this so well, they knew that we all needed one another. We all need each other's liberation for our own, and I think we get lost when that identification of I'm the most suffered person becomes the way you know we value, yeah exactly, somebody's, you know, commitment, commitment and also importance in a way, right? It’s talking about how important are you for the movement. And to me, that's, one it's not how this works just purely, like just on a foundational level, it's not how it works. But I think so much gets lost in that because that also then becomes about ego. It's how things look aesthetically, as opposed to how are things on a soul level for us to unify and actually break this shit apart. And I'm way more interested in that. And way more interested in learning and figuring out how to fucking collapse these systems and not to focus on the infighting and all of the things that are also valuable, I don't also want to dismiss or discount very important conversations that need to be had about all of us, I think it's, I think we actually need to do both and it's like, also, being aware that different experiences do cause different kinds of violence and experience of this human life. So that should be also valued, but it's also having that balance.


Aja Monet 21:22

Yeah, man, there's so much that was in what you've shared. There does need to be some sort of infrastructure, some sort of systemic policy change, in how we deal with healthcare and how we deal with wellness, as you've been talking about, which is why I'm so excited that this book, hopefully, will be a tool and a conversation that people can have around, what are the demands that we make now? That are, can we make, are there new demands for this generation, considering how the landscape has changed? And then the next thing I wanted to ask you about, because this is a big, a big conversation that Lush is having, and we all are having in our movements spaces is the role of social media. But I wonder about what role this has played? And do we see it playing any role in our wellness because, as you can see, there are many gifts that are finding their way through social media to be expressed? And yet, there's still some limitations in the connections and the ways that we look at health and healing because of what social media is also doing to harm our communities.


Fariha Róisín 22:30

Yeah, to answer your first question, in terms of policy change, I mean, there has to be so many policy changes, but something that I have been thinking a lot about is like America really needs to face itself in a really major way. And that reckoning is already happening, as we're seeing. And the work started a very long time ago. And now the facade is falling, and it's, it's amazing. But there's so much more work that needs to be done. And I think, in that state of unravelling, we really need to look at like, things like defense budgets, you know, the idea of war, and questioning war, especially now. How are we facing that reality? The idea that this has all come from just men in a room jerking off being like, “You know what, we need to control everything.” And that's really where it's come from, this like hunger to dominate. And so we really need to question as a society, how much more are we willing to put up with this facade of war? If we didn't have a budget for war, we would have a budget for fucking healthcare. And so like, it's I know that's pretty extreme but I think, I have been part of the degrowth chapter in New York for the last year and a half and there's a whole section that I write about degrowth and it's movement of degrowing from capitalism. And obviously, there's many ways that you can do that, but it's really a commitment. And I think, having really found a thing that works for me and sort of very much puts me in that space of ecosocialism, I'm beginning to realize that, and I know that we all know this, but you know, you, the world is really what you make of it. And I think laws are, are sort of like that as well. And like the idea, again abolition, the idea that we can live in the utopian society if you, if these governments were made by all these friggin men, then why can't governments be made by people that actually care about the community and society are not here to extract and just take, but a lot of conversations and a lot of healing needs to happen on a collective level for us to do that. In terms of collectivism and individualism, I think that the work does always start on an individual level. However, I think that the idea is to create a support network as you go. So for me in my own life, I started with like kinesiology and acupuncture and somatic therapy as ways of me to begin to understand what I'm feeling, basically. I didn't… As somebody who was always disassociating, I knew I had to start coming back into my body. And I didn't know how to do that. And so starting with the body with acupuncture and kinesiology was a really great way for the acupuncturist or the kinesiologist just to start to translate me back to me. And that was a commitment. It was expensive, and wellness is expensive. And so I talk about this in the book, and it's like, well, what does it look like for the ability of everyone to get acupuncture? I mean, the Black Panther Party was trying to do this. In the ‘60s and ‘70s, they brought acupuncture from Asia to America. And they were very much trying to think about health clinics where anyone can go in and find acupuncture. What does that look like for all of us? And so there's such an endless possibility and there's a lot of ways in which people have already started to do this kind of work, but because of the bureaucracy that stands in the way and not a lot can be done. And we think about systems is like they are forever but capitalism is so young, and the American War Machine is so young that what do we think we're going to do in 50 years when the whole world is on fire? We're looking at really difficult ecological times, if we're talking about plants, if we’re talking about trees, if we're talking about the elements of water or fire, if we're thinking about everything, we're so we are so secondary. And so again, I think it is like holding both and, holding the responsibility of what it means to be human because we have a responsibility to do to the ecosystems that we share this earth with, to look after not only them but ourselves. And we also need to find the grace of not just driving with that human ego that's like, I deserve things. I deserve to have it all. I deserve to have Amazon bring anything at my door at any moment. Because that's what it means to have it. We have to really reconsider. What does it mean to be successful? What does it mean to be good? What does it mean to be a person that has value on this planet? And of course, if we think about that, by and large we think of capitalism, we think of money, we think of capital, which is why the Kardashians exist, you know, we, we only value money. And I think as much as it feels like it's never-ending, I do think that there are major openings happening, like, just think about you and me, how we exist, this portal, right here, and then the work that you and I are individually doing and are gonna keep doing. And that's just you and me. And then there's so many different openings like us around the world and so many different pockets. And there is, I think, a giant global movement that's happening out of the kind of bleakness of globalism and late-stage capitalism, something is shifting, and I am the type of person that feels like I wanna grab every horn by its horn, like, I wanna take it all and be like, “Let's do it. Let's fucking collapse everything.” That's like, we can really do it. And I think my job on this planet is to show people ways to do it.

Aja Monet 28:37

There's a book by Gayl Jones called The Healing, and I was like revisiting the book, and I was thinking about certain quotes while thinking about to speak with you, and there's this quote, and now I'm going to read the quote, and I want to end with a question for you. But the quote goes, “There are things that a woman sings, and only a woman knows the full meaning. You may sing for men as well as for women, but only a woman knows your full meaning. I am not a feminista. I only think a woman should be true to who she believes herself to be. Or who she wants herself to be. Or who she imagines herself to be. I don't know what I mean, or whether I'm true myself to any of that. I don't think there are many of us who are true to our possibilities.” And I wanted to ask you, what possibility do you see for yourself that you choose to be true to or that you were working to be true to?

Fariha Róisín 29:33

Oh, wow, I think contending with the fact that I want beautiful things and I want to experience beautiful things, and I wanna have a good life. I actually want that so much. And actually, everybody deserves that. And I think that maybe that is my truth. It's like, what you are fighting for is not the bare minimum for us anymore. I'm actually fighting for so much more and want us to live and enjoy life. Life and have love and to move through our lives with grace, and courage and joy simultaneously. And I think the best way that I've been able to do that is by actually looking at my wounds, you know, it's actually been the gateway to everything. And those portals that are created when you actually go to that site, that specific site, that site of being, for me it really all started with the question, why did I first learn how to disassociate? And that was just like an opening. It was an invitation for me to start questioning the things that I thought I was too weak to look at or things that I knew if I started looking at, I wouldn't be able to unsee them. And living in that reality, living in that truth and having boundaries, being able to like stop talking to people, not talking to my mother anymore, really being able to protect myself.

Aja Monet 30:58

Oooff…, girl you readin me, go ahead. Keep going.

Fariha Róisín 31:07

Understanding that it is so important the work that we do, it is so important for us to protect ourselves so we can keep going. And that we're not machines, and that nobody needs to rely on us if we don't feel like we're capable, or we have capacity in a moment that we can take a break, a beat, and just look after ourselves and tend to ourselves. That is also my truth, alongside me looking at the darkness and all of those parts of me that live in the shadow, I wanna honor all parts of me. And the last thing I will say is that when I started therapy, I was always telling my therapist, “I can't wait to get better. I can't wait to get better.” And at a certain point, she was like, “I don't know if that's what you're trying to do. I think you're trying to get whole.” And that really resonated. Because every part of us, all of the broken parts that we've been told are unlovable or unlikable, the parts of us that we think are too ugly, ferocious, the parts of us that we think are perfect. The parts of us that we are ashamed of, embarrassed by, the parts of us that we wish we would change or could change, or the parts of us that we deeply want others to love, that we have the capacity to love ourselves fully.

Aja Monet 32:36

Well, my sister, you left us with a word, you know, I have a line in one of my poems where it's like, “The wound is where tomorrow glows.” Yeah. I think that, that, that really your saying that really gave me new meaning to that line. So I appreciate you. I want to end with one last question that I've made my little commitment at the end of our conversations and I wanna ask you, what sounds or sound do you return to that makes you feel well, makes you feel whole?

Fariha Róisín 33:13

The sounds of birds and also the sound of a shaman’s drum.

Aja Monet 33:21

Oh, hey, I just heard them as you said it, so great.

Fariha Róisín 33:30

So special. Wow.

Aja Monet 33:32

Yes. Thank you so much.

Fariha Róisín 33:35

Thank you!

The Sound Bath Podcast

The Sound Bath Podcast